The Saga of the Nineteenth Hole (Part Two)

A change in the winds.

Strange currents from distant shores, the tremble of change on the horizon. Upheaval and horror, upset and the quaking ground. I had experienced a variety of semi-lucid regimes at the golf course and had weathered them the way one does any particularly long, arduous storm of nonsense—with pluck, beer, and a heaping serving of not giving a crap. There was very little, I felt, that could damage my calm serenity, that could shake me from the peace I had made with this ridiculous job that I had. The golf course was my Bodhi tree, and under its boughs I would find the secrets of the universe. I would know enlightenment, and nothing the world did could possibly distract me from my journey.

This was because I could not fathom Rita.

Rita was Greek and cresting the latter days of her fifties, a shock of white forging through her bushel of dark hair. She looked the way a toad might look after it had been run over by an eighteen wheeler. Also, it was an ugly toad to start with. She spoke with unearned grandeur, and an implacable Eastern-European accent despite her constantly heralded roots. She was one of the most officious, unpleasant people I have ever met in my life; my coworkers on the golf cart, who would regularly come to the clubhouse to join me in the Simpsons or have a beer after work, now regularly fled when they spotted her black corvette approaching, as though the leitmotif of the Wicked Witch of the West was suddenly piped in over loudspeaker.

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The Saga of at the Nineteenth Hole (Part 1)


I checked my stores, and I have no good photos of a golf course. So here’s Howth, Ireland, where I once had to hike through a golf course five or six times.

Names have been changed to protect the innocent, namely me.

 All through university, I maintained one summer job. My cousin told me wondrous stories of easy work, plentiful tips, hilariously lax management, and abundant sunshine. I was wooed, and though I couldn’t hold down her exact job (lacking the necessary secondary sex characteristics to drive a golf cart, open cans of beer, and look pretty), I could certainly hold down a different bummer job at a decent wage.

Working at a golf course was exactly the kind of thing I needed—sophomoric, low-impact, simple. I needed a vacation from thought, the long, drudging months of study and commuting to school, the deadlines and the textbooks. If I earned money while being completely vacant and not working terribly hard, all the better. I sometimes fantasized my sun-dappled months on the greens might fuel the teenaged summer job film that constantly reeled in my head or, failing that, an amusing chapter in my eventual best-selling autobiography. “Caddy Calamity would be the chapter title, or alternatively, “Songs of the Hotdogsmith.”

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My Tumultuous Love-Affair with Unemployment

The Backwaters

Drifting: it’s the only way to be.

I returned from India with a backpack full of memories. I had dreams and scars, gods and demons, pictures and scribbled blue ink notes, bug bites and a traveller’s raggedy beard. I had carried my world around on my back for months at a time, hopes and wishes and plans all rolled in a thin t-shirt and packed between weather-beaten softcovers novels. I had cares in the world, certainly, but they seemed distant and small, objects passing in motion parallax, impossible to track, moving in one direction but appearing to sail by in another. What could I worry about? I had the road, and the road had me.

Unemployment seems romantic when you travel. With sandals on your feet and a week’s worth of underpants stuffed into a sack, the lack of a job is a bohemian commitment. Your sense of wonder and your lust for life are far more important than money, which you think about sparingly, and usually with a general distaste. You eat when you’re hungry, you walk out into the world when you’re bored, and you just never stop. And you never think about working, because working is a thing that you did in a past life. It’s a thing you understand on some basic monkey level, a concept that speaks to some part of the collective unconscious of your species. But to you as an individual, work is too abstract, too bizarre or bourgeoisie, something beyond the pale of comprehension. And you don’t want to comprehend it.

There is only water or sand or asphalt and your two feet. There’s only a jungle and sky and temples. There’s only rice and noodles and food you scoop up right in your hand and bring to your lips, the delicate and simple grace of taste. There’s an ATM in there somewhere, and you think of it essentially as a money tree, and only ever think of it as anything else if it suddenly spurns you.

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The Gettysblog Address

Headless Buddha alley
Good day, compatriots.

I interrupt your usual flow of reading my mind-rending works of blogging supremacy to do a little housecleaning on what’s going to happen in the next few weeks. In quick summary: I’ve been offered a job in China at an international school, and unless I mangle the visa process or my blood test comes back positive for a whole whack of the syphilis, I intend on moving to China.

What does that mean for Michael, the man? Good stuff: employment. Money. Experience. More opportunity to travel Asia and the greater world. Access to endless supplies of Chinese food. A free apartment. Around 20 little kindling minds waiting to be sparked, and me with the flint.

What does that mean for Stupid Ugly Foreigner, the light of your lives? Hopefully nothing, other than a lot more posts about living in China. Obviously I will need to find some labyrinthine routes to get me back to WordPress from around the Golden Shield, but I figure if other bloggers manage, so will I. And if I am able to find the time and can schedule a few posts before I hop on the plane, the continuity of service here on SUF should continue uninterrupted. Before you know it, you’ll be drowning in noodles and baiju and stories about Chinese public transit, without even a gap as I am poked and prodded by Chinese doctors to make sure I’m not on the drugs. I can feel your excitement radiating through my computer screen like the warmth of an exploding star.

So hold onto your butts, SUFferers. Things are going to be getting China-centric real soon.