Patty's great-grandmother — the first Californian to own a seed business and the first woman in Calfiornia to won a business of any kind — arrived in California circa 1850. The family, says Patty,“came by covered wagon from Iowa.” Later, the rest of the family “came up by the Panama Canal by boat to Ventura.” Great-grandmother “was a horticulturist,” says Patty. “She sent very cute little succulents back East, and she developed big flower fields. She was the founder of the Begonia Society of America — she hybridized begonias. She developed the double petunia and the heavenly blue morning glory.” She was also a suffragette. “She was very avant-garde for her time. She created things at a young age and, being a woman, created a tremendous pressure against that.”
Patty’s grandmother was a seamstress “who did everything fantastically. She made these fancy clothes. But when I was little and I wanted to learn to sew, she said, ‘You’re left-handed; I can’t teach you.’ So I thought I couldn’t sew. In the last ten years, I’ve taken up sewing and done some very nice things. But it took me 50 years to get over it,” she says, laughing now.
Patty’s father “was a Renaissance man. He was mad that his dentist couldn’t make a bridge that felt good. So he made one himself — not the tooth, but the contraption that fit in his mouth. He made everything — whatever was needed, he made it. He had a very large room for writing and another giant room for his shop tools.” He decorated a skylight in the family’s Del Mar home with colored bits of glass; “Willard’s cosmic eye” looks down from the pattern’s center.
And Patty’s father painted — painted enough to go through various periods. A Grandma Moses-style image of his grandfather walking in front of the Ventura Mission hangs in Patty’s living room next to another of himself as a sailor-suited schoolboy. He went through an Impressionist phase, all soft outlines and soft shades. “He had his figure style,” says Patty, pointing out a seated nude of improbable posture and proportions. “He never understood the figure that well.” And he had his Surrealist phase — soldiers with pigs’ heads, women with pigs’ legs, people in birdcages hung from balloons. Twisted, elongated, hazy figures. More than anything, they put me in mind of a detail from one of Bosch’s nightmarish hellscapes. “He was into inventing flying machines when he was a little boy,” says Patty, noting one of the balloon ships.
The painting came later in life. Dad’s vocation was as an architect. “In the ’30s, we lived in the Ojai Valley,” an idyllic, orange-scented enclave a few miles inland from Ventura. “It was the Depression, and my grandparents had lost all their money, but they had this piece of land in Ojai. A rich relative gave us enough money to live on, and my father built this house, which was ultramodern for the ’30s — all stone and glass. It took three years. It was all stonework, which he had never done before. He used five-sided stones taken from the property. It was beautiful, like something out of Chartres.” Architecture giant Frank Lloyd Wright saw the house and gave it “his red seal of approval.”
Ojai has long been famous as a haven for California counterculture, and young Patty soaked up its ethos. “I was always avant-garde, ahead of my time. We were always into new ideas. We studied herbs and all kinds of stuff. We did all kinds of things that are basically taken for granted now — organic foods, for instance. You see advertisements in Vons — ‘We have an organic foods section!’ I was into organic food 30, 40 years ago.” Ojai was also “the biggest tennis place when I was growing up. All the big shots came there for the Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament,” which started around the turn of the cent ry. “My parents bought Australian rackets when I was just a little girl.”
Patty attended the recently founded Ojai Valley School. “It was a progressive school. We grew up doing everything that was artistic, painting and dancing and singing and shopwork and stories, instead of reading, writing, and arithmetic.” She loved the school, but many of the kids were boarders from Hollywood families, while she was a local. “I didn’t have a chance to mix with many of the other kids. I was kind of brought up in a different way” — an only child, living high above the valley floor and in relative isolation.
Who she did mix with were fellow musicians. Patty started taking piano and violin when she was five. Five years after that, she gave up the violin to concentrate on piano. “I learned to play pretty well, and I was very cute. There were studio musicians who played in the L.A. Philharmonic, and I met some of them” through the Hollywood-Ojai connection. “They all wanted to play with me. They were all so much better than I was, but I was cute and so they just wanted to come over and visit. They were more the age of my parents, who we re very young when I was born.”
The difference between her own abilities and those of her professional accompanists made itself keenly felt. She felt pressure to perform and became dissatisfied with the existing modes of instruction. “In olden days, people memorized their speeches, and that’s the way they learned music — by memorizing. The piano teacher... You learned notes — Every Good Boy Does Fine or whatever it is — and then you sat down and played a lot of notes, and that’s all there was to it. God forbid the teacher should know anything about composition or the theory of music. People didn’t do that.”
