Friday, March 27, 2020

Mad as Hell!



“I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” Remember that line? Remember that movie? Network, right? What was everyone so mad about? I don’t even recall. But I do remember everyone opening up their windows, sticking their heads out and yelling this line.

And today? “I’m so angry!” Turban Woman stomps back from the pool, lugging her polka dot suitcase, her face swollen with emotion. Why? The pool. It was closed. In the middle of the day. Why? Cutbacks. Lifeguards cost too much? But what about all the renovations that have been ongoing at the Y for months? How many 1000s of dollars has this cost?

We all pay our membership dues to access all the facility’s venues during its posted hours. But the pool has been deemed too costly. The numbers are down. They don’t justify the pool staying open during these down times.

And so, I’m mad. Turban Woman is mad. Poor Weekend late afternoon swimmer. I ran into her coming out of the Y on Saturday round 3. I know she’s headed for the pool. “I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news,” I stop her on her way in. “But the pool is closed now.”


“But….” She shakes her head. “That can’t be. They told me it was open till 4. It’s on the new schedule.”
“Well, you can go ask them, but I’m pretty sure it’s closed.”
Later she told me that the schedule was wrong. The words above the calendar gave the times differently than the visual boxes. She looked at the boxes. They showed the pool open till 4. The words said, “Pool closed from 3-6”

What are you going to do?
Write letters! Sign petitions. Gripe a LOT!

“I am so pissed off…” A says to me today as she heads toward her locker. “You know why.”
I nod, “Yeah, the pool.”
She sighs, loudly, “I am seriously considering finding an alternative.” She shakes her head. “But it is the same all over. The Plunge, they too, are cutting their hours.”
“It’s that way everywhere!” I exclaim. “The pool is just a microcosm for the world we live it. Cutbacks at the pool Cutbacks at our jobs. Cutbacks in healthcare. Cutbacks everywhere! We are just paying more for less and it’s a gigantic systemic problem in the US, hell in the world!”

She nods. “You know, Carol, you are right. That is so true. I hadn’t thought of it that way.”

I slam my locker shut, grabbing my lotions and brush for the final stage of my post pool preening. Remember the article I’d read in the East Bay Times that morning. “How Fed Up Are YOU?” How everyone in the Bay Area is fleeing. They’re fed up with homelessness, traffic, the high cost of living, and “they’re not gonna take it anymore?”


I wonder. What the hell can we do?
Yell? Scream? Write? Swim?
I opt for swimming as long as possible. Till I get fed up. And flee the Bay Area like 60% of my fellows.

A grabs her keys, her water bottle, follows me toward the sinks. I tell her about the fallout from Rec Swim. How now, since we're all crammed in the pool in the shortened hours, the families with their screaming kids come pouring into the women's locker rooms on the weekends. Kids yelling in the showers; teenagers sitting on sinks, blowdrying their filp flops, little boys scampering around the lockers, staring at the naked women. It's mayhem! 

A shakes her head in sympathy,  "I don't know,  Carol. I don't know what we are going to do. They won't' do anything."

I nod. Think she's probably right, yet I still write letters. I still post blogs. I still talk to everyone. 
We must resist, right? Or what is the point?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And....I thought this was bad?! Little did  I know what was around the corner. The CoronaVirus. The Plague. The Boomer Remover.



The pools are not just reduced in hours---they are ALL entirely CLOSED! I'm on day 13 with no pool. No swim....



And no end in sight.

Hence, the Walking Journals.....
Walkwithcj.blogspot.com

Monday, January 27, 2020

Rudetopia!




“They are rude as shit!”  Mad Woman who usually never speaks to me hisses. She’s just gotten in my lane, kicked out of hers cuz of the Rusty Hinges.  “Oh, whoops, sorry!” she hastens to apologize. I grin, “Don’t worry about it. I know exactly what you mean.”

“It’s just that they stand around socializing, taking up half the pool, when the rest of us want to swim!” she exclaims.
“Yeah,” I agree.

