Let’s be fair to Alhambra Park. It has plentiful trees, a terrific swimming pool shaded by permanent the future-circa-1965 umbrellas as well as sturdy picnic tables shaded by handsome enclosures built of stone. There is a bandstand that looks great for playing whiffle ball, in the sense that you would pitch and bat from the stage and hit the ball into the fanned-out seats, having checked first to make sure no one is sleeping beneath them.
Amid such splendor, the tennis courts did not strike me as being priority number one.
No straps on the nets, that’s the tell-tale. Well, one strap, on the court where I played for a minute, but it was balanced by at least one net sutured like Frankenstein’s monster’s forehead, except worse, like Frankenstein’s monster had gotten a nasty gash banging his head against the dashboard of his snowmobile and had to stitch it up himself using a broken shard of the rear-view mirror.
I am grateful to have time to think up outlandish metaphors. Maybe I could use some of this time to invent new tennis-y games to play by myself. Tennis solitaire! I guess I coulda asked the one other guy practicing his serves by himself if he wanted to hit, but this guy had his shirt off on a barely 60-degree day so let’s give him some privacy.
Let’s give him a lot of privacy.
Meanwhile, this was another one of those just-let-me-see-if-I-can-knock-over-a-can-of-balls-from-the-other-side-of-the-court outings. The real action on this trip was at Live Oak Tennis Club, a private club hidden away on a cul-de-sac in a neighborhood of houses with porches built of stone amid grand overhanging oaks.
Such beauty! I felt like I was on a magic carpet just trudging along with my tennis bag, trudging in a merry way, but also I will admit partly in a dreary way. The dreariness having to do with unexpected thoughts along the lines of what’s the point.
What’s the point.
It’s an unexpected question because I know the answer: try to have a positive influence on people and also seek to increase the overall quantity of delight in the world.
Well, knowing the answer is one thing and… something else is a different thing entirely. I’m not sure what the other thing is, my best guess is it’s what everyone else is carrying too, a burden. Anyway, I was trudging along with it yesterday while admiring the oak trees in South Pasadena and also a tropical ash. Have you checked out a mature tropical ash lately? Those things are cathedrals. So impressive!
Meanwhile, I am burying the lede insofar as I got invited to play at this lovely private club by Tom K., a friend of my pal Andy Miller. Tom read my tennis story in the LA Times which mentioned Andy. Tom liked it so much he invited me to go hit with him and sure enough we did and it was jolly.
Did you know that you can hit up on the ball just about as ferociously as you like? Oh heck yeah. Hit up all you want. Topspin. I was hitting up vigorously and the ball went spinning along deep into the opposite court, enabling me to rally just fine with Tom, who is a way better player than I am. He places the ball with the skill of the surgeon Frankenstein’s monster could have used.
Tom is also a balletic leaper. You know what I mean? I mean, not only does he leap up to hit balls but also see above re placing them smartly with his return. All this while taking an estimated 20 percent off the pace due to keeping it friendly.
I was good at showing up when invited, hitting up on the ball, walking around South Pasadena appreciating trees — and then getting ice cream.
Fosselman’s. I saw it on the map within easy walking distance of Alhambra Park and thought, there’s your delight.
Burnt caramel. Double scoop. Waffle cone. Yum.