Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sauna Talk

“Naaaht chaatt kaa ghaaa.”
“Quaattt….naha nah haummm…..”

Giggles, eyes shining, nods. PP closes her eyes and slumbers in the spacey sauna zone to a language completely foreign. Maybe some African language? Ethiopia? Eritrea? Ghana? PP knows that Oakland has communities of all these countries. The two women are dark skinned and ample. Their towels spread out under them on the warm wooden benches. The one closest to PP has some sort of silvery glitter substance spread all over her body, the tiny fragments falling at her bare feet looking like little bits of jade broken glass. The smell of pine and incense. Her face is covered in some sort of green goo mask.

What women won’t do to look beautiful? Or feel better? Or just commune?

“Nahhhatt…cha cha queee….”

More giggles. The gossip of women in saunas is such a part of the swim experience for PP. Has been for so many years. These women, because PP can’t understand even one word of their conversation, not only lull her into a spacey musical relaxation, but also take her back to her days in China, sitting in the sauna after one of her crazy chilly chaotic swims. The women chatting and laughing in Chinese, of course. PP completely cut off from the specifics of their gossip, yet a part of it too in some homey periphery sense.

Today, Glitter Substance Woman turns and smiles over at PP while her friend sighs as she wipes herself off with paper towels. “Ugh! So much sweating!” she exclaims.

PP smiles in happy commiseration. That is the idea, right? Yet, PP rarely can last long enough in the sauna to work up any kind of sweat. Especially after her long swim. She’s just beat and needs to warm up the neck muscles a bit before taking a shower.

“You swim, yes?” Paper Towel Sweating Woman asks.
“Yeah,” PP nods, glancing down at her bright pink Speedo. Duh!
“Swimming. It is the best!” PTSW exclaims. “Where I come from, swimming is what people do in lakes.”
PP means to ask where she comes from but is too spaced out to follow up with the clarification question in a speedy enough way, and can instead only muster a nod and murmur, ‘Oh yes. Swimming is the best.”

PTSW nods and rises. Off to get another batch of PT. So, PP has the opportunity to ask Glitter Woman what she’s got all over her. Which she does.
“Sea Salt,” she answers. “It is for the itching of the skin. 24 hours I put the sea salt on. Then no itch. Till go to doctor.”
”Wow, that’s cool,” PP nods in wonder. She had no idea that sea salt had such anti-itch properties. The things you learn at the YMCA!
“Yes. And the mask it is green mask.”
”What’s that for?” PP asks.
“For the pores. To open the pores.”

PP sees women at the Y with various strange masks on, white, green, orange (no, she’s just making that one up.) Never having tried one herself, PP has always thought them a bit weird. But hell, whatever works, right? Earlier she’d seen two women applying some sort of red dark gooey substance on each other’s hair. Then wrapping up their heads in towels (what does that do to the snowy white Y towels, PP wonders) and ducking into the sauna for a heat set- in. (At least that’s PP’s assumption. Who knows what the heat in the sauna does to the red goo. Maybe it just melts all down their faces, necks, and breasts, and creates some kind of healthful skin film.)

Suddenly exhausted, PP sits up and stretches in the warm, sexy glow of the sauna as the unknown foreign gossip starts up again, “Naahggtt…..cha cshhaa….”

Funny how women the world over all behave the same in the gym. It’s a place to relax, catch up on gossip, get a beauty treatment.

Oh, and sometimes, a little bit of a workout happens along the way.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Nice & Easy

Drying off in the locker room, PP was trying to get warm. Sure, the Perfect Postcard Pool had been enchanting, but the mountain air was definitely not Waikiki! And the showers. Ok, they’d been warm enough, but frankly, PP coulda used a bit more water pressure. (Though she understood how the Tahoe area was in semi-drought mode.)

Ducking her head down to wrap her wet hair in the towel, she heard the quick wet steps of another swimmer hurry into the shower. Must be her, Super Fast Swimmer, PP thought to herself as she slipped on her clothes and started to brush out her hair. Wonder if she got cold too even with her wetsuit on?

Probably. Wetsuits helped but they weren’t a complete answer to the brisk air temp.

Out of the shower, and yes it was she, SFS, PP smiled over at her as she toweled off. “You are SO FAST!” PP exclaimed, surprising herself. Usually she didn’t engage strangers in the locker room so immediately, but SFS had been impressive.

Shyly she grinned. “I really don’t like to swim that fast. My favorite is to swim 2 or 3 kilometers at a nice slow steady pace.”

PP nodded. 2 or 3 kilometers. Shit. That was a hell of a LONG way to swim at one time. PP usually swam a little over a mile, so maybe this was close to 2 kilometers, but honestly she didn’t know how far a kilometer was. Was it a little less than a mile? Or a little more than a mile? PP could never remember. And why was she talking in kilometers anyway? Was she from Canada?

PP didn’t mention any of her musings, but continued nodding to encourage more chatting. She’s found that this is often all that’s needed to keep a conversation in motion.

