Monday, April 12, 2010

Invention is the Mother of Necessity

Tall, decaf mocha, no fat, no whip, one forty. The older woman with two small children in line in front of me spat out her order. Really? That’s all you want to specify? Why have I never thought to tell them precisely what temperature I’d like my drink to be? Is one forty hot or not so hot? How come I don’t know this? Forget the temperature issue for a moment. What is a mocha with no fat, no whip and no caffeine? It reminds me of the anecdote in an old Herb Caen column. Someone goes into a coffee house and orders a non fat, decaf latte. The cashier yells to the barista, “One why bother.”

Is necessity the mother of invention, or is it now the other way around? That’s my question. This if you build it they will come mind set is the new norm. We have so many choices that it’s almost paralyzing. Are they really choices? We are sold so many products we do not need. Do we want them or did the choice come first and then the need? Early adopters, we’re scanning the horizon for the new and shiny. Out with the Kindle, in with Apple’s iPad and when the next generation is created, we’ll have to buy that as well.

We could probably get it at Costco, but big box shopping is not for me. I’d rather pay more. Yes, you save on essentials, but how do you calculate the cost of the impulse buying? Besides, who really needs a year’s supply of toilet paper? I’d rather run out on Christmas Day like we usually do. Then you get to call one of the kids and get your revenge by making them bring some. I tried warehouse shopping a time or two in the last century. I bought some office supplies and got a package of pens so large that I STILL have some of them. Of course, you can never find one when you want it.

Is there any way to escape the jackhammer of advertising that has crept into seemingly every aspect of daily life? Our quality of life is being eroded one commercial at a time. We went to a movie and paid over ten bucks a ticket. Our viewing “pleasure” included watching numerous previews (which are ads) as well as actual commercials. Why are we even subjected to television commercials at all? When we were kids we just plugged in the T.V. and turned it on. It was free. We did not pay for it, so it seemed reasonable that there would be commercials to bring in revenue. We pay for televison programming now. We pay a lot for something called “cable”. Revenue is being generated on a grand scale. Other than our mortgage, the cable bill with bundled telephone service, is our largest monthly bill. We don’t even have all the options. Feeding all the channels into every television would be an up charge.

Television itself is way too complicated now. One night Eric came home from a walk in the neighborhood and announced that Blue Pants Man had a flat screen and we are the only people left in the universe who don’t have one. Blue Pants Man is actually now Tan Pants Man and he has some sort of lifestyle (or disability) that allows him to spend his days walking around the neighborhood carrying a walker three inches from the ground. He just carries it. Never sets it down. Blue Pants Man lives in the same house as Babushka Lady who also spends much of her time out walking, occasionally hissing at and spitting on people. The tiny crone with the wizened face and nasty whiskers and Blue Pants Man HAVE A FLAT SCREEN. Exclamation point.

Shocked by this revelation, I catapulted into action. After a little research online I thought I had a grasp of the situation. The next rainy Sunday (aren’t they all this year) we barged over to Best Buy after way too much coffee. I was ready for my own impulse buy. We would get ourselves a flat screen and be like everyone else. We could even host a decent Oscar party. The salesman began to explain the various options. I got a little confused. Trying to decide on pixels and mega pixels gave me a headache. When he started talking about Blu-ray I felt I was being duped into buying a system that would soon be obsolete and this irritated me. It was also a lot of money to spend on a television. The need for a nap overcame the need to buy a flat screen and we were so out of there. I don’t need to make all these decisions about buying electronics. I can use up that part of my brain just by ordering a coffee.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fit for Tennis

One has to be extraordinarily fit for tennis. The diet, the conditioning- the months of training. No detail is too insignificant to matter when you need to be tops on the tour. The clothing is as important as anything. Timing the meals, snacks, hydration and trips to the rest room are critical. The angle of the sun and the direction of the wind must be factored in. It all matters when you are a world class tournament...spectator.

After the eight hour drive to Palm Springs as our warm up, we decided to relax rather than deal with the weekend hordes at the tournament. We bought our tickets for the Monday matches and were lucky enough to have a chance to watch Novak Djokovic go through his paces at a private club. Truthfully, he looked a little shaky to our trained, professional spectator eyes. Then we practiced forking over the cash when Eric ordered a nine dollar smoothie. My iced tea was a bargain at three bucks with refills. This is a key spectator skill you get to hone to perfection at big tournaments.