Patty wanted to understand the music; she studied composition and theory at UCLA and USC. “I got a master’s degree in music, and I took 60 instead of 30 units to get that master’s. And that’s when I started teaching. Because of my more progressive growing up — my school and my parents and everything — I was always into new ideas. Because I knew music from college, I had the wherewithal to develop a new teaching style.”
At its heart, the style she developed “had something to do with sounding alive. Being in the present moment, and never playing by rote. The idea was to make something beautiful, even if it was a first or second piece. I balked at doing exercises. I said, ‘You can play beautifully; you don’t have to do exercises.’ I found only one book in 50 years of teaching that I thought was worth teaching, because it utilized charming tunes or folk songs from European sources, rather than books that were mundane and never musical or artistic. It was always ‘What is the structure of the music, how many measures, what is the rhythm, what is the melody, where are the chords?’”
“I never let them know the names of the notes,” continues Patty. “They would look at the pattern of the notes. A person who plays by rote just has to take a lot of notes and go over them until they get them. I don’t have to go over anything. I look at it and see a pattern. I check out what would be the best fingering to make the music express properly, so that it curves. It doesn’t just whiz out notes.” She tried to communicate that method to her students. “If the interval was a line to a line, that meant, skip a note, skip a finger. If it was a line to a space, they would skip an even number of fingers or spaces. There was a conscious learning process: ‘What am I doing now? I’m doing this fingering because I can see the notes telling my fingers to do that. I can see which is the first beat, and I can give a little pulse to it.”
Patty paid close attention to the relation between the body and the sound. Besides the notion of notes telling fingers where to go, she taught students to “knead the beauty out of the keys. It’s one way to start learning to pull the beauty out of a tone. It’s a figure-eight motion with the fingers; you go forward and back and forward and back, kneading.”
By the time she attended them, UCLA and USC were local schools. “I loved Ojai, and we would have stayed there if it weren’t for 1941 and the war. They didn’t have copper for wiring, and for about ten years, it was hard to get a job as an architect for one-of-a-kind houses.” The family moved to Los Angeles, and Patty’s father went to work designing aircraft for Howard Hughes. They brought Patty’s 1907 Steinway with them. “We were self-supporting in L.A. for many, many years.” Patty married and had three children — Charlie, Paul, and John.
Then, around 1960, the family moved south. “My husband was working for a builder, American Housing Guild. We we re going to establish new housing projects down here. But because of a slump in the economy, they couldn’t expand as fast as they thought, so my father went to work for another building company. Then we got tired of that and decided to build the nursery school. I was giving piano lessons, and I said, ‘I’ve got to have some place for the kids.’”
Christopher Robin preschool went up near Montgomery Field. “At that time, people came together and had a little babysitting in their home, and that’s what nursery school consisted of. We came in and built a school for a hundred children. Everything was designed for them — little tiny toilets and everything. It was a large school, and we lived upstairs. My son John was a little psychologist; he was about three, and he took care of all the two-year-old problem kids.”
By the time John and his brothers were six or seven, they had begun moseying down the hill into Mission Valley, there to begin swatting balls at the Mission Valley Tennis Club. Patty’s son Paul, who is with us here in Del Mar, says that “it was just natural to play tennis; we sort of grew up as a tennis family. We realized that tennis was a more advanced sport than a lot of the others. There was more activity; you didn’t have to wait in the backfield.”
“They were called the Mayberry boys,” says Patty, grinning at the memory. “There was a famous tennis family at the time called the Newberrys, and we were the Mayberrys. John was number one in San Diego. Paul was number two — he had one other kid who was his nemesis. Paul was in Hawaii just a few weeks ago, and a fellow came up to him and said, ‘You’re Paul Mayberry.’ He remembered Paul because he was so impressed with his playing. They were really highly ranked, and they we re winners. We have something like 150 trophies” — though none of them are on display.
Paul is not visiting; he lives here. His brother Charlie, an acupuncturist and homeopath, lives downstairs with his wife — they converted the old writing room and workshop. John, a tennis pro, lives just down the road. “He would have lived here,” explains Patty, “but there wasn’t quite enough room.” Charlie’s daughter is in college, “but she has a room when she’s in town,” says Paul.
