Friday, May 23, 2008

Hillandale: The Bastard Child of Golf

During the days of my youth intermittently spent earning my education at Furman University, I would, from time to time, spend a few hours on a diversion designed to take my mind off the rigors of academia. When these rare opportunities appeared (on average only five or six days of the week), there arose the need for an activity with which my friends and I could amuse ourselves. A short trip from campus, hidden behind the Polo Club Apartment complex, lay the perfect site for us to frolic. I speak of a golf course, not your regular set of eighteen holes, but rather a duffer's nightmare that went by the name of Hillandale.
Legend has it that in the early 1980s "Sports Illustrated" Magazine ran an article detailing the worst of the thousands of courses that dot our golf-crazed nation. According to the tale, Hillandale topped their list. As one who has visited the place more than a few times I cannot imagine an abomination foul enough to compete with Greenville's least finest public links. My friends and I, who had previously been teetotalers, were driven to alcoholism by the mere thought of teeing off on the first hole (that is sort of a lie but it helps with the story so what the hell). What about this bastard child of golf could drive such sober youth to imbibe the demon rum and cast themselves into the darkest pits of hell?


There were several features of Hillandale that caused it to stand out when compared to other courses.
1. Fairways. Actually, I should have titled this one "lack of fairways" because, in essence, there were none. The holes consisted of a tee box and a green. The lack of a fairway often made it difficult to figure out just which green you were aiming for at the time. On my first couple of sojourns there I took a couple of shots before realizing I was hitting towards the wrong flag. Most courses of this type would be termed a "cow pasture." Only an extremely intrepid bovine could have survived on the combination of dead grass and dirt that occupied the majority of Hillandale's acres.
2. Dress code. They did have a strict dress code, which was mainly enforced by a sign in front of the clubhouse, which read "Please put on shirt when approaching clubhouse." What a bunch of snobs.
3. Golf carts. These high-quality driving machines were the envy of German and Japanese auto engineers. Well maybe not them, but anyone who has ever driven in a demolition derby would be extremely jealous. Most carts had a roof that was only attached to two of the four posts, allowing it to flap up and down like a grounded chicken, unable to take off to the skies. The suspension gave you the feeling of being in one of those pimp-mobiles without all the fancy hydraulics as you raced through the pothole filled course. Fortunately the detached ceiling did give way when you bounced your head on it. Sadly, there were no spinners on the hubcaps.
4. Urine in the hole. In reality, I think one of my fraternity brothers was to blame for that - and I didn't pick the ball up anyway. Thanks for being in a hurry Rhea!
5. Electricity/one-of-a-kind holes. Although you wouldn't be able to tell by looking at the toothless rednecks surrounding the clubhouse, there were power lines in the vicinity of the golf course. Actually, the lines ran through the very middle of a couple holes. On one occasion my friend Karl crushed an iron that was doomed to sail way past the green - that is until it hit the power line directly above the green and plunged into the ground only feet from the flag. Number ten stated as you approached that if you hit the huge electrical tower in the middle of the "fairway," you would receive one stroke relief. The very next hole, a par three, allowed you to leave the course and grab a beer or two at the adjoining bar before resuming your game.
Number two, though, was my favorite of all. The green on this hole was designed by some mad putt-putt course designing genius who thought it would be a good idea to have a hole so steep that any ball that hit it would immediately roll back down the hill and off the green. Next, I would grab my putter and hit the ball, watching it go up the mountain and then return to my feet. This process would repeat until I made a miracle shot or gave up in frustration. For those of you who do not play golf, watching your ball roll right back towards you after a good shot is like having an aadvark pick ants off your genitalia. There might as well be a clown mouth around the hole prepared to taunt every one of your misses. At least you could smash your putter through his plastic eyeball like a Spartan's vengeful javelin.
6. Greenskeeping. I really never could argue that the good folks at Hillandale weren't trying to keep their greens in good condition. After all, on several visits the evidence was right before my eyes. On these occasions, I would approach the green, only to realize that the sprinklers were currently active. Now a little water might seem to be enough of a problem, but at Hillandale they kicked the craptacularity up a notch. These sprinklers were not embedded in the ground like at most normal golf courses, but rather run from hoses, which were splayed across the middle of the green. My caddy/inebriated friend recommended that I chip the ball over the hose. He pointed out that even if I took a chunk out of the green there would be little overall damage to the quality of the course. Hard to argue with that logic.
7. Crazy old man. The Hillandale clubhouse featured a proprietor aged somewhere around 80 years or so who also happened to be missing the majority of his teeth. He would yell at my friends and I at the end of every round we played for driving our golf carts like madmen. As if the vehicles could sustained any loss in overall performance (see #3). Usually he would promise to never allow us back on his beloved course. Fortunately, senility kept him from ever carrying out his threat. By the time we returned to play the next time, he had absolutely no idea who we were.
8. Styrofoam covered holes. To be honest, that was Josh's fault - what an awesome drunk he was back in the day. We would just feed him some drinks, sit back, and let the good times roll. The "fairway" looked like it had been hit by some freak snowstorm.
9. Loony in Revolutionary War garb killing Tiger Woods. Okay so that didn't happen at Hillandale. Sadly, I couldn't find any pictures of the place - so if you have some please send them on - but who are am I kidding, you were in no state to operate a camera during any of your visits to the bastard child of golf.

