I'm back from Portland and it was awesome! And I brought back Katharine too. Now, I told my friend Fiona, I would do a Fiona-like report about the tennis. I don't think I can I do that because a) I'm not as funny and b) I don't remember everything. I should have taken notes but I will do my best. Be prepared. This is a going to be a very long post. You have been warned. First a few thoughts.
1. Portland is a really great city. Mom, Dad and I have never been there before and really didn't know what to expect. Yes, it pretty much rained the whole time we were there but it's the Pacific NW so that is too be expected. The people were very nice and answered all of questions. Our hotel wasn't very glamorous but it was a five minute walk from the arena and right on the light rail line and we were in the free zone so we could go downtown and back without any trouble. Definitely a city to put on your list.2. Whose ever bright idea was to give out kazoo noisemakers needs to be shot. I mean seriously. I have given up on the thundersticks, as they have become a part of Davis Cup but if I have another kazoo blow in my ear I'm going to stick it down their throats! And I'm taking about the adults!
3. If you haven't been to a Davis Cup Tie then you are not a sports fan! It is the most unique sports experience in the world. To hear over 12,000 people chanting USA over and over gave me chills.
4. Does anyone know if Yevgeny Kafelnikov does commentary for Russian TV because I was sure I saw him.
5. I am an idiot. Not only did I forget to charge my camera battery before I left but I forgot to take my charger with me! So I didn't take as many pictures as I had hoped because I wanted to make sure my camera lasted the entire weekend but dad took lots of pictures too. So, it wasn't a total lost.So, now on to the report. Our journey began last Wednesday after I got off work, Mom, Dad and I drove to Chicago. Yes, there are airports in Iowa but we had made arrangements for Katharine to come home and it's cheaper and easier for her to fly into Chicago then Cedar Rapids so we got to Chicago around midnight. Mom and Dad parked our car in the hotel's park and fly ramp and we went to bed. We didn't get much sleep because our plane left at 6:30am, so we had to get around 4 in the morning to catch the shuttle and check in. We all tried to sleep on the plane but they played Transformers. I really love that movie as cheesy as it is. So, when we got to Salt Lake City I was pretty beat. I did eventually fall asleep and missed the big showdown between Optimus Prime and Megatron but don't worry I own it so I can see it again. On our flight from SLC to Portland, we were honored with the presence of two different cross country high school teams who were going to Portland to compete in some Nike thing and unfortunately two girls from a school in Utah were behind us. I weep for our future. All I can say is thank god for headphones because they made my head hurt listening to them. We arrived in Portland around 1 pm. We got our bags and then went to the information booth were the very nice lady explained to us about Portland's fabulous mass transportation system. For $2.05, you can go from the Airport to downtown and once we got downtown and stay in the free zone rides were free! This was good news because we didn't rent a car and now we didn't have to because our hotel was right on the rail line and were like a five minute walk from the Memorial Coliseum. Mom and spent hours trying to find a hotel in the same neighborhood as the arena and all the indecision and going back and forth with maps, we ended up with only hotel left that had rooms available for all three nights. The Inn at the Convention Center wasn't the most glamorous hotel in the world but it was perfect for us. It was a very popular area to be in, not just because of Davis Cup but on Saturday night at the Rose Garden Arena, Van Halen was playing. If only we had known, we could have seen the US win the Davis Cup and Van Halen in the same weekend! Anyway, back to Thursday, after we checked into our hotel, re beautified ourselves we set off to find the arena. We were pleasantly surprised that we did such a great job of finding our hotel. Then Mom and I did what we did best. Shopping. Not far away was the Lloyd Center. We dropped dad off at a bar so he could watch the Celtics place the woeful Knicks and we walked around. Now, by this time we had been up since 2 am pacific time and even though we all did get some sleep on the plane we were definitely tired so we didn't shop that long. We eventually joined dad at Sanford's restaurant's bar and had dinner. We got there in the middle of happy hour so we all had a couple of drinks or in the case of Mom, 1 glass of wine and had burgers to eat. We then walked back to our hotel and called it a night. Dad and I stayed up and watched TV and then turned in around 11pm.
