Tennis Paradise: 2nd Serve

random trip report

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I decide to return to Palm Springs for the Indian Wells tennis tournament, and to see Karen, Rich and James. This time driving down.

Sun 5 Mar

I leave at 10, in Erica's Subaru. Some rain. The high point is finding gas for $4.29 in Santa Nella. I disobey the in-car GPS by taking I-210. It retaliates by saying 'route recalculating' every few minutes, so I switch to Google Maps on my phone.

I'm early, so I eat at Panera, then go for a hike in the Palm Desert hills, starting from the Homestead Park trailhead. There's a full moon; ideal conditions. A short, steep trail leads to the illuminated cross. The power cable comes from underground in a steel conduit. I'd need a tool to cut it. The light bulbs are protected by plastic domes. I'm able to reach the bottom one; I use a rock to dislodge the dome, then remove the light bulb. That will have to do for now. There's a register. My message: this cross is a sacrilege against the desert.

One less bulb

Then I drive to Rich's house. Rich is justifiably proud of a smoked-salmon quiche he has made for tomorrow's breakfast.

Mon 6 Mar

There's an early-morning cacophony of leaf blowers and hedge trimmers, and also hammering from the anti-social next-door neighbors, who it turns out are installing a gaudy backlit house number above their garage door.

Rich and I drive to Indian Wells to see the first day of qualifying (48 fringe players competing for 12 spots in the main draw, which is 128 players). We see Emilio Nava and a bit of Taro Daniel. The best match is Matteo Arnaldi, a thin Italian guy, who beats Lloyd Harris, a 6'4" beast. Arnaldi plays nearly flawlessly, painting the lines and chasing down everything.

Matteo Arnaldi

At lunch we sit with a young Brit who turns out to be a former pro, now working as a hitting partner. We discuss the economics of being a fringe tennis pro. Only the top ~100 players break even. Many of the qualifiers are fighting for their professional lives; if they lose here, that may be it for their career.

We stroll by the practice courts; a big crowd is watching Andy Murray, who is wearing ankle braces and misses ~10 consecutive serves.

There's a beautiful sunset as we return to the car, which is hard to find in the vast and poorly marked lot.

Back home, James makes yummy pasta. Rich and I play some piano.

Tue 7 Mar

Rich and I return for day 2 of qualifying. Arnaldi - playing much worse than yesterday - loses to Kokkinakis, who seems like a bit of a jerk.

We have good seats, so we stay put for the next match: Taro Daniel v. Popyrin (Russian/Aussie). Popyrin has more firepower but Daniel is steadier, and wins in 3.

I'm seated next to a talkative 2nd-grade teacher from Morongo Springs, whose husband is on 24-hour O2, and who has caramel corn and breath mints. An elderly couple behind us talks annoyingly, even when someone is about to serve (a no-no). Later, Rich shushes me, claiming that the teacher and I are doing the same damn thing The couple next to Rich lived in Paradise before it burned.

We get lunch at a fried-fish place. I get fish and chips, Rich gets shrimp and chips. There's a long delay. When Rich's food arrives there are exactly 3 shrimp - smallish. He looks blankly at the server and says 'this is a joke, right?'. But my fish are ample and I give him half (in the twilight of middle age, my food requirements are minimal).

The last match is Shang v. Zhang, two fast-moving Chinese guys. It goes to a 3rd-set tiebreaker. Shang has injured his leg and is kind of hopping around, but actually has 2 match points! But he loses them and then loses the match.


We go to dinner at a Mexican seafood place that is a fave of Rich and James. They have some Vermeer-related paintings, including an amusing one of the pearl-earring girl as a Gen-Z surrounded by dogs.

I go for another night hike, this time starting from the Cahuilla Park trailhead, and not reaching the cross.

Wed 8 Mar

I have a tennis ticket, but Rich and I decide to not go. We go for a swim/hot-tub in the community pool, and later go for a long bike ride through various housing developments.

Karen and Terry have arrived and are staying in La Quinta (the town, not the hotel chain). They come over at 7 and we eat at Si Bon, a Belgian place in the mall on the other side of Monterey. I play some piano for the girls, then take them for an abbreviated hike (Karen's hip is hurting).

When I return, Rich has gone to bed. I sit with James and we have a long talk about pretty much everything.

Thu 9 Mar

I bid adieu to Rich and James and hit the road. Lily - who has been in Long Beach, helping her son find an apartment and get settled - is driving back the same day, and is in fact only about 10 minutes ahead of me, so we meet up at an AM/PM in Buttonwillow for lunch. I get some fruit (papaya, pineapple) from one of those Mexican roadside stands.

The rain starts, and there's a total deluge around the Altamont Pass; they closed the road later. At one point I'm blinded by water for a couple of seconds.

On 580 in Oakland, almost home, I'm sort of involved in an accident. It's dark and raining. I'm fatigued and eager to be home. I signal a lane change, check my mirror, and start to move left. A guy comes up (fast) behind me, honks, swerves to avoid me, and hits a car in the next lane over. Not hard - a fender bender. But still. Note to self: be more careful in situations like this.

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