SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 334: “Pong Is Good For The Mind”

Remember last week when I mentioned that my wife and I were doing a role reversal, well as much as we can while still running a business and redeveloping our website.

We extended it to two weeks. Day’s that have been a great eye-opening to my family, and days that I will do by best to recreate in the raising of my daughter, even though she is still having issues with my needing to double duty at time in doing my part in the workings of our business.

You may also remember our Table Tennis outing several entries ago, where we challenged all who can to attend the “Table Tennis Council” on Saturday, August 25, between the hours of 3:00pm and 7:00pm. A concept inspired by the words of Coach Vahid and his student Joseph.

So as I said, Daddy/Daughter time continues, and inspired by our newly found interest in paddling the zipping Ping Pong ball we decide to head to practice at where else…? The Table Tennis Club, now more formerly known as the “Alan and Sons Table Tennis Club.”

That’s right Alan and Sons, and although Vahid carries his involvement with the establishment with the pride and professionalism of it owner, what I find out this evening is that he is the resident Pro.

And Alan, who I meet this evening is the man behind the scenes in bringing the venue of quick sport to the area.

Now this evening, I had no real intentions of meeting a stranger turned friend in spending time with my kid. Heaven knows she has been very patient in standing by my side for many a 365 interview. But after her dissing me for the tutelage of a much better player than myself, I get the opportunity to grab a few games (no, more like humbling’s) with proprietor Alan, who in less than thirty minutes forces me to bring my game to a whole new level. I’m quickly schooled and have to tell you that table tennis is a very hot sport when it is played as it is intended to be played…

And play we do… I’m completely hooked and with sweat running down my brow, side-barred by Alan’s friend’s requesting his presence for a set of doubles, we do not have time for a 365 interview. And, with Alan’s promise of a follow-up email in answering my questions, he does take pause for a few quick snap shots.

Alan is a gentleman of his word, and as he committed, email we do. For the sake of honesty in interpretation, I give you our complete virtual dialogue. Hope you enjoy the vicarious read.

“Hi Alan,

It was an absolute pleasure meeting you tonight. Thank you so much for the table tennis pointers.

Here are the questions I promised.

1) If you could share any advise, council or wisdom with the world. What would you say?

2) Looking towards the future, 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 years. As far, or as close, as you want to look. Where do you see the people or the planet being? Or where do you suggest we steer towards in our decisions today?

It is an honor to have you contribute to my project.

Can you have your answers to my by 12pm? That will give me enough time to write the story.

I look forward to grabbing another match with you soon.”



“Hi Richard

Like I promise here are my answers:

1. The future belongs to the ones who prepared for future.

2. The population should get rid of oil addiction.

See you in the Club.


To stay healthy every day, play Ping – Pong on Sherman Way.”


One last quick question. Where are you from? You have such a distinguished accent. I’d like to give a little more background to your character.

And yes, you will see me, and others, at the Club; I’m passing it on to all my friends.



Hi Richard

I am from Soviet Union. Unfortunately this country doesn’t exist anymore. But my motherland is Ukraine. Economics and engineering are my majors. For last 20 years I am Founder and GM of Allen and Sons appliance repair, one of the largest in So. California Company.

Any questing? Welcome.


I do have a few questions, so I pick up the phone to call my new friend Alan. There is only so much that can be shared via text message.

As expected, Alan greeting is warm and gracious. I find out of his history… Past generations who moved to Russia prior to the inception of the Communist regime, a government that he refers to as “The jail that kept me in.”

And now that the walls have fallen, Alan has embraced all that the world has to offer. “I was in jail, now I watch the world through my own eyes,” Allen explains.

“I left in 1991 in search of equal opportunities… in America everybody can do anything,” he adds.

In writing of my meeting with Vahid, I spoke of noticing the birth of “The Table Tennis Club,” but in learning of it’s tie to Alan, I understand a little more about it’s address… directly next to “Alan and Sons Appliance Repair,” a business that for a least the last fifteen years has been no stranger to my line of sight.

“I’ve been here twenty years,” Alan describes, “I started playing Table Tennis four years for health reasons, now it is a passion for me. Opening the Club next to my existing business was simply a natural progression in something that I am passionate about.

The sport has made me much healthier and I think clearer because of it.”

Alan tells me of an article published in the Los Angeles Times in which a study of Ping Pong as therapy for Alzheimer patients proved to be effective in strengthening their mental capacity. Here is a link to the article.

Let me confirm, Alan is not suffering from Alzheimer’s, but he does acknowledge the positive effects the game has had on his thinking and retention. More the reason to smack a few more hundred forehands I presume.

And as for me, Table Tennis has graduated to a whole new level, one that I plan on enjoying in sharpening not only my athletic stamina, but, as I hope, my mental focus as well.

Only a couple of weeks until the eve of our community experiment… the August 25th Table Tennis Council. If you can, please join us for a little exercise of the body and mind… can’t think of a better way to build bridges than through a bit of sport and friendship. See you there my friends.