Whenever I go away, I always have mixed feelings when I return.
That may not make sense to you. After all, who doesn’t love to come home after being away for a week or so? You have your family, friends, neighborhood and naturally, your nice comfy bed.
I get all that. But it’s a bit different for me. I never, ever liked the cold and winter in the northeast can be overwhelming and depressing, especially January and February. If I’ve written about my disdain for winter once, I’ve written about it a million times.
I’ve always had a love affair with warm, tropical weather. Who doesn’t love a palm tree, or the beach, or a great sunrise or sunset over the ocean?
When I head south, I thrive and relish in the idea of being there. I always imagine myself being there in the middle of winter busting my friends back home about how nice and dry it is or what the current temperature is when everyone in NEPA is freezing Yeah, I’d be one of those people.
I always marvel about how good the roads are in southern states. What? No potholes? It’s all smooth sailing without the weaving in and out of the way of those nasty craters left by winter’s touch.
I returned to Charleston, SC last week to cover a women’s professional tennis tournament for an online company, marking my 10th anniversary working the event. Charleston seems to be my second home and it’s the home of many people who have transplanted themselves from NEPA.
Charleston is such an historic city dating way back to the Civil War days. There’s so much culture and landmarks and museums. Since the weather is warm, there is plenty to do outdoors. If you’re a sports enthusiast, there are tons of baseball diamonds, basketball courts, hiking trails, bike trails, tennis courts and more. In fact, Charleston was voted the best tennis city in the USA a few years ago.
The Wyoming Area School District can’t find money to rehabilitate four of the district’s tennis courts, yet the city of Charleston boasts over 250 public tennis courts throughout the city.
Charleston is also the home of the Volvo Car Open where the top professional women in tennis converge on Daniel Island for one of their tour stops every spring. It’s the only clay court tournament remaining in the US. Many of the women stop at Charleston from Miami (the week’s previous pro tournament) before heading to Europe for the clay court season ending at the French Open in Paris.
Players from the past and present have been champions in Charleston, like Chris Evert (eight times), Martina Navratilova (three times), Steffi Graf (four times), Tracy Austin (twice), Martina Hingis (twice), Serena Williams (three times), Venus Williams and many more. In fact, the Volvo Car Open is one of the oldest tournaments in the nation, dating back to 1973.
This is a tournament that began at Hilton Head Island before making its way to Charleston. I used to watch the tournament in my 20s thinking what a great place be – you know, going back to the palm trees and warm temps when we were still freezing back home.
Never did I imagine working the event as a staffer and the last two times as a member of the media. The first year I was there in 2007, I thought, what the heck am I doing here? I was nervous and out of my element, or so I thought. I was out of my comfort zone and would call home complaining like a freshman living away for the first time. “This isn’t for me; I think I’m going to tell them I’m sick and I have to go back to PA,” I’d say.
After encouragement from my family, I stuck it out and learned a lot. I learned I’m just as good as other people doing the same job. I learned we are all the same. I learned that famous people are just like you and me, except with bigger bank accounts.
I have met some incredible people along the way, like the late Bud Collins. This year, I met Mary Carillo. Mary isn’t only about tennis; this Peabody Award winner has covered everything from the Westminster Dog Show to the Olympics to documentaries for HBO and other networks.
I found Mary to be funny, engaging, quick-witted and very accommodating. She suggested we take a selfie together. How about that? I didn’t even have to ask. She said the selfie is the modern day autograph and she’s right.
I’ve been back for a few days now dodging potholes, wearing a spring jacket and waiting for buds to bloom on the trees. Maybe I could plant a palm tree.
Quote of the week
“I have my faults, but changing my tune is not one of them.” – Samuel Beckett, Irish writer.
Thought of the week
“The excursion is the same when you go looking for your sorrow as when you go looking for your joy.” – Endora Welty, American writer.
“Poetry is man’s rebellion against being what he is.” – James Branch Cabell, American author.