Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tuesdays with Willie

I haven't seen Willie since he dropped me off at the airport. In 1994.

We're back in touch again thanks to Facebook.

Over coffee yesterday at The Grove, we caught up about the goings-on at the Japantown Benihana, which is where we met. Ah, the joys of waiting tables.

Willie has the distinction of being one of my only Japanese friends. (I told him this was a trip to see my ethnic friends. No joke.)

Speaking of ethnic stuff, he told me an unsettling story about how, after watching the Japanese version of The Ring, he got a bloody nose. (If you've seen The Ring, you'll know why this is disturbing.)

Post coffee, we decided to walk. Willie walks everywhere. Really. He can walk for nine hours with just a couple of food breaks.

I like walking. But living in Milwaukee, I'm out of practice, even with having a dog.

So I was unprepared for the San Francisco hills. Some blocks have steps built into the sidewalk but they're still difficult — even with Willie yelling, "Feel the burn!" I think we took this photo on Fillmore and Jackson. I can't recall exactly; I was lightheaded from the altitude.

Luckily Fillmore flattens out and we could take a break by stopping at Citizen Cake. I picked up a few things, and Linda and I ate cupcakes and cookies for days! Also, she took me to El Farolito, which had a line out the door and some of the best tacos ever.

But I digress.

Many things have changed since 1994: Cal football games are at AT&T Park, the Hard Rock Cafe near my old apartment closed, and businesses no longer use plastic bags (for real, Walgreens?!). It's a lot to process.

But to be able to take the 38 Geary, meet up with an old friend, and wander around the city, I am glad that is still the same.

Cheers to my Japantown friend!

Tuesdays with Lizzie (and Alexandra)

It's been a while since Liz and I hung out. In fact, the last time we met for lunch was also a Tuesday in mid November at Rose's Cafe. Four years ago!

Things have changed. Now she and Michael have a beautiful baby, Alexandra.

Alexandra is such an easygoing baby. At 9½ months, she already seems to have a great sense of humor — can't you tell from the photo? — and some adorable tiny teeth. She ate yogurt nibs and a little polenta while Liz and I caught up.

After lunch, we strolled around Cow Hollow and laughed about stuff like taking the bus and what "walking distance" really means. We passed The Bus Stop (no relation to "taking the bus") and what used to be Cal's. After almost four hours, we finally parted ways.

I think we covered all the big topics: work, relationships, babies, siblings, parents. And of course a bit about our sorority sisters and who we've kept in touch with.

Liz, thanks for making time for me and for another wonderful lunch. See you on another Tuesday soon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Football and G Phi B

Ruth is a diehard Cal fan: she knows the team stats and once asked Jeff Tedford if he would meet her parents (jokingly, it would seem). So of course we went to the Cal vs. Oregon State game on Saturday. It was a nice kickoff to my northern California vacation.

We ran into Julie, another Gamma Phi — who's also a diehard fan and season ticketholder — and her son, Ben. At one point he looked at the scoreboard and asked, "When is it going to be higher than 7?" At 4 years old, he is already learning what it means to be a Cal fan. It's not the face paint, it's the waiting for the team to score.

As Ruth would say, "Heavy sigh."

But it turned out to be a good day for the Golden Bears: a win at their last home game!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tennis: Midwest champs!

Since our tri team won the state playoffs, I’ve had trouble thinking about anything but sectionals.

I had done everything I could to prepare: A lesson with Tom. Body sculpt and cardio. Practicing against different opponents, including Shappy and two guys in Bob’s drill for 3½ hours last Sunday.

Saturday finally arrived.

At 9 a.m. I met up with Patrice and Tim to carpool. We enjoyed non-stressful conversation during the drive, punctuated by Char calling from the other car to ask where we were. An hour and 45 minutes later, we arrived at the Tinley Park Chipotle.

After a leisurely lunch and another phone call from Char (“Where are you? Where is the Dixie exit?”), we arrived at the Homewood-Flossmoor club.

