Observations from Indian Wells Tennis Garden

 

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The view from the parking lot at IWTG.  Literally.

It has been a few years (3 maybe?) since I’ve gone to the tournament at Indian Wells.  Skipped because moving, then for Paris, and then because I had hockey tickets for a back to back that weekend.  So I missed all of the development that has gone on.  And there has been a lot, thank you, Larry Ellison.

First, Stadium 2 with its restaurants – Nobu, a steak/chops place, and an Italian/brick oven pizza place.  Each morning over the weekend, there would be a line of people to get in, because the seats are all good and the line up was excellent.  [Rafa Nadal and Fernando Verdasco played the Bryan brothers Saturday evening, and you can be sure that people staked out seats WAY earlier that the “no earlier than” start time.  Monfils, Mugaruza, a bunch of other good matches played there.]

Second, the Brita water filter stations at the base of both stadiums – best thing ever, far better than the limited water fountains I’ve seen elsewhere.

Third, the sheer volume of vendors is crazy.  Last time I was there, there was a big awning with a Corona sponsored bar.  Gone is Corona; now Moet et Chandon is in that spot.  Of course, there’s a different beer tent, and a RumChata tent, etc.  And the food vendors are better than average.  Ice cream, iced lattes, deli, seafood, CaliMex, salads, it seemed like you could find anything you wanted.  [Except maybe a ladies t-shirt in a size larger than XS or S.]

Actually, IWTG is the only sporting venue I’ve ever been to where the lines out the men’s bathroom are longer than the lines out the ladies’ bathroom door.  Uniformly.  More often than not, there was no line for the ladies at all.  I don’t know if it’s because the tournament designed the buildings with more stalls for the ladies or what, but I was totally impressed.

I saw some random matches, just because.  This time around, I went out of my way to see Inigo Cervantes, a Spanish player who was completely schooled by Raonic, just because I loved his name.  And Bjorn Fratangelo, who took a set from Djokovic.  Plus Venus and Serena and Andy and Rafa.  So glad to see Juan Martin del Potro back, even if he looked a little rusty against Berdych.

Also, because I’m a dork, I was thrilled that I got to use a line from one of my favorite TV shows ever:  “It’s raining in Indian Wells.”  It did! Followed by a dust storm.

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Huddled on the upper deck of Stadium 1, waiting for the rain and wind to stop so the Venus Williams – Kurumi Nara match could resume.

Actually, the dust was more noticeable than in the past because the wind was so high the whole time.  In fact, it was so cold and windy on Sunday after the first night match that pretty much everyone left…so the scattered fans up in the Loge were invited down courtside to watch Halep’s match, which I appreciated.  Driving back that night, I was confused by the haze in the distance that I could see off other drivers’ headlights; it wasn’t until I hit the highway and saw the dust/sand drifting that I realized what it was.

ETA: Anecdotally, the sentiment among fans there regarding Maria Sharapova’s drug ban/violation seemed *much* less forgiving or lenient than what I’ve seen on social media from fans, sponsors, etc. In short, most people seemed really skeptical about extended use of meldonium for a variety of reasons and not particularly sympathetic.  Sorry she’ll be out of the game for some period of time, but not like she deserved a pass for failing the drug test.

ETA #2:  on the tennis kits.  Rafa’s kit looks less turquoise in person than on TV, almost like a baby blue with a hint of grey.  The outfit Bouchard had was weird – the colors were fine but it looked like a babydoll nightie…or a maternity shirt. Serena looked amazing. When did Berdych leave H&M for Adidas? (Whenever it was, it was not soon enough.)  That fluorescent Adidas shirt the men are wearing was tolerable when paired with brown/khaki shorts but awful when worn with red shorts.  The ladies’ version with darker colors that Halep is wearing is not terrible.  

Some less tennis-oriented observations:

  • The price of gas at stations along I-10 covered a span from $2.23 to $2.89, with the highest being more than $1 more than it is where I live and the lowest still being $0.50 more. Is that all state tax?  Ouch, especially given how poor public transportation seems to be locally.
  • I meant to stop at In n Out since some people I know have raved about their burgers. But the only ones I saw were off the highway, at hours when either they weren’t open or I wasn’t hungry.  Next time.
  • The bright green and clearly foreign species of grass cultivated for golf courses and high dollar neighborhoods looks really alien. And confusing, given the long term drought; how is watering lawns a priority?  I passed a billboard that read “Dejalo ir. El marron es el nuevo negro.” [Let it go. Brown is the new black.] Accompanied by a graphic of grass fading from green to brown.  Nice🙂
  • The longer I live downtown in a city where good and sketchy neighborhoods commingle, the more confusing I find negotiating suburbia to be when I visit.  The number of gated communities was perplexing.
  • Pecan pie from Exquisite Desserts for Pi Day. Yum!
  • Oh, I forgot that See’s stores are a thing in the west.  I did not need to remember. See’s is dangerous for me.

