Senescence

My pithy observations on maturity and the art of getting older…

Photo by Trang Pham from Pexels

We open our book of life to see there are not very many pages left.

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A great antidote to depression or melancholy is the comforting smile of a young child.

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As years grow longer, handshakes, hugs and kisses among friends are stronger.

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Those who are truly happy, if offered a chance to enter a time machine and go back to relive their lives, would decline and say, “I would not change a thing.”

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Songs trigger old memories—-some bring a smile, some bring a tear. 

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We wear fatigue like a thin blanket hanging loosely from our slightly stooped shoulders.

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One’s definition of “success’ matures with age. Success becomes not so much what one has but what one did with what one had.

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Past events that seemed so embarrassing and foolish then are accepted with a wry smile and a forgiving heart now.

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Add 20% to the time it usually took you to complete routine duties like taking out the trash, going grocery shopping, finding your keys and climbing the stairs.

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What we miss surpasses what we look forward to…

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Women retain their desirability by their humor, laughter and conversation; men by simply listening.

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Our nightmares are not events that could happen but did happen.

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What often frightens the young, amuses the mature.

Poor White Boy from South Camden Memories

I have referred to myself as a “poor white boy from South Camden” when describing my early youth (ages 0-10). I lived with my parents and grandparents in the same house. My sister was born when I was three years old. My grandfather died when I was six and my father passed away when I was seven. 

Camden was a different city than it is today. In 1960, when I was seven, “white flight” had not yet started. There were stores, bakeries, professional buildings and doctor’s offices on Mt Ephraim Avenue and on Broadway. I even remember a movie theater in the center part of Camden.  Crime and poverty were not as prevalent as it would become. I lived in a three bedroom, two level very modest home on Morton Street, located within South Camden, till I was eight or nine. The area was referred to as “Polack town”, where many Polish immigrants and their families settled.”With my mother, grandmother and sister, we moved to Sheridan Street which was about four blocks from the Morton Street residence. The house on Morton Street burned down sometime in the 70s or 80s I believe.

Listed below are some of my memories of living in South Camden (1952-1962):

Neighbors sweeping the streets and sidewalks with brooms of any trash or garbage. The streets were spotless. Everyone policed their own areas in front of their homes.

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Reading Sergeant Rock and Superman comics while waiting to get my haircut from a barber at Whitman Park.

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Walking home from St Joseph’s Grammar School located on Mechanic Street, about a 1.50 mile trip one way. My mother did not drive and there was no bus so I walked home all the time. No problem in nice weather. Problem walking in bad or snowy weather!

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I walked home from school during Hurricane Donna in 1960. Since my mother did not drive, I had to walk home through the start of the storm. I remember nurses from West Jersey Hospital stopping me on Mt. Ephraim Avenue trying to get me to come inside the hospital but I was concerned that my mother would worry where I was or whether I had gotten hurt in the storm. Scary walk as I was concerned about power lines coming down as the wind gusts were strong.

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Listening to Joe Niagara, Bill Wright, Sr, Hy Lit and other disk jockeys on  WIBG-AM on my transistor radio.

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Playing music on 78 and 45 RPM records.

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Very uncomfortable summer days and nights of heat and humidity. No air conditioners, just fans in the house.

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Buying and eating babkas and chruscikis from Morton Bakery down the street.

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Bottles of milk being delivered to a mailbox on the front porch by a Sealtest driver.

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Eating and enjoying cheese, sauerkraut and potato pierogis made by my grandmother.

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The horrible smell of my grandmother making kiszka (blood sausage) that literally made me gag and run from the house.

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Playing little league baseball at Whitman Park. My first team was sponsored by the PACC (Polish American Citizens Club). I remember the parade through South Camden streets when the baseball season opened up.

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Being taught Polish in school. (As an aside, I never learned the language though my grandmother spoke it all the time. Her English was very broken.) My grandfather did not speak any English.

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I vaguely remember being in some type of second or three grade play where I played Johnny Jump Up (?) Surprisingly my acting career never got off the ground.

