Tag Archives: humor

Pickle Ball

image by Tom Cassidy

Friend:  “So what you been up to?”

Me:  “I started pickleball classes.”

Friend:  “Congratulations!

Me:  “It’s not a big deal…”

Friend:  It just means you are officially old.”

My friend may tease me all she wants.  We have been close since the mid-80s and she always has a spare bed or couch for me when I return to Minneapolis.  She is also right about the makeup of my classmates.  They are old but, as I learned, feisty and competitive.  Sharing informally before our first session almost everyone was describing and displaying the scars from their past life in real sports.  Most were former jocks: skiers, golfers, equestrians and tennis players, not to mention contact sport veterans.  All had succumbed to broken patellas, bad rotator cuffs, mangled meniscus’s, cracked ulna’s, slipped disks, hip replacements, fractured fibula’s, or pin-filled ankles.  The scars are their badge of honor.  They speak with an air of sadness and pride as they recount accidents and crazy risks undertaken in their ”hell for leather” days.

I started to say something about being a collection of broken toys but thought better of it.  Our pickleball class was a mix of beginners and intermediates.  It was high school all over again, and not in a good way.  Nothing like being tisk-tisked by a 75 year old grandmother because I was unable to learn the scoring system which was laid out by Hammurabi.  It became clear that I wasn’t there because of a competitive fire to compete. I never laid my body out on the gridiron for old Pennsauken High, reasoning that an institution that sanctioned bullying, assigned homework and detention was not going to get my 5’6” 125-pound body for practice fodder.  I hadn’t “earned my (bone) spurs” from a debilitating sports injury because I was always picked near the end. While decently coordinated, I was not as tough as my teammates even on our championship co-ed slow pitch softball teams in college.   

Our instructor (a former tennis player with an impressive scar running across her shoulder and upper arm) rode me pretty hard.  We were not just hitting a whiffle ball with a paddle.  Pickleball was a game of strategy, teamwork and occasional power.  After a miscue she raised her voice at me.  I didn’t respond, so she goaded me. “What’s the matter? Do I sound like your ex- wife?”  “No” I responded “You are actually much nicer.”  She smiled and while she continued to be firm it did not bother me. Besides learning to score, stay out of the kitchen (a pickleball court area), and move in tandem with a partner, I was happy to have the four week session end.  The group felt cold and unfriendly.

To my astonishment I re-upped for the second term in part because a friend was in it but I mostly because I wanted a Groundhog’s Day do over.  This group was much warmer and supportive.  They “got me.”  As I have done my whole life, I used humor to build bridges.  I was the foil for many of the instructor’s jibes: “Karen, come on, you’re hitting like Tom!  Racket up!”   A number of my fellow students spoke with me out of teacher earshot and thanked me for bringing lightness and humor to the class.  I am glad I stayed with it.   Perhaps some late life maturity is finally kicking in.

Tennis, while beautiful and requiring great skill, can be a bombastic grunting dialogue with an exchange of 100 mph serves.  It is often like cable news with two loudmouth blowhards trying to “hold serve” by screaming over each other.  Pickleball is a fun, challenging mental game.   A player may not cross the seven foot line (the kitchen) which runs parallel to the net and just slam shots back.  Pickleball is like the parry and thrust of fencing.  It is stimulating dinner party conversation with all participants encouraging each other.  After a long rally with many artful saves, all four players feel they have contributed and the point winner is secondary.  Pickleball is mysterious.  Every evening is not Camelot, but even the most competitive players seem to respond to the synergy that the sport provides.      

Tom H. Cook is always promoting something.  This month it is Netflix.  Huge in France  is a comedy series about a famous French comedian who seeks to escape the Parisian celebrity limelight.  He does too good a job and can’t get a break or a cab in L.A.  

A Sense of Humor

A sense of humor is a measurement of the extent to which we realize that we are trapped in a world almost devoid of reason.  Laughter is how we express the anxiety we feel at this knowledge.   — Dave Barry

I happened upon this Dave Barry quote recently and continue to chuckle over its wisdom.  I immediately related to the notion of being trapped and powerless.  Despite good intentions, many of us are, if not undone, at least dispirited by seemingly arbitrary and capricious rules, social customs, unreadable instruction manuals, faceless corporate entities, or the blatant wrong-headedness of fools in high places.

Reading the Barry’s comment again, my favorite word is “almost”.  There are malevolent and self-serving forces of greed, unfeeling enough to strip us of our civil liberties, natural resources, and our pursuit of happiness.  Failing at that they will inconvenience, insult, and, like ducks, peck us to death.  Barry suggests that the imps and scoundrels seeking to undo our lives are not quite up to the task.  Other times they just go too far.  Their naked ambition and self righteousness causes even the more obtuse of us to gasp and laugh at their audacity.  Barry’s “almost” allows for a blind squirrel to find an occasional acorn or the better angels of our nature to make an appearance.

We are not living in the “Bizzaro World” where everything is the dialectical opposite.  Life is not pie in the face slapstick, or broad farce.  There are rules, but they are often at cross purposes and contradictory to what we profess to believe.  We carry with us and have thrust at us a laundry list of “shoulds” and unrealistic self expectations.  A sense of humor is being able to identify and appreciate the gap between our mission statement and our practice.  Sometimes the difference is subtle and requires a sharp ear and a keen sense of the absurd.  The slick societal veneer that covers many value laden pursuits, whether it is patriotism, religiosity, or jingoistic community activism, can feel daunting to those who do not demonstrate the appropriate zeal.Why do public figures assume their audience has the intelligence of an ottoman?  Seeing through the clumsy sleight of hand and the diversionary foreign policy classic “Look over there!” is a mark of sanity.  Sometimes there is no pea under any cup.  Laughing and mocking “our betters” is positively cathartic.  If I am in a meeting or gathering of pointless solemnity, I will often throw out a harmless irreverent remark and see if there are any takers.   A stolen eye roll exchanged with a fellow heretic can seal a conspiratorial friendship.

Much of the humor in everyday life is not intended to be funny.  Are you squeaky Christian clean enough to withstand the next sex scandal?  Is your blue suit blue enough, and your lapel pin large enough to ward off a jihad of infidels?  Is a $40,000,000 bonus too paltry for a CEO who has laid off thousands of workers and steered his company into the rocks?  Humor is all around, often coming from the gallows.  Watch the speed of the wheels of justice in pursuit of an obviously guilty multimillionaire.  Where is the compassion for heretics by those who profess to be on the saved list for the coming rapture?

Humorists are like the poor street urchins of a hundred years ago, throwing snowballs at the top-hatted bankers.  It is amazing how little has changed since the heyday of J.P. Morgan.  In the end we may get skewered, but we need not buy the self righteous pap being doled out.

Dave Barry invites us into the funhouse to see the distorted, the grotesque, the comic.  His genius is that the mirror is regular glass.


Tom H. Cook is one of the seven people not attending opening day of Target Field.  Having skipped the past winter, he feels undeserving.