2017 - THE YEAR WE FLEW.
2016 - The Year of The Strawberry
• Interviewed by Wimbledon on Center Court
• Twitter went bananas... er strawberries
• Morning show appearances
• Seen on Sports Stations worldwide from Japan, to Germany to Canada
• Inducted into the Wimbledon Museum alongside Serena and Andy's winning outfits
• Strawberry Man chosen as a hero shot for Wimbledon 2017
2013 - The beginning
Journal Entry: July 7, 2013
Wimbledon 2013 was quite possibly THE best 3 days of my life! Words can not explain the roller coaster of excitement of getting to, then actually sitting smack dab in one of the front rows on Center Court Wimbledon! Arguably one of the best - if not the best seat - in the stadium!
How did I get it? Well here goes.
So in order to get a hallowed ground ticket one must either be lucky enough to be drawn out of a hat beforehand or camp out in something called The Queu at Wimbledon. This in and of itself has been an institution for decades. But nowadays since the draws and superstars are so awesome one must camp out for two days. Sure why not!
Initially I thought 'Jeez I hate camping and the two days I'm going to camp are supposed to be super sunny' - meaning I could be doing something more awesome with my time. Then I said 'C'mon now, how many times will you get a chance to do this??'
So I bought a tent at the local shop, some costumes (more on that later) and stocked up on food and was on me way.
One thing that must be clarified is the FIRST 500 campers are guaranteed center court seats since 500 are available for the day. Then the next 500 will get court 1 seats (bleh). So knowing this I went on Saturday around 6p for Mondays Center Court matches. Which I thought surely was plenty of time to get these priceless sought after seats. Still, I was sprinting through the train stations and the streets of London and passing people that I was sure were headed for the same thing. Finally I arrive, hands bloody from the bags, sweating profusely and back aching. Finally I'm here! She hands me my Queu card...
I almost freakin' die. Like freakin' die. At this point I am thinking you have got to be kidding me. This is not happening. There's nothing I could really do though so I decided to stay positive because I was at Wimbledon. I met my neighbors and put up my tent. Then word came around that maybe, just maybe, if you're a little over 500 you can still get in. How?
Well they give Queu cards to everyone - including kids under 5. BUT those kids under 5 can NOT go on any of the show courts! Yes! There's hope!! So me and my neighbors looked and looked... up and down the lines of tents. About 4 kids in front of us total. Hope lost...
Regardless of this me and my neighbors tried to forget about it and ended up having a great time. There's tons to do but you MUST stay close to your tent. It's ok to leave for a wee bit but not for too long or your ass will get kicked out. Hmmmm. Wait a minute! Kicked out? Hope!!
We played frisbee, we took funny pictures, we sat by the lake, we ate, we tried on costumes, we laughed, we met tons of people, we jumped over tents. Then after two days it was time to pack everything up and get in line at 7a to get our court designation wristbands. Show time!!!!
As I was in line my neighbor said omg there is a TV news team here looking for characters. So I'm like woweee that has me and my body suit written all over it. Long(er) story short(er), I found them, they found me and I was on the morning London news with my body suit on! Ha! It was unreal!! This day just started off great!
Now we're in line for our wristbands. Center Court bands are green. Agh here they come!! I'm starting to sweat. I hear mumblings in front of me and I start faaaa-reaking out! Word was that the night before people had gotten kicked out because they left their tents for too long. But how many??? 17 of them???? Too much info to process and agh here they come!!!!
You will not believe what happened next. My 2 neighbors are IN FRONT of me - still waiting for theres - and the guy with the wristbands walks up. I look at him, he looks at me, I look at the wristbands left in his hand and almost fracking die right then and there.
He yells 2 WRISTBANDS LEFT! 2 CENTER COURT WRISTBANDS LEFT!!!
'NO!!!!!' I am Sca-reeeaming right now!! I can not be missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime by one freakin spot! This is not happening right now! Not happening!!!!!!!
To be continued...
PART 2 of the Wimbledon Saga:
As I'm about to die. He's still looking at my new neighbors that just scored these elusive of elusive tickets and says… "there's another guy behind me with more Center Court wristbands"
That's it!!! OMG I made it on CENTER COURT WIMBLEDON!!! Me and my neighbors behind me are jumping up and down scaaaaaa-reeeamingggg and hugging! Literally going from shear agony to shear ecstasy! The guy comes over and we are holding out our arms, just put the damn thing on my arm because I don't want any more drama!!!
It's on me now, it's bright green and says CENTER COURT WIMBLEDON. I take a picture of it. Actually we all take a picture of it on our arms because we can't believe it.
