The Terminal II: I’m Still an Idiot

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Fifteen months ago, I spent a night at the luxurious Los Angeles International Airport, waiting for the arrival of my friends’ flight instead of sleeping over at one of the many hotels surrounding the facility. Because I’m cheap. Because I said this would only be a one-time thing.

As I type this, it’s 4:50 am on the east coast and 1:50 am where I am currently sitting. Sitting inside Los Angeles International Airport. Sitting inside the same terminal I wasted time in last July.

I am a moron.

I disembarked my flight at midnight local time, five hours before I said I’d pick up my rental car so I can drive to some bar in Orange Country and watch my beloved Crystal Palace F.C. play the champions-in-waiting Chelsea at 7 am local time. In lieu of thinking about my well-being — getting an appropriate night’s sleep — I once again went the cheap route, deciding that it was not worth grabbing a temporary hotel room for $100 just to sleep for five hours. I could get that beauty sleep for free if I just napped inside the terminal.

As you can see, this sleeping thing is working out well.

The terminal is more subdued this time compared to my July 2013 stay. There is only one other passenger hanging out in my line of sight; the others seemed to have used their brain and found a place with a bed to crash. The lack of people doesn’t mean the place is hauntingly quiet, though. A turquoise Tennant 7100 rider scrubber has been keeping me company for the last hour, canvassing the hallway up and down, up and down. This machine is mopping up the place for the mob of passengers that will probably show up in about two hours for their 6 am flights.

I’ve been listening to the rider scrubber for so long now that I’m starting to think it would be a brilliant idea to make a soothing sounds CD of just rider scrubber noise. The noise that sounds like a sick person constantly blowing his nose, alternating the additional suctioning noise that an industrial vacuum makes.

This is Bliss. (Or Stockholm Syndrome.)

My laptop says it’s 5:07 am and you can’t imagine the disappointment I felt when I remembered that my laptop is still on Eastern Time and not Pacific Time.

The rider scrubber completed its job and is now silenced, allowing my ears to rediscover that other sounds do in fact exist in this world. There’s a speaker somewhere behind me blasting Justin Timberlake’s ‘SexyBack’ and the moderately-loud handheld vacuum picking up dust and crumbs and loose hairs from the waiting area of Gate 72. The message warning passengers that there is a limit to the amount of liquid you can put in a carry-on bag takes its turn in the cycle of automated PA announcements.

The lights are still on for all the stores, with the silver gates closing off their entrances. The departures board next to the kitson already has the early morning flights neatly displayed.

Life goes on in the airport. Another rider scrubber shows up to clean up the hallway behind me. I’m taking this scrubber’s presence as a sign to wrap this up; its obnoxious noise is the perfect soundtrack for falling asleep in here.

A Canadian Thanksgiving with Seth

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Bucket list item achieved on Canadian Thanksgiving: I spoke to an NBC page.

OK, so I had to modify this item because Kenneth Parcell isn’t a real page for NBC, nor a real human being. But after speaking to five – FIVE – NBC pages to check-in as an audience member for Late Night with Seth Meyers on Monday, it doesn’t really matter who I spoke to. Regis Philbin once donned the navy blazer of an NBC page, as did America’s favorite deliverer of deadpan, Aubrey Plaza. Kate from Chicago or Mia from Albany or the any of the other pages who shuttled me to my seat may become the next big name in entertainment and I can say I knew them before they made it.

To get to the show’s home at Studio 8H, the audience members take an elevator to the eighth floor, then walk through a hallway lined with photos of pivotal scenes from Saturday Night Live. At the end of the hallway was a glass window where I peered into Studio 8H, the home of Saturday Night Live. When Studio 8H isn’t in use, like on Monday night, the messy collection of sets and props planted on the main stage make 8H look like a prop warehouse.

Because I was a party of one, the pages stuck me in the leftmost seat on the front row, next to two brunette college students and right behind the control center for the producers. Four rows behind me sat the plaid-clad Saturday Night Live writer Mike O’Brien, who is a giant. That may have been because I was seated when he walked by me, but he’s a lot taller than I expected.

