Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ghost Woman

She felt her before she saw her. Heard her. A chilling voice echoing in the darkness. Words indecipherable. A form unseen for moments.

Spacey. Hungry. Relaxed. PP ambled down the steps of the YMCA toward Broadway. Not really paying attention to her surroundings. It was early. Only 7:30 or 8:00 pm, yet it was dark. Cold. Windy out.

And there She was. Appearing out of nowhere. Or so it seemed. Completely startling PP out of her spacey reverie, she stared up at PP, her gnarled, wrinkly dark face targeting PP as she stepped down the stairs.

Stopping PP in her tracks. Chills running up and down her spine. Heart racing. Mind suddenly alert and on guard. Cliché, but true-- all of a sudden PP was on High Alert.

Calling up to PP, the slight woman stood staring her down as PP stood still, poised at the top of the stairs. What was she saying? Where had she come from? PP glanced around. No one else was on the street at the moment. Of course. The Y was bustling inside with the pool filled to overflowing, swim team, swim lessons, mighty splashers, ample walkers.

Where were they all now?

Not on their way out, that much was clear as the stare down continued.
“You don’t need to be scared,” Ghost Woman crooned.
But PP was. Why, she wasn’t quite sure. It wasn’t like GW could hurt her. Not really. She was so small. So slight. And alone.

Unless she had a weapon. A gun. Or a knife or some backup accomplice. Sadly,this is immediately where PP’s mind went. How vulnerable she was.Herself a lone woman. On a dark street. Loaded down with wet swimming gear and a pair of fins.

Hell, she could brain GW with the fins and run if worse came to worse, right?
Yet, GW, standing still as could be in the windy dark, didn’t seem to pose a threat to her physically. So why was PP so scared?

Because scared she was. And GW knew it. “You don’t hafta be scared,” she repeated, eyeing her coolly. Her eyes riveted on PP as she stood frozen on the steps of the Y.

“What do you want?” PP asked, finding her voice, thinking how she could just go back into the warm lobby of the Y with the chatting laughing clerks and brightly lit orange pumpkin displays.
“Anything you can spare,” GW answered, standing her ground.
“I don’t think I have anything…….” PP answered, thinking how if she started to shuffle through her wallet, she’d be even more vulnerable. GW could send her accomplice up to mug her in an instant. But yet…..there was something very powerful about GW. Something utterly commanding. PP felt like she had to obey. She was under her spell.

Quickly, PP dug into her bag, retrieving her Hello Kitty wallet, trying to find a dollar. 10’s. 20’s. 5’s. Shit. PP usually had nothing but 1’s. But not tonight as she continued to nervously search through the crumpled bills. Aha! A dollar! Pulling it out, PP headed down the stairs, handing the bill to GW who took it with quiet dignity. For a moment neither spoke, as PP turned and quickly headed down Broadway. A dad and his little girl ahead of her now, the child laughing and skipping as she recounted her swim lesson.

“God bless you,” GW murmured, taking the dollar.
“You take care….” PP answered, sighing deeply, hurrying to follow the dad and his skipping daughter, crossing Broadway quickly to get into the Geo.

Unlocking the car, tossing her gym bag behind the front seat, PP climbed into the safety of the car. Shaking her head, she thought about how very lucky she was.That she had a warm, working car. A cozy apartment. Food and cats and friends and family.

What was that saying, “But for the Grace of God, go I?”

Turning on the ignition, backing out of the parking place, PP wondered why she’d been so scared. Was it just that she’d been startled? Or that it was so dark and she was so alone, so vulnerable?

And yet, when she thought about it, she’d never been in any real danger. The YMCA lobby was just in back of her. She hadn’t even walked down the steps yet. There were people around. The street was well lit.

GW was simply a poor sad beggar trying to survive.

Yet her eerie appearance. Her ghostly voice echoing up the steps. Her still stare at PP as she’d searched for the money.

It was as if she’d been some sort of witch. Some one from another world come to prey upon unsuspecting spaced-out swimmers. A spell had been cast upon PP and she’d succumbed.

If only for a moment.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Coolest of the Cool

She was the type that PP has always felt intimidated by. You know her. Weird colored hair. (Hot pink in this case) Lots of intricate tattoos. (Hissing snakes and intricate Celtic designs adorned her arms, legs, and back) an aura of coolness that permeates from every pore in her porcelain white skin. She works for some groovy Bay Area non-profit and hits the YMCA on her lunch break between hot quickies with her equally cool girlfriend.