 

 

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The Captive Prince trilogy – meh

At the library last week, the first and third books of the Captive Price trilogy were sitting right in the new/interesting releases.  I was sort of put off by the series history when they were first published by a mainstream publisher, but as free reads, sure.

They were very readable, in terms of easy flow of language and predictable plot.  As fantasy, they worked fine.  As erotic romance or any kind of romance, they were pedestrian; I didn’t believe or care about the protagonists’ relationship beyond the politics and plot.  HEA?  Eh, if you say so.

The bigger quibble for me was that they read like a single book that was broken into three pieces to sell more books.  If I’d paid for them, it would have seriously pissed me off, and prompted a return to the bookstore.  Since they were library books and were read during the commute, I don’t begrudge the time and there’s no money out.  But I doubt I’d bother to read more from the author.

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February’s reading

My reading is trending up!  No genre romance in there, but still.

  1. Brotherhood in Death by JD Robb.  I was tempted into buying this because Dennis Mira is mentioned in the blurb and I like that character.  He’s pretty tangential to the plot though, once the mystery is introduced.  Not great editing (Morse or Morris?, etc.).  Also, chain of evidence is a thing; prosecutors generally don’t handwave it away because it’s inconvenient.
  2. Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold.  I was pretty disappointed by this book.  At last, another book in which Cordelia is the protagonist. But instead of adventures or any actual plot, this is basically a domestic book in which she sits on the sideline while others grow/change/make major decisions.  All of her change or growth and decision-making was done before the book opens.  It’s really frustrating to me that Miles got to have personal growth + adventures while Cordelia gets neither of those on the pages of what is ostensibly a book about her.
  3. Day Shift by Charlaine Harris.  Library book.  Eh.
  4. Wood by Jordan Castillo Price.  Very short novella.  If this were fanfiction, I’d label it as PWP.  I’m not really sure what the point was, and if I had realized that there was no actual plot, I probably wouldn’t have bothered even at the $0.99 price point.
  5. Who Buries the Dead by C.S. Harris.  Another library book.  This series works better for me when I don’t read them back-to-back.  Liked the appearances of the Austen family and the mention of two Austen books.
  6. The Joy in Half A Cookie by Jean Kristeller.  Nonfiction.  Interesting and thoughtful, there are some things that I find useful in terms of how I think about and go about my own food choices.  But I’m never going to be a half a cookie person, unless I’m splitting it with someone.

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Full Disclosure?

Scrolling through the new release post for the week over at Dear Author, I hit one contemporary titled Full Disclosure and my brain made a full stop.  I’m sure it’s a fine book and the title makes sense in the context of whatever the plot is.  But all I can think of is “full and fair disclosure”, which totally kills any kind of romance or sexy vibe that it might have been going.  [Unless maybe you work at the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance.  Which, okay, go you.  But not me.]

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A new comic book and gaming shop opened late last month.  There has been a sign in the window since maybe November announcing that it would open; it took over the premises of what used to be an antiques shop.  I stopped in today to see if they had any of the Rivers of London comics in stock.  Not currently but an edition is coming out in two weeks, so they put me down for a copy.

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I’m almost all the way through binge-watching The West Wing on Netflix.  Man, all the male characters are prone to pedantic asshole behavior and constant disrespect for the judgment and expertise of the female characters.  CJ Cregg is awesome, but she wibbles about men pretty regularly and is lied to and underestimated on the regular by Leo, Josh, Toby, and the president; only Charlie seems exempt.  Donna stays Josh’s secretary way too long and he punishes her professionally because she decided she was qualified to do more than take his lunch orders – after she tried repeatedly to explain to him that she wanted more out of her job/professional life but he ignored it because it was inconvenient.  Dr. Bartlett, who admittedly violated state laws, is punished far more and criticized more than her husband, the one who actually was the public official who failed to disclose his serious, life-threatening illness.  Ugh.

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Afterthought:  I opened a book at random on my Kindle while on the elliptical.  It was Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews, a series whose voice/tone I like but which is riddled with continuity blips and rather poor copy editing IMO.  And a passage struck me in this book:  Evdokia mentions Kate’s mother attending her own mother’s funeral.  Except, wait for it, in the most recent book, Kate is told by her father than her maternal grandmother is alive and in Seattle.  Now, maybe he’s lying.  But the continuity blips have been bad enough through the series that I’m not willing to assume that they intentionally wrote him as lying rather than making another blip…again.