Ten minutes before filming commenced, warm-up comedian Ryan Reiss (formerly of Crowd Goes Wild, R.I.P.) proclaimed the return of Fred Armisen to the 8G Band. Armisen, who missed more than a month to film Portlandia, received an applause that the Late Night staff expected of us when Seth arrived — and it only got louder when the 8G Band kicked things off with an impressive cover of Billy Idol’s Dancing with Myself. The only thing more impressive than the performance was guitarist Marnie Stern dancing and jumping to the song in heels while playing her instrument. I’m always impressed with how women make walking in heels look easy; multi-tasking in heels blew me away.

Seth made his first appearance to Fred-like fanfare two minutes before showtime, giving a brief history of Studio 8G — the original home of Jeopardy! and The Phil Donahue Show — before running backstage for the opening. (Studio 8G was also the old home of Football Night in America, the pregame show hosted by Dan Patrick for NBC’s Sunday Night Football. It’s a versatile studio.)

The clock struck 6:30 pm and right on cue, the 8G Band cranks out the intro theme to Late Night.

The first 15 minutes zoomed by, with the monologue and story time, the improvised dialogue between Seth and Fred, and the “Famous Quote/First Drafts” segments filmed in a single extended take. Throughout the minty monologue — the security staffer stationed next to my seat treated himself to a fragrant strip of gum as the show began — I mentally timed how often Seth kept his right hand in his pocket (often), then switched to the 8G Band to see which jokes drew laughs from its members (keyboardist Eli Janney is the biggest laughter; Marnie Stern is the toughest to solve), then switched to the red marker of a control center producer as he crossed off each joke from a list (check!). I only excel at multi-tasking when seated.

The improvised chat between Seth and Fred about the latter’s suburban Chicago summer camp for cats — the aptly-named Fred’s Dogs — held my undivided attention. The same could be said about the music that the 8G Band played between takes; I’d buy an mp3 album for a reading soundtrack, if I could. During those music breaks, Seth ran to the control center in front of me to get his directions for the next segment, but the music was too loud for me to eavesdrop.

After the interviews with Minnie Driver and Ike Barinholtz, the production took an extended break to set up the two performances by Florida Georgia Line, which freed Seth to answer about seven minutes worth of questions from the audience. During this pause, Seth revealed that he keeps a picture at home of his two spouses, a disgusted Stefon standing beside a happy Mrs. Meyers, and recorded a birthday greeting to a mother whose daughter and son left her at home to attend this filming.

The Florida Georgia Line performance came and thankfully ended by 7:35 pm and I made my train with four minutes to spare. That is what I call a victorious ending to my Canadian Thanksgiving.

The Folks in Red

About a month ago, my local Target removed the two “10 items or fewer” checkout lines and replaced them with four self-checkout kiosks. Since then, I’ve conducted an unscientific experiment each time I visit the store to grocery shop (so, weekly visits, unless I forget to buy milk again, in which case it’s twice a week): will customers now flock to the self-checkout line or continue to use the staffed cash registers?

The results have surprised me: customers continue to go to the cashiers.

The first time I saw the self-checkout kiosks opened, I saw people in long lines for the cashier, even though no other customers were at the four kiosks. (I used the kiosk that night to skip the long lines.) The most common situation I see at the store is three people manning the registers versus the four self-checkout kiosks, and when I’m ready to pay, it’s usually one customer paying at a kiosk and the four or five other customers lining up for a cashier. I mean, the kiosks are open and you get control over the entire process. You no longer have to tell the cashier to bag that gallon of milk!

(Yes, it’s more efficient when unloading groceries to have the gallon bagged.)

Now the obvious question I want answered — but can’t, because it’s just too darn weird to randomly approach other customers without a press pass or some scientific credential — is why?

Is it out of habit that most people continue to flock to the cashiers? Are people too lazy to scan and bag their own purchases? Do the people prefer the minute or two of human interaction with the cashier?

