Update on the Recent Burglary of Me

The Crime: Somewhere between 10pm and 6am, someone broke my car window and stole my computer bag, seizing my credit card, ATM card, passport, Kindle, and an absurd amount of cash (Yes, I’m the idiot who left it in the car).

Post Burglary: I’ve gotten the window repaired, cancelled my cards, collaborated with the police and received a copy of the police report.  Turns out the criminals made five fraudulent purchases using my cards, which means there’s a 7-11, a Shell station, and a Marshall’s clothing store that do not require a pin number to use my debit card.

Conversation with Police:

”Any chance of me getting my stuff back?”

“Probably not.”

“Are you guys going to do anything with my report?”

“No.”

“So, I’m not really trying to be a dick here, but what exactly are my tax dollars paying for?”

“….”  (look of disdain)

“….” (symbolic raising of eyebrows indicating unfettered astonishment)

“Well, if we give you the report, you might be able to convince one of the stores to let you see the video of the perpetrators.”

“Thank you, officer.  Much appreciated.”

“….” (Sound of donut being bitten)

The Aftermath: I’ve communicated with the criminal division of Marshall’s clothing store (yes it exists and yes it’s hilarious), who are currently reviewing the videotapes to find the time code where we can both view the criminals.

Very Shortly: I will be donning some sort of vigilante Superhero costume (think Batman or Ironman) and heading down to L.A.s streets to post fliers with photos of the suspects.

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Yes, I understand the irrationality of this action, however, certain deviant acts require an extreme level of absurdity.  Think about it.  When a Superhero shows up at your house to retrieve his possessions, what the hell are you going to do?  Insanity has to trump delinquency, right?  This guy has got to wonder whether I’m the real deal, and if so, what the next ten minutes of his life will hold.  And even if he pulls a gun or breaks out a Louisville slugger, I’ll be so hyped up in my costume that I’ll kick the guy’s ass just for thinking of wielding a weapon.

Conclusion: Yep, I’m really onto something.  There may be a future here.  If anyone is interested in joining the cause, I think I have an extra pair of Underoos in my closet.

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By ccxander

Kiss My Ads!

Admittedly, I’ve been subconsciously aware that web companies like Google and Facebook capture data about my purchasing habits.  After all, after buying an electric razor online, I’m suddenly and not-so-subtly inundated with ads for Men’s facial products and other electronic gizmos.  Advertising agencies use algorithms to determine what products I might be interested in and then plant those tempting little seeds just inside my peripheral view, hoping I’ll succumb to the urge to click their little logo.   Even if I’m not completely comfortable with it, I’ve come to recognize the symbiotic relationship that defines this little invasion of privacy for the expediency of online purchasing.

Recently, however, I’ve experienced a nightmare-ish feeling that the algorithm needs some adjusting.  To wit:

If I buy a camera, I’d expect some ads about photo services, picture frames, maybe even an entreaty from a travel agency about a destination vacation.  Those would make sense, be civilized, appropriate.  What is not appropriate after a camera purchase, and what makes me wonder if the algorithm writers are standing at the cliff’s edge, is the following:

Ads for parabolic microphones, ladders, tree branch cutters, comfortable cushions, and magazines about subversive living.  I think the phrase “What the fuck?” is apposite here.  What sick stalking genius tagged the camera purchase to these deviant acts?

One might posit a “bad apple” theory here, suggesting this is an anomaly.  Except now the advertisers have me paying attention and I’m seeing some pretty horrifying patterns.

The other day I used an online form to order Chinese Food. The following morning, my ads consisted of Single Chinese Women Looking for Fun (no I didn’t call!), Confucius Quotes, A Life Insurance Ad, and Taxidermists in Your Area (seriously?).

Worse yet, apparently I had a little water on my mousepad and the damn cursor slipped and I accidentally clicked an ad for tree service.  So tell me, who’s the cranial cutter who thinks I now desire information on erectile dysfunction, bikini waxing, and local Briss performers?  Is that what tree service suggests to you?

I remember simpler times when people asked things like Coke or Pepsi, regular or unleaded, cash or credit? Now I suffer forehead rivers just thinking about purchasing a pair of boxers or a toothbrush.  Might as well just shoot me if I ever have diarrhea.

Look, I’m all for universal exploration and alternative perspectives.  Welcoming cultural enlightenment has been a cornerstone of my existence since my first trip to Tijuana, circa 1987, when I was introduced to donkeys and alcohol in ways that challenge one’s moral intellect.  At some point, however, shouldn’t there be a check on these things.