How do some people do it? PP wonders to herself. Maintain that Bay Area Chic Coolness all day, every day? It must take a lot of work! But then again, probably not. It’s just who she is at this point. She probably doesn’t even think about the black fishnet stockings, silly (but on her cool) black leatherette knee high boots and catholic school girl pleated skirt topped off by a very non-catholic school girl spandex black t-shirt.

So, when Miss Coolness turned to PP with a shy, apologetic smile, PP was secretly thrilled. She could do this. Pretend to converse with a cool young hipster.

“Excuse, me…..sorry to bother you….” MC seemed nervous, so unlike her outer self.
PP smiled encouragingly, not saying anything yet.
“But… do you have a tampon?”
AHA! Even Coolsters bleed! What a relief! For some reason, periods are decidedly un-cool. At least PP’s always had been. What with the pain and….okay, no reason to go into all the gory details right now.

PP shook her head, “No, I’m sorry. But that Time is long gone for me.”
“LUCKY YOU!” Miss Coolster had nodded, envy creeping out in her tone. And PP had to admit that, yes, she was lucky to not have to endure this heinous cycle of womanhood anymore. She remembered what a huge big deal this had been at 14 when she’d wanted to go swimming. The tampon thing had been almost as intimidating as Miss Cool. She remembered her best friend, Lani Aldrich, trying to convince her that using a tampon wasn’t that hard. Sure it was gross at first, but if she could just get herself to do it, then she could go SWIMMING!

This had been hugely traumatic for PP. Not being able to swim because of her goddamn period and those goddamn pads with all the belts and little metal hinges that never seemed to work to hold the belts that held the pads that kept her from swimming. For of course, she couldn’t go in the pool during her period as long as she couldn’t get the Tampon Thing down and even with Lani Aldrich standing outside the bathroom door, coaching her through the process, it took her almost all summer before she mastered the goddamn little cotton cigars to the degree that she felt comfortable swimming. Lord knows she didn’t want the humiliation of It falling out in the pool.


So today, at the YMCA, when Miss Coolness needed a tampon so she could work out (“I had no idea It was gonna start today. And here I am all the way down here ready to workout and I go to the bathroom and shit there IT is….”), PP nodded in sympathy.
“I think I saw a machine around here somewhere.”
”Really?” Miss Coolness brightened slightly.
“Yeah….” PP pulled on her suit and marched over to the first row of sinks with all the hair dryers lining the mirrored wall. No machine here. Ummm…she knew that she’d seen one. Though it wasn’t surprising that it hadn’t been etched in her memory too well given her lack of necessity for one. Frowning, PP headed round the corner to the first row of bathroom stalls, and Voila! There was a machine here, mounted on the wall in all it’s silver glory, little pictures of tampons and pads etched in black and the slots for 25 cents.

“There is a machine over here!” PP called out enthusiastically, pleased that she could be of some small assistance to one So Cool.
“I gotta OB Tampon if you want,” came wafting over the lockers at PP and Miss Cool, who stopped mid-search for a quarter as one of the amble African American women emerged with The Solution.
“Wow. Thanks!” Miss Cool murmured as PP grinned. If you talk loudly enough about anything in the women’s locker room, help will arrive, esp. if it’s anything to do with periods or menopause. Women do bond on these two heinous realities of being female. For many years, PP wondered what it woulda been like to be a man and not have these intense bodily functions to contend with every month or every day. Must be very freeing is all she could think. Yet men wouldn’t know any differently. They don’t have periods. They don’t have menopause. If ‘They’re 32 they’ll look 32, 8 years before they’re 32 and 8 years after 32 as Bette Davis says in All About Eve, “I HATE MEN!”

There’s a nice tangent for you. But Bette was right. Men do have it easier in the aging department, and maybe this is cuz they don’t have periods. All that monthly loss wears women out. Though as Dashingly Handsome Boyfriend always likes to point out to PP whenever she bring up Women's Body Issues, “Women do out live men,” which she had to concede was true. But still…..

“Some people, they don’t like to use the OB tampons, but I found that they work better than the other kinds.” African American Tampon Woman asserted. To which Miss Cool murmured some quiet response, ready to just get the Tampon Thing done and get to her workout before she met her girlfriend for band practice at some ultra-groovy renovated loft in Downtown Oakland.

Back to being cool now, she disappeared into the bathroom as PP headed off for the pool, glad that her Tampon days were over, but also happy that in some small way, she’d helped.

