#71 West Hollywood Park (“Rooftop”)

There I was pretty much randomly taking pictures out the window of the 105 bus up La Cienega, wondering if I would view this oft-traveled boulevard through different eyes because this was my first time riding this route.

Yes-no-maybe-so was my preliminary impression. Lotta buildings painted charcoal. A lot of La Cienega north of the 10 looks in the process of becoming, like a gessoed canvas, especially the places that aren’t clearly marked as being used car dealerships or motels under new management.

I am in full photo-out-the-bus-window mode when I notice a guy get on the bus with a tennis bag. Yes! Finally! I knew it was gonna happen eventually and here it is, happening now: I am not alone.

Then I started doing some mental calculations and before I thought them all the way through I blurted out, “Motown?”

Sure enough, the guy stirred and looked behind him and we recognized each other. It made sense since we had plans to meet up at the rooftop courts in West Hollywood. I scooted up to sit behind him in the middle of the bus and we commenced a chatting that did not let up for hours. We met a week earlier when I was taking pictures at Rancho for my first feature story for the LA Times, about this very tennis quest that we’ve all been writing and reading about together for six months, wow, half-a-year already.

Yup. But wait, there’s more: my editor at the Times — do I love saying that? Heck yeah I do. My editor at the LA Times wants more stories, more-more-more. Am I psyched? Yes. I am hugely, wooly-mammoth-ly psyched.

So I was riding that vibe on the bus while my new pal Motown Maurice told me about the grips on his racquets and the finger-cots he likes to use to improve his grip. I told Motown I never think about grip, I’m just happy to hold onto the racquet. It was good nice flow like that all the way up on the bus to Melrose and then a brisk walk past the Pacific Design Center, which I hadn’t seen since my niece’s Bat Mitzvah.

“Are you of Jewish extraction?” Motown delicately inquired.

Extraction? Like vanilla extract? A little drop containing the essence? Sure! This is what new friends do: offer fresh new context.

In the parking lot where you have to go up the elevator to the fifth floor where the courts are, we admired a painting called “Heteronormative: The Death of the Golden Child” by Trevion Payne. They were all Black folk dramatically poised around a recumbent dead Christ figure with skin of gold. It was a lot for a parking lot, but in a good, stirring, think of things you don’t usually think about way.

Motown said, “Do you think that you might follow up now on stuff that interests you?”

I said, “Hmmm, I hadn’t thought of it but since you mention it, maybe. Now that I’m a superstar.”

“Do you think of yourself as a superstar?” he asked.

“Hah no not really but this LA Times thing is definitely next level,” I replied as we rose to the fifth floor.

The courts are impeccable with panoramic views of the hills and downtown. There is also an adjacent swimming pool in case you didn’t already feel like you were in the single most quintessential spot in all of LA County.

The courts were all full though. Bummer!

The attendant said it didn’t look promising. I noted that the people playing pickleball were each on half of two courts so maybe they could consolidate to play on both sides of one. The attendant said he would ask, which was above average kind and also brave of him.

The first two people told him hell no, get lost, which I thought was pretty dickish. That’s not what they said verbatim, I was just reading their body language. The other people said heck yeah, which was very peace and love.

I told Motown, “Don’t let me near those dickish guys because I might go off on them.” This was our first time hanging out together and I was already telling him a lot of true stuff, such as how my daughters tell me I have a different personality on the tennis court. Much more AGGRESSIVE.

Well, I thanked the hippie-vibe foursome who let us have their court. We started warming up. Rooftop tennis. So exciting!

I felt on my game. Leg-strong. From going to the gym. Squats and so forth. When we switched sides after the first game I recognized one of the two guys who wouldn’t share as my old friend Jeffrey! Old friend as in, my daughters were flower girls at his wedding! I haven’t seen him in ten years! I always liked him, though. He has a picture of his father posing with Babe Ruth. Recently I have been liking his prodigious outpouring of bodacious paintings on IG.

I gave Jeffrey a big hug and felt like the happiest man in the world because my enemy was now my friend.

Motown and I continued hitting to our heart’s content and then we took a trillion pix.

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