I suspect that for most people, it’s some combination of the first two options above. Old habits die hard and the less work we can put into something with good results, the better.

As for me, it’s a combination of the latter two options. I’m a pretty terrible bagger. Today, I put a loaf of bread with a can of Chef Boyardee and refrigerated Italian sausage in one bag; a package of lunch ham, cheese, and a box of Ritz peanut butter sandwiches in a second bag; and a half gallon of milk and a 59 oz bottle of Gold Peak sweet tea in a third bag because I like to test the tensile strength of plastic bags to their limit.

(And while I didn’t forget to buy the milk this time, I forgot to buy the chocolate syrup. And the protein shake crap. See you on Tuesday, Target!)

As for the human interaction part: in my line of work, most of my interaction with other people is through phone calls. I know, I know, the social skills and engineers jokes write themselves so easily. So it’s nice for me to actually speak to another human being, face-to-face, after a workday — even if it’s just the customary exchange of…

“Hello! How are you?”
“Good, thanks, and you?”
“Good, thank you. Do you want this milk in a bag?”

And depending on who I’m speaking to, I’ll throw in a smile or a nod akin to an extra “thanks” to top off the five minutes I spend at the register. Five minutes where I (and hopefully the cashier, too) feel like a human being again and not just a cog in the machine.

Farewell, Landon

In his 157th — and final — cap with the United States National Team, Landon Donovan did it all except score a goal.

Through 15 minutes, he instinctively reacted to a deflection and headed a ball on goal. He set up Mix Diskerud’s with a free kick cross that met Jozy Altidore at the end line, who delivered the pass that led to Diskerud’s goalscoring opportunity. He exemplified his role of captain for the night and played the consoling leader to Joe Gyau, whose night ended after suffering a knee injury at midfield.

Through 20 minutes, Donovan returned to his old favored position at left midfield, after the United States was forced to play a temporary 4-4-1 while Gyau’s substitute warmed up.

Through 25 minutes, he had his storybook ending in sight. With no one on him inside the box, Donovan shot the ball toward the far post, beating Ecuadorian goalkeeper Maximo Banguera.

*clang*

While Donovan’s shot beat the goalkeeper, it didn’t beat the far post, which denied the goal that probably could have prompted Jürgen Klinsmann to call time on Donovan’s national team career.

*moan x 36, 265*

Once the crowd of 36, 265 at East Hartford’s Rentschler Field processed that Donovan did not in fact score, that the ball bounced to the wrong side of the far post, the crowd took a collective groan and put their hands on top of their heads in disappointment.

Through 30 minutes, he was still on the pitch, even though he was only schedule to play 30 minutes. His shot off the post and Gyau’s injury appeared to have brought Donovan some extra time.

Through 38 minutes, the American Outlaws serenaded Donovan with a “Thank You, Landon” chant and Donovan hit a shot from outside the box that just went wide.

Through 40 minutes, the end was near. Joe Corona was up from the bench and was the lone American warming up on the sidelines.

Through 41 minutes, a poor back pass to Brad Guzan invited Ecuadorian pressure, leading to a corner kick for Ecuador. Before Ecuador could take the corner kick, the fourth official intervened.

In red on the board: 10. In green on the board: 15.

Donovan shook the hands of the referees and Ecuadorians on the pitch and gave hugs to each of his teammates. You could say that Altidore and Donovan shared more of an embrace than a hug, before Donovan slipped the captain’s armband on his strike partner. Klinsmann welcomed Donovan to retirement on the touchline with a hug and a few whispered words, before the Americans on the bench greeted Donovan with smiles and high fives for a job well done.

After 14 years, 57 goals, and 58 assists with the United States National Team, it’s over. Although Donovan provided two of the biggest moments for the national team on larger stages overseas — that goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup and the second goal against Mexico in the Round of 16 in the 2002 World Cup — it felt right that Donovan’s final game in Red, White, and Blue was at home in an October friendly. It was at home in the United States that Donovan built his legacy: he served as a marquee player for MLS to build its foundation on, won five MLS Cups up to this point, but still excelled beyond all expectations for the national team when he faced the tougher international competition.

