Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pool Volleyball Days: Los Angeles 1985

So, Mike and I moved into the Oakwood Apartments when we got to L.A.. It was a large complex, with groupings of apartment buildings within groupings of apartment buildings up a small hill off Barham Boulevard in West Hollywood, almost in Burbank. I believe the hill behind us went up and up, into those cool flat glass and stilt homes and on the other side was the famous HOLLYWOOD wooden sign. But, anyway . . .
We settled in pretty good and got to know a few of the people in our portion of the complex. Sure, I'd lived in apartments in Iowa City, but this was all new and strange. This was Southern California. But the pool was the real meeting place for all of us. These rooms rented month by month, so there were quite a number of transient or temporary types without family or close friends in town. It was not a cheap place, by any means, but not exclusive either. So, on off days or when the work hadn't come in yet, we'd hang at the pool (if we weren't in the lowlife Burbank bars shooting pool). And in the pool there was always a net stretched across the shallow end and a volleyball.
There were tennis courts, a hot tub, other stuff, but pool volleyball was THE sport of our section of the Oakwood. And, as it turned out, I was the best player of that sport.
I'm tall. Quick. Coordinated. Mike was good at it too, but not as tall. It was easy for me to block shots, to jam up the lanes, to drill a flaming spike so that it hissed and bounced in the water. There were loose rules, but aside from that, we played honorable if sometimes rough games. Women and men and oldish-kids played alike--there was always someone there to play. And I became known as the pool volleyball guy, got to know quite a few denizens that way.
But then, one day, some guy came who worked as a stunt man at Burbank Studios (just down the street where Barham turns into Olive). He played. He was not taller than me. Not much bigger or muscular. I worked construction, moving plates and panels of 11 gage steel around, so I was strong, in shape. But this guy was fast. He was quick. It was very weird to me to go to hit the ball and he had already hit it. Sure, I got a few licks in, but I don't think it was a draw. He was just that much quicker.
But those were lazy days in tandem with long work days, in tandem with drinking days and adventures particular to L.A.. Was it a waste? Yes.
And no.

No comments: