#72 Hermon Park, Montecito Heights

“I haven’t played since Valentine’s Day,” I realized out loud to my friend Timothy, who in true encouraging-friend fashion replied, “Then you’ll be really good!”

He had invited me to join two of his other buddies for doubles at Hermon Park. I said heck yeah right away because I hadn’t seen Timothy in a while and even though I’d rather play singles and I’ve already played at Hermon Park, he is someone I want to stay friends with and if I’m remembering correctly from kindergarten, being friends means taking turns and sometimes doing what the other person wants to do.

Also, it’s been a hard rain falling for the past two weeks, even snow in lots of places of around LA, so I was grateful to be out and about again, back on the quest, taking the 33 bus downtown ’til it stopped at 7th and Main instead of going all the way to Union Station.

But no worries, a DASH bus swooped me up and took me on a disorienting zigzag path through downtown LA wastelands I had not previously been aware of, but soon enough I was delivered right to the Patsaouras Transit Plaza, and all of this for free. I noted a sign in the front of the bus that encouraged riders to thank the driver, so I didn’t just shout out Thank you while disembarking but went right up front to tell him how much I appreciated his picking me up when I was feeling stranded. People let me tell you: that busdriver was happy to get this positive feedback. He said all kinds of things that I actually could not comprehend as language. It sounded like birdsong.

Timothy and his pals were all yes and no no, and by that I mean, no muss nor fuss nor fronting nor harrumphing, just love of the game intermingled with friendship and fellowship. What a great way to spend a morning! One of the guys kept looking out towards the astonishingly snow-covered San Gabriel Mountains and saying, “I have lived here all my life and never seen that much snow before.”

I had been similarly impressed when walking from the Metro station to the park over the charming old rugged bridge and noticing that after all this extreme weather the Arroyo Seco is the opposite of a dry ditch.

It was a wonders of nature tennis match, with Timothy persistently noting an eagle I never quite saw nesting up at the top of a mighty ash tree. I did notice a woodpecker-pecked sycamore, though.

I have been thinking a lot a lot a lot about trees lately as something to think about since it has been raining too much to play tennis. One of the things I think about is how to experience a tree without being on your phone. One method: look for signs of life; as in, how does the tree serve as a habitat for other living beings?

You really could not miss those woodpecker holes.

Playing doubles gives you time to reflect on stuff other than the game because even if you space out entirely, there’s a chance your partner might get to the ball. These guys were really very good tennis players and that gave me time to surmise that if I could see that many holes in the tree, I would probably be able to spot a woodpecker if between sets I got right up to the tree and looked even more carefully.

Yes! There was that bird. Not a cartoon but real, with a red head with black and snow white feathers.

Seeing the woodpecker made me feel peaceful and complete.

What a day, What A Day, the first sunny day after long hard rains and even snow. Such goodness to be alive. On the Expo line home, I was writing an email on my phone when from across the aisle a guy with a friendly face asked me the time.

“Three-eleven,” I friendlied right back at him. “Thank you for asking me a question I can answer.”

“Thank you for seeing me,” he replied.

This made me snap to and notice that he had on a shirt of so many colors you couldn’t really pick out one in particular. It was like looking into a kaleidoscope. He also had several intertwining medallions, and a jaw-forward countenance. He launched right into a pitch for his new TV show, a combination of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “Osmosis Jones” and a bunch of other things that went beyond my ken.

I picked up on my fellow passengers being alerted by the tumult of our lively conversation and in deference to them, I told my new friend I had to finish this e-mail. Things subsided from Crenshaw to Farmdale but picked back up again before La Brea, with my new friend saying, “Hey, how about that hail last week.”

“The hail was unreal,” I launched back in with fresh and unconstrained gusto. I figured the fellow passengers could all handle a convo about the hail because it was something we all experienced together.

“It was like raining glass,” said a guy who popped up behind me, an aged guy who looked like he might have drunk man’s bubbles floating above his head if he was a cartoon. However, he was bubble-free in real life. He actually looked clear as sunshine through the treetops, and he had a lot to say about the hail, including that the clouds may have been seeded by the Russians and Chinese. Or by God, to punish us for our evil ways.

“Or me for my evil ways,” he concluded.

“You could change your ways,” I suggested.

“I’m working on it,” he said. “Although, not really.”

“I like your honesty,” I told him. Then we all admired each others socks — those two guys were both wearing lime green socks while I was wearing bright yellow knee socks. Soon it was my stop but before I got off my first friend gave me a sticker.

“Something to remember you by,” I said, and he smiled the smile of someone seen and understood.

My tennis bag with that guy’s sticker, in my backyard. This bag is pretty beat-up and I’m getting a new one, so I want to bid this one a fond farewell.


  1. Friendship, Kindness, and Awareness (sometimes known as: Peace , Love, and Understanding)

    1) Being friends means taking turns and sometimes doing what the other person wants to do.
    2) That bus driver was happy to get this positive feedback.
    3) I think about how to experience a tree without being on your phone.

    Perhaps the old tennis bag says it all. Such wisdom to be found in the mundane.

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