/ Stories / Theme / Stupid Stories, Personal Embarrassments /
I have lots of important writing to catch up on, but this morning an embarrassment from long ago is commandeering my attention. D’ja ever play squash? Wonderful game. But it’s not a spectator sport. I can’t imagine it ever becoming a popular sport. TV hasn’t exposed us to it. Its arena is exclusive, for the privileged: or at least for the servants of the privileged.
It’s a racket sport. By the early 1960s I was playing a little tennis, loving it. A casual friend offered me a squash lesson: meet him at the Yale Club. For once I’m a minute early. I identify myself as the guest of the guy, I’m expected, I’m directed to a squash court. I’m in my shorts, I’ve got a squash racket, a squash ball: and now I’m seeing a squash court for the first time, from either inside or outside. A court is like a prison cell, four walls and a tall ceiling. The wall opposite the entrance door had a line across it, reminiscent of a net. A strip of lead ran parallel to it, below it, a few inches above the floor. The floor was marked with rectangles and crosses, a couple of curves, like quarter-circles.
I didn’t know what squash was about. I’d come to learn that it was named onomatopoetically, for the dull sound the ball made on impact with the wall: a limp sound, the ball manufactured to bounce not much, unlike a tennis ball, a pingpong ball. I did know I’d be hitting the ball with the racket and that the front wall would be involved. I heard thunks all about me, from other courts, all in my row of prison cells. I instantly realized, this isn’t tennis. Before long one of my shots found the tin strip at the bottom of the front wall: clunggg! Ugh, awful sound.
I hear no other clings, no one else in the Yale Club was hitting the lead strip. I wanted something to aim at. I aimed at the line, I aimed above the line, I aimed below the line. I aimed at the lead strip. Ugh: nevertheless, I aimed again.
Him arrived, gave me a queer look. I got queers looks as we left, an hour later. But by then I understood: you don’t hit the lead: that means yu lose. And there I’d been: clunggg, clunggg, clunggg.
This morning, for the first time since 1963 or so, I heard those clungggs again. Ugh, so humiliated, so ugly. But what did I know?
So: a couple of times I played at the Yale Club, a couple more times I played at the Harvard Club and at the Columbia Club. A couple of times I played at the Columbia gym: once with a girl!
Understand, this was the early 1960s, there were females on the campus, there may have been a female or two at a lectern, more than a couple sitting in on a class, but zero in the gym: not in the men’s gym, not in the part where the athletics took place.
Did you know that a female witnessing an Olympic contest in ancient Greece was a capital felony?
Wanna read great stories about a spectacular guy? been called, with reason, the greatest of all athletes? Search for Hashim Khan, squash champ.
The Brits built the officers club in Peshawar, built the squash courts there, but then staffed it with locals, Muslims. Hashim’s daddy, and granddaddy before him, taught the squash to the English officers.
One of my favorite stories: an English officer shows up on a holiday weekend, says he’s looking for a game. (A game is typically played to twenty-one.) Hashim says, “There aren’t many players around this holiday, but I’ll play you.” “Nay,” the guy says, dismissing the little shrimp. “Tell you what,” Hashim offers: “I’ll spot you twenty points.”
Hashim beat him, twenty-one to nothing. Of course.
God, the world can be a wonderful place.
Oh, that girl, at Columbia, that one time. As we left the court, she said, “Thank you”: and fondled my bottom! Just what I’d been thinking of doing to her!
I think that was the first time I ever got goosed by a girl. I still wouldn’t get goosed by a guy for another decade.
Since then I’ve had my buttock fondled by a bunch of girls, never another guy, thank goodness.