“We’re very close-knit,” says Paul. “It’s not like there’s a generation gap — I’ve actually drawn on my mother and father for insight on life’s questions and those sorts of things. We’ve stayed sort of like an 18th-century family, where they had a castle and they stayed there for a while. We’ve inherited this house together. It’s not easy for a family to live together; it shows how well we get along.”
(It’s unusual for Paul to refer to Patty as his mother; usually, he just calls her Patty. Though the family has remained close, she has sought to keep it from being stifling. “I’ve been called Patty by my kids forever,” she says, “because I didn’t act like a mother. I was hipper than all the latest jargon on how to bring up kids. I didn’t like the way parents treated children — they didn’t treat them like what I considered to be human beings. Every child has to grow up and take responsibility and can make mistakes. I thought it was all right to make a mistake; it wasn’t that the parent should be always trying to protect the child from doing anything wrong or seeing life. I just wanted to stay their friend, rather than their mother, and let them take responsibility. I let them be themselves, rather than sons and daughters. I put Charlie in charge of them cooking for themselves; he did the dishes and the cleaning, and so I didn’t have to get after them. I never had to be a mother and tell them what to do.”)
The house they inherited was built by Patty’s father against the side of a canyon. “This area was all built out,” says Patty. “The people in front sold the back part of their property, because there was nothing left in Del Mar.”
“They were all members of the Unitarian Church,” says Paul, “and he knew these people. Evidently, they were old enough not to consider the back part of their place that valuable. It was a big property, so there was enough room to do it. After going crazy working for Hughes, he wanted to do something pretty creative, and he saw the potential here to build on a cliff.”
Unlike many cliffside homes, this one actually makes considerable use of the canyon below. “All of this has been reclaimed,” says Patty, gesturing downward from the narrow deck. “It was all horrible brush, and it’s all been trimmed out. They cut down two trees and took slabs of the tree and made steps going all the way down.” Charlie’s end of the family gets the work done. “There’s something new every time I see it. They built the treehouse,” which looks more like a two-story clubhouse, a watchtower over the canyon. “They just put in that gazebo.” Several sitting areas can be seen as the canyon snakes away toward the ocean. “You can see the racetrack from the roof,” says Patty.
Del Mar was an attractive community to the former Ojaians. “There’s this intellectual, offbeat group of people that Del Mar represents,” begins Paul.
“It’s not just Del Mar, it’s North County,” corrects Patty.
“All the UCSD professors moved out here at a certain time. La Jolla is much more money-oriented, whereas Del Mar has more of a heady environment.”
“Well, we have the racetrack,” offers Patty. “People have come here from all over the world because of the racetrack and the fair.” The dark-stained wood house is low-slung, one story hugging a long swath of canyon rim. From street level, the darkness is prevalent, highlighted as it is by the riot of flowers — potted, planted, hanging in baskets — that crowd around the front patio. But as you descend the hill toward the canyon’s edge and the home’s front door, you can see light making its way through the place — sliding glass doors make up a good bit of the front and back wall space in the main living area. It’s almost as if the great open ceiling — huge rough beams below broad rough planks — was supported by the more solid walls at the great room’s far ends.
The great room does not immediately feel as big as it is; it teems with furniture that breaks it into discrete sections. At the far end, a stairway descends to the lower level; before it stands a cluster of low bookshelves and a rustic table surrounded by straight-backed wooden chairs. A freestanding brick fireplace makes a partition, on the near side of which is a small sitting area. More bookshelves fill the space between hearth and wall. Closer still is a round shabby-chic table outfitted with padded wicker armchairs. Lamps of various styles rise up from the floor and hang here and there from the ceiling; side tables — some primitive, some refinished, some formal enough to sport marble tops — hold their places along the walls beside more shelves and cabinets. And everywhere there are potted plants and buckets of flowers — the outdoor flora finding its way inside with the sunlight. The great uniting element is the floor, installed by Paul — pale, cool, mottled-green wood-laminate tiles that stretch from one end to the other.