“But I get so cold,” SFS continued as per PP’s conversation strategy, “and one evening I was complaining to Don and he just laughed at me and said, ‘You’re NOT working hard enough. And he was right!” she giggled. “I wasn’t. So ever since then I’ve been trying to swim faster and I do stay a little warmer, but we skinny girls, “ she glanced PP up and down in a friendly comradely way, “get cold!”

“Oh, yeah!” PP agreed, happy in the familiar temperature surrounding swimming conversation. “Though you really are a very beautiful swimmer!” she exclaimed.

Did SFS blush? PP thought so, but maybe not. Though her demeanor was blushing. “Swimmming isn’t really my sport,” SFS admitted. “I’m actually a triathlete.”
“Oh? So you run and bike too?”
”My sister did a triathlon in LA one year,” PP said, “and I was really impressed. I could never do all those sports.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not really very good at any of them.”
PP laughed. “It’s only when you put them all together that you’re good?”
They both laughed. PP didn’t quite buy this modesty at least as far as her swimming was concerned. But her humility was cute. PP had to admit this. And so was she, with her lanky leanness, chin length auburn curls and sparkle in her dark eyes.

“I think I really want to join the Master’s Team this fall and get some instruction. I don’t think I’m actually very efficient in the water.”

PP nodded. “I used to swim on a Master’s Team down in Oakland years ago. I really liked it for the social aspect. I didn’t really compete very much.”

SFS nodded, deep in thought? Was she thinking about PP’s lack competitive drive? Or her own desire to improve her stroke? Probably the latter, PP mused. Most people didn’t really think about what the other person was saying but were already onto their own thoughts without really analyzing.

Or was this just PP’s mode of operation in the world?

Projection. It worked for PP. Especially at the Pool.

“Well, it was nice chatting with you,” SFS gave PP a charming smile.

“Likewise,” PP grinned, noting how she was fast getting dressed too, unlike PP and many of her swimming cohorts back in Oakland. Sometimes, PP wondered where the Hell JL had disappeared to in the Locker room, or if the Lovely I could really be slower (it was all that Hair!) than PP getting dressed.

But no such nonsense for SFS. She was ready to go and out of the cold locker room lickety split.

“See you next time,” she called out.
“Yes, next time,” PP echoed after her, knowing that there would probably be no next time. At least not with SFS. And she felt, for a moment, a little wistfully sad about this. That she wasn’t gonna hear about her next triathlon, or her workout with the Master’s Team or watch in rapt admiration as she zoomed down the lane next to her.

Following her back into the homey office, where DH was sitting waiting for PP, reading The Sun Also Rises (how cool is that?), PP nodded to where SFS had disappeared out into the piney night.

“Did you have a good swim?” he asked.
“Oh, yes, perfect. And I had a fun conversation in the locker room with the cute super fast swimmer.
“She was cute,” DH agreed as he packed Hemingway into his gym bag and slung his arm around PP. “Ready for some dinner?”
”Yes! I have a couple ideas!” PP grinned.
“I just bet you do.”
He hugged her tightly to him, as he opened the door to venture out into the crisp mountain eve.

PP scanned the dark piney parking lot. No SFS in sight. She’d completely vanished.
Fast in the pool. Fast in the locker room.
And fast into the night.

PP admired this speed. In other people. But for herself, she was all about swimming her less than 2 kilometers nice and easy.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Perfect Postcard Pool

Alas, the swimming lagoon at Squaw Valley was closed for the ‘season’ but this certainly did not deter pp from finding another pool. This is what she did. Find pools as soon as she landed. And while Lake Tahoe’s turqoisey blue called to her, PP knew she was not robust enough to venture into its clear magical waters.

Too goddamn COLD!

So, off to the South Lake Tahoe Recreation Complex! Heated Pool. Six 25-yard lanes.

And……when PP and Dashingly Handsome BF arrived, completely EMPTY!!!

PP was in Heaven and hardly able to contain her excitement as she rushed into the homey office where a friendly pool girl was pouring over her algebra homework from the local Community College.

“Hi!” PP bounced up to the counter, DH following in happy contentment. After all, he’d found the pool for her on the Internet before their arrival. “Two for lap swimming. You do have lap swimming, yes?”
PP glanced through the windows at the lovely empty pool surrounded by tall dusky pines under a cool and breezy mountain evening. What if they were closed? No one was swimming. Could it be that they’d gotten the times wrong? But no, DH had phoned ahead. 6-8 p.m. M-F. What day was it? Tuesday? Yes. PP loved it that vacation took away the days of the week, but then feared that this could backfire.

“Do you own a home in Tahoe?” Studying Girl had asked.
Huh? PP frowned and shook her head. Why the hell was she asking about home ownership at the pool? Could only homeowners swim here in Tahoe’s Picture Perfect pool?
This seemed a little far-fetched, PP had to admit; yet in her non-homeowner status, she felt a little panicked.
“Uh…. no….we’re just visiting here.”
“Cool. From where?”
SG giggled. “That’s a long ways a way.”
“Yeah, but I really needed a swim, so it’s worth it.” PP joked. Why the hell didn’t she just take the $4.25 and let them in to swim? Was she trying to establish their residency here because she was gonna charge them more? PP seemed to remember this happening somewhere else. That residents got in cheaper than non-residents to a particular pool. But maybe SG just was making small talk. Though it was kinda weird small talk. Even for Tahoe. PP doesn’t know what they make small talk about in Tahoe, but guessed it might be about skiing, or partying, or gambling, right?

