LA Daily: Miniature Golf and the Goddamn Volcano Hole

Having realized my own creative limitations, my contributions to the LA Daily will now be bi-weekly, instead of weekly. Let’s all celebrate with this week’s story, which appears to be about playing minigolf with my wife.

“Fucking Pagoda hole. That was bullshit. The volcano hole will be the great equalizer!” I declared.

She laughed as she teed up.

I looked around and tried to overlay my memory of this particular course over what I saw. My ponds were clean, my fountains were blue-tinted geysers, my little boats and seaside town didn’t have peeling paint or broken windows. The carpet on each hole was smooth and pristine, and the arcade inside the castle behind us was filled with dozens of different video games and pinball machines.

“I can’t separate how this place really looked in the ’80s from how I want to remember it,” I said. “I wonder if I’ve just idealized it, or if it really did look and feel fitter, happier, and more productive when I was a kid.”

She drew her putter back, and left herself in as good a position as any to get the inevitable six on the goddamn volcano hole. Behind us, the freeway was a wall of white noise, occasionally broken by the rumbling of a downshifting semi. The pond to our left was covered with a blanket of brown foam, broken by the nozzle of a dry fountain.

“Of course it looked better when you were a kid,” she said, “it was new then.”

“I can’t believe I never thought of that before. You’re exactly right.” I put my golf ball, yellow and worn, on the middle tee, feeling heat radiate off the heavy black rubber against the back of my hand. A gentle breeze carried children’s laughter and the unmistakable smell of that particular kind of pizza they only serve at minigolf courses past us.

I whacked my ball down the fairway. It rolled up the little volcano at the end and down one side, coming to rest in a corner next to some pine needles.

“I’m really bad at this,” I said.

“Don’t beat yourself up. I hear the volcano hole is the great equalizer.”

I gave her the stink eye as we walked down to finish the hole.

When I’m the king of the world, I’m going to buy a city block, and convert the whole thing to an 80s fun zone. It will have a classic arcade with vintage games, a single-screen movie theater, a waterslide, and a perfectly-maintained minigolf course.

83 thoughts on “LA Daily: Miniature Golf and the Goddamn Volcano Hole”

  1. If you want an investor for your 80s themed Fun-O-Rama. I’m in!
    Er, wait. You’d be King of the World… ergo you really wouldn’t need your subjects to chip in.
    It’s the thought that counts, eh?

  2. There are lots of times in life where I came back not wearing the rose colored glasses.
    Years ago on a family vacation, I begged my mom to stay in the same hotel we stayed in before as a child, only to discover, frankly, what a shit-hole it actually was.
    Other than Batman:the Animated Series, I have been extremely disappointed when rewatching the cartoons I used to cherish as a kid. The art is crappy, there are gaping plot holes, and overall just not the way I expected them to be, even with the “new, restored” versions.
    As kids, I believe we are a lot more forgiving of things because we use our imaginations so much, we fail to see the way things really are. Unfortunately, as we grow up we lose this sense of wonder, and sometimes end up viewing things and situations worse than they actually are. I believe this directly links to the whole advent of the MTV lifestyle, where everything has to be quick. If your senses don’t have the chance to process all the information, you won’t have enough time to realize how crappy it actually is.

  3. Thank you, now I kind of want to go play mini-golf. At Camelot. Or as it was referred to during my teens – Scamalot. Cuz that’s where the kids went to go scam (hook up). Man, did anyone else use that term? Ick, I want out of this memory…
    Anyways, Wil, ever play @ Camelot or the long gone one across from Disneyland?

  4. Castle golf on Sepulveda, right? It really was better. (And even better before they colored the fountains blue.)
    God, I died a little when they put in the batting cages.
    Still, I remember going there with my Dad on Sunday mornings after breakfast at IHOP and playing the original space invaders with him. (And I thought the place with the concrete waterslide was in North Hollywood and Northridge had the nice fiberglass one, but maybe I’m just old and confused. Definitely old.)

  5. I am preparing my resume now to work in your ’80s retrocade. I swear I will always make sure the token machine is working and will scape gum from the backsides of the cabinets every night.
    Also, can there be a roller rink? With proper ’70s and ’80s music. But no “couple skate,” please. Realizing you’re the only one without a partner is harsh. Seriously.

  6. Grew up in Glendora so Upland (or was it Montclair?) was the closest place to get my Putt Putt on. Was Bullwinkle’s the last time I was there, and hell if I can remember what it was called before that. Great memories Wil, and the downshifting Semi’s, HA! it took me back. I remember there was also a cheesey Recording booth were my friends and I recorded our own version of Ghostbusters… we totally sucked, but it was fun.

  7. I have the great grand misfortune of parking in the Camelot parking lot every day, as that’s where my vanpool picks up. The castle decor is just as cheesy as you probably remember it being. I never went there to hook up, but I’m pretty sure there’s still plenty of hooking up happening in the parking lot.
    In fact, I’m almost certain of it.

