#472 – Barrington Park / Modelo

An old friend suggested via social media that I go play at Barrington Park in Brentwood and that made me feel like YES it’s WORKING! 

“It” here being the interactive nature of this quest to play tennis on every public court in Los Angeles.  You, reader, are right now participating in this interactivity and I appreciate it.

A lot.

So Barrington Park – a good facility.  Four courts, first-come first-serve, that’s fair.  Me and my new pal B. showed up at 3:30pm on a weekday and barely beat the rush.  There were people waiting pretty soon after we started hitting.  More on that in a moment.

But first I just wanna say this was a bike ride adventure, for the most part.  Bike-riding is still the closest thing I know how to do to flying.  My wife let me borrow her bike with the panniers or if you are not a bike nerd, storage bags that hang off a mount over the back wheel.  What a relief not to be lugging 20 pounds of racquets and balls and sunscreen and first aid kit and books and notebooks and bike lock and pens and inner tubes and who knows what else is in my gigantic tennis bag.  It is literally a weight off my shoulders.

And that made it easier to hump my way up the hill on Barrington to these courts.  I actually didn’t know there were hills in Brentwood; I thought the whole neighborhood was smoothed out, but no, it was a sustained mild climb there, a workout in and of itself.  I will say I enjoyed passing all manner of car traffic on my wife’s blue bike.  I admit that I say “Ha-ha” to cars in traffic when I pass them on my bike, and in a moment we will discuss how this was hubris.

But first, this is a tennis quest so let’s talk about tennis.  I tried out my new mantra of playing to play as opposed to playing to win and it did not go that great.  The impulse to try and hit a winner, that’s hard-wired, but the skill and technique of actually making those shots are not.  So I was hitting wide and really having to control the urge to bang my racquet against my head. 

I have another even worse impulse and it’s to try to win a point with a sneaky slice.  Ugggggggh I wish I had never learned to slice!  It’s a personality defect for sure.  I’ll tell you what it goes to.  It goes to my core belief that I can get what I want by being clever.

But in fact, all those slice-y drop shots just bring the opponent in closer to the net so they can put the ball away, which B has no problem doing.  So I was getting walloped pretty good until I gave myself a stern talking to along the lines of listen, buddy, whatever it is with you and the slicing, I really am not here to criticize, let’s just play to play.  Your job is to keep the point going, I know you can do it, I have confidence in you.

And that did the trick, I’m happy to say.  I avoided being bagel’d or breadstick’d and hit some shots with oomph, which brings us to the next thing which I will get to forthwith.

But first – reader!  How are you doing?  So far so good?  I guess if you’re still reading you are ok with me delving into my own personal psyche.  I want you to know, I really appreciate that.  Your interest in my pondering the mysteries of myself:  that is a gift.  Please let me know if you have any thoughts on how I might repay it.

Meanwhile, remember when I said people started waiting for courts shortly after me and B started playing?  Well yeah, they were standing around over in the narrow strip of concrete between the courts and a shiny plastic playground.  I noticed one of them was my former teammate LM.  I have this whole other blog about my ups and downs with that team, the nut of which is, I don’t know why it still surprises me that I am not a very good teammate.

I wish I was.

But wishing don’t make it so.

That’s why I’m happier playing singles.  On this team me and LM were on, I was playing doubles, and among my obnoxious habits was blaming the other guy for not making shots.  In my head, I’d be like, “Dude, I woulda made that shot.”  Even though I was missing plenty of my own shots or even worse hitting dinky little slices that the other guys had no problem putting away.  Yeah, it was cringe-y, I’m sorry to say.  There are a lot of people walking around in America with superior attitudes that have absolutely no basis in reality, and I regret to say that especially as a doubles partner, I am one of them.

Well.  It does feel better getting that on the record.  So anyway, me and LM chatted a little after the set.  Me and B just played one ‘cause people were waiting.  LM was very complimentary about my game.  He said he could barely recognize me!  He must have been watching after I gave myself that little talking-to.  Anyway that made me feel good.  I also feel good because subsequently, the captain of the team called me up to ask me to play again this coming season.  I actually felt great about that, even though I declined because I’m on this quest now and gotta focus.  But it sure was super-nice to be asked.

This post is getting longgggggg so I am just gonna finish up by saying my payback for ha-ha’ing traffic on the way there was getting a flat tire on the way back.  There was a whole rigmarole involved in getting home, to paraphrase Odysseus.  I did NOT feel like fixing the flat on the street as I have done dozens of times before.  This is not good.  If you are gonna be riding a bike as part of a quest, you better be prepared to change some flats.

Whew.  A lot of hard truths being faced in this post.  I think it’s ‘cause it’s the High Holy Days. Self-reflection and let’s hope, self-improvement.  A lot of that self-improvement involves how you treat others, and reader I do believe you have hung in here long enough, so let me just finish up by saying the bike didn’t fit in the Lyft so I hoisted it up on a bus and got home and my wife greeted me with an already open Modelo and I had a sip.

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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