Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today is my father's birthday. In a couple of months, it will have been two years since he passed away. He would've been 63 years old, which is a number I still have a little bit of trouble with when thinking about how much more time he should've had to enjoy.

Looking back at what I wrote a year ago, it's interesting (at least to me) to note what has and hasn't changed during that period. Time has certainly given me an opportunity to cope and reflect. The disbelief - for the most part - isn't as strong. The anger that I felt has faded.

But they're not entirely gone. I see how my mother looks at older couples who are spending that part of their lives together, and I can see how strongly she feels that loss in those moments. I'm sure she feels it more often than she'll ever let me know, no matter how much I try to help her, but she manages to hide it. Yet I can also see how far she's come, how healthily she's recovered from her grief, and that makes me feel better about things.

Sometimes, I think about how I've grown apart from my father's side of the family - especially in recent months - and wonder what he would think of that. Would he be disappointed in me? Would he think I should try harder? Would he be able to help me deal with the anger I feel? Would he understand why I've acted the way I have?

I tried to bring up the subject of doing something for Dad's birthday with my mother, but I could tell it just made her sad, so I dropped it. I'm sure she'll want to do something in his memory, but I can also understand that most any gesture - no matter how well intentioned - might feel empty.

I also talked with my sister about it last night, and of course, nothing seems big enough or special enough. But as we did last year, we'll try to do something true to his spirit. He always tried to give whenever he could. So my sister will make a donation to Dad's church. I should say to "our" church, but it hasn't felt that way in a long time - even before his death. But that place meant a lot to him, so if we can do something to help in my father's name, I think he'd be okay with that.

Once again, I'll be making a donation to WEMU, a radio station my father really loved. Maybe he loved it too much, judging from all the pledge requests we've been getting recently. But he did give them a tremendous amount of support because he enjoyed everything their staff and programming offered, so if I can continue that - even in some small way - I think that'd make him happy.

Last year, I had the idea to eat hot dogs for dinner because it was often Dad's guilty pleasure meal of choice. Even if he had the option to eat anything else, if it was left up to him (and he really had to go out), more often than not, he'd opt for a place he could score a chili dog. But having dinner with my mother at a Coney Island felt a little bit strange, so I don't know if we'll do that this year. She won't come right out and say it, but I can tell she's thinking, "You know, he liked steak, too. Why don't we have a steak?" So maybe I'll have the hot dog for lunch.

Regardless, my father will be on my mind today, and I'll do what I can to commemorate his birthday. I don't know if it'll be enough. It probably never will be. I just hope it feels right.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Spring Gleaming

Temperatures are expected to reach 75 degrees in the southeastern Michigan area today, which means I have something of a tough decision to make. I'm not quite ready to break out the shorts, but the thermostat's not really giving me a choice. 70 degrees is kind of my personal tipping point for exposing my legs to the people, so if we're going five degrees past that, my decision has really already been made. Besides, my boys need some color.

However, bringing out the legs from a winter of shelter holds inherent risks for virtually anyone I might encounter outside of my car today. If you've been sticking with FRT for a while, you might remember me writing about this last year (albeit a month later on the calendar - there's a Mr. Al Gore on line 2), and if so, I apologize for making you relive the horror. But we live in a largely visual world these days, so pictures are necessary to drive home my point. Thus, I'm posting the same image of my legs, pre-spring and summer, as I did last year. There's really no need to take an updated photo, as the situation is much the same in 2007 as it was in 2006.

For those newly aboard the FRT train over the past year, I should warn you now. Put on sunglasses. Or don't look directly at your screen once you scroll past this paragraph. Okay, are you ready? Are you sure? Here we go...

A natural question, of course, would be whether or not I doctored this photo to accentuate the paleness of my boys. An understandable follow-up might ask whether or not those are really my legs. Both excellent questions. A possible third question could inquire as to whether or not I'd wear those shoes. Unfortunately, there are no concrete answers I can give you. Because it doesn't matter. Even if dramatic liberties have been taken - and I am not admitting any such thing - they still point to an essential truth. My legs are white. Very white. And they need some sun. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Today's Fortune Cookie Wisdom

"If you're always a pessimist, consider just how futile that attitude can be."

Considering the meal I scarfed down before opening this cookie may have blown out my sodium intake for the day, I'm not sure I should be feeling too sunny, Confucius.

