Sunday, September 27, 2009
The Jew and the Wasp
So here it was 1999 and I was competing in my usual round of summer tournaments on the USTA-Eastern men's circuit.I had done pretty well in a grass court event at Forest Hills making it through the first 3 rounds to get into the quarterfinals and facing one of the top seeds.
I had lost to a highly ranked player Ed Perpetua but felt as if I could at the least win a round or two in the National grass event at The Rockaway Hunting Club which is the oldest Country Club in the USA.I noticed on the tournament form that the matches began on......Yom Kippur. Holiest day of the year for my people.They were giving exemptions to Jews to play on Sunday before the tournament began.I was going to be away that weekend and in my tennis mind the option for me was play on Monday(the holy day).It seemed logical to me to act as if the the day of atonement would survive without me.My ancestors from Poland,Russia,Lithuania,Nelsonville,Ohio and Cincinnati were not there to tell me to stay home,pray,fast,eat later,put away my rackets!My parents were in Ohio so it was up to me to decide how to live my life.I chose to play tennis.My opponent Randy Vigmostad had world class skills.I fought as hard as I could but that wasn't enough to beat this guy.I got 3 games in 2 sets.I had played Randy 13 years earlier and got 1 game in 2 sets so! I did better?.................
I still got my ass whooped.After my match my friend Chris Gilroy asked me if I wanted to grab a bite in the clubhouse of the Waspiest country club in the good old United States of America on Yom freakin' Kippur the holiest of all Jewish Holy days.You know what I figured I had already broken the sin barrier so........I went for the gusto.I didn't only have lunch.I had the friggin'buffet lunch.All the goddamn food and drink that I could eat.I had a burger(no bacon) and I think I had a second helping.Dessert....I had pie.After stuffing my face I went back with Chris to the courts and helped him warm up for his next match.I grabbed a soda from a cooler by the court and popped it open and took a sip.I went back to continue the warm up and after ten more minutes Chris went on his way.I noticed a yellow Jacket on my soda can and I shooed it away and grabbed the can to guzzle the sweet nectar.What I felt next was akin to getting stabbed in my throat.Another wasp was inside the can and I swallowed the little S.O.B.! My friends who were with me court side thought I was joking.I went into the locker room and stuck my finger down my throat to extract the stinger.Mark Harrison one of the players gave me a Benadryl which I quickly swallowed in case my throat closed up.I started guzzling water to flush out the wasp.I sat at the tournament desk for a half hour so they could monitor me in case I stopped breathing or swallowing.I have never been shot or stabbed but this seemed like it was pretty close to that pain level.When I got in my car I kept drinking water and had to pull off the highway a few times to find a bathroom.I picked up my daughter at daycare and still could not talk.I could whisper.When I got home and I explained to my wife my dilemma.Dinner at my cousin Martha's was in an hour to break the fast.I could lie.I could call in sick.I could tell the truth.The truth shall set you free.I opted for the truth and a martini or five to dull the pain.We ate.We laughed.We reflected.One guy wanted to use my story.Sorry dude it is all mine.On the holiest of Jewish holy days a Wasp taught me a lesson in the Waspiest place in America. Have I played tennis on Yom Kippur since then? Did I go develop full leg cramps once a few years after because I did two and a half hours of hitting lessons without eating or drinking?
Nowadays on the holiest of days I rest,I pray,I reflect,I wait to eat and slowly ,cautiously sip that first Martini (with 3 olives) and I remember to laugh..............even about my friend..... the Wasp.