Friday morning Dad got up early to exercises, Mom got us breakfast and I slept in. Typical We left for the day of competition around 11am. We got our t-shirts and walked around. I have to hand it to the USTA. They know how to put on the show. They had bands, jugglers and people walking around stilts. The atmosphere was a mixture of excitement and anxiety. The one thing I love about the crowd at a Davis Cup tie is that they seem to be more knowledgeable tennis fans then those who go to regular tennis tournaments. I really got the feeling that everyone there knew how big this was and how important it was to American Tennis. I'm sure there were a couple of casual fans who just wanted to see what it was all about but for the most part we were all there to see history. I don't know how to truly explain it because it is one of those things that you have to be there to truly understand it. We ate our hot dogs and popcorn and waited for the matches to begin. Before the matches started we were entertained by various performances from local Portlanders. Then was the opening ceremonies where the introduced the players, sang the national anthems. On Friday, there was a little boy who sang our national anthem. He was like 11 years old and his dad is serving and Iraq and well, mom and I just lost it. Andy Roddick played first against Dmitry Tursunov, who my mom now has a big crush on. It was a pretty routine match for Andy and a great start for the weekend. Then James Blake had a very exciting match against Mikhail Youzhny. I love James but he hasn't exactly been stellar this year in Davis Cup so when he lost the 3rd set we were all a little nervous but James pulled it off. It was exactly the start that we were hoping for, to be 2-0 after the first day. I wished I remembered more details of the matches but really is all a blur.
After the matches, we headed downtown for dinner. We had to do a little bit searching for a restaurant that we could all agree on. We found this Italian place called Pastini, I think, and it was fabulous! Portland is revitalizing their downtown and what I have seen they have done a great job. In Pioneer Courthouse Square was the annual Holiday Ale festival and there were people around the block to get in. We decided to pass but it would have been great to have gone in. After we ate, we headed back to the hotel and prepared for the doubles match.
Saturday morning, we all got up around the same time at Friday, made our way to the arena, had lunch and then got ready for the doubles match. The atmosphere was electric! With a win today, we would win the Tie and the Davis Cup for the first time in 12 years! Mike and Bob Bryan had a 12-1 record in Davis Cup going into the match, so things were looking good for us but it's Davis Cup and anything can happen. The Russians played Igor Andreev and Nickolay Davydenko, both singles players and you can tell that they were at times out matched by the Bryans. I have seen Davydenko played doubles before once in Cincinnati and I'm pretty sure he lost there too. Everyone was on the edge of their seats the entire match, especially the first set. The Bryans were a little tight if you ask me but who could blame them. This is the match they have been waiting for their entire lives! After they won the first set in a tiebreak, they settled down and won the next two sets pretty easily. It's amazing how the crowd can go from being on their feet cheering one minute and as soon as the player steps up the service line to serve, the crowd quiets down so you can hear a pin drop. After match point, the entire USA team bench ran onto the court and started jumping all over each other. It was amazing to see Andy, James, Mike and Bob hug each other but also Mardy Fish and Robby Ginepri, who have been members of the team in the past but this week were practice partners, join in as well. Then they took turns running around the court with the flag and drench each other with Champagne. I can not even describe what it was like to be there when it happen. I really need a bigger vocabulary.
We were still on our Davis Cup high when we went to Powell's bookstore. Powell's is this huge independent bookstore in Portland's Pearl district. Now, since both mom and I work at a bookstore we didn't plan on buying anything unless we knew it was something that we wouldn't be able to get here. All weekend long it rained and on Saturday it was pretty bad. We were soaked so the first order of business was to get something hot to warm us up and in the grand traditions of bookstores, there was a cafe. We got our drinks and then explored the store. I know we didn't even get halfway through the store when we decided to move on. We got on the Streetcar to downtown and walked around Nordstroms, one of our favorite stores and then had dinner. After dinner, we wanted to check out the Christmas decorations in Macy's. Well, as it turns out Macy's bought out whatever department store in Portland and downsized the Christmas display to the dismay of everyone in Portland. I guess Macy's went on a spending spree this year because they also bought out Neiman Marcus and pissed off a lot of people in Chicago but I digress. We explored downtown some more but decided that we were tired of walking around in the wet rain and went back to our hotel.
In Davis Cup, they have this weird thing of playing dead rubbers or matches that do not count because after the Bryans win on Saturday the US had only won but I guess they have to play them because the tickets have already been sold and well, they don't want to give that money back. Bob Bryan played the first match against Igor Andreev. Bob doesn't play singles all that often and it showed during the match but he put in a good effort. After the match, they interviewed Igor and he was very funny. Lief Shiras (I think) asked him what the Russian team did last night and Igor said "We had a couple of shots!" It was really cute. Then James played Tursunov. I think James partied a little too hard because he started off a bit slow. I'm being nice, he started off really slow but he broke the first game of the second set and the crowd finally got into it. We gave him, what felt like a five minute standing ovation, and he just stood there and smiled. It was the turning point in the match and after that the tennis just got better. Even though the match didn't effect the result of the tie, we could tell that both guys wanted to win and it was a great match. Then came the trophy presentation, finally! It was pretty emotional seeing them get their trophies and poise with the cup. As a team they have worked so hard for this moment. I remember my first tie that I went to five years ago in Paris. At the time it was only Andy and James on the team. It has been truly amazing to see them grow as a team and in an individual sport like tennis, it is incredible the bond the boys have. They truly are a team.
After the tie was over, we eat dinner at a local burger joint and then headed to the airport. Like Saturday, it had been raining all day and the winds had picked up so our flight to Houston was delayed so we didn't actually leave Portland after midnight. At the gate, I noticed Mr and Mrs Roddick was waiting for our flight too. I was hoping that my dad wouldn't see them because as much as I love him he has the tendency to embarrass me and really, I looked awful from walking around in the rain. Yes, I'm vain. So we get on the plane, mom and I are sitting together and dad is in the row in front of us and who does she sit next too. Yes, the Roddick's. Figures. I guess I should not of worried because Dad was very well behaved. He introduced himself again, we had met them before and they remembered him and me, which was nice. They are truly nice people. Very nice and approachable people. There were other people who went to the tie on the plane too so we all had a group discussion about the weekend. It was fun going over all the matches and hearing what they had to say since they actually know the players and their families. To say, they were proud parents would be understatement. I was very glad to meet them again because for two people who have raised a superstar, they are very down to earth. Our flight was an overnight flight, as you probably guessed. It's never easy to sleep on planes but I actually got some sleep and even more sleep on the flight from Houston to Chicago.
Our flight into Chicago got in a little but after 10 am and Katharine's flight was supposed to come in two hours later. So we had enough time to get our luggage, go back to our original hotel and pick up our car. Thankfully, it wasn't covered in Ice because we had heard that while we were in Portland the Midwest, especially our portion of Iowa, was slammed with a major winter storm. For those who are not familiar with a winter storm, that is a mixture of rain, snow, sleet and ice. It must not have been as bad in Chicago then it was in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City because they was very little snow left on the ground and our car was fine. We loaded our suitcases, went back to O'hare but this time the International wing. Checked the boards to see the news on Kat's flight. It was going to be a little bit late and then we headed upstairs for lunch. We sat in the food court for about an half and hour before heading back down to arrivals and lucky for us and Kat, who flight landed earlier then expected because less then 20 minutes later she was arrived! How I missed her. We took her bags and her, put her in the car and home we drove. Kat had a layover in Dublin and the Dublin airport had a power outage so basically, they still had radar up to help land planes but nothing was going out. She didn't even have to go through customs really because they had not computers. Lucky for her she arrived at the tail end of the blackout because her flight was only late about 20 minutes. Thank God! On the way home, we all chatted about this and that. Kat told us about her Thanksgiving and what she and her friends had been up to in the last several days. We had dinner at Pancheros and now she has gone to bed and I am about to head out again and meet friends for a drink.
So that was my weekend. I wish I could have been more eloquent but like I said, there are somethings you just have to be there to truly appreciate. It was an experience I will never forget. Go to Portland, if you haven't been there before and if you want to see our team play Davis Cup, first round is in early February in Vienna against the Austrians! Or you could just watch it on TV! Thanks for reading my report. I will try to have pictures up later this week.