Monthly Archives: September 2010

Lame Adventure 98: Postponed by Rain

Since my plum seat assignment at the stage play that I idiotically volunteer ushered on Saturday was a choice between sitting next to the production’s director or an extremely intimidating theater critic, I decided that it was wise that I resisted the urge to tape a bulky radio to my person so I could discreetly listen to the men’s US Open tennis semi-final that was being played at that exact moment between Rafael Nadal and Mikhail Youzhny.

I also made the wise choice of sitting next to the director.

Fifteen minutes into the first act, I suffered an uncontrollable coughing fit that lasted about a minute, but seemed more like an hour.  If I could have pressed a  button that would have sent my seat freefalling through the floor, I would have done so in a heartbeat.  Had I experienced that embarrassing display of hacking next to the sour critic, he surely would have thrown me through the wall.

Afterward, I apologized profusely to the director.  To her credit, she was gracious about my disruption.  I was relieved that she did not ask me my opinion of the play.  This was probably due to the fact that I applauded it with the level of enthusiasm I would reserve for attending a taping of the Late Show with David Letterman if Jesus Christ were the guest; this zeal probably led her to believe that I thought this play was pure genius.  In actuality, what I was applauding with gusto was the fact that this painfully underwritten jumble of pointless scenes had finally come to an end and I was free to bolt and watch tennis.

Since Rafa had annihilated Youzhny in straight sets that took a little over two hours, by the time I was once again planted in front of my TV, Roger Federer was already halfway through his five set losing battle against Novak Djokovic.  Although I was disappointed with the end result, Novak played his heart out, and Roger fell short.  The guy that played better won, but it is depressing that the long anticipated showdown between Roger and Rafa has yet to happen in the US.  I imagine that some members of the GOP will blame Obama for that, too.

That evening, Milton and I were on the phone throughout the women’s final, the boring rout between Kim Clijsters and Vera Zvonareva, since Zvonareva failed to attend the match with her game.  Milton dryly observed that Zvonareva looks like the Grinch.

Vera Zvonareva flaunting her tan lines.

Vera Zvonareva's doppelgänger per Milton.

On Sunday, Milton and I were on the phone again, waiting for the men’s final, but CBS continued to broadcast football well past the scheduled 4 pm start time since it was raining steadily over in Flushing Meadow, the home of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.  It would be a sadistic two hours before the USTA would announce that the match had been postponed.

Therefore, Milton and I were on the phone watching football and waiting in vain for tennis.  Milton hates football.  He thinks it’s the sport that epitomizes everything that is stupid about members of his own gender.  I grew up watching it, so I can easily get into it, but if you have never been a follower of this sport, it can appear to be twenty-two beefy guys crashing into each other all over the place as the ball is flung in the air or squirting around on the field.

Since the game we were watching was the Jacksonville Jaguars playing the Denver Broncos, Milton had a meltdown over a few Jacksonville players, specifically the cornerback Rashean Mathis and the guard Uche Nwaneri.  Both players have very long hair spilling out of their helmets.  Milton thinks it’s hypocritical that in a sport so macho that so many players have hair extensions that require primping.  Until that moment, I never put any thought into any NFL player’s hair other than that of Pittsburgh Steeler’s safety Troy Polamalu.  Since he’s insured his hair for a million dollars, I’m confident that his mane, which he has not cut since 2000, is genuine.

Don't touch the hair.

As for whether the crowning glory of Rashean Mathis and Uche Nwaneri is real or fake, considering how big and strong they are if I ever met them I doubt I’d pop that question.  I’d applaud them both with gusto and continue to hope for clear skies for Monday’s men’s tennis final.

Lame Adventure 97: Dilemma

Following the very disappointing US Open women’s tennis semi-finals where the two players I had been rooting for, Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki, were both eliminated by their opponents, Kim Clijsters and Vera Zvonareva, the resulting women’s final is one where I feel indifferent over the outcome.  Yet, I will tune in Saturday night and I will reluctantly cheer for Clijsters solely because I find Zvonareva’s attention-grabbing towel-head antics during breaks irritating.

Seriously, go to your room.

The entirety of my focus has shifted to the remaining members of the men’s draw – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Mikhail Youzhny, but there is a wrench in my focus.

This Saturday I long to be in two places at once.  Although I am in general a very good anticipator, my crystal ball was fog-filled last July when I agreed to volunteer usher a Saturday matinee performance of an off-Broadway play staged by a name-brand theater company.  This theater company has been extremely generous to me these cash-strapped times.  In exchange for handing out Playbills and flipping up seats they allow me to see their productions for free.

