{ The Stremph* of Living at a Country Club "in the Mountains" and Writing a Screenplay Right after You Quit That Job That "Paid Well" }
Joe West

badmintonHeard at Parents' Country Club by Group of Dowdy Old WASP Ladies

Woman 1: "...and then you know that Sarah was sexually abused."
Woman 2: "Sexually abused...that's not fun. That's just not fun."
Woman 3: "Not fun at all, not fun."


Businesses Represented by the Members of the Club (Guess Which Ones Are the New Members):

A store that sells Italian food
Real Estate
A farm that does "a little bit of dairy work"
Movie Theaters
Hot Sauce
Cat Litter
Professor of Criminology


Joe: "I've quit my job and am now writing a script for a Hollywood feature up in the Lodge."
Old Mr. F.: "Huh. So did you golf today? I hear it's wet out there. I'm going to go have some sticky buns."


The Newest Delight: "The BBQ Cats"

At the BBQ stand up the road, there is a family of four cats—a mother and three meowy kittens of various colors and patterns—who are growing ever fatter on discarded chicken skin and who look more and more absurd dragging whole baby-back ribs into the forest. You try to get them to come, but they refuse, being mostly feral. They take well to big handfuls of chicken skin thrown in the woods. They search out chicken skin, these BBQ cats.Even the truckers at the picnic table next to me, even the motorcyclist and his homely wife, even the retired couple listening to "the game" through the open door of their aging Winnebago (and we're winning this game, it seems!), even the hirsute BBQ cook himself who will "kill" me if the secret of his sauce ever enters my head, were excited—but not too excited—by the prospects of the BBQ cats.
   Will they last through the season? The truckers doubt it. After all, the BBQ stand is right by the road, they say. Will they live in the brush pile out back during the winter? The cook thinks they'll be eaten before the winter comes by "animals." When the BBQ stand closes down in November, will the cats starve? The elderly couple doubts it, they will live like "our barn cats did—pissy-eyed and mean." Can BBQ cats be sucessfully adopted? The motorcyclist and his homely wife don't think so, but then again, the motocyclist picked a homely wife, so we should not necessarily trust his judgement.
   Will BBQ cats ever be friendly and lick you? I debated this with myself, and have come to the conclusion that BBQ cats are something fleeting, the seasonal cats, the transparent cats, cats who only care for the detritus of smoked meat. My kind of cats.


Survey of Pictures Hung around the Club:

Birds—mostly waterfowl
Mexican children in hats
An old lady
A golf match about six hundred years ago in Scotland
War of 1812
Former African-American bartender rendered in "Amos 'n Andy" style pouring drinks (this sits above the bar)


Country Club Foibles

One old WASP lady of seventy-five has a daughter who adopted a non-caucasian child. "She adopted a little chocolate baby," she says. "A little chocolate baby and she's vanilla herself. Now she's got two chocolate babies and one vanilla baby. It was very hard for me to deal with."She walks to her plate of eggs and bacon. "Very hard. But I got over it."


Names of Fishing-Related Companies:



On Fishing in the Country Club Pond

You have to walk there. If you have brought a fishing pole and tackle, you have to be careful not to get them caught in the trees. Do not carry a whole eight-foot fly-fishing rod through the woods. Someone threw away the bait—it was mealworms and grubs or redworms and mealworms or nightcrawlers and biting worms or bloodworms and leeches. Not sure. I have no bait. The tackle box is, however, full of lures designed for landing marlin and mako sharks. Should be sufficient for trout.