Since PP couldn’t make small talk about anything except swimming, she was in trouble!

“What’s the water temperature?” she asked, thinking this would be a safe topic. Or at least one of her favorite topics, remembering how at Mills she and all her fellow swimmers loved to analyze the water temp. Art J, said it so succinctly one day: “I like to ask everyone I meet what the temp is. Then I like to ask the lifeguards. Then, of course, finally, I like to stick my hand in and guess. It’s all part of the ritual.”
“And one of our favorite topics of conversation,” the Lovely I had quipped. “No matter how many times we talk about the water temp, it’s always the same, but always different.”

Ok, maybe the conversation didn’t go exactly like the above, but you get the idea. Water temp is crucial.

This evening, SG’s cohort informed them, “It’s usually 80 or 81 degrees.”
“But the air is chilly, so you better bring your towels with ya out on deck,” SG added.
“Ah, that’s manageable,” PP had nodded. Now if she could just pay her $4.25 and get in the pool, please?

And she does. For the two of them. Shoves a ten dollar bill across the counter and forces the issue.
“For both of you?” SG asks.
“Yes, please,” PP is too excited to get cranky at the delay. Actually, it wasn’t that long of a delay, but it felt like it as she pocketed her change and hurried into the dressing room.

Does she need to describe it? Nah, nothing special. A public pool definitely with concrete floors and puddles oozing out from the toilets. PP hurriedly dressed and rushed out to the pool.

And SG was right. The air was chilly. They were definitely in the High Sierras. Diving into the pool, PP almost shouted in delight. It was so perfect. No one else was there except for DH, and the pine trees surrounding the pool’s structure. Kicking on her back, PP could see the sliver of the moon rising over a magnificent stony mountaintop between the tall green pines.

Why, it was like swimming in a postcard!

PP had never swum in a postcard before.

She liked it. And decided that she was never gonna get out.

Till she got cold.
Which she did.
But not before a few other swimmers joined them, one of whom was a super sleek fast young woman in a full wet suit zooming past PP in the next lane.

Wow! PP thought as she noticed her lapping PP even with her fast fins on.
She’s speedy! Wonder how often she swims? Or if she swims in the Lake too?

But more on her in the next blog.

You wanna know about her, don’t you?
PP thought so.

till then.....

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Playful Pool Pandemonium

Did the entire city of Oakland decide to go swimming at Mills Pool today? Granted, it did turn out to be a lovely Sunday afternoon after the morning grays, but c’mon. Weren’t there any other activities going on today?

What about the farmers market?
Or Chabot Space Center?
Or a nice bike ride up at Tilden?

Was Mills Pool the only choice available?

Evidently, as PP nervously splits a lane with Dashingly Handsome BF and the Lovely I good-naturedly circle swims in the next lane even though she’s trying to do her aqua jogging. Lurking on deck are several perspective swimmers surveying the unusually crowded pool. Mills is never this crowded. Even on the hottest summer days. And what’s today? September 16?

What’s up with that?

PP thinks it must be cuz she’s been absent so long from the scene and even though she thought the Lovely I had only called her to go for a swim, in fact, she’d called ALL of her friends to come too!

Glancing over at the Lovely I’s lane, with the continued chaotic circle swimming, PP dismisses this speculation pretty quickly. Nah. The Lovely I wants her OWN lane, just like the rest of the swimmers, as PP tries not to make eye contact with the Too Tan Guy standing on the deck in front of her lane, swaying back and forth in scanning for a lane mode.

Yet, finally, Studly Bikini Woman does ask to join their lane, PP thinks she’s fine. So, yes, it’s fine. But then, DHBF doesn’t know how to circle swim. PP tries to explain it. Seems simple enough. Up the right side of the black centerline, then back down the right side again. Is that right? Is that a circle?

But to give him credit, he does get the counter clockwise pattern; it’s just the waiting at the wall if a swimmer wants to pass etiquette that eludes him. SBW is cool and patient. Doesn’t start yelling at him as he obliviously turns at the wall and starts a leisurely breaststroke back down the lane directly in front of her, serenely blocking her path.

PP feels nervous though. She needs to make sure that all goes smoothly. Though why she cares amidst all the anarchy she has no idea.

“Hey, DH,” she hollers at him. “You need to let her pass at the wall if she’s going faster than you.”
He shrugs. “She didn’t say anything to me about it.”
“That’s just the point. She can’t. She’s swimming. You need to be aware and….”
DHBF grabs PP by the foot and starts to playfully tug at her. Giggling, she easily sprints away, trying to keep their blatantly non-circle swimming play out of SBW’s path.