Unfortunately, this commitment conflicts with the men’s semi-finals and I also long to watch tennis.  First up is my guy, Rafa, playing Youzhny, the last obstacle between the Nadal-Federer showdown I have been obsessing over almost as much as thought provoking sex acts I would deny ever thinking about to my family, but this falsehood might give them hope that I will end my career as an oversleeping underachiever and enter politics.  I expect to be home in time to catch the second match between Fed and Novak.  Novak is a player I like, but not when he’s playing Fed – especially if Rafa can get past Youzhny to the final.

If I had access to an iPad or iPhone those gadgets would allow me to watch this crucial match on the Open’s live Internet feed.  Considering that this theater company always gifts me with a terrific seat, my watching a tennis match during the play could appear remarkably unappreciative.  Furthermore, I am the one urging the audience members to please turn off their cell phones.

Since my dumb phone cannot play video, my mind has wandered in the direction of radio.  Last Christmas, my brother, Axel, gave me an emergency preparedness radio endorsed by the Red Cross.  Axel probably had 9/11 on his mind when he purchased this radio for me, but it offers a solution to today’s pickle provided I do not throw out my arm hand-cranking it half a million times.

How do you define emergency?

This device is bulky, but I could tape it securely to my mid-section.  If this rectangle-shaped protrusion raises questions, I would confidentially white lie that it’s a state of the art colostomy bag.

Once the lights lower, I will activate my emergency preparedness radio and discreetly slip in my ear buds.  When the lights raise I will attentively stare at the actors on stage as my head is filled with play by play tennis commentary.  The challenge will be to suppress cheering if Rafa breaks Youzhny’s serve.  What if that occurs when an actor is delivering an emotionally wrought soliloquy about being abused by her father at age six; the benevolent patriarch she adored who transformed into a diabolical stranger after her mother went blind following a diagnosis of brain cancer?

Whooping aloud with gusto at that moment might be construed as inappropriate.

What if this play, a play I know little about, is a hilarious comedy and I am surrounded by hysterically laughing audience members while Youzhny manages to make mincemeat out of Rafa?  This prompts me to emit a groan worthy of a dying antelope followed with tears of frustration as my gladiator falls.  How do I explain that outburst to the House Manager?  Do I claim I suffered a flashback of my benevolent father abusing me at age six after my mother went blind following a diagnosis of brain cancer?

What if this pack-of-lies explanation somehow gets back to my dear old dad?  I can imagine the fallout:

Dad:  What compelled you to say something so ridiculous about me and your poor dead mother?

Me:  Tennis!

Fortunately, my father is a sports fiend, with life-long ADD whenever we converse.

Dad:  Wasn’t that one helluva match between your fella, Nadal, and that Russian, Use-its?  I don’t follow tennis much, but that match was a nail-biter!  You must have gone out of your mind!

If Dad only knew …

Lame Adventure 96: Brilliant, but fashion-challenged

Milton and I have both been glued to US Open Tennis.  He is a die-hard Roger Federer fan; “Fed” to Milton.  My guy is Rafael Nadel; “Rafa” to me.  We are both hoping that they will meet in the men’s final this weekend but in general, we do root for each other’s guy.  I am very aware that Fed is a sensational player, possibly the greatest player of all-time, a style icon, and overall, a class act.  It bothers me when he loses to anyone … but Rafa.

Milton is not blind to Rafa’s greatness, either, and he appreciates his athletic prowess, but when it comes to Rafa’s style or his trademark jock strap adjustment, Milton detonates.  Milton is certain that Rafa is incapable of ordering a glass of wine without tugging at whatever’s wedged in-between his butt-cheeks.  I am not a fan of this habit, but I pointed out to Milton that this quirk is an element ingrained in Rafa’s style of play.  What completely drives Milton over the edge is Rafa’s history of dreadful wardrobe choices.  Unlike my ability to defend the constant wedgie tugging I have to agree that pink shirts, plaid shorts, muscle tees, etc., are indefensible.

"I'll have the pinot grigio."

This year at the US Open, Rafa has introduced some serious improvements.  He’s added a powerful serve to his game, and he has also made some welcome style adjustments.  He has a new haircut, and a basic black outfit trimmed in yellow.  Milton, in fashion police mode, has been pregnant with comment about Rafa’s makeover.  Recently, we shared this email exchange:

Milton: I know your boy is still trying, and in some ways, the black works.  But what’s with the yellow, boat-like sneakers? Is he dating Sweet Caroline?

Caroline "Sunshine" Wozniacki wearing Stella McCartney designed black & yellow.

