Archive for March, 2007

Martin the coach

Martin hustles.
It’s last year this time when I met him as kids took the week long spring break lessons at the sport center in town. He taught Kinglazy’s group. On the last day, he came out during one of the water breaks, and said to me,
“Oh, your son can play.”
Pardon me? I almost felt off the chair, or thought having hearing problem, for Kinglazy is kind of guy who looks for shades on the softball field, and runs from base to base like taking a victory lap, slow and unhurried.
“Oh, yes, he can play. .. come on in and see for yourself..”
I was thrilled. Getting my kids to play tennis or like tennis, is my life’s mission.
I went in. He fed Kinglazy few balls and were all nicely and powerfully returned. Hearing the deafening sound of the ball bouncing off my son’s racket, I was really, you know, happy. Happy beyond believe. After the lesson, he came to chat me up. He was an unemployed prosecutor from Florida; waiting to pass the New York State bar. I was thinking, I thought only the actors or artists are starving. By the end of our brief conversation, he offered me his phone number, and yes he’ll be glad to teach them.
The etiquette or common sense goes, he’s not supposed to poach us from the center. But I didn’t care as long as my kids learn to play tennis and enjoy the game. It turned out they like him. And his salesmanship was somewhat subtle (I’m being sarcastic here).

To make thing easy and help him out I paid 10 lessons in advance. The ensuing summer, between our vacations and his schedules, we only finished 9 lessons by September. Then suddenly, he just vanished, along with his cell phone. Then two months later, late November one night as I walked in at Alley Pond for my Friday night game, I heard the familiar voice,
“Hello Mrs. Eng ..” Martin would never address me as Irene, even I told him early on. He claimed that he lost his phone. Hmmmm. Few days after that he called me (please note, I did not give him my phone number again at Alley Pond.) to say he’s putting 3 girls together for intensive training, and Slowpoke would be a great candidate for the group,
‘They’re going to play tourneys starting this spring .. ‘
Slowpoke’s swimming had just ended and said she’ll continue the tennis with him. So here we are, with him again. Met April and Martha… His price has gone up 12.5% from last year, which is ok with me. But what’s not ok with me is he begins charging the same fee when he coaches two or three girls; and more often than not, he’ll fold his arms around his chest and chatting with others, instead, coaching. Excuse me, I’m neither mean, frugal or dumb. An hour paid is an hour of decent work. If you want to split that hour or two with some other kids, you’ve got to adjust your fee accordingly.

2013: Martin is still around, teaching tennis in my neighborhood.

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Simon says

Slowpoke met some of my buddies for the first time, those I never invited for dinner at home.  Her impression of Simon is ‘a very jolly man’.  He talks non stop, providing advice freely and abundantly, which I enjoy.  Sandy is ’smile a lot, very friendly.’  When Sandy learned Slowpoke’s name, she said ‘oh, that’s my son’s first girl friend’s name’ then went on to tell the story.  Apparently, her son was only 5 at time, lol.  I met Peter for the first time, and he gave me a tip I never heard before that my forehand grip is all wrong, I should turn more western. .. I shall try.  It was all adults, but Slowpoke enjoyed it.  They cheered for her when she moved me from left to right, from right back to the left.  During the off time, she teased me, ‘mom, what’s his name?’ pointing to Simon who’s drinking his warm beer.  “Simon.”  I pronounced.  “mom, it sounds as if salmon.”  Ok, I tried, Simon, but still sounds like salmon.  Ok salmon or tilapia?  We both laughed hard.  She just found another word I can’t correctly pronounce.

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Sheer force

Had a very physically demanding game, almost brutal: played an hour and half singles with Alex the assassin. It wasn’t fun to begin with, he hits as hard as he could from the first shot. We rarely had any point that’s more than 4 rallies. How boring could it be? I like to warm up slowly from the net, and then long rallies from the baseline. Will his next coach give him some hint for the proper way? It felt very coarse for the brute force took the finesse out of the game. I need to learn to say no from time to time – I was the fill in. We eventually started the game, I was up 2 love, and won the set at 6:4. The second set he won at 6:1. My back was very tender, but held out. What pleased me was no grunting at all, lol, and I took the set at first set point.
Alex is really a nice guy and I would always wonder if he’s sent by Golfer 🙂
Or should I load up life insurance?

To my left court, there was a little boy (perhaps only 3 or 4 years old) played like pro, and he barely cleared the net: his chin was at the top of the net. Lord, the next young gun in the working.

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A bath

Had an Epson salt plus green rubbing alcohol bath, per Martin. Very silly, I have no idea how much salt and the green alcohol are needed; so I dumped half lb of salt and half bottle of alcohol. I played in the morning (got to see many buddies) and took lesson in the afternoon. Gosh, I hope the magic bath works, lol, so I can play day and night. Oh, happy to report, I didn’t grunt much lately, the surgery has hampered it, lol .. hmmmm, guess zipper might not as effective as an oral operation.