And PP has to remember, swimming is serious, yes, it’s exercise, yes. She must complete her 2200 yards every time she works out, but on the other hand, the water is wondrous and freeing and silly and wet! All sexy good fun.

So, when she’s in The Big Swimming Hole up in the Sierras this week, she’s gonna keep this in mind as she hops out of the Mills pool and heads for the hot tub, the Lovely I soaking up the conversation about how the dirt in the tub must certainly be better for your hair and skin than the chlorine in the Pool!

See you all next week!

(Checking out three pools in Tahoe in addition to the Big Swimming Hole itself. This 'swimming lagoon' in Squaw Valley looks like an adventure for PP!)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

YMCA Values Resuscitated

“I see there’s a third person joining your lane.” Mole Man gives PP a toothy grin as she pauses at the wall to turn around, spying the ‘third’ waving at her from the other side of the pool.

PP probably frowned. At least she thought a frown. MM picked up on this, Mr. Intuitive that he is. “I tell you what, you can have my lane here and I’ll just move over and swim with the third in your lane.”
Gaping in astonishment, PP’s mouth drops open. Is he for real? He’d give up his split own lane for her circle swim one?

“You’re a Good Swimmer,” he continues, nodding and grinning. “I really admire Good Swimmers. So you should have your own lane to get a good workout in.”

Dumbfounded, PP smiles in massive appreciation, “Wow, that’s so nice of you! You sure?”
“Yeah, my pleasure,” and before PP can thank him again, he’s ducked under the lane line to allow her to trade with him.

Swimming in MM’s lane, PP shakes her head underwater. (Well, not really, but you know what she means.) The wonder of it all. That someone would actually Care enough about her, a total stranger, albeit a Pool Stranger, to give up his lane for pure unselfish reasons.

Wow! PP thinks, the YMCA values are alive and well here in the pool after all, embodied in the Magnanimous Mole Man. They don’t need to be written up on the wall. These Values are swimming in the pool, ripe for the taking, invisible yet oh so tangible. Who needs them painted up on the wall?

Certainly not MMM! And while Admiration might not be a usual value at the Y, it led to sharing which is of course, caring, and so, PP muses, who needs these boring mundane old values repainted up on that glaringly white wall?

Hey! Since the values don’t need to be painted for all to see, couldn’t the YMCA do something more aesthetically pleasing than just the boring white wall? Why not paint some little underwater scenes of yellow striped Zebra fish, and bright orange puffer fish, and blue angel fish swimming in amongst green wavy seaweed, with a giant sea tortoise to liven up the wall? Then little swimming cats floating in inner tubes, trying in vain delight to catch the too fast little fishes? And on the ceiling, she thinks as she turns on her back, kicking kicking kicking, why not a blue blue sky with white puffy clouds and some lovely sea birds flying overhead or a cute V of ducks?

This would make the Pool experience so artistically pleasing and display some much needed Aesthetic Values that would make one’s workout a more multi-layered, visual experience.

PP grins and waves at MMM as he chats up a Pretty Chinese Girl hanging out at the wall. That MMM, spreading his version of the YMCA values all around the pool.

Wonder what his Aesthetic Sensibilities might be? PP thinks to herself as she pauses to grab a kickboard, the Pretty Chinese Girl’s giggle echoing in the chloriney air.

Smiling to herself, PP shakes her head. Judging from his engagement of such a specimen in PCG, his Aesthetic Values are right up there with his Caring ones.

Or are they the same thing?

Watching MMM climb out of the pool, his rolly poly self heaving up the ladder, the large brown moles covering his bare wet back, stopping to whisper one final comment to PCG, who responds with appropriately tinkling giggles, PP thinks Yup, MMM has his Values intact.

And so does the YMCA, PP decides as she turns around and starts kicking toward the Giant Sea Tortoise she imagines swimming toward her on a aqua green wall, with dozens of darting colorful fishes eluding a large white cat floating on his tuna shaped sea raft.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


After being closed for an entire week, PP expected Big Changes at the YMCA pool, so when she entered into the Pool Auditorium and was greeted with the overwhelming smell of fresh paint, she thought, well, guess at least the walls are whiter.

So what?

Getting into the pool, she noticed right away that the water was freezing. What’s up with that one lately? Is it just her pool karma that every pool, whether it’s the normally warm Y or the unknown Heather Farms, is out to envelop her with goosebumple chills?

PP hates hates hates being cold!

But as she jumped into the icy Y this afternoon, sharing the lane with a lounging on the side French accented guy, she thought at least I’m at the Pool! This is really what matters, right?

Yet her shoulder and neck began to ache in earnest as she pressed on in the chilly water, glancing over at the poor pretty Asian lifeguard shivering in the lane next to her teaching teeth chattering little fish. Damn! She must really be cold just standing there!

Grabbing her zoomers, PP began the back kicking segment of her workout, staring up at the glaringly white washed walls and thought, hey! Where the hell are the YMCA values? The colorful primary colors of red, blue and yellow? They painted over them?
No more CARING?
No more HONESTY?
No more what the hell was the fourth one anyway?
See what happens when Values are painted over?
The go right out the window. Or deep underwater.
And as PP looked around, sure enough she saw the loss of These Values all around her. Sure, swimmers were sharing lanes –hey was that the missing value?