And Bette Davis? How would she have helped in such a situation? PP giggled to herself. Not only would Bette Davis never deign to workout at some disgusting, smelly gym, but lord knows, if there’d been tampons back then?

Bette would never have been caught without one!

Now there’s Cool for you!

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Pool Plot for the Palace Hotel

So PP got to thinking about this supposed policy she has about swimming in every pool that she discovers and you know what? It’s just not so. However, she can only think of one pool that she’s discovered that she hasn’t (yet!) swam in.

The pool at the Palace Hotel in downtown San Francisco.
Did you even know there was a pool in that fabulous old establishment?
Well, there is.

PP had discovered it one evening after drinks in the bar of the hotel with a colleague at FFU.
“Hey,” KP had exclaimed after a couple glasses of Pinot Grigio. “Have you seen the pool here?”
PP almost spit out her Cabernet Franc. “There’s a POOL here?”
“Yup. Wanna see it?”
“Are you kidding? Of course.”

And so, KP had gulped down her wine, paid the bill and off she led PP to the 4th floor, easy as you please. Like she owned the place. (Or the Palace.) PP really admires her friends that can do this. Waltz into any establishment, money and reservations aside, and act like they belong. No one questions them. Just cuz of their je ne sais quoi.

PP, on the other hand, while she has on occasion done this (sneaking into the Newport Beach Tennis Club Pool for example. But then, she was 16, very tan, blonde, in tennis togs—she could ‘pass’ for a member. Even back then, she was completely pool driven—so when she walked into the clubhouse lobby, smiled and grabbed a couple towels with a cheery ‘Hello’ to the handsome tennis instructor behind the counter—he just gave her a sexy grin and waved her in. No questions asked.)

Whereas here at the Palace Hotel?
PP definitely felt like a fish outta water!

It was so old money. All the chandeliers that would be laughable if it weren’t for the 1930’s art deco ceilings. All the long quiet corridors leading to lavish rooms where affairs of intrigue and high finance were going on behind closed doors.

PP didn’t belong at the Palace Hotel.
Unless of course she were in the pool. And after their ride up the gold-mirrored elevator and meander down the long carpeted corridor, upon first sight, she belonged in That Water.

“Cool, eh?” KP had sighed as they both stood outside in the hall gazing longingly at the utterly charming little pool, with white columns, turquoise blue fancy tiles, and a totally William Randolph Hearst feel to add to the enchantment of such a discovery. Who knew there was a pool here? Buried in the catacombs up here on the 4th floor right above San Francisco’s bustling downtown Montgomery Street arena?

PP had sighed. “I’ve got to swim here!”
KP had nodded. “Of course. Let’s see….” She glanced around at the empty hall except for the front desk guarded by a Serious Filipino Woman folding towels.
“Excuse, me,” KP had marched up to SFW, her tone easy and confident. “We just want to swim in the pool. Is there a day pass or some other way we can just go for a swim without being guests here at the hotel?”
SFW gave her an Evil Look. Why PP didn’t know. Was their request that outlandish? Didn’t swimmers come from far and near to swim at the hidden pool of the Palace Hotel?
Evidently not, as evidenced by both SFW’s glare and the lack of swimmers actually using the pool. (One lone businessman, on his cell phone, was lying on a lounge chair; a woman treading water in a floral cap was in the far corner of the pool.) No one else was anywhere. Wouldn’t you think that their request to partake of a swim would be welcomed?”

“You can pay for Spa Day,” SFW grunted.
“Great!” KP had grinned, winking at PP. “How much is that?”
“$99???” KP had scoffed. “My, that must be some spa day. Do you have a brochure?”
SFW reached under the counter, continuing her glare as she handed KP the brochures.
“Isn’t there a way we can just pay to swim?” PP asked. Hell if she was gonna pay $99 for a spa day. The pool was stupendous, but she drew the line at paying nearly a hundred bucks to swim!
“Spa day. Only way,” SFW turned, reaching for another stack of towels.
“Unless, of course, we were guests here!” KP announced cheerily.
SFW nodded, not even looking at them. She knew they weren’t guests! She could smell the lack of wealth and power and see the Bohemian Professor drunkenness in an instant. PP thought about how there was no way in hell they were gonna be able to sneak past her like she did at the Newport Beach Tennis Club.

