#105 Knapp Ranch Park, West Hills

This was another marathon bus ride out to the wilds of western San Fernando Valley, which once you get there is tranquil except for leaf blowers and modified mufflers.

The getting there was of particular delight because

a) I’m actually getting familiar with the route: the 33 Venice to the Culver City 6 towards Westwood; make sure you get off at Pico which comes up quickly after Exposition; then settle onto the 761 towards Sylmar but don’t go all the way to Sylmar, get off in Van Nuys and take the G bus west towards Canoga Park and after that, you’re on your own!

b) during the first stretch of the epic ride I suspended my usual being-one-with-the-bus and instead focused on my daughter Claire’s playlist for Illustoria, a premium quality magazine for the children of parents with fine arts degrees. Claire, as you may recall, gave me the idea of playing on every court in LA, and one main reason I love the quest is that it is a constant reminder of my l-o-v-e for C-l-a-i-r-e.

The upcoming issue’s theme is mystery and Claire had “Fly into Mystery” by Jonathan Richman, “Where is my Mind?” by the Pixies, and a tune called “The Secret” by Slapp Happy, a group I’d never heard of featuring chanteuse-y vocals and shimmering lyrics. I was proud to recommend “Mystery Train” by Junior Park and “I Know But I Don’t Know” by Blondie.

After delving into the mystery songs, I sat back for the ride from Westwood into the Valley. I took the following notes to share these long, long bus ride’s sensation of everlasting foreverhood:

Sunset Boulevard twisty, turny

Sepulveda as 405 side street

San Fernando Valley panorama peek-a-boo

passing bus stops I’ve stopped or waited at

auto row in Sherman Oaks




mortuary next to bail bonds

express bus lane hurtling

sycamore trees

pine trees

I don’t know trees

trucks in camo at Woodley and Victory

barbed wire

open fields

baseball fields

backyard garages

jacaranda finally in bloom

more sycamore

fake adobe

real adobe


Burrito El Chivo

Reseda in the Tom Petty song “Free Fallin'”

cypress tree

pepper tree

pool cleaner’s extra-long squeegee

gray-hoodie’d rider on azure bicycle

encampment tents

circus tents

Trophy Max

Canoga Park — THIS IS ME.

The courts at Knapp Ranch had faded lines but tip-top nets. I mean crisp! I played with my new friend K, a most cordial fellow. Next to us this lesson was going on with the instructor giving constant feedback on racquet angle and foot placement. I told K if I was teaching tennis, I would give my student just one comment per hour, like, “Get your racquet back” or “Bend your knees.”

Those happen to be the two things I was working on during our game, which is one thing too many. If I had to choose I would go with “Bend your knees” because that is what my friend Jimmy suggested would be a good way to hit deeper. Actually what he said was he recollected that Dwight Gooden in his prime said he got a lot of his pitching power from his legs. It it true that I draw on baseball analogies for tennis and even more true that I draw on Jimmy for wisdom. Point being, my shots were going deeper and this made me feel satisfied.

K had a habit of exclaiming aloud every time I got to a ball he didn’t think I would reach, which was a lot. The first time I thought, “Oh, how charming” and from the second time on I thought, “Oh, how irritating,” but instead of calling hindrance, I just didn’t let up the way I would normally let up in the spirit of being a good sport. I did however tell him exactly how to return my slice serve, and he caught on right away, so that was a win-win!

One comment

  1. Whoa…very different “reply/Comment” box. Tiny Box. Tiny Font.
    I am honored and humbled to be part of a shout out that includes both Jonathan Richman and me. It’s the closest I’ve ever felt to the Velvet Underground.
    Yes…share your secrets of success.(How to return the slice serve). The only way you will improve is if your students/partners improve.

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