I have played at the Upper Courts at Redondo Union High School before, but never at the Lower Courts, so today’s outing counts towards my quest to play on every public court in Los Angeles.
Hooray! To celebrate, let’s review what I learned from the many lessons I took with Dennis Richardson at the Upper Courts. Doubles is all about getting up to the net and then poaching. That is really the main thing. There are other things, such as cover the part of your court where the opponent is most likely to hit the ball. If they hit a winner to an unlikely spot, tip your cap. I’d like to tip my cap right here to Dennis Richardson: he’s a great coach, always upbeat and encouraging.
What I learned from playing with my new Facebook friend T from Istanbul is that Turkey has better food than Greece. One of the many things I like about meeting up with people from the Tennis Players in LA group on Facebook is, lots of these folks come from the world beyond the USA. I’ve played with folks from Jordan and India and now Turkey. It’s horizon-expanding.
I don’t grill anyone about where they’re from. However, T was wearing an Istanbul T-shirt, so I asked her what is something you wished more people in Los Angeles knew about Istanbul. She had her answer ready: that it is beautiful and historic.
There you have it! Also, the food in Turkey is better than in Greece, which really makes me want to go there because Greece has long been my number one. A homestyle Greek banquet is what I think of when you say groaning table.
But we are here to talk about tennis courts, which enable us to work off some of our feasting, so let me say that the Lower Courts at Redondo Beach Union High School are perfectly nice. I don’t mean nice in a mean way. I mean they’re clean and well-lined and not too cracked and the nets are in good shape. There’s a big long backboard with a heartfelt memorial plaque to a long-time tennis coach named Mickey D. Franco. Mickey D!
Also, we could walk right on and play, which is great.
Furthermore, you could hear the school bells ring and totally ignore them, which for me as a recently retired teacher is Freedom.
As for the tennis experience itself, T was just up for some relaxed rallying, no keeping score. That was great because I have been getting whomped lately playing sets and really needed to regroup. I re-re-read the “Breaking Old Habits” chapter of The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey last night and he recommended just focusing on what you’re currently doing during whatever stroke you want to work on, and also not blaming yourself.
Pretty good advice right there. I have noticed that I have reverted to hitting piddy-pat ground strokes. I don’t know why. It must relate to something from my childhood but if W. Timothy Gallwey says don’t beat yourself up about it, I’m not gonna beat myself up. Just easing up on the whole self-criticism was such a big relief that I noticed right away that my ground strokes were fine.
I was bending my knees pretty good, too. I had cheated and looked up one of Gallwey’s low-key tips, “How bent would you say your knees are when you hit ground strokes?” No one was gonna mistake me for James Brown or Carlos Alcaraz, but my knees were bent plenty for me. I felt great about that, which let me go on to notice other stuff, such as where is my left hand while I’m swinging?
I feel like my left hand is often doing its dinosaur hand impersonation, tucked up in there at my chest being feeble… but since I wasn’t self-criticizing my hand could go where it wanted to go and do what it wanted to do. Meanwhile, T and I were swatting some pretty good rallies, working up a sweat in the early morning Redondo Beach light.
Speaking of light! – I was so freed up of worry and self-doubt that I got to thinking, hey, what would I need to do to start going after some of these balls that keep passing me to my left. ‘Cause I’ve noticed in these sets where I’m getting whomped, a lot of the time I just watch balls hit to my backhand go by me without even trying.
And that bothers me.
Because I like to at least try.
So with the lightning-quick neuronal response made possible by not being mean to myself, I remembered that when you return serves you’re supposed to jump just before the server makes contact. Go ahead and jump! I thought, hey, what if I jump right before T swings?
I tried, which right away made me feel better. And here’s what I noticed. Jumping is fun, but if you land on flat feet then you’re literally right back where you started. So jump — and then land on the balls of your feet, that part where foot meets the toes, or in Spanish los dedos del pie or fingers of the foot.
Landing on the balls of my feet made me feel greater agility. I think of agility because I saw a guy on my bike ride home wearing a t-shirt that gave the definition of agility as the body being able to respond fully to the situation it’s in.
The situation I was in was looking for a good taco near the Redondo Beach Union High School. I asked T for her recommendation, and she unhesitatingly said the fish tacos at Blue Salt Fish Grill on Hawthorne in Torrance are great. She had just been singing the praises of Turkish seafood so convincingly that I would have headed over there stat except they didn’t open for another two and a half hours. So instead, I picked a place with a good rating on Yelp and it did not disappoint.
La Playita in Hermosa Beach was great, or to be more specific – let me refer to my notes here – “yumbolicious.” By that I mean, this wasn’t a flimsy thing, no, it was a two-handed taco. A fish taco, not breaded and fried but rather poached for your health and longevity.
Things that are good for your health and longevity are often blah-tasting and I will not say that this taco tasted like the electric guitar solo at the beginning of “When Doves Cry.” However, I will say that it offered an elegant blandness of lettuce and chopped tomatoes, heaped up heartily.
You will not often find me saying nice things about tomatoes that are not in a sauce or michelada. My dislike of raw tomato is not something I like about myself, but it is nevertheless true. It must go back to childhood.
However, I could face these diced tomatoes head-on, and did so, with gusto.
The fish taco at La Playita gave me courage.