Raynor Before the Apocalypse

Reading Time: 24 minutes

Since it seems as if the tone, and general mood, of my Lower East Side piece struck a chord with a few of our readers, I figured that I would continue along similar lines with this travelog/ode to some of my influences/musings upon subjects far and wide.

“Successfully playing a Macdonald or Raynor course requires a kind of geometrical, steeple-chase outlook to one’s golf, a plotting general’s vision in order to decide from which guarded flank of the fairway the next skirmish will be best approached”

By nature, I tend to be a social person. I live with my two best friends, often have people over, do group activities, regularly return to my hometown to see old friends, and play hockey a few times a week during the winter months. I am far from the Jay Gatsby of Ottawa, don’t get me wrong, but I’d say that my “social capital”, to steal a term from Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone, is probably above average. And all of the golf trips I’d taken, at least up to December 2021, had been either with friends or with my mom, another unabashed golf-snob, who, like myself, possesses an appreciation for the finer links of the world. 

However, due to the reality of becoming a course rater, combined with my trepidation over requesting that a guest accompany me to such places whose doors are already pried so undeservedly ajar, the solo-trip has become a staple of my golfing life. 

In truth, I have never particularly enjoyed playing golf on my lonesome; a strange sort of lackadaisicalness tends to wash over me when doing so, as if the lack of witnesses renders the exercise rather meaningless. I can play the best round of my life, or hit the best shot of my life, but if no one is there to witness it, what’s the point, where’s the value? “The grown up soon wearies of this make-believe combat,” surmised Bernard Darwin of the downside to solitary golf, “and is also assailed by doubts as to his own honesty; he will insist on giving himself putts which he tried and missed. No man credits a score which his dearest friend has done when playing alone.”  

The author on his home course, which, at one time in his youth, he could imagine as a great championship venue

At one time, though, I could enjoy its charm more fully, largely due to the faculty of the imagination and the whims of fancy, which tend to weaken as the shades of the prison bars of adulthood begin to cast their ever-lengthening shadows upon the growing boy. When I was still wee-lad in want of company, I could get a ride from my grandmother, shoulder my bag, stride to the first tee, and out there, upon the same ground that was a mere nothingness to the adults around me, the links which I grew up playing could, in my mind’s eye, be transformed into a St Andrews, a Hoylake, a Brookline, or an Olympic Club, with suddenly golden-brown or plush-green fairways lined by rows and rows of spectators on pins-and-needles, grandstands, and watchful television cameras and pundits – and I could, just as easily, be morphed into a butterfly stomached professional golfer partnered with Tiger Woods and Ernie Els under the heat of a major championship Sunday played wondrously on a Tuesday or Friday evening of my imagination’s fashioning. Alas, just as I was once able to heroically partake in glorious battles with wooden guns and plastic swords in my basement, or go on exotic Amazonian adventures based around the tree fort in my backyard, now that same links, like my mother’s basement or backyard, is very much frozen in state, the world no longer convenient to the myth-making of youth. 

The Youth, who daily farther from the east/

Must travel, still is Nature’s priest,/

And by the vision splendid/

Is on his way attended;/

At length the Man perceives it die away,/ 

And fade into the light of common day. 

(“Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” – William Wordsworth)

To me, then as now, playing golf is, at its core, a social exercise, best enjoyed with good friends, friendly banter, and lukewarm competition. Even on the most uninspiring of links, it can thus be enjoyed deeply when these elements are present, but when played upon a first rate links, then it becomes something that goes beyond regular sport, transcending all other leisure activities yet known to man. Moreover, I’ve always harbored a fear of being the middle aged man sitting alone in a restaurant, particularly a busy one, on a friday or saturday evening. 