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Parades on Red and White day down Mt. Ephraim Avenue from the grammar to the high school to celebrate St Joseph. I remember the St Joe’s High School cheerleaders dressed in their red and white uniforms and pompoms. I guess other events took place but I still remember the cheerleaders.

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First girlfriend—age 7: Robin. She had blonde curly hair and blue eyes. Year younger than me but she spoke Polish. Age difference killed our relationship.

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Pulaski Day parades with bands and other marching starting at the Radio Condenser building and going past my house on Sheridan Street.

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Watching St. Joseph High School football at Farnham Park. I remember a caravan of cars with red and white streamers honking on the way to the game and if St Joe’s won, honking after the game and driving through town to celebrate. Back then I rooted for St Joe’s when they played Camden Catholic. A few years later that changed.

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Buying and trading baseball cards with my school friends. A pack of cards cost a nickel and you got a stick of gum too!

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Buying Yum Yums (water ice) from the Yum Yum man. He was usually drunk when he biked up our street with his cart. Sometimes he forgot to get paid. I was partial to cherry and orange flavored Yum Yums.

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Walking behind a Mosquito Control truck as it went down the street fumigating the area with a cloud of dangerous chemicals. All the kids on the block did it. No one stopped us.

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While playing football with my friends at Municipal Hospital (off Cope Street), Jersey Joe Walcott, (who was Camden’s Director of Public Safety and former boxing heavyweight champion) pulled up to where were playing with four police cars filled with men carrying shotguns and other weapons. Scared the hell out of us as we were trespassing on hospital grounds but Jersey Joe and the police officers were looking for escaped convicts who were spotted where we were playing. Jersey Joe asked if we saw anyone. We didn’t. He and the police left. We resumed our football game.

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Playing half ball, wall ball, wire ball, wiffle ball, stick ball and box ball at Stanley Klish’s (classmate’s house. (Coincidentally, my future wife and her family lived on the street and my future wife may have even played in some of the games. We have no memory of each other though we remember the games. She also went to St Joseph’s but we were in different classes.)

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Another coincidence: My wife and I were both baptized and married by the same priest (Father Ed Korda).

First Communion Picture 1960: Me, Stashu (best friend) and my sister, Sandra–side of the Morton St. house

Book Review: Hoax by Brian Stelter

So there is a resistance movement within Fox News! Good to know! Today it was on display as many Fox “journalists” defended Jennifer Griffin after Trump wanted her fired after her sources revealed that certain allegations in the recent Atlantic article were confirmed by her sources. Trump accused our military dead, injured and POWs as being “losers.”

Fox Heroes: Carl Cameron, Shep Smith, Neil Cavuto, Chris Wallace and Brett Baier

Fox Zeroes: Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Jeanne Pirro, Lou Dobbs, Bill O’Reilly, Eric Bolling, Kimberly Guilfoyle

Listed below are some sections from the Stetler book to give one a taste of what it covered and was about:

The day after his on air powwow with Hannity, the president called the host with a question; “How did we do?” Hannity knew that the real meaning of the question was “How did we rate?” pg. 5

Hannity chose this life, so no one felt sorry for him, but the stress took its toll. “Hannity would tell you, off off off the record, that Trump is a bat shit crazy person,” one of his associates said. Another colleague concurred; “Hannity has said to me, more than once, “he’s crazy”. pg. 9

Most Americans knew that Trump was on trustworthy, but the Fox base still trusted him. They also trusted Hannity, who dismissed “coronavirus hysteria,” and Laura Ingraham, who called Democrats “the panDEMic party” and Watters , who said, “I’m not a bit afraid of the coronavirus and no one else should be that afraid either.” pg. 12

It’s worth stating the obvious here: Trump’s entanglement with Fox has no historical precedent. Never before has a TV network effectively produced the president’s intelligence briefing and staff the federal bureaucracy. Never before has a president promoted a single TV channel, ask the hosts for advice behind closed doors, and demanded for them to be fired when they stepped out of line. pg.22

Here’s what everyone should understand about Fox’s relationship with Trump, a former Fox and Friends producer said: “People think he’s calling up Fox and Friends and telling us what to say. Hell no. It’s the opposite. We tell him what to say.” pg.43