The place was abuzz. Four men’s teams were competing at sectionals. For the women, there were only two teams: Wisconsin and Northern Michigan.

Carol said that meant we had a 50% chance of advancing. I saw it as Patrice and me being responsible for 33% of the team’s fate.

Both were true.

We checked in. Got t-shirts. Thought about whether to pay to use the courts to warm-up. (Nope.) We listened while a USTA official announced the rules. All of our doubles teams walked onto the courts at 2:00.

I was nervous. And glad to be on the court farthest from the viewing. The 10-minute warmup blew by.

We got out to a quick start, 4-1. They brought it to 4-2, then 4-3. On a critical point, I missed an easy putaway. Ugh! (Really. That’s what I said.) So frustrating. But I decided that that was going to be the most emotion I showed during the match.

At some point it was 4-4. Not good.

But we refocused. We didn’t do much talking, but we took the set 6-4.

In the next set, we were up 3-0 but down 30-love. We came back to win that game, then the next two.

The server called the score: “15-40. Match point.” I’ve never played against anyone who’s done that. What an odd little mental thing. It reminded me of when Jess and I played a tiebreak in a social match and he said, “All the lessons, all the hard work, it all comes down to this.” He was joking but we lost.

Match point.

An overhead by Patrice. 6-4, 6-0.

I started crying. Patrice gave me a hug and then we shook hands with our opponents. We stayed on our court a couple of minutes after they left. We usually use the time to talk about the match, to calm down before going back to the socialness of the team. But there wasn’t much we needed to say.

Tim was there with high-fives and hugs when we came off the court.

Two courts left.

Mary and Pam E. were playing a nailbiter on the 4.0 court. They split sets and started a super tiebreak.

Tim, Patrice, and I reminded each other of the score after every point. Mary and Pam were up 4-2. And got to 7-4, 8-4, 9-4. We clapped and cheered even though they could not hear us through the glass.

They won. Patrice and I started crying. More hugs from Tim. We tried to quietly congratulate them when they came off the court; our opponents were still around.

From court 1, Char gave us all a thumbs up. She and Pam T. lost a close match — it really looked like they were going to take the second set. They are both tremendous players; this was Pam's fourth sectional playoff this year. And none of us would be here without Char!

Thus, my tears. Being on this team has been an amazing experience.

And it's not even over. Nationals will be three days of tennis at Indian Wells. Pack your bags and come cheer us on — won't you want a vacation in mid March?

One last thing: Thanks for all the good-luck emails and phone calls. And for saying, “I think you’re going to win.” I knew that we could, but it did not feel real until it actually happened.

Now it does. See you on the courts!

Friday, November 4, 2011

My birthday at O'Sullivan's

I love November. Minus the changing weather and daylight savings time malaise, there are always at least three fun things that the month holds: my birthday, Thanksgiving, and the beginning of Christmas decorating.

This year's birthday drinks were at O'Sullivan's, a place I go to only occasionally but which is conveniently located. I really miss Sluggo's, but there was an altercation involving the tennis group so we don't go there anymore. Sad. I loved celebrating there, in a listen-to-Journey-and-use-coupons kind of way.

Actually, Pat drove to Sluggo's first to make sure they hadn't just changed their name to O'Sullivan's.

I arrived at 5:00 — on time — and sat by myself for 15 minutes with my ale. It felt like longer.

I questioned whether "No RSVP necessary" came across as "You don't really need to stop by."

But then Terry and Cathy and Keith and Craig and Drew showed up and suddenly it was not overly ambitious that I had staked out a table. Happy hour, indeed!

Patrice made pumpkin chocolate chip cupcakes (yum!) and we also enjoyed fried foods. And I got a balloon and a ginormous cookie. Don't ever underestimate the impact of a balloon or a ginormous cookie; they both make you feel loved. (And so does a bottle of single-malt scotch. Thanks, Mary and Stacy!)

This birthday celebration was terrific. Work friends, Milwaukee friends, tennis friends, friends of friends. Thanks for being there. You make aging fun!