Feeling very much like the trepidatious William Hazlitt planning his voyage to Newbury to watch the fight between Bill “The Hungerford Butcher” Neate and Tom “The Gaslight Man” Hickman, I set off in the dead mid of still snowless December night, a lonely pilgrim tilting for sun drenched paradise somewhere a perilous thousand miles afar. The car was packed with my golf clubs finally removed from their strip-teasing corner pose in my study, clothing for all weather, food, and sleeping supplies. Seeing that no sane financial appraiser would recommend, if privileged to my monetary particularities and based on my temporary lack of economically gainful employment at the time, that I partake upon such a venture, the plan was to try to eat and sleep as especially scant as possible, which meant the confines of the cabin. Still, with murmurs, faint rumors from the peripheries of the provinces of a new strain of bacillus enemy gathering its forces, polishing its guns, manning its armored vehicles, I was happy to be leaving for less apprehensive pastures, an elysium where, no matter how dire conditions got, how many dead there were, I would still be able to chase a little white ball across a great green field, as God intended us to do. Or so the mantra goes. 

The 17th at Old Town Club, which I also played on this trip

Oh what winding, meandering, marvelous, unexpected byways the tired and weary mind tends to journey upon while one’s physical being drones along a non-descript highway for hours on end – what mountains our imagination climbs, valleys it descends, corners it rounds, mysteries it ponders, schemes it schemes, pasts it rearranges, futures it fictions, imaginary freaks and geeks it mingles with. We are here, belted to the driver’s seat, hands adhered to the steering wheel, eyes glued to the receding pavement, while it is out there, somewhere exploring the dark night and fantastic day surrounding us. I forget who, but someone once surmised that all writers are bad drivers. Loafy, acute daydreaming, the requisite activity for all of those of us who make the blank-page and the King James our hammer and sickle, tends not to lend itself to precise piloting, nor careful attention to turns and off-ramps. 

Like Ottawa, the I-81 corridor cutting through New York State and Pennsylvania had not yet been covered by a blanket of snow, lending a ghostly quality to the forested portions of the rugged and hilly landscape in which a spectral scotch mist hovered aloft the muddy and brown rotting leave-strewn ground and smothered the gray trunks of the unclad trees. Dull peanut butter sandwiches were washed from the roof my mouth with tremclad bottled water, a dietary discipline that was eventually corrupted by the heart-warming promise of a spicy chicken sandwich, a side of waffle fries, and a lemonade from Chick-Fil-A, which I pulled into sometime around dusk just north of Washington. Being near to the wild heart of American politics, with an election upcoming, a worrisome and spiteful one at that, I thought of presidents, of the decorum that the highest office in the nation once required of its stewarts, while unwrapping my sandwich, which, unlike the previous six peanut butter varied ones I had consumed, allured rather than repulsed its would-be assailant. Preceding at my soul-revitalizing repast at an equitable intensity to which Liam Gallagher attacked parka racks and cocaine in the 1990s, I evaluated Woodrow Wilson as being the most overrated of U.S. Presidents. I further considered Libra, my favourite of Don Delillo’s novels, which I had been listening to for much of the ride. I pondered if White Noise, Libra, Mao II, and Underworld forms the greatest run of four novels by any writer ever (it does). I predicted in which ludicrous manner my Packers would choke that coming January. I wondered why in the hell my beloved Chelsea couldn’t seem to get the best out of Romelu Lukaku, our record signing (Mason Mount’s and Kai Havertz’s piss poor creativity). And, lastly, I fell in love with the young woman in the booth opposite me, her commonplace figure acting as a soothing narcotic to the adrift, at-sea sailor I was then and there amidst cookie-cutter middle America. 

Most concerning, however, were the exponentially rising cases of the virus, coupled with the rumors, already swirling, that the border, an imaginary line separating two perfectly identical feet of earth or water wherever upon the 48th parallel you wish to perform such a geographical autopsy, would be barred. To be exiled from my land, Senica in Corsica, was a threatening possibility. I was about halfway between whence I came and where I was going, home and the land of milk and honey; in that Chick-Fil-A, bright and uneasy, I felt an Odysseus amongst the Lotus-Eaters, a Sal Paradise in the slums ‘Frisco – distorted in my motivations, malpracticed in my ambitions. 

