Winning & Losing

I’ve decided that winning and losing doesn’t matter, life is too short. But since it doesn’t matter and I obviously don’t care at all, I much prefer winning to losing :) I’ve been doing some of both in both tennis and pickleball and wanted to share the story.

Two weeks ago I traveled to Ogden Utah to play in a professional pickleball tournament. Currently, it’s the only tournament in the world that gives out prize money, and my first tournament at the national level.

The first day, my dad and I played doubles together, drawing last year’s national champions in the first round. Not the greatest draw, but you have to beat everyone at some point if you’re going to win the tournament. We came out strong and beat them in straight sets, 11-6, 11-6, shocking the pickleball establishment. Everyone was watching us. We won the next match as well, beating the guys that would later get 1st and 5th in singles. In the semifinals, we played the guys who would eventually win the tournament. We made some stupid mistakes, didn’t convert when we really needed to, and got upset about (what I still think was) an unfair call. We lost in 3 sets, and lost the next match to the same guys we had beat in the 1st round (they had come up through the consolation bracket).

Singles was almost the same thing for me. I won my first three matches, getting to the semifinals where I played the guy who we lost to in doubles. I lost in 3 sets after having a match point, and lost my consolation match to the guy who would eventually get 2nd. My dad did better, getting 2nd place in the 50+ category (although he also let the final slip through his fingers).

The only thing I regret about the tournament was mental. I lost my tennis cool. I got upset about stupid things and when I did that, it took my focus off the point. Because in the end it really doesn’t matter, in competition you can’t let yourself get upset about little things.

Now to my tennis season. Now in my second year of coaching, I had gone a year and a half without a single team win. We had come agonizingly close. Like our 4-3 loss against Pueblo East last year when winning a single tiebreaker would have sealed the deal. Or last week when we were winning all our matches when buckets of rain came pouring down from a previously amicable sky. I was beginning to believe the tennis gods were thwarting me for partially converting to pickleball.

Then yesterday we played Harrison High School, a first year team that had not a single athlete, let along tennis player. We pulled out a few close matches and a couple of 10-point tie breakers, winning the match 7-0. Victory is sweet when it’s been long in the making! Morale was in critical need of a boost, and I’m buying the team bagels today, honoring my promise to buy them if anyone bageled another team (won 6-0).

Farting on Elbert

I just finished one of the most ridiculous, memorable and difficult weeks of my tour guiding career and I wanted to share some stories from this experience.

Japanese people are sometimes so… well, Japanese. Mannerisms, ways of doing things, habits. It’s so distinct and noticeable and sometimes hilarious.

For example, before and after any amount of exercise, Japanese people always want to do a group stretch. Now this wasn’t a problem when we started climbing Flat Top Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park at 5:00 AM. Returning at 2:00 PM, however, was a little different. Oblivious to passers-by, the Japanese tour guide decides to do our group stretch in the middle of a busy walkway. Right as we are doing a stretch where you thrust your hips around in a circular motion, a shuttle bus pulls up right behind. Since I’m the closest to the bus, the passengers get a full backside view of my thrusting buttocks. Sometimes you just have to ignore what other people are thinking and go with the Japanese flow.

Then there is the fact that everything in Japan is individually wrapped and packaged. At a supermarket in Estes Park, the attendant and I somehow got to talking about how she had just moved from Boulder where they used far fewer plastic bags. Just as we’re finishing this conversation, the Japanese tour guide decides that each sandwich needs its own bag: 9 bags for 9 sandwiches. The attendant is rolling her eyes and I can faintly hear environmentalists crying in the distance but all I can do is watch disapprovingly.

There is also the lack of appreciation for good beer. Asked to recommend a good Colorado beer the first night, I went with Blue Moon. It’s a local beer and I think it’s pretty darn good. Snubbing their noses at this, they fell in love with the high quality choices of Coors and Bud Light, ordering them at every restaurant. Again, all I could do was chuckle and drink my Fat Tire or Colorado Native as they talked about how much they loved their piss water. Whatever floats your boat I suppose.

Now for the naming of this post. Since this was a hiking tour of Colorado, the highlight of the trip was climbing Mt. Elbert, the highest 14’er in Colorado. Leaving our hotel in Leadville at 3:00 AM, we hiked much of the 4-mile ascent in darkness before watching the sunrise across the mountains and finally summiting. The views were absolutely breathtaking and the weather was perfect.