Well,if this wasn't it, no matter since PP wasn’t much for sharing herself. Lanes or anything else for that matter. She’s never liked sharing. Not her living space. (She’s lived alone now for how many years? 12? 13? 15?) Not her food. (Fortunately she lives alone so she rarely hasta worry about this.) Not her cats. (Well, actually she’d share Pablo if anyone wanted to partake of him. That big white cat had plenty of catness to go around.)

And didn’t the YMCA have plenty to go around too? PP often thinks not as she sees the swimmers pile into the pool now, the after 3 O’clock time crunch beginning.

She just wants her own lane. And her own pool. And her own house. And her own owness.

She’d never survive in Communist China. But this she already knows as she takes off her zoomers and tries to fit the stupid mask to suction her face so it won’t leak.

NO, sharing is for other people, not PP, as she tosses the mask off in leaking frustration and swims a couple more cold laps to try to warm down.

But what about the other painted over Values? Are all of these lost upon her too? PP thinks, yes, with the exception of HONESTY, but only in certain circumstances did she embrace this particular one.

Like when she was super cranky and needed to vent her crabbiness about the goddamn trees being chopped down, or the landlord losing her rent check or the Stomper upstairs.

Then she was all about HONESTY—she’d yell out her anger at the top of her lungs, bang Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C# minor as loudly and as badly as possible, write nasty irate letters to Wells Fargo Bank for charging her a $25 processing fee to stop a check that she didn’t lose!


Lordy, it’s time for a swim! she thinks to herself as the crashing tree chain saws close in on her and the Landlady pounds on the door looking for the lost rent check.

Where does everything go? How do these Values get lost? Why is it all such a mystery?

So much loss, here on Sept 11, the national day of Loss, as she closes up the computer and makes her way back to the Valueless Pool courtesy of the YMCA.

Now if only she could find her lost equilibrium?
Smiling to herself, she shrugs. If she’s gonna find this anywhere, it’ll be at the pool. Values or no values.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


“Did you have a nice swim?” PP asks her Lane Mate, now across from her in the shower.
“Oh, yeah….I needed it.”
Laughing, PP nods. Knows what she means. When you need a swim, you really need a swim.
“Yeah, I didn’t know what time the pool closed today,” LM continues, stripping off her bikini bottoms. PP tries not to stare. Even after all these years of swimming and communal showers, she still works hard at the Nonchalant Shower Etiquette. But LM is sexy in that swimmer works out way. Lean and muscular, with barely an ass but the flat tummy and wait, she hasn’t seen her breasts yet…..
“….so, when I got here, I thought the pool closed at 4:45 (it was round 4:20 when they’d gotten in the lane together), “cuz last year they did.”
“So you were pleasantly surprised?” PP finishes for her.
“Yeah. I had Negative Expectations.”

PP nods as she tries not to watch her take off the bikini top. But she does anyway, just a little out of the corner of her soapy eye—her breasts were surprisingly large with those big round brown circles surrounding the nipples. PP likes looking at breasts. They all have such different personalities. These were decidedly athletic, too, but with a touch of womanly vigor about them.

Tearing herself away from her nipple analysis, PP nods again, “Yeah, I know what you mean about Expectations. I wasn’t too hopeful either when I got here. It was so crowded. But then it worked out…..” Her voice trailed off as LM soaped up, involved in her shower toilette now. The chit chat over.

And PP has to wonder, what is it about these expectations that we all have surrounding swimming? For she too, often has ‘Negative Expectations’—today, for instance, at the Golden Bear Pool. Besides the crowds, she couldn’t get her goddamn mask to not leak….grrrrrr……and this pool, while cute and scenic with the eucalyptus trees surrounding the redwood decks and the grassy hillside with Mr. Yoga man doing hilarious balancing exercises, had way too much chlorine. PP had to wear her mask or she’d go blind from the chlorine red eye.

So was a trial, esp. with sharing a lane. And then Mr. Yoga got in their lane and here we go again with the dreaded circle swim. The lanes at Golden Bear were narrow and claustrophobic and PP knocked into the Serious Butterfly Guy in the lane next to her a couple of times when she finally threw the mask off in a fit of frustration and tried swimming with her eyes closed.

Yet, it all worked out in the end. The end lane opened up and PP got it all to herself, leaving her sexy LM to split the lane with Yoga Man. The water temp was cool, but not as cold as Heather Farms, and so though there was no Hot Tub like the Y or Mills, PP knew she could look forward to a Hot Shower here at Golden Bear.

And who could really complain as she watched her sexy LM, towel off in an efficient sporty way right outside the shower so as to not get the floor wet. (Like it mattered; the floors at Golden Bear were pretty yucky, though they tried with those plastic wholly mats.)