It was not always thus. Once, the front wall of the house was solid and served to back up the large, central kitchen. Actual walls divided the kitchen from the dining room, living room, and bar; everything tended toward the windows in the canyon-view rear of the house. But when Patty moved in following the death of her mother two years ago, she started remodeling. “The first house I lived in had a great room, and my father had a big piano. When I moved down here, I couldn’t get used to the lack of space. When I lived in San Diego, I remodeled my house in the same way. I took out doors and walls and everything to make a great room.”
Here in Del Mar, “I wanted more light, so I built a new kitchen in the back porch,” thus freeing up walls for sliders and a view of her front-patio flower garden. “My bedroom is in the garage.” But she has her great room — a room for her cherrywood Kawai concert grand piano. Its rich, polished gleam stands in sharp contrast to the bleached wood of the walls and the rough wood of the ceiling. “My Steinway was six feet, two inches, which is big for a Steinway,” says Patty. “I eventually had it rebuilt, and while we were having it rebuilt, my second husband bought me this one. It’s seven feet, four inches. I thought I was going to have two pianos, facing each other, and I would teach and do things with two pianos. But it was just too much.” She sold the Steinway to a friend.
Part of the reason for the great room was the size of the instrument. In a smaller space, it would look (and, I imagine, sound) cramped — certainly not grand. But the chief good of the generous space is that, as Paul says, “You can put everything around the sides of the room and have a bunch of people sitting here and listening to music.” Patty is a performer; she plays for people to hear. “When I’m playing, I really feel myself penetrating somebody, and then they come back to me with their experience of it. The focus is to make it speak to the person. I’m trying to make contact through the invisible little qualities that are in the music, and when you experience that, it all comes back to me.”
She plays for me, a piece from Chopin and another from Brahms. I don’t hear much live music, and to be only a few feet from a skilled musician on a splendid instrument is a bit of a thrill. “The main thing,” she tells me, “is to know what you’re doing consciously, to make a decision in an artistic moment to play a little louder or a little softer, a little faster or a little slower, a little brighter or a little duller, so that it sounds fresh. It doesn’t sound like a memorized speech.”
She applied her own principles of instruction to her own education. She learned to sew; her gaily decorated top is her own creation. She learned to paint; her watercolor studies and modern oils cover the walls. “I didn’t really paint until three years ago. I go into classes and I know how to pay attention. I know how to learn from the teacher and watch others. I see the way they paint, and I try to incorporate their thought and not get stuck in my own.”
Patty’s son Paul inherited his mother’s taste for innovative methods of instruction. As a boy, he worked as a janitor at the Christopher Robin preschool. By the time he was a teenager, he was helping to manage the place. “At the school, my father, I think he held some classes in the back yard. Tai chi and movement classes. People wanted to just learn tai chi and discover what it was — you know, you learn a hundred-move form, and then ten years down the line, you’re able to appreciate it. We sort of thought there were a lot of ways you could be creative and use tai chi, utilize it in sports and other things.”
Paul’s interest in the body’s movement may have begun with tai chi, but it was heightened when he spent time teaching at Pauline Betz Addie’s tennis clinic in Maryland. “She won Wimbledon at an early age. I was 17 or 18, and I knew her son. He juggled, and he played tennis right- and left-handed. He was a real head case, but he introduced me to all this stuff. There was something about the right and left side of the body. I was obsessed; from moving in the figure eight to thinking about the yin-yang symbol and positive and negative electricity in an alternating current.
“All this stuff was going around in my mind. We used to have this camper, and I’d hang out with my father, and we’d have these long chats. I remember one afternoon, just being in there and realizing that the figure-eight motion was the way I could teach everything I wanted to teach in tennis. I had always found it difficult to break into the tennis teaching world. I’m sort of a counterculture person; I didn’t fit in that we ll. My view of the way you taught was really out of the ordinary. It was a Eureka moment.”
Paul thinks tennis is “the king of sports. It’s not really hand-to-hand combat. Because of the net and the equal space on both sides, there’s a freedom to play a more heady kind of game. It really utilizes the body as it was supposed to be utilized — your hand-eye coordination, your lower body to get you around. You have to utilize both sides of your body to coordinate and develop power. If you get your left side oriented when you hit the ball, you’ve got all this unfolding, so that your stroke strikes the ball with great force. Rather than doing whatever you can to muscle the ball, you develop a kind of effortless power.” The key is balanced movement around a center axis of the body — movement in a figure eight. “It’s at the core of throwing as well — see how both shoulders move when you throw?”