And it is in October when Donovan always shines, as he chases his sixth MLS Cup with his Los Angeles Galaxy — winning this year’s MLS Cup would be the Galaxy’s fifth title — to cap off his final MLS season. That would be the most appropriate storybook ending to Donovan’s career.

Take This Laughter With You

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Before the Bluth family came to life on Arrested Development, there was the Sycamore family in You Can’t Take It With You.

The Sycamore home in New York City is the domain where eccentricity reigns. The family patriarch, Martin Vanderhof (the legendary James Earl Jones), dodges the income tax and spends his time catching snakes and attending commencement ceremonies. One step below Martin in the family tree is his daughter, Penny Sycamore (Kristine Nielsen), a painter-turned-writer working on plays about war and sex, and her husband, Paul Sycamore (Mark Linn-Baker), who works as a fireworks manufacturer in the basement of the home. Their oldest daughter, Alice (the lovely Rose Byrne), is an office employee whose attendance at the family dinners is waning. Their youngest daughter, Essie (Annaleigh Ashford), is a confectioner (the candy is named “Love’s Dream,” which sounds suffocating in its own right)  and dreadful dancer who aspires to be a ballerina; her husband, Ed Carmichael (Will Brill), is a self-taught xylophone player and printer who delivers Essie’s candy to neighbors. Surrounding this family are Mr. DePinna (Patrick Kerr), Paul’s assistant and Penny’s model; Rheba (Crystal Dickinson), the family maid, and her boyfriend, Donald (Marc Damon Johnson); and Boris Kolenkhov (Reg Rogers), who drops by the Sycamore home to give Essie her ballet lessons and voice his opposition to the Russian Revolution.

Take a deep breath. Got all that? To quote the Arctic Monkeys, this house is a circus.

It is against this backdrop that the straight-laced Alice has to brave that terrifying right-of-passage into marriage: taking her fiancée, Tony Kirby (Fran Kranz), and his parents (Byron Jennings and Johanna Day) to the Sycamore Big Top and introducing the future in-laws to each other. The madness that ensues had me in tears of laughter up until the intermission ended the scene.

Although this Broadway revival of You Can’t Take It With You — a Pulitzer Prize winner that was first performed in 1936 — retains its original 1936 setting and humor, the jokes still land today because the story broaches topics universal to humanity: family, love, and the meaning of happiness. Alice can’t choose her family, but she chooses to love them in spite of all the quirks. To their credit, none of the missteps by the Sycamores can be attributed to selfishness or other underlying maliciousness — say, unlike the Bluth family. In their naivety and desperate attempts to do the right thing for Alice, the Sycamores compound their problems by engaging with the Kirbys beyond chatting, when they would have been better off trying to keep things simple.

It’s fun to watch James Earl Jones deadpan through most of the play, but his starring moment as Grandpa was his impassioned speech about his perspective on happiness, which he delivered like it was a sermon for both the characters in the home and for all of us in the audience. (I’m unsure that speech will resonate with the hypercompetitive spirit of New Yorkers, or the elderly people in the crowd who already lived through that experience, but it struck a chord with me.)

Byrne portrays the most level-headed character in the play, but she had to display the broadest range of emotions for any character, from the elation of being in love to the mortification of seeing the Sycamores and Kirbys interact with each other. Although the funny lines are evenly distributed among all the characters, Ashford and Brill steal their scenes with the exaggerated dance moves, gestures, and expressions that they have to make to portray the emotive Carmichaels. But like in A Raisin in the Sun, the strength in the casting lied in the chemistry between everyone on stage, which made it easier for me to see them as a genuine family creating an awkward courtship.

