New York 2011: Tennis, Culture and Intensity
I had intended to visit the Met and Moma on Saturday and see a play at Lincoln Center on Sunday, but all venues were closed because of Irene. But I was not totally deprived of culture because, before the storm, I attended an exhibit of Elliot Erwin’s photographs at the International Center for Photography and saw “Freud’s Last Session”, an excellent production at a small theater. In it, Freud debated his atheism with an academic who was a religious zealot. Sounds serious, but it was well peppered with humor. Needless to say, I agree with Freud.
By Monday morning, New York was functioning more or less normally. I was able to get to the US Open Tennis tournament facility on opening day by subway without difficulty. I prefer the first few days of these tournaments because new good players appear every year, but don’t make it to the last few rounds, which tend to have the same top players. Also, since all the outer courts are in use, spectators can come up close to the action rather than far away and way up in the stadia. Being so close gives me a chance to study players’ strokes and learn new ones. Yes, I am still working on improving my game. Six hours a day for two days of watching tennis was all I could take. In that time, I flitted from court to court watching a set each of interesting matches. Notable among them was Cilic easily handling Harrison, an up and coming young American; Gulbis, a reformed party animal, defeating Youzny, a good and experienced player from Russia; and Sania Mirza from India winning the first set from Shahar Peer, her former doubles partner, from Israel.
I watch tennis for the quality of play, strategy, determination and elegance rather than support any particular player for their national origin. In the Peer and Mirza match, I noted the huge amount of support for Peer, I assume because she is Israeli and New York has a large Jewish population. I didn’t appreciate this show of religious chauvinism. I found a group of Indians to join in support of Sania, with whom I do not have either a religion or a nationality in common.
Aside from Irene, the weather in New York was unexpectedly pleasant. Temperatures were in the low 80’s F and the humidity was also low. There was a bout of rain one day for a few hours. The storm swept away the pollution, leaving the sky unusually clear for the first two days of the Open. New York brightens in sunshine and people show more color, seem happier. It has been my favorite city since I first visited in 1962 when I was a student at LSE. I still love it, but would be cautious about living there for several reasons. Prominent among them is the difficulty that older people, my cohort in other words, have in negotiating the city. I noticed them becoming tense and careful as younger people bob and weave around them on the streets and in the subways and strain carrying bags of groceries, especially when climbing on to a bus. It must be much harder for them in the winter, with inclement weather and snow on the ground. Although money can help avoid many of these inconveniences, being cooped up in an apartment for long periods in the winter is not an inviting prospect. Alternatively, I suppose they can join the “snow bird” migration to Florida, a prospect I do not relish. Over the years, sunny California’s appeal has grown, although annual or bi-annual visits to New York and London not in the winter would be welcome.