My daughter and I played here on Thanksgiving morning. We are loving these new drills , which today involved setting up cans of balls deep in the corners of the courts and trying to knock ’em over. Hit deep! Hit in the corner!! These were the skills we were learning and what better way to learn than by playing?
I am grateful to my daughter for giving me the idea of playing on every public court in Los Angeles. This is not the first time I have looked to her for career guidance. She is a smartie with lifelong experience of my penchants and foibles and a keen way of saying things so that I hear them.
My original post-retirement plan was journalism. Go around interviewing people. I even had my first topic in mind: farmers who grow dandelions. For all of my last semester of teaching, I had farmers who grow dandelions in mind as my north star. Just follow that idea and see where it takes you.
Well, I actually did interview two dandelion farmers, one in Hollister south of San Francisco and the other in Fallbrook northeast of San Diego. I found out that dandelions are popular with people who make green juice and also as a treat for bunny rabbits. The secret to not having dandelions take over your entire farm is, don’t let them go to seed. And: you can make dandelion wine. I wrote it all up and submitted it as a “Letter of Recommendation” to The New York Times Magazine. This all took me about half a week, after which I remembered my daughter’s tennis idea. Thus began the quest.
Syd Kronenthal Park is tucked away in the southeast corner of Culver City, near the Metro Station, overlooking the Ballona Creek bike trail. I always see people playing softball here when I ride by, but never knew they had tennis courts! Learning is good. Actually, they have two pickleball courts and one tennis court, which was perfect for Thanksgiving Day knocking-over-cans-of-tennis-balls drills, which I’m happy to report that my daughter won!
Afterward, we headed to her favorite breakfast place in Culver City, which — not to be petty but okay, to be petty — I’m not going to name because they wouldn’t give me used coffee grounds for growing oyster mushrooms.
My daughter said I have to work on my pitch.
“Be friendlier,” she told me. “It’s not like you weren’t being friendly, but… be friendlier. Start with Happy Thanksgiving, not with what you want.”
Sound words. I dropped her back at home before setting forth to try again, at Menotti’s, spoiler alert, they were happy to share their used coffee grounds after I used my revamped pitch. At the other place, I had started with, “I’m growing mushrooms…” which in retrospect I can see how that would be a red flag.
At Menotti’s — which I pre-love anyway because they have a great vintage hi-fi set-up and were playing Marvin Gaye What’s Going On on vinyl, what a groove — I first ordered an oat milk latte to demonstrate being a customer.
Then, when the barista asked what I had going on today I segued right on into my daughter’s in town, we’re doing Thanksgiving later but first I’m gonna do some gardening, speaking of which, I wanted to ask if you have any coffee grounds you can spare because it’s really good for the garden.
The barista said sure thing and gave me half a bucketful. I’m so proud and excited to make a return to mushroom farming, my previous obsession before trying to play tennis on every public court in Los Angeles. Just as a part-time thing, not an abandonment of the tennis quest, oh no. A redemption of the previous quest, a validation of the overall concept of questing. That would be my advice to anyone contemplating retirement. It’ll be great so long as you have a quest.