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The new Bujold book

When the new Vorkosigan book, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, was announced last year, I pre-ordered a hard copy for my brother-in-law.  He likes first edition hardbacks and there was a limited signed edition, so…  When his copy arrived last week, I quickly mailed it to my sister to squirrel away as a gift.  And then I downloaded a Kindle copy.

Although I pre-ordered and ordered copies, I didn’t actually read much about it.  Jole was obviously the fellow from earlier books, Aral Vorkosigan’s aide de camp, and the Red Queen would be Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan.  Set after Aral’s death.  But other than that?  Eh, I didn’t need to know.

I feel like maybe I had *expectations* for this book.  It isn’t a badly written book by any means.  It works as a bookend for the series, in the sense that it takes Cordelia back where the series began, Sergyar, and addresses topics came up in the first and second books but were left fallow when the series concentrated on Miles rather than Cordelia and Aral. [I could say a lot more about that but it would involve serious spoilers.]  But I kept waiting for an external plot to match the internal one, and it never happened.  As Miles went about becoming Admiral Naismith and then Auditor Vorkosigan, he got adventures to go along with the personal growth, while this mostly had Jole’s personal growth/change with Cordelia as…not puppeteer but conscience-nudger, maybe?

I don’t know.  I think I’m going to have to read it again.

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Noped right out of that

A bundle of hockey romances was recommended by a reader whose taste I generally trust, who has recommended sports-themed romances in the past that were okay.  And the bundle cost $0.99, so what was the harm?  I started the first book, but nope.

To start with, the heroine was a spineless cliche.

Next, book was set in Chicago.  And the team?  The Chicago Wolves.

The Chicago Wolves are an actual team.  Located in Chicago, they are the AHL minor league affiliate of the St. Louis Blues.  And they are the very first return when you search “Chicago Wolves” using Google.  They have a Wikipedia page.

Except the team in the book was clearly meant to be an NHL team. Because of the implied wealth of the hero (spendy watch, throwing cash around, apartment on Lakeshore, etc.), he was not on an AHL or two-way contract.  Plus, the team plays the New York Rangers.  And the player is gearing up for the playoffs and the Stanley Cup.

No.  Just no.  Do not name your fake NHL team the exact same name as an existing minor league team in the same general metropolitan area.  It’s lazy and sloppy.  If the author couldn’t use the Blackhawks (actually located in Chicago) as her team for trademark reasons (or other legal reasons), why not do a modicum of research about the names of other actual hockey teams?

Beyond that, the team wore red, brown, and black jerseys….coincidentally, those are the colors of the Blackhawks’ (racist) jerseys.  The jersey colors made me wonder if the hero was originally written as a Blackhawks player but then edited to be other for trademark/legal reasons.  Which also made me wonder about the origin of the book (RPF?), but not enough to waste time doing any research.

The other books in the series (brothers, I think) might be better, but nope, I’m done.

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Last week Courtney Milan asked a Kirkus Reviews blogger some pointed questions about race/diversity in romance following a post by said blogger.  One of them was about the whiteness of athletes in sports romances.  (Check out Milan’s blog and Twitter for a really frustrating/disturbing example of structural racism and willful ignorance.)  Tangentially, it occurred to me that I don’t remember there being many hockey romances in the past. [It’s entirely possible that my memory is failing or that there is a plethora of older hockey romance out there that I missed.]  Some baseball and football, but the only hockey I remember were Rachel Gibson’s books.  But hockey seems popular now…possibly because it is the whitest professional sports league in North America?

While there are some POCs in the NHL, most of them are not huge stars or widely reported about, except when there’s something negative to be said.*  The exceptions being probably PK Subban (Jamaican) and Carey Price (First Nation), and I don’t think any team has more than two players who are POCs.

I went and looked at rosters after typing that last sentence.  MTL has Price, Subban, and Devante Smith-Pelly, so one team has three (\o/?).  San Jose has Matt Nieto (Mexican-American) and Joel Ward.  PHL has Wayne Simmonds and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.  Buffalo has Evander Kane.  CBJ has Rene Bourque (Metis) and Seth Jones.  NJD has Jordin Tootoo (Inuit). NYI has Kyle Okposo. Pittsburgh has Trevor Daley.  Tampa Bay has JT Brown.  Anaheim has Chris Stewart. Arizona has Anthony Duclair. Colorado has Jarome Iginla.  Minnesota has Matt Dumba.  Dallas has Johnny Oduya.  Edmonton has Darnell Nurse.  Los Angeles has Alec Martinez (Latino) and Jordan Nolan (First Nation).  St. Louis has Ryan Reaves. Vancouver has Emerson Etem.  Winnipeg still has Dustin Byfuglien…for now, but his contract talks are apparently not progressing.

