Wednesday, September 12, 2012

TENNIS!!

There's a lot to say about the past few days, but really, it's all about the tennis. One of the reasons I came to New York so much earlier than my usual October trip was so I could catch some of the U.S. Open tennis tournament. And when the force of nature that is my friend Scott said he'd come out too, that sealed it... we were going to the U.S. Open, the exorbitant cost of the tickets be damned.
in the Breslin
Scott had only been to New York once before and it was quite a few years ago, so we had a lot to fit into a long weekend. He arrived on a downright balmy Thursday night, and we headed to the Breslin which is a restaurant next to the Ace Hotel which I'd read about. It did not disappoint. Scott had the lamb burger of which I declined a bite, lamb being one of the only foods in the world I actively dislike, and while I thought about letting the Hendrick's gin with cucumber, celery bitters, and tonic serve as my salad, I did order a Caesar to go along with my beef and stilton pie. The menu is long on meat but short in general and the beef pie was really the only thing that called to me, and it was fabulous. A lovely little pastry full of rich, beefy goodness, with just a hint of stilton. The crust was made with lard I'm sure, cooked perfectly, and almost crunchy rather than flaky. It was very satisfying. It was late by the time we got back to Midtown, so we called it a night.

The next day we went on what Scott referred to as a "forced march" but which was actually a very nice walk. We took the subway downtown and had some crepes for brunch, then walked to and along the High Line before walking to the Empire State Building. Neither of us had been to the top before and we decided that was going to be the

afternoon's entertainment. After all sorts of dealings with the people selling tickets to the observation deck, we managed to get in, get up, and get outside on the 86th floor.  It was a little hazy out but the view of the rooftops of New York City is pretty awesome. After leaving the Empire State Building we did a little shopping and walked back toward my apartment and got a drink and a snack at one of the zillion restaurants in the neighborhood, and that made for a very full day of both walking and sweating, and really all we wanted after that was to shower and not walk anymore.

Which brings us to the tennis. We had tickets to the men's semi-final matches, both of which were scheduled for Saturday, so we got up early, got some bagels and coffee, and got on the subway to Queens. About forty minutes later we got off right next to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in the pouring rain. When I say "pouring rain," make no mistake, this was not a Seattle-style rain which might cause you to put your wipers on the second intermittent setting, this was a frikkin' downpour. But as we are not two people to stand around when we can keep moving, we left the wimps who were trying to wait it out at the subway and forged ahead onto the tournament grounds, clutching my umbrella (which was little more than a parasol) over our heads and pretty much getting soaked. In the ten minutes it might have taken us to get in, the rain became torrential.

The only time Scott needed this plastic poncho was to get back to his beer after buying the plastic poncho.

Murray playing Berdych
Play was clearly going to be suspended, but we weren't going anywhere. We had come this far and if by any miracle, tennis was going to be played that Saturday, we were going to be there and ready - so Scott did the only thing a person could do in such circumstances, he went and got us a couple of beers while I staked out a place on a lovely cushioned couch outside the Heineken Lounge. We were shielded from the rain by the overhang of the building and the giant patio umbrella we managed to unfurl, and we just sat there drinking beer at 10:30 in the morning, comfy as could be watching the rain pound down. And then came the tornado warning. They made everyone go inside for a few minutes while that passed, which it did, and then the weather gods finally smiled on us and the sun came out. In fact, it turned into a beautiful day. We made it into Arthur Ashe Stadium, our seats were pretty far back but practically dead-center of the net so we could see the entire court, and Andy Murray took on Tomas Berdych and won in four sets, despite battling through 30 mph wind (at times) on the court.

Scott being Scott. He can't help it.
After the first match, we wandered around a little and then went back for the second semi-final match to watch Novak Djokovik play David Ferrer, but that match was suspended after less than an hour as apparently the tornado was back in the neighborhood and the authorities were sending everyone home and closing the tennis center for the day. So back to the subway, back to Manhattan, and to John's Pizza for dinner. Scott made the smart call of vetoing the really bad Chianti the bartender let us taste and we ordered a pepperoni-mushroom pizza and two seemingly 12 oz. martinis instead. Luckily John's Pizza (the more touristy Midtown location, not the cool downtown location) is only three blocks from the apartment so the martinis weren't that dangerous... although I think... I'm pretty sure... we stopped at a bar on the way home. These things happen. 

Djokovik playing Ferrer
Filip Peliwo, junior boy's winner
And there was more tennis on Sunday. We got to go back for the postponed match, this time in sunny, spectacular weather, and even though Scott decided (and convinced me) that Djokovik is a "punk," and we were rooting (sort of) for Ferrer, I wanted Novak to win so I could watch Murray take him on in the final, and he did. This was another great day of tennis; we watched that entire match and were then walking around the grounds (possibly with mojitos but I'm not under oath here) when we heard that the junior boy's final was being played on one of the outer courts, so we made our way to court 7 and watched the final set of that, which had two 17-year-old smacking the shit out of a tennis ball with amazing force. The court was so small that we got to sit really close, just a few feet from the action, and we saw Filip Peliwo (whoever he is) beat Liam Broady (whoever he is) in some really fantastic play.
 
And then it was time to head back to get ready for "Spiderman, Turn off the Dark" - and the less said about that the better. We did stop at a hotel bar on the way to the theater for a couple of greyhounds, a couple of lobster rolls, and to catch the beginning of the ladies final but had to leave before it was over.

Spiderman is a spectacle, there's no denying that, but we both thought it was pretty forgettable. I don't really want to talk about it. There's a nice bar practically right next to the apartment's front door which makes a person feel a little better after shelling out outrageous dough to see Spiderman... the musical. Yeez.

And then it was Monday. Bagels from Zabar's and a walk in Central Park took us through the morning, and a turkey, Gouda, and pear sandwich took us through lunch, and then it was time for Scotty to get on the subway and head for the airport. And it was time for me to see if I should be doing some work, but it turned out there wasn't any work to do, so I killed some time until 4pm when the men's final started, and then proceeded to sit riveted on the couch in front of the TV for the next five hours. Really some of the best tennis played in a very long time (that I've seen, anyway). A killer tie-break to end the first set, a rally that went 54 hits, Murray up the first two sets - playing like a champ but Djokovik came back in the third, played phenomenally in the 4th, but Murray fought back in the fifth, fought back hard, and finally had his grand slam win. Scott was on his flight home during all of this but managed to set his DVR from his iPhone to record it, and texted me at 3am when he finally made it through the match.

It was a fantastic weekend. Sorry it's over, but my friend Molly arrives next weekend from D.C.... and she tells me she has a new favorite cocktail...