The last wave of the virus hadn’t been much of anything. Safely snuggled in the innocent bosom of small town Canada, our worst fears for it hadn’t, in fact, materialized, I told myself. I’ve long joked that if I was to face my maker suddenly, the golf course would be an ideal choice of locale to do so. My great-grandmother, bless her heart, had suffered two heart attacks attempting to pioneer the same steep hill between the 13th green and 14th tee of her home golf course. Golf tends to propagate stupidity in our family, and here was merely another instance of it, I assure myself. So, with that, I mouthed my last corner of sandwich, took one more glance at the damsel with whom I would elope in my fancy, gathered my things, and headed southward. 

the 13th at Long Cove, the southernmost to which I was heading

Unfortunately, my Chick-Fil-A romance followed the script of Joyce’s Eveline and Frank.

She set her white face to him, passive, like a helpless animal. Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition. 

Charleston, South Carolina, was the Argentina I thus set sail forth for alone; eight more hours to destination, a dull, uneventful voyage across the tame, low-hilled, corn-fielded sea upon sea of Virginia, then squeezed in the compressed and unyielding pine forest canal dissecting the Carolinas.  

My eyes grew heavy, my vision blurred, my mind even more erratic. I called for news of home, defied the law by scrolling my phone in hope that the piercing light from the screen would provide a jolt, and searched the AM dial for eldritch voices traveling through this lonely American backyard, whose paved arteries and largely vacant establishments were populated, as they are each and every night, by wandering souls in need of company, some with an end destination, others without it. 

I let a preacher wash religion over me in a tongue I couldn’t interpret, a news anchor fill me in on the assaults and murders and car crashes of a hamlet I’d never heard of and would forget again in a matter of minutes, a weatherman forecast sun for a region I was leaving in the dust for clouds and rain.

Aiken, S.C., a town, among many in this area, that the world has sped by

Crossing the Carolinas is an arduous, monotonous passage, since not much surrounds its highways other than the aforementioned vegetation growing densely from its pine-straw and flashy white-sand mixed soil, broken, just occasionally, by sleepy towns composed of single story, red-brick homes interspersed with the occasional two or three story faded late-Victorian manor built for a judge or a lawyer or a doctor, spectral and rusted and usually three-quarter vacant false-fronted strips that once lined the main streets of the centers they served, ever-ready-to-peddle Dollar Generals, and, of course, temples fit for the lord’s praising, in whichever iteration of the ultimately deity that may be. Yet the landscapes, like that of Scotland, I presume, simply tease great golf at every turn. 

My tee time at the Country Club of Charleston was in 7 hours and I was only three hours from its gates. For a kick of adrenaline, I put on Japandroids’s Celebration Rock, the greatest Canadian record of all time and likely the best pure rock album of the 2010s. Music fit for drinking Jack Daniels and Pabst Blue Ribbons with your closest male buddies on a back porch of a college frat-house on a sunny and warm spring afternoon before the snow has completely melted, is how I would best sum up the ethos of their vibe. Whether you are familiar with Japandroids or not, any Northerner, I am sure, knows this magical feeling, those blessed few days, usually in late-March or early April, when winter and summer seemingly overlap – the first time you can drive through town with your windows rolled down while there are still melting snow banks stacked along the shoulders of the roads, or burn steaks in short-sleeves while cooling your beers in the snow next to the grill. 

This northern soul in southern lands, however, didn’t need a gypsy’s kiss, merely a truck-stop, as my soul of fire and eyes of flame were overwhelming my slender frame, despite the red-bull I’d mainlined when I’d last stopped for gas. Regardless of Motel 6’s fruitful rates, to spend 80 bucks for three hours of sleep simply didn’t make economic sense, so instead I did as the unsung road-warriors, the regular Jack Burtons and Bandits do every night of their crucial lives – I stopped at the next “pickle park”, as they’re termed according to CB radio lingo, pulled my rig into a comfortable few feet of pavement along “the back row” between the Kennys and Western Stars and Peterbuilts, reclined my seat, and tried to get some shut eye. Of course, now that I could safely do so, I couldn’t do so, as is usually the case. Aside from the other thirty or so big rigs lined up around me, there were two “resting bears”, chatting and eating donuts in their patrol cars at the other end of the lot, which eased my easily frightened soul, and also scared any “lot lizards” away.

Finally, after deciding that the best way to entice a visit from the sandman was a dozen pages of Annie Ernaux’s Les Années (this being a year before she was awarded the Nobel Prize and the rest of you caught on to her, thank you very much), I slipped from consciousness for a few hours. I can attest that there are far worse places to sleep than a truck stop by I-81. 

