My new friend Lovern says he didn’t expect a death match. Me neither, but here we are slugging it out in doubles with two even newer friends and these guys are Good.
I start us off by immediately losing my serve, dang it, yet this does not faze me due to Lovern’s low-key, up-with-people vibe. We hit it off from the moment we met — 15 minutes ago — stretching outside the gate of the two well-tended courts surrounded by deodar cedars and sycamores at Dearborn Park in Northridge.
Right away I am confiding in him that the tennis court is the one place where I run free. Everywhere else I lumber. Lovern nods encouragingly like he is a glass and my conversation is water. A bystander with a tennis bag helpfully suggests we wait not outside the fence but inside to establish that we’ve got next.
On court one, these compactly built guys are angling shots like they’re cutting wedges of sophisticated cheese. On court two… hey, where did those guys go? They were just hitting a second ago, but now it looks like they’re giving us the court, how friendly is that!
We are well into hitting endless rallies, me and my brand new friend Lovern, this point is the moment, green ball bouncing, this moment is forever.
Then oh here come those two guys back and they want to play doubles, which makes sense.
Lovern asks if everyone here is Filipino, is this his tribe, can he practice his rusty Tagalog. I chip in my scintilla of knowledge that Tagalog incorporates Spanish. One of our brand new friends affirms that Spain colonized the Philippines, so here we are now all together living world history.
Me and Lovern come storming back. The games are close but luck is on our side. I had an intention to come out today and hit good backhand volleys because the other day, I was getting eaten up on my backhand volleys. I was crumpling. But not today. Today I am punching them back just fine. Lovern says that’s how it is, you gotta stand in the fire. This statement glows as it is transcribed onto my tennis soul.
It is such a great day when you have an intention and it actually works out. Lovern tells me a story after we play about a day when that didn’t happen. It was the first November after he moved to LA. North Hollywood Park. He noticed all the people there experiencing homelessness there. Impossible not to notice. Tents under park trees. Elaborate restroom door locking mechanisms. Grimy vibe of we have failed as a society.
Point being, Lovern goes home, makes a whole bunch of turkey sandwiches and heads back to the park where he cannot give a single sandwich away. No one wants his good intentions.
This came up because I was telling him how my tennis bag weighs a ton because I have all these giveaway kits with water bottles and energy bars to give away to people experiencing homelessness, yet the moment has never arisen to give any of them away. I thought this morning on my way to the courts maybe this guy sitting at the bus stop on Roscoe Boulevard, trying to disappear into the hood of his discolored hoodies. Maybe I could inconspicuously leave one of these Zip-Loc baggies full of good stuff next to him, but he bounced the moment I sat down.
Oh well. After having such a jolly time with Lovern, I tromp with my tennis bag back down Roscoe Boulevard, stop in for a lunch of albondigas de pollo that can’t be beat at Pozoleria Doña Ana – I didn’t even know there was such as thing as a pozoleria! – and while sitting at the bus stop waiting for the three-hour ride back home, I take out a give-away baggie and leave it on the bench after taking out a Sharpie and writing This is For You.