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Sometimes, the the best things you can do while you’re on the road are things you would ordinarily do at home anyway. In our nation’s capital over 4th of July weekend, we delayed a side-trip to Annapolis because we could not tear ourselves away from this year’s epic Wimbledon men’s final (which lasted over five hours including rain delays). We had no choice but to just sit there all day on the couch, glued to the wide-screen TV.

McEnroe was beside himself in the booth, and it was clear that this was one for the ages. Afterwards, when he went down to the locker area to interview the players, McEnroe was completely lit up by what we had all just witnessed — the ferocious and transcendent quality of the tennis on display, even up to the bitter end. He was gushing like a little kid.

Eventually he asked Federer, who was ever-gracious in defeat (one gets the impression that Federer and the equally gracious Nadal actually like and respect each other) if there was any consolation in knowing that he had just participated in what was arguably the greatest final in Wimbledon history. Federer smiled a kind of sick, sad smile and I don’t even remember what he answered. But in any case it was clear that the real answer was “no,” that there was no consolation at all in fighting that hard only to come up a whisker short.

And I thought of the many equivalent sporting events I’ve seen over the years, and I’ve always had the exact same feeling as Johnny Mac — that when you play in one of those it should offset the disappointment of losing. It should be more than enough just to have engaged in such a thrillingly high level of competition. That’s certainly how I would feel if it were me. (I am perhaps a bit too comfortable in seeing things from the loser’s perspective.) But of course to the Federers of this world, it’s not nearly enough. Champions play to win; it’s part of what makes them champions. Yet another stunningly obvious life-lesson I had never quite figured out before.

To help me sort it all out later, I was thankful for the company of Harriet The Spy:

I WILL NEVER FORGET THAT FACE AS LONG AS I LIVE. DOES EVERYBODY LOOK THAT WAY WHEN THEY HAVE LOST SOMETHING? I DON’T MEAN LIKE LOSING A FLASHLIGHT. I MEAN DO PEOPLE LOOK LIKE THAT WHEN THEY HAVE LOST?

And to top it all off, an aptly themed romantic melodrama from the Nightmares playbook.

Perfume

The Nightmares

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[Click to play, right-click to download MP3. Doesn't always work with Mac/Safari.]

Hear the glasses clinking in the air
When I reach for one, well it’s not there
I light the room with candles one by one
I’ll burn a lot more things before I’m done

I was stranded, a dirty roadside
Stuck out my thumb and caught a ride
Ended up in an old saloon
The ceiling fans whirled me across the room

They sang, all that’s left of you is just a little perfume
All that’s left of you is just a little perfume

Well, I heard you were asking Danny how I was
That’s very kind, thank you very much
I do the crossword puzzle in the New York Times
But I can still remember different times

I was frightened, a dirty roadside
Hit my knees and there I cried
Later on I was in your room
The bottles on the dresser played forgotten tunes

They played, all that’s left of you is just a little perfume
All that’s left of you is just a little perfume

All that’s left of you
All that’s left of you dear darlin’ is the smell of your perfume

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