Besides the way the body relates to itself, Paul sees a perfection in the body’s relation to the ball and the court. “There’s a geometry in tennis — all these movements have to fit in a rectangular court. There’s an orientation that should exist between your body and the court.” The first orientation has to do with sight. “If you’re looking straight on at the ball, your depth perception is not very good. The focal lanes of both eyes are the same.” But if you step back and to the side, so that your head is at a 45-degree angle to the path of the ball, “You’re able to see in a three-dimensional way. It’s a matter of moving your body to where you see properly.” Then, “You realize how you use space to gain power and balance and control.” Finally, “We talk about the perfect place to hit the ball. It’s never really mentioned in tennis. People say, ‘You hit the ball anywhere according to what shot you have.’ But we feel there is a perfection in the game. If you look geometrically, you can understand where rotation and leverage and direction converge, and you should be hitting that spot. It happens to be at a 45-degree angle, and you can organize your stroke around it — how you bring the racket back and follow through. You develop a balance between both sides of the stroke.” The moment of contact with the ball becomes “the center point of a figure eight.”
“Everything is always going out and then coming back to the center,” says Patty. (Patty used the figure eight to help her students knead the keys of the piano and sees musical performance as a kind of back-and-forth conversation.) “Ice skating makes a big thing about the figure eight as a movement for them to practice. It’s all-encompassing.”
“How perfectly they roll around and go off to the other side shows their mastery,” adds Paul.
Paul dovetailed his thoughts on tennis, the figure eight, and going out and coming back with what he was learning about the thought of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. In his early 20s, Paul had moved back home to help his mother get ready to sell their house in San Diego. “I was alone at the time,” says Patty. “I had divorced my second husband. I always had these ideas. I thought I was going to give retreats and have programs — which I did, to a small extent. I just thought that when my father died that I would have extra money. But my mother never let me have any money until she died, and that was 25 years later.” She ended up not selling, and Paul settled in. “I found it easier to live there than to try to rent other places with other roommates. We studied a lot together, and we went to these conferences” at the Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, outside of Sacramento.
According to the college’s website, Steiner is, among other things, the founder of anthroposophy, “in which the heightened capacities of thinking, feeling, and willing are seen as the key to unlocking enormous human potential.” Paul was attracted by the notion that a person could attain a kind of knowingness that would allow him to “appear more effortless, be quicker, and do the perfect thing in a situation. There’s how you feel inside, and then there’s the outer world. I think the better tennis players are the ones who are able to transcribe what they feel inside onto the world outside, where the ball is coming, and he’s got to react and overcome the other person. The people who really excel play with a sort of meditation.” That knowingness echoed Patty’s notions of playing music, consciously deciding how to express each part of a piece.
Paul says he “just found that all this stuff, though it was totally afield from sports, totally related to sports. I was obsessed with relating this stuff, because I saw a connection. But how to bring it to people? It was pretty far out, and it’s hard to break into the tennis world.”
As it happened, Paul’s experience with the mad juggler provided his breakthrough. Paul’s brother John spent some time working for Jack Broudy, an established SoCal tennis pro. When Jack smashed a finger on his right hand, he began playing on the other side. John knew that Paul, though a righty himself, had learned to play left-handed, and he introduced the two.
“I started working with Jack, and one week, he left to go surfing in Australia. I was left with a clinic and a bunch of kids, so I started teaching my way. When he got back, he was very open to it, and he started sort of incorporating it. He was always try ing to find the best ways of teaching, and he started realizing that what I was proposing was a very good modality of understanding the stroke. The 8Board came about from trying to figure out a way to make the figure eight easier to do.”
The 8Board is Paul’s invention. Back when he was working at Christopher Robin, he met an inventor, a man who would become his mentor in the field. “He was a mathematician, and he was able to make these really great tire structures from recycled tires. We we re really the first to do something like that.” Paul spent years working with the man. Among other things, they collaborated on a geodesic dome made from strips of laminated wood, and they are working on a wooden tennis racket that can measure up to the power of graphite and titanium but still retain the shock-absorbing resilience of wood. Steiner, tennis, the figure eight, and invention converged, and the 8Board was the result.
