Thursday, September 24, 2015

A five block walk

O world, O life, O time. This property rests only a jog away from my house -- three blocks west, two blocks north, one block cross. Might just as well be a continent away.

Some living in the brown might resent all the green. I don't. I'd give every bucket of my shower water to keep it looking thus. Seriously -- I don't wish brown upon this family, I just wish they'd invite me over for cocktails.

On the same block, we have a reality check.

Not that the that is better than the this, except, well, that it is.

In spite of what you may read, SoCal is not a desert climate, we're a Mediterranean climate. Or we were. Something we share with Central Chile, Southern Australia, South Africa, and the obvious. But currently, we're thirsty.

As we're living high and dry, here are some of my Altadena favorites, playing by the rules.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Traveling by Trail

Where middle-age starts and ends seems immutable when you're on the outside looking in. But from the inside looking out, that span -- the middle-age time frame -- grows surprisingly elastic.

Still, we all can probably agree 40-something kicks that middle-aged ball in the air and 60-something will likely catch it.

Which is one of the reasons I'll not see the movie version of Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods. The book is an autobiographical, picaresque tale about a middle-aged, kind of angsty, definitely out-of-shape writer and his equally middle-aged but way more out-of-shape friend, and their semi-commitment to thru-hike the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail.

In the movie, Robert Redford plays Bryson. Age-wise, Redford has nearly a two-score advantage on the protagonist as originally written.

Now, this isn't to say 80-year olds can’t walk one of longest trails in the world. They can and do. In fact, every year, all manner of folk complete the AT – men, women, girls, boys, the blind, the homeless. An amputee walked it, which fills me with all sorts of hiker-slacker shame. These are stories worth telling -- it's just not this story.

The other reason I won't see the movie is that, other than free climbing the face of Half Dome, a long walk isn't exactly a spectator sport.

Without hoops, home runs, or triple hand springs, the visual glory of hiking pretty much resides in the eye of the beholder. And what the beholder spends plenty of time beholding is the top of his boots. Look skyward at hawks or treetops once too often, and before you know it, nose meets trail -- there will be blood.

Along the way of course, hikers find intermittent moments of transcendent beauty. Viewing the world from a mountain top is spectacular. But that's a teaspoon of time, versus the getting-up to, and getting-down from.

Knowing that, those who don't hike surely wonder what the attraction might be. I really can’t explain it. There's no particular skill involved, no trophy waiting at the end.

Hiking is basically a self-congratulatory exercise -- and strictly a matter of personal interest how high, long, hard the journey. Trust me, I've been on both the giving and receiving end of those stretchers, and nobody cares.

I think the appeal rests in that you're not out to impress anyone; which is a good thing, as you're not going to impress anyone.

But how liberating, if you think about it. To set the boundaries, goal, and take the measure of your own success. Should you succeed, meet those personal expectations, there will be applause, you betcha. A beautiful noise. You clapping for you.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Tennis: Let's Dance

Of all the US Open tennis I've watched these past two weeks (and I've consumed more than the recommended USDA daily allowance), the doubles matches have been the best. Not the men's doubles; they're as boring as ever. I'm talking the women's and mixed doubles. Mostly due to the return of Martina Hingis.

Along with Roger Federer, Hingis is probably the best chess-playing tennis competitor ever. Though unlike Federer, she ultimately wilted when major fire-power hit the scene; today, if partnered with another great player, her mind-game is magic.

(By the way, her partner in the women's doubles is Sania Mirza from India -- an international star whose courage, both athletically and politically, eclipses every other player other than possibly Serena Williams.)

Just to say, if you're not a tennis fan, or even if you are, and kind of yawn at the idea of witnessing another win by Williams and Djokovic in the singles, catch the doubles. Hingis with Mirza, and Hingis with Leander Paes (he's 42 years old, for god's sakes, old enough to have partnered and won with Navratilova, the original Martina).

It's tennis when tennis looked like no other sport. The prehistoric tennis of the 1990's, and earlier. Before a wild-swinging bat could hit a home run in the service box; when an inside-out forehand or a sweet backhand down the line would make you gasp.

Catch the doubles. It's a beautiful sight.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Live and learn

One of the interesting things I've discovered about cats, aside from their having no conscience (quite like birds in this respect, and quite unlike dogs and horses), is their assumptive ownership over any surface they fancy.

Not just trees and porches, though trees and porches, of course. But anything inside the house, as well.

And should you protest, present a well-argued position against their surface of choice, you're really nothing but a bit of temporary static on their radio.