February 14, 2019


CLASS STRUGGLE AND THE DREAMLIFE OF TRUMP NATIONAL: Indignant solidarity for my fellow golf-club workers (Paul Berman, February 13, 2019, The Tablet)

At age 16, I graduated from mowing the neighbors' lawns and watering their plants to my first real job, which was clearing tables and washing dishes at a college cafeteria, and then to a still better job, with looser hours and wider vistas, as golf caddy at Trump National Golf Club Westchester, known in those days as the Briar Hall Golf and Country Club, in Briarcliff Manor, New York. My career at the cafeteria was brief. During perhaps my second or third day on the job, I noticed that we cafeteria workers were entirely at the mercy of our supervisors, and we were not as well-remunerated as seemed to me just, and, furthermore, many of us, though not me, were members of a cruelly oppressed racial minority--notably the cooks, who were significantly older than 16, with power over the kitchen and impressive skills. And we ought to resist oppression.

I proposed unionization, to be achieved through militant action. And, a week or two later, I was, in a phrase that puzzled me, "let go." I never gathered the courage to tell my parents what had happened. I was ashamed to have lost my first job.

I was proud of the next job, though. After school when the afternoons were long, or on weekends and over the summer, I made my way to the caddy shack at the golf club and sat patiently on a bench until all the caddies with greater status than me had been called, and my turn at last came up. I threw a canvas golf bag, or maybe a leather bag, over my left shoulder and trundled around nine holes of the course, or around all 18 holes, in the footsteps of whomever I was serving.

Sometimes, I was asked to carry two bags, which was difficult. My right shoulder was not as adept and horizontal as my left one, which allowed the bag to slide off. Two bags were heavy, and if they were plush leather and filled with extra and peculiar clubs, a 5-wood or 1-iron or an alternative putter, they were more than I could handle. No one took pity on me. The golfers strode about in their golfing attire and chatted among themselves and said almost nothing to me, apart from issuing orders. Nor were the other caddies full of talk. I labored. Zealously I tramped about in the weeds, looking for lost balls. And I set off along the fairways.

The slopes were ocean seas. The green grass brushed at my toes and parted in foamy waves, and a brine of the freshly mown swept over my cheeks, and I floated along with everyone else from tee to green, and tee to green, almost in silence, except for the regular thwack of the club blades hitting the balls, and snatches of conversation. Some of those golfers were laughably awkward at the game, the women especially, out for the first time, perhaps, on a golf course, unsure how to stand or swing. But we caddies knew how to stand, which was upright with the bags in front of us, like Civil War soldiers at parade rest in the war memorials, wordless, expressionless, snickerless, and reliable.

Best were Tuesday afternoons, when the greenkeepers irrigated the lawns and undertook repairs. The course was closed to the club members, and the caddies were allowed their day. Only a handful of us showed up for those afternoons, mostly the high school boys, and we wandered the course alone, past the noisy lawn tractors and the water sprinklers, carrying our own bags. I owned a set of nine or 10 mismatched clubs and was always well-stocked with the slightly damaged balls that I gleaned from the roughs, and the banged-up wooden tees that were everywhere to be found, and a leather fingerless glove, and that was sufficient.

Posted by at February 14, 2019 4:03 AM