Sunrise on Elbert

Sunrise on Elbert

I’ve always heard that Japanese people consider burping to be ruder than farting. I initially doubted this, as I had never heard Japanese people burp or fart very much. Everything changes on the mountain though. For some reason (maybe the night before’s pizza), everybody experienced abnormal levels of gas, and the tour guide (the worst of them all) instructed them to just let it out. “Better out than in” is roughly what he said. And oh did they let it out. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard such a prolonged, continuous chorus of flatulence; at one point I was actually jealous. And that was just the men! Like most places (I would imagine) the women did not partake. What was really strange was the lack of reaction. Every time someone farted, I expected a courtesy chuckle or a snide comment. They just ignored it and continued on as I listened in amazement.

Our Gasy Group

Our Gasy Group

Ultimately, I think the way people travel reveals a lot about them. The Japanese tour guide was often so obsessed with keeping things the way they were in Japan that he forgot to let the guests enjoy the way things are in America. In Estes Park, he asked the hotel manager which television stations were in Japanese. Hmmm, sorry buddy Japan is not the center of the universe. He made me ask for the bill at the beginning of each meal in order to “not keep the guests waiting”. And instead of eating local food, we went to Thai or sushi places and had Japanese “Obento” lunches. That’s fine, but when I was allowed to take them to BBQ or local steakhouses they loved it. And food is just one part of it: To me, travel means letting yourself adjust to all aspects of life in another place.

The night before they left redeemed it all. Talking about American culture during the trip, I had explained that hugging was just as common as shaking hands. Since ceremony is everything in Japan, we all got in a circle and talked about how great the trip was and how good my Japanese was and how thankful we all were. Towards the end, in accordance with American culture they each wanted to give me a hug. I proceeded to give 8 people a series of the most awkward, arm-flailing, bent down hugs I have ever experienced. But the fact that they were willing to try something new and appreciate what Americans do made it worth all the effort. That’s what it’s all about.

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My Breaking Bad Moment in Albuquerque

If you’ve never seen the show Breaking Bad – you should. The story begins with a high school chemistry teacher in Albuquerque who finds out he has terminal cancer. Unable to pay his medical bills and too stubborn to accept help, he puts his skills to good use cooking up the best blue meth in the Southwest. He goes from small time meth cooker trying to support his family to the infamous drug lord Heisenberg who lies, ruthlessly kills rivals, makes LOTS of money and loses the very family he swore to protect. Be warned though, it contains gratuitous violence, excessive use of language and all kinds of moral lessons about what not to do in life.

In the show, both the main character (Walter White) and his business partner (Jesse Pinkman) get into insane situations cooking meth in the desert. I had a situation that felt a little bit like that and wanted to share.

Last weekend I traveled to Albuquerque for my pickleball job. I had organized for my dad and I to play at a couple different locations in town and to meet a guy who wanted to start selling paddles for us (ironically we call them dealers). It was a great weekend and we came back to Colorado really tired from playing in the sun and driving so much.

On the way home, I had to pee. Since we had stopped a couple of hours before for gas, I didn’t want to take another break and told my dad to just pull over on the side of the freeway. I went, it was glorious and I jumped back into the car. Unbeknownst to me, when I jumped out I had accidentally knocked my phone out of the car. An hour and a half later when we returned home, I realized that my phone was nowhere to be found – probably on the side of the road where I decided to use the bathroom.

So what did I do? I went back to look for it! Luckily, I remembered that we had stopped immediately after an exit. I didn’t know which exit or even which side of Walsenburg it was on, but I vaguely remembered what it looked like – at least I had a clue.

So I drove two hours back to Trinidad (which I knew was too far), turned around and stopped at every place that even remotely resembled what I remembered of the stop. I pulled over onto the shoulder of at least 3 or 4 exits, probably looking like a lunatic stooped over on the side of the road looking for something in the grass. Finally, after the Rugby Road Exit I found a place that looked familiar. I got out and found my phone…. just feet away from cars speeding by on the freeway. Thankfully it hadn’t rained and I got my phone back still with 20% battery. So what did I do then? Well, I had to pee again so I figured that it was as good of a place as any…