#477 Brace Canyon Park / La Bamba

These are beautiful courts and if you’re playing tennis here, life is good. You’re up in the Starlight Hills of Burbank. Maybe there is a little less light pollution over there at night; at 8 am the sunshine was balmy. I had been admiring it since waking up at five to take a bus, a train, and another bus.

Getting up before dawn to go do something is a good habit for a newly retired person or at least it’s a good habit for me. The hopefulness of the new day comes in handy when you are shifting one bus stop over because your usual stop has been overtaken by an encampment. I saw an abandoned pair of eyeglasses and Budweiser tallboy on the bus bench and thought “Sigh” but the dawn lifted my spirits.

Also it was cool out, not baking. Also I like my new tennis friend S. a lot. He like to play non-dominant hand tennis so there we were out among the pines and eucalyptus on Court 3 at Brace Canyon, playing with our other selves, our left-handed selves, who don’t often get out to play. The balls went bouncy, bouncy, bounce and we bounced along with them, having pure fun.

Then we switched hands and he whomped me but I put up a reasonable fight. I think I did a pretty good job of jumping and landing on the balls of my feet, which was my goal. However, I also thinking having any goals whatsoever while playing tends to make me tense up. I noticed I was hitting some tense shots that went out when I wished they had gone in. This happens to me not un-often and I am going to continue working on not telling myself what to do while I’m playing, just let my body be the tennis beast I know he can be if let off the leash.

One more thing: I really want to give a shout-out for the font of the court numbers at Brace Canyon Park. They are fat and sassy and whichever one you play on, that’s a great one to be playing on.


You do work up an appetite taking the bus for two-and-half-hours, playing three sets of tennis, and then walking three-quarters of a mile downhill, stopping to take a picture of a bright orange sports car showing off the world-class glint of the Burbank-Glendale area.

Fortunately, La Bamba Fresh Island Cuisine awaited me like an oasis at the end or rather the mid-point of my journey, since I still had another long bus ride ahead. But in that moment when all I had to eat so far today was the milk in my coffee and the emergency backyard pomegranate in my tennis bag, La Bamba gave me the strength to go on in these ways.

  1. They were playing a Cubs-Rockies game on two big outdoor screens.
  2. They had Christmas lights up, not plugged in, but you could tell they would be festive when plugged in and that was something to look forward to.
  3. Similarly, they had a big yellow fan that was not blowing because it was such a cool and pleasant late-summer day. At this oasis between the rumble of the bus engine and the whine of transmission and the grinding of tires, I appreciated the fan being silent and also bright and cheerfully yellow.
  4. The food was good.

I got a pineapple Jarritos because I had burned umpteen calories and due to dehydration could not remember the simple phrase Topo Chico. Dehydration, not aphasia. My doctor friend M. says it’s just normal aging when you have trouble remembering nouns. When you have trouble remembering other parts of speech, that could be something.

I do sometimes have a little trouble remembering other parts of speech.

But I feel like I’m going to remember the grilled cheese carne asada sandwich at La Bamba. That thing was monumental. It was the size of a Virgin Island. I put it away unlike the easy shots at the net I had over-oomphed. No such trouble here. One minute you’re watching ex-Met Marcus Stroman handle the Rockies in a pleasant day game at Wrigley; the next minute, that enormous sandwich with all the gloriously gloopy cheese is GAWN.

And you ate it!

Good job. Same with the rice and beans.

GAWN!

Back-to-back. Was the carne asada a little brisket-y? Yes. Is that a bad thing? No.

Published by MarkGozonsky

Mark Gozonsky is the author of The Gift is to the Giver: Chronicles of a 21st Century Decade (Keppie Usage, 2022). His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Sun, and Lit Hub. Mark’s essay, “Gritty All Day Long,” is anthologized by Norton and featured in Best American Sports Writing. He has been writing since his emergence as a gigantic music nerd in early-1970’s San Antonio, Texas. Stints as a regular commentator on public radio’s Marketplace and Internet 1.0 exec preceded a 20-year run as a public school teacher. Marko’s favorite writing topics include unorthodox pedagogy, well-intended gardening, and the intersection of baseball and urban bicycling. He lives with his wife in Los Angeles, where he is working on a new book about his quest to play tennis on every free public court in LA.

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