These are just the visible POCs, and the list doesn’t include any players who might “pass” but are not necessarily of WASP/Caucasian/European descent, like Brandon Saad (Syrian), Mika Zibanejad (Swedish-Iranian), Nail Yakupov (Tatar Muslim), Nazem Kadri (Lebanese), or other First Nation, Metis, or Indigenous players.

It looks like there are eleven teams with no POCs on their current, active rosters: Detroit, Boston, Carolina, Florida, NY Rangers, Ottawa (unless you consider Zibanejad), Toronto (unless you include Kadri), Washington, Calgary, Chicago, and Nashville.  Maybe they have POCs in their affiliates; after all, off the top of my head I can point to two more Subbans in development at the affiliated minor league teams for Boston and Vancouver, plus Josh Ho-Sang (whose rocky relationship with Hockey Canada and the NHL could get 1,000 words of its own), Jaden Lindo, and Andong Song (the first China-born player to be drafted, currently playing in New Jersey at a prep school).  Auston Matthews, widely expected to be the first pick of the 2016 draft, is Mexican-American.  But that handful above, 25 out of approximately 650 players?  So very white.  And thus “safer” as a sports setting for mainstream romance?

Right now, I want someone to write a hockey romance with a POC hero.  Or – hah! – a POC hockey heroine (Blake Bolden! Julie Chu!).  I would read either of them!  Both of them! And buy copies to hand out to every hockey fan I know and to non-fans who are just readers.

 

*For example, Byfuglien was suspended for a crosscheck to the neck but Marc Staal has done the same or worse repeatedly without even a side-eye from DoPS.  Brandon Dubinsky did the same thing and got a single game suspension in comparison to Byfuglien’s 4 games.  Was his crosscheck objectively worse than theirs?  I don’t know, they all looked bad to me.

 

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So bored with this winter weather event

So I went to work on Friday, with a bag packed in case I decided to stay in DC.  There were a grand total of three people in my end of the building.  In fact, I had no idea there were as many as 100 people (out of 2,000+) in the office until 12pm, when the building closed and everyone except security was expected to leave.

In the end, I decided that I’d rather be snowed in at home, where I could be bored among my stuff for entertainment rather than in a hotel or couch-surfing.  Which is just as well, since the Pens-Caps game was postponed.  Actually, I was kind of entertained by the email that the Marc Train/MTA sent out in the afternoon (before the ANA-Caps game was postponed) that basically said, “The last train out leaves at 7:40p. We are not holding it for the Capitals game.  Be on the train or find your own way home in the snow.”  Not literally, of course, but that was the subtext as I read it.

So I took the 12:20p train home, which was PACKED.  When I boarded at 12:05, the last of the seats were being taken and by the time it left the station, the aisles were impassable in some cars and the vestibules were full, too.

Got home in time to run a couple of errands, including a run to Cafe Poupon for emergency rations.  (Seriously, croissants make being blizzard-bound so much better.)  They were closing early and were pretty much cleaned out of everything.  The only croissants left were ham and cheese (fine by me), with a few other pastries and a couple of quiches.  Lorelei said they were surprisingly busy, mostly people stocking up.  (Hah! I’m not the only person who likes to have Emergency Croissants on hand.)

Charles St in snow

Standing in the middle of Charles St., no cars to be seen.

I went out Saturday when NOTHING was moving except the snow.  I stood in the middle of Charles Street and probably could have made a snow angel without worrying about being run over.  The major streets had seen a plow (plough?) at least once but two or three inches of snow had accumulated since, and most of the cross streets hadn’t been touched.  On Sunday, I cleared the 20″ of snow that had accumulated on my balcony.  The power went out in my building; it was weird because everyone lost power to the stove and microwave and kitchen lights, but not to their hot water heaters, refrigerators, other outlets, etc.  BGE took care of it pretty promptly, which I appreciated.

snow pile

You have to walk in the street to get to the sidewalk on that side of the street. But the city said not to shovel into the street, so piles are going to appear on corners.

Today the streets are slightly better, and a fair amount of sidewalk has been cleared.  Feeling stircrazy, I walked down toward the harbor, and ended up having lunch at Cazbar (I’d highly recommend the pumpkin soup).  There are two lanes cleared on most of Charles Street.  Which would be great if people didn’t keep trying to park in a parking lane that isn’t clear yet, effectively reducing traffic to about 1.5 lanes.  There’s a giant snow pile on one corner that’s at least 9 feet tall.  Monument Street has not been cleared at all. I’m hoping that things will be closer to normal tomorrow.

Stuck

There is actually a car hiding under all that snow. It’s plowed in on the street side and shoveled in (the sidewalk was very well cleared by the business owner) on the sidewalk side. And the temperature has been high enough to cause melt, followed by freezing overnight. That’s not going to be fun to dig out. Unless maybe it gets towed, but I’m not even sure how they’d get it out to tow it.

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