Saturday, August 30, 2014

Snow, Ruminations, And Tennis

I have no idea how it happened. One day last winter, while digging my car out of the snow it occurred to me that I needed to play tennis.

That was a pretty random thought for a guy whose afternoon would be defined as productive if he could locate the name "Michelin" on his right rear tire. Anyway, the more I worked to liberate my car from the clutches of what looked almost like a typical January afternoon in some place like Rochester, Minnesota, the more my mind wandered.

I engaged in various ruminations while freeing the other three tires from solid ice -a workout which prompted me to escape to my happy place. I guess my most immediate problem was that I didn't actually have a happy place. All I had was ice, gray skies, and "watch that snow shovel, dude" issued by a neighbor whose car I was absentmindedly covering with the snow I was clearing from my own car. Ruminations became the doorway to any number of happy places. Actually, the ruminations became more of a hallway at a Motel 6. I think I had gotten to the locks on the car's doors by the time I had begun weighing the pros and cons of visiting Deming, New Mexico, and renting a duck for the duck races. Oh, sure, you never know what kind of a duck you'll get when you rent one. The best way to win a duck race is to throw yourself into the sport with absolute passion and go for it. That means raising a duck from a duckling, and training him or her to outperform every other duck on the circuit. It means getting up at five-thirty every morning for duck calisthenics and stretching. And really, encouraging ducks to stretch themselves until their beaks meet their little duck knees has got to be challenging.

Ducks were out, then. That was clear -as clear as the windows I was now dusting the last bit of snow off of. Maybe I should return to school. Hmm. The problem there is that, while I'll eventually do exactly that, it's a serious challenge to have letters of recommendation sent by professors who have moved to unknown addresses in foreign countries, died, or, in one case, been incarcerated for stealing computers. In any case, I have more than sufficient time to formulate a good plan to return to school.

One thing I learned from behaviorists is that life is largely about having something to do. The fact that I was now clearing off the moonroof with the precision of a neurosurgeon overdosing on Dexedrine drove that point home. Maybe I could start a self help group of some kind. Maybe contracting with a church to borrow one of its rooms once a week was the way to go. Heck, even I can afford to buy coffee for the clients, and I ain't rich. In the end, I nixed that idea by the time I got to the headlights. Turns out that the valley has so many self help groups that one more added to the mix will spread the self help population so thin that none of us would actually get any help -or coffee.

While I expounded to myself on the idea of a niche self help group -maybe something like people with mood disorders (like me) who worry because someone elses blue eyes might be prettier than mine, and who experience profound anxiety as a result. That idea, too, was tossed aside as I experienced a panic attack due to having almost broken the car's antenna while thinking deeply about what it would be like to suffer from blue-eye anxiety.

And then it hit me: what I needed to do was play tennis. A game which I had played perhaps five times prior, and which I most recently played in 1982. As the weather grew warmer, the days longer, and the car freer from the last vestiges of precipitate, I began thinking frequently about what it would be like to play the game again. There I was, in my mind's eye, with four percent body fat, lean, sinewy, and with a Burt Reynolds-esque moustache, meeting with friends for a rousing afternoon game with friends, with my brand new 1978 Dodge Magnum GT (black, because this is a macho daydream) parked outside the courts so that everyone could see that I had arrived, baby. Looking for all the world like a composite of any number of other guys, I was really playing the game like a one-time US Open hopeful whose potential pro career had come to an end due to a tragic racket stringing accident. It was in that moment that I felt strongly compelled to buy a cheap racket and nine tennis balls, and see how close to that ideal I could come to before the onset of the next winter.

 Let me tell you, while my daydream version of me was really making the ladies swoon, the real version of me was making them run and duck due to my very erratic serve. In fact, one of the balls ended up on the bottom of my car's windshield, which was parked backward at the bottom of a steep hill. Thus far I've only had one partner on the courts, though a good friend says he'll play me. I look forward to that. Maybe in October, when the temperatures drop a bit and my serve is reduced to Southwest Roanoke. The serve itself is decent now. What I want to be able to do is sustain a volley which will be entertaining enough for whoever I play against. "Sorry about that -are you okay?" shouldn't be included in the tennis lexicon.

I'm getting better at this. The ball is landing, about thirty percent of the time, solidly in the service box. Occasionally I go for a Wimbledon-type of serve: a hundred miles per hour and as much felt as I can bust off of the ball. I don't know what it's like playing on grass. I do know something about ricochets. When playing against someone, I won't serve that way.

Unless I'm ruminating about firearms.


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