With multiple scenes using fireworks, a rotating stage, a crowded set with relics from a bygone era, and anywhere between two and 15 people on stage at any given moment, this was one of the more technical shows I’ve seen. Most importantly, though, You Can’t Take It With You is hilarious without being cynical from start to finish — I experienced laughter in its purest form again. What a refreshing way to take in a comedy.

Soaring in Paris: Bird People

The opening scene of Bird People, a Pascale Ferran film screened at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, celebrates the mundane of riding in a commuter rail to work. You overhear two students arguing about Cuban history. You sneak a listen to the music blaring in the headphones of another rider. You even get to dive inside the thoughts of a gate attendant for Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, mentally rehearsing the script and procedure to check-in passengers before they board their aircraft. The scene concludes with the introduction of the denim-clad Audrey (Anaïs Demoustier), a college-aged housekeeper for the Hilton Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport peering out of her window, focused on a tiny sparrow outside.

This introduction establishes the Parisian setting as another major character in the film, whose sights and sounds act as both a catalyst to advance the story and as a narrator to fill in the many scenes where dialogue is nonexistent. The other character central to this story, Silicon Valley engineer Gary Newman (Josh Charles), receives a similar introduction to Audrey: he stands slightly slouched and statuesque — think Napoleon Dynamite before his big dance — at a baggage claim carousel at Charles de Gaulle Airport, the conveyor belt rumbling as luggage and more luggage cycle past Newman. A plastic tan suitcase appears on screen and Newman suddenly springs to life to claim it and then exit, ending the scene.

But it is the nearby Hilton hotel where Audrey works that brings her and Gary — a guest at the Hilton for a day-long layover at Paris for a meeting before departing for Dubai — together. Even though both characters are in the Hilton simultaneously for much of the movie, there is actually little interaction between the French woman and the American man; the two-hour film is divided into two halves and tells Gary’s story first before delving into Audrey’s.

Despite the lack of interaction between the two, Hilton symbolically traps Gary and Audrey in the parallel situation of being fed up with their keep: Gary with the stress of his high stakes job and unhappy marriage to Elisabeth (Radha Mitchell) and Audrey with her increasingly demanding job, where her bosses continuously ask her to up the number of days and hours she works without increasing their appreciation of her efforts. In between the rising tension, Ferran reinforces the abundant symbolism in the film by peppering scenes of both characters looking out of the windows to Charles de Gaulle airport and watching airplanes take off, land, and taxi.

Eventually, the characters catch on to the symbolism of the airplane, and Gary and Audrey each separately find themselves free from the shackles of their mundane lives. After a late-night anxiety attack that features a wonderful 30 seconds of Gary playing Tetris in the middle of night, Gary makes a series of phone calls with business partners Allan (Geoffrey Cantor) and McCullan (Clark Johnson) to quit his job and wash his hands of all interests with the company before engaging in a tense Skype conversation with Elisabeth over the dissolution of the marriage. With the use of Skype in favor of the phone, the focus ends up on Gary’s stoic demeanor in the face of Elisabeth’s fluctuation from anger to sadness to resignation when they have to figure out how to break the news to their kids. Gary’s emotional and physical detachment is complete, and although Gary’s act is unforgivably selfish, his newfound emotions after the decision make it difficult to be totally unsympathetic to him.

Audrey’s parallel liberation requires you to watch the film. The only other things I’ll say about her half of the film is that Audrey’s curiosity is endearing, a Japanese artist (Taklyt Vongdara) gets the chance to shine, and the film presents some of the most gorgeous cinematography I’ve ever seen. Even though Audrey’s backstory is not as fleshed out as Gary’s, she comes across as a sensitive soul due to that curiosity and her observant ways. Those traits shine through when Audrey and Gary finally meet and provide the warmth that was missing in each individual’s interactions with the other characters. And when you’re exiting the theater, you’ll feel that same warmth after all the sights and sounds you experienced with Gary and Audrey in your brief stay in Paris.