And, so, KP had led her away from the pool, chatting breezily about how sometimes she and her husband stay at the Palace Hotel and so maybe they could arrange a guest swim. PP sighed inwardly, knowing this would never really happen. Why she couldn’t say for sure, but she’d been right. She hasn’t heard from KP for months now, and so another plot must be hatched if her mission to swim in every pool she discovers is to be realized.

Driving the Lovely I to Mills on Sunday, PP had mentioned this Mission and of course, the Lovely I had been intrigued. They’d been talking about the new Pool in Campbell that PP had discovered last week, and the Lovely I had nodded when PP said that she just had to swim, but didn’t know when what with her schedule and all.

“Of course, you must swim there,” the Lovely I had asserted. “That goes without saying. Why not swim at Lunch time?”
PP soaked this suggestion in. Sure, Lunch could work if she got there early and swam for a short time—after all the writing center at WWU was only 100 feet away. Maybe this would work.

But the Palace Hotel Pool? PP told the Lovely I about this one. “And so, I thought that I’d swam in every pool I’ve discovered but then I remembered this pool and damn! I haven’t swam there and I need to figure out how.”
Lovely I had nodded seriously. “Yes, I see your dilemma. The $99 Spa Day does seem exorbitant for a swim. Even for you!”
Giggling, PP turned left into the Mills Campus. “I did have this fantasy that I could just go the Palace Hotel Bar and pick up some rich smarmy businessman who’s only staying the night and telling him that I need a swim before we can have sex and then after my swim, just ditching him.”

The Lovely I let out a long series of “Hee heee heeees!”
“That’s a fantastic idea! You are so funny!”
PP nodded, laughing along with the Lovely I, always delighted by her enthusiastic giggles.

But could she really go through with it? It wasn’t like she was 16 anymore. Maybe the smarmy businessman wouldn’t go for her. Or maybe he’d just want sex first and then let her swim….

Umm….for a moment PP considered this aspect of the fantasy. Would the swim in the Palace Hotel be worth such a sacrifice?

Grinning, PP parked the car and turned off the engine, glancing around for her fins and Hello Kitty Kickboard.

Maybe, just maybe, if the smarmy businessman were cute.

Then such a sacrifice could be made.

All in the name of swimming.
Of course!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Campbell is a'Callin!

The excitement is building, but will PP have the energy to swim after her long day at WWU?

She does have this policy to swim at every pool she discovers even if it means only once. Sometimes, once is enough. (Remember the Heinous Unpleasant Hill YMCA?)

~Stay tuned for her swim at the Campbell Community Center POOL!~

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Custard and Hearts

She smiles at PP from across the gym. PP’s in the hot tub. She’s getting undressed at the lockers directly in front of the tub. The smile is shy, yet familiar. PP thinks, do I know her? Perhaps. PP chats with lots of women here at the Oakland Y, and while this ample
African American Woman in her sexy lacy black bikini ensemble doesn’t upon first glance, seem familiar, you never know. Could be that PP’s smiled at her in the pool, or here in the hot tub or in the dark hot confines of the sauna.

Sometimes it’s just hard to keep track of all the people that she kinda knows. And at the Y, post swim, blissfully soaking in the hot tub, it’s even harder.

PP closes her eyes and drifts off into Hot Tub space-out land. Ahhhh……till she feels the Presence next to her. Opens her eyes, and yes, it’s She—Smiling Woman from across the way, now seated next to her in the tub, her own bliss oozing out of her in a happy grin.

“It feels so gooood,” she sighs, giving PP another shy smile.
“Oh, yeah,” PP agrees, not really encouraging chat, but then maybe a good story is in the offing.
“Yeah, it does. Especially after working out upstairs for over an hour. Whew!”
PP nods, eyeing her ample expanse. She’s strong and round all at the same time. Well over twice PP’s size, she’d guess. With soft folds up and down her arms, legs, and waist. But she does have a waist, most definitely. Lots and lots of curves, this Smiling Woman has.

“What do you do upstairs?” PP asks, now intrigued. She can smell a story, even over the hot tub chemicals.
“I used to do the weights. But I don’t much do them anymore. Today I did the treadmill. For over an hour!” Pleased, she chuckles to herself.
“Wow!” PP enthuses. “That’s fantastic! Good for you!!” It is actually very impressive. Must be so hard to keep the mass of weight she has moving for an hour. PP thinks it’s hard enough for herself, let alone if she had to haul around twice her weight. She knows this must be why so many of the Y’s ample women swim. The water is so buoyant and supportive. Unlike the damn machines upstairs with their heavy clanking and confusing apparatuses screaming at you to keep it up!