But health concerns aside, that Kung Pao chicken was damn tasty. Ian likes his spicy.

C'mon, man - am I suppose to just stay home and munch on a head of lettuce?

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Return of Four-Sentence Movie Reviews!

300: As much as I enjoyed Sin City, something that kept me from absolutely loving it is that it was almost too reverential - especially in terms of the script - to the original comic books. 300 is most definitely inspired by Frank Miller's storytelling, but Zack Snyder doesn't just re-create it on film; he expands upon it, both in terms of character development (especially with Lena Headey's subplot) and action. Gerard Butler (a Mis Hooz favorite) built himself into a frickin' linebacker to play Leonidas, and is a much richer character - bold, arrogant, inspirational, and even somewhat vulnerable - on screen than in print. What I love most about 300 is that it's wholly unapologetic and absolutely confident about its violence and mythologized fantasy, much like the Spartan king.

(Yet the Spartans and their $128 million worth of box office after two weeks still haven't pushed the Projection Booth Pervs out of first place in the Follywood Fantasy Movie League last week, baby! This is where I stand! This is where I fight! A-whoo! A-whoo! A-whoo!)

Zodiac: Something about this film is really amazing, because you basically know how the story ends and what ultimately happens to the protagonist (without whom there wouldn't have been the books that the script is based on), and a good two-thirds of the movie is detectives, sheriffs, reporters, suspects, and witnesses sitting around talking, yet the whole thing still managed to captivate me for almost three hours. A big reason the movie was so compelling is the fantastic collection of actors (especially Robert Downey, Jr. and Mark Ruffalo), although Jake Gyllenhaal seemed a bit miscast to me, even if he was suitably wide-eyed and age-appropriate. Another interesting aspect of the story to me is that it doesn't just occupy itself with the case, but also references its wider cultural impact with movies like Dirty Harry, for instance. One thing that bothered me, however, was that the film essentially seems to decide who the Zodiac Killer is, though I suppose that's consistent with the source material used for the movie.

Breach: In some ways, maybe this is the film Zodiac should've been, though it's not really a fair comparison, as one case was something of a cultural phenomenon, while the other was more infamously historic. But what I mean is that Breach kept a tighter focus on the Robert Hanssen case itself, mostly following the people immediately involved, rather than widening its scope to look at its ripple effects. Actually, that's pretty similar to how the same director, Billy Ray, approached the Stephen Glass story in Shattered Glass. I've read some reviews that wanted the story to explain why Hanssen felt the need to sell secrets to the Russians, but I think that information is already in the movie, particularly in Chris Cooper's portrayal of an embittered lifelong employee who feels overqualified and woefully underappreciated.

Casino Royale: This film had to be made, because we should not be living in a world where Matt Damon (as Jason Bourne) should be a cooler, more bad-ass super-spy than James Bond. Comic books frequently go back to the source material (with varying degrees of success and credibility), looking for the basic traits of what made a character so appealing in the first place, and that's what happened here. I thought Daniel Craig was a great choice for the role from the start, and right away, he gave Bond an edge and energy (and fallibility) that makes him a far more compelling character than the martini-sipping caricature he'd become over the past 20 years. The foot chase at the beginning of the movie - with running, jumping, sliding, and shooting not enhanced by CGI - might have been the best action scene in any movie last year.

Stranger than Fiction: Okay, I never got around to doing so a couple of months ago, so let me say it now: this was the best damn movie I saw last year. The premise - a guy who realizes he's the main character of someone's novel and about to be killed off - is something that could easily fall apart or become terribly goofy as it tries to explain itself, but it somehow holds together here, and I think that's because the filmmakers don't try to explain anything. This is how it is, so let's just tell a really smart, funny story, make it poignant by populating it with the most interesting, believable characters we can create, and cast actors - Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman - who will make you give a damn about all of it. It works as a character study, it works as a straight romance, it even works as an analysis of what makes great literature (although that might not be the movie's strongest point).

Friday, March 16, 2007

That's What She Said! (Episode #18)

Well, it's been a few weeks since we were able to do a podcast, due to circumstances beyond our control. But it's like the vow Matt and I made when we started this thing - in sickness and in health. Right, buddy? Anyway, for the long-awaited return of the That's What She Said podcast, we take a look at the "Cocktails" episode of The Office and the assorted declarations of love and rage that took place.