The music for the last leg of the drive the next morning was a medley of early Smashing Pumpkins. Despite his voice sometimes failing to translate to the field and his output generally going to crap after 1998’s Adore, Corgan’s early catalog features more than a few scattered moments of sheer brilliance – above all, there’s something beautiful and pure at the core of his songwriting in this era. In fact, I think the best way to describe Corgan would be a freaky magician whose tricks can either result in byzantine brilliance or blow up in his face. 

Panda Show

Trees and Baloons 

Ice Cream Snow

See You in June

Anyone who’s driven around Charleston in rush-knows knows that, despite it being the best city in the south, and perhaps along the entire east-coast, it certainly wasn’t designed with an eye towards the automobile; it is, still now, very much a horse-and-buggy type of city, with tight, cobblestone, and unlit streets, a maize of winding bridges crossing the marsh that separates the downtown core from the outskirts, and diagonally intersecting roads everywhere, making it, I presume, I fruitful city for insurance agents and ambulance chasers. Even with seemingly a ton of time to spare, the molasses pace of the morning commute into town along I-26, coupled with two or three missed turns near the country club and the obligatory formalities of thanking the head professional and assistant professional for having me, meant that there was just enough time for a few practice putts before the round, which, after a fifteen hour drive interrupted by a two hour nap, wasn’t exactly the recipe for peak athletic performance.  

Though America severed all royal ties with England, a sense of monarchal pomp and gallantry nevertheless lingers to many of its historic dwellings, especially in the old South. The Country Club of Charleston, which Seth Raynor originally designed in 1921, is a big club, one apparently fit for big, celebratory, royal occasions, from the clubhouse, to the fairways, to the greens, to the bunkers, to the wide views across the property, to the driving range on the side of the marsh.

The range at C.C.C.

In my experience, historic private clubs in the U.S. are usually rather quiet and sleepy venues, with pairings arriving and dilly-dallying at their conveniences until they feel ready to tee off, playing fast, then heading in for a drink or straight home. Country Club, as it’s known in local circles, however, is strictly otherwise; though I teed off before its members overwhelmed the grounds, by the time I made the turn, only about an hour and fifteen minutes later, the range was already packed from end to end with searchers for that ever-illusive secret in the dirt, the putting green littered with would-be Crenshaws, and the first few droopy-oak dotted holes trafficked as I-26 had been. 

Set almost directly across the marshy bay from “The Battery”, a Revolutionary War-era defensive wall at the southernmost point of downtown Charleston, the property upon which Raynor puzzled many of his familiar templates, interspersed with a few less-familiar ones and some original holes, is, quite literally, dead-flat – and I mean, flat to the extent that Travis’ Cherry Hills, in Ridgeway, Ontario, feels hilly in comparison. In truth, I feel as if templates have become way over-studied and over-emphasized of late due to the fact that they can be dumbed down to simple concepts and thus easily explained to those who are less familiar with the practice, but, when faced with a featureless such as this one, their real practically and value shines to forefront. 

the brilliant “lion’s mouth” 16th at C.C.C.

I’ve often equated the difference playing Macdonald/Raynor template-laden style and, for example, Mackenzie’s or Ross’ more artistic, natural-looking style to that of reading T.S Eliot’s highly allusionary, fragmented, and mechanical style of poetry (best sampled in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” or The Wasteland) and, say, Wordsworth’s or Keats’ more rhythmic, metric, and gracious style – it’s not that one style is better than the other; rather, that they are far different and, therefore, require a different kind of approach in order to appreciate what they are doing artistically and their intended effects upon the recipient. Successfully playing a Macdonald or Raynor course requires a kind of geometrical, steeple-chase outlook to one’s golf, a plotting general’s vision in order to decide from which guarded flank of the fairway the next skirmish will be best approached, just as the beauty Eliot’s poetry mainly comes from deciphering where he is drawing and how he is using the scattered bits of cultural fragments – from the Book of Genesis to Shakespeare to Verlaine – he includes in his works. 