There is so much planning, effort and preparation that goes into proper tennis viewing. How to look cute AND be comfortable in the hot sun while watching hours of matches is always a challenge. The linen skirt route is good, but it has to be long enough to prevent sticking to the hot metal bench. Short shorts or skirts are just the worst. This year the crowd seemed so much better dressed. There were some very elegant looking women and dapper gentlemen.

Why do so many of the audience members attend the tournament in tennis attire - even the older crowd? Do they think they will get called to fill in if Nadal or Clijsters don’t show up? No problem. I can take their place. I’m all dressed for it. Or do they think people will mistake them for a pro? A friend observed that you wouldn’t wear a swim suit to a swim meet. Why would you wear a tennis oufit to a tennis match?

The center stadium is the only venue where we had real seats, so fatigue set in after watching hours of matches. The experts bring along their own portable chairs with backs. This year the popular chair looked a bit like a lead apron with straps. As silly as it seems to drag that thing around, it’s incredibly practical. We took little breaks by changing courts and wandered over to the practice courts where we got to see hot players hitting topless. The men, that is. The women wore tiny shorts and little jog bras so it was equal opportunity viewing pleasure. Sometimes we went to the main stadium so we could lean back for a while even when the better match was on an outside court.

Proper breathing is critical. You can exhaust yourself by holding your breath during the exciting rallies. You’re so close you can feel it. It’s very tiring to root for a certain player the whole time. Also, it’s amazing how arbitrary choosing a favorite can be. There is the need to make snap judgments about athletes we’ve never seen by analyzing their body language, attitudes and outfits. Eric went crazy for Chinese player, Jie Zheng. We watched her and her partner, Chang, defeat number one seeds Huber and Black in an amazing match. These two were the fiercest players we’ve ever seen at the net. Two days later Zheng played Caroline Wozniacki in singles. I was rooting for Wozniacki and Eric was pulling for Zheng, calling her the real deal. It was a battle, but my girl was even more real a deal in singles, and won in three. Watching her really drained me.

Nutrition and hydration are very important aspects of tournament play. The desert is just as dry as the name implies. Maybe even more so. We simply could not get enough water even though we were conscientious about it. You can bring your own food or you can take your chances on tournament food. We were pretty good the first couple days and made healthy choices. By day three it was hot dogs and coke. When we were both reaching for the Rolaids, Eric quipped that they might as well embed antacids right into the hot dogs. It would be far more efficient.

By the middle of the week we’d had enough of real time viewing. We needed to regain our strength so we skipped the tourney and watched it on television in the evenings. Playing tennis every morning, swimming and maybe taking a bike ride, we slowly rebuilt the energy we’d expended at the tournament. We had expensive cocktails pool side at a couple trendy hotels and did a little hiking. It wasn’t easy, but for the last several days, we were finally able to recover from the rigors of professional tennis.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Thawing Out

So many friends reached out to me after my first pathetic post on the frozen shoulder. I really appreciated all the support and suggestions. Who knew this nasty malady is so common? I’d never heard of it before. Progress has been slow but measurable. I started seeing the physical therapist who helped Eric after his accident. Of course, we’re paying for it privately, but I’m worth it, aren’t I? Jeff Smith is a tennis player and former dancer who practices a combination of Feldenkrais and weight training and is just a genius at getting hurt parts of the body to move again.

I’ve got a lot of atrophy and my friend says I still look like John McCain when I raise my left arm, but the range of motion is returning ever so slowly. It no longer hurts to start the lawn mower by pulling on the cord. Since mowing the lawn is one of my favorite ways to relax, this is very good. Sleeping is a bit better. I can now go four or five hours before the tossing and turning and trying to get comfortable begins. Ironically, after seeing two general practitioners, one orthopedist, two physical therapists, getting a set of x-rays, an MRI and an injection of cortisone, it may be that time is the real cure. The doctor said to give it a year and it’s been five months. Fortunately, I’m one hundred percent cured of injury envy. It’s not as fun as it looks to be the patient and it’s beyond boring to talk about. We can all go back to complaining about the weather.