I had an outing Tuesday, to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden for the big-deal tournament that's held there each early March.
This has become a bit of a ritual. Some years I've seen the (women's) final (I don't know why; I only like women's tennis and no, I'm not a Lesbian), but most years I go the first Monday or Tuesday for the qualifying rounds. You can poke around and watch any number of matches, not the top players obviously, but up close and personal. Plus not to put too fine a point, the qualifying rounds are free!
It was a gorgeous day. I'd packed a little picnic. And within a few minutes of arriving, I had a shocking realization--I am prejudiced! I already knew that, but I mean against my own people! White folks. I'm like a gay homophobe: a secretly self-loathing Caucasian! One of the reasons I hadn't known this is that I had been lulled into a false sense of security through years of attending Mass with exclusively Hispanics and Filipinos (there are only two white Catholics in all of L.A., me and Bill MacIver) but suddenly I realized the only reason for my even marginal tolerance there was I never had to actually much speak to the Hispanics and Filipinos (to be fair, mainly because they had no interest in speaking to me). And surrounded, for once, by Anglos...whoa.
I mean there is nothing INHERENTLY wrong with a 30-year-old couple identically dressed in fake beekeeper hats, or shaggy hairdos on women with a visor plunked in the middle so the hair falls over and around it in a Cousin Itt kind of way that is actually quite creepy, or head-to-toe golf attire, or plastic surgery. (I of course was dressed in head-to-toe black including a pair of utterly inappropriate pointy ankle boots (the temperature was 84) and looked like a refugee from East Poland).
Aside: While I was down there in a prone position, I started listening, really listening, to the crows in the tree above me and I don't know if anyone has studied this--I'm sure they have--but I am pretty sure the crows know Morse code! There was this one who would do four short and five long and his pals in the neighboring three would answer and I imagined one saying, "Hey Corky someone left their vodka tonic on table 4 at Piero's Pizza Vino" and the other replying, "You lush, you just had two Bloody Marys and half a Guinness. Grab those onion rings from the Chop House busbucket, ya don't put something in your stomach yer gonnal fall out of the tree again"...
Anyway, 12:30 arrived, the women's matches started and I began wandering. Completely by accident, I found myself in Stadium 2, which is huge, sitting courtside and watching up-and-coming Italian Camila Giorgi (you may have seen her thrilling win over Wozniacki at last year's U.S. Open), who was in hot pink and moves like a hummingbird, trounce some hapless (that day at least) American.
Then I wandered some more and settled on the Sharon Fishman vs. Maryna Zanevska match (S Fichman (CAN) d M Zanevska (UKR) 3-6 7-6(1) 6-3) and hung my hat there. I used to play (sandlot) tennis myself and had a fluky game but was fierce about it. And it is just fun to watch superb athletes, at all, but especially up close. Such flawless bodies, the young. So beautiful, the women.
After awhile a warm feeling stole over me and as is my wont, I started "bonding" with the people around me. "Hey, kind lady with the yellow hair who look like you just lost your aerospace engineer husband, Don't be sad! I'll be your friend!" "Hey, retired Banker Man with cruel set mouth who has never put in an honest day's work in your life and scrooged every one of your employees, when you're burning in hell and crawling like Lazarus at the gate, don't worry, I'll give you a drop of water!" "Hey cute little blond ball boy, I will pray you grow up to be a pill-popping skatehead and get away from the gated community!
Play resumed. The desert air, the warm sun, the mountains in the distance..I looked beside, across, in front of, and behind me at the sea of floppy hats and my heart expanded still more. They, too, were rejoicing at the warmth of the sun! They, too, were looking at those twenty-year-old bodies thinking I was young once. Long ago, I used to be able to run. They, too, were sneaking looks at that far horizon, wondering, How many years do I have left? Will anyone be with me when I die?...
Still, as Gerard Manley Hopkins observed, of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola:
“It is not only prayer that gives God glory but work. Sitting on an anvil, sawing a beam, white-washing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God some glory if being in His grace you do it as your duty. To go to communion worthily gives God great glory, but to take food in thankfulness and temperance gives Him glory, too. To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dungfork in his hand, a woman with a slop pail, give Him glory, too. God is so great that all things give Him glory if you mean that they should."
I'm going to choose to believe that includes watching the women's qualifying rounds at the 2014 BNP Paribas Open. Not just watching, but participating--even if no-one else knew it!
Thanks be to God. And thank you, my people!