Milton: With the slimming black, and the oversized sneaks, Rafa was reminding me of someone, but I couldn’t figure out who. Then it came to me. See comparison below.

Rafa serving at the US Open.

Marvin the Martian -- Rafa's doppelgänger?

Me: Did you know that those Nikes he wears are inscribed Rafa in the back of the heel?  They are ghastly.

Nadal's Rafa sneakers.

Milton: He’s earned the right to have his name everywhere.  But the yellow.  He looks like a bumble bee on the Atkin’s diet.

Lame Adventure 94: Foot-faulting Through Life

Once again, a foot-fault call at US Open tennis was in the spotlight when ninth seed Andy Roddick blew a gasket at a line judge for (correctly) calling this error on him during his loss Wednesday night to his Serbian opponent, Janko Tipsarevic.

Andy Roddick not asking, "What time is it?"

When the line judge explained her call to Roddick, she suffered an ill-timed brain-freeze and mistakenly said it was his right foot, when she meant to say it was his left.  Therefore, he detonated, but his outburst was Sesame Street worthy when compared to the $82,500 fine-incurring profane meltdown that Serena Williams exhibited at last year’s Open.  The New York Times recounted Serena’s outburst of hysteric proportion as follows:

“[Roddick’s] tempest was nothing compared with the most remembered match of the 2009 Open, between the powerful Serena Williams and a diminutive Japanese woman named Shino Tsurubuchi. After Tsurubuchi called Williams for a second-service foot fault, landing her a point from defeat in the women’s final against Kim Clijsters, Williams angrily confronted Tsurubuchi at her post outside the lines, threatening to asphyxiate her with the aid of the ball in her hand.”

Translation: Williams said, while clutching a tennis ball for emphasis, “I am going to shove this fucking ball down your fucking throat.”

Composed Serena three days after outburst at book signing on 9/15/09 where no one had the guts to joke, "Foot-fault."

Tsurubuchi was not the line judge that incurred Roddick’s wrath.  Roddick’s loss sent him packing with his stunning Sports Illustrated swimsuit model wife, Brooklyn Decker, calling to mind the Fur Fish and Game assistant document shredder, Staten Island Plotnick, that I dated some years back, proving the new adage that we mate (or date) what we rate.

Mrs. Roddick

US Open Tennis and Wimbledon are my two favorite sporting events, but I do follow the other Grand Slam tennis tournaments as well, the Opens in Australia and France.  Even though her personality is deficient, I admire Serena’s athleticism, but as a human being, I prefer her sister, Venus, approximately one million times more.  I would love to see Venus, at age 30, win this year’s women’s singles final.  The fact that Serena withdrew claiming a suspicious foot injury increases Venus’s chances of capturing this top prize once again.

Ironically, the highest paid female athlete today is not the top seed, Serena, but number fourteen, Maria Sharapova.  In January she signed an eight-year contract with Nike worth $70 million.  Milton and I find this mind-blowing since she last won a Grand Slam in 2008.  Serena’s won five Grand Slam titles in the last two years.  Unlike Serena, Sharapova has a winning personality, and coincidentally, she looks like a model.  Sharapova easily won her match Thursday against Iveta Benesova.  If Sharapova reaches the finals against Venus, that would be exciting.  Neither of them has won a Grand Slam since 2008.

Without Serena playing, the women’s draw overall is much less exciting this year, but even without Roddick, the men’s draw remains very competitive.  The final I would love to see is Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal.  They have played each other 21 times, but never at the US Open, the only Grand Slam tournament Nadal has yet to win.  If this match happens, my allegiance will be with Rafa, but if Federer wins, and it is not because of a foot-fault call, I will be okay with it since I like him very much, too.

About Federer … what to make of this video?  Did he really knock the can off this guy’s head twice?  He will not confirm or deny it.  Hm.

Shoes are also news in the US Open.  Federer is wearing ones decorated with the New York skyline, which I much prefer over the pompous Federer crest blazer he wore in 2006 at Wimbledon.

Federer's New York State of mind tennis shoes.

Last year, the teenage upstart from Marietta, Georgia, Melanie Oudin, got very lucky when she somehow managed to beat three far superior players, including Sharapova, while wearing shoes inscribed “Believe,” until Caroline Wozniacki, wearing shoes invisibly inscribed, “Reality bites,” knocked her out of the running.  Yet, Oudin, a spunky blonde, was last year’s media darling.

Melanie Oudin's 2009 Believe tennis shoes

While serving as play-by-play announcer for CBS Sports during weekend coverage of the Open last year, Dick Enberg gushed that Oudin “is the kind of kid you wish lived next door.”