US Open Marathon

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11 am: Sparse crowd for Errani v. Lucic-Baroni…

The two strangest things I saw in the six hours I spent at Arthur Ashe Stadium for Sunday’s day session of the US Open were the words “Visit Orlando.” Why does the theme park capital of the world need a marketing arm for its tourism industry? Those words shared ad space at Ashe Stadium with Mercedes Benz, American Express, Citizen, and IBM — traditional, heavyweight sponsors of the tournament associated with luxury and business. But everyone attending the tournament on Sunday afternoon should have no reason to visit Orlando anymore after what they sat through. Yesterday’s weather at Flushing Meadows was a microcosm of a typical Orlando summer: hot, humid, sunny, stormy.

It was under the dreadful conditions of “hot, humid, sunny” that I witnessed the day’s first Round 4 match for the Women’s Singles tournament. This matinee, 13th seed Sara Errani’s 6-3, 2-6, 6-0 victory over Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, was a lesson in letting your opponent defeat herself. These are the staggering stats that defined this match: Errani only had four winners to Lucic-Baroni’s 46 winners, but Lucic-Baroni had 69 unforced errors to Errani’s nine. Lucic-Baroni overpowered Errani in the second set to claw back into the match, but the control that accompanied that power in the second set disappeared in the third and cost Lucic-Baroni the match. Errani just kept the ball in play throughout the match and let Lucic-Baroni do the damage herself.

While I admired Errani’s low-risk playing style, her serve was the most unorthodox one I’ve ever seen. Before her left hand tosses the ball in the air, Errani takes her right arm and flexes it behind her head, so that the way she holds her racket looks like she’s drawing a sword from the back. I don’t know if the uncomfortable playing conditions made it harder for her to execute her serve or that serve just has a high degree of difficulty, but over the course of the entire match, I counted that Errani halted 24 attempts at a serve because of an errant toss. That total may be higher, though; I missed Errani’s first service game of the second set when I stepped aside to buy a bottle of water.

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1 pm: That’s a respectable crowd for Sharapova v. Wozniacki…

That bottle of water only lasted through the second set of the Errani/Lucic-Baroni match, so in the prolonged battle against dehydration, I returned with a bottle of Powerade for the start of the main event: 10th seed Caroline Wozniacki’s victory 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 over 5th seed Maria Sharapova. The sun started to cede some of its supremacy in the sky to the gathering clouds, making the conditions in the nose bleeds of Ashe Stadium a little more tolerable despite the heat.

This was a contest of power against mobility. In the first set, if Sharapova launched shots away from Wozniacki, Wozniacki would run cross-court along the baseline to hit a return at a shallow angle for the winner or keep it in play for an extended rally until Sharapova committed one of her 21 unforced errors. Wozniacki’s defense was her best offense, but she had a new trick up her sleeve for four of her 36 winners in this set: she crashed the net.

Sharapova regrouped and found her best play in the second set. Those passing shots in the first set that went long or were retrieved by Wozniacki had an extra oomph in the second set, traveling too fast and dipping too low after clearing the net for Wozniacki to catch. It was an impressive demonstration of how Sharapova’s power play could save the other aspects of her game, with her 22 winners canceling out four double faults and 12 unforced errors.

Wozniacki kept running into the third set, though. Considering that she is set to run the New York Marathon in two months for Team for Kids, it was fitting that — in a match that ran for over three hours inclusive of breaks — this running won her the match-defining triple break point early in the third set. Sharapova hit three separate cross-court passing shots that sent Wozniacki running east-west each time; Wozniacki somehow tracked each of them down. After the third reply from Wozniacki, Sharapova, who was stationed by the net, hit a weak backhanded volley that dropped the ball into net. That point drew a roar of approval from the entire crowd and a few standing ovations, and left Sharapova in an exasperated state.

Wozniacki didn’t need to outgun Sharapova at the latter’s own game. Like what she’ll probably do to many of her fellow racers at the marathon in two months, Wozniacki only had to outrun Sharapova.

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4 pm: Federer v. Granollers… Where were you all you people the last five hours?