And then think about how she’s right. About the socializing, sure, but also their rudeness. What is it about the Rusty Hinges group? They all have arthritis, and so hence the name, Rusty Hinges, but does having arthritis entitle one to rudeness? And they are pretty rude. I get it mostly in the locker room. Once, I remember I put my swim bag on a stool and then turned around to open my locker and one of the Rusty Hinges had hobbled up behind me and unceremoniously dumped my bag on the ground and grabbed the stool out from behind me.

RUDE!!!

And there are numerous times where I smile and say “Hi” to one or another of them going out to the pool and all they do is GLARE at me. Like why? What did I do? Is it because I’m not 60 pounds overweight and limping along with my suitcase in tow?

Again, RUDE!

So, when Woman Who Usually Doesn’t Speak to me got in my lane today and spouted her frustration, I had to agree. They are Rude!

The guy who has been swimming with me has now stopped at the wall. He’s grinning and clueless. I nod toward him, speaking to Mad Woman, “I’m getting out. You can have my lane. And this guy…..” I nod toward Clueless Man, “I think he’s okay. Knows how to hold his lane and all.”

Although, before Mad Woman’s appearance, I’d been the Rude One. Clueless Man had asked to share my lane, and yeah, I had moved over to let him in, but I didn’t answer him. Did I glare at him? 

Probably. And then I felt guilty, remembering the time that the woman told me I couldn’t share her lane. It’s not like I went this far, but I wasn’t exactly welcoming. So, after a few laps, when we were both at the wall, I’d asked him if he was okay swimming against the wall. He beamed. “Sure, I’m fine. Thanks for asking.” And then took off back down the lane.

Was he just a nice guy? Or clueless? Or was I being too sensitive, yet again?

In any case, now Mad Woman nods when I tell her I’m getting out. “Oh, thank you thank you! I just will NEVER come here again! I mean, not during the class! They are so RUDE!”

Now we all laugh. It’s funny since she has a lane again. Clueless Guy pushes off the wall, He doesn’t quite say, “Nice talking to you two,” but he seems to have said it.

Mad Woman proceeds to sort all of her equipment on the deck, hand paddles, weight thingees, kickboard, water bottle. I heave myself out of the pool, suddenly so exhausted as the Rusty Hinges soundtrack begins, “It’s just my magination…..”

I scurry past their instructor, who can't stop smiling as she leads them in their Rusty Exercises. They are all so happy now.  Who knew they could be so Rude?





Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Pool is Christmas?



“Hi,” I stop to signal the swimmer in the crowded Christmas Eve day pool. “Can I share the lane with you?”

She glares at me. This is hard to do through foggy goggles, but she manages it. “Can you just swim with someone else who’s been here longer?”

I stare at her, amazed. Is she refusing to share a lane with me? At the YMCA? Hell, that’s not okay! It’s not like she’s at her private country club with her own private lane that no one else is allowed in!

 And, for chrissakes, it’s Christmas Eve day! The pool is closing 8 hours early! Every lane is full. She can’t just tell me to go somewhere else. To swim with someone else that’s been here longer?

In minor shock, I say, “How can I know who has been here longer? Obviously, I just got here!”

She sighs. I am so tiresome. “I just want to swim by myself for a while….” And then she turns away from me and proceeds to swim languidly down the middle of the lane.

Well, you stupid cow, we’d all like to swim by ourselves for a while, but it’s a holiday and it’s crowded and did I say, this is the goddamn YMCA!!!!! Not the Claremont!

I move over to the next lane, and ask the woman there if I can split the lane with her. She nods, sure, and then moves to one side. Easy Peasy!

Halfway down the lane, I stop and holler at the lifeguard, who’d sat there watching the entire interaction with You Can’t Share My Lane Woman. “Did you hear that?” The lifeguard tries to act interested, but she’s not. “I asked her if I could share her lane and she refused!!! Can you believe that?”  The lifeguard nods, imperceptibly. She is so bored. But she makes a mammoth effort and  begins motions to get up off her pretty little ass. Like she's gonna go talk to the woman? 

“Nah, that’s okay. Don’t bother,” I wave her back down.  “I don’t want to swim with someone like that anyway.”

And I start swimming down the lane, thinking, not much Christmas spirit there. No Christmas at the pool today. I sure hope I don’t see her in the sauna. Cuz I’d sure let her have it. But hell, it’s Christmas. Who wants a confrontation with some Lane Grinch? Not me! I’d rather have the Pool be like it was the week before…...

