Mixed-up doubles

As if the final pickup for fall clean-up wasn’t enough cause to celebrate, Durangoans have a real reason to rejoice this week. That’s right, it snowed. Hallelujah. All praise the weather gods.

OK, so it was only a few inches, but it was still enough to build a scrawny, leaf-speckled snowman (I prefer “mixed-media”) and warrant fishing the Sorels out of hibernation. And it was more than enough to buoy the sagging spirits of skiers and strike fear in the hearts of timid drivers everywhere. But perhaps most importantly, it put an end to summer sports.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I minded the endless sunny weeks of riding, running and frolicking in the eerily long Indian summer. But, dare I say, it got a little old. OK, maybe it’s just me that’s getting old, but I truly believe there’s a reason for the seasons, if you’ll pardon the religious hijacking here. And no, this isn’t a thinly veiled segue into the evils of consumerism and commercialization of the baby Jesus’ birth. For Christ’s sake.

It’s just that after my 100th spin in the saddle in as many days, I was beginning to feel like there was something else out there. You know, sort of like looking for meaning at the bottom of that all-you-can-drink punchbowl at that party we call life in Durango. Sure, it tastes great going down, but every now and then you need to mix things up, you know, maybe a martini, shot of tequila or hell, even a little Alka Seltzer.

Anyway, it was one trip too many to the punchbowl that got me in trouble in the first place. See, even though I was completely sober, I was so desperate for something new and different, that I found myself piping up for a friendly neighborhood tennis match.

Nevermind that my tennis racket, which actually used to belong to my father, was last tightened in 1988 by a guy named “Rick” at a now-defunct Midwest racquet club turned condo complex. Or that the only tennis balls I could scare up had long since been mercilessly disemboweled by the canine with a chewing fixation from hell. Or that my idea of “doubles” typically was played out at the local bar.

At the risk of embarrassing myself further, I will admit that I actually was force fed tennis lessons from a young age. See, my mother was a bonafide tennis junkie. Billie Jean, Chrissy, Martina, Jimmy and Björn were all household names, and McEnroe’s tantrums were the stuff of lively dinner table discussion. Of course, there were high hopes for us children – out of four of us, there had to be at least one prodigy. Hell, we would’ve even settled for someone with a decent serve or who could at least jump the net without falling on their face. However, it soon became apparent that I wasn’t the “one.” In fact, I’m pretty sure the local tennis pro paid my parents to quit sending me to lessons at the neighborhood courts every summer. He must’ve figured he’d save at least that much on lost balls alone.

Anyway, like I said, too many trips to the punchbowl, and all this was conveniently forgotten.

“Tennis? I’d love to go hit the ball around,” I offered, desperate for the change of scenery, even if it was chainlink and asphalt. Note, I at least retained some vague memory of my abilities, or lack thereof, by never really agreeing to actually take part in any official play. Of course, this was all quickly overlooked when I showed up at the courts to find I was lucky No. 8, or unlucky depending on how you look at it. Before I could object, or even warm up the old forehand, I was dispatched to the net for a set of round robin.

Although I apologized profusely to my partners in advance, as much as I tried to stay out of the way, there was no resisting the lobs raining down at my feet. Finally, I decided to throw caution to the wind, and channeling my best Navritilova, I gave it my all. Maybe it was the altitude, but my “all” turned out to be a tad over the top. And into the East Third Avenue median, to be exact.

Suddenly, the sobering memory of my failed tennis career came flooding back. Sweltering summers spent mastering my backhand when all I really wanted to do was master my tan. As play halted so my opponent could cross the busy intersection to retrieve my grand slam, I cursed myself for not going on a ride and sticking to the solitary, non-ball sports I knew and loved so well.

I tried to shake it off, but things only went from bad to worse. Suffice to say, over that excruciatingly long hour, I managed to hit more home runs than Barry Bonds, one of which landed on the head of a woman in the parking lot (hey, at least I let her keep the ball.) Anyway, in my defense, I did manage to miss the small child in the stroller – and they say I have no aim.

Meanwhile, I desperately searched for an out to the hellacious session of pedestrian ping pong. Finally, and much to the relief of my beleaguered cohorts, I pulled the kid card. “Oops, look at the time, gotta run,” I said, as I jumped on my bike to make a hasty getaway, calling over my shoulder a promise to pay for the dozen or so balls that were still MIA.

I rode home as fast as my legs would take me, hoping that the speed would somehow send me back in time, erasing the whole hideous debacle. Maybe if I got home fast enough, I – not to mention the seven poor souls I tortured on the court as well as the numerous innocent bystanders I inadvertently assaulted off the court – could somehow pretend like it never happened. You know, kind of like leaving the scene of a hit and run.

I got home and quickly discarded the weapon of my humiliation into the bushes where I would hopefully forget about it and not be tempted to commit such a horrifying act of public shame for another 20 years. Or at least until the punchbowl dried or the snow melted. Whichever comes first.

–– Missy Votel



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows