Monday, November 30, 2009


Suppose we dreamt we were Tiger Woods and we crashed our white SUV in the middle of the night while pulling out of the “driveway” of our fancy house in a gated community. Suppose we hit a tree and a fire hydrant and our lovely blonde wife had to save us by smashing out the rear windows with a golf club. And suppose the neighbor came rushing over with his mobile phone in his hand and called the police. And then suppose the Florida state troopers, though they had no jurisdiction, insisted on knowing the whole story.

This discussion will NOT be about what’s truth and what’s fiction, nor will we pay attention to rumors about a cocktail hostess who just flew to Hollywood to get Gloria Allred to represent her. (Who’s picking up that bill? A newspaper or a network?)

Let’s do this from “inside” Tiger Woods which is ultimately as invasive as it gets, but we’ll try to stick to universals and more-or-less shared elements by imagining “we” are Tiger.

First, we know we’re a celebrity, and we have to come through as a performer or our income and prestige will disappear. The pressure on us is very high, but also the access to “perks” which in this world means beautiful women. At the same time, it’s hard to feel loved for ourselves because of all this money and celebrity, so there’s a double bind: how can we know what is for ourselves? We’ve had the reassurance and total support of a father, who nevertheless pressed us to succeed. That source is missing now, which puts even more pressure on marriage.

Do we need our wife to be the kind of parental steadier that the father was? That’s kind of a drag on the sexual excitement. And a burden on a woman who might not be prepared to act as mom and therapist for a man she married because we are a celebrity (oh, say it isn’t so). Maybe she’s afraid we’ll go looking for another woman or that another women will figure out how to get through his conscience barriers, inside his “walled community,” and displace her. That this sort of dynamic surfaces in the “wee smalls” is no surprise.

Okay, another angle. Tiger is racially congruent with Obama, in fact, very similar in many ways, not least handsomeness and grace under pressure. But these very characteristics tempt people to give us less slack than they might give someone else. We begin to be “used” by those around us. A sort of resentment at our being seemingly bullet-proof causes people to be constantly feeling for weak spots, trying to get a little control over us, to guarantee our relationship with them. We must understand all this and forgive it, or we will be pushing everyone away from us, out of our “private compound.” We know that if we had less money, less talent, less good luck, we ourselves will lose the protection of that walled community and be out there with the rest of the people of our demographic category, which means a good deal of vulnerability.

So now I’m zeroing in on the “walled community” which is both a protection and a confinement. Very much like celebrity status, which also means privilege and access but always having to keep one’s guard up, to suspect motives, to watch out for those who do not wish you well -- precisely BECAUSE you are a celebrity.

But let’s not leave the racial shadows too quickly: the ghost of O.J. Simpson is prowling around in the darkness. Another celebrity athlete with a beautiful blonde wife who liked to play golf in Florida. Tiger Woods is a figure based on virtue: we would NEVER become violent with our wife. The whole idea of cutting her throat or even striking her is totally out of character, unthinkable. So rage has to be dealt with some other way. We get into the car to leave, get away. But where would we go? It’s also unthinkable to go to some barmaid eager to get involved.

Is this white SUV reminiscent of OJ’s flight down the California freeway? Is there some paparazzi out there waiting for a story, mobile phone in hand? Going out onto the highway is unthinkable. Don’t leave the safe privacy of home. But a neighbor is there with HIS mobile phone. What privacy is there even in one’s own driveway? The Florida highway patrol is infinitely curious. They are always infinitely curious -- that’s their job -- but they stand for the public as much as the newspapers do, in fact there is a symbiosis. They can get a lot of mileage out of leaks. Call a lawyer. That’s who defends private interests against public forces.

But before that, the crash brings an emergency that our wife responds to. We can’t leave now: we’ve blocked our own exit by driving into a tree and a fire hydrant. The fire is out. We’ve taken the damage ourselves: our “face” is hurt. Our wife uses up her violence with a golf club on the rear windows. (If this incident happened on the rez, we’d all laugh because it is such a common act of revenge to smash pickup windows. But let’s not jump to conclusions.) She smashes the rear windows, not the windshield or the side windows. Is she smashing the past rather than smashing the way forward?

A tree and a fire hydrant. Hitting a tree means striking a living thing. I wish I knew more mythology about trees in a SE Asian context, like what they mean in the life of the community. Hitting a fire hydrant is more mechanical, a public infrastructure, but a source of water which means life and safety in the event of a fire. A quarrel is a fire. Now the quarrel is over.

The bottom line from “our” point of view is that a man of great accomplishment and huge burdens, has found himself at odds with his main source of support, whom he genuinely loves. The hour suggests a sexual context. Either her accusations or his guilt or his impatient innocence has caused him to lose his temper. He has tried to protect her by leaving. He has prevented himself from leaving by driving into immovable objects and he has taken the damage himself. She damaged the car. Maybe she damaged him more than she intended. He extends his protection to her.

He’ll take a lot more before this is over, but he chooses the protection he has earned. I think we’d better let him have it. Florida highway patrol, journalists, Gloria Allred, etc. should all butt out. Dreams are private.

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