Monday, September 21, 2009

I love NY!

I promised chickenlittle I would write about my U.S. Open tennis trip to New York. Very late, but here it is!

I love NY! I get excited about this trip months in advance. I may live close to a big city (Detroit), but the truth is that I'm a very small town girl. I grew up on a pretty small island in the Detroit River. I now live in a decent-sized city, but it's more like a sprawling small town. No real "downtown" to it, so NYC is just, well, hugely exciting for me. I feel so alive there. And that's me, New Yorkers, that you see looking like a star-struck tourist on the streets most of the time. Looking up at the beautiful buildings and people watching. Overwhelmed at the choices of cuisine. Smiling big. Barely able to make a selection in the small cafes. I don't care! You can laugh at me or smugly let me know that you're on to me (Mr. Cashier at the cafe), but I assure you that I'm drinking all of that in with appreciation, too!

I'm primarily there for the tennis, but I can't escape the city, and don't want to. This year, my tennis pal Jane and I stayed near the Waldorf at a hotel called "Affina 50". What a beautiful place! Every employee was cheerful and helpful..the room was huge and luxurious (at a disgustingly cheap rate thanks to a friend of Jane's), and the place was immaculate. I had a choice of one of 7 pillows to sleep on! I felt like singing the "Green Acres" tune. Heh. I also enjoyed the eight block walk to the hotel from the subway every single day and night. Oh, and I enjoyed the subway too, how's them apples?

One night when Jane and I decided to head back to the hotel early, we were faced with a little dilemma: no ESPN tennis coverage for the matches that evening. Now, we knew that the Tennis Channel was airing the matches, but we had little hope that we'd find a bar that carried the Tennis Channel. Well, we were wrong. We popped into the Hyatt and the hostess there told us that yes, they did have the Tennis Channel and would have tennis on this evening. We happily continued to the hotel, aiming to freshen up and dress a little nicer for the Hyatt bar. But lo and behold, right on the corner of the block of our hotel was a lovely hotel bar with...the Tennis Channel on! We still got gussied up, but it was a convenient stop with delicious food and a nice crowd. Have I mentioned how much I love New York?

I guess I should get to the meat of my trip - the U.S. Open. If you are a fan of live tennis at all, this is the place to visit. The grounds of the United States Tennis Association's Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (whew!) are clean and beautiful. The crowd is enthusiastic and happy. The food is very decent, too! I had mostly sushi and Indian food, but they have crepes and pasta, salads, Ben and Jerry's ice cream, just to name a few things. Not your run of the mill hot dog stands. And...for refreshments, along with the usual soft drinks and bottled water, you can find Grey Goose (ohhh..oh, yum) stands, a wine bar, and a beer (Heineken) joint.

While attending the matches, my small group of friends from all over the country (and one who came from Israel this year!) would text each other all day and meet up at different matches. I'd watch one match with my lovely friend Jackie from Chicago, the next with my good pal from New Jersey, Sam...and occasionally, a whole mob of us would take in a match together. These are some of the most precious tennis memories I have. Being with friends and enjoying our favorite sport together. Believe me, I feel blessed, no matter what happens on the court. This is what it's about for me.

I've met most of my tennis friends through a blog I discovered - Peter Bodo's TennisWorld. Pete is a senior editor at Tennis Magazine and just a great, friendly, wonderful guy. A bunch of commenters from his blog got together on the Saturday night I was in NY for dinner and cocktails. More than a few who showed had never even met the rest of us. What a perfect, joyful evening we had! We closed the place...mostly because there just wasn't enough time in one evening to say all the things we wanted to say or to get to know the people we'd just met. But the time we spent was clearly enjoyed by all.

This piece is getting long, and I haven't even discussed the actual tennis yet! I should at least mention that I did get to see Juan Martin Del Potro play live, and I knew he was going to be tough to take out. I'm sorry that my fave lost in the final, but not too has a new star and a worthy winner.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Flight sensitivity.

Trooper wrote about his recent, very touching flight home here and reminded me that I wanted to write about my recent flight as well. Mine was touching in a different way.

I sat down at the gate to wait to board my flight to NY last Friday and began my usual people watching. Yeah, I'm the gal you can usually catch staring. I'm not trying to be rude - I just find people fascinating to look at and wonder about!

A man sits down across from me and I immediately notice him because he's talking kind of loudly into his mobile phone's earpiece. I notice that he is middle aged, a bit on the chubby side, not unpleasant looking, but dressed kind of sloppily in wrinkled old jeans and a button-down shirt. (He's also Jewish, I see, because he is wearing a yarmulke.) I want to see this guy get a makeover! Ah, first impressions...

Later, and well into the flight, I hear the flight attendant bell and notice two rows in front of me that a guy is in obvious distress. His wife is panic-stricken. I worry that he's having a heart attack, and it's just awful to watch for a few seconds. Until...two doctors appear at this guy's side and begin treating him, along with two nurses who have jumped up to help. The guy is in great hands, I can tell, and I also notice my sloppy guy at the gate is one of the doctors! Immediately transformed in my eyes to this super-studly hero! Makeover no longer necessary, trust me, as I stare at his now very handsome, warm face. I don't think this is a superficial thing. I think it's human nature, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Everyday heroes really are beautiful and an awesome sight to behold.

I watch, gratefully, as these medical personnel treat this man and calm him and his wife until we can land at LaGuardia to the waiting paramedics. And then I watch the heroes of this flight blend back into the crowd...and I smile with satisfaction and admiration.