Sunday, September 04, 2011

Growing Old

My father used to say that getting old isn't for sissies.

That said, and before we get into the meat of the matter, let me just state for the record that I don't give a shit about tennis. Particularly men's tennis. Despite this, I attend the first Thursday of the U.S.Open every year. I'm not sure there's another sporting event in the world that gives you less return on your time invested than a five set men's tennis match. Sure there are exceptions, but you could watch two basketball games in the same amount of time it takes for two guys to essentially play women's tennis for five sets.

By that I'm suggesting that men's tennis used to be sharp and quick. Serve, volley, win the point. Keep moving. Now so much of it involves standing behind the baseline and just wailing away at each other. Sure there are exceptions, but I'm just saying that men now play what used to be more typical of the traditional women's game--and five hours of it is agony.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand:

Me? I don't think I'm old, as such, but I'm getting older. And the older I get, the weirder I feel when confronted with vertiginous situations. If that's even how you spell it--I get dizzy just typing the word.

Case in point, I found myself at the U.S.Open last Thursday, sitting in what's called the Grandstand--which is an architecturally ungainly appendage to Arthur Ashe Stadium. At some point, I wanted to refill my water bottle. So I walked into the shared corridor between the two stadiums and asked the guy in the yellow shirt where I could find a water fountain. He pointed up a flight of stairs, so up I went.

About five flights later, I arrived at the top level of the exterior of the Ashe stadium on a long open balcony that looked directly down at the Grandstand court and the women's match I'd just left. With women's tennis, I always just root for the most attractive player. Since neither player was that attractive, I don't remember who played or won. But that's not the point.
Brief personal aside: The last time I watched a match on this particular court was perhaps five years ago and Maria Sharapova was playing. And she, dear friend, is attractive. And this was before she bulked up--so you do the math. Transported (transfixed perhaps--words fail me), I found myself shouting out my home telephone number during the really quiet moments just before one of the players serves. Until a guy in a yellow shirt asked me to stop.
The point is that I was leaning against a railing, standing fifty feet above this tennis court, watching the balls whiz back and forth. When I get that high, I always have an irrational fear that my glasses are going to fall off (which they simply never do---that's why it's irrational), so I'm holding onto the side of my glasses with my right hand. I'm also concerned that my hat is going to fall off, so I'm holding that with my left hand. And I'm concerned that I'm going to fall over the edge (even though the railing is low-chest high) and I'm not sure whether I want to drop my hat and hold onto the rail.

And I have that feeling in the depths of my bowels, at a point equidistant from my navel and testicles, that I get when panic sets in.

You know this feeling. Flash back to the last time you were pulled over for a speeding ticket. You know that the worst thing that's gonna happen to you is that you get the ticket, you pay it, you deal with the points on your license, and that, more or less, is that. But still, sitting in the car watching the cop step out of his squad car through the rear view mirror, you can't help thinking that somehow you are going to end up in the general population at Rikers, and every Saturday night being gang raped while wearing one of those rubber Newt Gingrich Halloween masks.
The assumption here is that the Rikers' population skews Democratic?
That's what I'm thinking.
As big as Rikers is, they don't have a single Sarah Palin mask?
Believe me, I asked.
You're telling me...
Anyway, that's the feeling I'm talking about, and I'm not sure I would have had the same feeling were I twenty-five.

I stayed for ten uncomfortable minutes (it was an interesting vantage point for the match itself) then went back down to my seat. Troubled by all of the above, I stopped, en route (or en croute. My French is terrible and I'm referring to whichever isn't the one when you're wrapped in dough and baked), and bought a blueberries and cream smoothy (7 bucks). That made me feel a little better.


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