DAY TWO: FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The Grand Palladium-White Sands is an all-inclusive resort, meaning hedonism is always about six size-twelve-Nike steps away. There is kite surfing, kayak rides, archery stations (not sure why, but they draw crowds), stone massages, ornate swimming pools that dwarf the Caribbean, and food displays that make you doubt the war on hunger.
All that is required to pleasureyourself is a yellow wristband, snapped on with a professional smile by one of the cotton-clad hostesses that seduce you with azure eyes and Caribbean speak – “Enjoy yourself, Mon!” In my youth, I toyed around with fake ID’s and even experimented with an altered passport, so the idea of a plastic wristband sufficing as adequate documentation cactus-needles my intellect.
This morning I am face to face with a horrifyingly hirsute eleven-year-old (based on his mother’s screams since the buffet line opened, his name appears to be Ricky-Get-Your-Ass-Over-Here) who has piled his pancakes so high only his eyes appear over the stack. It is like the old Ziggy comic strip, except with more hair and syrup. I do my best to keep my eyes down, but this kid’s acumen with silverware is astonishing, Two minutes later he is done.
First on-court workout brings a downpour five minutes before we get on court, and so, we head to the beach for some hot-footed volleys in front of envious and drunk tourists, whose expressions at some of our errors can only be described as “having poor digestion”. One unfortunately-Speedo’d man stops a little too long to gaze and we halt practice for an air-conditioned lunch.
Second workout went well. We got a feel for the courts – more grainy than the nearby beaches, and thus, better suited to big kick serves and heavy spins – acclimating to the shifting winds, slow conditions, and the incessant chatter of avian life, not to mention the 80% humidity. In this weather, it’s less sweating than leaking, as though the water is being rung out of you, and what might be beads in the States, are more like streams down here. Imagine a hot yoga class on the sun and you get the idea. Four water bottles in thirty minutes means the electrolytes are used up and we’ll recover to an ice bath and some serious re-fueling via the Endura powder most of these players carry in their travel bags. Few things wreck the ol’ grey matter like Playa del Carmen heat stroke!
A note about the competition here. Along with the 64 women, there are 64 guys, making the overheated tennis tent look a like a stripper-ish sixth grade dance. 0% of the men wear shirts and the total amount of body fat on these athletes is well south of double digits. Conversely, some of the women look like they just rolled out of the ocean, which sounds cynical, but really is just an observation. These ladies are not in shape for these conditions, and it’s likely several of them will go down to heat exhaustion.
Tournament check-in begins at four. By 3:50, there is a cytoplasmic mass around the tournament desk and, with all of the foreign names, one gets the feeling this was what Ellis Island was like at the turn of the century – minus the white feet. The schedule will come out in a few hours and we’ll know whom she plays in the morning.
New word of the day: Gatheringlet (def) the sweat-stained floor after exhausted athletes meet up
Until then, off to a pasta dinner beneath a Technicolor sky.
Tomorrow: Let the Games Begin