Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Autumn Tennis

One of the best parts of this summer has been my twice-a-week tennis habit, typically with an old college roommate, with a mutual friend of ours, or with my younger sister (who is the reason I started to play tennis when she asked me during her freshman year if I would play with her so she could try out for the team).  I picked up a new racquet, a case of 24 cans of balls, and finally started figuring out my serve (which, at its best, goes in at around 100 mph - not fast by pro standards, but still pretty darn fast).  After adjusting to the new racquet, I spent the entire month of July hitting my forehands harder and more accurately than I'd ever hit them before, and developing my backhand into a moderately reliable stroke (as opposed to a complete and utter liability).

This was in sharp comparison to the previous summer, in which I spent most of my time with the poetry team and in preparing for the upcoming year of teaching.

My senior year of college, I got the privilege of being an assistant coach to a high school girls' varsity tennis team, thanks to one of the English teachers at the school where I did my student teaching.  It was the first chance I'd had to really play tennis since my sophomore year of college, when I severely strained the tendons and ligaments in both elbows via a combination of rowing, squash, and ignoring pain as much as I could.

By the time all the damage was done, I could barely throw a baseball or grip a plate full of food in one hand.  It was really a rather potent combination, which took my entire junior year of college to heal properly.

However, I healed through a regimen of forced rest (easing my way back into physical activity with moderate amounts of squash and lots of rest), and was finally healthy enough my senior year that I could again play tennis regularly.

When I moved to Kansas, though, I left the tennis courts behind (the town in which I lived had two concrete courts, with wobbly not-quite-accurate lines and a too-low net; the math teacher and I played a few times, but not enough to be meaningful.

After that nine-month hiatus, returning to Lincoln was nice.  The University has several very nice hard-courts with ample lighting, and I had found a few willing opponents.

With fall fast approaching (it's here already, actually), I know that it's only a matter of time before the weather turns too cold for tennis to be a viable option on any but the rarest of warm streaks.  However, it's become clear that I'll have to hang up my racquet a little sooner than that, as the elbow pain has returned. 

It's not anywhere near as sharp as it once was, but over the course of the last month, I've noticed it more and more as my groundstokes lost their pop and my serve all but deserted me.  Now, I can occasionally hit a big forehand, but I haven't been able to do so reliably since before the US Open, and have been relying more and more on slice and loopy topspin just to keep the point going (can you say "pusher"?).

This is a difficult place to be in, because I really do love playing tennis.  Between the sheer elegance of the game (when played well, I'd liken it to ballet) and the strategies therein, the satisfaction of a well-struck ball, and knowing that I'm going to get a good 90 minutes of exercise, it's difficult, if not impossible, to not love.

However, I also know that I play, I'm actively hurting myself and setting myself up for a life of pain, suffering and despair (), at least in my right elbow.

There was a time when I'd have kept playing up until I was incapacitated (I remember a track practice where I pulled my hamstring at the start of practice, and continued running, and after a while limping and hopping around the track until my coach forced me to stop), but I am older now, and either wiser, or more concerned with survival now that I know that I am neither invincible nor timeless (though I remain unconvinced of the first point).

For now, though, it's time to reduce the time I spend playing, to settle for trying to win points without hitting big forehands, and to get ready for a winter without racquets.  And perhaps it is this winter that I will finally make good on what I should have been doing all along: pushups, pullups and core-strength work (I cannot afford a gym membership right now, though perhaps I'll be able to in a few months).

Or it might be that this is the winter where I finally admit my body's limitations (it's not uncommon for me to go for a stretch of a few days either without eating enough or sleeping enough; in fact, it is extremely common). 

But more likely, this represents what is only a temporary hiatus, determined mostly by pain tolerance; what's a little elbow pain, when compared to the sheer thrill of smacking an inside-out forehand winner?

Friday, September 18, 2009

An Open Letter to the Cat Who Lives With Me

(With apologies to Diona)

Dear Rufus,

You might not know this (I do not know if you have a sense of time, or access to a calendar), but you have now lived with us for almost two weeks.  In that time, I like to think that you and I have bonded, much more so than I have bonded with any other cat.

More to the point, Rufus, I like you. I like how you greet me at the door, and how you never seem to mind when I pet you.  I even like this thing we have going where I sit on the couch to read and you sit on the other half of the couch to nap.  It feels like home.

