#465 Panorama City Rec Center

Me and my tennis friend M were sustaining rallies and chatting merrily at the Panorama City courts, which are surrounded by redwood trees and birdsong.

“I’ve been playing a whole lot,” he reported. Hey! Me too! We went on to play a couple of sets that featured good-spirited cavorting. The regulars at Panorama City gathered ’round, about a dozen of them, Filipino guys my age plus or minus, waiting for us to split, being nice enough about it, but definitely camped out in their folding chairs around the court.

There were two empty courts behind us so I didn’t feel like me and M were overstaying. Naw. We were cavorting! M said, “I’m wishing my youth would kick in” and I assured him it had kicked in plenty. He said, “It’s ironic that I’m near the beginning of my tennis journey and you’re — you have so much experience.”

That was an I-heart-honesty moment. Bring it, M! He’s another guy who is going to way-surpass me once he starts getting his serves in more consistently. In the meantime, I am experiencing joy in hanging competitively with these guys 30 years younger than I am.

I am happy to report that all the stuff I have been working on — following through at shoulder level, thinking “duh-duh-duh” when serving as opposed to “don’t double fault,” getting that back foot planted: all of this has been very grounding and my shots are much stronger.

M. said — more honesty — “I wish I could have seen you in your prime.”

I told him — the most honesty! — “This is my prime. This is the best I have ever played.”

*

When we were done, the Filipino guys were super-nice and I got the vibe they would be happy for us to stick around and hit with them. Maybe next time. I’d be way down to hit and also drink with them, which they said as I was headed off was another dimension of their game. I’m wondering about the one-and-done-ness of this quest, as in, does it have to be that way? Since I am making all the rules for this quest, I say no, it’s totally cool to return and so I tell you now, I want to get back to Panorama City Rec Center one day, maybe on a weekend when they said it’s packed and a party.

Meanwhile, speaking of going back to places, I had passed Gallogiro on my way to go play with M. the first time, at Cal State Northridge, which I realize now I never wrote about here on the ‘onicle, dang it. Whoopsy! I guess that section will be one of the things that distinguishes the ‘onicle (short for online chronicle, and such a superior word to the no one-wants-to-hear it term usually used for online chronicles) — from the book, which is forthcoming in somewhere between three and four hundred more courts.

I’m going off this list from TennisLosAngeles.com, which last time I looked counted 512 courts. However, about 100 of them look to be high school courts, and I am not gonna be showing up at high schools all over LA County going hey kids! So let’s figure there are about 400 public courts and I have played now on about 50; so — this is do-able math, well within reach, here we go! — 350 more to go. I’d give it two years. That really will be something. Can you imagine me living from age 61 to 63, taking the bus to all these far-flung courts, or riding my bike to places close enough to me here on the Westside? I think it will be grand and I am looking forward to pursuing the quest.

As for Gallogiro, yeah, I saw this place on my way to Cal State Northridge and thought, that looks like one version of taco heaven, so I stopped in on my way back and had the three types of taco I had no idea what they were: Fritanga, Buche, and Trompa. I asked the server at the cash register what they were and she — further honesty — shrugged, so I felt impelled to investigate the mystery.

My findings were internet-aided; however, I cannot really give you the connoisseuir’s version of this taste-taste. Very intestinal, that was my main takeaway. You are really getting into some chompy behavior when you are consuming any of those meats. Slippery is a word that comes to mind. Very satisfying from the primal, I’m sitting here and you’re in my taco perspective. I recognize that this is not a sustainable nor a kind-to-fellow-beings perspective, and yet there it is.

“Corazón de Hielo” was on the jukebox (ha! there wasn’t really a jukebox, but there was a window where you could send money to Central America). The restaurant itself was festooned with bright papel picado and had a dignified and colorful ofrendo because it is coming up on Dia de Los Muertos. One customer who looked skinny and twitchy came up to my table and I thought she was gonna ask for money but instead she left two Hershey’s kisses.

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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