Now comes the interesting part. Since we are over 500 in line then how the hell are we supposed to get a good seat inside the stadium? You know me, more more more. Can't/won't settle. There must be a way. There always is. But what is it?
My neighbor, JP, has said that it's possible to sneak up in the Queue. But how could we when they're so strict here? You'd surely risk being kicked out like the others that left their tents. Ugh getting nervous but times running out and decisions need to be made.
One of my neighbors, Richard, has done this for 33 years said it's not possible. I fantasize he's saying this because he doesn't want us running before him.
Something to understand with the Queue is that it doesn't finish after you get your wristbands. Then you have to wait in line for about another hour. Then center court people are separated from court 1 people. Then each line is taken into an area to check your bag. After that each line is taken up to security. After security, according to JP, is the free for all. There's no more looking at the numbers on the Queue cards. This is when you can sprint up to the front of the line. Supposably…
All I know is I want to be at the bottom of Center Court, the insanely awesome seats, right where the players are hitting the ball. Right where they always show the screaming fans jumping up out of their seats, mere inches from the players. I want that!
The prospect of this is insane to me. How could someone camping out be able to score the best tickets in the house on the most hallowed courts in tennis?? It's amazing. Well for those in the group that are able to score the best seats anyway. All I know is my time is running out, now the line starts moving and I have to figure out a way and fast...
To be continued….
I'm stopping here just so I can get this part out. I feel like that guy on misery where Kathy Bates kept beating him until he wrote the end to the story! Lol! Stay tuned for the conclusion of all conclusions that will have you gasping for air and scaaaaaaaaa-reeeaaaaming for more!!!!
Part 3 of the WImbledon saga:
I am ok with following JP's lead at this point since he has more experience at Wimbledon than myself. He is 10 years my younger but wiser when getting around here. As we begin to move we know we need to act fast. But there are guards lining the queue so we mustn't do anything yet.
Now as we pass the bag check we move into a line for security and quickly find the shortest one. All of my costume changes are in my bag. All of my masks - that I am going to reveal on center court in a glorious never seen before event - are safe in the bag. In the back of my mind I'm remembering just 3 weeks ago when a masked man, part of an activist group, jumped onto stadium court when Rafa was playing at Roland Garros. He was screaming and carrying a fire stick of sorts. Security ran onto the court after him and there was a huge to do. Needless to say I'm thinking they're going to remember this incident at Wimbledon. And what would happen to those they caught?
Security time! Just like the ones at the airport where you put your bag through the roller scanner. Yay almost there! I put my bag in, take my belt off, put my loose change away. All this so I can quickly get my stuff then run, run, RUN!!! The bag goes through, I swear its out at this point so I go to grab it. Instead another hands grabs it. 'Sir we need to search this. Is this your bag?'
The lady opens it up. Of course my gorgeous bird mask is right on top. In my haste in the morning I forgot to hide that one on the bottom with the rest. So now it became a doorway for them to figure my scheme out. She looks at it carefully and says "Oh no sir, I'm afraid masks are not allowed." Then in a more stern voice, "I have to ask sir, are you part of an activist group?"
All I'm thinking is thank the gods I have my one piece body suit under my clothes and not in the bag.
I say "no I'm not" and laugh. And explain to her that I like dress up! Then I'm like "ok gotta go". I'm trying to wiggle the bag back and she says "sir do you have any more masks?". I'm like crap lady!! I can freakin see these ground floor seats disappear as she takes her sweet time. I know she's going to see the other masks so I say "yes I do, they're right there" as I'm trying to get her to hurry the heck up!
If it were JP I'm sure he would have said no and somehow convinced her with his wily ways. But her crazy prying-english-muffin-lovin'-fingers were too fast for me.
She takes all my damn masks. Then she asks me if I want to go ALL the way back to the bag check to check these in! What! Nooooo!! Just throw them out!! I need to get going! I need to cut my losses at this point and keep moving! I kiss my hilarious costumes changes goodbye, grab my bag, and thank the gods that daddy still got his bodysuit!
I move past the security and try to find JP and friend. But wait. How are they still there waiting in line AFTER security? I thought we were supposed to run? Well apparently we were wrong. They let people in to get the ticket only in spurts. We were still at the back and now no way to move forward because it was all controlled.
