Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Golf Trip to the Sun

For those not familiar with Maryland’s climate, it is diverse, especially in its eastern half where the winters can bring blizzards that deliver two feet of snow and the summers regularly unleash 95+ degree days with humidity so thick that, when you go outside, you feel like you chugged a bottle of prescription cough syrup and put on a wet wool sweater.  (Meteorologists will tell you it’s due to our proximity to the Chesapeake Bay and other topographical conditions.  Personally, I think Lord Baltimore built his city on an Indian burial ground and the rest of us are paying for it in perpetuity).  You get used to it after a few years and some even justify living in it by saying how much they love the dramatic "changing of the seasons" which is like justifying prison life by saying you thrive in a "structured environment."  The oppressive July weather is just Mother Nature's way of bringing her quality stuff to the mound and we lifelong Marylanders can scratch out a few runs against her on those days.  What she brought last Friday, however, was some no-hit cheese with which we were previously unfamiliar. 

Ah the ignorant bliss of
unlimited possibilities.
Fortunately for me and 15 other unsuspecting rubes, we had committed to a two day golf trip on Thursday and Friday to Maryland's Eastern Shore.  (Think of a breezeless marshy low country with minimal tree cover).  By the time we teed off on Thursday at 2:00 p.m., the thermometer was pushing 100 but we were all riding the high that comes with the start of a 24+ hour stretch where jobs and families give way to booze and laughs.  Picture the toast on the roof at the start of The Hangover and hang on to that reference. 

My partner for Day 1 was a casualty right out of the gate as he either had a legitimate conflict, a vulnerability to heat stroke or an ounce of common sense.  As the man riding solo, I was given the cooler as my co-pilot and made good use of it on the front nine but we were so far ahead of the other groups that access was an issue so I left it on the 10th tee and filled a plastic bag with ice and a few cold ones for the back nine.  By the 11th tee, the ice was gone.  By the 12th tee, the cold ones were warm and I first said to myself, “holy crap it’s hot” (the fact that I needed to drink a warm beer to tell me that is well…sad).  The forecast for Friday was worse, much worse.  But hey, how bad could it be?

That night we followed the perfect pregame regimen for a round of golf in Death Valley…if our goal was to die.  We started with a feeding frenzy at a seafood restaurant including crabs, shrimp, oysters, fried clams, French fries, Bud Light and a shot of Absinthe (defined as a recently legalized highly alcoholic beverage).  Considering the conditions forecasted for the next day, the training table was a little heavy on salt, alcohol and uncooked bottom dwelling creatures and noticeably light on things like water, vegetables, foresight and prudence. 

Irish Gatorade
After dinner, six of us splintered off and poured a few more beers and more than a few Irish Car Bombs onto the smoldering dumpster fire.  (I don’t know where the rest of the group went but, judging from appearances on Friday morning, many followed a different but similar path).  When we got back to the hotel, we decided to continue chasing the night and asked the doorman where we could go for “one more.”  He gave us directions that no one listened to and pointed in the general direction of nowhere in particular and off we went. 

At this point, it was 1:00 a.m. and we were aimlessly wandering the streets of Easton, Maryland, a sleepy historic town that had closed-down almost 2 hours ago.  After about ten minutes, the reality that this night was over was just starting to dawn on me.  At that point, two of us were relieving ourselves on the side of a building when a bright spotlight hit us from the end of the alley.  It was at that point that I first regretted wearing my May I Suggest the Sausage t-shirt. 

That's not me in the picture.
I don't wear a bracelet and
my arms are hairy.
We must have struck just the right note of contrition and lucked into an officer in no mood to do paperwork at that hour because we were sent in the direction of our hotel along with a fairly stern warning.  That was when someone got the clever idea that we should take advantage of the deserted streets and run through the town…barefoot.  So we started running through the uninhabited center of Easton like members of the Tarahumara Tribe and I have to admit it was pretty cool until we turned a corner and BAM! Turns out the town was not completely deserted…“YOU GUYS AGAIN?!?”…“uh hello officer…we were just running back to the hotel and we must have taken a wrong…”  Now I was sure we were going to jail and I was really regretting the t-shirt.  Fortunately, the officer was in a giving mood and this time we accepted his charity and closed it down.      
The next morning I slept through the 8:30 a.m. wake-up call and was startled by a pounding at the door (which I initially thought was the cops) and then someone yelled what I thought was “MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA. YOU KILLED MY FATHER. PREPARE TO DIE!” but it turned out to be the guy who my roommate had promised to drive back to pick-up his car from the night before.  Better him than me because it only took one cracked eyelid to realize that at least two of the items I had chosen to consume the night before were engaged in a hotly contested divorce somewhere in my stomach.  I’m guessing it was the third Irish Car Bomb against the raw oysters with their girlfriends the fried clams in the background egging them on.  “You gonna take that from that drunk Irish pig?!?”  Without getting graphic, my shower was interrupted a couple of times before the dispute was resolved.  As I packed to leave, I realized I had no footwear because my flip-flops were laying in an alley somewhere in town.  Nothing says “Stay Classy Easton!” like checking out of a hotel barefoot (except maybe wearing a May I Suggest the Sausage t-shirt).

When I arrived at the course in Queenstown, Maryland for Day 2, I was pretty sure a sausage egg biscuit and a Bloody Mary were all I needed to get me back on track.  That theory was quickly discarded as I gave-up on both of them about halfway through and headed for the course.  It was 10:30 a.m. and it was hotter than anything I’d ever encountered outside of a sauna - the only difference being, there is no cruel, unrelenting sun in a sauna.  The comedian Larry Miller calls the sun in these situations “God’s flashlight.”  Apparently I wasn’t getting off scot-free for pissing in the alley.    

The booze and laughs from the day before had now given way to water and silence.  I think we were afraid that talking would make us hotter.  An hour into the round and you couldn’t even drink Gatorade as it just turned your spit orange and made you feel bloated (if that’s what PMS feels like, now I get it).  I don’t think anyone ate lunch at the turn as the mere thought of food was revolting.  One guy tried to eat a peanut butter cracker and said it was like trying to swallow sand.  By the 12th hole I think I started hallucinating because I could have sworn a marshal who looked exactly like Burton Gilliam drove-up wearing a cowboy hat and said “Come on, boys! The way you're lollygaggin' around here with them drivers and them putters, you'd think it was a hundert an' twenty degrees.  Can't be more than a hundert an' fourteen.”  By the 15th hole, I felt like I could ignite at any minute and, at that point, spontaneous combustion was looking like an attractive way out.  We didn’t so much putt out on 18 as we surrendered.         

 A Queenstown Beatdown
By the time everyone finished, we each looked like the guy on the roof at the end of The Hangover and collectively we looked like the cast of Cool Hand Luke.  We’d pass each other wandering through the clubhouse with expressions that said “what in the hell was that?”  It turns out that the temperature in Baltimore had hit a record high of 107 that day.  Mother Nature had gone Nolan Ryan on us and we could do little more than charge the mound like Robin Ventura only to end-up in a headlock taking a series of right hooks to the forehead.  Some ordeals make you feel more alive just for having survived them.  That, however, was not one of them.  Thanks for nothing Lord Baltimore. 

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