By ccxander

Life on the Pro Circuit: A Follow Up

 

My last article placed a roadblock in the hero’s journey and I left the protagonist injured, a journalistic faux pas akin to unbuttoning someone’s trousers and then walking away.  Apologies to the reader for my irresponsibility.

The kid has been diagnosed with a severe concussion and, four days later, is still having some trouble remembering dates – no it’s not 2008 – and distinguishing colors. Last night, after a few uneventful wheelchair journeys through crowded airports, we arrived back in the City of Angels with its ever-burgeoning traffic and unyielding pretension.  This morning she had an appointment with her physio, who put her through a series of balance tests and determined she might be better off visiting a Betty Ford clinic.  Sorry, levity is my defense mechanism for countering crushing depression.

Assuming she heals properly, it will be at least a week before she can start hitting again, and, frankly, I’m looking forward to getting her back on the court.  The medical reports said everything was clean and she’d be 100% soon enough.  Seeing a student laid out on a stretcher with a neck brace around her throat, however, can quell a coach and I confess to being a little anxious about all of this.  We’re talking about the future of a pretty talented sixteen-year old who’s put a lot of time and dedication into a rather unforgiving sport.   Universities and scholarships sit on the porch outside her front door, as though it were a hospital waiting room.  When we start chasing the dragon again, I’ll be tempted to mess up the scores just to poke a little fun, but I’m counting on my empathetic nature to win that battle.

I guess not all journeys end with some intense climactic moment.  Sometimes the hero just decides to hit the ice bath and get back in the gym for a while.  But then, isn’t that what we want from our heroes – to know that they can fail, and heal, and get back up so they can cross the bridge into the sunset.

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By ccxander

Life on the Pro Circuit: Final Thoughts

This is the eleventh article in a series by Craig Cignarelli, who is traveling with a sixteen-year old girl for her first pro tournament.

My coaching duties are over, and tomorrow we head back to Los Angeles.  I’m ready to return to my home courts, which stare out over the Pacific and play host to Hollywood’s stars and a few aspiring athletes who see the horizon as something attainable.  We’ve left something of ourselves on these Caribbean courts– curiosity, effort, sweat, along with the bumps and bruises of an unfortunate accident.  However, like the infamous pirates once here before us, we’ve pillaged some things too, from this place by the sea.

The kid qualified for her first pro event and had set points against a solid veteran and former top 10 ITF’er.  She now understands her current competitive level, the varieties of playing styles this tennis world offers, the consistency and pace required to surpass the 10K events, the fragility of women’s game, and she witnessed professionalism in a new light.

During post-match gym workouts, she watched heavy-legged girls snail-crawl on stationary bikes while muscle-bound men performed flat-out sprints on electric treadmills.  She saw poorly-performed dynamic stretches and physios who controlled their layer’s every move. We had many discussions about dietary habits when confronted with never-ending buffets and tourists who seemed more focused on breaking caloric records than satiating hunger.  She learned how five days of intermittent deluges can interrupt adrenal preparation like a policeman knocking on a car window at make-out point.  After practicing with some of the men, she is more aware of the difference between the men’s and women’s ball, because here, men don’t hit to workout, but rather, to work.  She saw strokes that flowed and others that looked like second grade cursive, and how some players floated gracefully above the court while others appeared more statuesque.  At moments, she witnessed dives, slides, grimaces, screams, tears, and elation – these are the articulations of professional athletes, ones which inspire her to continue on.

In readying herself for the second week, she slipped on a wet marble floor and banged her head into unconsciousness.  She now understands what a neck brace and a stretcher feel like when pinned to her spine, and how she’ll react to adversity, and more importantly, the level of fear she can withstand when faced with a hospital bed in a foreign country and an unfamiliar language.  She knows the terms CT Scan and X-ray and IV drip in ways that sixteen-year old girls shouldn’t know.  She knows what an absence of memory feels like and innocently wonders why some people would choose it.  I asked her to write her thoughts about these two weeks and she consented.  So, in closing this series, here are the uncontaminated words of a young woman’s first experience trying to tackle the world stage:

So I’m going home tomorrow. So many things have happened to me during this trip. I have learned so much, and I also have experienced some pretty crazy stuff. From travel issues to playing new people to hospital visits.

The only difference between the girls here and the top juniors is slightly more competitiveness, more consistency and maybe some better movement, but little else. Along with learning about the tennis, I have learned some other valuable life lessons.

I slipped and fell on my head during this trip. I passed out twice and the doctor diagnosed a severe concussion, forcing me to stay in a hospital overnight. Whoever thought it was a good idea to put marble floor in a tropical climate is probably about 2 IQ points from being a baby ape. One thing I really learned from this was a sense of responsibility for myself. I had to stay calm during a time of much fear and confusion. I could hardly remember my address and I had to keep my head on because I am just here with my coach. Overcoming anxieties in future tournaments will seem easy after this situation!