After five hours of waiting, the main event for everyone else not named Bryan Garcia was the demolition that Roger Federer would put on Marcel Granollers. The Script’s “Hall of Fame” and crowd applause greeted Federer as he warmed up with Granollers, and the weather finally reached a point of perfection as clouds took over the sky to create a cool, comfortable environment.

But in hindsight, that was only the clichéd calm before the storm.

The first storm that this poor Federer-loving crowd dealt with was a disjointed Federer, whose play wasn’t as stylish as the sea green top and blue shorts that the Swiss legend donned for the match. (What? Those colors looked better than I thought they would.) Granollers’s serve overwhelmed Federer to where to a shutout; the first game barely lasted two minutes. If it wasn’t a Granollers ace, Federer returned the serve wide or long.

OK, early game jitters. Federer will turn it around in his first service game.

Or not. Granollers shut out Federer again and broke him for a 2-0 lead. These fans waited all these hours for the revitalized Federer and instead they saw the shadow of the player who was on tour in 2013. Eight straight points lost; even with Granollers serving now, that streak will end soon, right?

15-0 Granollers. 30-0 Granollers. The crowd was probably approaching panic mode after seeing Federer lose 10 straight points in under 10 minutes. Then the chair umpire announced this glorious score to the ears of the worried crowd: 30-15 Granollers.

Finally.

That was Federer’s lone point through the first three games of the match, but it seemed to wake him up. Instead of the wild errors — there were a lot of high and long shots from Federer early on — we finally started to see flashes of the brilliant Federer. One-handed backhands and sweet groundstrokes that barely clear the net for a point. An airborne Federer hitting a forehand winner. The forehand winner that crossed the net and landed at too shallow of an angle for Granollers to catch. This was the art we all waited patiently for.

As Federer started to find his footing in the match, a thunderstorm worthy of pounding of Florida found its way into Flushing Meadows. A flooding alert siren somewhere out in Queens blared loud enough for the crowd in Ashe Stadium to hear. The sky turned a dark, drab gray. A rain drop hit my right arm, then another one landed on my left eye (ugh). Sensing that they were running out of time, Federer and Granollers accelerated their already-fervent pace of play and crammed a couple more points. Before Federer could complete his service game, though, the chair umpire suspended play for the weather.

The two men were models of efficiency before the weather halted play: in the twenty minutes of match play, Federer and Granollers played seven games (2-5 Granollers). Of course, none of that efficiency would have been possible if it weren’t for the Federer mishits and aggressive attacks by Granoller that killed many rallies in three shots or fewer.

The players abandoned the court and the dejected crowd abandoned their seats for shelter in the concourse.

Then that final element of the Florida summer, the spontaneous storm, arrived over Flushing Meadows. Lightning, thunder, wind, rain — the whole package. The wind blew rain into the concourse and soaked the folks at the edges of the concourse; more rain fell from the overhangs, traveled down the sloped entrances to the stands, and flooded the ground that the folks in the interior of the concourse stood on. When the storm cleared up a little, some people took out their cameras and photographed the storm.

The crowd loitered in the concourse for 30 minutes before the US Open announced — via Twitter first, then through security staff about five minutes later — that the day session was canceled. To add salt to the wound, the night session ticketholders would get to see the completion of the Federer match that we were being kicked out of. After all those hours of waiting through two matches and all that rain, all that these Federer fans had to show for that was 20 minutes of (sloppy) play. I felt so bad for them, especially the New York University graduate student in marketing who sat next to me through five hours of heat and other tennis matches just for Federer. Then the cruel weather took Federer away from them before he could consistently put on his best play for them.

But that rain delay was probably the best thing that could have happened for Federer. After being down 2-5 before the delay, Federer returned from it and lost first set 4-6 before sweeping the last three sets 6-1, 6-1, 6-1.

Other than missing out on most of the Federer match, this was another excellent Labor Day weekend out at the US Open. I’m already planning next year’s trip for my fourth consecutive year at the US Open — but hopefully Visit Orlando and my home city’s crappy summer weather stay away from The Big Apple next time around.