Plummer Park is a gem. It’s got the serenity you want in a park, with lots of people relaxing amid greenery and playground equipment. It also has somber notes: a monument to Soviet Veterans of World War II as well as to the Holocaust atrocity at Babi Yar. These monuments to sacrifice and suffering made me extra-appreciate how many community services and different types of trees you pass in this park on the way to the tennis courts.
The accommodating clerk at the pro shop said I could hop on any empty court, so I did, with my tripod, to take pix of me serving balls that all went out. (Most of the time there is a complicated reservation system I guess you would get the hang of with a little practice.)
I figured I would just fool around long enough to see if the dream would come true of someone showing up to hit with me. Over by the setting-up Farmer’s Market at the north end of the park, a reed-thin woman with bright red hair was playing a mellow saxophone medley right up my alley: “My Favorite Things” into “L’Chaim” from Fiddler on the Roof smoothly segue-ing into “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers.
An older-than-me guy with a little brown doggie on a leash took a seat on the courtside bench to watch my selfie-ing shenanigans. He asked if I was video’ing myself and I said there wasn’t much to see. “Like a horror movie,” he suggested. “It’s not that bad,” I returned and off we were, bantering. He had a handsome cragginess accented by the toothpick he was working in his mouth.
We established rapport on the topic of pickleball, both of us agreeing that if people are exercising and having fun, that’s good. He said he has been playing at Plummer Park for 50 years and gave me an in-depth history, the highlight of which for me was that they recently re-surfaced it using the same paint mixed with the same blend of sand used at Indian Wells. That might sound boring to someone who is not interested in tennis court surfaces but to me it was like learning a secret of how the world really works.
He was so in-the-know and affable that I offered him one of my racquets. He said no because he was golfing later, so I didn’t push, I just started telling him about my quest for a while until he said, “All right, give me a racquet.”
I asked his name and he said, “Jason Williams.” Just as I was thinking I could spell that, he said, “I’m Flesh Gordon.”
“Flash Gordon?” I fact-checked.
“No, Flesh Gordon. It was a burlesque spoof, the number one movie in America for a few weeks in 1975.”
I noticed then that he was wearing a T-shirt illustrated with a dazzling galaxy. We hit back and forth, not for very long but long enough to live the dream of having someone come along to play with me.
“Keep the camera on you,” he said, very graciously for an actor. I moved my tripod to the net and took Action Photos! And that is the story of how I made tennis friends with Flesh Gordon at Plummer Park.