Oh, you really think that, Dick?  Clearly, you don’t know me.

This year Oudin wore tennis shoes inscribed “Courage.”

Melanie Oudin's 2010 Courage tennis shoe

She got knocked out in the second round.  I don’t think foot-faulting was a significant factor.  I do think if she let go of the shoe inscribing, and focused more on her serve, that might take her game in a more winning direction.  Of course, this is easy for me to say as I foot-fault my way through life.

Lame Adventures Woman Disgruntled Jack Purcell sneaker

Lame Adventure 93: Back Again

Last month I had my annual mammogram.   This is a routine exam I have done every year at Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s downtown diagnostic center.  For anyone unfamiliar with what this exam entails, it is an x-ray that is a screening and diagnostic tool for breast cancer.  The procedure is one that is not particularly pleasant, but it is important so I do it.  A friend’s description of it being akin to laying a breast on a cold cement floor and then having a refrigerator slam down hard on it is an accurate account of what a mammogram entails.

Since I am minimally breasted, the technicians are challenged, but they have always managed to get the shot, even if that means I depart the premises significantly welted.  A few weeks after my exam they send me a form letter announcing the results.  It usually starts that they’re “pleased to report that the result of your breast examination on [date] showed no evidence of cancer.”

This year was different.

I got a phone call.

The second I heard the caller, a very pleasant woman, say she was calling from the diagnostic center, an alarm bell rang so loudly in my head that I was initially deaf to what followed.  All I was thinking at that moment was:

Me:  I’m gonna die!!!!!!!!!!

While I proceeded to hyperventilate into a brown paper bag, the Caller calmly continued.

Caller:  The doctor couldn’t read the image of your right breast.

I groan loudly and hope my family remembers that I want to be cremated.

Caller:  We think everything is normal.  We just need to retake that one image to be sure.  This happens occasionally.

Realizing that this is probably nothing more than a routine snafu, I resume thinking about other things such as US Open Tennis, what films I want to see at the upcoming New York Film Festival, and how close I came to accidentally gargling with toilet bowl cleaner instead of Cool Mint Listerine.  I was very tired, not paying attention to what I was doing, and they both smelled minty.

Less filling. Tastes great.

The one thing that does make me think of having to take this test again is that The Flusher, the crazy drunk neighbor that lives below me, is uncharacteristically nice to me.  I call him The Flusher because he has this annoying habit of flushing his toilet repeatedly.  One night, when a friend was visiting, we counted 77 flushes in a row.  He has also done this when I’m showering.  Every so often I nearly suffer a third degree burn.  The Flusher, reeking of alcohol at 8:30 in the morning, is returning from a cheap beer run just as I am leaving for work.

The Flusher holds the door for me.  He never holds the door for me.  Ever.  Immediately, I’m suspicious.  He also speaks.  The last time he spoke to me was so many years ago, he still had hair to comb over.  He issued a torrent of  anti-Semitic slurs in my direction.  I’m not Jewish.  I do not feel warm or fuzzy towards this guy.

The Flusher:  Ya got a lear there.

Me (confused):  I’ve got a what where?

The Flusher points at the radiator cover where tenants often dump their junk mail.  Isolated from the pile of junk is an envelope addressed to me from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.  Apparently, it was delivered in someone else’s mail box.  The Flusher’s?  I take my letter.

My lear.

Me:  Thanks.  I didn’t notice that.

The Flusher looks at me spooked.  He might now think my name is Marked For Death.  He probably fears my ghost.  It was just a form letter about calling the diagnostic center to set up the second appointment.  When The Flusher figures out that I still have my health, I expect that he’ll revert back to his regular loutish self.  If he’s feeling sentimental, he might call me something anti-Semitic.

On a very hot and humid day, I return as scheduled to the diagnostic center where I have the one image of my right breast retaken.  When the attendant asks if I remembered to not apply deodorant, I assure her:

Me:  Yes, I’m not wearing any – much to the dismay of all my fellow passengers on that 2 train.

Blame me.

They do not make me sit for very long in the waiting room.  I only have to hear a single bastardized version of Barbra Streisand’s first huge hit, People.  When I was last there I recognized several songs I loathed that I had not heard in decades such as Anne Murray’s Snowbird.

The procedure itself was swift, which is as close to painless as a mammogram can be.  They made sure I went with their gold medal technician this time.  Within ten minutes, I was given my diagnosis, a clean bill of health, so I was free to slather myself with deodorant and not see them again for another year.  Phew!