If You’re Not Obsessed, You’re Not Alive

We have a dog in our lives now, Harvey, our housemate’s pet. He’s a tall black mix of bird dog, probably Irish setter, and border collie. (Happily, he got the border collie smarts and the setter’s graceful athleticism. One is reminded of the [apocryphal] story of G. B. Shaw’s reply when a beautiful woman said, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a child with your brains and my beauty?” “But what a tragedy, my dear, if the reverse were true.”)

One of Harvey’s favorite games is when Tennis Ball Fetch devolves into me chasing him around the yard. He just can’t get enough of it. It’s a good workout for me, because it involves running fast with quick changes of direction—not my usual jog. But if I played as much as he wanted me to, it’d be a full time job. He’s obsessed.

This evening we were planning dinner and trying to figure out something fun to do afterwards—maybe Lemon Drops and cribbage? A movie? I was struck by an idea: “What about tennis at Seward Park?” Suddenly, we both knew that was it. We used to love playing tennis, but somehow fell out of the habit; we hadn’t played for about eight years. It took about 15 minutes of digging in the garage for rackets, and a trip to the store for non-dog chewed balls. Dinner could wait.

The courts at Seward Park have been rebuilt since the drainage project; they sit right on the edge of Lake Washington with a view of Mt. Rainier. (In fact, I played barefoot for about 15 minutes while waiting for my shoes to dry after retrieving an errant ball from the lake.) Eagles are a frequent distraction. We were very fortunate that one of the two courts was open. In contrast to our bumbling, a couple of tennis blackbelts, a man and a woman, were zapping balls at each other like throwing stars in a martial arts movie.

We didn’t play any games, just hit the ball back and forth. At first, it was hard to get past 3 volleys without going into the net or out of bounds. Or in the lake. But, we kept improving. After about 45 minutes, Tess said, “Do you realize we’ve been grinning the whole time?” What I love is chasing down difficult balls, and occasionally getting a successful racket on them. No matter how difficult, I’ll chase it. (I think chasing Harvey helped me snag a few of them.) Much later, as the court was fully shadowed, we thought maybe we should leave soon. Okay; let’s just have a rally of six shots, then we’ll go.

Too easy. Try nine. Twelve. Fifteen. We were over twenty playable shots before we finally packed it in, sore and happy. Walking back to the car, we marveled at summer. Kids dancing to hip hop, the pungent smell of pot (it’s Seattle), families picnicking on the lawns, the chiming ice cream truck with the same songs from childhood: Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Mary Had a Little Lamb…and the variety of adults and kids lining up, Asian, Hispanic, a woman in a hijab, African American, European American, 31 flavors of American.

We pulled over on the way to Flying Squirrel Pizza to watch an eagle try to snag a fish from Andrews Bay, while another eagle hovered in position to steal it. My hands were black from the decayed tape on the racket handle, and I had to wash them in the restaurant’s bathroom before paying for the pizza.

We’ll be back. We’re obsessed.

“Life is nothing if you’re not obsessed.” –John Waters’ movie Pecker, 1998

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