Is there a freaky-deaky side behind the uptight exterior of our favorite executive? And what's hotter for a couple: being on the run or out in the open? Should you be concerned if your girlfriend appears to have hooked up with most every guy she's worked with? How thoroughly should you inspect your house before moving in? And is honesty really the best policy? You might want to make sure there's nothing to throw immediately within reach.

Episode #18 is available for your downloading and listening pleasure, either from the That's What She Said home page or via iTunes.

If you enjoy what you hear (or hate it, for that matter), please send over an e-mail or leave a comment at our blog page, where the community continues to grow. Or leave a review at our iTunes page, as well. Thank you for downloading and listening! And thank you for your patience.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Separation Amenity

Those of you familiar with the Casselbloggy adventures know that I don't like to brag. Nope. It's unbecoming. Undignified. I'm comfortable and secure enough with myself that I don't need affirmation from others. Don't get me wrong. It's nice. I'll take it. But I don't seek it.

However, sometimes I just get it right. And sticking out the chest and thumping it a bit is good for the heart. Well, it should be, anyway.

About a month ago, I stated my belief that separate bedrooms could be the wave of the future for those coveting marital bliss and domestic tranquility. And it seemed like some people were at least open to the possibility, but I still detected a bit of skepticism among the FRT readership.

Well, New York Bureau Chief Mis Hooz just sent over a hot, fresh plate of affirmation, baby. An article in Sunday's New York Times (known in some circles as "the paper of record," while featuring "all the news that's fit to print") confirmed this burgeoning societal trend. Couples are increasingly designing homes with separate bedrooms.

"In a survey in February by the National Association of Home Builders, builders and architects predicted that more than 60 percent of custom houses would have dual master bedrooms by 2015, according to Gopal Ahluwalia, staff vice president of research at the builders association. Some builders say more than a quarter of their new projects already do."

And which side is requesting these separate sleeping quarters? Hello, ladies! The article features an older woman who had become so fed up with her husband's snoring and their failure to reach a compromise over whether or not the covers should be tucked in that she put up a wall in their condominium to create two bedrooms.

(She also once cut all of their linens in half so that she could tuck her sheets under while he could kick them out, and was quoted as saying she would've killed her husband if they hadn't made separate bedrooms, so it's possible she's a little bit crazy.)

The movement could even be pushed further, according to a University of Michigan sociologist quoted in the article, who said she has talked to people who "fantasize about living in the same apartment building as their husband - but in a separate apartment. That could be next."

Okay, maybe that's taking this thing a little too far. For one thing, it's better to own than to rent, right? But if a couple can't share the same living quarters, maybe it's time to reassess the whole marriage idea. "Honey, I love you, but I need you on the other side of a building"?

Or maybe that's what marriage does to you. After 20-30 years under the same roof with someone, maybe some people just need some space. I could see that. As long as it was an apartment building full of hot, young singles...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Baby's Got New Plans

I know stuff like this changes for most everyone as they get older, but I used to go to a lot of concerts when I was younger. Spending my money and time on live music was a big part of my life at one point, but I've largely been in hibernation since my main concert-going tag-team partner, Mis Hooz, packed up for New York. I can't blame her entirely, of course. But I don't have as many people around that I can just call up and ask if they want to catch a show anymore, either.

Last night, however, thanks to my buddy Rob, I was reminded that I shouldn't let something I enjoy drift away so easily. He and his wife managed to drag me out of the house on a Sunday night to see Alejandro Escovedo perform at The Ark in downtown Ann Arbor. I wasn't familiar at all with Escovedo's music (nor what he's been through in recent years), but figured it would be fun to hang out with a friend I hadn't seen in over ten years.

Fortunately, the evening turned out to be a hell of a lot more than that. I really had no idea what to expect, as I figured I'd just go in "fresh," but was just blown away by Escovedo's trio of musicians. (Actually, I would've been happy with just the opening act, Chuck Prophet.) But from the very first song, it was clear they would put everything into their performance. Two acoustic guitars (Escovedo, with David Pulkingham) and a violin (Susan Voelz) were plenty to make me forget all about that lost hour of sleep I was lamenting earlier in the day. Those guys #@$%ing rocked.

