What a convivial outing this has been to Veterans Park in Carson, where somebody legit-enough looking on Facebook told me to show up between 8 am and noon. Those flexible hours work for me so I multi-bus-and train’d it deep into the flat bright concreteness of the South Bay.
I asked two folks talking outside the tennis court gate for the person who invited me, and they in turn asked if this person was Filipino, to which I said they could be. There was no ready consensus about my contact’s actual existence but those two folks encouraged me to go and ask inside, where a bunch of people were playing or hanging out on the sidelines. I hustled in and watched extended rallies with backhand volleys and sharp angles and laughter. I felt glad to have found what is clearly a solid community game even if my contact proved to be on the misty edge between here and not here.
The players all looked like they could be Filipino. I’m no expert. Someone said do you want to play & I said sure, so I stepped right up baseline rallying with a guy who returned everything straight back to me.
“Return everything straight back to him!” I commanded myself and am happy to say we went back and back and forth and forth. I figured this was a test to see if I could rally to 20, which I decided on the spot is a standard initiation right.
I increasingly feel that tennis is a metaphor of how I relate with society. I would like this relationship to be straightforward, free of unnecessary cleverness or irony. In tennis terms this is my ongoing struggle to quit slicing so much and just hit a good deep solid ball.
We just kept on going with me kinda wondering what comes next but figuring they would let me know. It’s not my job as the newcomer to move things along. It’s my job to hit the ball straight back, which is what I am perpetually working on.
Finally the other guy waved me off, musta been a good 15 minutes, a nice light sweat. Then we chatted on the sidelines while he told me a generous chunk of his life story illustrated with photos on his iPad.
* “I’m 86.”
* “This group has been playing here since the 80’s and here is a picture of us at a luau.”
* “Here is a picture of me and my wife ballroom dancing. We can salsa, foxtrot, and merengue.”
* “Here is a picture of me and my friends in our band in the Philippines in 1964.”
I had been murmuring in appreciative wonderment throughout but at this point interjected, “Y’all look like you covered the Ventures.”
He played me an audio file of their surf rock cover of “Sleigh Ride” and we parted Facebook friends.