#470 Loma Alta Park, Alta Dena / El Patron

Here is the secret to bringing out the very best of my doubles game: match me up with a much better partner.

This was the formula for me and my pal B romping and stomping in Alta Dena’s beautiful Loma Alta Park, smack dab up against the San Gabriel Mountains. My pal B sure can put ‘em away at the net. He will also hit a low, no-argument winner. I love playing tennis with my much-better-than-me friend, who doesn’t get rattled by my clanks and whoopsies.

Which I’m happy to report were way outnumbered today by my scampering back on lobs, and also — now I am flat-out bragging — not only holding all my serves but also never at any point getting to deuce. Well, maybe once. But I’m telling you, my serve was on.

That’s what happens when you serve up the T and then B puts the return away.

So it was all a big hooray. I do wanna give a shout-out here to our opponents, C and U, who made lots of great shots and good calls. It was a giddy good time all around, well worth getting up at 5:15 am on a Saturday morning and riding a bus and a train for two hours.

I am truly digging all this public transit time. Riding the bus is meditation: the rumble of the motor, the air conditioner hum, rattling windows, whoosh of passing traffic, the lurching.

I try to stay off my phone and just be on the bus with the rumble and just as much if not more with the people and their clothes and hair and skin and facial expressions and shoes and belongings, masks, no masks, posture, comportment, vibe.

Taking in the overall state of your fellow bus passengers is similar to being a teacher in the classroom as students are filing in except that on the bus, you must also be on the alert for dangerous lunatics.

A potentially dangerous lunatic got on the 33 headed west from Union Station. This was a couple days ago. You could tell this guy was having trouble with his skin crawling. Kept changing seats, clawing at the windows. Hunching and unhunching his shoulders.

The spider web face tattoos were a separate issue. You see plenty of people with spider web face tattoos sitting quietly, minding their own business.

I was seriously thinking about giving this guy more space by exiting the bus pronto, but then I thought nah because he was wearing a mask. That indicated a baseline awareness of other people.

Sure enough he simmered down and I went back to being one with the bus and all was quiet, all was well, until suddenly he half-stood up and asked in the shaky voice of a child awakening from a bad dream, “Does this bus go to Artesia?”

“Santa Monica,” I informed him directly.

“But I live in Artesia!” he lamented.

“Let me see how you can get there from here,” I said. He came over and sat down next to me while I looked it up on my phone. This gave us both a good opportunity to be people sitting together.

The solution was straightforward. “You gotta take this bus back in the other direction to Flower Street, right after the convention center. Transfer there to the 460 south and that’ll get you to Artesia.”

He said thanks and we fist bumped and he lurched to the rear exit, looked around wild-eyed one more time, then confirmed with me that he was supposed to take the 480.

“460,” I reminded him. Then we peace sign’d and he was gone.

*

Me and B celebrated our tennis triumph at El Patron, which has been there for a million years and has my endorsement for a million more. I did not especially note the food except that it offered no impediment to me woofing it down, and B joined the clean plate club too, so that was another victory for our team.

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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