By the time they'd finished their encore - for which they left the stage to play in the audience - I knew that was one of the best shows I'd ever seen. I wish I could come up with the words to do the music justice. The best I can do is give you links to follow, if you're interested. And watching such a performance in what's simply a frickin' treasure of a venue (which I inexplicably had never been to before) only added to the experience.

As soon as I got up this morning, I was on iTunes and Amazon, snatching up all the Alejandro Escovedo albums I could afford. (Good thing I just got paid.) It's all I can do to prolong what was an awesome evening. Thanks again, Rob.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Who's Your New Tigers Blogger?

I've been procrastinating with this a bit, but now seems like an excellent time to share what's going on. I've been asked by the fine people at SportsBlog Nation to take over their Detroit Tigers site, Bless You Boys, and after giving the matter a whole lot of thought, I've decided I'll take the gig.

Not only am I curious to see what it will be like to write for a larger sports blog network, but I'm really excited about contributing more to what has now become a formidable Tigers blog community. I'm hoping my first post - the mission statement, if you will - will be up within the next day or so. (I can only hope my mission statement leads to a better result than Jerry Maguire's.)

To be honest, I was initially intimidated by the idea of running a Tigers blog when several other people already do it so damn well. Could I possibly have anything different or interesting to say about what's now Detroit's most beloved team? I guess that remains to be seen. But besides the sense of community and camaraderie that's been created, one thing that's been so great about the Tigers blogosphere is how each writer has been able to find his or her own niche to fill. I hope I manage to find mine over the next few months.

So what does this mean for Fried Rice Thoughts and the other wing of the Casselbloggy network, Sweaty Men Endeavors? Well, I might be naive or delusional, but I intend to keep it all going. I've occasionally wondered if I should dial back the blogging and concentrate on something like writing a novel or advancing my freelance career. But two-and-a-half-years of my life have gone into this, which includes several events extremely important to me, such as my father's passing and my mother's citizenship. I'm proud of (most of) what I've written here, so I'm not letting my baby go.

I'm not sure what will happen here during the summer, as I'm sure I'll have to cut back a bit with my attention and time being further divided. But there's always something going on worthy of celebration and ridicule, and I can never keep that type of stuff to myself. This blog was always meant to be a place where I could write about anything I wanted, and I love having that, along with the gratification of those who make a point to stop by here each day to see what I'm emptying out of my head. I will always appreciate that.

If you're a Detroit Tigers fan and already check in at Bless You Boys, I hope you'll bear with me as I try to find my footing there for the next couple of weeks. And if not, I'd certainly love for you to follow me over and chime in during the upcoming baseball season. Again, thank you, and I look forward to keeping this thing going with you.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Up My Nose with a Salt Water Hose

This will surely tempt the fates or some higher power to cast a pox down upon me, but I've been very fortunate in avoiding sickness this winter. (Pardon me briefly while I find a piece of wood to knock on and brush my entire body with a rabbit's foot.) I think it's worth noting because colds and flus usually find me, and over the past few years have taken me down hard. But in my case, I don't think it's clean living so much as recent anti-social tendencies. (Hey, I'm sorry if I haven't been around to see you, but man, my sinuses have felt great this winter!)

I'd like to credit my near-obsessive hand washing, an acceptance of hand sanitizer (the smell of which previously turned me off, and seemed like some product of voodoo chemistry to me - no soap, no water, and it cleans my hands?), and general flirtation with germophobia, but I'm sure my good fortune is due more to a freakish avoidance (and disdain) of anyone who even sniffles near me.

Yesterday at Whole Foods, for example, I was waiting in line at the deli behind a mother whose child was coughing right onto the glass. The kid didn't even try to cover his mouth, and his mother was more worried about the clerk giving her too much potato salad than her brat's lack of hygiene. After the fifth or sixth cough, I had to clench my teeth together to prevent from saying something. And I shouldn't have. I should've yelled at the kid to cover his #@$%ing mouth, go stand on the other side of the aisle, or wait in the car. And I should've smashed the mother over her head with the jar of peanut butter I was holding. I'm digressing, aren't I? Let's get back on track.

In past years when I caught a cold, Mis Hooz has suggested the use of a neti pot to clear out my nasal passages. If you're not familiar with the practice, it's basically pouring salt water through one nostril and out the other.