Traveling can be scary for a sixteen-year old, and with all the added bad stuff, it was tough. Instead of succumbing to the fear and craziness of life on tour, I will rise to the challenge. I will rise to the challenge because that is who I am, and that is what will be the driving force behind my success.

-The kid

Although the hospital bill may live longer than the wounds, the lessons will far outlast them both, and for that, this first journey into professional tennis was well worth the investment.  I hope it was informative for anyone who took the time to read it, and for those who did, thank you!

 

By ccxander

Life on the Pro Circuit: An Unreal Story

I’ll start with the funny.

Like it has for the past three, it rained today – hard, buckets, to the point where I saw a group of tourists contemplating plans for an Ark.  The Caribbean’s thatched roofs offer about the same protection as a thong.   People walk around with this awkward shoulder shrug and when you ask them questions you’re unsure whether they are indicating they don’t know or just trying to keep from getting water down their neck.

Then the power went out, which means, after an hour, folks in the buffet lines carry these fist-like faces of concerned diners who worry Montezuma’s Revenge is only a forkful away, followed by the panicked expression of “Oh my God is that a stomach cramp or am I going to crap my pants in front of a hundred strangers.” It’s not pretty.

Now add in the slip factor.  Whoever was the genius who decided marble floors would be appropriate for tropical climates, should be removed from the gene pool for lack of adequate intelligence. People are slipping and sliding like penguins at play.   There is a Bambi-like splaying of old people and young children and, as they go down, their hands open up to release knives and forks, which zoom and spin such that it looks like some appalling magic act gone haywire.  Glasses and plates shatter with a regularity that the day’s diarrhea victims would empathize with. Frequently, a shout will ring out with words like “Look out” or “Whooooa” or “Hiiiiyaa” and always followed by “sorry”, as they attempt to lift themselves from the wet floor. Aside from one glass shard that nicked my leg, I emerge from breakfast unscathed.

Now, the not funny.

Back in my room, I’m five minutes from giving my player an 8:00 a.m. wake up call when the phone rings.

“Craig, this is Doctor Ramirez.  We have your student here and she has fainted several times and we’d like you to come immediately.”

Quickly, I review last night’s dinner and wonder whether Montezuma took revenge upon the poor girl to the point of de-hydration.  On a full sprint, beneath a virtual monsoon falling upon ridiculously slippery floors, I make my way to the medical office to find my charge laid out on stretcher, in a full neck brace, shaking and crying.  Compared to our usual morning greeting of witty banter and grand smiles, this sucks.

She’d slipped on the marble floor, landed on the back of her head and fell unconscious.  Then, holding on to the wall to get up, she fell again, this time face first, onto the cement, and blacked out again.  One of the players staying in the hotel said they heard a scream like someone was being murdered and called security.  My girl though, is tough.  When she awoke, she had no idea where she was, but found a way to crawl and stagger through the lobby to the front desk clerk who immediately took her into the medical facility.

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It is now 6:20 p.m. and it’s been a day of cervical X-rays, Cat-Scans, IV drips with painkillers and anti-inflammatories.  They will keep her here overnight for observation and I’ll be crashing on the plush chaise lounge built for hobbits.  Her opponent tomorrow is going to have a short vacation as I try to pull this one from the depths of hell into something more promising.  Alas, this is tour life.  Wanna join us?

 

By ccxander

Life on the Pro Circuit: Polluted and Pristine

Every morning at 5:00 a.m., before my player rises, I go down to the beach for a run.  Sugary white sand clings to my toes so it looks like I’m running on a bunch of mini- churros.   Hued like faded-denim, at 82 degrees the Caribbean licks the shore the way puppy’s kiss.

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But in the midst of all this beauty, there is clutter – the exo-skeletal remains of a beach chair, shredded soda cans, a weather-worn pair of sandals, an eco-unfriendly diaper, a working lighter.

When I was younger, I believed a stranded man would die of scurvy or exposure or boredom.  I assumed the only connection to civilization would come from opening a corked bottle to read the note within.  I thought foreign beaches only housed things like coconuts and pirate treasure.  Today though, pollution has corrupted the clarity of the waters and sands.

I think there’s a certain symbolism here, one that gets to the heart of competition.

As youths, our palettes are clean, untainted by the distresses of defeat and the thrills of triumph.  We view each match through the prism of pleasure and indulgence.  But like the beaches, garbage invades our shores and our minds become cluttered with expectations and potentials and hopes.  What was once pristine, is now a landscape littered with mental pollution.