“Wow! The pool is so marvelous today!” I give K a tired grin over the empty lane between us. We’re the only ones in the pool. A Saturday afternoon between Parent Tots and Rec Swim.
“Yes,” she beams back at me. “Everyone must be Christmas shopping.”

“Good for us!” I proclaim. “I’m skipping Christmas this year,” I confide. Then I wave my arm over the surface of the calm water, “The Pool is Christmas!” I exclaim.

Her smile widens, “The pool is, indeed, Christmas.”

And, I think yup. Cuz what is Christmas? It’s magic and friends and family and presents. Of course, lots and lots of presents! And surprises! I remember all the Christmases where I and my sisters would wake at the crack of dawn, tumble out into the front room to the tantalizing smell of Mommy’s Christmas cinnamon bread, and Grandma Birdie and Aunt Tea would already be there. I always knew they’d be there, but still….it was such a known surprise to have them there to greet us. “Merry Christmas, girls,” they’d say, sipping their coffees, eyes sparkling.

Then we’d tear into the presents, ripping wrapping, uncovering Puss n Boots Princess Books, and fuzzy slippers, and oh, so much more. It was always the best!

And, so, that day, with the empty pool and just K there with me, it was Christmas. Cuz what could be better than an unexpectedly empty pool on a Saturday afternoon?

 Magic! Surprise! And the best present ever!

The pool is Christmas!

Indeed!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Pink



I
“It is he,” she barks at me.

Water Walking Asthma Woman has waddled into the shower area where I’ve just started shampooing my hair.
What the hell is she talking about? My bafflement musta shown on my soapy mug cuz she repeated herself. This time with hand motions, “It is he!” pointing at her crotch. “In sauna.”

“Oh,” I wanna rinse the soap outta my hair but she’s not leaving. What does she want me to say? And, again, what the hell is she talking about? There was another woman in the sauna with us. She’d been sitting in one of the dark corners. I hadn’t spoken to her or even really looked in her direction. Sauna etiquette you know with unknown first-timers.

Now evidently, she is a he?

Water Walking Asthma Woman glares at me. Why? What does she want me to do about ‘it’? Kick ‘it’ out? And what if ‘it’ is a ‘he’? What does that mean? Is it someone transitioning from a man to a woman? Or is it a hermaphrodite?

I remember this had happened once before at the Oakland Y. An individual of more than one gender possibility was in the hot tub. Again, I hadn’t noticed. What’s with me that I don’t notice such a thing as a penis on a woman? I have no clue. I guess I’m just not in the habit of staring at women’s crotches. Maybe I need to pay more attention. But this time at Oakland, Hot Tub Mama was incensed that a He/She was in the hot tub. She had gone on and on about the travesty of the situation. How it shouldn’t be allowed. How could we all just sit there and do nothing? It was disgusting.

I remember thinking, well, what the hell is she/he/they supposed to do? I mean, where ---and here’s a perfect place for that new use of the plural pronoun---are ‘they’ supposed to go? If not in the women’s locker room, then in the men’s? What would that be like? Probably pretty hellish. I mean, I can’t imagine. Men would probably beat they up! Or at least make such rude and inappropriate and stupid comments that they would have to run screaming from the locker room!

It must be so hard for people like they! There are all these instances where the gender is sectioned off. The locker room. The bathrooms. The dressing rooms at Ross Dress for Less!

What the hell do They do?

I have no idea. But today, I just don’t care. I mean, what the hell was WWAW thinking of telling me? Did she want me to kick they out? Or call the management? Or was she simply warning me of a ‘he’ in the sauna and to cover up?

Like they would care about me!

Later, as I’m drying my hair, They comes out of the sauna, wrapped in a bright pink towel, their broad back pink from the heat and I think, well, I suppose that they is a he. But I had noticed that he had breasts. (Yes, I do notice this. I guess my sauna etiquette doesn’t preclude me from noting bosoms)
Today, I want to start a conversation but then figure, damn, let them alone. Let them take a sauna, and put on their pink towel, and saunter through the locker room to get a drink of water.
What does it matter?