Sometime over the last fifteen hours I’d morphed into a seventy five year old man, physically and mentally. Cranky, curt, and stiff, I could hardly muster a motion that resembled a golf swing for the first couple holes which play across the middle portion of the property: the 1st, a 440 yard par 4 named “Westward Ho!”, and the 2nd, a 385 yard par 4 named “Belvedere”. Moreover, I was a tad disappointed not to be immediately faced with two familiar templates – after all, like it or not, experiencing the different iterations of the templates is the primary attraction of playing a Raynor course, is it not? Seeing that I was the first person off that day, I raced through my first nine strokes of the round, simply with the intention of getting out of the waiting members’ way. Like many, I’ve heard the horror stories about raters who descend upon a club with their god-complex in check and believe that everyone should kneel at their altar; conversely, at historic venues such as Country Club, or Baltusrol, or Piping Rock, I still haven’t yet fully shaken the conviction that I am an intruder, that I am visiting a place where I don’t belong and am lucky to be experiencing, once and only once. As a result, I do my best to simply get out of the way, not have a presence or purpose known, finish my round, and then leave as stealthily as I arrived. 

The “short” 17th

Yet, arriving at the “Eden” 3rd and seeing that the two ball of elder dames, two joint Country Club and Yeamans Hall members who were examining my every act with intense scrutiny and judgment as I prepared to hit my opening drive, hadn’t yet finished the first hole, I took a moment to sit, catch my breath, and, as the sherpa Aaron Rodgers would probably advise, center myself in the moment. Aside from the couple hours I’d spent at the truck stop, I’d been constantly on the move, pushing southward, for the last sixteen hours, my mind in a kind of trance despite all the time I’d had to ponder the seven wonders of the world, the intricacies of life and death, of film and literature, of sports and pastimes. 

Then, and at risk of sounding hopelessly cliched, I experienced a moment straight out of Joyce’s aforementioned Dubliners, a collection of fifteen stories that all, in one way or another, revolve around epiphanies, or epiphanic moments, which bring forth some kind of recognition, or reorganization of principles, or change of outlook – the young boy in “Araby” who, upon arriving at the bazaar, realizes that he is driven and derided by vanity; Eveline, an unhappy young woman who feels paralyzed by her difficult familial situation and broken home in Dublin, but when the opportunity arises is ultimately unable to step aboard the ship headed for Argentina with her lover, Frank; and, perhaps most notably, Gabriel Conroy’s realization that, despite his own pretensions of cultural superiority and high self-esteem, he will never be able to live up the status of his wife’s now deceased former lover.

Scrolling twitter, coming across the latest bulletin of infection from home, I saw that day’s astronomical case count for Ontario and, suddenly, it dawned on me: I may not be able to play golf again for a heck of a long time after this, if ever. Ludicrously, ridiculously, golf, of course, had been banned the previous two springs in Ontario, and there seemed little hope of it not being banned again, considering what was sweeping across our country, our world. (Surprisingly, my pessimistic outlook thankfully failed to materialize.)

In a way, I hadn’t really enjoyed the first few holes, merely sped through them. As Proust surmised, though, sometimes life, real life, does, in fact, resemble something conjured from the head and hand of an artist, and this certainly was such an occasion. But it wasn’t until sometime later, the next fall to be precise, that I came upon a passage that nearly perfectly described my new found disposition, the spirit with which I continued around Country Club, around downtown Charleston later that night, and throughout the four subsequent solitary rounds on that trip. 

Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Project is collection of fragments and passages, mostly concerned with Paris and its city life around the turn of the twentieth century, that he had planned to shape into a full-lenght opus, but left unfinished at the time of his suicide in 1940, which he committed in Spain out of fear of being deported back to Nazi custody in France. Otherwise to this staggering work of some 900 pages, Benjamin, a german of jewish descent, also left a vivid body of criticism and cultural essays, the most famous and best of them likely being “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” which, despite being penned nearly a century ago, nevertheless expresses a number of salient truths in regards to golf architecture and advertisement in this age of Instagram and Twitter. 