Negative Expectations? Sure PP had had them too when she’d started her swim this Sunday afternoon, but then, with her own lane, Sexy LM shower and even despite the leaking mask (What to do about this? Any ideas fellow swimmer readers? Goggles bruise PP’s eyes, and the masks leak….it’s a BIG dilemma!) Golden Bear Pool had been a good back up choice for this week without the Y.

Sometimes Negative Expectations can actually work in one’s favor. If you always expect the worst, when the happy positives happen, why, it’s even more satisfying and delightful.

Especially when the showers are HOT!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Satan or Savior

Ok, can PP just state for the record that Yahoo Maps is the Devil Incarnate? (And who exactly is Yahoo Maps? Too bad PP can’t find out, cuz she’d go and bomb their corporate offices, but how the hell do you bomb any entity in Cyberspace? )

Satan is the mastermind behind Yahoo Maps; she’s sure of this. All she wanted to do was find the beauteous Heather Farms Pool in Walnut Creek that she’d heard such rave reviews about so she could swim this week while the Oakland Y was closed. She looked this pool up on line. 20 Lap lanes! 50-meter pool. And the enticing picture of the Butterfly Guy (see insert in previous blog). Well, needless to say, PP was very excited and full of Pool Anticipation after her long day at WWU.

So, she’d gone to Yahoo Maps and gotten the ‘directions’. 11 minutes from WWU—perfect.

45 minutes later, on the insane Ygnacio Valley Road that had turned mysteriously into a goddamn freeway, PP was near tears and cursing Yahoo Maps.

45 minutes = 11 Minutes?

Not in her book!

But where to start? Yahoo Maps is NOT where to start. PP can tell you that. But let’s just for instance pretend that it is. Well, here we go.

Start at WWU—ok, she was there. So she did. Easy. Bear R on Longbrook. Already this was wrong and circuitous, so PP ignored this direction and just headed for Contra Costa Blvd. Next, there were 4 points listed that she just ignored since they made absolutely no sense. R on longbrook way. L on Massolo Dr. It was insane and shoulda given her a clue that Yahoo Maps was gonna be the WRONG to follow.

But did she listen to her Intuition? She did not. This was her first mistake. And as she ignored the direction to get onto the 680 freeway for 100 yards and instead opted to just head on down Contra Costa Blvd since she knew it would hit Treat Blvd. , PP felt pretty smug about her decision.

Little did she know that Treat Blvd was definitely NO TREAT! Here was where she made her first wrong turn. A right instead of a left. Yahoo Maps just said to take #48 Treat Blvd exit offa the freeway, but since she hadn’t gotten on the freeway, well, she took a guess and turned the wrong way. Here was her first U turn. Back down Treat Blvd after turning around in a scary suburban cul-de-sac with a lot of For Sale signs in front of the tract homes and a mad guy trying to get his motorcycle started.

But once headed down Treat, PP thought, ok, this is right. What next? Glanced at the directions—no L or R instructions. Yahoo Satan just listed “Continue on Bancroft. And then Continue on Ygnacio Valley Rd.” Ok. Wouldn’t you assume (And of course this is where she got into trouble. All those Assumptions. But, wouldn’t you assume that since Yahoo Satan hadn’t listed any turn directions that Treat Blvd just turned into Bancroft and then Ygnacio Valley? All the streets in the Burbs had at least two names. Why the hell was this? One way was Treat Blvd. and one way was Geary? Hello? Why isn’t the street just the same goddamn name the whole length of it? Screwy suburbs!

So, naturally, PP thought that Treat was gonna turn into Bancroft and Ygnacio Valley cus it already was Geary and Treat.


Do you see why Yahoo is Satan? Or is it the Suburbs? Yes this could be so. Hey, maybe Yahoo is the Suburbs? Okay, off the track a bit, but hell this entire quest for the Pool was off the track so it’s Thematic. PP likes this. Usually. But not when she’s tired, and hungry and in desperate need for a swim. Is finding the pool so much to ask?


So driving along Treat, looking for it to turn into Bancroft, she of course, passes a street called Bancroft where she coulda turned R or L, but doesn’t cuz Yahoo Satan didn’t tell her to.

This is her next mistake.

Driving driving driving. Away from the freeway, PP starts to think, this doesn’t seem right. Glances down at her watch. 20 minutes have gone by and Heather Farms Pool is supposed to be only 11 minutes from WWU.


So, she does her second U turn and heads back down Treat. Turns on Bancroft when she gets back to it. Of course again, she turns the wrong way. Hell, isn’t there a 50/50 chance of choosing the Right way? But no, PP does another U turn on Bancroft after driving for several minutes. Again, this doesn’t seem right cuz she’s not in stupid Walnut Creek any more and at least she knows that the Pool is in WC.

Waiting at the signal on Bancroft to do her next U turn, she spies a couple teenage boys on their cell phones. Should she ask one of them where the Pool is? They look busy and bored. That teenage specialty. So she doesn’t ask and makes her U turn, heading back down Bancroft again.
Okay, now. Is this directionless pool story going on too long?
You bet it is as she heads back across Non-Treat Treat Blvd, now looking for Ygancio Valley Blvd. Hey! Yes! Here it is. PP turns what turns out to be the WRONG way again! Heads up Ygnacio Valley. It turns into a goddamn freeway. No place to turn around as she tries to choke bag the frustrated tears.