Personally, I don’t know what the protocol or the policy at the Y as far as transitioning individuals or hermaphrodites. And, frankly, it’s not up to me. So, WWAW can just chill out. I mean, hell, it wasn’t like they were hurting anyone, right?

Right!

II


“Miss Carol!”
“Miss Lynn!”

Emerging from the sauna, Lynn and Annaliese  have spied me. Lynn hailing me over to the corner lockers situation where we all usually dress. They are in a deep serious discussion about…yup, you guessed it, “It is He”!

“Have you heard,” Lynn begins, “we have a special guest visiting our Y? A person of how shall I put this, indeterminate gender?”

“Oh,” I nod, standing dripping before the two women, “yeah…I was in the sauna with her yesterday.”
“YOU WERE!” Lynn exclaims as Annaliese’s brown eyes widen mightily behind her thick glasses. “What do you think?”
“About what?” I ask.
“About that person being in the women’s locker room,” Lynn continues. “Personally, when I come into the women’s locker room, I have the expectation that there will only be women in here. If someone has male genitalia then, I’m sorry, but they shouldn’t be in here.”

Annaliese  stands between us, not making any comment so far.

“Well,” I begin, “I didn’t notice anything untoward. I mean, I didn’t see a penis. She had breasts….”
“She had breasts?”  Annaliese asks.
“Yes,” I confirm. “I did notice this.”
“The person I saw,” Lynn shakes her head, “didn’t have breasts….I mean maybe a little bit, but she/he did have male genitalia and when he was over her talking to me and Sinda he was standing right in front of us letting it all hang out.”
“Maybe he should cover up?”  Annaliese suggests.
“Yeah, maybe…” Lynn shakes her head again, “but then they might make all of us cover up.”

And I think, here’s the rub, the discriminatory ‘otherness’ of the gender fluidity or gender ambiguity or gender bothness or transgender or whatever you want to call it, where does they fit in? I say to both these women,

“Well, where is she/they supposed to go? I mean, what would happen to her if she went into the Men’s Locker Room?” (Since I can't ask them/her pronoun preference, I'm going to just use she/her for writing ease)

 Annaliese shakes her head, clucks her tongue, “That is a good point, Carol. That is a good point.”

Later I ask Ian what would happen to her if she went in the men’s’ locker room and he shakes his head, breathes deeply, “Men? They’d say something really rude to her, like 'What the fuck are you doing in here?'”

Exactly!

Aren’t we supposed to be more tolerant here in the Bay Area? I do get that some women, esp old ladies like Asthma Water Walker, are just freaked out being confronted with transgenders. It is so out of their experience and it makes them very squeamish and even angry. But hell, Sauna Transgender wasn’t doing anything wrong. She wasn’t behaving aggressively or throwing her tiny penis around (And it must have been tiny cuz when I went back into the sauna and tried to surreptitiously look at it to confirm what Water Walking Asthma Woman had claimed, I couldn’t see anything. It wasn’t like there was a huge dick draping over her thigh!) But, evidently, the fact that she was even in the Women’s locker room was, in some people’s opinion, an act of aggression.

In any case, the Y must have some policy about this, right? I ask  Annaliese and Lynn.
“No,” Lynn says, “they don’t know what to do about it. I can’t believe, Carol, that you aren’t more upset about it.”
I shrug, “You know, it just didn’t bother me. I guess I have bigger things to worry about.”

I turn away and head for the showers, thinking how maybe my laissez-faire attitude about the whole thing may be from my Santa Cruz days when I lived in a coed dorm and we had coed bathrooms.

When I tell Ian this, he’s astonished. “You had coed bathrooms?”
“Yup,” I giggle. “I thought it was kinda thrilling and dangerous at the time!”
He laughs. “Yeah, well, I guess you didn’t grow up with boys.”
No, I didn’t but that wasn’t the thrilling part. It was the unconventionality of it. The tolerance and live and let live sort of Northern California paradigm.

What’s happened to this attitude?

To listen to these women today, you’d think we were back behind the Orange Curtain, circa 1973. And, granted it was mostly Lynn who was so vociferously against allowing Sauna It is He in the women’s’ locker room, but judging by Water Walking Asthma Woman and the others that Lynn mentioned, I was the only one who seemed to not care.