Tragically, Hillandale closed down a few years back. No longer do those of us who like golf combined with a heavy dose of libations have a place to go where we can avoid the back of a police car. Maybe, if we are lucky, some good man or woman will have the intrepid spirit required to build its equal. Dare to dream - we can rebuild it, we have the lack of technology.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Question of the Month

Old people drive very slowly. Don't you think they would be in more of a hurry to get where they are going? If I knew there was not much time left, I would be in more of a rush to get things done. Please explain unto me the sluggish behavior of these people as they run out the clock of life.

Now this is how old folks should drive:

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Beacon Light for the Masses

Many Greenvillians may eschew a trip to the nether world that most of us here in the Upcountry of South Carolina call Sparkle City. Yes, our sister city of Spartanburg has been ignored almost as often as a red-headed stepchild is beaten. I say no longer - there is a reason to make the pilgrimage up 85, as long as you previously get your doctor's permission.
Maybe you have heard its name whispered in the night and seen the fear grip your cardiologist like a cold steel claw as he senses the stealthy approach of his nemesis. I speak, of course, of the Beacon Drive-Thru, a place that must be experienced in the flesh at least once before death - which may well be the result of your visit. It will, however, be the most joyous heart attack of your life, kind of a grand closing celebration for your arteries .

According to their webpage, the Beacon is the second largest drive-thru in the United States. The eatery is time-tested, having been in operation for over sixty years.
Furthermore, the Beacon is so valued by Spartanburg that the boulevard running past the restaurant is named after the long-time owner, John B. White, Sr. Although nominally a drive-thru, to get a true feel for the place one has to go inside and get the full dining experience.
Upon entrance, you are immediately confronted by an array of boiling pots and sizzling grills, combined with the raucous shouts of the employees inside the open kitchen. The queue moves quickly towards the counter and suddenly you are addressed by a thin African-American man of average height. One thing makes this man immediately stand out in your mind. He is clearly blind. This supposed deficiency does not slow him down from doing his job - getting you to order, and doing so quickly and efficiently. You step towards him and he knows you are there.
He greets you and quickly asks for your order. Panic and indecision grip you in a death lock. What should you have? Too late, he has ordered for you and the masses behind shove your confused carcass farther down the assembly line.
Seriously, don't get to the counter without knowing your order or you will be moved on and processed like a heifer to the slaughterhouse doors. Speaking of future hamburgers, what exactly does the Beacon have on its menu?

- A-plenty -

The Beacon Drive-Thru menu mainly consists of hamburgers, hot dogs, and the necessary fried accoutrements.
The open kitchen at the Beacon allows you to witness the assembly line that produces your food at work. Lard and chili boils away in huge pots as the kitchen staff scurry to and fro preparing the hundreds and sometimes thousands of meals the restaurant serves every day.
In an attempt to separate themselves from your regular fast food joint the food at the Beacon is served in a manner which the owners have labeled a-plenty. If you truly want to have the complete experience, your food must be ordered in this fashion. Upon receiving your a-plenty platter you will notice that the chili cheese burger you ordered is not immediately visible. Don't worry! Just dig a little bit through the several inch thick congealed mass of fries and onion rings deep into the heart of darkness and you will find your main course buried inside, a kind of cracker jack box culinary treasure for you to enjoy right in time for the new installment of the Indiana Jones films.
You must at all costs eat the fries and rings first - they have a half-life shorter than the majority of known radioactive elements. Hot and greasy = deliciousness. Cold and soggy = barftacularity. Then eat the hamburger if you still have room. I will bet you cannot. I always feel safe making this wager - according to my completely made up statistics (according to Steven Wright 47.4% of statistics are made up on the spot) 87% of people who finish an a-plenty either die or become too obese and sickly to collect their winnings. Honestly, people under 6 feet tall are unable to see over the top of an a plenty platter without assistance.
Oh wait - there's more! Large parties will also receive a strawberry shortcake that they have absolutely no sane reason to eat.
Of course, you need a tasty beverage with which to wash down this cholesterol-laden cardiac nightmare. The only way to make your meal complete is to have a glass of the Beacon's famous sweet tea.
The restaurant sells more tea than any other in the entire United States. That is because it is no ordinary tea, but rather a sugar-filled explosion bound to send anyone with diabetes into shock if they merely dare to approach a cup of the stuff. Alarm bells ring urging the tooth fairy into action whenever a glass of the tea is raised. The state of Hawaii credits The Beacon with its impressive sugar production and sales. Hawaii governor Illiiawuaka Onomonopoeia, when asked about the Beacon, exclaimed, "I hate haoles (Hawaiian term for whitey)with a passion, but those folks in Spartanburg are welcome to visit any time."


I mentioned earlier that a blind man works the counter at The Beacon Drive-Thru. How can I be so sure he will be there for your visit? The Beacon is well-known for the loyalty of its employees, many of whom have worked there for twenty, thirty, and even forty years. If you come in by the front door, there is a plaque to the left listing some of the longest serving workers. A couple of individuals even slung burgers or car-hopped until the day they died.
I have been to the restaurant several times over a fifteen year period and Blind Willie (probably not his real name) is always there, screaming out orders in machine gun staccato blasts that would make an auctioneer proud.

That ends our tour of the Beacon-Drive Thru. Next time you are so hungry that you feel a complete disregard for your future health, head on down to Spartanburg and try it for yourself. The Beacon is much more than a meal, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. So siphon some gas from your roommate's car and shoot on down I-85 to visit. If you can avoid cardiac arrest, you will be glad you did.