That said, Rufus, you and I need to talk a bit.  As much as I appreciate you, there are times when I appreciate you less than I otherwise might: namely, the hours between one and five in the morning.  Even this is flexible, as my sleeping schedule is pretty erratic.

Now, I leave my bedroom door open (we all do, since Diona told us about how it freaks you out when people are behind closed doors.  I swear, you knock louder than most humans, and for much longer), so that way you can come and sleep on my bed if you so desire (or just hang out in my windowsill; that one works, too).

I do this for you, Rufus. I really do.

But like I said, there are hours when I do not appreciate your attention as much as I otherwise might.  Specifically, when I am sleeping and you wish to let me know that you are there by biting me, or by putting your paws on my face (or, last night, both).

Last night, for example, I stayed up with you until about two, and set my alarm to go off at six.  You, however, perhaps in your desire to stop me from snoring, or in your desire to make sure I do not oversleep, woke me up at 2:30, 3:15, 3:30, 4:00, 4:15, 4:30, and 5:30, either by biting me, poking at my face, or poking at me while attempting to fit your head in my mouth (for the last time, I'm sorry that I snore).

I do not attribute your actions to malice.  And I still appreciate you very much, and would be more than happy to scratch your tummy, or behind your ears.  Heck, I'll even make sure to be very careful such that, when you are trying to walk as closely to me as possible, I do not fall down the stairs again.  I'll even come play with you in the basement, because I know that it freaks you out to be down there by yourself.

But you gotta leave me alone when I'm sleeping.  That's all I ask.  Okay, leave me alone while I'm sleeping, and catch a mouse or two. Those are the only two things I ask.

So please, Rufus, in the interest of making sure that I do not feel compelled to kick you out of my room and rely on the one-two punch of my snoring and my hearing loss to justify not hearing you to let you in, leave me alone when I sleep. You can curl up next to me. You can sit in the windowsill. You can even sit halfway beneath my bed and twitch your tail.  But no biting, please?

Your roommate, Andrew

p.s. We still love you. Very much. And we'll be sad when you go home.
p.p.s. Sam might or might not try to run away with you to Canada. Or Honduras
p.p.p.s. There's pizza in the fridge. Help yourself if you get hungry.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Pun of the Day, 5 September 2009

I was introduced to a fellow earlier this week by a friend of mine, who is a few years older than me; we were walking downtown, when this fellow started waving from across the street.  Once my friend realized what happened, she waved back and we crossed.

After the initial hand-shaking and exchanges of greetings, my friend and this fellow started catching up (they had not seen each other in years).  My friend pointed out that, last she remembered, this fellow was starting to go bald (she wouldn't have normally pointed this out, but he had a very full head of hair, which I suppose surprised her).

The man was surprisingly unabashed at this, and responded "Yes, actually. I was going bald."

"What happened?" my friend asked.

"Well, by the end of the year after you graduated, I was more or less hairless, and it was just killing me, y'know?  I didn't feel like I could go on dates with women, my confidence was shot to hell, and I really didn't like the way I looked."

"So, what did you do?" (At this point, I became curious, too, as he really did have a full head of hair).

"Well, I tried shaving my head first - going with the old bald-on-purpose look - but that didn't feel right.  Then I tried Rogaine, but that only made the problem worse, as my hair came in patchy and in different colours.  I even tried wigs, but they were ridiculously itchy and made me look like an unwashed musician from the 60's."

"But... you're not bald now, right?"

"No, thankfully! In fact, I was so depressed and I was gaining weight, nearly lost my job, and had a couple of health scares; really close to the end of my rope! I was ready to make a deal with the devil to get my hair back! And whaddya know, Satan himself pops up and says 'I'll give you a full head of hair in exchange for dinner and a game of frisbee'!"

"He wanted dinner and a game of Frisbee?  I thougth Satan was into the whole stealing your soul thing?"

"I thought so too, but he said the market isn't as competitive as it once was.  Anyhow, I grilled some steak and we tossed a frisbee around, and before he left, he summoned a hairpiece for me.  It joined seamlessly with my scalp, stays perfectly styled all the time, and never gets dandruff!"

"That's a pretty sweet deal!"

"I know. I'm really glad for my hell toupee."