Our travel director handed out our randomly designated seat assignments for the Bullet Train from Nagoya to Kawasaki, where we had a matinee concert, followed by a bus ride to Tokyo. I was handed a chit for 7-D in Coach No. 10. En masse, we followed our guide to the correct track and boarded. (There’s never any question whether the train will be on time.)
I took my seat next to a woman a few years older than me who I had seen at our concerts and receptions, but who I had never met. James Orleans, my friend, long-time BSO string bassist and excellent tennis player, was sitting on the other side of the train aisle. Even before the train started to move he did the honors with the introductions. Anita Klaussen was his good friend and neighbor from back in Boston.
Anita and I started to chat, and shortly thereafter she mentioned she had been married to Bud Collins for twenty-five years before his recent passing. Did I know who Bud Collins is, she asked.
If you know anything about sports, especially tennis, you know who Bud Collins is. A world-class player, he gained even more fame as a world-class sports journalist. He was THE voice of American tennis for decades.
Anita no doubt anticipated the standard deep, baseline crosscourt response: “Wow! Bud Collins! Of course I know who he was.”
Instead, I surprised her with an unexpected topspin lob: “Bud Collins was my older brother Arthur’s tennis coach at Brandeis in the ‘60s.” From the widening of her eyes, I could tell I had the advantage. Jim, too, immediately perked up.
And then I went for the kill with an overhand volley: “And because Art taught me how to play tennis, in a way that makes me Bud Collins’s grandson, doesn’t it?”
Point won. Street cred achieved.
Anita showed me the tribute book she had put together for Bud’s memorial service. It included testimonials from famous tennis players and lots of photos. She thought there might be one of Bud’s Brandeis days, maybe even with my brother in it, but there were so many photos that it’s still in a drawer with thousands of others.
We enjoyed a conversation about tennis, Japan, and life until we got to the Kawasaki station. I’m sure we’ll have more. One never knows what to expect on a concert tour. Just like when I’m playing tennis.