What works (at Fox): 

  • Stories about undocumented immigrants killing Americans
  • Stories about citizens standing up to the government bureaucracy 
  • Stories about college students disrespecting the flag 
  • Stories about hate crime hoaxes 
  • Stories about liberal media outlets suppressing the truth 
  • And whenever possible stories involving attractive women pg.50

Sex is what Ailes (Roger) wanted, and sex is what he got. He used his power to enforce the short skirts and “leg cams” and exploitive segments that kept men watching. He also abused his power by preying on dozens of women, including Gretchen Carlson, who hatched a plan to hold him accountable. Ailes downfall would coincide with Trump’s takeover of the American right. (pg.51)

(Kimberly) Guilfoyle’s cheerleading for Ailes confused some staffers, since Ailes was known to be dismissive of her in private. According to unsubstantiated allegations in a lawsuit filed by former Fox co host Julie Roginsky, Ailes once said to her that Guilfoyle would “get on her knees for anyone.” pg. 67

In private, during the 2016 primaries, (Carl) Cameron likened Trump to a con man and reminded people of all Trump’s documented fraudulent activity. He pointed out that Fox was owned by Murdoch, a phenomenally successful businessman who built a global media empire, while Trump merely sold his name to other people’s projects. pg.123

Rounding out the five was a “hot chick,” and in Ailes’ words — – two actually, Kimberly Guilfoyle and Andrea Tantaros, who took turns sitting at the end of the table so the wide shot shot showed off their legs. That was the “leg chair.” pg. 139

(Ailes) always wanted a certain southern beauty queen look from the women on his channel. Sometimes (Suzanne) Scott would convey his messages directly, by telling new hires to “let hair and make up do their job.” She wanted more glam, longer eyelash extensions, shorter skirts, bronzer legs. Some of the Fox make up artists called it the “Barbie doll look.” pg. 143

Poll after poll showed that Fox viewers were less concerned about the virus than average consumers of other news sources, strongly suggesting a linkage between the networks’ commentary and the audience’s beliefs. The Knight foundation and Gallup found that 57% of respondents with a “conservative news diet” believe that the new virus was less deadly than or as deadly as the flu. pg. 306

Aphorisms for the Trump Era

I have a dislike for most political memes that are so popularly posted on Facebook and other social media. So many are crude, misleading, poorly written and contain doctored and photoshopped images and pictures. These memes are not meant to inform but inflame, frighten and mislead. What’s worse is that these memes are shared and spread like a cancer. An example of such a meme is described below:

If bullshit doesn’t come to a halt, you will see 83 million gun owners walk out of their homes like this. (picture of masked man carying a rifle and dressed in fatigues).

I am a collector of timeless aphorisms. Aphorisms are short, pithy observations, opinions and thoughts created by (mostly) wise and observant people, not by bots and trolls in their cellars.

Here are a few aphorisms that may have been written a century ago are relevant to what we experience today…

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

H.L. Mencken

 “Holders of power, almost inevitably desire their subjects to be emotional rather than rational, since this renders it easier to make those who are victims of an unjust social system contented with their lot.”

Bertrand Russell

“America is a pot that’s melting.”

John Alejandro King

“The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.”

Dante Alighieri

“A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves.” 

Bertrand de Jouvenel

“We don’t collect news to inform us. We collect news to affirm us.”

Frank Luntz

“The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”

H.L. Mencken

A politician thinks about the upcoming elections, a statesman to the next generations.”

James Freeman Clarke

“The man who is always waving the flag usually waives what it stands for.”

Laurence J. Peter

 “Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other.”

Oscar Ameringer

“The only valid political system is one that can handle an imbecile in power without suffering from it.”

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

“Democracy the domination of unreflective and timorous men, moved in vast herds by mob conditions.”

H.L. Mencken

“The flag does not identify the nation, it identifies the wind.”

George Murray

RIP The “Process” 2013-2020

Some thoughts on the 76ers and what’s next:

The 76ers are a high priced street pick up team. There were so many mistakes on personnel decisions. Not sure why they did not move heaven and earth at the end of last season to keep Jimmy Butler. This season, there was no “go to guy” when you needed a critical basket at the end of a game.