JP's on the phone with someone now, totally distracted. His mom? I don't know. So I try to get up to the front of that line where there's a woman I had made friends with earlier. She had a cane and I had told her earlier that she can go to the front because of the cane. She insisted no she would never do that. I jokingly asked if I could use it. Anyway here she is again. We're chatting, then a guard comes up to her and somehow convinces her to go up before everyone else. The guard asks if I'm with her. She says yes! Ha!! I look back at JP and friend and give them a quick 'do you mind if I go up now?' They say 'go go go!'. I ask the guard if they can come too. She says no.
We go along all these corridors and over to the actual Wimbledon site! A man ushers us past all these people and into the line about half way up. Ha! We are moving up after all. Then JP gets to me after 15 minutes and says we gotta do this. Now is the time! We gotta get past all these people and be first. I am like oh shit it's do or die time! Thank god for JP I'm thinking. But still doubting this final hurdle.
But First!! First!!! We see Richard(!!!!) briskly walk past everyone! The guy who in the beginning said it was not possible!! Wtf!!
JP yells 'follow him!!'. Omg here we go. No time to think, just do. I can't see Richard anymore but we are swiftly moving on the side of the line passing everyone! But wait there's a guard! Agh!! How do people keep passing him? Oh!! He's letting 'Grounds Pass' wristband people through. JP is in front of me, with his green center court wristband hidden, the guard asks him, 'are you a grounds pass', JP says YES, doesn't miss a beat and keeps walking. This could be the way!
It is the way! The guard asks me, as I hide my center court wristband, I say yes then pass him. All the time thinking 99 times outta 100 I'm saying "no, you got me, I'm center court". I think again thank god for JP.
We move all the way up to the front right before getting into the gate to get a ticket. All the people are looking at us now cause where the hell did we come from!? Shit hurry up and get through this damn gate already!! I'm freaking out!! So close to getting the best seats in the house! I can not believe this is happening!! Ok play it cool. Play it cool. And pretend like you're supposed to be here and this is your spot.
Then a crazy from the Queue like 2 hours ago, an English dude probably in his 60's, who I didn't even know was with us, comes up behind me and starts blabbing his brains out like 'oh my god how did we get here!' 'Oh my god look at how far up we've come!!'. Meanwhile everyone is staring now! Then I look at him as if I'm shooting poison bees out of my eyes!
First off, you need to play the part for people to believe. Seem confident and no one will question. If you don't then they won't believe you, easy as that. Duh! This elder Englishman never got that fax apparently. So I zipped his doubting Thomas english muffin lips faster than he could say Queen Mary. Next!!!
Now that doubting Thomas was quieted we could move onto the next stage. Getting the tickets!
And then the unthinkable happened...
To be continued...
We looked at the overhead screens of what was available and we all decided we would go for the scoreboard section. Right on the floor of the court! Prime TV seating for sure!
But as fast as we could say 'dumbledorf', that section was closed. Wait! All the good sections are all closing! We are a few people away and all the awesome seats are taken now. We've come this far and come so close. Section 111-114 are the seats of all seats. They are across from the umpire chair, meaning no big ass umpire chair in the way. And it's the section that is ALWAYS shown in TV. The best seats!!
We finally get up to buy our tickets. They say all the ones we wanted are all sold out. I want to deflate and fizzle away. Everything we went through just crystallized then shattered like a cold Christmas ornament on July pavement.
Then he says, as if a shaft of light opened over the ticket booth: 'Oh but hold on a second sir', he shuffles through his tickets and says 'Why yes sir it looks like we have 1 ticket left in Section 113.'
I almost fainted right then and there. I felt like I was floating on clouds of bubble gum. Faster than I could say 'Synergize' I scooped up that damn ticket then realized not only is section 113 the most sought after because it was smack dab in the middle but my actual seat was also smack dab in the middle!!! I scored the most insane seat in the most insane event and under the most insane circumstances!! It is actually in my freakin hand! This ticket is really in my hand!!!
As I'm starting to tingle and sweat from the excitement I remember my bodysuit. Oh yes Wimbledon, you didn't check under my clothes and now it's bodysuit time.
To be continued...
P.S. Don't be upset, I can only write so much at a time! I thought this would be the conclusion but there's too much more! Sawry!!! I can give you a sneak peek tho and tell you I don't die at the end.
FINALE to the WImbledon saga:
Walking around with JP and friend with tickets in hand we know we are golden. Initially I was going to wait until I was safely on Center Court to reveal my costume. But we noticed a photo booth where I could take off my clothes and get some pics taken. As I slip out of my corduroys and shirt my body suit is revealed. There are ooohs and ahhhhs and eyes from the crowd. Some like it, some don't, some don't know what to say, some don't know what's going on, some faint, just kidding. I've always found human psychology interesting. I like to watch reactions from people and understand them. From reaction to no reaction (which is also a reaction), they all give me a better glimpse into understanding humans.
