I lift a flip flopped foot over the seat and hop on the back of the scooter. I am wearing cut-offs, an MSRA tank top, and a Wilson backpack that has two Prince Tour handles sticking out. My chauffeur revs the engine and we rumble down the drive, make a right turn at the palm tree, and zoom up the road past lush green flora, coral and baby blue cottages, and red bougainvillea. I breath in the loamy, sea-salty air and can’t believe I’m here. On the island of Bermuda, on my way to play squash, having one of the best weekends of my life.
Ironically, the weekend before had racked up with one of the worst (on a purely hedonistic level, of course). I found out that my squash club’s days were numbered and the sailing trip I’d been looking forward to for months was postponed due to a little tropical storm named Tomas. I could wait and go a week later when the weather cleared, but I’d miss the whole point of going to Bermuda in the first place—the third annual Bermuda-New England-New York tourney which I’d been invited to attend a few months earlier. For about twenty-four hours I tossed around what I wanted to do more—freeze my butt off on a boat for four days in the middle of November or lie on the beach in the sun in between matches. It may seem like a no-brainer to you, but I’m oddly tempted by potentially uncomfortable adventures; however, I couldn’t see letting my teammates down so late in the game. Guilt is a powerful incentive. It pressed my finger to the ‘buy ticket now’ button for the airfare to Bermuda.
Sometimes guilt is a good thing. When I hopped off the scooter in front of the low slung home of the Bermuda Squash Racquets Association, the sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and the burgers on the outdoor grill were already sizzling. This is a club that knows how to treat its visitors right. It’s also a club I would’ve loved to have brought home with me—especially now that I’m about to lose mine. The BSRA is not fancy; it is homey. After greeting Dave the burger flipper and club manager, you walk down a few steps into what could pass for your friendly neighborhood pub, complete with tables where you can pull up a chair, a drink, and a few friends. Instead of dartboards, though, plexiglass lines the walls and the melodic thwak of the squash ball echoes in stereo. Two courts on one side, two on the other—one of which is an exhibition court with stadium seating.
To get to the courts, you take the stairs by the bar — oh, right, the bar . . . they call it the 5th court. There’s only one beer on tap—Carlsberg, but many bottles & cans in the fridge, including the cheerful yellow-canned Boddington’s which I believe all respectable squash clubs should serve, along with a 5th court to be served at. — So, back to the stairs. As soon as I began descending, I felt as though I was going back in time; the humid, slightly sweet smell of sweat permeates the narrow hallways outside the courts’ entrances and it was exactly the quality of air that my dad’s equally cozy club, North Shore Tennis, had back when I was a wee thing—well, a teenage wee thing. If you’re not into sense memories, however; a quick trip down the carpeted hall leads you to the air-conditioned locker and weight rooms. The courts, themselves, run a little warm, but, hey, this is Bermuda.
You’d be better-advised to hang out in the in the pub—I mean the viewing area, in between your matches. This area is ideal for socializing and watching your mates’ games. If you pull your chair up right, you can watch two matches and order another pint all at the same time. Swivel around and you can watch two more. This place has it ‘made in the shade’—which was part of my concern before getting there. Why go to as beautiful a place as Bermuda only to play squash inside? I need not have worried. While we did spend a few hours each day (Thur-Sat) at the courts, it was both a highlight of the trip, as well as only part of three very packed days. I’m not sure if it’s squash players in general, Bermudians in general, or the captains’ good taste in teammates, but if I had to hang out with this crowd every weekend, I wouldn’t be unhappy. Squash is an excellent common denominator.
With four teams (two Bermuda, one NY, one NE), each team played each other once over the weekend. Guys vs. guys. Girls vs. girls. (I’m not opposed to this, but I’m voting for mixing it up next year, and play according to ability, not gender.) While many matches seemed more congenial than cut-throat, there were some amazing ones to be witnessed. It’s particularly gratifying to see a guy with gray hair, say, out maneuver one half his age. And now we know that “you’ve got an easy one” are fightin’ words when our number one man from New York made his Bermudian opponent jump all over the court in order to capture (by one match) the tournament crown for the Bermuda ‘A’ team.
It was sad to see such a fun and friendly tournament end, but the New York and New England teams still had breathtaking beaches to see, winding roads to ride, and around every corner another rainbow to gawp at. Throw in an evening of fine dining compliments of the Bermuda Department of Tourism, the finals of the World Rugby Classic, a few pitchers of “Dark & Stormys”, some dubious dancing, and very little sleep and I’d say I got more than my money’s worth.
By weekend’s end I was just getting into the Bermudian groove. But before I knew it I was on the plane, back to the almost winter winds of NYC, and now that heavenly squash weekend feels like a distant memory. Part of me wonders, how could next year’s tournament possibly equal this one? But that’s the beauty of it; like every great match, it’ll be different. Same place, same time of year, but a whole new adventure. Maybe I’ll see you there . . . I’ll be the one in flip flops.
For photos of the teams, Bermuda, etc., go here.