#183 Montecito Heights, Highland Park

Today’s second set score was 7-6 (7-5), as close as can be. My new-this-year pal T won the first set, played as is our custom with the non-dominant hand… handily. Then, playing right-handed, I broke his serve in the first game. The strategy after that was simply to hold serve. I was delighted to a) have a strategy and b) have it be working out until c) serving for the set at 5-4: ack eek oh no! Then he was ominously up 6-5 and even more ominously up 3-0 in the tiebreaker before — in a process I wish was known and repeatable but is alas mysterious and rides alone — I hunkered down and prevailed, fireworks, hooRAYYY!

The joy of being evenly matched with my tennis friend T. is one of many joys of our new-this-year friendship. One of the supreme joys was at the very end T saying, “See you next week!” WE’RE FRIENDS!!!! He is down to play on a different court each time, which means… TRUE FRIEND. He also gave me a CD of his band, which is a sonic stream of closely observed odes that sounds like the Velvet Underground being happy friends with They Might Be Giants.

In addition to being a gifted musical artist and a closely matched tennis player, T also did what true friends do which is encourage me when I told him I want to write a story about people who recycle bottles and cans. This would be to make the quest go deeper into the stuff that makes me curious as I make the rounds. It came up because there was a guy with a shopping cart piled high and higher with recycling cans behind the court at Montecito Heights. I told T that I really admire people who recycle when they could instead be doing armed robbery.

He said, “You don’t go to jail for recycling” and added that he has a neighbor with a great big pile of recycling as well as a braided beard, and that he would be happy to make the introductions. So, thanks to the wonder of friendship, look out for this chronicle to go not just further but also deeper in 2023

Meanwhile: Montecito Heights is right by the 110. Automotive whoosh is one of its main features, along with the slight vertigo that comes from all those cars zooming along nearby while you are comparatively still. The stillness givs you the opportunity to observe the park’s vertical graffiti.

I also want to recognize the park employee who opened and maintained the restroom. I often overlook my blessings but not this time. This time I was viscerally grateful. Let’s hear it for public park bathrooms being open and clean when you need ’em. That was government at work for the people.

On the way home I got a banana and a coffee at Donut Factory, where everyone was remarkably friendly, especially considering how that place opens at 3:30 am. I didn’t actually want a donut but I needed change for the bus because my phone died, yes, the thing I feared happened and yet things turned out okay. Better than okay because I really enjoyed my first banana of the year and channeled the joy into a busride-bumpy letter to my friend K. This whole time I’ve been writing people letters about each of these outings and K has distinguished himself by writing me back. It’s a virtuous cycle, one of the best kinds of cycles.

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