Lawn. And Tennis.

“If you can keep playing tennis when somebody is shooting a gun down the street, that’s concentration.” ~Serena Williams

If the closest you’ve come to tennis is watching Wimbledon on TV every two weeks in July, then you probably think the game is akin to golf, with nattily dressed people playing a gentlemen’s or a ladies’ sport while spectators “Ooh” and “Aah” over their precise shots and acumen. Of course Wimbledon, being on NBC for so long, was accessible to the masses. Regular folk like you and I could watch it and feel like we were transformed into the strawberries and cream loving crowd that filed in and out with spectacular precision from the grounds of England’s Lawn and Tennis Club. Lawn. And Tennis. That’s what we imagine. But that’s not the only tale of tennis.

Around here there is an old tennis court. I use the term loosely, because ages ago, when the weeds began to grow through the cracks in the cement, someone decided to take the posts out and transform the area into a place to ride skateboards. They didn’t take a broad stroke to it, though, as you could still see where the posts had been, and the ghosts of the lines still show through in places. I used to stand outside the fencing and imagine what it must have been like in its heyday, probably in the ’80s when pretty much every place had a tennis court within walking distance.

Of course the ’80s were for stars like Chris Evert, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, and others. Continue reading “Lawn. And Tennis.”

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Aquarium Bones

“Be careful what secrets you unearth, for the secrets that unearth you are not far behind.” ~Theodicus

I used to have an aquarium. Not the kind with fish. That would have been too simple, or too complicated, whichever you prefer. But the kind with treasure in it. You know the sort, the one with sand at the bottom, a little rake up against the glass, and the opportunity to mine for gold, or scarabs, or just the faded bones of fish who used to live in those environs before the water went away.

It seemed morbid to me at the time, the idea of an aquarium without water, a place without the one thing that gives it its name (aqua = water), the idea that “once upon a time” and “nowadays” were two distinct terms to label that glass walled cage. Eventually, though, I got used to the idea that nothing was as it seemed, not just in the aquarium, but in the wide world as well. I realized we are all nothing but aquarium bones, waiting to be unearthed when someone sifts through our lives many years from now.

I think of all the people who have come before, all the generations and generations of folks who felt, in their lifetimes, that the things they did mattered, that the time they spent was worthwhile. Continue reading “Aquarium Bones”

Endless Summer

When I was a kid, summers were for having fun outside. They were all about riding our bikes, swimming (if we had the chance), playing in the hydrant (more often than swimming), YMCA camps, and staying away from bologna as much as possible. It was the time of year when, even though we had responsibilities, they weren’t as immediate or as detrimental to our precious time as at other times of the year.

That’s because summers were truly endless. It was like someone flipped the switch, the room became bright, and the bulb didn’t burn out until three months down the line. It didn’t matter that we still had church every week because nothing else was really set in stone. Because summers were for us kids. My mom still went to work every day, and she left us a chores list, but we would blast those out of the water and move on to the more fun stuff.

It’s funny. Even though we lived in the poorer part of town (sorry, North Philly) and there was a lot of… activity around, it was like we were in our own protective bubble, being kids. Continue reading “Endless Summer”

The Uneasy Truth of Fatherhood

“Any man can be a father. That simply requires DNA. But it takes a real man to be a dad.” ~Anonymous

It’s just so messed up, this idea that fathers aren’t as necessary to a child’s development and sense of security as mothers. I honestly have no idea where it came from. Maybe some psychologist somewhere in the late 1800’s or something decided this was true, and the thought just floated down the timeline. But it’s false, patently false, this thought that kids who grow up without a father are getting just as much.

They just aren’t.

I don’t say this to try and discredit single mothers. Quite the opposite. Single mothers are the backbone of love, of support, and of teaching their children to be quality members of society. Because they have all the responsibility single mothers often take it as a challenge they do their best to meet, because they love their children and give them the absolute best of themselves. All I’m saying is that kids need both, that they need two committed parents, two committed guardians, to care for them. Continue reading “The Uneasy Truth of Fatherhood”

You Can’t Change Men

“Men don’t change. They just learn to disguise the lack of change.” ~David Gemmell

Ladies, remember when you first started dating your man? You thought, “he’s a pretty good man, but he could be a pretty GREAT man if…” and then you thought of all the (subtle) ways you could change him to make him into your perfect representation of MAN. If you tweaked a little, nipped a little, and tucked a little, he could get there, and be worthy of you.

Then, like a miracle, like turning water into wine, it happened. Little by little you noticed the changes that you had set in motion. Bit by bit you saw the shining specimen of a man who had come through the fire, forged like newly burnished steel. And you danced the Macarena with your girlfriends, believing that the almighty had blessed you with what you’d always wanted in a man.

But you celebrated too soon. As time went on you realized that all the “changes” your man went through weren’t really changes, that he had simply learned to hide those “rough spots” from you, dressing them up like wolves in sheep’s clothing, so that you would stop harping on him to change. If he pretended to change enough you would believe he had, and leave him to his own devices.

And you fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. It’s not because you’re dumb, either. It’s because you wanted to believe in it more than kids want to believe in Santa Claus. It’s because you thought if your intentions were pure and true enough that positive things were bound to happen. That was your first mistake, because, ladies, despite the best of intentions, you can’t change men. Continue reading “You Can’t Change Men”

The LP Experience

Who listens to entire music albums anymore?

The other day I was playing Katy Perry’s Prism from start to finish, and my kids asked me what those “non-radio songs” were. I told them it was the whole album and they looked at me like I had two heads.

I remember waiting all day so I could go to the record store and buy Janet’s janet. album, when I would camp out all night so I could be the first one to get the new Sheryl Crow CD. I recall the first album I listened to from start to finish like it was yesterday, and while I sometimes listen to a song here and there I’m largely still about entire albums.

There’s just something about listening to the music in the way the artist intended, and when an entire album flows from song to song, creating an entire masterpiece, it’s simply transformative. Complete albums like Michael Jackson’s Bad, Counting Crows’ August and Everything After, Babyface’s For the Cool in You, and Pearl Jam’s Vs. have been there for me in difficult times of my life. Continue reading “The LP Experience”

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