Not out here in the god forsaken brown-weeded hills of Contra Costa. Though there was a nice view of the red sun that was setting amidst the fire sky. But no opportunity for a U turn for at least 5 miles. All the huge SUV’s were on her tail eager to get home to their suburban martinis and barbeques and brats. PP glanced down at her watch. 45 minutes since she’d left WWU.

I don’t know about you, but 45 minute may be 11 minutes in Yahoo’s Hell, but not in her world as she finally hit the crest of the hill and a signal where she could do a final U turn.

At this point, near tears, tired, neck aching, PP wonders, should she just give up her quest? Is the pool really worth all of this? But she’s nothing if not stubborn as she heads back down the hill. She’s gonna find this pool if it the last thing she does and it might be as a Mean Black Chevy Tahoo guns past her, causing her to catch her breath as she stops for yet another infinitely long signal. (What the hell is it about signals in the suburbs? They’re all at least 5 minutes long! Another part of Hell, as far as she’s concerned as the light finally turns and she shifts the Geo into gear.)

PP shivers. Part of her feeling like she’s just gonna get back on the freeway if she ever finds that ( she does know that Ygancio Valley hits the freeway home to Oakland since she passes it everyday.) Now she thinks, WHY THE HELL didn’t YAHOO maps just direct her to get on the freeway, then get off on Ignacio Valley?

Because they’re SATAN. Only explanation as she starts to look anxiously for her final direction. ‘Turn R on N. San Carlos.’

Is that it? Yes! N. San Carlos one way, and San Something else the other way. Again, why the hell are there two names to all the streets in stupid Walnut Creek? Something to do with the creek no doubt. It runs two ways. So all the streets have two names.
No logic there which makes perfect sense at this point as PP turns on N. San Carlos and then thankfully spies the sign “Heather Farms” and then “Swimming Pool!”

Pulling into the parking lot. (One good thing about the burbs---parking lots) PP turns off the Geo and sits for a moment in front of a long building that must house the Pool. Many teenagers running around with wet heads and cell phones as their parents sit idling in gas guzzling Suburbans chattin with each other.

Was it worth it? PP pays her fee and changes in the bare bones locker room as a group of VERY LOUD teenage girls scream over their hairdryers, still dubious at this point.

But then….

Pushing open the door to the pool, PP stops for a moment in absolute wonder.
The most beautiful pool greeted her. 20 laps and several of them absolutely empty. A lovely green hillside behind it and the water smooth, clear and inviting.

A smile came over her tired face as she plopped her gym bag down and grabbed a kickboard and pull buoy.

Now for the important point--Where was the Butterfly Guy advertised? She glanced toward the middle of the enormous pool as what looked like a Master’s swim team working out. Bet he was over there, she thought to herself but suddenly too cold and tired as an almost wintry wind whipped across the deck to give much more thought to him. Next time.

Jumping into her own lane, PP zipped quickly down the smooth coolness. The goose bumps rising on her arms. Damn it was cold! But no way was she gonna get out now.
Not after the Lengths, (or should she say ‘Laps’) she’d gone to to find this pool.
Giggling to herself, she turns and heads back down the lane, the underwater lights coming on to guide her through her workout; the welcoming water already working its magic on her tired, stressed out Yahoo induced breakdown as she stopped to turn around, spying out of the corner of her eye a Grinning Handsome Guy in the lane next to hers.

Yup, it was worth it as she kicked off the wall and headed back down the lane.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


Technically, this isn’t a pool story per se, but it’s a coming home from the pool story, so it counts. At least as far as PP is concerned and frankly that’s all that matters.

After an especially relaxing swim at the Oakland Y –own lane for a 1000 yards or so-- a definite rarity-- and then splitting the lane with the Beautiful Smiling T—more on her in another blog---PP hops, no actually she just sorta languidly slides into the overly warm Geo to make her way back up Broadway. She always pauses at the stop sign at Webster and 24th. Should she turn here and then make the turn on Broadway without the aid of the cute right hand turn arrow, or should she just mosey on up to the turn arrow and wait so she doesn’t have to think?

Today, she opts for not thinking.
Little did she know.

There they were. A Lovely Anxious Helping Woman holding her silver dashboard shield (later PP marvels at her ingenuity—what a wonderful idea to come up with in the middle of a crises—PP could never think so creatively and quickly, esp. given her usually spaced-out state, post swim) standing near the curb but still not outta traffic shading a Collapsed Chinese Man sitting on the hard hot asphalt. Damn. Wonder what happened?

Helping Woman sees the Geo approaching and steps outta the road enuf to wave her on to pass, which PP does, initially thinking she has help, but then sees the Collapsed Man sitting on the asphalt all hunkered over in his too hot black jacket and black pants and thinks to herself. That situation doesn’t look too good.