This year’s NBA draft offers little relief. Even with high draft picks, the 76ers have really mucked it up. Remember Michael Carter Williams, Nerlins Noel, Jahil Okafor, Timothy Luwawu-Cabarrot, Landry Shamet and Markelle Fultz (instead of Jayson Tatum)???

The NBA East has four of the best coaches in basketball. Brad Stevens (Celtics), Nick Nurse (Toronto), Erik Spoelstra (Heat) and Mike Budenholzer (Bucks) are far superior coaches than Brett Brown. Good coaching usually manifests itself after halftime and particularly in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter. Sounds like the 76ers never bought in to Brown’s substitutions patterns or to his strategies when games were on the line.

Did anyone watch the Clippers-Mavs game that followed the 76ers-Celtics today? Is there anyone who would rather have either Embid or Simmons than Luke Doncic?

I am not interested in any “retreads” to coach the 76ers if they release Brett Brown. So I’m not interested in Jason Kidd, Tyronn Lue, Mark Jackson or Luke Walton. I might be interested in a certain local college coach who has demonstrated the ability to win the big game (twice) and might be looking for a new challenge. It also helps that his players do well in the NBA draft and in competition.

The right of first refusal to the 76ers job if Brett Brown is released is Jay Wright.

The Old Man and the Read

A mark of an educated man or woman is to employ an expanded vocabulary in their speech or conversation. A mark of a very educated man or woman is to know the appropriate times to employ the expanded vocabulary to a particular audience.

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I always thought that I had a book within me that I could write and publish. But after recently reading My Mistake: A Memoir by David Menacker, a book about the author’s experiences in various roles in the publishing world, I am now disimbued of that ambition.

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I am also reminded of an adage from the great Christopher Hitchens about people who want to write a book: “Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.”

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I am a huge fan of good journalism. And despite all the outcries of “fake news,“ there is a lot of good investigative journalism of political, business, health and culture topics reflecting strong research, responsible sourcing, effective writing and editing. Magazines of exceptional writing and reporting include The New Yorker, Atlantic, Vanity Fair, and The Nation. What’s frustrating to me is the reliance of so many people on blogs and memes, particularly as it relates to politics and the coronavirus.

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A great financial and mental investment is the online Sunday New York Times for $.99. Excellent ideas, essays, news coverage and articles on politics, business, culture, entertainment and people. I am biased but I think Maureen Dowd is one of the best essayists and commentators of the political and current events scenes.

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Authors continue to write “self help“ books as it is a huge market within book publishing. However the greatest ideas for self-help were written in ancient times by Socrates, Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, Confucius, Lao-tzu and Epicurus. Much of what is written today as self help is just a regurgitation of their ideas.

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One of the greatest literary influences on my perspectives regarding life, death and religion is found in the first chapter of a book by Alan Watts titled The Wisdom of Insecurity. The chapter begins, “By all outward appearances, our life is a spark of light between one eternal darkness and another.” I have underlined just about all of the first chapter in my copy of the book. A great deal of wisdom in 15 pages.

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In high school, we were assigned summer reading. The three books I remember and enjoyed were (1) Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee (2) All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque and (3) The Bridges at Toko-Ri. I struggled with the following summer books: (1) The Spy by James Fenimore Cooper, (2) Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert and (3) The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle. I found the writing in those books tedious and boring.

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The best and most memorable short story I have read is The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. Written in 1948, it is still an appropriate theme for our times. I remember my shock at the ending of the story.

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Currently reading Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife by Bart D. Ehrman. Just finished How Did We Get Here? From Theodore Roosevelt to Donald Trump by historian Robert Dallek.

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A very funny read is Make Russia Great Again by Christopher Buckley. It is a satirical novel about a former Jewish food manager of one of Trump’s Golf Clubs who reluctantly becomes Trump’s seventh Chief of Staff. He becomes embroiled in a number of crazy White House scandals and deals with Fox commentators running the government and his boss’s bizarre ideas (e.g. Ivanka as VP to garner women’s vote.) Strangely enough I’m not sure this satire is as farcical as the real time events of the Trump presidency.