“Yeah, I still got a ways to go, but I’m down to 260 now from over 300 and it’s a challenge. Esp. as I’ve really got a Sweet Tooth. Ummm….ummm…I just love that Custard. Give me anything with custard and I just cannot refuse.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. Chocolate is my weakness.”
”That too!” She chuckles heartily, nodding in firm agreement. “But you know, I found out from some alternative medicines that if you just eat a bit of Cayenne Pepper, it will take away that chocolate craving.”
”Mmmm….mmm…” SW nods emphatically. “Who knew that a little Cayenne, Cayenne I tell you, could do that?”
”I never knew.”
“Me neither. And there’s others too that will take that Sweet Craving away, like cinnamon and oh I forget what else!” SW laughs heartily. It’s all so silly. Imagine taking away Sugar Cravings with Cayenne Pepper. How the hell does that even work? PP wonders. Do you, instead of opening up that box of Oreos, take out the bottle of Cayenne and shake a bit onto a spoon and swallow it down? Hell, that would take away any and all cravings for anything, sugar not withstanding, if you survived the Heat of it.
“But the fact that I’m a Pastry Chef does complicate Matters,” SW continues.
Delighted, PP glances over at her. A Pastry Chef? Hell, no kidding that would complicate matters! “A Pastry Chef? Wow! What a wonderful thing!”
“It is and it isn’t.”
“Yeah, I can see what you mean.”
“Cream puffs, chocolate and like I said, custard anything with custard and I just have zero willpower.”
PP nods. Maybe a Pastry Chef isn’t the best occupation for SW? But who knows. Could be that she was a more normal weight before she became a pastry chef. Though somehow PP doubts this.

“My doctor says the Cayenne can help with my cholesterol and all. Lord knows, I don’t wanna become Type II Diabetic. That’s for sure.” She chuckles, but PP can sense an underlying fear, which must be very real indeed. Not knowing anything about diabetes, thankfully this isn’t one of PP’s health issues, she knows very little about it, other than it can be debilitating and even deadly. But mostly, PP thinks it means No Sugar. She remembers a coworker of hers at the bookstore who was diabetic and would bring in candy for the staff. One day, PP was hanging out with her, munching down See’s Chocolates when A said, “Please. Eat up! My mom keeps sending me these chocolates even though she knows I’m diabetic. I think she’s trying to kill me.”
PP had laughed at the morbid humor of it at the time, but then worried that in fact A’s mom was trying to kill her. A did seem like a nice enough person, though a bit off. So it wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibility that her mom was trying to kill her with chocolate. Thank goodness PP had been there to save A!

SW sighed deeply, beginning to move around in the tub. “I got to get me a swim suit,” she announced. “But can’t find one that fits.”
“Isn’t that one you have on?” PP asked, knowing that it probably was a bra and panties set but still, it was black.
SW chuckled. “This? No. This is my underwear. I tell you about these panties though. With the little red heart on them?”
PP nodded. She’d noticed some red color on SW’s triangle area, but hadn’t picked out the shape of a heart.

“Cuz I really like hearts. Hearts are my thing. But I had these panties for years in my drawer and I didn’t wear them cuz I thought they were too small but then the other day I pulled them out and said to myself, girl you losing weight, give ‘em a try, and you know what? They fit!” She giggled shyly at PP who wondered vaguely about why she was getting the low-down on the panties at such length? Maybe SW had a crush on PP? She hadn’t thought of this at the time, but could be. Or more likely, SW was just pleased as punch at her weight loss and wanted to share her new pantie freedom. This was more likely.
Grinning, PP started to make her way out of the tub. “Well, I think you could get away with wearing those in the pool. No one would know they were panties.”
“You think so? Maybe….”
PP floated past her toward the stairs, “It’s been really nice chatting with you.”
“You too, Baby. Take care. I gotta go get me some steam now.”

Grinning, PP headed for the sauna. The steam room scared her. Too much Hot Fog. But maybe if SW was gonna be in there? More stories might unfold?

Nah, she had enough material for today. Shaking her wet hair out, PP grabbed a towel and made her way into the soothing dry heat of the woodsy sauna, her craving for chocolate hitting her hard as she settled down on the toasty wooden bench.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Baboons, Menopause, and Antidepressants

“They say that we’re more like Chimpanzees than Gorillas,” New York Times Guy (PP will make it clear why he’s called this later on) nodded, serious and informed. PP sinks into the hot tub, grinning mightily. This is gonna be good! While she enjoys the Women Only Hot Tub Talk at the Y, these Mills College Guy Talks are definitely missed. Esp. when the Guys are talking about Chimps and Gorillas.

