Loss Vegas

31 05 2014

Vegas Sunset

The alarm sounds. It’s 4am, and the birds aren’t even awake. After two taps of the snooze button, Big Papi, the hungry beagle who senses any opportunity for a meal, doesn’t even trot on up beside the bed. If I was in any state to think, I’d be thinking, it’s way too early to interrupt the dream I’m in the middle of, especially if Papi hasn’t unfurled himself from his sleep-ball. I get up anyway, dodge a cat waiting for a pat, and turn on the bathroom light to stun myself into stillness like a deer in the headlights.

It’s 7-7 in the first game. I don’t know how I get it back to 7-7, the ball is bouncing like we’re in the middle of the desert, so there’s no surprises there. We’ve had one day like this in Massachusetts this year that hit 90 Farenheit, and I didn’t even play that day. Come to think of it, I didn’t play the day before that either, or the day after. I’m no longer a full-time professional squash player, I’m part-time, and in the part of time where I’m supposed to be a professional squash player, I’m visualizing the game. I can count on two hands how many matches I’ve played this year, and still have fingers to spare. But, none of this is going through my mind when it’s 7-7 in the first game, because I’m so focused on enjoying the match, and maybe just too busy actually doing so. I lose a point, and remind myself that losing a point isn’t the end of the world. It’s not like I’ve lost a limb. I’ve lost a point. I quickly forget the lost point and focus on the serve return at 7-8.

The plane hits a high-speed, and every time a new flight takes off, it seems I’m further from the feeling I had as a kid of enjoying the motion of my head being pinned to the headrest. It’s the only time I truly feel I can’t control something. In fact, I have little control over most things that happen, but in a plane, I start to think about it more. “We’re flying to Las Vegas… What if the Pilot is getting a head start on the party.” “It’s so bumpy, maybe he slipped some whiskey in his morning coffee and is a little shaky.” I forgot my good headphones, and now my relaxation track is a whisper under the roar of the engines, all of which I hope are working properly. “It’s Delta, relax, you read they are on top of maintenance before anything happens.” All this information is a hive for worry, and also reason. And now, instead of enjoying something so remarkable as flying in a multi-ton machine high in the air, the days of experience and knowledge start to work against me. To have all of that, and still have naivety, would be the way to go. And, like so many other things I think way too much about, I turn the simple thought of worrying about a take-off, into a lesson. This week, I’m going to play squash with the naivety and unabashed honesty I played it with when I was 10. Or maybe, 6, I was angry, and a little dishonest when I was 10, so 6 is probably a better choice. I need the balance, the one thing we strive for, not only on our feet, but also in life, and all of life’s tasks. If I can strike a balance between not thinking too much, but being able to think when I need to, I may just win a match this week…

The situation I’ve got myself in goes like this, I’m 2-0 down, and the score in the 3rd doesn’t matter because I don’t feel like I can keep him on court for long enough. I’ve apologized twice to a kiwi woman in the crowd (big crowd of 4 people including the ref), because I feel like she deserves more. It’s more of a polite apology. I know, and she probably knows, I can’t do much about proceedings on court today. The biggest thought going through my head though, is to stay on court a little longer. I’m enjoying this. I’m starting to figure things out. I’m not feeding him as many balls in this game. I’m out of coaching mode, and into ‘hitting a hard forehand down the wall’ mode. The problem is, I haven’t been training 3 times a day, and therefore my lungs start to blow up like a life vest under my seat that I was aware of when I was sitting in seat 18B two days ago. I’m slow to  move to the front, and after he hits his third boast of the rally, I know that he knows this, and I enjoy the moment when I know that he knows that I know I’m slow. We don’t joke about it, but I joke that I’m bringing him down to my level when he hits the tin. I hit a nice tickle boast on the next point, and I joke that maybe he’s lifting me up to his level. I feel this could be my chance for a comeback, but I tin the ball, and my next joke goes unnoticed when I say that I was right the first time. My last plan of trying to joke him out of the game has failed, and it’s possibly because I’m not very funny. My next plan is just to dig deep, but that is probably the biggest joke of the game, because I might not have enough left to win this game, let alone the match. I’m not thinking this during the game of course, because the biggest game on a squash court is fooling yourself into thinking certain things can happen, and sometimes it works. Sometimes you’re a big enough fool to pull it off and win. Today is not that day. I lose 3-0, and to everyone watching (yes sir, there’s 5 people now) I can be that guy who flies across the country to play one match. To me, I am the guy who has started fresh, and perhaps the success today was that my mind was still fresh at the end. The biggest lesson, is that you can’t win with a fresh mind alone, and the body will need some work. The breakthrough is that cobblestones are being laid to form a new path. Cobblestones? Yep, because it may be a rough path and it may be a long one to lay, but it will have character, and hopefully it will be a joy to look at down the road (or path). This is the next chapter in my Squash career. Enjoyment. Why else would you choose to do anything? And in case you’re thinking that’s a lame cop-out, it’s not. The work, or training, starts now. Because if I’m to enjoy myself a little more, I need to make the next rounds of a tournament.

I’m in the back of a bus, talking to the dreadlocked man I first didn’t look at in the eye, because I thought he was a little crazy. Maybe he was, and still is, after our conversation. He was a 53 year-old, BMXing, cliff-diving, 69′ Monte Carlo fixing man who couldn’t have been more friendly. He warned me of places not to go beyond, and assured me that if you don’t do what you like in life, there’s no real point in being. We are, after all, human beings, so if we are being someone we don’t want to be, we are wasting our time. The 53 year-old was the second of 3 people I would chat to on the buses of Las Vegas. The third was very different, and I don’t think I’ll be downloading her self-proclaimed masterpiece app ‘My virtual girlfriend’ for 99 cents. She was nice nonetheless, and I let her be on her way with the 5 mile running crew, which I was told I should join, even though I was only in town for 3 more days. I suppose there are less productive things than running 15 miles. The first man I spoke to, was a man I met while waiting in the hot sun for a bus which showed up 45 minutes late, much to the disgust of my burnt forehead, which was alive and red and full of disgust for the late bus. After chatting about his days of being PA for the former attorney general of Mexico, he left me with a lasting piece of advice. He explained that working 90 hour weeks had left him tired, and then seemed to unknowingly drop a bombshell of wisdom just before he watched his step to depart the bus that was unapologetic  about picking us up 45 minutes late. “Don’t let your clock tick over too many times,” he said. “It’s not about age, it’s about mileage.” We shook hands, and the kind Welshman with a Finnish sounding name walked on to his new home in the Canyons. “Don’t let your clock tick over too many times,” I contemplated. It was like those words lifted the future weight of age right off my back. The bus stopped on my command. Nothing special, I had just pressed a red button 15 seconds earlier. I watched the gap to the curb and crossed the eight lane boulevard to the shade of trees I didn’t know the name of, but liked for their much-needed shade after my long and stressful street crossing. “It’s about mileage.” It’s time to put some good mileage on the clock, I thought, as I walked into the 3 story Lifetime Athletic complex for my solo hit, before my first match.

 

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