Because I just keep going back to, what is she supposed to do? And how very hard it must be for her to navigate this world that is so intolerant.

So...c’mon, Bay Area Ys! Open your arms and your locker rooms and let the Gender Fluids in!

III
When I emerge from the bathroom, Annaliese catches my eye from across the locker room. I can tell she wants to talk to me, but I’m tired, hungry and cranky. Yet….I can’t refuse any interaction with her. And, of course, guess what she wants to talk about?

“Have you seen…..” She pauses, searching for the right word or for the drama?... “our ….friend…with the pink hair?”

Had I mentioned that It is He has pink hair? Come to think of it, maybe she did! In any case, I know, of course, who Annaliese is referring to now.

“No, not today,” I reply, starting to toss my stuff into my gym bag.
“Ummmm…..”  Annaliese glances around, then starts in. “I did ask them upstairs about it and they said, they cannot exclude anyone from this place.” She waves her arm around gesturing to the locker room at large.

“Yeah,” I say, “that makes sense. And you know, I asked Ian what he thought the men would say to her if she used their locker room and he said they’d probably be super rude and say something like, ‘What the hell are you doing in here, you freak!’ Or some such cruelty.”

 Annaliese nods. “Yes, I talk to my husband about it and he just says, ‘What is the Big Deal!’”

“Exactly!” I exclaim. “What is the Big Deal? I was really surprised by Lynn’s bias against Pink Hair.”

She chuckles, shakes her head. “I know, I know….it is true though. Some people, they just do not know what do to so they react this way.”

“Yeah, if someone is different or other, then wham, they’re treated that way. Differently. Cruelly. Meanly. I agree with your husband, What is the Big Deal?”

 Annaliese nods, slams her locker closed, then smiles slyly. “Yes, that is right, Carol. You are right….”

And I am! As usual. Though all kidding aside. It must be a Big Deal for them/she/Pink Hair. The courage it musta taken to come into the women's locker room and face all of those women who weren't that welcoming to say the least....I just can't imagine. So, yes, it is a Big Deal for them, I'm sure; but hell, it is NO Big Deal for the rest of us.

IV
“Oh, hi Carol. Listen….” J leans in close, whispers to the side of my face as I pull down on the weights. “…..Lynn wanted me to go to the manager and complain about the transgender in the locker room and I told her, no, I don’t want to get involved.”
“Yeah,” I grunt, pulling down and trying to process at the same time. “I can’t believe she bugged you about this. It’s outrageous.”
She nods, her dark straight hair falling slightly in her brown eyes, “I agree.” She sighs. “You know, it’s like if they said that blacks or Asians…” She looks at me longer, her pretty Asian features furling under a frown, “weren’t allowed in the locker rooms. It’s discrimination.”

“Exactly!” I exclaim, glad that at least someone at the Hilltop Y has some common sense and a moral compass regarding the issue.
“Anyway, she might ask you, too.”
“I doubt it. Lynn knows where I stand. It’s bigotry and discrimination and I don’t understand how she can’t get this.”

J shakes her head, “I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t want to get involved.”
She shrugs, heads over to some other weights and as I watch her strong legs begin to push weights up and down on the machine I think, actually, she should get involved. The Y needs to hear her perspective too. And mine? Yes, though when I arrived yesterday and the young woman at the front desk gave me her spiel about a ‘new member’ named Terri who is transgender and the YMCA is an organization that is all-inclusive and non-discriminatory….etc.…etc. etc. ….Obviously, Management had prepped her. And when she finished I grinned, slammed my fist on the counter and said, “Absolutely!” Well, I think she got my perspective. But in any case, I think it’s such a shame that the issue has to be so divisive. DL says it best in the following email:

Writing about transgender stuff is really tricky right now. … It's so sensitive. Kind of hard to explain.....very complicated. It was intense being at Hilltopia and hearing about it from your French friend--I forget her name. And the Y people kicked them out?! That's illegal, I believe.

I believe so, too, DL! And that’s a double shame that there’s not more education around the issue, both the legality of allowing those who identify with a certain gender access to the facility of their choice, but also the morality of treating everyone fairly with respect and sensitivity.

