#467 North Hollywood Rec Center / NoHo Diner

I saw an unattended box on the Metro coming back from playing tennis in North Hollywood today. I’ll tell you the story in a sec, but first, here’s the deal on the NoHo Rec Center courts: get there early. I showed up a little before 8 am and nabbed a quality court but they filled up quickly after that. One of the guys on the court next to us immediately took his shirt off, then started playing loud 80’s rock en Espanol. It was pretty cheesy, like listening to “Jump” by Van Halen and “Alive and Kicking” by whoever does that song, with the lyrics in Spanish. But I was proud to understand most of the words and I am also very much in favor of blasting your tunes as loud as you can in pretty much all circumstances.

Shirtless guy also had some good tips for his partner: mas fuerza and pegala. I tried to use more force and hit it — while adding my own advice of using an upward sweeping motion to generate topspin as opposed to clobbering the ball — and it worked out medium-okay-ish, which for me is pretty good. I’ll tell you more about the game in a second but don’t want to leave you hanging about the unattended box on the way home, so let’s get into that.

It was a medium-sized square black box with white lettering that I puzzled out to read “Naturalizer.” It looked like it came from a clothing store. No one else was paying it any attention, which made me think, “That’s not good.” I also thought, oh brother, you are making something out of nothing here, but you and I have both seen tons of those “see something/say something” posters. What is the point of seeing them if when the time comes and you see something, you ignore them? So I looked around for the car number, then looked up how to report something to Metro security, and called the number.

A human answered and I told him what was up, and he said he would have the authorities check it out. That was that. Then I sat there for a couple stops. Then I thought, hmm. Then I got off at Hollywood and Vine and took the bus the rest of the way home.

I wondered if I should say anything to the other passengers, and decided that would make me just another crazy person yelling at the people who simply want to mind their own business and get where they’re going. The other passengers all have eyes. They can see me taking pictures of the box and the car number. They can hear me calling security and saying there’s an unattended box. They can see me getting off. I don’t know. The rule is see something, say something, not create a disturbance and be a nuisance.

I said something.

Done!

Now I will say something about my tennis game. I think I am ready for another tip beyond bending those knees, finishing somewhere in the vicinity of your shoulder, listening to how the ball sounds coming off the racquet, and playing to play as opposed to playing to win. I am going to get my copy of The Inner Game of Tennis off the shelf right now and pick out a new tip:

Plant your back foot.

Got it! I love planting things, so this should come naturally. We’ll see, and soon, as I am playing tomorrow in Burbank and the next day in Pacoima.

The reason why I think I am ready for another tip is that I w*n both sets today. I hesitate to spell out the word because I don’t really think it’s about winning, it’s about playing on every public court in LA and having constructive interactions with the people you meet along the way.

But I did still win, outlasting the other guy as well as my knees, who were suggesting I hurry up and lose but I suggested back, ssssshhhhhhh and they took the hint. Because they trust me to ice them as soon as we get home. Meanwhile, I did not hit ANY slice serves to my opponent because I didn’t feel like being shitty. His game is improving rapidly and the time may come when I do slice a couple, but that day was not today.


Instead, today was the day I got steak’n’eggs at the NoHo Diner. This was a pure because-I-can move. I thought of all you people out there who don’t spend their days playing tennis on every public tennis court in LA and then go getting a taco; or, if you’ve already been to the nearest taco place, whatever looks good while walking back to the Metro. The NoHo diner’s walls were full of headshots, so I tried out my new theory of the more head-shots the better.

This worked pretty well in terms of server-patter, which was excellent. My server kept complimenting her co-worker’s playlist, which the only thing I Shazzam’d was “One and Only” by ASE, which is upbeat and throbby. The servers talked mainly about their experiences of extreme heat, which came up as here we are mid-October and the temp was going up over a hundred in NoHo.

“My aunt lived in Indio and she said her flipflops would melt on the sidewalk” — that’s pretty great overheard patter. ‘Cause it’s Indio, where it’s supposed to be unbearably hot, as opposed to flipflops melting on the asphalt in Santa Monica, which would not be great and we haven’t gotten to, yet.

Similarly — “The hottest it ever got in my hometown was 127, during football practice” — that’s alarming, but real. Listen, people. I am sitting by myself woofing down steak’n’eggs with a notebook in front of me. I am not lost in my phone. I am engaging with the world around me. If that means listening to what the servers in a diner are talking about and jotting down some notes, I’m okay with that.

It helped me realize that it’s rough to be serving in a diner on a 100 degree day, especially when the a.c. is broken. These guys had a good attitude. The server who made the playlist said no-a.c. just made the job more challenging. They all seemed to have good esprit de corps and the playlist-complimenting server complimented me on how fast I woofed down the steak’n’eggs, which I was proud of too.

Also the HVAC repair guys were coming in just as I was leaving, so things were looking up, a good way to be.

PS One more thing about North Hollywood Recreational Center: on the Magnolia Street side, there is this great statue and lots of info-on-a-plaque about Amelia Earhart. When I texted this picture to my daughters, one of ’em said, “You found her!”

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.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: