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3 Days of NYC Worsening My Grief – Paul Sanderson


I made the video below to send 7 tennis greats who’ve signed a petition in my wife Briggs’s memory to begin a new era in cancer. Briggs’s ‘tennis’ story was in the YouTube description. Chris Evert agreed with an exclamation point, and Billie Jean King the next day. It’s also been signed by 20 stars such as Scarlett Johansson, Bradley Cooper, and Emily Blunt, and 6 professors including last year’s Nobel laureate in Medicine. A Volleying Challenge from the video, to get signatures on the petition, has been taken by Rod Laver and Rafael Nadal among others. This is an excerpt from a book I wrote about Briggs:

“The first day I went down to the park to shoot the video, it was hard because Briggs and I’d played there so often. Harder still because she’d shot that bit of footage, and with the same camera.

I’d just got the camera set up on a tripod, tested some settings, and begun shooting. Then a muscular twenty-year-old homeless guy started getting in the shot. He kept trying to extort money from me and I’d have to stop. After he started threatening robbery, I finally lost patience and got him on the run. But by that time I couldn’t cope anymore and I had to go home.

The next day it was worse working myself up to going down, but I felt I had to do it, for Briggs as well as the petition. Again, I’d just got the camera set up on the tripod and started shooting, when a supervisor from the recreation center started yelling at me from the gate to the ball courts. I had to “Stop! Stop! Stop!” She came striding in, squaring her shoulders against this racquet-toting criminal in white tennis shorts. She was telling me I had to take down the tripod immediately.

In my rocky state, I’d purposely gone down in the early morning. In fact there wasn’t one other person on the ball courts or even in the park. I mentioned that, and that the tripod was against the wall. And it was four feet inside the court I was playing on. I asked if she’d just let me shoot for one hour, half an hour. That gave her more control to abuse. (For that matter, the guy yesterday, even homeless, had been abusing whatever control he thought he had over another human being.)

She was going to call the park police and have me arrested if I didn’t take down the tripod. I imagined it would be a fine, if anything. But I wasn’t sure I could face going through getting a permit or coming back even with one. So I told her why I was shooting the video. That brought a snarled “I don’t care.”

I carried the tripod, the camera, and my tennis bag back for the second day in a row. On shaky ground to begin with over Briggs, I lapsed into a small breakdown on my way back up the apartment-building stairs. It didn’t make sense to me, so I called Parks Enforcement. I was told by I think a captain that I needed a special-event permit. I joked with her, saying that sort of struck me as a permit I’d need if I were going to hold a barbecue and invite people to watch me put up the tripod. Nothing. That’s the permit I needed.

That didn’t make sense either, so I got the email address of the New York City Commissioner of Parks and wrote to him. An assistant commissioner called me. She said I didn’t need a permit of any kind for a tripod for personal use. Even a small-enough news crew, for example, needed no permit to shoot. The assistant commissioner had to call the recreation center to make sure I’d be left alone when I shot the next day. A simple tennis video; part of trying to ensure that no-one, including the homeless guy, the supervisor, and the Parks Enforcement captain, has to live in fear of cancer anymore. Three days.”

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