As Terri said to a couple of women who happened in to the women’s locker room the other day, expressing their surprise at seeing them. “IS this the Women’s Locker room or the Men’s?”
“It’s the women’s,” Terri had answered, completely blasé.
“OH, for a moment I thought we were in the Men’s” one woman giggled.
“You’re not the first person to think that when they see me,” Terri had replied, continuing to calmly apply lotion on her smooth long brown legs....

The women filed out of the bathroom, chattering and silly. I glanced over at Terri; she smiled at me with her eyes, before going back to her lotion application.

I turned on the hairdryer and began with my left side, the too-long tresses tangled and exasperating....

V

I stroll into the women's locker room, my whole self ready to jump in that pool. For some reason, I stop before entering. A new sign on the bulletin board:




Finally! I grin, shift my bag to my other arm, snap a photo, and then head to the pool!





Epilogue---or the Saga continues.....

"Did you notice the sign in the locker room....the one with the red and the purple?" I eavesdrop on the two women across from me, lifting weights.
"Uh, I'm not sure...."
"You know, the one about transgender...." Her voice trails off, hopeful that she doesn't have to explain anymore.
"Oh, oh, yeah, I know what you mean."
"Well.....someone ripped it down!"
"You're kidding! That's terrible!"
"Yes, I agree...."
And, I stand there, across the room, shaking my head. I go downstairs to check it out, and sure enough the sign is gone. Shit.

Later, after my swim and sauna and ablutions, I head out of the Y, stopping at the front desk to address the current clerk: "You know the sign in the women's locker room about transgender respect?"
He looks at me for a moment, perplexed, before finding it, "Oh, yeah yeah."
"Well, someone ripped it down," I tell him.
"They ripped it down?"
"Well, I'm not sure they ripped it, but it's gone."
He pauses, processing? Then nods, "Okay, well, I'll let one of the Directors know."


"Yes, please," I say. "That sign needs to go back up. It's important to educate everyone about the Y's policy of nondiscrimination."

He nods, turns to answer the phone. And I wonder, will he tell one of the Directors? Maybe I should? But no one is around at the lazy time of the afternoon. If I come back on the weekend and the sign isn't back up then I will tell one of the directors.
I just can't believe it. But then again, I can.....


And, finally.....
A day in the sauna. Terri,  Melina and her mom, and I are all just sitting around, chatting, laughing, cozy, safe.
It's nice.
Then later, Terri and I are in the sink area, drying our hair, performing final primps. She's got on a cute rose skirt and pink sweater. I compliment her. "That's a pretty skirt."
She smiles, demure. "Yes, well....as you can tell, I like pink."
"Yeah, me too....."
We both go back to packing up our stuff. I wring out my suit (pink!) and roll it up in my towel (again, pink!).
She stands for a moment, then turns and gives me a small sad smile, "Well......I suppose it's time to go out and face the Cruel World......"
I nod, not sure what to say, but think to myself how cruel it must be for her. But for all of us, for a moment this afternoon, it was safe and happy and lovely.....
....and pink!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Cat Cap!









Zooming down the lane at the Kennedy High Pool, my kickboard and fins zipping me along, I glimpse a large black cat head puttering in the lane next to me. Its golden eyes follow me for a moment, before passing in the opposite direction.
A cat cap? How marvelous!
A few minutes later, resting at the wall, the wearer of the Cat Cap pauses, and I can’t help but comment.
“I love your Cat Cap!”
“Yes, well we all need a sense of humor in the pool!” She grins broadly, the water dripping off her white moon face.
I laugh as expected.
“Do you have a cat?” she asks.
“Yes, do you?”
“Yes, I do. And…..” She pauses for dramatic effect, her eyes twinkling. “I also have another pet…..”
“You do?” I wonder what this could be? Obviously, it’s something special and not an ordinary pet like a dog or a goldfish or even a turtle.

“Yes…..” She’s bursting now with palpable excitement. “A horse!”
“A horse, wow! My sister has a horse,” I offer, not being a horse person myself.
“She does?”
“Yes.” I don’t volunteer how I’m a little intimidated by horses, letting Cat Cap Lady tell her horse story.
“I have wanted a horse for 22 years, and now finally I have one!”
“That’s a long time! My sister wanted a horse, too, for a long time. And now she has one. It’s very exciting.”


