Thursday, March 6, 2014


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).

No, there really isn't anything wrong with golf attire and plastic surgery, and as I was lying on the ground waiting for the ATP to be finished and the WTA matches to begin, I started thinking: These really ARE your people. Who ELSE would be your people? On the instant, I accepted what I could not change. I conceded to my innermost self what my perpetually tormented, faux-victim soul has all my life resisted: You're white and you're middle class. Get over it. (By the way, the Indians own more than half the land in Palm Springs and by all accounts are doing fine).

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 onceLong 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?...

 I come from working-class folk. I always feel guilty taking off a weekday (or really, any day). Plus to sit in the sun? Please!

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!


  1. Yes yes....I haven't even had time to read it all yet....but I do wish heather that you wudnt ask me to stand on my head in order to view the beautiful,tennis player and the rest properly ! And you are ruining my Lenten fast from reading emails and blogs like yours , as I am too weak willed not to look !

  2. thanks for making me laugh....I would love to play a tennis match against you!

  3. Thank you for getting this is FUNNY! Or is supposed to be...Gazing out at the swimming pool, working my tail off, snow-covered Mt. Jacinto in the lucky can a person get? Happy First Sunday of Lent, dear folks...

  4. I got that it was funny, I was laughing a lot! And I know that effect you mean with the shaggy hair and the sun visor. Or the feeling of looking at a 20-yr-old athlete and thinking, I remember what it was like to...well, not exactly run. Or play tennis or participate in any sport whatsoever. But I do remember what it was like to dance frenetically to early B52s ("Rock Lobster") while simultaneously singing the high parts, including whale sounds, without dropping my plastic cup of stale beer.

    When I was young, I didn't really get that youth was a temporary phase I was moving through, I thought it was a permanent fixture of my personality.

  5. Thank you for getting this is FUNNY! Or is supposed to be...

    I think I got that. But satire is tricky stuff, partly because it can be hard to discern the target of the ridicule.

  6. Oh my Heather, my in laws in across the street from the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. I wouldn't be surprised if they were there too! I live in NJ and I am always surprised by how white it is out there when I visit. I haven't been there for two years, but I do love the mountains and the palm trees. God Bless you!

  7. I think I spot my mother in law in photo:)


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