The Pickleball Extravaganza

Yesterday afternoon, after dropping Caroline and Brooks off at the airport, I returned to my pet-ridden but otherwise empty house, and like a good canine stepdad, took KitKat to the dog park where she spazzed out with her patented chihuahua/Jack Russell berserko barking – high-pitched, frantic – perhaps off putting to the other dog owners. However, being dog lovers, they smiled at her, leaned over, and scratched her tiny head, understanding that dogs, like virtually all animals, are territorial.

Folly Dog Park

Unlike KitKat, the humans at the dog park are friendly, non-territorial. We know each other as acquaintances, and welcome newcomers into “our community.”

After I returned KitKat to the house, I decided to do a very not unusual thing, i.e., to ride my bike to Chico Feo for two or three (or as it turned out, in this case, four) low-alcohol Founders All-Day IPAs.[1]

When I arrived, the bar was pleasantly uncrowded. I conversed with my pals Mike and Francesca, bantered with the Irishman Jack, checked out Cory’s multifunctional Swiss-like army knife thingamajig, and talked Dharma with Megan, a poet, my Buddhist friend who through mediation is engaged in the very difficult process of dismantling her ego. She’s shedding intoxicants –­ ­not only alcohol and drugs, but social media, the World Wide Web itself, preparing to leave Folly to travel the world.

A band was setting up, and someone asked Solly, the greatest of bartenders, who was playing, and he said they were associated with the charity pickleball tournament being held this weekend at the Folly Beach tennis courts.[2]  Then, a bit later I spotted my pal Billy Grooms, the City Councilman, hauling a handsome trophy to be awarded to whoever[3] wins the tournament. It appeared that Chico was helping to promote the event.

Billy Grooms

Billy, a hip-looking fifty-something, seemed to be spearheading the tournament, and as a former manager of FM radio stations in the Columbia area, he’s an expert promoter. He sat next to me at the bar and rhapsodized about the salutatory effects of playing pickleball. As more and more tournament people filled the area in front of the bar, I joked that they had elevated the median age of Chico Feo by a decade or so, that I was feeling downright young, though that was hyperbole. Most of the patrons looked to be in their fifties of early sixties.

Billy likened the pickleball community to the movie Cocoon in which old hedonists fly off into outer space to recapture their youthfulness. Billy mentioned that the close quarters of the courts create a sort of intimacy as doubles partners face off at each other at close range. He extolled the camaraderie that pickleball creates, mentioning that opponents often engage in G-rated trash talking.

In other words, pickleball is a helluva lot of fun, not to mention great exercise.

Megan had spotted some young women across the bar dressed up as old folks, sporting white wigs and unhip attire, and wondered if they were mocking the pickleballers.

Although I was wearing a fedora, not a pith helmet, I immediately assumed my amateur anthropologist persona and went over to ask them what was up. “Noooo,” they chimed in unison in their pleasant upstate twangs, “we love pickleball.”

As it turned out, they were bachelorette party participants. One of the women, a short twenty-something in a white wig, assisted by another costumed woman on a stool, performed a magic trick for me with boxes and colors, and I dutifully played along. “Yes, green was the color I had chosen!”

All in all, it was quite a night at Chico with a much more wholesome crowd, some of whom seemed to have stepped directly out of a family friendly sitcom from the Sixties, Hugh Beaumont and Barbara Billingsley types. When one country club Republican-looking fellow shook my hand and said what a pleasure it had been chatting with me, I accidentally blurted, “Yeah, mon,” which perhaps confused him and made me feel slightly guilty.

Meanwhile, in front of the band stand, young couples danced with their toddlers. I warned Solly that now these wholesome folks had discovered Chico, they’d overtake the joint, displacing lovable territorial losers like I-and-I.

He shook his head like that ain’t ever going to happen.

Addendum: The next night I ran into the bachelorettes who had been in costume, and after reading this post, they wanted the world to know that they’re not twentysomethings but thirtysomethings. Whatever, they were a blast to hang out with. Safe travels, ladies.

photo credit Mikey


[1] Note to writers: the phrase “low alcohol Founders All-Day IPAs” is technically redundant because “low-alcohol” is implied in the adjective “all-day.” However, it sounds too cool not to say – low-alcohol Founders All-Day IPAs. I say ear music should trump over-rigid grammatical purity.

[2] Note, they’re called “tennis” not “pickleball” courts. Last week the NYTs ran a lengthy article about pickleball’s bourgeoning popularity and how traditional tennis players resent having their courts overtaken by practitioners of what they consider a bastardized version of their beloved sport. In fact, Megan, the Buddhist, falls into the traditional tennis category.

[3] In the a-foolish-consistency-is-the-hobgoblin-of-little-minds mode, I consider using the pronoun “whom” as a subject an almost unforgivable grammatical lapse.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s