Cat Cap Lady nods, “Yes, it certainly is.”
“Do you live here in Richmond? Is your horse near the pool?”
She laughs, “I do live in Richmond, but my horse is about 20 minutes away.”
“Oh…..” I don’t know what to say. The horse talk seems be dwindling but now wait there’s more!
“Where is your sister’s horse?” she asks.
“Oh, my sister lives in San Diego.”
“Really! Wow! I am interviewing for a job in San Diego next week and I was wondering about where to keep the horse down there.”
“Oh, I’m sure there are lots of places. It seems pretty horsey down there where my sister lives.”
“Where does she live?”
“Encinitas…North San Diego.”
“Yes, well, I know there are places for horses. In fact, I did a little research and it’s cheaper to keep horses down there than it is up here. Go figure!”

“Yeah, well, everything is more expensive in the Bay Area.”
She nods, thoughtful.
I’m getting cold and so need to get out of the frigid water before I turn into a blue cube, but not before one more compliment on the Cat Cap. “Well, I do love your Cat Cap. Where did you get it?”
“Amazon.”
“Of course, you can get everything on Amazon. Though probably not a horse!”

She laughs, adjusting her kickboard under her arms before taking off down the lane. I climb out of the pool, sit on the deck for a moment to watch her kick down the lane. The black cat bobs up and down in the splashing, a golden eye winks at me, as I heave myself up and shiver over to grab my stuff.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Hugs


“Hi.” Today M sports a turquoise fox sweater that I can’t help but admire.
“Cute fox sweater,” I say.
“It’s a skunk.”
“Oh, of course. Cute skunk sweater.”
She shrugs, shy. “I like skunks. Do you?”
Annalise makes a face as she tosses her stuff around the locker. “Only if they are not by me…” She waves her arms away and around to ward off the imaginary skunk. M giggles.
M and I had already been swimming together. But she hadn’t stayed in long. Later, she’d wanted a hug in the sauna. It was awkward. I was tired, hungry and ready to shower. Plus, I'm really not a 'hugger'. I remember when Ian's Scottish sister-in-law came to visit and upon first meeting me had asked, "Are you a hoogger?" I hadn't understood her with her Scottish lilt, but when Ian clarified, I shook my head. "No, not really," I'd told her. Yet today, with M, I could tell she needed a hug. And so I climbed down off the top shelf of the sauna, wrapped my towel around my wet swimsuit and embraced her gently.

Earlier in the pool, M had barely swam at all. Had gotten in the lane next to mine, given me a little wave. I was deep into my workout, but did take a moment to grin, say “Hi, nice to see you in the pool.”
M had only given a tired smile. Something seemed off. But she was in the pool, so what could be wrong?

Who knows? She has a life that I will never understand. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be ‘developmentally disabled’ or ‘differently abled’ or as we used to say ‘retarded.’ I remember I had a retarded friend in 6th grade. We used to walk down the hall, holding hands and singing Beatles Songs. “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, “Yesterday”, "It Was a Long Day’s Night”. I don’t know what happened to her. I don’t even remember her name. But I remember loving her and feeling a strong connection to her. Even when the other kids made fun of us, I just shrugged it off which wasn’t like me. There was something magical about her. I was in another world with her.
Is this why I am drawn to M? Or she’s drawn to me?
I never thought about this before and it only has come to me as I write this at 11:30 at night after watching a film called Band Aid about a writer and her husband who fight all the time and then write songs to process their combat. There’s much analysis about women and feelings; men and compartmentalizing. They even have an argument about the use of the word Retard. How it isn’t ‘politically correct’. I get this. The word is offensive in this context. But also, the word ritardando means slow in music. It’s often a notation at the end of piece. And it’s often very beautiful because of this slowing down…. Plus it’s Italian in origin. Which is always bellisima! Am I overanalyzing M post film?
“I’m sick!” M announces to me and Annalise, now. “Does my face look red?” she asks me.
“No, I don’t think so.”
She shrugs.
“Is that why you got out of the pool early today?” I ask, glancing over at Annalise who is hurriedly squishing into her suit.
“I dunno.”
“Can I give you a hug?” she asks Annalise.
“No no non...not if you’re sick. Next time….” Annalise gives me a look, rolls her eyes. I am shocked. Or at least surprised. At Annalise’s refusal of a hug? Or at the fact that M wants to hug everyone? That I am not special?
Damn.
Ian had told me once that kids with Down Syndrome like lots of physical contact. So this could be it. And that’s all.