“Why is that?” Dashingly Handsome Boyfriend asks, completely serious.
Guys. Apes. It’s Manly Hot Tub Talk. (Though Guys at Mills College hits her a bit strangely still even though they have been around the campus for years now.)

Out of the corner of her eye, PP spies AO, locally (maybe internationally?) famous Jazz Pianist, dipping into the tub right as NYTG makes his Gorilla Assertion. PP can’t look at AO. For some reason, she thinks he’s laughing. But this could just be her projection; he’s probably just nodding in Serious Guy Bonding Unison.

NYTG thinks for a moment about DHBF’s question, then plows on. “It’s cuz Chimpanzees will swim. Gorillas won’t. So since we swim, and granted we don’t really belong in the water, and neither do the Chimps, but we both can swim. Not the Gorillas.”

DHBF nods. Mulling this one over, but before he can respond, NYTG continues. “And this other article, also in the New York Times Tuesday Science Section, talked about how Baboons are helping Menopausal Women with their depression and instead of taking anti-depressants, the Baboons will….’

Wait a minute. PP got that dialogue wrong. But she had ya going there, right? Were you all gonna run out and buy the next Tuesday NYT to read about Bestiality and Menopausal women?

Here’s more like how the dialogue went, though still could be slightly off, knowing PP. “Baboons, unlike some other apes, will also swim, but they like to swim in groups. Safety in numbers they say.”

PP still can’t remember how the menopausal depression connects to the baboons. Sorry. Maybe if she keeps writing it’ll come to her? She does remember asking about the baboons, even though she’s always thought baboons were completely gross and slutty with their bright red bare asses in your face on Wild Kingdom.


Maybe that’s why menopausal women all have to take antidepressants? They’re all of the generation that watched Wild Kingdom as girls and those disgusting Baboon Butts are buried deep within their psyches causing untoward subconscious images of horror and shame.

Hence the only answer is tons of Well-Butrin.

“I have this friend that buys the Tuesday NYT for just that reason!” AO pipes in.

PP glances up at AO. His friend buys the NYT to read about Baboons? Is this the purpose of such an erudite publication? PP hadn't thought so, but hell, you learn a lot in the hot tub.

But for her, she's never gotten the Big Deal about the goddamn NYT. She's just not impressed. Maybe cuz she’s from LA. Maybe cuz she’s Blonde. Maybe cuz she’d just rather not read all that teeny tiny print about Baboons! In any case, NYTG is always quoting the NYT like he’s some impressive intellectual, which obviously he’s not or he wouldn’t be in the Hot Tub talking about apes, but would be spouting off about Plato or Wittgenstein, or who the hell else do Intellectuals spout off about?

PP has no clue since all the intellectuals she hangs out with are poets or teachers and all they talk about is food and cats.

Giggling to herself, PP glances around the tub. Pretty African American Orange Bikini girl, Silent Macho Hot Tub Man. Both completely ignoring the Baboon talk.
Or not?
PP thinks she detects a sly smile on SMHTM's mug. He's listening. Recording?
Hell, PP thinks she ought to add a woman's perspective here.

“Maybe all the menopausal women are taking Antidepressants cuz their husbands or boyfriends or whatever remind them of baboons!” PP announces into the Hot Tub Air.

The men all look anywhere but at her. Silence. PP starts to giggle. “I was just kidding you guys.”

They shift around, eye each other sideways, still not answering her.

PP laughs. Sinks into the bubbly watery warmth.

Men. They may not be baboons, but they still can drive a girl to drink and drugs.

Women, on the other hand……

Orange Bikini Girl glances up from her book, gives PP a sly smile, before standing, stretching and climbing out of the tub.

Delighted, PP watches her saunter sexy across the deck.

Women. Definitely not Baboons, as PP watches her open the door to the locker room and disappear into its showery steam.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Kismet at the Pool

“Dora? Is that you?” PP approached the pretty bubbly middle-aged (PP hates that descriptor; but hell, guess it's their reality now) woman with the perky bob, chatting in the center of a large group of teenage swimmers and what looked like their parents.