ME: "Is the pond stocked, Mr. B.?"
MR. B.: "Damn well better be, it's Children's Week."
ME: "Do they stock it for Children's Week?"
MR. B.: "Hell if I know."
ME: "But, it is stocked?"
MR. B.: "It's Children's Week."
ME: "Do you know if they stocked it with trout...(voice trails off)...or what?"
MR. B.: "Damned if I know."
ME: "Ok, thanks. I'm gonna go fishing now"
MR. B.: (coughs and goes inside)
The smell of the pond is much like the smell of human waste, shit I mean. This might lend creedance to Mrs. G's observation that the pond is right next to "the septic system full of shit that used to spill out onto the golf course until we put up a bond to get it fixed. Now, you don't see toilet paper on the fourth tee. But, I still smell shit whenever I drive past." (She motions to the septic system, not the fourth tee.)
   Once you've grown accustomed to the smell, it is a great place to be. I thought that the drainpipe was an alligator snapping turtle (will tear a baby's neck in half with one bite) and had the heart hiccups for a few moments while I chummed the pond with my pee and some rotting bread. This really got a salamander psyched.
   I do not know how to use a fly fishing pole. The lure I selected seemed to be a kind of stingray with no eyes. It is the preferred lure for these waters. I did not "get the hang of" fly fishing. Once the lure was floating over the south half of the pond, I devised my lure strategy devisively. This would be a partially wounded, partially handicapped blind stingray. This really gets trout going. It is hard to figure out how to do the wounded part versus the handicapped part. I reeled the lure in and cast it many times, about every third cast, the lure would get caught in a small tree behind me.After ten or so minutes of fishing at one spot and having little luck, I decided that the other side of the pond was the side they stocked for Children's Week. I moved there and cast. I was very excited to catch: a stick, a dead fish's back half, almost the salamander. This was a good haul.When I returned to the Lodge, Mr. B. saw me.
MR. B.: How was the fishing?
ME: I didn't even get a bite.
MR. B.: I wonder if they stocked the pond?
ME: Well, it is Children's Week.
MR. B.: You're right, it is Children's Week.


Places Where the Children are Allowed to Play During Children's Week:

1. The children's clubhouse


Spending Two Days Fishing—What I Caught Other Than Fish:

The sense that there was going to be a bear around the next bend in the stream
Some kind of an earache that won't go away that Mr. B and others "in the know" attribute to the "amount of iron in the water" which I don't "drink"
Wet shoes that smell like dead things
Two pair of soiled socks, white-type
Some kind of a bee
A bobber
Nausea—forgetting to take my meds and vomiting into a prime fishing hole
The fishing bug


Some of the Big, Actual Worries Up Here at the Club:

"Is there hot spice in the barbecue beef wrap?"
"Did that ball bounce onto my property?"
"Would you say that this outfit is subtle?"
"Did you make this soup with pig's feet?"
"If the phone in the lodge doesn't dial out, how do I dial out?"


The World According to Mr. B: The Glowing Guru

"The guru I've got is a Hungarian...like you. He's big in Boca Raton. He's working with colors, vibrations, you know. When I had a bad knee, he just shined the yellow light on it everyday and the vibrations healed. All the colors! And the dimensions we can't see—fourth, fifth, infinity. You can harness these dimensions, Joe, use that energy. A guy I know sleeps with all sorts of green herbs in a pillow. The aromat...aroma fixes just about everything. My guru is really amazing. He's just got it all harnessed. All the vibrations. Just the power coming off of him—you can see it. He glows. Joe, my guru glows. And you can just see him from across the conference. It feels so yellow and orange. Heals you, Joe, it heals you, Joe."

back home.


[ * The French landlord arrived the day after the door was kicked in by a drunken comrade. He brought another French man—an architect, I was told—who knew quite a bit about matters such as when you've had your door kicked down and what the hell to do. They spoke in quick French. I understood chunks here and there, mostly obscure words for construction-related things. They ran their fingers up and down the splintered wood, made chopping motions at the defeated doorframe. I was trying to kick the broken beer bottles and other detritus of hedonism out of sight while remaining interested in the use of a speculum on the deadbolt. After not a little discussion, they made a single diagnosis to me:
   "You are very lucky not to 'ave been behind zis door when it came down. It must have come down with considerable stremph."
   That was all that was said. The door was set back on its hinges, the door frame hastily and shoddily mended, and the whole situation largely glossed over.

As I am now a migrant-farmer of ideas and notions, I too wish to diagnose my situation as succintly as possible. It is one of stremph, pure stremph, potato-fed stremph. Elegiac stremph. ]