So now officially I'm walking around in a one piece bodysuit at WImbledon amongst 20,000 people staring at me. This mayyyyyyy be more than I bargained for. But it's too late. The suit is on and it's staying on. There's no going back.
I'm sure this outfit has never been done at Wimbledon before. Wimbledon is all about tradition and the suffice it to say they are ULTRA reserved here. So some California dude busting out his sky themed one piece is going to cause some raised eyebrows.
Next up is Center Court. Walking around I'm trying not to catch peoples eyes. If I did it would mean that I want them to look at me, which I really didn't. People don't understand, they think I'm walking around in this outfit because I want the attention, but I really don't. I don't really want the attention, I don't want everyone to look at me, I just want to make people laugh. So if that means everyone has to look at me in order for them to laugh then that's the part I need to play. I'm fine with getting laughed AT by people in order for some of them to laugh WITH me. Haha. My purpose in life is to give people joy and inspire them. I've know this forever so I have to go with it.
Walking up to center Court, I get the eyes. I can always tell the good ones from bad ones in a nano second. It's a finely tuned sense that I developed as a wee lad. I had to know who was thinking what and who was going to say what within the first seconds after walking into a room. Adults, other children, old people, I was constantly on guard. Being different coupled with being sensitive you've just found yourself a survival technique to last a lifetime.
Now walking onto Center Court, all the while realizing the big to do at the French Open with the mask marauders. I walk up and see the most gorgeous court ever. AND it's completely empty because the match starts in 2 hours. It is my heaven! It looks unbelievable!! I've seen it on TV for so many years but it does not compare at all to in person. PLUS what's that sitting on the court but the men's trophy!! What the! I'm amazed and dazzled as the golden glow flickers in the light. Oh but wait, here comes a guard marching towards me. He sees me look then hastens his pace.
At this point I'm starting to sweat. I'm not sure if it's because it's sunny out or because I could be thrown out any second now. The armed force guard walks up to me and puts his hand up and says... 'that is the best outfit I have ever seen here, ever'. Haha! I say, 'Oh my well thank you sir.' Relief! He shows me to my seat, tells me some rules, and says the outfit is ok but only if I don't disturb the players or the fans. Ok fine that's easy (I think?).
There are all kinds of other guards in the place (some police, some green berets, some navy etc) and they are all staring at me because I'm 1 of 5 people in the entire stadium. I'm not out of the woods yet as a policeman marches over. He starts chatting me up, we talk about this or that. Small talk to obviously get information on me to see if I'm some crazy French Open guy. He says 'please don't think I'm rude sir but I must ask to see your passport'. This is all to assuage his boss that is looking over. I say no problem. Everything checks out.
Suddenly and like a tornado of cameras, the press come up and start snapping away and want me in all kinds of poses. Now the bobbies (police) want me to come over and take a pic with them. The guy that was just asking for my passport is as giddy as a schoolgirl now wanting me in all kinds of poses. I was excited at this point because everyone was loving the costume and having a good time. Plus now I have some insane photos to last a lifetime. Woooooo! Fast forward a couple hours and it's match time!
Serena Williams (ranked 1) vs Sabine Lisicki (ranked 23). Everyone pretty much thought this would be a simple match, an appetizer before the two mens matches. We were dead wrong. Somehow Sabine wins the first set in a blink. It's 6-2. Now we are all starting to think this can really happen. There's a buzz in the crowd at Wimbledon and the grounds like something huge can happen.
I think I'm going to root for Sabine. In my mind Serena has had her fair share of wins and now it's someone else's turn. More importantly, when I'm up this close to someone I can see their face, I can see there reactions and their body motions and I know them. Sabine is showing some major real, raw emotions and I truly, truly love a player who does that. So today I'll be rooting for her! Let's go! When I decide to root for someone then watch the heck out cause the whole worlds gonna hear.
Just ask my sister who came to a tennis match with me once or the high school field hockey team who I used to keep score for. It gets intense. One time I got so dizzy I fell backwards off of my chair and rolled down a hill. One of the gym teachers came sca--reaming after me!
Ok sh*t I am digressing.
If Serena would just cry in front of me then I'd root for her! Please cry for me Serentina. The time Serena was most raw for me was when she sobbed for her deceased sister during her speech after a grand slam win. I loved how open she was. When someone cries in front of you that's when you know them, you can see they're true self. I yearn for that real, honest and raw Serena. That's who I want to cheer for and news flash - that's who EVERYONE wants to cheer for. Also, who doesn't want to cheer for the underdog! Serena has been so dominant in her tennis life, coming into Wimbledon with the biggest win streak of her already illustrious career. She is unbeatable. It's one of the biggest streaks ever and at Wimbledon she's undeniably the queen of the courts, winning it 5 times already.
