#77, San Dimas Sportsplex

What a beautiful sunrise it was when I got up to ride a bus and another bus and a train and take a Lyft in order to arrive exactly at 9:30 like I told Dennis Ang I would when he invited me to play with him and his friends at the San Dimas Sportsplex tennis courts.

There’s no way to ignore the snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains rising to the north of San Dimas.  They proclaim that there are bigger things than if I’m hitting the ball hard enough.  I’m not hitting the ball hard enough, though.  What is wrong with me?

Maybe nothing.  That was the supportive vibe I was getting from Dennis Ang and his friends.  I heard lots of Go Mark on my good shots and nothing on my stinkers.  Hooray for this friendly community of more than two dozen tennis players, many of them wearing shirts from Sectionals and Nationals, none of them with any attitude or asking anything of me other than “Do you like beer?”

It could have been a beer-drinking morning were it not for my sober-as-a-gopher pledge for this quest.  Since I did have all of my senses unimpaired, I can report that two different pairs of sheriff deputies boarded the Gold Line on the way from Union Station to Azusa.  That LA Times article about down-and-outers smoking fentanyl on the trains has stirred action, for now.

As for the deeper underlying problems: Dennis introduced me to Joe Yamzon, a retired LAPD officer waiting for his turn to play at these courts 30 miles east of downtown LA. Joe said the problem with homelessness wasn’t so much housing as mental illness and drug addiction.  I respected his opinion because he was focusing on these issues when it would have been easy to just focus on the mountains and tennis and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2 on the court-side boombox. 

I was not really wowed by my own focus during this outing. On the bus ride home, I barely glimpsed a cascading stream in Irwindale, the shimmering rapids incongruous between miles to the east of squat square auto repair shops and to the west, sand & gravel mines, the stuff freeways are made of. I let myself get distracted by my phone. Dang! And on the court, not seeing the ball, let’s just blame rust from it being so rainy for the past several weeks.

But what you couldn’t miss is that these folks in San Dimas have built and sustained a supportive and welcoming tennis community.  I feel honored that Dennis Ang read about my quest, thought it sounded like fun, invited me out to play, told everybody I was coming, and introduced me around.

“This is Mark,” Dennis said.  “He’s on a quest.” 

Yes indeed. I’ve been in the newspaper, a couple of times, and even on TV. I’ve played on between a third and a half of the courts and am now really having to get out further and further into LA County to find new places to play. The quest is still to play on all LA County tennis courts in public parks. It’s also to finish what I started.

I’ll tell you one thing that has distracted me. I had my once-every-two-years visit with my neurologist a week ago, and he told me one of the abnormal blood vessels in my brain looks a little swollen. Nothing too alarming. He wants to do another MRI in six months. That’s fine. It was just when he reviewed with me stuff I already knew about these two cavernous malformations being in such precarious parts of my parietal lobe and pons that surgery to remove them could leave me profoundly disabled.

“Can’t swallow, walk,” read my notes from our conversation. “Loss of sensation in right side of body.”

This makes me feel afraid.

And sad.

And afraid.


But let’s not forget to read the next line in these notes: “just keep an eye on it.”

That’s right. Sure, it’s grim to envision a future of profound disability. Sure it is. You bet! I say that for me, and I also say it for humankind and let’s not forget all living creatures in the anthropocene.

And yet, what am I gonna do? Mope around? I don’t think so. I sure hope not. There are still 170 courts ahead!

One comment

  1. Not in order of importance:
    1) Shout out to Bono
    2) It’s a good feeling to “Finish what one has started”…but not always possible
    3) As one who has lived his entire life haunted by the “unknowns” of the existential medical human condition….the antidote for me has been to laugh often, cultivate kindness, and accept what I can not control. And embrace MLB.
    4) Live in the absence of fear

Leave a Reply