Thursday, September 4, 2014

Missing Nadal

Watching Federer in the US Open is exciting, but it is Rafael Nadal whose body and serves I want to watch.  Actually, I much more enjoy watching him in person, on the court, rather than on TV. Watching, panting, and gasping in person gives the effect of radiant heat, hormonal surges, passion, and guttural sounds evoking memories of sex.  There, I said it, sex, and at my age.

I've been fortunate to have seen Nadal play tennis and golf at Indian Wells, California.  He makes a living playing tennis not golf, but he is still young and handsome even on the practice tee.  Live just can't be beat in sports events, but perhaps the real story lies in how I got the tickets to see Nadal play.

Desert magazine spring 2014

Little did I know as an 8th grader that drinking a quart of warm Pepsi on a hot summer day with my best friend, Judy Scruggs, would one day open the doors for me to attend the Indian Wells Tennis Tournament to see Nadal serve the tennis ball, and return the ball with grunts and moves that elevated me out of my seat.  My moves, heartbeat, and lust for air went unnoticed by others, but my old soul came to life that night.  But I digress (thank you Robin Williams for that line.)

That warm humid day when we chugged our bottles of hot Pepsi caused me to vomit violently and worst of all to endure hot bubbly Pepsi streaming out of my nose.  To this day I have never had a drink of Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, yes.  So, on my United flight from Denver to Palm Springs a few years ago the stewardess ask if I would like a drink--Pepsi being the only choice.  "No thank you," I replied, "If Pepsi is my only soda choice, I'd rather have water."  The quiet good looking man next to me looked up from his newspaper and immediately answered before being asked, "Water for me, too."  He then turned to me and smiled and asked, "You don't like Pepsi either?"

The conversation began and didn't end until we arrived in Palm Springs.  I was traveling to meet up with friends and enjoy the desert sun and golf; he was traveling with friends to play tennis and attend the Indian Wells Tennis tournament.  I did explain that I had never seen a tennis tournament in person, but hoped to do that one day.  Lorenz, a man without a last name, said that he had three tickets that would not be used on Monday night and would sell them to me if I were interested.  He then went on to explain their location, "When you enter the stadium you will go down the stairs to the lower level and sit across from the person serving.  You will be able to watch the ball going (at which point he moved his head sideways, back and forth) from side to side instead of sitting in the end zone.  They are great seats and will go unused unless you and your friends can use them."

I couldn't answer for my friends, Manon and Terri, but I knew I wanted to attend the tournament.  I took his name and cell phone number, and said I would call.  A few days later we met him at the Arnold Palmer restaurant, handed over the cost of the tickets, then drove to Indian Wells.  We found our seats on the lower level and watched two women play.  Not an ounce of fat, no giggly rolls of midriff bulge indeed.  I was in awe of their great physique.  Manon and Terri found the bar and with the help of a few drinks we moved down a few rows to some empty seats, until we were three rows from the players.  I don't even remember who Nadal played that night, and it's not important.  I only remember that I was fascinated with the speed of the ball, his handling of the two or three balls in his pockets, the hand movements and gestures before each serve, and his grunts that sounded like a hot air balloon being inflated as the ball was served or returned.  These are things that the tv monitor just can't focus on, and believe me his grunt was nearly primeval.  I don't know if intimidation was part of it, or just his shear force and competitive nature to win, but there was something deeply animalistic about this game, live and in person, and I loved it.

Feeling young and eighteen was something I'd lost to time, but that night tennis awoke me and caused me to laugh, giggle at myself, and sigh, over and over and over.  All of this because of hot Pepsi dripping and drooling from my nose and mouth decades before.

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