HAND ME THAT SHUTTLECOCK
March 27, 2010 § 1 Comment
That’s right. You’re allowed to gasp. Badminton. Also known as ‘Shuttlecock’ in Australia- a far superior name in my opinion. I mean, jeez, the game is goddamned sexy, and as such it should have a hot, sweaty name. Either way, the rules remain the same: two or four players stand on a court a little smaller than the sort used for volleyball, with a net raised to just under six feet. Why the hell is he telling us what we already know?? I hear you all ask. Well, this blog aims not only to make you laugh and cry, it also is supposed to leave you all just a little bit more informed having read it. So… to make a long and dreadfully boring story short, it’s first to 21 with a margin of 2 and only the server can score, a la squash. Bang.
But this post today is about the venue for our war with our two (formerly) good friends.
Recently Victoria, terribly bored with our relationship (she ain’t seen nothing- baseball season is about to start), decided to look for another shared activity we could engage in besides daily conversations like this:
“Darling, did you read my blog?”
“Did you like it?”
“My mother really liked it.”
“I mean, alot.”
And so on. During her cyber travels, she found a strange place, which seemed to be open 24 hours in the middle of an industrial park by the name of the San Gabriel Valley Badminton Club. This island of athletic endeavour called out to us, like those baseball ghosts talking to Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams.
So we went. Of course, I got completely lost and we found ourselves driving past low-rise, deserted office blocks with asian signs out the front, Victoria screaming racial epithets – Jewish, not asian – at me as my humiliated tears slid down the steering wheel. But we found the joint eventually- there was a large sign in what may have been Indonesian lettering that had tiny English instructions underneath:
SGVBC CLUB. PARK IN BACK.
The place looked like an abandoned slaughterhouse. Although I saw the presence of many cars, we didn’t see a soul. It was a saturday night, around 1030 pm. I regretted not bringing that bag of heroin stashed in my closet to bargain with. This didn’t feel right. Victoria’s hand gripped mine as I eased my menacing Honda Accord 2007 manual transmission (the ’06 and 08 models suck) into the parking spot that was waiting for me.
“Are they expecting us?” I asked tremulously. Victoria’s glare told me it was probably just a vacant parking space.
We walked around the building toward the entrance. Finally, we saw some humans, walking to their car. They were carrying racquets of some sort (possibly badminton but I can’t be sure), sticking out of nylon bags, the contents of which were unknown to us. The adrenalin was surging through me as we went through the front door. A kindly portly gentleman greeted us. Despite being under suspicion of having devoured one too many of the sour cherry snacks on offer behind the counter, his photo was on the wall and I guessed that we may be in the presence of Badminton royalty.
“Um- hello sir. We have a ping pong table reserved?”
……. Okay. I guess at this point a confession needs to be made. I had noticed on the website that although the club was devoted to the art of the shuttlecock, it also had a table tennis room. And… yeah, I’ll admit it. The shuttlecock intimidated me. My god, the thing had feathers! How did it make its way through the air, and how on earth was I supposed to hit it? It was all too much for my sensitive, frail psyche; I had talked Victoria into first beating me at table tennis before she ploughed me like the dirt I am on the Badminton court.
It turned out that the club was merely tolerating the presence of ping pong, or table tennis as I reverently called it at the time. They had banished some old tables to a back room, jammed in there under faulty, buzzing fluorescent lights. We played our hearts out as a couple of very old men with very short shorts heaved and sweated it out next to us. Victoria and I slugged it out. Who won, I hear you ask? Uh- not important.
We enjoyed ourselves. Stepping into this place was like stepping into a different country. As I made my way through the facility, I spotted people reading Indonesian books and comics, drinking foreign beverages and having conversations containing not one lick of English. I realized that this was a social event as much as an athletic one, with entire families coming to play together. Teens were on dates. Parents sat with children and chatted.
Yet surrounding all of this was, without any doubt, a hardcore gym devoted to the violent, bloodthirsty gladiator sport that is Badminton. Banners abounded, trophies were everywhere and I found myself intimidated by the photos of past champions, staring grimly back at me. The courts were calling to me, and suddenly ping pong felt like a game for children. I felt my spine straightening, ready to evolve from ape to man, from paddle to racquet.
I returned to our ping pong table and threw my pathetic, pock-marked paddle on the floor. The room went silent, like an old saloon in the Wild West when a stranger comes to town. “We’re done with this game.” I announced to a breathless Victoria. “There’s a whole world out there!”, I screamed, pointing to the green pastures of the courts in the gym that lay waiting in the next room. Then Victoria and I strode out of there, past the stunned faces of the poor, hapless souls who were doomed to spend the rest of their neanderthalic lives hitting a ridiculous, featherless sphere over a table. Tables are for dinner, my friends.
So we returned last night, with our two friends, and went to war. In the interests of fairness to our out of shape, hopelessly uncoordinated mates, the score shall remain secret. Of greater importance was the fact that Victoria and I are now part of something larger than ourselves and at any time of the day or night you may find us in an old warehouse in a desolate industrial park in a distant Los Angeles suburb, surrounded by Indonesians, kneeling at the altar of the Shuttlecock.