Monday, October 03, 2005


Who besides me noticed that the televised US Open Tennis championships this year fell into step with baseball, football, and basketball championships by intruding patriotism? The performance of this or that national anthem? Who else was appalled?
I’m long accustomed to the rituals of the quintessentially American team sports hosting a patriotic element, the more so the more popular they are. But thus far the kleptocracy had kept its mitts off individualistic sports. When I go skiing (or fishing) I do so to get away from the society. The trouble with skiing is you use a machine-powered lift to get to the top of the slope. That’s why I came to prefer wilderness backpack-skiing: climb where you want to ski, bring food and a tent with you, find it virgin, carve it: and when it snows again, it will be virgin again. Fishing commences with a boat, gasoline-powered, or from a pier, built by a property owner, or a municipality, or a corporation. Sure, I still do that too, that’s how I started, but these days I like to just get to some nice water and wade out into it. (The canal off Estero Bay that I caught a snook in a few weeks ago was built by developers, in cooperation with Fort Meyers, or Naples Florida; but I just waded out into it: and the snook that grabbed my jig had nothing to do with political, human Florida; it emerged from the biosphere, from the Gulf ecology.
Standing atop Tuckerman’s Ravine, after getting there on my own legs (though I’ll first have had to drive hundreds to thousands of miles to get to the valley), I can have a moment of silence for the victims of Hurricane Katrina: I can have a moment of silence for the victims of Krakatoa, of westward expansion, of the monopolization of banks, of fiat money ... Mired in muck from Estero Bay I can sing America the Beautiful ... or Liebster Gott or Muddy’s Two Trains Comin’. I can even salute if I want to; no one’s pressuring me: and I can mean whatever I want by the salute. Or, I can just start my downward plunge, make my first cast.
Tennis is an individualist sport, aristocratic in origin. English, and Norman, nobles played it: with their ladies sometimes.
I got into tennis as an escape from the US Army -- as manifest at Camp Drum, Watertown NY, 1963ish. Camp Drum was kleptocratic drab: everything natural killed, barracks, pre-fab utilitarian ugly administration buildings, not a blade of grass not trampled to gray dust; the tennis courts were in a public park, verdant, with a zoo: nothing pre-fab allowed: a Potemkin facade to deceive ourselves with. I played tennis, with great enthusiasm, with no rules. I needed ... first, the park, with its courts; then: a racket, a ball, and a partner: someone not to compete against, but to cooperate with. We’d hit ground strokes to each other with the aim that they would come back to us: so we could hit them again, and again. I learned a forehand, and a backhand. That’s all we needed. We got good enough that we could keep the ball crossing the net till each of us had hit it three, sometimes four times. That accomplished, the caveman was welcome: one of us, either of us, could go for a winner: a shot deliberately hit out of the other’s reach (but within the strict definition of the court’s legal territory for singles play. The ball had to be in.
God didn’t help me since then when I’ve tried to play tennis against others. They want to keep score. They want to start with a serve. A serve? I had no serve: I’d always started with a forehand: right into my partner’s power zone. New partners would hit their first shot away from me! I’d hit to them, they’d hit away from me. Guess who won.

Oh, well. Life is made of things degenerating: just as it is likewise made of things elevating. Negative entropy (that is, positive entropy, creative entropy) couldn’t keep going without entropy.
But it’s another big slip toward pre-fab, toward grass ground to dust, when tennis tournaments too become an excuse for colonizing-nationalism.
We’ll become true Nazis when we make Kim Clisters, Roger Federer, and Elena Dementieva wear little US flags on their sleeve.

No comments: