Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cupcakes and Carmageddon

In NY LA SF, the most popular post on Pearls and Lemons, ( ), I wrote about how much I love to hate Los Angeles. Now I’m confused because I had such a wonderful time visiting Allie in Santa Monica. Travelling was peachy except for when I got detained by security for holding. Holding Greek yogurt. Isn't that ethnic profiling? It seems yogurt is a gel and gels are bad. I also thought it was amusing that American Airlines couldn't decide what to call us. In short order we were referred to  as “customers, passengers and guests". Call me passenger, please.

Flying is always so stressful, but it wouldn't have occurred to me to ask for a cocktail on the way down. The guy behind me was VERY disappointed that American didn't serve alcohol - just tea and coffee. After all, it was ten am. As much as I joked about the jet lag, a one-hour flight is pretty painless.

The LA car culture has not abated. Allie told me a funny story about a recent "Carmageddon". The 405 had to be completely closed one day for construction. Residents bought groceries the day before and then the city stopped. Nobody left home. They couldn't. It wasn't possible to drive anywhere.

Allie had all the parking garages scoped out and knew which ones validated and or had free parking. Some of the garages now have lights along the middle of the aisles. There is a red light in front of every parking spot that is taken and green lights where spaces are empty. All the thinking is done for you. They still have the medieval contraptions to prevent one from backing up or risk severe tire damage.

We needed to do some birthday shopping for Lana so we went to the trendy, open-air shopping center called "The Grove".  As soon as we got there we were almost bowled over by paparazzi chasing after Mario Lopez. He was pushing his baby in a stroller and ducked into an elevator. As soon as the door closed they all spun around and went the other direction. Dylan's Candy Bar was doing a special event with Janet Jackson and other celebrities. The place was surrounded by security but you could see in the windows. On the way out we saw Apolo Ohno. Just another celebrity. Yawn.

I showed Allie where I used to live in Hollywood, back in the late seventies, and the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine, which is now featuring, you guessed it – a Starbucks. All the hordes following us trying to take photos got to be a bit much so we ducked into the Chateau Marmont for a bite to eat in the garden. Oh, that’s right. It was just us. No paparazzi. Photographs aren’t allowed at the Marmont, anyway. Of course I broke the rule and took pictures of the powder room. The engraved mirror and orange toile wallpaper are to die for. Must have it. Lunch was lovely and the lattes were only seven bucks each.

On the way out to the beach we passed through some tony neighborhoods on the west side. We cracked up when we saw a lost dog poster. The reward for a missing Australian Shepherd was five thousand dollars. The beach was glorious – perfect water temperature, hot, beautiful white sand. We walked down to the Santa Monica Pier, which was teeming with all kinds of people.  A little trip across the overpass and we were in Nordstrom, still in bathing suits with sandy feet. What’s not to like?

I think I was most surprised by how normal people seemed everywhere we went. What’s happened to LA? Where were all the perfect Barbie dolls with cosmetic surgery? I only saw two women with noticeable fish lips. I see more than that in Nor Cal. In Beverly Hills I was most charmed by the cupcake ATM at Sprinkles. You put your card in, make a selection on the touch screen and out comes your cupcake! So clever. I can just imagine the late night munchies that would inspire a trip out for 24- hour cupcakes. You could probably have them delivered, assuming there’s no Carmageddon.

The highlight of my trip, other than being with my darling daughter, was overhearing someone say this: “Remember, if you can’t figure out who the sucker is in a poker game, it’s you.” 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Code of Conduct

This year July brought The London Olympics AND the annual BTC Family Tennis Tournament.  I asked my brother, Doug, to play with me and he agreed. It was good of him considering he's not really a tennis player. He also has no racquet and needed to buy tennis shoes. He's such a natural athlete - I had total faith in our prospects as a team. I figured after one practice we could hold our own against any adult brother sister team. There were no brother sister teams. We were the only one, so Doug got to look like a good guy but didn't have to play with me.

Initially, I didn't want to play with my husband. We were taking a tennis break.  "Mixed Troubles" 
explains a bit about the perilous marital dynamic.;postID=5372590367407561333 We weren't having fun playing together, so why keep doing it? This time Eric wanted to try it again so I agreed.

The tournament is sponsored by Esurance and is USTA sanctioned. There was even a referee. Before the first match the referee gave us all a stern lecture. A family tournament, we were to set an example for the children. I shot a look at my husband. He ignored me. The ref went on to explain about sanctions and that swearing or over-gesticulating and other bad behaviors would be reported.

We started match play and got right into the thick of it. At one point Eric got frustrated and sat down on the court at the end of a point we'd lost. Mortified, I hissed at him to get up. He got up, but he was pissed that I had hissed. Something else happened and he smacked the ball at the fence. We got through the match and went on to the next round.

I found myself saying, "crap" when I missed a shot. We won that match and I mentioned it to the ref. He said it depends how loud it is and if it's directed at someone. It wasn't loud or directed at anyone. Miss Goody Two Shoes was in the clear, but I wasn't so sure about my partner. What was the chance he would get through this unscathed?

We have very different views of the game. Eric sees it more like a scrappy, playground battle and I am aiming for the genteel country club experience. Think Wimbledon versus the US Open. When I attended my first tennis match I was deeply struck by the quietness of the sport. It was peaceful to watch the games punctuated by polite clapping. What a difference from all the years at swim meets with spectators screaming their heads off the whole time. I would often go home hoarse. I truly believed that my "cheering" would propel my girls faster through the water. Sometimes it actually did which just reinforced my mania.

Days of swim meets ended and tennis became my focus. Playing, watching, housing tournament officials. I was all in. I've had numerous partners and played 143 matches in nineteen USTA in leagues. I've played in Grand Prix tournaments. I've played in and helped run the Club Championships.

Imagine my surprise when I got the letter. We came home on a Friday night and there was a letter from USTA - hand addressed to me. I assumed it had something to do with fund-raising for the Boyle Courts. Or perhaps thanking me for being a captain. I opened the letter. Wait. What is this? A Code of Conduct violation! An audible or visible obscenity/profanity- "God damn " heard over three courts.

What the HELL? Was this some kind of joke? Where was Eric's letter? I had been reported to USTA for swearing in the Belvedere Family Tournament. I swear less than anyone I know on the tennis court. I love to swear, but it doesn't feel right on the court. I was shocked. When I read the letter again it showed I had racked up two points. If you get ten you're out of competition.

In fact, I did say it, but it was certainly not audible even on the next court. What did this mean? Was it like the DMV and points on your license? Could you get rid of them by taking a class? Was I the only one cited? Eric was thoroughly bemused. I figured his letter had been lost in the mail and would arrive shortly. It did not. I consider this circumstance to be one of my life's bitterest ironies.

In the few weeks since the letter came I have heard players dropping all kinds of verbal bombs on the court, including the "f" bomb. I watched the finals of a tournament at our club and three of the four players said "dammit" over the course of several games. They were all board members or former board members.

The violation form stated a player and the USTA must be informed of the violation within three days. The letter was dated almost three weeks after the tournament. An email address was listed on the form. I immediately sent a message asking for clarification. If it were beyond the time limit would it count against me? If not, why bother sending it? I got no response from USTA.

Our friend Don always says he's not mature enough to play in tournaments. Maybe I'm not, either. I'm certainly not mature enough to play in a family tournament, which may end up working out well for my brother in the future. God dammit.