So the next week I showed up at the gym, which is conveniently located a mere five blocks from the apartment. 2ème Étage: Judo ... 3ème Étage: Gymnasium ... 4ème Étage: Table tennis ... I even saw some people doing some kind of Samurai workout involving large swords. (If I ever get to make name a team who plays in this gym, I’m going with “Third Floor Elevators.”)
P.H. showed up in a complete top and bottom Rasheed Wallace (Pistons) uniform with a Pistons T-shirt on top for warm up. Minutes later, his Croatian buddy Dalí showed up wearing a vintage Dr. J (Nets) top and bottom with matching red and blue sneakers. These dudes are seriously into it.
On the court, P.H. plays like the French Sabonis. It’s awesome. High post, silly passes, runs the break ... The Full Russkie. Dalí’s game is more or less vintage Brent Barry mixed with some early-model Toni Kuckoc. Ill-advised runners. Shots off the glass without calling “glass.” You know the type... don’t look at me. Together we were the baseline defenders in a 2-3 zone. We got out on the break. Went 5 up 1 down. It was a lot of fun.
As it turned out my invitation to the game was really a tryout, because afterward the Chinese guy on the other team walked up wagging his finger at me like Dikembe Mutombo. “You! Americaine... You can come back... But you pay 50 euro!” He started to walk away and then turned around. “You play nice... No foul... Good pass...” So, now I’m in an international pick up league in a “sweet as” gym for 5 euros a month.
The second time I played, Dalí showed up wearing a Vince Carter (Raptors) uniform with matching purple and black shoes – which is painfully funny considering that every time I think about Carter I remember the time he dunked over that 7'2" Frenchman in the Olympics. P.H. sported a McDonald’s All-American High School Game jersey.
I’m still waiting for someone to notice that my jersey has “Show Pony” printed on the back and a martini glass on the front. That should be about as much fun to explain as everything else, like when the French dudes chat me up about the NBA...
F: Where you are from?
F: What team you like? Spurs?
PT: Oklahoma Sooners.
PT: Actually, yes. I’m from there.
F: No. NBA ... Thunder?
PT: I don’t watch NBA. I watch college.
[Frenchmen roll over in disgust.]
F: You from there! You no watch NBA?
PT: College is better.
[Long explanation followed by confusion and silence.]
F: You like Getters?
F: Florida Getters. You like Joakim Noah?
PT: I liked his dad a lot better.
[Laughter. End of conversation.]
As I walked home along the canal from the gym carrying my basketball, a waiter pointed at me through the window of a restaurant and grinned. I pointed back to him and smiled. I thought that maybe he was a basketball fan, or maybe he thought I was crazy for walking home in the freezing cold wearing only shorts and a tank top. But then a few hours later it dawned on me that it was Halloween and he probably thought I was in costume.