Back in Nixon’s time, when the door opened ever so slightly to the People’s Republic of China, there was a thing called “Ping Pong diplomacy.” I don’t know the whole story, the ins, the outs, the backs, the forths, but I do remember it made us all question the way we held our ping-pong paddle. Suddenly it wasn’t cool to call ping-pong ping-pong, it became “Table Tennis.” When I got to China about 10 years later, I didn’t see a single person playing ping-pong. Badminton, but no ping-pong. Still, it was an amazing historical phenomenon and if you’re interested you can read about it here, “How Ping-Pong Diplomacy Thawed the Cold War.” It’s a wonderful story.
My other ping-pong story is pretty sordid (now you want to read it?) and icky, but… In 1977, I had a professor in graduate school who was a letch. Maybe more than one, but I only learned about the one. I was (and probably remain) a pretty naive kind of female human and when he invited me and (allegedly) several others to his apartment for a ping-pong tournament, I believed him and I went. Of course, no one EVER showed up but we “waited” for them. At a certain point the professor made a grab for my mammary gland and I was out of there, nauseated and angry. BUT in the interval of waiting, we did play a game of ping-pong in the rec room of his apartment complex.
A month or so later a friend — a grad-school schoolmate — had a party in her apartment. I went early to help her set up and get a head start on intoxicants. At one point, I was telling her the story of my bizarre evening with El Groppo. We were laughing about it and playing air ping-pong. I was already Bed, Bath and Beyond to the wind so I didn’t notice that people had begun arriving. A game we had begun in an empty room finished in a room with a dozen people sitting around on the floor, watching. The coup de grâce of the performance (as it was then, by virtue of the arrival of an audience) was me saying, “Oooooh what a cute little booby!” quoting the professor.
And there on the floor sat that very professor. To this day, I believe he deserved the public humiliation.
And, from the Waybac Machine, this is what my garden looked like on September 9, 2020