If Jaime can't
make you laugh, you're probably already dead. A good deal of his repertoire is pirated from professional comedians he sees on television but he has a way of surpassing their delivery and making it his own. Many of his pop culture
references go right over my head because I work at night and don't see much prime time
television but I make a great audience for Jaime because he won't get busted for stealing material.
I didn't get to watch much "Seinfeld" so I had no way of knowing that he was imitating Kramer when we stood at the counter to pay our greens fees.
"You get this, babe, all I've got are hundreds and I don't have them with me."
Or a pretty girl with a predominant chest would walk by and he'd fall back against the wall with slapstick exaggeration.
"Boutros Boutros, Golly!"
He has an odd, nasal cartoon character timbre over smoker's gravel and he talks so fast that you're still laughing over the last thing he said while he's pitching the next one. His dialect can be described as modified gangster-speak, a cross between Daffy Duck and James Cagney. The fast talking gangster thing is just a ruse because Jaime's definitely a lover, not a fighter. An angry man tried to pick a fight with him on the golf course once and he struck the guy dumb by beating himself up.
"Listen, sister, I won't give you the satisfaction. I'm gonna kick my own ass."
Jaime grabbed the collar of his own shirt and threw himself to the ground with inordinate violence, pretending to punch himself in the face and kick his own shins. He continued the self-flagellation long after the situation was diffused and the angry guy wound up laughing hysterically and buying Jaime's beer.
Billy isn't as funny as Jaime but he's close and it's an entirely different kind of humor. Dark and thoughtful, he's George Burns
to Jaime's Gracie Allen
. When they golf together they create a perfect dialectic
and become greater than the sum of their parts. You would swear that their performance is rehearsed because they finish each other's sentences like old married people. They have openly debated abandoning their heterosexuality
and joining in gay marriage
so that they'd be eligible for a family pass at the golf course.
"You know, Jaime, there are tax benefits too?"
"Don't toy with me, babe!"
There is no problem too big or too serious for Billy to wrap his worldview around and he has a firm opinion on absolutely everything. His specialty is curmudgeon satire but the deadpan delivery is so effective that you can never be sure if he's kidding. He had never even heard of Jonathan Swift when he told me that he came up with a solution for over-population, unemployment and hunger.
"Eat the people who are unemployed...duh."
I brought a copy of "A Modest Proposal" to the golf course the next day and accused him of stealing the idea from Swift. Billy read the whole thing while we waited on the tee box, then tossed the book back to me and oozed derision.
"What an idiot. I said the same thing in one sentence."
The banter on the course rarely has anything to do with golf
per se, more a four-hour jaunt around the world of ideas with the golf gods sitting in judgement. Your demons are right there on every shot and every putt
, standing on your shoulder, whispering or screaming into your ear. As you address the ball and make your final practice swing everyone falls to silence except the little voices in your head
Some people go to church to crank up the volume on their conscience and ask the big questions but not these cats. They wouldn't last five minutes in church, playing with the little pencils on the back of the pew and ridiculing dogma. When I told Billy that the golf course reminded me of church because of those little pencils he said that it was exactly like church only bigger and more expensive.
"People in prison should have to golf every day. Golf builds character, rubs off the rough edges."
"Right babe, it made a character out of you."
Jaime can't pass up a straight line and I can't leave well enough alone.
"But if you sent people to prison and let them play golf for free, everybody would want to go to prison. Toss in the government health care and three square meals every day and jobless duffers would be scaling the razor wire to get in."
"What's your point? You think that gathering up all of the people who are too lazy to work and too nervous to steal is a bad thing?"
"Well no, it just sounds expensive, that's all."
"Not more expensive than having your sister raped or your neighbor murdered. Prisons are bad guy factories plain and simple, you might just as well cut to the chase and kill 'em all as leave 'em cooped up with their own kind. The only thing they learn in that cage is hate and the longer you leave 'em there, the better they get at it. After ten or twenty years they let 'em out, lovely. Lock me in a cage like that and you'd better never take your eyes off of me."
If the conversation gets too heavy Jaime brings it down a notch and reminds us that the golf gods are watching.
"I can barely take my eyes off of you now, big boy. HIT THE FUGGIN' BALL!"
"I don't see how giving a bunch of ne'er-do-wells a season ticket cures anything, man. What's to keep them from beating each other to death with a pitching wedge?"
"Discipline. The game would eventually teach them to use that anger constructively, focus it on a nasty bunker lie or a slippery downhill putt instead. There'd be a certain amount of bloodshed among the high handicappers and violent felons but the game has rules that are self-enforcing. It's all well and good to beat your opponent to death but you've still got to get past that long par four yourself."
"But Billy, what would be the motivation to get out of prison?"
"Well, you brought up that whole getting your brains bashed in thing. Mostly they’d discover that they want to get out to play other courses and have sex with someone besides their cellmate. Then there's the gruel. Awful stuff, gruel. Six months of that and they'll be so busy practicing their short game that they won’t have time for shenanigans. You'd make 'em trustees when they hit a single digit handicap and when they get to scratch you cut 'em loose, simple as that. They’ve got something to shoot for."
"Cut 'em loose? You would release a mass murderer just because he can shoot par?"
"It's impossible to be a scratch golfer and a bad person at the same time."
All three of us paused in the middle of the fairway to absorb the truth of it but long thoughtful silences bug the Hell out of Jaime.
"Was that a slam?"