  8. Please NO roller rink! I broke my leg at one of those places in the 4th grade.. It wasn’t very cool. But everything else I’m down for. I’ll be waitin for it…

  9. Great story. You and Anne play off on one another so well, and after 13 or 14 years of marriage, that is really, really rare. But I’m sure you know this already.
    My bio Dad (I’ve had a Stepdad since I was eight years old and I can say with complete honesty that my relationship with him is a million times better than the one I have with my bio Dad, but I digress…) moved to Florida AKA “God’s waiting room” about three and a half years ago. He and my Stepmom moved into a Golf themed retirement community where everyone drives around in golf carts unless they’re leaving the community. Then, and only then, do they drive their actual cars.
    I completely suck at playing Golf. Pops, as I like to call him, is more disappointed about this than any of the completely atrocious things that I did when I was a teenager, so he tried to get me to learn how to play by introducing me to the miniature course they have in their community the first time I went to visit them after they’d moved down there. Needless to say, I suck at miniature Golf, too.
    I just got back from visiting them a little over a week ago, and Pops is so determined to get me to learn how to play Golf that he kept bugging me to go and play with him the entire time I was down there. My Step-nephew & his family were also visiting at the same time as I was, so I totally threw him under the bus and he went to the course with Pops, instead. He kicked my Dad’s ass. After that, Pops quit bugging me to go golfing with him for the rest of my stay.
    Part of me kind of nags at myself for not spending enough quality time with my Pop as I can, seeing as he’s pushing 70 and well, you know…I don’t even want to think about it, let alone say it out loud. I’ve made up my mind right here and now that the next time I go to visit my Dad, I’ll play Golf with him and totally such at it, but that’s OK because it’s the quality time that matters more than anything else.

  10. OH Hai,
    You can totally afford to buy an entire city block – you just have to build it in Detroit. There’s more than 100 houses for sale for less than $1,000. (, I’m not kidding)
    All you need is $1 from every single twitter follower.
    Or, hope the unicorns build it for us all. : )

  11. There will be at least one wall that is nothing but immersive games, like that Discs of Tron, and sit-down versions of Spy Hunter, Star Wars, the Star Trek vector game, Sinistar, etc.

  12. Okay I thought about it and I guess we can have a Roller Rink, I just won’t step a foot in it. HA Unless they start playin some funky music *white boy*! lol. Oh yeah and I’m gonna buy a Men At Work cd sometime soon and I know you, Wil, are a fan, or used to be a fan, of the band and I was wondering what album you think I should buy.

  13. Geek Paradise! Yes! Oh, that’s right…
    Damn you, Wheaton, why the hell do you have to live on the complete opposite coast of my current location? Me thinks you are just teasing the everloving shit out of me for teasing the everloving shit out of you about being a year older than me. (BTW, that phrase will *never* get old for me, so just get used to it, mmmkay?) ::Grumbles:: Yeah, I know I deserve it.

  14. “It will have a classic arcade with vintage games, a single-screen movie theater, a waterslide, and a perfectly-maintained minigolf course.” …and a Farrel’s ice cream parlor.

  15. Yes! We HAVE to have some Journey playin in the background! Anything 80’s themed is NOT complete without some Journey playin… Right on man. I’m gettin hyped up already. “You make me weep, I wanna die. Just when, you said we’d try. Lovin, touchin, squeezin, each other.” Yeah yuh! But wait.. what’s the age limit? I’m just now a teenager, (13) so will I be able to get in? Wait I turn 14 this year so by the time it’s all done I should be able to get in lol.

  16. OMG Tolkien machine! Whenever you put your dollar in to get tokens it should totally say, “Three tokens for the Elven-kings under the sky. Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone. Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die. Five for YOU, sure to get to the fourth screen of Donkey Kong this time even though you’ve been playing this game for, what, 20 years now and you can’t get past three screens on a turn? One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne, In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. One Token to rule them all, One Token to find them, One Token to bring them all and in the darkness bind them in the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.”
    Or something… *walks away, whistling*

  17. Yes! And if you enter the sekrit combination, you can Bombadil the machine, and get all the tokens you want!

  18. Please tell me that the single-screened movie theater will be featuring midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. You know, because I’m not already tortured enough by the fact that I still live on the exact opposite coast as you.

  19. Yes! I’ll second the midnight showings of Rocky Horror but can we make sure to get a cast that rocks? My RHPS virginity was taken by a particularly sucktastic cast and I’ve never quite gotten over it.
    P.S. The article is quite good. I enjoyed both the content and the style.

