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Quartet for the End of Time

January 15, 1941, a light rain descending on Stalag VIII-A: Jean le Boulaire on violin, Henri Akoka on clarinet, Etienne Pasquier on cello. The composer, Oliver Messiaen, plays piano. How to express the mystical truths of Catholicism in the rhythm of musical movement: bird song, Hindu talas, numerical formulas, ancient Greek meters, Gregorian chant. All […]

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Rene Lacoste: The Crocodile

Why “le croc?” “The machine” is a better nickname. That’s what Tilden called me because I sent every ball back like the ball machine I would invent in 1947. Invented the steel racquet, too, much later. From wood to steel. Another machine like those human beings in modernist paintings of Fernand Leger. I was called […]

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Vitas Gerulaitis: In Memoriam

Vitas practiced his weaknesses for hours on end: the second serve, cocaine. This week’s writing challenge: describe his hair. The result, a failure: lion locks Lithuanian in its riding of the rolling level underneath it within it surfers girls waves omg dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon* I want to touch it see it live again please live please […]

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Players Party at Baton Rouge

All the lines below are from 60-85 year old senior tennis players and their significant others. “Bone on bone.” “Both hips replaced.” “Bet this is the healthiest group of seniors in the country.” “We drive our RV together to tournaments, listen to books on Audible.” “I play for Chile at the Worlds this year.” “I […]

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Welcome to the Dance

The picture above is of Steve Stagg, who just built a clay court not far from my house in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It’s our favorite place to be. He is holding a copy of Paul McNamee’s book: Welcome to the Dance: Master Clay to Master Tennis. (I describe below a few of this book’s key ideas about […]

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Thirty Years in Marseille, Art by Arnaud Brosset

Click here to see all 30 years of anecdotes from the Open 13 Provence in Comics: Note: I wrote the piece below after reading through all 30 of Arnaud Brosset’s great comic strips in French (with a dictionary, of course). The links below for each player will take you to the corresponding comic strip. Thirty Years […]

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Li Na, China

On Painting Li Na: Some comments below taken from Debra Di Blasi’s emails to me: “It’s a bit socialist-art style, which I kind of like. (We have quite a bit of Vietnam and China socialist-style posters, prints and statues, so it was not a big leap.)” “The paper, by the way, is unbleached mulberry, which […]

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Pancho Segura, Ecuador

Rickets. Poor. Ecuador. Dirt. His two small hands sweeping, picking up balls at the Guayaquil tennis club while cruise liners sailed the ocean nearby. This bow-legged kid loved to watch them. Maricon, they called him. “Fairy.” Too small, too weak, so two hands on the forehand. He played and played until everyone wanted to hit with him. […]

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Steffi Graf and Mark Rothko

I picture her alone before a late Rothko painting, his darkening palette. Steffi’s favorite color was black. Rothko’s floating color field, “a universe for viewers they do not have in the real world.”  Black a type of protection, a barrier against stalkers, reporters, celebrity, noise. Black a tunnel, a cave, a hole, a portal.  The […]

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The Czech, Jan Kodes, Hears Whispers: “Beat the Russian. Please, Beat the Russian.”

With Soviet Union Forever! the propoganda posters shout. Propaganda Posters = Truth, the truth of propaganda posters. Jan Kodes the “son of an independent businessman—reject application to Secondary education!” Eventually the Czechs soften their communist principles. Kodes witnessed the result outside his window in August, 1968: a parking lot full of Russian tanks. Kodes one of […]