Initially, I feared years of yoga and a lack of animal protein had finally taken a toll on Mis Hooz's cognitive function, but she lives much healthier than me and I really should listen to her more, so I kept my concerns that this idea must be from the planet Mars to myself. But eventually, one of the characters on Six Feet Under used a neti pot, and anything's legit if you see it on TV . So even if I wanted to react like Ruth Fisher ("You do that in my house?!?"), I became a believer.

Well, to a point. That episode of Six Feet Under was broadcast three years ago and I'd caught plenty of colds since then. Still, I couldn't bring myself to pour salt water through my nostrils. My excuse was that I didn't know where to buy one. I probably wrote that in an e-mail to Mis Hooz while ordering a book from Amazon. On a previous visit to the aforementioned Whole Foods, however, I noticed a bunch of neti pots sitting on a display and decided I'd give this thing a try. I still haven't used it, though. Why? Because I'm not sick.

But yesterday, I woke up with the sniffles and spent much of the morning blowing my nose. Uh-oh. Time to take that thing out of the box and see how it works. Not last night, though. I was too tired, and the Pistons had a big game. But tonight - tonight could be the night. There's no chance I'll choke myself on that salt water, is there? I'm actually feeling okay right now. This "Boy in the Bubble" lifestyle has been working for me...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Who wants a piece of my Movie Mogul Mojo?

Last week, Dave almost bragged about his quick rise to first place in our fantasy movie league, but he managed to keep things pretty humble. I think it's because he knew what was coming. I was about to bring the smackdown.

If you keep tabs on such things, you might have noticed that the #1 and #2 films at the box office last weekend were Wild Hogs and Zodiac. And it just so happens that my studio, Projection Booth Pervs, selected both of those flicks in our league's draft. That's $53 million worth of box office, baby, and it skyrocketed the Pervs into first place.

Oh, the abysmal taste of the general movie-going public has never provided sweeter nectar for me. Instead of sneering at those who chose John Travolta and Tim Allen over Robert Downey, Jr. and Jake Gyllenhaal (along with FRT's professed mancrush, Mark Ruffalo) while waiting in line at the theater this weekend, I silently applauded their poor entertainment choices. And judging from the number of seats filled at my screening of Zodiac, I knew I'd be okay. (Four-sentence movie review on the way.)

If I could've lit a victory cigar with the flap from a box of Milk Duds right there in the theater, I most certainly would have. But a message before the show told me I can't smoke in there. I would've called up my friends to ask them if they heard of such a thing, but I was also told no cell phones.

Warning to Dave and the rest of Follywood: Grindhouse hasn't even opened yet. Bring the pain, bring the noise.

Tonight's Fortune Cookie Wisdom

"Everything will now come your way."

If that's some tricky way of saying I'll be getting really sick soon, I'm going to be pissed off.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Ian Returns to Dreamland - Parts 2 & 3

Okay, the dream I posted on Friday may have been sweet and touching, but these next two (I had another weird one over the weekend) are most certainly in a different category. If anyone wants to play Dream Doctor (and some of you have been very insightful in the past), I think I could definitely use the help. (Or I might need help in a very clinical sense.) Let's see what you think:

1) I'm driving around a neighborhood in an old car (judging from the interior, I think it's my very first car, a 1986 Mustang) with a couple of my childhood friends. We stop at a corner and stare at a house that looks brown, damp, and run down. It's surrounded by a rotting fence, and we're looking at the top floor of the house from across the street.

My friends say they heard a murder supposedly took place there, but it was never proven, and the man accused of the killing still lives in the house. We stare at one of the windows, but don't see any signs of activity. I can feel myself getting sleepy and decide to take a nap in the car.

Later, I wake up and ask how long I've been asleep. There's no answer. Then I feel a forearm press down across my chest and pin me to the seat. I can't breathe, but try to push myself up and get this person off of me. But he pushes down harder. I try to reach for the window so I can roll it down. As I get a grip on the handle, my hand is cut by something, maybe a box cutter. But I can't feel anything. I can only see the cut. The sleeve of my jacket is sliced a couple of times too, as the attacker seems to become more frantic.

I manage to get the window halfway rolled down, and then feel the person's weight let up. So I push him over the steering wheel, against the windshield, and finally get a good look at who's doing this to me. It's Tim Robbins.

2) I wake up from a nap, and am in that kind of half asleep/half awake limbo state as I try to get comfortable on the couch. I open my eyes, the fog in my head begins to clear, and I see a bunch of bubbles in the air. Little ones, like the size of nickels.

