Throwing Frisbee in Alaska

Prudhoe Bay at noon — time for Frisbee golf!
  • Prudhoe Bay at noon — time for Frisbee golf!

The Professional Disc Golf Association is coming to Long Beach October 20 and 21. Listen up, I’m talking about the 2012 Long Beach Open. As warm-up, the Box offers a personal Frisbee-golf story.

It’s December, it’s Kamloops, British Columbia, and it’s 20 degrees below zero.

Richard Wallace and I are walking along Victoria Street. He’s on one sidewalk, I’m across the street. As we walk we toss a Frisbee back and forth, sometimes giving it an arc, sometimes leading the opposing walker so disc arrives in midstride, sometimes skipping Frisbee off the pavement, sometimes throwing it upside-down, sometimes catching it behind one’s back. Cars and people move along. No misses.

That trip started in Vegas. At the time, I was more or less attending UNLV, living southwest of town in Arden, an abandoned company town that once was home to the Arden Plaster Company. I thought I’d buy some land in Canada.

I had possession of a Chevrolet Corvair, the little deathtrap that made Ralph Nader famous. I don’t remember how I got it, but it had no papers or license plates. The license-plate issue was resolved in the Caesar’s Palace parking lot. Never did obtain title or registration. What I did have was an inch-thick (literally) stack of documents, several from impound lots, two letters from a guy in South Dakota disclaiming liability, one from AAA warning that membership would be canceled if they kept receiving roadside-assistance calls, and so on. I figured, if stopped, no one would read that much gobbledygook, particularly if I provided an incoherent story to go with it.

So, on this trip, accompanied by my UNLV political science professor, I drove over to San Francisco and picked up life friend and Frisbee devotee Richard Wallace and 6-foot, 9-inch behemoth and part-time street mechanic Joe Bob Tomlin. Four very tall men, one two-door subcompact, traveling north on I-5 looking like circus clowns riding in a circus clown car holding a sign that says, “PLEASE ARREST ME!”

We drove up to Port Townsend, Washington, and took the ferry over to Victoria, on Vancouver Island, where Canadian officials turned us back. Not for the car — the car passed their inspection beautifully — but because of unkempt hair around the head and face. Being Canadian, they paid for our return trip to Port Townsend.

We drove around Puget Sound, up to Blaine, and crossed there. Made it to Vancouver, took the ferry across to Nanaimo, looked at some real estate, ferried back to Vancouver, and then, God knows why, drove 200 miles to Kamloops.

I hope we had a reason to be there. Reason or no, we were there dressed in tennis shoes and summer coats, throwing a Frisbee across Victoria Street. Richard and I often threw as we walked. We threw in department stores, grocery stores, shopping malls, gas stations, government buildings, national monuments, theater lobbies, ferry boats, airport terminals. We threw on the polar ice cap, on river boats, in subways, and in celebration of our triumphant march into Victoria, we tossed a few in the lobby of the Empress Hotel. Here’s the nub of it: Don’t miss a catch. Ever.

We also played Frisbee golf.

In my living room, four decades after Kamloops, Richard says, “You remember that Frisbee-golf game at CC2, when we climbed on top of the oil tank?”

I should break here. CC2 stands for Construction Camp 2, a Prudhoe Bay football field of ATCO trailers double-stacked, built to house oil-field workers, two to a room. Our brand of Frisbee golf was spontaneous. We’d trade off laying out holes. One legendary round started from the front porch of a friend’s house in extreme ghetto world. I called the first hole, “Over the dead rat, hit the burned out car, then across the street to the telephone pole, down the block to the flat tire laying on the curb, and finish hitting the news rack in front of Dale’s Liquor.” Any place, every place, was a potential Frisbee-golf hole.

Back in my living room, Richard continues with Prudhoe Bay golfing days, “We decided to play the next hole from the top of an oil tank. That’s the tee. We climbed up the maintenance ladder to the tank top. It was below zero, the wind was pumping, and the dome was icy. We were playing with David Peterson. I told him there was a two-stroke penalty if he slid off the edge of the tee. A tee slip would mean a fall of 100 feet, said fall would inevitably disturb parking-lot gravel.”

Richard traveled in Tibet last month. Looking around, cruising monasteries, playing Frisbee.

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