Heat exhaustion? Could that be what had led to his collapse? It was a warm day, but not as warm as it had been, but still, it was hot, particularly if you were wearing long black pants and a black jacket and black shoes and why the hell did some people wear so many clothes in the Heat? Could everyone be trying to protect themselves from the sun?

PP thinks not. It’s just elderly people. They were always cold. She got that.

So, because HW had waved her past, PP had pulled around them. But then sitting at the signal on Broadway, staring back at them in her rear view mirror,she thinks, Damn. What the hell are they doing just standing/sitting in the middle of the street on a blazing Hot first day of September at 3:30 in the afternoon in front of the Ford Dealership? (Afterwards, PP wonders why no one at the Dealership called 911, but more on that later.) So she swings a U turn and heads back to them, pulling in back of them and parking the Geo so no one will run them over, turning on her emergency flashers as a warning to other unsuspecting drivers.

Hops outta the car now, her former languidness completely dissipated. Another Good Samaritan, an Emerald Green Tank Top African America Woman was at the scene now, all business to PP. “I called 911,” she announced.
“Oh thank goodness,” PP exclaimed as she peered around the silver dashboard screen at the poor confused collapsed man, maybe 60? 70? Hell, PP can’t tell. And, yes, definitely overdressed for the day. Couldn’t they somehow get his jacket off at least?

But he doesn’t budge. Confused. Scared? In shock? He doesn’t speak nor look at any of them, but continues to sit kinda cross-legged, his head bent down, his heels propped into the asphalt. ‘It is so pity’ as one of her students from China would say.

“What happened?” PP asks Shielding Woman.
“I’m not sure. I just saw him lying here in the street so I parked my car and came over to help.” She angled the silver shield over him. “Thank God he’s sitting up now. When I got here, he was just lying here not moving at all. He didn’t look too good.”

PP thought how he still didn’t look too good as she glanced anxiously around. Should she go get someone at the car dealership to help? But then, African American Green Tank Top woman had called 911. For the second time in a week, PP wished she had a cell phone to call about Collapses on city streets. Yes, maybe it was time to join the 21st century, resister that she was.

“And his companion,” SW nods toward a slender Chinese man, elderly and gray, sitting on a bench in front of the dealership, staring anxiously over at the little group gathered around his friend. “He’s very worried. But their English isn’t so good. So, I don’t really know what happened.”
“Did you ask?” AAGTTW eyed the companion and SW dubiously.
”I did, but I don’t really think their English is good enough. I mean, they may understand English, but speaking it……” her voice trailed off as they all turned at once to the sound of the ambulance’s shrill siren.
“Wow!” PP exclaimed. “That was fast!”
The two other women nodded. “I hope they brought a translator,” SW murmured as the ambulance pulled up and out hopped two Movie Star Beauty Paramedics, the guy with muscles and tattoos, Brad Pitt watch out, the woman looking like a young butch Liz Taylor. PP thinks, Hell, maybe I better arrange a Collapse for myself on Their Shift for some much-needed resuscitation. Though then they’d probably just cart her off to Highland Hospital where there certainly were NO Movie Stars.

PP watched as they knelt down to help, immediately all business, ignoring the little group of helpers.
“Let’s see if we can get this off,” Butch Liz took charge right away, prying away his heavy hot jacket as Tattoo Brad Pitt reached into Collapsed Man’s pocket and retrieved his ID. Began asking his name. Address. Etc.

PP sighed. Thank goodness that help arrived so quickly as she got back into the Geo knowing she wasn’t needed any longer if in fact she ever was. But at least she felt like she had done something. Is this a theme lately? Seems so. And as she drove home, PP marveled at how three total strangers had come together to help another stranger in need here in Oakland, which has the reputation of a big, alienating urban war zone.

Yet, what was it about the human capacity for compassion? Strange is what it was. And here in Oakland, where you’d least expect it, it all happened so fast and naturally. Unlike SF when she had watched helplessly as all the Cell Phone business people walked around the poor homeless man, collapsed on Market Street in the middle of the afternoon rush.

Was it Oakland that had the compassion? Or just Kismet that these three women all converged together at this particular point on a Saturday afternoon? Later PP thought about how it had been all women, no men had stopped to help. Now of course, this could just be gender coincidence, but then again she had to think that women were just more helpful. They were raised this way, right? Frankly, PP hadn’t thought herself particularly compassionate, but then where the hell were the guys at the Ford Dealership? Didn’t they notice that an old Chinese Guy had collapsed in front of their dealership?

Maybe not. After all it was a Sat afternoon. Labor day. Big balloon sales. Busy busy busy selling selling selling. And this brought PP back to thinking about SF and the poor collapsed man there on Market ST. Everyone is so busy, making deals, talking a blue streak that they don’t even see the life or lack of it in their paths.

It was a sorry world sometimes.

Unless of course, you’re in downtown Oakland, on a certain Saturday afternoon, with Two other helping women, making a small hopeful difference in one poor man’s unfortunate collapse. (With a little help from the Stars, too, of course!)

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