At first, I just think my eyes are messing with me as I'm trying to wake up. But I sit up, and am surrounded by these bubbles that look like blood cells under a microscope. They're pinkish-purple, translucent, and floating everywhere.

I reach out to try and touch one, but each bubble is pushed away by the movement of my hand. By then, I'm fully awake and sit on the edge of the couch to really try and get my hands on one of these bubbles. Unlike "regular" bubbles, however, these don't pop when I touch them. Finally, I concentrate and manage to catch one between my thumb and index finger. It feels kind of soft and rubbery, almost like a Gummi Bear. But when I peer in for a closer look, the bubble isn't a bubble at all. It's not a blood cell type of object, either. It's a mushroom. A pinkish-purple, translucent mushroom slice.

So I stand up and try to find the source of the mushroom bubbles. The stream seems to get stronger as I walk toward the kitchen. At one point, I can't see anything but the bubbles. They're in my hair, I can feel them on my skin, and am trying not to breathe them in, so I go to my knees. (Stop, drop, and roll!) Suddenly, the swarm dissipates, splitting in two like the Red Sea parting, and clearing a path toward the sink. I crawl toward the sink, afraid of what I'm going to see. But I have to know what's going on. Pressed against the cabinet doors, I slowly rise up, hoping not to frighten whatever monster has to be in that sink. As my eyeline moves above the edge of the counter, I see it.

It's not a monster, it's a giant #@$%ing mushroom sitting in a plastic grocery bag. The very top of the mushroom cap has been blown off toward the other side of the counter. Inside the rest of the cap is a crater with the outer edge filled with small tentacles that look sort of like bean sprouts. Nothing was moving, and the bubbles were mostly gone. The mushroom's dormant, leaning against one corner of the sink.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Ian Returns to Dreamland - Part 1

It's been a while since I had any dreams that were either blog-worthy or notable enough to stick in my memory five minutes after waking up. Maybe I just wasn't getting that sweet R.E.M. sleep (and my malaise last week might support that theory). Or my unconscious self wanted me to keep blogging about the Oscars. But that's all changed over the past two nights. Let's see what you think of this first one. I'm always hoping someone can play Dream Interpreter for me.

My father is playing tennis. He was quite the player when I was a kid, and sometimes I'd tag along because I could goof around in a nearby park. And that's pretty much where this dream picks up. But here, I'm not playing elsewhere. I'm watching, either while sitting on the bleachers or standing behind the fence on his side of the court.

And Dad is running around the court like Andre Agassi, man. He's darting from sideline to sideline, stretching out to smack those shots that look just out of his reach, and rocketing returns past his opponent. (I couldn't see who he was playing.) The whole time he's smiling, having a great time and looking he's never felt more alive. My face is pressed right up against the fence, with my fingers curled around the chain links.

The tennis court is bright, almost blindingly sunny. It's warm. Inside that fence, it's like summer. On my side of the fence, however, it's chilly. The wind is blowing underneath my sleeves, making me shiver. The sky is gray. And there are leaves all over the ground. Every time I move my feet, I can hear them crunch under my shoes.

Then a tennis ball is accidentally hit over the fence. I chase after it behind the bleachers. At first, I can't find it underneath all the leaves. I hear my dad call out to me, asking if I've found it. Finally, I feel it in my hand and uncover it. And it's bright yellow, glowing against all the dark brown and red leaves. The ball is also perfectly clean, as if none of the leaves and dirt had touched it.

I try to throw the ball back to my father, but I can't get it over the fence. It keeps bouncing back at me and into the leaves again. And each time it comes back, I become more frantic because I don't want him to get mad. I'm frustrated because I just can't get the ball over that damn fence. I look at my dad and expect to see him mad at me, holding out his hands like "What the hell is going on?" But he's not. He's smiling and shaking his head. He then points his racket toward the door at the corner of the court. Just bring it to me, he says.

So I jog over to the door. I can barely reach the latch, but I eventually push it up so the door can open. It swings open slightly, and my dad's hand reaches out. I place the ball in his hand, and he pulls it back onto the court. As he nudges the door to close, I look up at him and he smiles again. He then runs back to his position and serves the ball to his partner. The door shuts, the latch slams down, and that's when I wake up.