In particular, I was struck by some passages in, what is likely now, the most known segment of Arcades, entitled “The Flaneur”. “The street conducts the flaneur into vanished time,” Benjamin writes, “for him, every street is precipitous. It leads downward – if not to the mythical mothers, then into a past that can be all the more spellbinding because it is not his own, not private.” Though the flaneur, specifically the Parisian flaneur, had a long history dating back to the mid 18th century, both in reality and in the arts from Baudelaire to Poe to Proust, Benjamin truly made the archetype an object of study and admiration in the 20th century, especially the first half. The flaneur is usually a rather affluent male, a passionate wanderer and observer of the world around him; yet he remains detached from it, among the crowd but separate. “Our man,” according to Benjamin, “wants nothing to do with the myriad of possibilities offered to sate his appetite. Like an ascetic animal he flits through the unknown districts.” 

A typical “Flaneur”

“For Benjamin,” Bobby Seal concludes, “the flâneur is the primary tool for interpreting modern culture. He is the observer, the witness, the stroller of the commodity-obsessed marketplace.  He synchronises himself with the shock experience of modern life. He does not, however, challenge that system. The point of the flâneur, argues Benjamin, is to lead us toward an ‘awakening’ – the moment at which the past and present recognise each other; to erfahrung.  His tool for achieving this is einfühlung – empathy.”

Marcel Proust (courtesy of Vogue France)

What is conspicuously absent from the character sketch of the parisian flaneur, however, whether in Baudelaire’s or Benjamin’s, is a pressing concern for the future, society’s and his own. The flaneur is, after-all, a loafer who spends his days wandering the Montparnasses and the Montorgueiles, drinking in arcades and on sidewalk patios, spending money on clothes and on hats, rather than looking for gainful employment or worrying about trivial matters such as marriage or raising a family. For example, despite the myriad of respiratory conditions that relegated him to his cork-lined room for most of his adult life, Proust, whose only gainful employment was working in a library for a few months after completing his studies, is perhaps the best known flaneur, and, until he produced what is the greatest work of literature ever conceived over the course of the last decade of his too hastily ended life, he was viewed by his family and friends as a snob and a slothful waste of talent, who preferred to entertain guests, sleep-late, lend money freely, bet on the rails, and daydream, rather than be, what they saw as, a productive member of society. As Edmund White relates in his biography of the author, who, it is said, would routinely slip away from the party he was attending to the pester butlers and servants for the latest gossip of high Parisian society, “Proust once remarked that people of action are too busy planning for the next event to remember the past.”

A tableau depicting La Belle Epoque (courtesy of 5 Minute History)

And the culmination of his life’s work is, of course, obsessed with recapturing and considering his own hardly disguised childhood and the various figures, the barons and dames and dukes and duchesses and servants and artists and flaneurs, who populated Parisian society during La Belle Epoque, which by 1913, when the first volume of the work was finally published, was some twenty years past. Moreover, his style – the high-lung, poetic, winding prose; the often heavy-handed imagery; the digressions – was viewed, at first, by many of his contemporaries as self-indulgent, dreadfully bourgeois, and reminiscent of the flowery style that dominated French letters prior to the revolution. 

A typical 19th century Parisian arcade (courtesy Paris Insider’s Guide)

Proust’s considerable family fortune allowed him to lead such a life of leisure and pleasure, les plaisirs et les jours. In general, though, the idea of flaneur, and the possibility of leading such a lifestyle, harkens back to a pre-Haussmann version Paris, and world for that matter, when arcades, like much of Paris, were still inherently public places that bridged the outside world to the inside world, when capital didn’t rule every aspect of life – that is, a Paris before modern modern-capital’s privateering, segmenting, anxious, authoritarian vision of the city, which began under the orders of Napeleon III and continued until the mid 1920s. Yet, Seal also notes, it didn’t matter if these arcades no longer existed, and could never again be a part of the city; what mattered to Benjamin, instead, was to understand, to make sense of the past, through rescuing such relics from history, since modernity, in his view, was merely another transient phase in history that would come and go like all those before it. 

