Tuesday
Apr162013

Smokey Mountain hospitality at it's finest....

April 4, 2013

Last email was sent from Dave & Emily Nelson's home in Clyde, North Carolina just before Easter Sunday.  Dave & Emily's hospitality has always been a sterling example of western Carolina's traditional way of treating people.  Easter Sunday lunch/dinner at the Kelly home (Emily's family) brought that friendly hospitality to an even higher standard. Huntsman Senior Games 2012, Two time Silver metalist!

Before eating everyone socialized, from the youngest, 10 years old, to the oldest, which wasn't me as you are probably thinking.  Eighteen family members, and I, held hands around the table, as Jack Kelly blessed the food and warmly welcomed each of us.  As we held hands I thought of the Danish Christmas gatherings at Susanne's mother's home in Denmark, where the holding hands tradition continues.  The next morning, driving away from Clyde towards Cary and  the low lands, I felt an inspirational closeness with folks of the Smokey Mountains.

After driving across Arizona and Texas the four hour drive from Clyde to Cary, North Carolina seemed to pass by with a few blinks of the eye.  Arrived Cary around noon and was able to play at the Herb Young Community center for two hours.  Six o'clock in the evening played for four more hours at the Cary Senior Center.  I believe the average cost to play at the various clubs I've visited is around $6.00.  The ping-pong community of Cary is fortunate, they pay $4.00 per night and I ,as a senior non-resident of North Carolina, paid the ungodly amount of $1.00.  Not a typo....one dollar!  Beat that.

East coast travel time is reasonable compared to the southwest.  I drove two days across Texas and was able to play at just two clubs, El Paso and Austin.  Texas is huge.  Do you know how to make a Texan angry?  Tell them we're going to split Alaska into two parts...Texas then becomes the 3rd largest state...! 

Retaping the handle at the 2011 North American Teams in Baltimore MD.Next day was another easy drive to the Northern Virginia Table Tennis Center located in Chantility, Virginia.  This club is, once again, another club located in a warehousing district of the city.  Appears, with the real estate market at a low point, clubs are finding affordable locations in warehousing and small shopping malls.  Currently I'm staying at our Baltimore Team Captain's home in Sicklerville, New Jersey, Robert Hodgson.  Robert told me last night, while eating dinner, the owner of the Trolly Car Table Tennis Club, whom is also a real estate broker, negotiated a monthly lease for the club where the land lord gets half of whatever the club takes in.  Meaning, if the club takes in $400 per month the land lord gets $200.  Moreover, the land lord pays for all utilities!  I want this guy to go with me next time I'm looking to purchase a new car.

Last night Robert and I played at the Flick! Table Tennis performance center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The club owner, Jeff Fuchs, is quite the business man and yet a player/coach.  Jeff will be traveling with and coaching the USA Jewish youth team competing in Israel this year.  Enjoyed discussing a club business model with Jeff, once again it takes a behind the scenes god-father like figure to help make a club grow before it takes off on it's own.  I heard several club operators, at the grass-root level, say the USATT board-of-directors is out of touch with the average club player.  No silver bullet, to fix the issue, was mentioned, however I do remember bullets being mentioned in some form or another.  I reckon they'd probably identify with Sarah Palin.

Tonight we're playing at Robert home club, the West New Jersey TTC, where we'll play in a USATT league night.  This weekend I'll be in Pottsville, home of the oldest beer company in the USA - Yuengling's, visiting my family.  Time to relax and maybe hold hands.

Andy

Tuesday
Apr162013

Currently in Clyde, which may be confusing for those geographicly challenged....

March 29, 2013

Clyde is east of Cherokee, and west of Hickory on Route 40, that should illuminate everything.  Susanne and I first met Dave and Emliy Nelson in Montgomery, Alabama.  Dave was a singer in the Air Force Band and I was finishing my Air Force career as acting First Sergeant.  Dave got orders to Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, we kept in touch.  Dave suggested we (great advice) visit Alaska before finally settling down after retiring from the Air Force in 1989.  Dave and Emily returned to Clyde, North Carlolina three years ago.