Sometimes a crowd can win a match and sometimes it can be subdued by actions of the opposing player. But this time it was not only going to win it for the underdog Sabine but it was going to lift her up and carry her off the court in one of her greatest victories. I was going to remind her that she's done it before, I was going to remind her that she can do it again and I was going to remind her that this was her time to shine - no matter the intimidation techniques Serena would use.
Oops, then in the blink of an eye Serena wins the second set 6-1. Crap. It FEELS like Serena is going to storm through the 3rd but this is where the crowd needed to shine and spark the light within Sabine. As the 3rd set started Sabine quickly got down 4-1. Ugh!!! Not only did she get down 4-1 but it was with the help of 2 straight net cord winners against her! So annoying and deflating for her. I have never seen a ball hit the top of the net 3 times then drop over. That's what happened in Serena's favor. Reaction: Sabine laughing which made the crowd laugh and made us love her even more.
Years ago, Sabine stormed to the semis of Wimbledon. I'll never forget her reactions after winning. I just wanted her to keep winning so I could save the pictures of her in sheer joy. Like no one I have ever seen. I would look at them and be inspired. I have so many photos of her on my computer from years ago, they emanate light. She is either crying with joy or jumping up or on the ground, anything and everything. And now I am here, with a chance to experience it for myself. And by god she is going to experience it.
Down 4-1, I get up and scaaaa-rreeeeeeaaaaammmmm C'MON SABINE YOU CAN DO IT!!! The crowd starts in and starts screaming for Sabine again. It feels like forever but she somehow claws her way back to 4-4!! Impossible!! At this point the crowd is going bonkers and faaaa-reaking out!! But this is where Serena shines. So I start screaming 'C'MON SABINE YOU'VE DONE IT BEFORE, YOU CAN DO IT AGAIN' (referring to her win vs Serena years ago). 'C'MON SABINE WE BELIEVE IN YOU'. 'IT'S OK SABINE YOU'LL GET IT BACK!'.
Now Serena is glaring at me like she wants to pour poison down my throat. Woops sorry!! The more Serena tries to use her intimidation techniques, the more riled we get. Glaring at me doesn't work and screaming things when you hit the ball then staring at me doesn't work either, honey. We're not backing down, not today.
The last few games of that match were the most exciting, freak out insane, games I have ever been a part of. People were jumping up and down, screaming, rolling around, fainting, and freaking out. Sabine managed to have a match point but she lost it. It didn't matter though because she won it on her next match point with a screaming forehand winner that had the crowd gasping then leaping out of their seats as she crumbled to the ground in sheer joy. And then she cried. I am here and I am seeing this as the crowd envelopes her and screams like you wouldn't believe. The energy sky rockets through the roof and into the clouds then back down. She is weeping and gets up and waves to the crowd. The crowd knows exactly who she is now and we love her for it. We will always remember this moment, it's now burned brightly into our memories.
I (and the crowd) are exhausted for the next two mens matches but it doesn't matter because the match of the day already happened and it was worth camping out for 5 days.
The next few days involved traveling around England, then going to Scotland to watch the men's final at a locals house in Scotland. Only after realizing I could have watched it in the town square with all the other Scott's or in Andy Murray's hometown just an hour away. This burns in me as I can't fathom this missed opportunity. My favorite player triumphs in a huge momentous occasion in sports and I missed experiencing it the way I believe I should have.
But it's ok. I realize that not every story is going to end the way you want it too. There's always a give and take and you're not going to get everything you want. But the times that you do, you need to rejoice in that and let the rest go like a lost love. Now finally I can put this Wimbledon saga behind me, remembering and rejoicing in what was, and letting go of what wasn't. Life's a trip, so you got to get up and figure out a way to move on.
As I lay in some bed, in some house, in Scotland, I realize that maybe all this did happen for a reason. Maybe the story was always supposed to end like this. I realize now that I want to reveal the good and the bad, to be honest, to write about everything I've done but also what I've faltered at. Something is clicking, now I'm sure this story of stories ended the exact way it was supposed to end.
To Be Continued...
Addendum. A week or two later a friend told me to google my name and WImbledon. What I found almost made me cry. I was #4 fan in all of Wimbledon, beating Pippa no less, I was in the photos of the month from around the world and my name was said in the same breathe as the likes of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams. I can die now. Seriously.