The Seven-iron Kabuki

“Damn! Why couldn’t he have been into Kabuki theatre?!?” was the thought that ran through my mind as I contorted my body tonight into completely unnatural positions. I was trying like crazy to improve what is admittedly a pretty pathetic game. Of golf.

My dad will be here in two weeks. He and I are best friends, and I’ve been looking forward to his visit for months now. And like most parents’ children, I have found myself both rebelling and conforming to his interests and visions all my life.

When he was into sailing in the ’70s, some of my happiest memories were of spending time with him, sanding and applying bondo to our old, beat-up racing sloop. When he got into an Urban Cowboy phase in the early ’80s, I learned a whole lot of Willie Nelson songs I still sing to this day. And when, in the ’90s, he got into golf, I cursed and sputtered and then, after a while, decided to give it a try, just so we’d have something new to talk about together.

Maybe that’s one of the great lessons of parenting: For him, it was always about the activity we were doing, but for me, it was just about being together.

I’ve always told myself that whatever he was interested in, I’d do what I could to at least understand it: If he was into Kabuki theatre, I’d be there with my powder and face paint. But golf? That was one of those things that really went against my well-honed college-lefty sentiments.

Golf? Isn’t that for lumpy Buick-driving actuaries who always vote Republican? What the hell was my dad doing spending time at his local golf course (which borders the Googleplex in the Silicon Valley) and talking about his swing?

A few years back, on one of my sometimes-annual trips home, I went out golfing with him, and while I was ironic for the first nine holes, the last nine found me trying harder and harder. That night, as a souvenir, he bought me a golf glove, which I continued to wear, Michael Jackson-style, into the clubhouse until he reminded me I still had it on.

Every visit back since then, my dad and I have gone out golfing, and while I’ve been happy enough to be doing it, what meant a lot more was that I had a chance to hang out with my dad. We’ve played a couple of really nice places now – Lincoln in San Francisco, a municipal course in Monterey right on the ocean, a couple of places in LA – and it’s been fun. Sitting around in the clubhouse afterward, drinking beers and telling tall tales, that’s been something I’ve treasured.

Last year, for Christmas, he gave me his old set of excellent golf clubs. But to be honest, I was really hoping for an iPod, and I was really wishing I had an iPod as I lugged the bag with its clanking clubs through the airport parking lot at Ruzyně, trying to cram them into the Fabia on top of all the other luggage I had from my trip to California. But I took them, and from time to time I’d pull them out and practice putting into a glass. Mostly, though, they lie waiting in the basement, partly because tee times on Czech courses are a pricey affair, and partly because there have been other things that drew my attention.

So tonight, as one shot after another corkscrewed off left and right from the driving range at Divoka Å arka, I found myself wondering why it couldn’t have been monster trucks or stamp collecting he was into.

That lasted until I connected with my 3-iron and hit the back fence of the short driving range. Then I pulled out the pitching wedge and made a nice loping shot into a trampoline the range has to make you practice your aim.

Maybe this golf thing isn’t so bad after all, I thought, as thoughts of Kabuki faded from my mind. To be honest, I’m kind of looking forward to playing Karlstejn with him.

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