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As we were approaching the court where Martin and Katie were playing, we noticed immediately a puny girl dressed like gypsy was playing like a pro. I thought Slowpoke can’t serve cause she’s short, then think again. The Puny serves with such power, Roddick would have taken notice. She is small for a 9 years old, clearly enjoys the game, and has been playing for a long time.

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When can I switch to single hand backhand?

Martin had lesson at the Cunningham where I have been playing for the past 10 years or so on the weekend mornings. As family, we’ve there been couple of times for the New York Philharmonic with our neighbors few years ago. It’s bit windy but warm enough for out door tennis. Slowpoke chuckled when she saw so many players were greeting me, “mom, how many people do you know?” lol . . . it’s also first time they saw Slowpoke. When she took lesson, I played with Kevin the Aussie. It’s pretty intense one hour hitting. At the end, he said, “your back seemed holding up nicely.” What back? Do I have one? Oh the painful one. It never exists till it starts bothering me, lol.. After her lesson, Katie came back and they played for an hour. Katie’s mom is also non stop picking up balls, gosh … I must be the laziest mom around. While they were playing, Martha (?) kept telling Katie what to do, to a point when Katie stopped and told her mom to be quiet. Thank god I have enough self restrain, haven’t done so yet. But I do talk with her, in private. Especially when we drive to the lesson, I found it’s a good time to bring up the subject, we always have good chat. Obvious she hasn’t watched enough tennis to know all the terms, so when Martin commented that she has flat forehand, she asked me what does it mean during one of her ball-retrieval trips. Sweet pie, lol .. don’t worry too much, do what’s comfortable n nature to you. She hits her flat forehand deep, which is better than mine. Was that Simon repeatedly telling me, hit it deep to the baseline?? So here you have it, flat might afford less options, but if you can hit it deep, it is effective. She also asked when can she switch to single hand back hand. Have you been reading my blog, baby? She complains that double handed backhand gives her less reach, and less flexibility. Single hand backhand? Sounds like music to my ears.

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Great to be swimming again

“Are you going to swim?”
This morning kids asked when they saw my dusty duffel bag.
Yes indeed I am.
It’s wonderful, the pool was kind of empty, Jen was there, my favored life guard who is the only one that regulates the pool.
“Did you do the flip turns?” Slowpoke asked me this afternoon.
“No love, my back still feels tender..” so after 20 or so laps, I gave up. In the parking lot, I ran into May and Yolanda the duo, “haven’t seen you in ages..” they exclaimed. Sorry gurls … we used to do lunch/dinner at least once a month. Lord, as I was driving away, thought to myself, is 40-lap a challenge now? Wah called again for tennis, is this going to be a regular thing now? Cool, only my back is not cooperating, 🙁

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A day of pain

I dragged myself home last night from court, soaked in Jacuzzi but it didn’t help much. I woke up few times during the night, due to the nagging pain. Lord, is my tennis career over? Irene said that she needs tuina – Chinese massage – to ease the pain. Ha, we are all nuts.

Just the other day I had chat with Yishi, she’s complaining that it’s hard to find a good tuina master – Cantonese style – in Beijing. We both sighted that when we were little, viewed Chinese medicine with indifference, thought it’s for the elderly or terminally ill, last resort. Now I’m in New York, and began visiting them with increased frequency. I told her that there are few in NY that are pretty good – just jet over: Mr Huang claims he’s the legendary Haung Feihong’s fourth generation disciple – don’t know his last name is coincident or he changed – I visited him for my sprained ankle, from tennis two years ago. He’s talkative, non stop, I learned very quickly bout his background, growing up in Hong Kong, learned his craft under rigid rules .. Prior to Mr Huang, I visited Ms Yan who’s from Taiwan. I sprained my knee from skiing and the orthopedic was no use: after few visits, my back began to acting up, which was new to me back then. So Ms Yan made me feel anew after just once or twice – it might be her magic touch, or maybe I suffered long enough.

Anyway, I ran to her this morning. It’s torture. Her skilled hands started from the back of my neck like handling the chicken neck, lol .. when she started talking nonsense, you know the pain’s to arrive. Sweating, tearing, I wanted to scream, trying to move away from her grapping hands. Her forceful thumbs dug deep into my neck, arms, back .. no escaping. All the while her calming voice repeatedly telling me, vinegar, wine, salty stuff, spicy stuff, tofu, meat and sex are bad for you, avoid them at all cost, if you want to live longer and healthier. Lord, save me from hell? Then on to the bed for more torture and acupunctural, back to the chair again, she put that thin long needle into my palm from the back once, I thought I’d fainted. That 20 minutes were like tornado, loud, powerful, excruciating, violently, brutal, swift, then the storm’s over, you see the sunlight.