Andy with Ralph Staleman at the NATT Teams 2011. They speak a special "hard bat" language! "flip...smack...chop and pick hit." After visiting the Merritt Island, Florida table tennis club on March 18th arrived the Broward TTC the next day to prepare for their One Star USATT tournament March 23/24 (Saturday & Sunday).  The Broward club is one of the better run clubs in the country.  Several over 2200 level players are available each night of the week, and willing to play a few games or hit practice strokes. 

I entered the top five events, from the Open down to the Under 2100.  Got to the quarter finals of the Under 2100 by winning a match against a 1920 rated player who chopped with long pips and looped on the forehand side.  I stayed to the long pips backhand side and won 3 games to zero.  My goal was to not loose to any player rated lower than me, which I did.  I've often lost to players rated much lower than I because my game had such peaks and valleys.  This journey appears (for now) to have fixed that problem. 

After Broward TTC went to Naples, Florida visiting with Dennis and Lisa Fiandola.  Dennis and I last saw each other in South Vietnam, 1969.  Enjoyable to get together and seems time stopped.  We laughed at old times while Dennis was in shock when I went swimming in their pool, with water temperatures around 74 degrees.  Refreshing....I thought.

Front and center. back in 2012 when Mr. Noh was visiting from Korea. Andy is up for the challenge.Recharged after a relaxing time in Naples (beautiful city and nice gulf coast beaches) departed for the Spin City club in Clearwater, Florida.  This club is open everyday and plenty of players at the 1800+ level to practice with.  Played at Spin City until 9:30 pm then drove three hours to Valdosta, Georgia.  Easy morning four hour drive to Club JOOLA in Marietta (suburbs of Atlanta) which is also open seven days a week.  Got two hours of training with their club pro, Lee.  Lee is rated over 2400 and was willing to hit for two hours....where else can you find tha?  Also visited Yang's club later that day in Duluth (on the north side of Atlanta) before heading to Clyde.  Both JOOLA and Yang's clubs are located in nice suburban malls with rubber floors, great lighting, and plenty of space around the tables.  Strong area if wanting to improve your game.

Spending Easter weekend with Dave and Emily Nelson.  Emily's mother and father will fix a southern Easter dinner for their family, expect 15 family members will attend.  Very much looking forward to this experience.

Expect to be in Cary, North Carolina next week, then later in the week arrive Robert Hodgson's for a visit to his New Jersey club and the Trolly Car Club in Philadelphia.  The journey continues... 

Love and best wishes for your safety,

Andy

Tuesday
Apr162013

Thank whomever for Starbucks, their coffee and free wifi....

March 20, 2013

Played 5 hours of pong last night at the Brovard County TTC.  What at pong-palace!  Nineteen tables, rubber floors, great lighting and at least eight over 2200 rated players to practice against.  If I had to rate all the places I've played so far this has to be near or at the top.  Air conditioned hall, needs to be with all this humidity.  Friendly players and at a high level of skill.

Frozen Yogert after the Opening Ceremonies at the 2012 Huntsman World Senior GamesSlept outside their club, sun shining, so off to the beach at Hollywood, Florida.  The Atlantic Ocean is warm this far south, so it was nice to spend as much time swimming as necessary.  Sitting in the Starbucks Coffee shop in the center of Hollywood watching all the Long Island, New Yorkers soaking up the warmth.  At the club last night 50% of the older players were from Long Island.  They all agreed that by early May the heat will really increase to the point of staying in air conditioning except for early morning and evening.

Playing in a one star tournament at the Brovard club this weekend.  Then off to visit with Dennis and Lisa Fiandola living in Naples, Florida.  Last time we saw each other was in 1968, South Viet Nam.  Should be interesting.

Best to you all,

Andy

Tuesday
Apr162013

Rested, relaxed, and full complement of clean underwear....must be time to move on!

March 18, 2013

Five days of visiting with an old air force air traffic control buddy, sitting around his pool on Amelia Island...too relaxed, gotta get back into a competition frame of mind.  March 23 and 24th is a two day ping-pong tournament I've entered in Hollywood, Florida, must get prepared.  This soft girly-man life won't cut it.

Who says a hard bat can't create topspin!Charlie and I have a combined 50 years of air traffic controller experience, so it's just a matter of time before we talk shop.  In air traffic control we were always looking for new/good candidates to become controllers (same as in table tennis).   A person not associated with aviation was always intimidated when visiting a control tower or radar unit.  The word "radar" just seems to make some people nervous.