M’s mom hollers something in Spanish from the other side of the locker room. “I don’t wanna hear her,” M says.
“But she knows where you are,” I point out.
“I guess….” M shrugs again, moves to hug me.
“Uh, Air Hug, okay?” I suggest. “Since you’re sick.”
She giggles, mimics a hug in the air as her mom hollers one last time. M turns and heads down the row of lockers. “See you next time,” she says, a glint in her eye behind thick glasses.
“In the pool,” I say.
She giggles again, then turns away, hugs lingering in the air behind her.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Happy Happy HAPPY Holidays!

“You look sad.”

What? I look sad? What the hell does that mean? The presumption! She looks sad too! Splayed in the corner of the sauna’s lower shelf. Her turquoise sweats straining at her substantial thighs. Her beige towel covers her top half, draped over her breasts. I’d just said, hello. Asked how she was doing today. Being ‘friendly’ since I had chatted with her in the past. Albeit briefly. Now she stares at me, pityingly, through her foggy wire-rimmed glasses, her round face puckered up under her mound of dark curls.

I shake my head..... Well, I suppose I’ll smile, “Actually, I’m not sad,” I answer, maybe a bit indignant? “I’m just tired and hungry,” I chuckle. “Hey, maybe I am sad!”

She laughs, the folds on her chin jiggling. “You been exercising a lot, right?”
“Yup, I was in the pool for almost an hour. Swimming always makes me super hungry!”
She nods, “It’s the water.”

I agree. It is something about the water that makes me hungry. But sad? I don’t feel sad.
Though later today, walking in my neighborhood through the brisk gloom of greyness the day before the Solstice, there is a melancholy feel to the air. Something about the holidays is a bit sad. I’m not sure why. I miss people. Grandma Birdie and Aunt Tea, arriving at our house before the dawn broke, my sisters and I so small and excited, running into the living room, the Christmas tree lit up and the smell of mom’s delicious homemade bread’s cinnamon heavy in the air. Or my father. Swearing at the annual untangling of the Christmas tree lights. “Goddamn it. How the hell do they get so tangled up every year sitting in a box in the attic!” he’d mutter and shake his head as he laid the lights out on the floor, separating out the strands till they no longer resembled colorful evergreen wired snakes.

Yet, as I walk back to The Mansion, the cold biting my ears, I think how lucky I am to have a roof over my head, and a cute car to drive and a sweet kitty to feed. And how the new traditions I’ve created with who’s around now are worth treasuring: the drive to LA with Ian for Christmas, stopping in Mussel Shoals for Christmas day and walking at dusk on the beach below the sweet Cliff House Hotel; the time spent with my sisters around their Christmas trees with their cranky husbands and very adult children; the tour with my mom, sharing her art with me, playing with her beagle, the Rotund Sausage.
It’s all so happy and not sad at all!

And today, esp., the pool was the happiest! I had it to myself for almost half my swim. The ABC school of ‘developmentally disabled kids’ taking the week off, so the water was calm and bereft of moaning young men.

Plus it was warm!

So, no, I was not ‘sad’ and I’m not sad. And I wonder why she said that to me? Maybe my face looks sad? Or maybe she’s sad and was projecting her mood on me? Who the hell knows. It was a weird thing for her to say, though. Maybe she was concerned for me? Yet….I don’t know her.

People are so strange in the sauna. I constantly marvel at them. Some will do and say whatever they want. And others are quiet, observing, or just spacing out.

Whatever. I don’t care. I’m not sad, not today! So, if I ‘look’ sad, it’s just my face. Ignore my mug and drink some eggnog and sing some carols and eat some fruitcake and open some presents and swim swim swim!

Mad as Hell!

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” Remember that line? Remember that movie? Network , right? What was everyone so ma...