#117 Memorial Park, Sierra Madre

One way I have changed over the 14 months of this quest is that I now sit in the Senior Citizens seats.

Sometimes. Not always. When they’re open. Since I qualify. These seats are close to the front, close to the driver. I’ve been wondering how bus drivers experience Los Angeles but so far haven’t gotten close enough to find out.

I had been sitting in the last row, in the corner, on the theory that no one could creep up on you back there. I now realize nobody is creeping up on anybody. People on the bus mind their own business.

The train is a different story but no trains were involved in my journey this morning. It was all bus all the way, narrated by a passenger talking all-pervasively on her phone in Spanish. The only word I could catch was Mira!


I did look and what I saw was tent after tent after tent after tent. Another thing I have been hoping for on this quest is some constructive way to respond to homelessness. I actually do have a tiny breakthrough on that front, which is to carry two clear Zip-Loc storage bags, each containing an energy bar, a bag of cookies, and a bottle of water.

These are to share should the opportunity arise, which it hasn’t yet, but it will, as people experiencing homelessness are frequently sitting right next to you on public transit.

I was supposed to meet Algernon at 8:30 at Orange Grove Park in Arcadia but when I showed up at 8, the courts were damp. I texted him this info and he saw no alternative but to cancel.

“I’m sorry,” he texted. “But I don’t control the weather, except for what I can do about climate change.”

Fair enough. I walked up to a coffee shop in Sierra Madre to re-read a couple more chapters of Moby-Dick and give the courts a chance to dry off. I like the part where Ishmael describes one of the co-owners of the Pequod as having “a certain venerable robustness.”

After scarfing down a glob of yummy cholesterol, I searched for libraries near me and instead discovered a previously unknown-to-me tennis court half a mile away, so I headed thataway.

The Memorial Park courts are beautifully set against the low looming mountains. Pickleballers were smacking away on one court while a guy in full sun-begone headgear was sweeping water off the other.

“I’m not even gonna be a minute,” I preempted his protest, and proceeded to perform my emergency minimum of playing, which is to swat a ball way up and catch it. This really is a tiny amount of fun, like being a kid pretending to be an outfielder making a routine but still exciting catch, exciting because the ball went up so high.

“Are you by yourself?” the sun-guarded guy asked me.

“Yup,” I said unguardedly.

“We can hit if you want until my first student shows up.”

This was very kindness of strangers-y. We did hit back and forth, straight and sustained. He gave me his name, Jim, he said, “as in Jim Dandy.”

I didn’t know people still said Jim Dandy and was glad to find they do. We talked at the net about my quest. “It’s like your hobby,” he summarized.

He further theorized that the public transit part is a good retirement strategy because it gives purpose to four or more hours of what can otherwise feel like what-do-I-do-now.

He said he wondered what he will do when he retires or gets injured so he can’t teach for ten hours a day. I did not pretend to know.

Then he said do you want to play some games. He immediately commenced pinpointing balls out of my reach, not hitting hard, just accurate.

“How do you do that?” I wanted to ask him, hoping there might be a surprisingly simple and easy answer, but then his first student showed up so we bid a fond farewell.

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