We were shooting ourselves in the foot when visitors, and potential controllers, would want to learn something about the job and visit our work place.  We'd expand the radar scope from 10 miles of radar coverage to 150 miles.  Most likely there wasn't an aircraft flying within the 10 miles of coverage, so to impress we knew there were numerous aircraft radar targets at the 150 mile setting.  Kind of like when a basement player visits a real club for the first time.  They are impressed, and maybe overwhelmed, when two players are hitting forehand shots at machine gun speed...and not missing!  

Controller, pilot and adventurer. Andy has many wings.At the ten mile radar setting there were probably one or two airway routes displayed, however at the 150 mile setting you could expect to see dozens of airways displayed along with airway intersections and final approach fixes.  Mind blowing for the new comer, information overload.  These controllers must be from another planet!  Possibly, a basement player may feel the same way when visiting a club.  The club players want to impress this new comer with all they've learned and win a match against them eleven to one or maybe two.  How often have we noticed that new basement player never returns.

I listened to Mark Nordby, El Paso TTC, explain to a potential new player and his parents the difference in skill levels at each of the club's nine tables.  Mark did an excellent job of trying to avoid information overload.  However, I could see a look of being overwhelmed by the El Paso club member's skill level.  There wasn't a weak table.  Are we often shooting ourselves in the foot (feet)? 

Traveling south to the Merritt Island and Vero Beach TTClubs before this weekend tournament.  One aspect of my game, which I expected to see, is that I don't have the huge ups and downs in performance levels.  Playing almost everyday has shored up that issue.  In Alaska we play once or twice a week and it's always the same players, so we know each other's game.  I've seen sooooo many styles and different serves on this trip.  Instead of being complacent, it keeps you on your toes.

Happy Trails,

Andy

Tuesday
Apr162013

Amelia has been located....Amelia Island, Florida that is...!

March 14, 2013

Seems like only at few months ago, wait it was, Susanne and I were driving up the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles to Sacramento and now I'm looking at the Atlantic Ocean on Amelia Island.

Last month Charlie Hines phoned Susanne and I informing us his doctors gave him approximately nine months to live with an inoperable brain tumor, same type tumor that took the life of Senator Ted Kennedy.  Going backward, Charlie was an air traffic controller trainee on my crew at Offuit AFB, Nebraska in 1981.  We became friends and have kept in contact since.  Charlie just retired from the FAA as a supervisor in the Boston air traffic control center, with over 30 years service. 

As I'm driving across the country I'm wondering what Charlie's condition is.  Guess it's human nature to hope for the best and be ready for the worst of situations.  Well, it's my pleasure to report Charlie's doctors say he's in the top 10 percent of patients living with this condition.  He looks and acts the same as when we were in Nebraska.  However, doctors also report his condition can go south without any warning.  We had a few beers over dinner last night and laughed about old times.  One fine individual.

Ocean Springs, Mississippi table tennis is alive and well thanks to Mr. Albert Weaver.  At 72 years old Albert still has an intense love of the sport and will talk to anyone with any little bit interested.  It takes a special person to watch air force table tennis players come and go from Keesler AFB while they stay and keep the game alive in Mississippi.  Albert should be inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall-of-Fame.

Fort Walton Beach TTC opened my eyes to how important it is for a club to welcome new/visiting players.  Their web site says advanced players welcome on certain days.  They mean it.  I lost only one match, to their top player, but it seemed like an all out attack for one of their players to beat me.  Four tables with eight players each closely looking at the rubber and racket I used.  Each had to rub a ping-pong ball across the common brand of rubber to make sure it wasn't an outlawed rubber.  However, they never offered to show the brand of rubber they were using.  I had a good work out, however never expect to return to that club. 

Relaxing/visiting with Charlie and Cheryl, walking on the white beaches of Amelia Island, and looking out at the Atlantic Ocean day dreaming about Susanne and I vacationing in Denmark May and June.

Wasn't it Mel Brook's movie, "History of the World Part I," when the King of France said, "It's good to be the King!" 

See you along the trail,

Andy