“Can I play tomorrow or Sunday?” she looked at me in disbelieve. Never hurt to ask, it’s not my body when it feels good. She gave me some herb drug mixer to boil at home, kids would love that – it’s fun to see your children running away from home.

My next appointment is implant. I need a pair of 38C to boost my aging confidence, lol. How about settle for 10? #10 tooth. How I come to need an implant is anther sorry and sad story. Dr. Moss’s children went to the same school with mine, his youngest daughter was the same grade with Kinglazy .. but I have to trek to Park Avenue in the city. Can’t those good surgeons have satellite offices in town? Guess bigger fish needs larger pond. I was referred to him by another neighbor, a dentist who we met though our sons. We have easy time together, I knew quit bit of their associates – mostly the Columbia crowds with few NYUers – from the actual treatments and consultations. Gosh my pictures taken in Beijing, my teeth looked marvelous gorgeous and health. What’s wrong with those Gailao Drs, they found all kind of defects, which were all ok with the Chinese/Hong Kong Drs. I often say to Golfer, if weren’t for my dental flaws, he could have retired long time ago.

Don’s wife Lydia was an oral surgeon in Beijing, we often joked about this, severe shortage of dentists, so as long as your denture is not decaying, you’ll get clean bill of health, assume you can muscle a set of denture in the first place. My dad was health freak, he took me to see dentist when I was only 6 or so, we got up at 5am …. Lydia used to perform 8 surgeries a day, every single working day of the week. She said patients complained about no service, ‘I just wanted to cut them up, sew it and kick them out of my face immediately. Service? Lucky that I didn’t whack them ….’ lol..

Time to bed, need some beauty sleep. Tennis anyone tomorrow??? Don’t be shy … Ok, short notice, then how about Sunday?

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A surprise call

Out of blue, Wah called for a doubles game. I met him when I started playing with the weekend morning group 10 some years ago. He was one of the better players, 4 or 4.5, and was not as frequent as say Sunny or Kai who were very diligent and professional, a.k.a. there every weekend, both Saturdays and Sundays. Whenever he showed up for work, he’ll immediately snapped up by other guys, … he seldom played with me. I didn’t think we speak at all, except once he was egged on by others, played a set with me: handicapped 2 pts with 1 serve. He won’t cede 3 pts as Sunny suggested – my going rate was 2 points with a 4.0, like with Sunny and Kai .. ; and 4.5, what 4.5? I got bagelled. .. After few years, he just disappeared.

Although I have been playing with this weekend morning group –all from Hong Kong – for more than 10 years, winters included, but I never socialize with them, nothing much in common, our topic was tunnel-versioned on tennis, if we have a little time to talk. They are a very tight knit group, collect membership dues, elect a president every year, have dinners, play ma jiang, BBQs all the time… you have to be invited to join the group. Frank C and wife Terry were initiated few years ago. There were few playing couples, Frank L and Irene, Cheng Zai and wife Teresa ..

One summer few years ago, while Walter and I waited for the courts to dry, he started gossiping. Frank L had an affair with a waitress, for revenge, Irene started one with a good looking guy who used to play with us. Reportedly, she bought him a Benz. .. After that, Frank L and Irene didn’t come often, and as time gone by, they divorced. He still lives in town with their children, started that restaurant, couple of years later bought out the other managing partner. She went to Hong Kong often, left her family business .. I enjoy playing doubles with Irene, she’s pretty, has nice forms with lethal forehand – we pair well. We were neighbors but not close. This past summer I began seeing them – Irene and Wah – playing together. Two weeks ago I into them at the tennis party, we chatted, she moved to NJ .. but never made plan to play. Finding my phone # is easy since this is a small world. But what’s amused me was Wah made the call, not Irene. I wouldn’t recognize him at all except his husky voice. First I thought they needed fourth player. No, you’ll have to bring your own partner. Ok, so Simon G was it. Wah was nice and fair, called couple of his close shots out. I think the benefit of playing with better players is they in general have better line calls too, and they have no qualm of calling themselves out. I love to win fair and square. But sometimes when the call is too close, I usually let it go, but then felt being cheated. Couple of weeks ago when I made a close call – out, it bothered me a little. That same day with different opponents, when I served to the T, was being called out .. I was mad – I knew my serve very well, and with lesser players, this T serve was always called out, 9 out of 10. That day they reluctantly offered me 2 serves, but I was not pleased. I eventually lost that point, and they felt vindicated. Tough love.

Last night game could have been great, except my lower back was in pain. They won 6:3 and 6:2 easily. We switched partners for the third set and Wah and I lost 7:3 in tie break. Wah is playing tentatively, for he wants to please his pretty girl friend, they make a good looking couple :)) .. Simon rushed off the court for another game at the USTA, lol.. I’m not the only nuts.

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