Tentative, shy, PP smiled. She knew that her dear friend from undergrad days at UCSC was going to be here at the Swim a Mile with her swimming daughter, Callie. They’d emailed back and forth the week before the swim. Dora had pledged PP an enormous amount for this all-important event, and then, they’d discovered they’d both be at the swim on the same day at the same time.

It was Fate!

But it’d been such a long time. PP couldn’t even remember when last she’d seen Dora and her husband, Tim, another friend from undergrad whom Dora had married. 15 years? 20 years? 25 years?

Could be.

Would they recognize each other after all this time? Yet this woman, so animated and in the center of it all, felt like her. PP couldn’t say exactly why. Same hairstyle? (A cute brown straight-haired bob, with a touch of gray about the sides) Same pretty round face? (Yes, a few wrinkles round the eyes and mouth, but hell, 25 years! That was a long time!)

Glancing up from her conversation now, Dora jumped up, beaming and bright. “CAROL!!!!” (PP is gonna use her real name in the dialogue here for simplicity’s sake. Why not? It’s not like you don’t know her name anyway, right? Dora and and daughter’s name have been changed cuz….oh, hell, cuz you’re supposed to!)

Bouncing over to PP, Dora gave her a big hug and kiss. “OHMYGOD! You look exactly the same!”

PP blushed shyly, knowing this couldn’t possibly be, but it was nice to hear. And after all, Dora must look pretty close to the same since PP did spy her in all this crowd of several hundred swimmers, family and friends at the Mills Swim a Mile Event. Though PP wondered if she woulda recognized her old friend if she hadn’t known she’d be here?

Maybe not. But hell, this didn’t matter as she hugged Dora close, feeling her familiar warmth even after so long. “Wow! You too! I wondered if we’d recognize each other. Where’s your daughter?”
“Oh, over there.” Dora gave a cheerful, dismissive wave behind her. “She’s here with her high school swim team and a new Boyfriend. You know how that goes,” she giggled, her other arm still slung round PP’s shoulder in friendly welcome.

“We’re over on the other side of the pool,” PP pointed across the water, the tables, tarps and swarms of swimmers milling about. “My boyfriend came to cheer me on. Is Tim here?”
“Nah, he had work to do,” Dora grinned.

PP nodded, of course. Tim was the only one of them that had gone into ‘business’—Dora and he had lived in Hong Kong even, wheeling and dealing with the Asian bigwigs. But that was a long time ago. Now here they were, settled in SF, with 3 teenage daughters, one of whom was a swimmer, which to PP was, of course, an added bonus of Delight!

“Here's my boyfriend!” PP exclaimed. DHBF had ambled over, his tall good looks and easy smile giving PP a moment of pride. At least after all these years, PP could still snag a winningly wonderful BF. “This is Ian,” (Name not changed, K honey?) “And, Ian, this is Dora!”
Shaking hands and exchanging their ‘nice to meet you’s PP stood grinning at the wonder of it all. Here she was, at this amazing swim to raise money for women with cancer, and in the midst of it, or yes, because of it, she’d reconnected with her dear friend, who was chatting amiably with her DHBF.

“Ian?” Dora was asking, her eyes twinkling.
“Yes, Dora, right?”
“That’s right,”
”I didn’t know if we’d recognize each other,” PP interrupted, “but we did.”
”Of course we did!” Dora laughed. “We haven’t changed that much.”
“Well….you haven’t,” PP shook her head, thinking just how much has changed since she last saw Dora.
“Besides, we’re here!” Dora chuckled again, draping her arm round PP again and hugging her close.
“That’s right,” Ian agreed, “it’s certainly better than the alternative.”

They all laughed as PP remembered how Dora’s mom had died when she was still at UCSC. PP couldn’t remember what she’d died from. Maybe it’d been cancer. Brain tumor stuck in her memory. But whatever the cause, Dora had lost her mom at a very young age. Probably her mom was about the age that Dora was now, and in spite of all the vibrant energy and life surrounding them at the pool today, this swim was still all about those who had passed on because of cancer.

But also those who had survived. PP being one of those lucky ones!

“Here’s Callie,” Dora grabbed one of the teenagers. A pretty bronzed girl with shinning brown eyes and dimples—it was Dora as PP remembered her. Only not.

“Nice to meet you,” she took PP’s hand warmly and gave it a firm shake, her voice echoing her mom’s.
“Yes, you too! You look just like your mom and…..”
Dora started to laugh.
Suddenly shy, PP smiled at Callie in amazement. Guess this is one of the reasons people have kids? To keep themselves alive and swimming? In another form that’s more youthful and energetic, granted, but all the same, it was a little eerie in a miraculous sort of way.

