verbal tennis

"Good morning, my love.  Want to go play tennis?"  It’s noon and overcast.  A thick fog is everywhere.  I’m squinting.  I still have sleep-marks.  On my face, my arms, everywhere.  I’m tired.  Last night I sat in the rain at a Round Rock Express baseball game.  Minor Leagues, baby.  I had an umbrella and was planted in row 1, beside the Omaha dugout.  You know they have bathrooms inside the dugout.  I saw men zipping up as they made their way out to stand on the grass and swing their weighted bats.  One guy had calves that looked like small bulging  dogs.  Another, the bat boy, about fifteen years old, had a constellation of boils on his face, and he was chewing, "Is that dip?  He just spit something black from his mouth."
"No way is that kid dipping."
"Well it’s not Big League Chew in there."
The players, we learned, were chewing and spitting out sunflower seeds.  How healthy.  How outdoorsy.  How something you’d see in Austin.  Maybe it was their version of a sun-dance, asking for the sky to clear by soiling the earth with sunflower seeds.   It worked.  The rain stopped.   

Each time a player returned to the dugout, one of the young boys behind me would ask, "Hey number one three (instead of number thirteen), can I have your bat?"  Or "ball," or "autograph?"  I just wanted some of his sunflower seeds.  I didn’t know they even sold those things anymore.  I mean when’s the last you heard of someone buying seeds on purpose, someone without a green thumb?  Exactly.  I did, though, on some level, wish I had known someone throwing a Kentucky Derby party.  I much rather had been sipping a mint julep than the watered-down (sorry we don’t give out straws) Diet Dr. Pepper.  Though I will say, what a coup, having Diet Dr. Pepper on tap. This makes me think of the movies.

"Do I want to play tennis?"  Unless he means a game of verbal tennis, where questions are ponged until a loser is declared by answering something instead of questioning it, well, then, "How about a day of movie hopping?" 
"Don’t you want to do something active?"
"Don’t I have my period?  Didn’t I just take Pamprin because my body hurts?"
"Wouldn’t you fall asleep if we just go sit in a dark theater?"
"Isn’t that the point?!"
"So what do you wan’t to do?"
"Wanna go to the outlets to shop for end tables and nightstands?"
"What time will you be ready?"
"Ya mean how long do I need?"

And this is our rain-dance.  If it rains, it means I get to spend the day in the movie theater.  "Isn’t movie hopping ‘something active?’  I mean, hopping is involved, right?"  And usually so is Jack Daniels.  I’d bring bourbon as a nod to the derby. 



  1. Nobody eats sunflower seeds in NYC? That's odd. They are a great source of protein. Try the sunflower kernels too. Very tasty.

    Did pumpkin seeds die out in NYC as well?

  2. "Good morning, my love. Want to go play tennis?"

    I'm jealous.

    Unless you have to walk for miles to get there.

    Then I'm not so.

  3. its big leage "chew". not that brings back little league memories.

  4. Oh, Stephanie, sounds like you have the blues…

    Let me know if some of us Austinites can perk you up. A photog group I run is about to do a shoot on Town Lake to do reflective city scapes. You are welcome to come along…email me if you think you'd like it. We're a fun group, easy going…

  5. I've lived in S. Texas all my life and we always buy sunflower seeds to have in the house. Wanna snack? There's five bags of sunflower seeds in the pantry.
    Hill Country rain is a cleansing thing.

  6. Actually, chewing sunflower seeds is very common for major league baseball players due to the realization of the health hazzards of tobacco. If you watch a game, you'll see the dugouts littered with shells. Just sayin'.

  7. No straws. And at the Miami Heat games, they take the caps from your Diet Pepsi. Great, lemme shove my way thru the crowds with an open Pepsi bottle so by the time I get to my seat, there's none left. Or maybe they just want to win all those bottle cap prizes?

  8. O' yes…Sunflower seeds seem to be more Southern than I thought. Believe it our not, they come flavored too! BBQ, Ranch, Tabasco! You name it, the South has variety. I never realized this was specific to the South until I moved to Ohio. Talk about Culture Shock. You'll love the South….some say you should need a passport to enter because it's like another country. I agree.

  9. Thanks for a fun read. Well written.

    Loving the idea of verbal tennis. That's an activity at which I would excel. What happens if the first question is an ace?

  10. i used to live in the south. i grew up playing baseball with the boys in one of many fields that peppered our small town. baseball is so american… but really it is mostly so southern nowadays.

    and i used to go to the races. mint juleps sound delish!

  11. I once tried to fit an entire pack of big league chew in my mouth. i can't remember how successful i was, but i think i'd like to try it again. my jaw has grown considerably since i was 7 so i think i got this in the bag.

    verbal tennis seems mentally taxing. you're really smart for being able to continue it that long.

