Day Six: Twin Roars

It was mid-afternoon.  I was watching a tennis match and wondering why I was so tired.  Then it hit me – I hadn’t had a coffee today.  Ah yes … my caffeine addiction.

Ten minutes later I was sipping the hot stuff in the open air, facing a big screen.  It was a match in Arthur Ashe Stadium (the big one), featuring Stefanos Tsitsipas, the number three player in the world.  His opponent was an 18-year-old “kid” from Spain – Carlos Alcaraz.  I’d never heard of him.

As my head slowly returned to the land of the living, I watched the match unfold.  It was tied two sets each, and they were well into the deciding one.  How is this young guy keeping up with Tsitsipas?  Alcaraz was blasting shot after shot into the corners.  Woh!

I sipped faster and then launched myself towards Arthur Ashe.  The score was something like 6-5.  This could be over in minutes and I still had escalators and concourses to navigate.  A delicious race against time.

I finally found a seat way up high, breathing heavily from the stairs.  My butt went down, my head came up, and there were two warriors facing off.  The score was 6-6 and we were starting the tiebreak.  First one to seven points, having to win by two.

We the crowd cheered after every point.  So loud!  Here’s a pic:

Who doesn’t love an underdog?  Thousands of us were urging Carlos on.

Suddenly it was match point … for the young guy!  Waves of sound rolled through the stadium.  A serve, then back and forth, and then a missile from Alcaraz that Tsitipas couldn’t reach!  It’s over!  Carlos is lying on his back on the court, stunned by what’s he’s done.  The roar from the crowd probably was heard atop the Empire State Building, many miles away.

I’m wiped.  Along with everyone else, I file out of Arthur Ashe, a process that took at least 15 minutes.  The stadium crew has to clean the stadium before welcoming new fans to the evening session.

I sit outside on some steps, trying to absorb what just happened.  An epic upset, and I was there.

And now for dessert.  I’m not only a day fan.  I’m an evening one.  My hero – Leylah Fernandez – is playing Naomi Osaka, formerly the number one player in the world, and now third.  Leylah is Canadian (like me!) and is about to turn 19.  She’s a huge underdog, playing an elite player, and for the first time playing in Arthur Ashe, the biggest tennis stadium in the world.

I climbed hundreds of steps (it felt like that) and gazed at maybe 15,000 souls, most of whom no doubt expected an easy match for Naomi.  Leylah had other ideas.

During the match, I stood up and cheered a lot, after brilliant Leah points.  Eventually I turned around and said hi to the couple sitting behind me.  Terry and Gavin are South African, now living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  We chatted on and off about Leylah, Naomi, Canada, the US, South Africa, Senegal and … beer.  Thoroughly nice human beings.

Naomi was serving incredibly well, and so was Leylah.  It was close but Naomi prevailed in the first set, as expected.  I was pleasantly surprised that Leylah was hanging with her.

Well into the second set, Naomi was inching towards victory.   But then Leylah really turned it on.  She won point after point.  Naomi smashed her racquet on the court, and then a minute later, threw it.  Both big no-no’s in tennis.  The crowd started booing her.  Leylah seemed unfazed by all the kerfuffle.

Leylah came up with the clutch points to win the second set.  As she walked back to her chair, her arm was raised.  The crowd cheered this young unknown tennis pro.

Third set – both players pressing for victory.  The crowd momentum clearly with Leylah now.  Brilliant shots from her, and some from Naomi.  I turn to my new friends and ask “Is this happening?”  It was.  Could two 18-year-olds engineer massive upsets on the same grand court, one after the other?

The answer was YES!  Naomi’s final stroke sailed wide.  Leylah threw her arms in the air and started bouncing around the court.  Arthur Ashe rang with decibels, with human beings standing and cheering.  Including this one.

O Leylah

O underdog

O Canada

My Meditation Retreat … Part 1

A little voice in my head told me yesterday that on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I should write about my upcoming meditation retreat.  I leave for Massachusetts on Thursday afternoon and I won’t be doing any writing for about three months.  I asked that voice, “What the heck am I going to talk about for three blog posts?”  After all, I’m falling towards silence.  The answer?  “You’ll figure it out.”

