BY JOEL STREICKER
April 2, 2003
Ms. Wendy Ainsley
Greenmoor Country Club
Dear Ms. Ainsley,
I wanted to phone you after receiving your voice message last Thursday but thought it would be better if I wrote as I can put my feelings down better on paper. I purposely didn’t call either because of the guilt I felt for leaving such a rude message on your voice mail. I sincerely hope you can forgive me ‘cause I’m not a bad guy. I’ve been married for almost 56 years to the same blond girl I met after I got out of the Navy in 1946; I helped raise three great children the oldest just retired from Warner Brothers record Co. as their Senior VP, in charge of business and legal affairs; A Cum Laude student at Harvard University; a daughter who was rated the best attorney at the U.S. Government Legal Office in Portland, Oregon; the youngest son an anthropologist and an instructor at Stanford University. So what I’m saying is, I must of done something right although they didn’t get the brains from me; they all came from the blonde. I majored in football, baseball, and tennis in high school and college.
I would like to have a rep to call you, but unfortunately, I do the calling as I’m the founder and the president of Ace Golf Products. As you can see from the attached article, I’m mainly the chief cook and bottle washer. I started out in 1964 in the silk screening business and also offset printing. I sold the company, named Ace Decal and Silkscreen Co., Inc. to a couple of jerks who bankrupted the business in two years. I threw in the golf label business which was a big mistake as they are my only competition in this business. I started back in the business three years ago mainly to save my life. I was an avid scuba diver for almost 30 years but in 1992 (two years after I retired) I had a serious diving accident in Cozumel and suffered an air embolism to my lower spine which has left me 50% paralyzed from the waist down. As a result, it has changed my life completely and I often find myself getting angry for minor things. I’m lucky I can still walk, with a cane, but can’t feel the ground because my legs are chronically numb. But believe me, Wendy, I am not using this as an excuse for treating you that way its just that there are some mitigating circumstances regarding my temper.
Probably the main reason I was upset was because I had called you 5 or six times and your voice on the recording sounded so pleasant I bet myself $5.00 that you’d return my call. You see, I am on the phone almost all day talking to GM’s and, lately, lockerroom supervisors all over the U.S. and, since the advent of automated phone systems, almost 90% of my calls are recorded. I might as well be in a vacuum as far as response goes. I estimate that only about 2-3 per cent of male GM’s return calls and 15 to 20% of female managers do so which, as you can see, is far better than the men. I guess the amount of rejection gets to me… I know I shouldn’t let it, but it does. Sometimes I feel like quitting but its not in my nature especially when I pick up some of the most prestigious clubs in the country; clubs like Augusta National, Augusta Country Clubs, Waialae C.C. in Honolulu, Ravisloe in Illinois, Exmoor in Highland Park, Knollwood in Lake Forest and on and on in all 48 states. I had been laid up for over eight years and spent almost eleven months recovering from surgery that did nothing for me. But I’m no stranger to adversity. I broke both legs and an arm in a car accident just a couple of years after I went into business. I had to undergo an operation on my right ankle to fix it but I made the big mistake of letting a softball buddy, who was a big-shot doctor in Highland Park, do it and he messed it up. I wound up having to have four more surgeries until the doctors threw their hands up and just fused my ankle bones so now I can’t bend my ankle and sometimes I’m in terrible pain. The ankle looks like a mass of bone bulging out of my leg; believe me, it’s not a pretty sight.
But once I got back in business I felt a bit better. I don’t subscribe to all that mind over matter stuff—between you and me, I think it’s a load of malarkey—but keeping busy takes your mind off your pains, whether they’re physical or mental. My daughter is always trying to get me to try yoga, or breathing exercises, or rolfing (which sounds like what you’d do if you had too much to drink!), to deal with the pain. She’s tried everything under the sun and the moon to handle the back pain she got while working as an attorney, but nothing’s helped. She’s even gone to psychologists and told them that I’m the root of her problems, that I did terrible things to her when she was just a little kid, but all I did was love her like any father would love his only daughter. I know she’s still angry at me, but at heart she’s a good kid and I don’t mind all her cockamamie suggestions about yoga and such because at least it shows she cares. Not like my sons. Like the joke goes, they don’t call, they don’t write. You’d think they were so high and mighty they couldn’t call their old man every once in a while. The oldest never married, and I don’t know why: he always seemed to have a steady girlfriend. He lives in New York City. The youngest got married to a lovely Spanish girl, from Columbia, South America, but they split up ten years ago, I don’t know why; he says he doesn’t want to talk about it. He lives in San Francisco, and sometimes I worry that has something to do with it. I wouldn’t worry so much if he was happy, but he’s not. A father can tell.