A modern reconstruction of an arcade (courtesy Times Literary Supplement)

Counter to the loafy, retrospective, and idle nature of flanerie, however, stands modern neo-capitalism’s incessant drive to consume and weaponize time, its most fruitful asset – that “time is money” may be a cliche, but it is true: time is political; time is legislative; time is control; time is power. Of all the transformations brought about since the rise of modern neo-capitalism and neo-liberalism, sometime near the end of World War 2 and the subsequent restructuring of the world based on the guidelines outlined at the Bretton Woods Conference and installation of the Marshall Plan, our conception of time, of the work-day specifically, is perhaps the most impactful. “The creature became the creator,” as Derek Williams so acutely puts it, “the economy re-invented time. Or, to put things less obliquely, the age of exploration and the industrial revolution completely changed the way people measure time, understand time, and feel and talk about time.” 

A new conception of time truly emerged from the rubble of the Second World War. Days, hours, minutes became measures of labor that could and should, according to the new game in town, be bought and sold. Interest bearing loans and investments made time itself a commodity. The future had to be mortgaged, tomorrow’s time traded for the needed resources in the here and now. All this culminated in, and was exacerbated by, the rise of the post-fordist economy in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in which short-termism, instability, and elongated hours came to define the reality of the work day. The post-fordist worker lives in a precarious and fleeting world, one that is ever-increasingly veering away from fixed, permanent jobs to casualized and expendable ones, where work and the workplace can be shifted offshore with hardly a moment’s notice. “For most workers, there is no such thing as the long-term,” Mark Fisher concludes, “and it isn’t only work that has become more tenuous. The neoliberal attacks on public services, welfare programs, and trade unions mean that we are increasingly living in a world deprived of security and solidarity.” 

My whole life is my job; my job is my whole life. “Fewer and fewer workers are allowed to leave their work behind at the office,” Sukdev Sandhu writes in his brilliant Nighthaunts: A Journey Through the London Night, “they are foisted with mobile phones. {…}They are held in digital lasso, forced to dispense with the idea of down time, and spending late night hours pinging draft spreadsheets to equally bleary-eyed colleagues. Sleep, according to the rules of the post-industrial game, is for losers,” and “capitalism hates sleep because it is a time when nothing gets sold or consumed.” The zeitgeist of our current moment is likely best captured by Plan C’s 2014 essay entitled We Are All Very Anxious. “Today’s public secret is that everyone is anxious. Anxiety has spread from its previous localised locations (such as sexuality) to the whole of the social field. All forms of intensity, self-expression, emotional connection, immediacy, and enjoyment are now laced with anxiety. It has become the linchpin of subordination.” 

Yet, the first few months of lockdown, in the spring of 2021, acted as a kind of interrupter to time’s ever-increasingly blurry, anxious, and fragmented course. If time didn’t completely stop, then it certainly seemed to slow down considerably, even for those among us who were lucky enough to continue working during this strange and peculiar period. Suddenly, there was far more time available to read, to lounge, to think, to focus on our fitness and health, to finish all of those nagging tasks that had been long-neglected around the house, and to fraternize with long-neglected family, among other things. From one day to the next, the commute disappeared, the expectations of the work-place slackened, the home reconciled with the office. Moreover, I would suggest, the pandemic was the first truly future altering event that those of my generation of Canadians, and probably even the two before it, had experienced, the first time that our comfortable tomorrows seemed uncertain, perilous. When, as Benjamin believed, it seemed as if modernity might be, in fact, just another transient phase in history, the last one that may potentially involve humans in it. (Here you may cite 9/11 and the subsequent “forever wars” as being a future-altering event in the recent past, but I tend to adhere to Baudrillard’s belief that we, as Canadians especially, largely experienced these as simulacrum events on our screens, which occurred to representative others, representative others who could not threaten us in any way.)

