Thursday, March 16, 2017

Thirsting for one last drink with Arnold Palmer

Last week I confessed to a crime I’ve yet to commit.

It’ll be retail theft, a judicial term that robs my crime of all its spirituality.

See, my theft will involve spirits.

I’m vowing to one day pilfer a half-full bottle of premium whisky from behind the bar at the Tin Lizzy and sip-by-sip over maybe an hour or two transfer its entire contents from their bottle to my belly.


My motive?

I’m missing Arnie.

Dead nearly six months, I’m beginning to realize Arnold Palmer may not be coming back. He’s overcome long odds to succeed all his life so I still refuse to be conclusive.

It’s a pity, one that has many of us here in Latrobe feeling mighty melancholy since September 25. He was 87.

The loss is especially poignant today, the first day of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando. The golf news is full of tributes and reminders that, yes, he’s really gone.

It feels like it felt the week before Christmas after some big meanie said Santa was make believe.

A friend said, “I knew he wasn’t going to live forever, but that reality didn’t prepare me for the day when he’d be gone — pfft! — just like that.”

Understand, my friend isn’t a country clubber, one of the local elite who’d rub elbows with Palmer at fundraisers or galas with bankers, surgeons and others in what for a blue collar town amount to high society.

He’s a plumber.

He’d see Palmer at local restaurants, at the airport and often driving his golf cart from Latrobe Country Club to his home. Over the years he’d done some work for him, but nothing consequential.

He is — and I mean no disparagement to my friend — a nobody.

Just not to Arnold Palmer.

“Yeah, no matter who you were or what you did he just had a way of making you feel special. That’s a nice thing to do if it’s just someone you know from church. But for a celebrity known around the world to do that is just really special.”

So true.

It’s why I’m eager to thieve Palmer’s hootch.

A reliable source told me the bar kept the bottle for Palmer who’d enjoy a nip anytime he’d come into the Tin Lizzy, which he often did.

“No one will ever drink from that bottle again. We’re keeping it in memory of Mr. Palmer.”

So now I covet it.

I want to snatch the bottle from behind the bar and sneak it and two shot glasses up here to my office and enjoy a real reverie.

Or maybe a seance. 

I’d like to conjure Palmer’s ghost.

Booze — and I know this from woozy experience — is helpful when it comes to conjuring. Palmer booze, I’d have to think, would render a particularly powerful assist.

I’d just like to spend a thoughtful hour or two recalling all he meant to me and Latrobe. I’d like to immerse myself in the memory of his boisterous laugh, his twinkle, his cheer, his playful warmth and ebullience.

He was a man so buoyant I always suspected his blood was carbonated.

Many of the golf tributes over the next four days will focus on the vacancy, how they can’t believe a man like that is really gone.

Maybe we all have it backwards.

What’s really difficult to believe is that a man like that ever really lived.

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