#73 & 74 — Memorial Park, Azusa & Cahuilla Park, Claremont

I thought I’d be a star by today, but y’know, there are consolations. I made it out to wherever the f*ck I am in the desert safely. That’s big. I’m grateful! And there’s a Chipotle right across the parking lot. I’m grateful for that, too.

So what’s the matter? Well, I went 0-for-tennis today on the drive out to Indian Wells for the big tournament which starts tomorrow. I dreamed of playing my way out here, like a happy version of The Swimmer in John Cheever’s “The Swimmer,” even though there is no happy version of this classic about a guy who swims across all the swimming pools in Scarsdale only to discover when he arrives home that… well, if you haven’t had the bittersweet pleasure yet, read that short story RIGHT NOW and then if you still haven’t met your daily requirement of schadenfreude, read on.

I think about “The Swimmer” here in my quest to play tennis on every public tennis court in Los Angeles County. I don’t overthink about it, though. Actually, it’s like an omen I ignore.

Like this: despite today’s utter tennislessness, I did notch not one but two more legit courts. The thing is to play. To notch a court I just have to experience some kind of have-fun activity. It doesn’t have to be a match or set or even a rally. On the two courts I played on today, all I did was try to hit my tennis bag in the corner on one side of the court from the center mark on the other side. Since I realized all I had on me was one can of balls, both times I hit and missed three times, which is not much but still better than Carlos Beltran.

Note: he’s a baseball player. Have you noticed that I have never once mentioned a professional tennis player in these chronicles? I drove out here to the desert to see the opening rounds of Indian Wells because I feel it behooves me to know more about professional tennis. Donchya think? I do.

Meanwhile, I was so happy upon arriving at Memorial Park in Azusa that I sang “Elderberry Wine” by Elton John from his 1973 album, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player. That is one of the most important albums in the development of my character because to hear the great tunes like “Elderberry Wine” you also had to listen to and memorize and allow to fuse with your DNA some objectively bad songs like “High Flying Bird” and “Texan Love Song.” Despite their objective badness I still croon both of those songs at least once a week because like I said, they are fused with my DNA.

It’s called taking the bad with the good. That’s today’s theme. I was cheerful as all-get out swinging and missing at Memorial Park in Azusa. I got to see a family playing cricket against the backboard. You know, cricket — with the big flat bat? Yeah they were digging it, amid a cold drizzle. It was not a day to be out playing sports, but we were, and so was the guy jogging around the park to whom I chin-nodded once and he thumbs-upped me back.

Feelin’ fine!

And thus onward on Route 66 using the map app’s “Nearest public tennis court” to Glendora Tennis Center which was shut down, locked with a rusty chain around an area giving off sulfurous sinkhole vibes, which made me think for g-d’s sake don’t drive around back to see if the gate is open on the other side.

I drove around back to see if the gate was open on the other side. There wasn’t an obvious entranceway to hell other than an abandoned overturned sofa, which I did not try out for comfort. No, I used good sense and scrammed, still having a great time, listening to Breakfast with the Beatles on KLOS 95.5, Ringo taking the lead on “Boys” live at the Hollywood Bowl.

How much do I love Ringo?

How many stars are there in the sky?

And thus onward to Cahuilla Park in easternmost LA County and as of now the nicest courts I’ve encountered. Eight courts in great condition, ringed by tall pines and gnarly junipers. And those San Gabriel Mountains are RIGHT THERE! They are not just looming. They have erupted. They rule the earth. It’s impressive.

Except you can’t really see the mountains in this picture. That’s the kind of non-appearance day it’s been. Nobody just happened to be there coincidentally available to hit out for 90 cardiovascular and strategic minutes, so, oh well. There was one kid and his coach with whom I shared a commiserating shrug at the damp courts. I did offer a spoken “You gotta be hardcore to come out on a day like today,” more for my benefit than theirs as yes, my typically indefatigable spirits were starting to sink.

I feel we are close enough that I can admit this you.

I’ll just go ahead and further admit that I went to three more courts here in the desert still hoping to just run into somebody to play with, but nah. I was in full Charlie Brown at the ballpark on a rainy day mode today, “Where is everybody???”

So forlorn. This too is part of my DNA, though, and I readily claim it — ask my wife, she completely agrees. What am I gonna do, deny that there is a big part of me that just likes wandering around looking for people to play with? I can’t deny that. It’s part of who I am.

The closest I came was a dad playing with his three-year-old daughter at Fritz Burns Park in La Quinta. I thought to myself, “Don’t don’t don’t,” and then I went ahead and blurted out loud because I couldn’t help myself, like Peter Lorre in M, “Do you want to play Australian?” Which for all you non-tennis nerds is basically just playing with three people.

He chuckled mildly and made sure his child was safe. Shortly thereafter, as I was proceeding briskly and eye-contact-free back to the parking lot, I did take some comfort in hearing him pass down to the next generation this piece of wisdom: “Bounce and hit.”

Which is really the “To thine own self be true” of tennis. So I take comfort in the sharing of wisdom down the generations, and like I said, also in there being a Chipotle across the parking lot, which is where I’m headed now.

One comment

  1. Things that I imagine are part of your DNA:
    * Orange and Blue
    * Mexican Cuisine
    * Dylan
    Things I now know are part of your DNA:
    * Don’t Shoot me I’m Only the Piano player
    * Being Forlorn at times
    Somethings I wonder about your DNA:
    * Is Ringo DNA material?
    * How deep is Crocodile Rock wrapped into your DNA?

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