My original voice message explains why so many top clubs across the country are adopting the Ace Golf Product’s Identi-Shu, so I won’t go into it again. With our customized club-logo ID labels you simply write the members names on the label and then seal them with a clear polyester laminate attached to the label and your members will never lose a pair of golf shoes again. It is so simple I don’t know why no one thought of it before. Did you see last December’s article in “Pro Clubhouse” magazine on the problem that lockerroom managers have with lost shoes? Now, my shoes would never get lost because I have to wear orthopedics on account first of my ankle and now the spinal damage. Have you ever had chronic pain, Wendy? Do you know how debilitating it is? Do you know how many pills I take every day just to manage it? Twelve. If you are thinking, that’s a lot, then you are right, it is. It’s hard to keep them all straight—thank God for the blonde, she keeps them all organized for me—and the doctor keeps changing them because they don’t always work so well.
Like I said, I am very sorry for my outburst on your message machine. As I believe I made clear, it is very aggravating to make phone calls all day long and not get a live person. It is also aggravating to make five or six calls, leave a message, and not get the courtesy of a reply, even if just to say no. I can take no. I used to be in sales—I sold advertising, I sold watches, I sold clothes, I sold steam cleaners, I even sold old batteries for recycling right after the war in Fresno, Calif., when jobs were scarce and I went out there to marry the blonde because her pop had taken a job there. We only lasted a couple of years before we came back to Chicago. So I can take no for an answer; you develop a thick skin. But what I can’t take is silence. You don’t like what I’m selling? Fine, but tell me. Do you really think your time is so important that you cannot return a call from someone who might just help you solve a problem that is afflicting your members? What about my time? It’s disrespectful, especially coming from someone who, I am imagining by your voice—a very pleasant voice, as I’ve said—on your voice machine, is quite a bit younger than me. Or am I wrong? Can you please explain where my logic is faulty? I have politely requested a few moments of your Oh so precious time, and spent quite a lot of my own to explain how I can help to improve your business and you don’t even have the courtesy to reply? Do you think you’re better than me just because you’re the GM of some fancy country club? You were probably brought up with a silver spoon in your mouth and a stick up your ass and told not to give the time of day to tradesmen and salesmen. Maybe if I’d finished college instead of getting married so young I’d have gotten rich and become a member of your club—if they even accept people like me—but that’s no reason for you to treat me like I don’t even matter.
You know, Wendy, sometimes I cannot sleep at night because of the pain and so I lie in bed and think of all the things I would change about my life if I had the chance to do it all over again. Maybe I’d finish college, or run off and become a jazz drummer, or, God help me, marry someone else or at least maybe fool around a little. But then I think of my kids and it makes it all worthwhile. What’s any of this mean if we don’t love our kids, wouldn’t you agree? So if I had to do it all over again I would make the same choices, but I would try to figure out a way that they could all live close by. You cannot really realize how big this country is until your children live on either coast. I do not know whether you have children or not, but they really change your perspective on life. I had mine so young that I never had time to be an adult without kids—or without a wife, really. If you have kids, then I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
Well, Wendy, I am going to wrap up what has been a much longer letter than I intended. I hope that you’ll find it in your heart to forgive me, and to call me back at your earliest convenience so that we can discuss what I truly believe will be a game-changer for the members of Greenmoor Country Club.
Joel Streicker is a writer, poet, and literary translator. He was raised in suburban Chicago and now lives in San Francisco. His fiction has been published in Hanging Loose and The Opiate, and is forthcoming in Kestrel. His English-language poetry appeared in the fall 2016 issue of California Quarterly, and my Spanish-language poetry was recently featured in El otro páramo (Bogotá, Colombia). Común Presencia (also located in Bogotá) published a book of my Spanish-language poetry, El amor en los tiempos de Belisario, in 2014.
In 2011 he won a PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant for my work with Argentine writer Samanta Schweblin, and in 2012 I was a translator in residence at Omi Translation Lab. His translations of Latin American fiction have appeared in numerous journals, including A Public Space, McSweeney’s, and Words Without Borders. My translation of a story by the Argentine writer Mariana Enríquez is forthcoming in Freeman’s. His essays and book reviews have been appeared in The Jewish Daily Forward, Moment, and Shofar, among other publications.