I manage another par on sixteen, and after hitting a nice tee shot on seventeen that sails safely over the last bit of Hook Pond, I find myself thinking of George Plimpton, who frequently played at Maidstone and who made a career of athletic trespassing. But even though he was rejected for membership, I can’t claim kinship. Plimpton was a person of bottomless social ease, comfortable in any room and so connected he could get Hemingway to blurb his books. A man with little to prove and much to share, he was a born host. I’m hardly cut out to be a guest.
An hour ago, I was ready to slink back through the trees. Now it’s all ending much too fast, and after another par on seventeen and a solid drive, I’m taking that majestic hike up eighteen, smiling inanely at the huge clubhouse at the top of the hill. I’ve got 175 yards to the flag and would love to hit one last good shot and finish with four pars. But I’m an excitable boy, and I push my four-iron into the bushes on the right. Instead of a Woodsian finish, I end on a Plimptonian note after all.
All that’s left is one last perp walk past the members lingering in front of the clubhouse. I consider giving them a wide berth, but instead take the braver, shorter route. On the way past the putting green, I offer a few parting smiles to the members and they pleasantly beam back.
It’s been like this all day. At every encounter, I braced myself for the worst, and all I ever got were waves and respectful nods. It’s like I crawled through a window into a house, found the residents at home, and then was treated as if I had every right to be there. Perhaps the private enclaves at the top of the world are more accessible than I imagined. As long you’re willing and able to keep your bilious thoughts to yourself and arrive in the right clothes, just about any white person can pass as a member of the privileged class. Maybe that willingness and ability to pass is all wealth is.
Reaching the parking lot, I am hustling toward safety when a young employee zips out from the back of the caddy shack on a golf cart and comes racing toward me. I’m a hundred yards from the head of the driveway and could probably beat him to the property line if I had to. But it doesn’t come to that. The cart races past, swerving toward the back of the clubhouse.
On my way out, I pass the MEMBERS ONLY sign and step back into the world. I call Montauk Taxi for a pickup, but the dispatcher’s got bad newshe can’t send a cab for at least an hour. As I cool my heels, two more squad cars roll down Old Beach Lane looking for the sex fiend they’ll arrest the next day. My paranoia is slackening, but I’m hungry and tired and fewer than 100 yards from the scene of my crime. No sense lingering. Just then, a kid with shoulder-length hair and tattoos offers to give me a lift into town in his beat-up Chevy. Five minutes later, I’m pulling my cart up Newtown Lane past the Calypso and Scoop boutiques.
I clomp into the Golden Pear, where I buy a very expensive turkey sandwich and freshly brewed iced tea, then drag my stuff to a shady bench in front of the hardware store. At Maidstone no one looked at me askance in four hours, but here people self-consciously avert their eyes as if they’ve stumbled on a homeless man rummaging through the trash. What kind of person hauls his clubs through town?
No matter. I devour my sandwich, then head down the street and buy myself a nice cigar. I know I’m not homeless, just country-club-less. At least until I waltz into yours.