When I was running today, I picked up a few bottles and placed them back in the water.  Some might say I’ve done nothing to improve the circumstance, however, I disagree.  For a moment, I’ve removed the garbage from my view and sent it into purgatory, trapped between freedom and forsaken.  It may return, but perhaps the beach will develop a sand dune or bay to protect itself.  Or maybe it will embrace the foreign object and bury it beneath its weight, never to be seen again.  Whatever happens, it is no longer my burden.

It’s kind of like my morning run, cleansing, purifying, returning me back to my pristine palette so I can live divested of worry.

For those who’ve been following my rather troubling Caribbean resort sagas, today I tried the following:  I took a room towel and put it on my table in the buffet dining room, and hid behind the buffet table to watch.  With joy, I saw the busboy stop at my table and stare at the towel, uncertain.  He called a friend over, and then another.  I imagine the internal conversation was something like:

“When the patron gets up, we’re supposed to clear the table, but then, any towel not placed on the floor is to remain where it is.”

I think I’ve found the vortex of hotel regulations and brought these little bastards to their altruistic knees.  For two minutes, I hovered just outside their purview.  And then they called the supervisor over, who promptly folded the towel and placed it on my chair.  I sulked out of the dining room and spent the afternoon a beaten man.

New word of the day: Poutclassed (def) when the level of service brings you to tears

By ccxander

Life on the Pro Circuit: Orange Lakes in Elephant Skies

Sunrise was beautiful today – orange lakes in elephant-colored skies.

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It reminds me of tennis matches – inside the amassing clouds of indistinguishable greyness, the radiant glow of tactical brilliance shimmers.  At the pro level, a few pivotal points determine the victor.

Thirty-three person draws are awkward, as only two people have a match today, while everyone else sits around and practices beneath a more-than-tepid sun.  Tomorrow, round two of qualifying starts for the second tournament. The kid will play another American girl, and if she wins, a Russian who spends most of her time ten feet behind the baseline retrieving shots.  Already I’ve seen improvement in her game, the increased second serve speed, the ability to attack with more efficient movement, and the belief that she can win these events soon.  Like a sunrise, growth comes slowly and ends in illumination.   These next few days will tell if she is on the right path to proper development.  If she attempts to play the right way and loses, it may be better than playing the wrong way and winning.  If she wins playing the right way, confidence in her own game grows and she’ll continue working toward proper goals.  So much depends on maintaining a proper balance between competitive will and player development.  Alas, tomorrow we’ll see if this week’s work has elicited any positive changes.

As to my continuing resort issues:

With all due respect to Dining Service Representatives, I’ve reached my breaking point.  An overview of “the system”:

You (hotel guest) enter the buffet area and are directed to an appropriate seat, where a DSR will offer you water and place your napkin on your lap, after which, you will rise and make your way to gustatory exuberance.  You’ll return to your table and eat, return to the buffet for food, and then sit again. The DSR’s will then clean your table and that’ll be the end of it.  Sometimes, however, extraneous factors intrude. 

To wit: Today I procured a healthy set of pancakes for breakfast –golden brown, fluffy, the kind you wouldn’t mind sleeping on.  Upon returning to my table, I realized I had forgotten the syrup.  So I got up to retrieve it. When I returned, my pancakes were gone, the table had been cleared and a new folded napkin rested where my plate had once been.  I called a DSR over and he apologized and said “I just doing my job, Sir.”  Leaving the syrup on the table, I made my way back to the buffet for more pancakes, noting the mosquito-like DSR’s hovering just outside of slapping range.  When I returned, now salivating at what was sure to be a gastronomic windfall, my syrup was gone and there was another new napkin, folded and mocking.  Once again, I called the little annoying fella over and explained my process for acquiring breakfast, and, leaving my plate on the table, asked the DSR to keep his bloodsucking fingers off my food. I trudged back for the syrup.  When I returned, my plate was gone, AGAIN!   I reached for the neck of the nearest DSR.  He pointed accusingly toward another little ferret of a man who promptly ducked behind a serving cart.  We shared some tears – him for the rant I laid upon him, and me because I really just wanted to eat my damn pancakes and now the buffet pancake tray was empty.

I think there’s a moral here for both athletes and buffet frequenters.  In critical moments, focus on the details and don’t rely on others to help you. You may go hungry, but you’re more likely to shine like those orange lakes I thought this blog was going to be about.

New word of the day: Bluffet (def) when you think you’re going to get food and you end up with nuthin’!

By ccxander