#463 — Farnsworth Park, Altadena

This was my first encounter with pickleball and it got me thinking about highest and best use.

Even I can do the math. Four pickleball courts on one full-size tennis courts. All four of those courts filled, so that’s 16 people leaping about swatting a ball with a satisfying thonk— plus at least that many more on the sideline, thronging for their chance to openly frolic.

How is this bad? Me and my pal S got to do our own mano-a-mano singles thing on the one full-size court, side-by-side with the pickleball enthusiasts. It did my Angeleno heart good to see fellow citizens enthusiastic, in flow state, getting their cardio. All in all much more joyous than the sack-cloth-and-ashes approach we have nowadays towards our multiple crisis-stricken city.

So I am not gonna be one of these self-proclaimed tennis purists poo-pooing a sport that gets people off their phones and out of doors, flinging themselves around a court. I’m all for it. Looks like playing ping pong standing on the table. How could you not like that?

There is just one thing that I’d like to say to the pickleballers at Farnsworth Park in Alta Dena on November 17, 2022. Beautiful park, let me say. Magnificent view. Mountain-side. Pine trees. Big ones! The crisp clean air, restorative, pine-scented, I love it.

The thing I want to say to the pickleballers is, thank you for not running onto our court to retrieve your stray balls. I will admit it was aggravating at first when you were doing that. As if, me and S weren’t even there? Well, let’s keep it on the upside. Y’all picked up soon enough on what I meant by “You don’t have to chase your ball onto our court, we’ll be glad to return it to you.”

Yup. It was a triumph of positive reinforcement. Mostly. There was that one person in the early going who insisted that they did in fact have to run after their ball to get their cardio in. I will admit to being nonplussed by this.

I will admit that things devolved into me hollering “TENNIS ETIQUETTE” at this person. Repeatedly. I’m not proud. I’m atoning. Hollering anything is not a way to teach etiquette.

But that person later restrained herself from running onto our court and instead called out “Ball on.” I said good job and gave her a thumbs up and big smile, which is not quite apologizing, which is what I wish I had done and would like to do now.

*

The outing’s featured treat was a breakfast burrito from the Trimana in Union Station. Egg, cheese, bacon. I had forgotten my chunky peanut butter and jelly sandwich and got worried that the milk in my coffee might not tide me over. This burrito gave me peace of mind while it rode in my tennis bag with me to the Gold Line Lake Avenue stop, where I woofed half of it down sitting on a bench overlooking the whoosh of traffic on the 210, next to a guy swigging from a quart of milk and holding forth to an audience in his mind, wearing the same black and white striped Adidas tracksuit that I was wearing, too.

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.

One thought on “#463 — Farnsworth Park, Altadena

  1. So many tasty treats to unpack.
    “Tennis etiquette”
    “…the milk in my coffee might not tide me over”
    …the guy holding forth to an audience in his mind.

    May the next tennis court be as fruitful.

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