When I tell people that I’m going to be silent for 84 days, invariably I get two responses:

1. “You?  No way.  You won’t last ten minutes.”  Well, past retreats have shown me that I can last at least eleven minutes.  But I know where they’re coming from.  I talk to virtually everyone.  I’ll find the flimsiest excuse to begin a conversation.  Like standing in a grocery line and sharing with the person in front or behind that my tall cylindrical objects (such as shave cream) won’t stay standing up on the moving belt.  That’s all it takes.  The pump needs to be primed.  If course, if the person just replies with a withering stare, I shut it down right away.  I’ve learned to detect the folks who want to play.

So how can I let that fun go for three months?  As much as I love the banter, I know the silence will be easy.

2.  “I couldn’t do that.”  I suppose they’re right, concerning a jump into a very long retreat.  But I’ve been on 7, 8 and 9 day ones, and I bet most people who say this to me are wrong.  It’s just that extended periods of silence haven’t been part of their experience.  It wasn’t easy for me at first, and I’ve seen many folks in the meditation hall who are clearly going through their “stuff”.  We all have stuff – thoughts, feelings, body sensations.  I don’t see meditation as fixing the negative parts of those things.  It’s more an expression of who I am, an uncovering of what’s already there.  I say that most of us would experience some of that uncovering during a retreat and would slowly allow the silence to caress them.

I used to think that I wanted to be a better meditator.  Sit in the full lotus position, for instance.  Well, my knees hurt too much for that.  I use a chair.  Have all my thoughts disappear.  Good luck on that one too.  Thoughts continue to enter my head but sooner or later they leave (to be replaced by more complex thoughts!)

Over the next twelve weeks of my life, I will not:

1. Talk (except to a teacher, who will meet with me every two or three days to see how it’s going)

2.  Make eye contact (other than with the teacher)

3.  Read

4.  Write

5.  Listen to music

6.  Be on the Internet, e-mail and generally mess around with my laptop

7.  Lie or use demeaning language (I don’t do that anyway, and besides we’re silent)

8.  Have sex

9.  Take something that isn’t freely offered (such as pushing to sit in the front row, or getting a large piece of the vegetarian entrée)

10.  Hurt any living being, even an insect

11.  Consume alcohol or non-prescription drugs

12.  Pee

Okay, just kidding about that last one!

See you tomorrow.  I might be silent, however.

Jody’s Books Are Here!

It’s 4:05 pm.  I just got back from a day of errands in London.  Something was different about my front door.  There was a little white rectangle sticking to it.  From Purolator.  There are 17 boxes waiting for me at their office in St. Thomas.  And I can pick them up after 5:00.  Did I mention that it’s 4:08?

Oh my God!  Jody, your books are here.  My dear wife.  The story we shared is going to reach people … whoever wants to read it.  I’m so happy, and so sad that you’re not here to share this with me.  Except you are here, and always will be.

“Yes, I certainly will always be with you, dear man.  I’m happy that people are going to read about us.  Maybe we’ll show them some things about living a life, about loving another person.  I love you so much, Bruce.  I miss touching you.  I miss holding hands.  But we’ll be together again someday, husband.  We will walk a different path and we will walk it together.”

Yes, Jodiette.  We will.

Tomorrow morning, I’m getting on a train and going to Belleville for four days.  When I get back, I’m going to write an e-mail to the 300 folks who have been with Jody and me since she was diagnosed in November, 2013.  I’m going to ask them if they would like a book.  It’s free.  I’ll pay for the postage.  And I’ll suggest that, if they want to, they donate some money to their favorite charity in memory of Jody.

But today is today.  I don’t know how many of you are out there in cyberworld, but if you would like a copy of Jodiette: My Lovely Wife, e-mail me at jodyandbruce@rogers.com and give me your address.  Our story is your story.

Okay, it’s 4:17.  It takes about 20 minutes to get to the Purolator office.  Maybe I should get organized, get goin’, get Jody’s books!

Oh my.