The 8Board is, most simply, a device that connects two free-spinning discs via an adjustable arm. To use it, you simply stand with one foot on each disc and swivel your body back and forth, your arms moving in opposition to your legs. The design is considerably simpler than that of the prototype, which Paul built from materials he purchased at Home Depot. That 8Board consists of a central disc resting upon a foam cushion. A board shaped like a figure eight is mounted on the base disc so that it spins around its own center point. Free-spinning discs are then mounted on each side of the figure Jack smashed a finger on his right hand, he began playing on the other side. John knew that Paul, though a righty himself, had learned to play left-handed, and he introduced the two.
“I started working with Jack, and one week, he left to go surfing in Australia. I was left with a clinic and a bunch of kids, so I started teaching my way. When he got back, he was very open to it, and he started sort of incorporating it. He was always trying to find the best ways of teaching, and he started realizing that what I was proposing was a very good modality of understanding the stroke. The 8Board came about from trying to figure out a way to make the figure eight easier to do.”
The 8Board is Paul’s invention. Back when he was working at Christopher Robin, he met an inventor, a man who would become his mentor in the field. “He was a mathematician, and he was able to make these really great tire structures from recycled tires. We we re really the first to do something like that.” Paul spent years working with the man. Among other things, they collaborated on a geodesic dome made from strips of laminated wood, and they are working on a wooden tennis racket that can measure up to the power of graphite and titanium but still retain the shock-absorbing resilience of wood. Steiner, tennis, the figure eight, and invention converged, and the 8Board was the result. The 8Board is, most simply, a device that connects two free-spinning discs via an adjustable arm. To use it, you simply stand with one foot on each disc and swivel your body back and forth, your arms moving in opposition to your legs. The design is considerably simpler than that of the prototype, which Paul built from materials he purchased at Home Depot. That 8Board consists of a central disc resting upon a foam cushion. A board shaped like a figure eight is mounted on the base disc so that it spins around its own center point. Free-spinning discs are then mounted on each side of the figure eight. Just standing on the thing requires a measure of balance — the foam allows the board to tip if you shift too far in any direction.
“You do the figure eight [swivel] to stay in balance,” says Paul. “Otherwise, one side goes one way and you go out of control. The figure eight organizes your body to stay balanced. There’s a fabric to the way you move; if one side of your body is out of balance, you’ll feel it immediately. When both sides are in balance, you play off both sides. You get into a sort of idling situation, but your whole body is organized and coordinated. Any motion you make evolves out of it.
“I tried to come up with the most bells and whistles that I could for an invention,” says Paul of the original board’s complex motion. “But my father, who was in his 60s, believed in slow motion.” With the second-generation, more straightforward board, “You can try to coordinate your body, but you can also move really slowly, in a sort of meditation.”
“It’s therapeutic,” attests Patty. “It’s an integration of both-sidedness. It makes everything coordinated, including your inner-body structures. Your organs, your hips, your shoulders.” And with the second 8Board, “You don’t need guardrails.”
Jack is joining Paul and Patty for dinner this evening, a common event. When he arrives, he is wearing the same two-toned nylon jogging suit as Paul. Patty calls them twins. “He’s the front-line man,” she says. “Paul is more retiring.”
“No, we’re both front-line men,” counters Jack. “I helped develop the teaching method, and I think I helped a little bit with the plastic board. Bu t he came up with all the cool, original prototypes.”
“Jack is a go-getter,” says Patty. “He’s involved with many clubs and professional people all over the country.”
“It all started with the fact that I could relate with this tennis pro,” continues Paul. “He had this whole following. We really had guinea pigs, so to speak, and it’s really turned out.” One of Jack’s longtime pupils, Steve Forman, recently won two Boys 14 Super Nationals. “He’s one of the rising stars in the country. It’s been a snowballing success with kids and juniors. It’s all proving itself out.”
“You can’t teach a kid how to move his hips, his shoulders, his knees,” argues Patty. “You keep telling him, ‘Bend your knees, do this, do that,’ and the kid just flakes out. But when he gets on the board, he does everything, and you don’t have to explain anything.”
“The coach tells you to transfer your weight,” adds Jack. “But the problem is, it’s not really a transference of weight. I mean, your weight is transferred, but you don’t actually try to do it.” But even if it teaches effective motion on a practically unconscious level, Jack still thinks it requires conscious thought. “It’s provocative exercise,” he comments. “It’s not just mindless — walking or riding a bike while you read a magazine. You have to really think — ‘Why am I turning to the left? Oh yeah, my left arm is weak. Is my head moving? Am I using my legs?’ Exercise is thought of as kind of mindless and rote” — there’s that word again. “The 8Board is certainly none of those things. It’s our anti-exercise.”
