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Friday, November 08, 2002

News From Down There
A long break from blogging, but in my defense I’ve been sick, slammed, and slathered in Slavic. (That last bit was technically inaccurate, but I couldn’t think of anything sibilant that conjured up the image of Russian classes keeping me away from You Say Tomato.)

I realized last week that I have a bit of a doctor-phobia. It’s hard to understand, since I spend half my life in dentists’ offices arranging and undergoing complex procedures (I swear a random stranger stopping by the 15th floor of Seattle’s Medical-Dental Building would have a 1-in-5 chance of finding me in one of its many dental nooks and crannies with my mouth wide open), but in my 11 years in Seattle, I’ve probably been in a doctor’s office four times—all 5-minute visits ascertaining if I had Condition X (I never did). But, after at least five people asked me if I was sure I didn’t have walking pneumonia, I figured I’d better go and have this longest cold in history checked out. It was nice to discover that getting a doctor’s appointment and seeing a doctor is really not half as bad as having, say, a dental implant. (Know what’s blog hit candy: periodontic procedures. I swear half my Google hits come from folks searching for phrases like “gum graft,” “dental implant,” or “sibilant dentist.” Really.) Anyhoo, I don’t have pneumonia—walking or stationary. I just have a bad mofo of a cold.

It’s funny, but you can’t tell that I’m posting this from a sketchy hotel in Los Angeles rather than my usual Seattle lair. I flew down here this morning to interview a tennis player who appeared in the October GQ with her skirt tugged up around her crotch. Unfortunately, she suffered an unexpected loss this afternoon and was in a less than joyous mood afterward, so I came out of the journey with squat—so far. Still, her conqueror has one of the greatest comeback stories of the year and is a sort of Zen master of the court, so I sent off a quick pitch to my editor at Tennis to see if can scrape some benefit out of the schlep to California.

The weirdest thing so far is that I thought I had booked a hotel across the street from the Staples Center. Instead, I booked one a 15-minute stroll away. It’s only five or six blocks, but they’re sketchy blocks, the kind you don’t really want to wander around in after dark, which seems to happen around 5 p.m. here. Perhaps it’s that I don’t have a sense of the neighborhood—I stepped off the plane, into a taxi, and into the lobby without so much as breathing a lung-full of the home-town smog. Tomorrow morning I’ll go for a wander around and, I hope, get a better sense of the place. Maybe then I’ll be more sanguine about roaming around. Hmm, maybe sanguine’s not the best word choice in this context.

For the first couple of hours that I was in my room, there was an ice-cream truck outside playing ice-cream truck “tunes,” except that it was really just seven or eight notes repeated over and over and over. It reminded me of that great album by an Irish woman whose name now escapes me—I want to say Maureen Coughlin, though that’s almost certainly wrong—that had a song about the ice-cream man. It was a very long time before I cottoned on that “ice-cream man” meant “heroin dealer.”

Want to see something sad? This is the crowd at the Staples Center for this afternoon’s matches in the tour championships—the elite end-of-year tournament for the sport's top 16 players. This isn’t at 12:30 when the doors first opened and folks were still picking up their tickets; this is around 2 p.m. toward the end of an exciting upset win featuring one of those new sex symbols of women’s tennis we keep reading about. What’s more, the folks in the foreground almost certainly aren’t actual ticket-holders, since the section where I was sitting when I took it was the all-purpose holding area for press, volunteers, friends, and whoevers. So concentrate on the background …