Do the Right Thing…

I haven’t been here – on the page – since early January. It’s the longest break I’ve taken in 15 years. There are several reasons. M and I sold our condo and moved from the edge of Lake Washington to an apartment overlooking Puget Sound. Moving is not for the lazy or the weak. 

The University of Washington has a life events scale that rates the impact and stress of certain changes—the death of a parent, sibling or spouse, a serious medical problem, etc. Moving, it turns out, is near the top of the scale. Now I know why. 

Nevertheless, it was a great decision for us, and now that we’ve settled in we know it was the right thing to do. We pared down and cleaned out 25 years’ worth of stuff but are grieving the loss of the garden court M worked so hard to populate. We’ll also miss the pool, the park and the bike path, but Edmonds is a tight little town where we can walk everywhere. Lots of restaurants and bars, two blocks from the Kingston ferry, two blocks from the Center for the Arts where we have tickets to see The Wallflowers next month and our apartment is in a building with a wine bar downstairs. Almost perfect.

The other reason for my absence is that I’m 2/3 of the way through year-one of a two-year non-residential novel writing program at Stanford. I knew it would be challenging, but it’s also time consuming. Much harder to make up stuff than write about Trump’s failings or the last movie I saw. I’ve missed writing essays for the blog and it will be hit and miss for a while since I’m committed to the Stanford program. But I don’t want to stop completely, especially with the election looming in November. I plan to post more here in the near future…hopefully.

But the real reason I’m here now is to talk about failure. My own. I like to think of myself as a reasonable person, someone who is chill and above petty grievances. But lately I’ve let myself down and it’s not pretty. I think there’s a lesson to take away.

For almost 25 years I’ve played tennis with a group of guys on Monday nights. That’s right. Twenty-five years. It’s a long time. The group waxes and wanes. New people come in, some move on, and one or two have died. Earlier we fielded some good seasonal USTA teams in the various age groupings, and we were competitive as a 4.0 rated group. Over the years we slipped down to 3.5 and now we’re mostly 3.0. I stopped playing USTA around the time the pandemic changed everything else.

But, this isn’t about the quality of my tennis. It’s about letting myself get petty about something as stupid as a line call. Just writing about it is embarrassing. Here’s the backstory. One of the guys in the Monday night group cheats. He’s cheated for 25 years. Everyone knows he cheats. Anything close to the line he calls in his favor and he misremembers the score that way too. When it’s egregious we draw the line and he concedes. He is to tennis what Trump is to golf. Mostly we overlook it and go on to the next point, but for some reason I let it get under my skin last week. He’s been pissing me off for years and it’s been smoldering under the surface. Last week it boiled over. I’d had it and after a couple of bad line calls I called him an asshole and stalked off the court. How small is that? Two old guys playing recreational tennis having a shit-fit over a line call.

I know it’s a stretch, but it’s a tiny example of how everything seems to be going globally. The deaths of George Floyd. Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, and locally of Manuel Ellis and Native American woodcarver John T. Williams stand out. People are shooting and stabbing each other over trivialities. Cops are shooting jaywalkers and jaywalkers are shooting cops. National politics is a blood sport. Putin is killing thousands in an effort to restore the Soviet Union. Netanyahu has killed 32,000 Palestinians to avenge the death of 1200 Israelis, and Trump is calling for violence against anyone (except Aileen Cannon) that has anything to do with the justice system.

This  past Monday I sucked it up and apologized for losing it. He’s not evil, just a cheat. The apology probably wasn’t very convincing, but I needed to do it–for me if not for him. Do the right thing, as Spike Lee would say. I believe in cycles and maybe this one will pass but, like writing a novel, it’s hard to see the future from here. It comes down to personal responsibility. In a few years Trump, Biden, Netanyahu, Putin and I will all be gone. I hope the new blood will right the ship. Until then I’ll do my best to follow Spike Lee’s dictum. In fact, let’s all “Do the right thing.”


  1. Talking about death, Hansi Rigney called me this morning and said that Bob had died yesterday afternoon. Deep dementia, pulmonary fibrosis, and pneumonia at the end. It was all his body could take. I would stop by to see him often which always pleased him however after I would leave he wouldn’t remember I had been there.

  2. Thanks for bringing your writing back to a Facebook post. Funny how a trivial thing can over time boil over and we explode. I think that is a reaffirmation of being human and having feelings, and playing by the rules, whether it is a game of tennis, politics or just everyday living. Glad you have settled into Edmonds and seem to be enjoying it. Take care.

  3. Thank you, that was very refreshing to hear! It’s time that is a motto for all of us, it was when I was growing up and because people got selfish and small minded, everything changed! Continue to write about these small things that make us better!

  4. I’m still pissed off about a line call in high school. Cheating is unfair. Unfairness is wrong. Wrong is bad. Don’t condone it.

  5. Sounds like a good move in downsizing and also opting for the convenience. A win win situation in spite of the stressful move.

    Have fun doing the Stanford writing program. Good to see you back.

    Yes, you most definitely did the right thing.

  6. Jack B –

    They say that to make a friend you need to be a friend. Years ago, an opponent in a soccer match was being an asshole (a rough and dirty player). After knocking me down, he tried to help me up and pretend we were long lost buddies. I was non-plussed – I should have called him the asshole that he was, but didn’t. Instead, I blurted, “I am not required to be your friend!!” A silly comment perhaps, but I never did apologize despite seeing him in several matches in the years after that encounter.

    So, I admire you for apologizing. But I really think you should have said, “I apologize for calling you an asshole . . . but you’re still an asshole!”

    Yes, moving is hard. Karen and I have talked from time to time, over the course of 10 years or so, about possibly moving – but can’t pull the trigger.

    PS – isn’t there a community pea patch somewhere in Edmonds for M?

    Jack A

  7. You really really nailed it, Jack. The slings and arrows of outrageously uncivil discourse builds in all of us, and feeling stunned and powerless to reverse the course the country seems to be careening down —it boils over on to the tennis court ( albeit well deserved there). I look forward to seeing what bubbles up in your new novel. Meanwhile —your dispensing good advice.

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