I mention that the board’s obvious emphasis on the movement of the hips and weight transfer reminds me of Ted Williams’s thoughts on hitting a baseball. “That’s right,” says Jack. “It’s such a subtle movement, though, that nobody notices it. You see the racket flying out here, and the movement in here at the hips is so slow, this perfect little figure eight is completely unnoticed.” (Besides throwing and hitting in baseball and stroking in tennis, the 8Board has proven beneficial to the golf swing, and golf is where Jack and Paul have recently concentrate d their marketing efforts.)
He raises a toast of Ravenswood Zinfandel. “Cheers.”
Then he continues. “It’s very simple, if that’s all you want — hip orientation. But it’s quite far-reaching if you spend some time with it.”
Dinner is telapia and vegetables. “The vegetables will be cooked,” notes Patty. “I ate so many sprouts and salads for so many years that finally, my stomach rebelled. So now I’m eating cooked food.”
“This is great fish,” says Paul as he begins cooking. “This is Biblical fish right here.”
“Wasn’t this the fish that fed the 5000, so to speak?”
“It just extends the evening,” jokes Jack.
“We’re big salmon eaters,” says Patty, “but I’m eating telapia now and a little snapper.”
“I’m a big Rubio’s fish-taco guy,” says Jack.
The broccoli and fish are ready in minutes. The telapia is seasoned with Spike. “I don’t use pepper, and I don’t use regular salt,” explains Patty. “They scared you away from salt 30, 40 years ago. We get a salt from, what is it, Utah? It’s the original crystals; it’s not iodized — it doesn’t have the chemical that makes salt flow and not stick together. I’m not against using salt; I just get a better quality.”
“I’ve always been into natural foods. I never ate margarine, for instance — it was very popular a long time ago. I never ate canned food. And I buy organic — this is organic butter. At our house in San Diego, I grew half my vegetables. I tried to grow them biodynamically, which meant that I used preparations in the compost to make it better compost.”
As we talk, I get the sense that Jack may not be quite the Steiner disciple that Paul and Patty are, but it’s clear he sees some merit in their take on things. “People attribute winning to God-given talent or heart or will. It’s a classic part of commentary — ‘Who’s going to win this third set? The one who wants it the most.’ That couldn’t be further from the truth. Sometimes, the one who wants it the most is the one who loses, because they can’t stay loose. What wins most of the matches is a higher quality of play. There’s a reason Sampras won all of the close matches — he had less that could go wrong with his game. He had the geometry we speak of; he had this unconscious knowing. We’ve discovered what the best athletes actually do .” And with the 8Board, they believe they’ve rendered it teachable.
“The important thing to realize,” says Patty, “is that there are many people who can do this naturally. The whole idea is to teach people who might be stuck. We want to liberate them, so they can go further in their lives.”
“Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, they’re our poster boys,” says Jack. “The best players, when they master this special understanding of the game, basically look like Federer does. There’s a mastery in his game; it’s so simple but so developed. There are very few players who can play like him. He’s creative, and he has all the strokes. He has a backcourt game; he has a net game. We have an incredible respect for those players who have naturally developed the principles we see in the game. We would say he’s a next-generation player.”
“Before, people developed power — controlling power kept the game pushing forward. But now, with these rackets that have too much power, the actual quality of your strokes has to improve. Players will have to be well-rounded to survive. Federer is just the most accomplished.”
Glass of Zinfandel in hand, the time has come for me to mount the 8Board. “The wine glass stays level if you do it right,” advises Paul. It’s not a pretty start. Where Paul sweeps back and forth, motion in one direction “rounding the corner” and becoming motion in the opposite direction, I am all back-and-forth jerkings. “You’re not quite realizing how everything is organized,” says Paul, kindly. “Organize around your center.” Offers Jack,“Like throwing a discus.”
“Feel your arms relate to your center point,” continues Paul. “Don’t lead with your arms, just let them keep balance.”
Back and forth, back and forth. I was an athlete once — ten years and twenty pounds ago. I can do this. There: almost rounded the corner.
“There, see how you’re flowing a little bit? That’s how top athletes feel — it’s effortless. It’s fun.”