If, as Mark Fisher surmised, the social changes of the last forty years have brought about a “slow cancellation of the future”, then the pandemic seemed to threaten to bring it to a full stop. Yet, a significant increase in engagement with arts and craft, whether creating or consuming it, was one of the benefits of the pandemic – for example, much of the nexus and framework for this very website was devised during the downtime Drew and I were faced with. And most art, especially its creation, requires calm and stillness and a removal of one’s self from the distracting demands of the world. Attempting to rescue “the counterculture” of the 1960s from the all-too-simple and now all-too-common interpretation that its motivations (i.e. its celebration of individualism, hedonism, etc) and consequences effectively planted the seeds for the rise of neoliberalism in the 1970s, Fisher implores for a reconsideration of the works of the period: namely, “that the failure of the left after the sixties had much to do with its repudiation of, or refusal to engage with, the dreamings that the counterculture unleashed.” In particular, citing The Beatles’ “I’m Only Sleeping”, “Tomorrow Never Knows” and Sgt. Pepper, The Kinks’ “Sunny Afternoon”, the Small Faces’ “Lazy Sunday”,  the Temptations’ “Psychedelic Shack”, and the BBC’s 1966 adoption of Alice in Wonderland, he recognizes, much like Benjamin’s Parisian flaneur, a hovering detachment, a disconnected outlook, as being crucial and linking themes to many of the better works of the “counterculture”: “these tracks apprehended the anxiety-dream toil of everyday life from a perspective that floated alongside, above or beyond it: whether it was the busy-street glimpsed from the high window of a late-sleeper, whose bed becomes a gently idling rowing boat; the fog and frost of a Monday morning adjured from a sunny Sunday afternoon that does not need to end; or the urgencies of business airily disdained from the eyrie of a meandering aristocratic pile, now occupied by working class dreamers who will never clock on again.” 

Fisher cites a sense of “social and existential security”, a still earnest and widespread belief that the future and its possibilities might be better than present, along with the discovery and use of LSD, which allowed for one to break out of “ritualized space and time” and thus reconsider consciousness and its relationship to what is experienced as reality, as being the driving forces behind the hitherto and subsequently unmatched proliferation of artistic output that defined the 1960s, not only in alternative circles but in popular ones as well, thanks in large part, Fisher claims, to a mass-media that mainstreamed such metaphysical questions subsequent to the rise of television and its blurring of the public and private that truly began in this decade. 

The 15th, featuring its recently restored Victorian-era esque banks

Unless, unbeknownst to me, that I’d been the test-subject of some coy, government-funded LSD mind experiment program, my sobriety was as unadulterated as the southern, jasmine-scented  morning breeze drifting across the property from the neighboring marsh and nearby ocean. As I continued on, slowly morphing back into something resembling an athletic man of a 26 year vintage, like the orc emerging from his sludge cocoon in the pit of Isengard, I very much experienced Benjamin’s einfühlung, which closely echoes the “exorbitant sufficiency” that Fisher diagnoses in all of those strange and almost transcendental tracks from the 1960s. Though, as I just mentioned, I may have been stone-sober, I was certainly tired, mal-nourished, and crucially over-caffeinated, a noxious mixture that contributed to the odd, floaty state my mind was in, one that is not especially conducive to great golf, but is for a spiritual epiphanies it seemed. Einfühlung, or empathy, in Benjamin’s sense, signifies, according to the German psychiatrist Theodor Lipps, “a mental process, during which the subject gains awareness of the emotional content of the object through perception of its individual attributes.”  

Faced with the uncertain void of the coming cataclysm, all mean egotism instantly vanished as I proceeded to play the “Eden” 3rd, then the “Alps” 4th. Cliched as this may sound, and I apologize to Martin Amis for the Benedict Arnold I’m about to pull in his war against such writing, but for the first time my score, my performance truly felt irrelevant – such trivial matters, compared to what was boiling, seemed, all of a sudden, as utterly vain as the false-front Gabriel Conroy had built for himself. The rush to get to the next hole, to finish the round, to see the next course on my tour, all of the anxiousness that had been festering in me, suddenly melted away, and I felt like Benjamin’s flaneur, allowing the sights and sounds to wash over me. I finally felt what Darwin so loved about solitary golf. Raynor’s holes became roads that led to a spellbinding past; I remembered watching with my mom the Women’s Open that took place on those very fairways and greens I was flanning across in a near mystical trance. My mom who was up there, back home, surrounded by the very thing that was about to cancel the future. Three years prior, while watching that event, I never would have thought I’d ever get to experience even half of the places I had. I still had many places to see, cities to go to, roads to travel, but I recognized I’d been lucky – and then and there, with whatever would happen next, to me, to my mom, to my friends, to golf, to the world, it seemed exorbitantly sufficient.


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