Old Man and the Read

Aphorisms for the Pandemic

“The less people know, the more stubbornly they know it.” Osho

“When one does not know how to convince, one oppresses.” Anne-Louise-Germaine Necker, Baroness de Staël-Holstein 

“The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and these are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence.” —Elbert Hubbard

“No one man can terrorize a whole nation unless we are all his accomplices.” —Edward R. Murrow, of Senator Joseph McCarthy

“Illegal aliens have always been a problem in the United States. Ask any Indian.” Robert Orben

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”  George Orwell

“You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”  Anne Lamott, 

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” Groucho Marx

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”  Voltaire

“The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.” H.L Mencken

“God is not a cosmic bellboy for whom we can press a button to get things done.” Harry Emerson Fosdick

Third Shot Jots

Check out recent YouTube video where Ben Johns and Simone Jardin play Dekel Bar and Adam Stone. Great example of how men and women can compete effectively in mixed doubles, as a partnership. Johns and Jardin play to their strengths. Their movement and strategy were like a dance. Sorry for the dated reference, but think of the balance between Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Johns and Jardin beat two top flight pickleball players. Jardin is the best women’s player in pickleball right now.

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I watch a lot of pickleball tournaments and events on social media and YouTube. In all the events I have watched, I don’t recall seeing a player cited for an illegal serve. Maybe the pros and advanced players are that good that they do not violate the rules on serving. But even Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been called on foot faults at times. Seems to me that many of the fast servers in the men’s game come very close to a sidearm motion when they serve.

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One of the hardest disciplines (maybe the hardest) is the ability to not swing at “out” balls. At the advanced and pro levels, players rarely give up free points if a ball is going out. 

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Growing concern about the availability of indoor pickleball when the weather changes in late fall and winter. Given the current health circumstances, I don’t envision government (particularly in NJ)) allowing indoor pickleball facilities to open and if they do, may impose restrictions on how many people can be in the facility.  Facilities may also have to be concerned with any liabilities if COVID 19 infections occur among players. They will also need to be more vigilant about cleaning benches and equipment as well as replacing pickleballs between sessions. Players would need to be more cognizant of social distancing as that becomes a premium when moving from outside to inside to play.

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Just my observation…There is a fine line between offering advice and sounding critical while playing a game, especially when teaming with beginners. I think that beginning players need to hear encouragement first and know what they are doing right. I have seen beginning players inundated with tips and criticisms while they are in the midst of a game. They start to overthink what they are doing and they don’t respond naturally to playing. Better to offer most suggestions to a player after a game, not during it and only when they request help.

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I’d like to see all pickleball games go to 15 points, instead of the customary 11, especially in recreation play…

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The commercialization of pickleball is increasing, as it should, given the popularity of the sport and the discretionary income of many of its players. There is a new paddle from Selkirk (Vanguard) that costs $200. More companies are selling pickleball paddles, clothing and shoes. There are increasing opportunities to promote seminars and training sessions. More towns are building pickleball courts (some at the dismay of tennis players). Hopefully pickleball will receive more media coverage from the sports networks and given the current lack of live sports, this might be the best opportunity to showcase the sport.

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A good friend of mine had the pleasure of watching Frank Anthony Davis at Atkinson Park recently. He was blown away at the level of game FAD displayed but he was also impressed how approachable FAD was to talk with spectators. It seems that way with just about all high level performance men and women pickleball players and that will help promote the sport. I have seen FAD playing singles and doubles on YouTube videos – – very happy that he is representing the South Jersey area.

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Covid 19 has impacted my participation in pickleball this summer. I don’t play as much and when I play, it is with smaller groups. That being said, I do miss many friends I have played with from DeCou, Hainesport and Marlton over the years. For me, I play pickleball 75% for the social aspect, 25% for the competitive aspect. Hopefully things will turn around in the next few months and life and pickleball can return to normal, or close to it.

Stay safe!!

Eric Vill jpg