  12. I love going to the movies in the rain. It's also a good time of year to go to a drive-in movie(not in the rain though)

  13. I love the rain and the hill country needed it so bad. The whole state did.

    But isn't funny how sometimes rain is refreshing and rejuvinating and other times its dreary and depressing? I hope you have a great week, rain or sun. Wait a sec, weren't you just complaining about too much sun? Just asking.
    Smile, everyone in Austin is doing it cause they're all crazy.

  14. Honey, Jack Daniels isn't bourbon.

    And as far as the seeds go— had you been living in a part of nyc without sunflower seeds? Weird.

  15. Finally a coherent use of blogging. I have spent far too much time surfing the blogosphere (or is that blogasphere?), meeting the angst ridden "txt" corrupted whining of pre-pubesant teenagers. It was nice just to be lost from rainy Portsmouth (Southern England). It is my belief that the net is an opportunity for everyone to improve the quality of their experience by being able to communicate to a wider audience than the small milieu that would have received them otherwise. To travel for a moment to “beside the Omaha dugout”. Coincidentally the moment I finished reading the piece the rain stopped here as well. Thank you for the sun dance.

  16. We have sunflowers seeds up here in the Great North, too (Chicago, to be exact). During the summer, people are fond of eating them on the El and spitting the seeds out on the floor.

  17. I personally love sunflower seeds, but had never tried them before I began dating my Pennsylvanian-Dutch country-bumpkin of a boyfriend.

    Rainy days were meant for movies and naps. Period.

  18. as a ballplayer in NYC and still a reader of yours.. (although its seems we are dwindling).. Most of us do "spit" seeds.. its as part of the as glove oil, pine-tar and batting gloves.

  19. Here in Las Vegas, the average rainfall is less than 4 inches. PER YEAR! My best friend and I have a rain ritual. We sit outside on the porch and drink champagne when it's raining. Rain just feels like something that should be celebrated in the desert.

    I guess when I move to Austin I'll have to switch to diet Coke or risk being drunk on a regular basis.


  20. Speaking of movies, have you been to the Alamo Drafthouse yet? Where else can you watch a movie while sipping on Syrah and enjoying an antipasti plate or house cured salmon with goat cheese, red onion and capers?


  21. Where do people come up with this stuff? NY readers dwindling? i know i'm here and my friends are as well. Keep on writing and we'll keep reading.

  22. Now that I have quit smoking, I have to have something to get rid of the oral fixation, and between Extra "bubble gum" flavour and sunflower seeds, they do the trick. I spit 'em pretty far, especially when I play golf, and your tongue gets really talented after a while-you can be sucking on the salty shells in one side of your cheek, crush a single one with the back teeth, and your tongue manuvering that husk for a blur of a whisk out of your lips, hopefully finding a nice home on the grass.

    Can you tell it's been 3 years since I had a Camel light?

  23. When we lived in the gawd awful wilds of Wyoming (sorry Wyomingites – though I wonder if anyone in Wyoming ever heard of a blog…hm…), we used to have to drive really long distances to get to civilization (doctors, shopping, movies). I had 3 babies at the time, and was so tired there was always the threat of falling asleep at the wheel. But sunflower seeds – splitting them open one by one, and then peeling the skin off the kernal with teeth/tongue was a great way to keep just enough brain activity going that we never crashed. An odd memory for this rainy Monday morning. Thanks for sharing.

  24. "No straws. And at the Miami Heat games, they take the caps from your Diet Pepsi. Great, lemme shove my way thru the crowds with an open Pepsi bottle so by the time I get to my seat, there's none left. "

    As a NYer, I am alarmed when I read this. Here's my brilliant (j/k) suggestion. If they won't let you carry your soda with the cap on, bring a cap with you. I am increasingly alarmed by the number of Americans that cannot think outside the box.

  25. I own a pair of Coup d'etat heels I got for super cheap *which I love. I read recently that coo was now short/slang for coup. I like the play on it with cool too.

  26. Where did you read that 'coo' is the new short/slang for coup? (Professionally curious, I do a lot of copyediting.)

  27. Sunflower seeds (shelled) can add great crunch and flavor to many salads. So can fresh pomegranate seeds, when pomegranates are available (in the fall/winter in NY city). Yum.

  28. Alama Drafthouse is the best of Austin movie-watching. You watch the movie, and someone brings you food and alcohol!

  29. Yes, we read blogs in the Wild West of Montana and Wyoming. Ahem. Sunflower seeds are indeed a popular device for staying awake while driving endless ribbons of highway.

  30. Just wanted to confirm that there are still people reading in NYC!

    Also, I love sunflower seeds.

  31. Yay verbal tennis! Have you seen the movie Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead? It’s a film adaptation of a Tom Stoppard play. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern play a game of verbal tennis with each other on this indoor tennis court (amazing scene) and then attempt to play the same game with Hamlet, yet fail miserably. I’ve always wanted to have a game of verbal tennis with someone, but to date it has not happened.

  32. This is my first time visiting and i must say i like it very much.
    Your message was an interesting read.
    I will definetly come back here more often!

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