  20. I’m totally there too, Wil. However, I’m actually quite good at minigolf… what does that say about me? I’m a pretty competative guy so I actually try to do well when I play. I often won free games with that last shot that sent the siren’a’spinnin’. So I’ll be the guy who actually looks like he’s trying to win.
    The roller rink must often play “Freeze Frame” as it’s fast free-skate song- but, for the love of Steve- no Hokey-Freakin’-Pokey! (/me desperately trying to sanitize memories)
    Vid games? Cool. I’ll be at the Galaga machine, or if I’m feeling up to it, I’ll be rock’n’rolling the Centipede ball.
    Thanks, in advance, King Wil.

  21. I always went as Magenta. I still have the french maid costume, but I lost the feather duster a long time ago. It’s been about 5 years since I’ve seen a midnight showing, but that was probably the biggest rite of passage for every single teenager in me and my sisters’ generations.
    As it turns out, my niece, who is 25 now, lost her Rocky Horror virginity sometime in college, around the of 18, so it’s still a rite of passage to this very day.
    Long live Rocky Horror!

  22. I think we’ll have to fight over that centipede ball. lol. I so totally loved that game when I was a kid, it wasn’t even funny. I had the high score at the local arcade for the longest time, I totally spent every freaking quarter I ever came across in that place, until it was shut down for being a drug front, which was news to my 8 year old brain, but it does kind of explain why there were so many dopey teenagers hanging around the place.
    Which totally reminds me of how old I am (still a year younger than you, Wil! haha), because those were the days when a parent could totally let their kids hang out in an arcade without adult supervision. Now that we have pedophiles crawling out of every dark alley available, I feel bad for the kids that are coming of age right now.

  23. I want in on that. I’m annoyed by the fact that all of the waterslides in our city and the two cities nearby have been removed for condo develoment. Sure, there’s a lake here, but you can’t slide into it. We also lost our Flintstones Bedrock City a few years back, which was attached to one of teh waterslide parks. At least we do have outdoor mini-golf (complete with underground Jungle Golf and singing mechanical Pizza Time Monkeys), but how long will they leave it be? If they ever do tear it down, I wonder how much they’d sell a mechanical animatronic monkey for?

  24. You mean to tell me that he’s *not* already the King? Oh, you meant King of the World. I had that confused with King of all Geeks that just happen to be a year older than me.

  25. Haha sorry you have to see that place every day! As for me, I had the misfortune of working at the family fun center that used to be next door. It was my very first job. Was a cashier and while it could be fun, I hated it sometimes. Like working the roller rink counter with the smelly skates or the snack bar and watching some guy pour so much pretzel salt on his nachos it looked like a blizzard hit. Gross. But then I got promoted to a birthday party girl which was quite the coveted spot – blowing up balloons, decorating, putting together the little party bags of toys n tokens. Whew, another trip down memory lane! Thanks all lol.

  26. Wait a second… underground Jungle Golf and singing mechanical Pizza Time Monkeys? My inner ten year old is jumping up and down at how cool that sounds. My actual 32 year old self is wondering if it’s awkward that I want to see such things. :-)

  27. Here in Tucson, the Magic Carpet miniature golf course went out of business. Sadly, there was no pagoda that I remember, but there was a Buddah and a sphinx and a tiki head and tons of animals with various moving parts. The new owners are putting in a car lot, but have agreed to wait until all the sculptures are sold and moved. I’m NOT king of the world (nor would I want to be) but I did just adopt the giant monkey (see It won’t ever be a whole golf course again, but you’re welcome to come play that one hole if ever you’re in town.

  28. That’s really kind of you, but you don’t vote for kings.
    Strange women, lying in ponds, distributing swords is how you get kings.

  29. Who are you who are so wise in the ways of politics?
    I ask because I’ve got a scimitar right here that proves me emperor, and I seek the bravest in the land to join me in my court at Putt-A-Lot.

  30. Most of my birthdays as a child were spent at Putt-Putt. I loved that place. I love mini golf. There was an old and cheap place called Cresent Beach that I used to love. $2 to play all day before 5, $3 after. When I was a kid, my ideal ‘day’ at the beach would be to go to all the mini golf courses dotted along the highway.
    We never did get to do that. Oh well. Seriously missing Putt Putt now. Thanks alot. 😛

  31. Spy Hunter and Galaga and the old Star Wars Arcade game where you are Luke Skywalker and I’m so in! My husband and I met at the Univ of Pgh arcade by the Star Wars machine in 1985. I can haz Pittsburgh franchise please?

  32. Will there be funnel cake? You can’t truly have something so completely awesome without funnel cake. And Cotton Candy. Gobstoppers. SUPERBALLS! Garbage Pail Kids, and of course, pinball machines. Specifically, The Black Knight. That game totally RULED!

  33. Bah! Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony. Neither one of you can expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you! If I went around saying I was Emperor, just because some moistened bint lobbed a scimitar at me, they’d put me away!
    Still, I’d gladly join anyone’s court in the land of Putt-A-Lot.

  34. Look here, you have to let go of your outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society. If there’s ever going to be any social progress what we really need is an autonomous collective.

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