There are as many different ways to understand the Old Club’s 94th season as there are of understanding MacLeish’s poem. Your editor has an insight however, perhaps because MacLeish and I both grew up in Glencoe, Illinois, albeit MacLeish about 50 years earlier. Simply think of the Island Country Club as a circus, with three rings (golf, tennis, Clubhouse?), filled with performers of various functions, with varying predictability in both performance and behavior, going about their activities in a year with peculiar difficulties, and being at once both in the rings and observers.
It is a strange sense your editor has as he reports from away on the closing days of the Club’s season, the first time this has happened in many years. When on the Island, it is like a hive – the busy, buzzing center of all life that is meaningful. When “away” the Island is no less meaningful, but the importance of the busyness there is seen in context, and one senses both how like the rest of the world the Island is, and how different.
This one isn’t. Last week was the most challenging of the Old Club’s 94th Season. News arrived of the deaths of two long time members who were also great friends of many. Annie returned briefly, cheering Ryan and your editor until she told us she had at least another month of treatment and evaluation. Then there were the incidents of intolerable on course behavior and a deliberate refusal to follow the directions of the Pro Shop staff.
After dinner the other evening I was writing at my desk, when I looked out the window, saw that it was dark, and immediately headed to the bedroom. It was 7:45PM. In a Twilight League match, one of my fellow competitors asked a member of our foursome to please move his shadow.
Not the 1790’s, when the American economy developed its own complex identity, but our politics fractured for the first time. And not the 1890’s, as the “Gilded Age” collapsed under the burdens of corruption and massive income inequality. And, no, not even the 1990’s, with the dotcom boom ending in the first of the massive busts that have so marred the first quarter of our current century. Our 90’s are Dick Roth (91), Jimmy Madonna (90) and the kid, Joe Bruno, (also 90, but a few months younger than Jimmy).
A long time member and friend recently wrote that he appreciated that in most editions of the Island Country Club newsletter a word is used that he must look up in a dictionary. Earlier this week, on that first in weeks rainy night, I thought of his note as I was listening to Beethoven’s 14th piano sonata. It is known as “Moonlight,” a name given to it after Beethoven’s death. The highly introspective first movement of the sonata, an adagio, is considered by most serious critics to be one of Beethoven’s greatest works (see Editor’s Note).
Lovers of the Gascon dish, Cassoulet, argue endlessly about the proper ingredients. Among those most frequently found in the stew pot are chunks of lamb leg, sliced pork tenderloin, duck confit, garlic sausage, onion, white beans soaked in herb infused water, tomato sauce and more garlic. The origins of the dish go well back into French peasantry in the late Renaissance – where whatever was available was thrown into a constantly heated stewpot (from which the word potpourri – “poor pot” – is derived).
As the crew that repaired the old Clubhouse’s chimney was departing last Thursday afternoon, one of the team turned to Annie and said, “don’t use it for three days.” Three days later the Clubhouse thermometer facing the first tee showed 90 degrees just after 12:00 noon – and it may have gone higher, but your editor had a newsletter to write. It’s obvious we won’t be testing that new chimney lining any time soon.
A Sunday Bag is usually made of canvas, with a hard bottom and a cloth strap slung over the shoulder, used by golfers out for a comfortable round and usually carrying less than the full complement of 14 clubs. Last week at the old Club was somewhat of a Sunday Bag as well. Our COVID restrictions reduced the number of events in and around the Clubhouse, and some members stayed away with health concerns.
One of the lessons your editor has learned in over 30 years of membership in the Old Club is that every week has its own rhythm. Most are metronomic – with their own steady pace, with regularly scheduled “beats” with timed rests in between – the gigue movements of many Bach partitas. Some are like listening to Arnold Schoenberg – you’re never sure what you’re going to hear next, or when?