It’s Sunday morning, 7:30 am. My teenager and I are driving to his semi-final tennis match. Thrilled he made it to the semi’s, both of us exacerbated by the hour. What childless person decided it was okay to have the matches starting at 8:00 am on a Sunday??
I will admit, though, that walking through a city on an early Sunday morning is fascinating. It’s like having the city you love to yourself. Every random jogger passes by in silhouette against the morning light, the dew has time to glisten against the green grass before being stomped on, every car echoes down the street with a gentle hum and the pace is slow and peaceful. I had a wonderful conversation in my head with a dear friend and I didn’t get interrupted once.
Then I got to the courts and there was instant shift. The tennis world here is fiercely competitive. My niece is number one in California in her age group and therefore I’m aware of the work involved to be the best. But all us ‘pakcs‘ – parents of kids who may try for college sports – make up the bulk of the competition, and boy those side-lines can be nasty. I felt like I was playing my own head game against the mom next to me at the tournament. Her son kept screaming ‘Vamos!’, Spanish for ‘let’s go’, every time my son made a mistake. She shot me a victorious look at each scream; I wanted to just shoot her.
What strikes me immediately in my America vs England comparisons, are the facilities. Even local park courts have great surfaces and proper nets. Our courts in Richmond had this strange pebbley surface that sort of resembled asphalt, and mostly broken nets. In the private sector things are uniformly cushy, but London is indoor tennis and LA…well, I did promise a few friends never to mention the weather here.
Aside from tennis, the astro fields here are pristine for football and soccer, there’s basketball hoops everywhere, even in alley parking lots, and the boardwalk down by the beach has been transformed into an outdoor gym. Being fit and sporty is part of being a Los Angelino and it’s actually easy because there’s so much choice. For us, it’s hiking the incredible trails overlooking the sea, all styles of yoga including Yoga-hop where they blast out tunes for 90 minutes to ashtanga poses, rollerblading down the boardwalk, cycling, rowing… For kids there’s surfing the great Pacific, skateboarding at Tony Hawk’s skate park, karate from Great Masters from China, and best of all for us so far, gymnastics.
My son participated in the only gymnastics academy in London, and did quite well. It was a big room that prided itself on its new tumbling run and two balance beams. Here, several Russian gold medalists have set up three different academies and I swear, it’s gymnastics on steroids! The gym itself is astonishing; it looks like you could hold the Olympic trials in it. My son is beyond excited. He went from doing cartwheels and front flips to double back handsprings and flips, over the bloody horse! Awesome.
Husband and I joke about the apparrell one gets away with wearing out in public in LA. Ugg-Nation long since took over our feet and if you’re covering your bits and pieces enough, you can go out in it. It’s important to get good looking yoga/workout clothes because invariably, you’ll be wearing it all day. Every adult I know works out, including my mother, and every child has a sport. Or two. Or three. I can only imagine how difficult it is to have a kid who doesn’t like sports. In London I must say that those types of kids could explore fencing, drama and even boys ballet and not feel like they’re out of the ordinary; and, their parents can embrace their child’s differences with more ease. Here, not so. People really push for their child to be a part of a team sport and to exercise. It’s not a bad focus but you have to keep your perspective in tact, which is seriously questionable in a lot of the pakcs I encounter.
I ended my week with dinner at one of the world’s most famous Yoga instructor’s house. It was a small dinner with just seven of us. I didn’t know what to expect. He’s beyond successful and considers himself a philosopher more than anything else. He could afford the biggest house in Beverly Hills filled with staff, but instead, I pulled up to quite a modest home with his wife doing all of the delicious cooking.
Aside from crystal chandeliers hanging from literally every conceivable ceiling space (which did make me chuckle), their home was warm and unassuming. The other guests were the physicist that invented the lazer beam, the head of a medical institution and a famous architect. Watching this yoga-man in action was astonishing. He radiates energy – he sleeps 2-3 hours a night, looks 20 years younger than he is and bounces around the room with confidence and smiles in equal measure.
He says that your body is like a computer that you can program it to do anything, thus he doesn’t ever get jet-lag. I look at him, hiding the endless bags I’ve had to cover under my eyes, and want to believe in his words. It’s so straightforward; his hot yoga activates one’s organs, one by one, and helps balance the body to function better. I ask him how many hours does he practice? “From sunrise, just three,” he smiles back. Ahh, the missing key, the reason for his bright eyes. The difference between us.
In another life I think I was a dedicated yogi because people like him resonate so strongly in me, as if I was once like them. For now, I’m just happy to sleep past sunrise and work out enough so it doesn’t all hurt so much.