“Well, I should get ready to swim,” Callie glanced behind her at the group of teenagers milling about. Putting on swim caps. Rubbing on sunscreen. Giggling in anticipation.
“Yeah, me too.” PP grinned. “Have a great swim,”
”Yes, you too!” Callie called back as she skipped over to her friends.
Dora sighed, smiling tiredly for a moment. “Teenagers!” she sighed, glancing over at Ian. “You got kids?”
”Oh, yeah, two boys.”
”How old?”
“Well, I have a stepson who’s over 30 and then my two boys are 15 and 22.”
Dora nodded, “Well, then, you know what I mean!”
“Oh, yeah.”
And they began some parental exchange that PP zoned out on. So much not a part of her world as she glanced around at the other parents seated comfortably on the white plastic lounge chairs, sipping Diet Pepsi’s and munching on chips. This was Dora’s world. And PP had to think that because of this, they’d lost touch. She had so little in common with the parental paradigm. Yet. DHBF was a parent. Some of the friends were parents. Hell, her parents were parents.

So, just because Dora was a parent didn’t mean that they couldn’t reconnect.

“Guess I better get changed too,” PP glanced over at the clock. 2:55. She was scheduled to swim at 3. Yikes! She better get going, especially given her slow poke changing routine.

“We’ll watch and cheer you on!” Ian hollered after her as she gathered up her stuff and headed for the locker room.
“Yeah! Go CAROL!!!” Dora called after her, eyes bright and excited.

And PP had to wonder as she weaved her way across the deck, covering her ears slightly as she passed the blasting DJ music of Donna Summer’s “I WILL SUURRVIIVE!!!!” how strange a thing it was the passage of time. On the one hand, it was like Dora had never been absent from her life. That they were just right back to the place they were 25 years ago, studying, playing and hanging out in the dorms of Stevenson College. All that warm camaraderie of spirit was still there.

Yet, on the other hand, over 20 years had passed and they were not the same young women they’d been back in Santa Cruz, with so much passion and hope and fun. Now, opening the locker room door for shy 6-year-old girl, hugging a plate full of food to her tiny chest, PP smiled down at her, watching as she toddled off to find her family.

But here they were. And they were swimming. And Dora’s daughter was swimming. And the swimming was going to carry them through the years and decades and be the line that holds them altogether.

Okay, maybe that’s laying it on a bit thick, but PP has to wonder, once again, how the magic of swimming has the power to accomplish the impossible so often.

Like bringing together two dear friends, who for whatever myriad of reasons may have never seen each other again if it hadn’t been for swimming.

Go Swimming! Go Callie! Go PP!

And yes, Go Dora!

A light tap on the shoulder woke PP from her waiting for her turn to swim reverie. “CC! I didn’t know you were gonna be here!”
“Yeah. I was really hankerin’ for a swim,” CC beamed shyly, clutching her Swim-a-mile Tote Bag and cap.
“Wow! That is so cool!” PP continued in amazement. What a day. First her friend Dora and her daughter, now CC, who, as far as PP knew, had never swum a mile before.

“Yeah, I don’t know if I can swim a Mile though….” CC admitted, reading PP’s mind.
“Oh, sure you can,” PP went into Swim Coach mode. “Just go get the LONG cheating fins and kick a lot with those. You’ll make it and you’ll make it super fast!”
“Really? You sure?” CC was dubious, glancing around at the hundreds of swimmers, timers, counters, families and food booths that filled the pool deck.
“Yes. I’m absolutely sure! When do you swim?”
”3. …. Guess I better go get dressed.”
Laughing, PP glanced up at the clock. “Yeah, since it’s 3:15 now.”
“Running late as usual,” CC joked as she headed over to the pile of long fins in the giant plastic basket next to the front gate

“What’s your name again?” PP’s lane mate asked, a petite (can a man be petite?) pleasant guy who turned out to swim at the Y too.
“Carol,” PP answered. “I’m no EVE for your Adam!” she joked. (Actually she didn’t really say that, thank goodness. Though it did occur to her. But the connotations involved in such a joke, well, PP did not want to go there. This Adam, while cute in a sweet hairy sort of way, was simply not her type.)
“Nice to meet you and have a great swim,” Adam grinned before hopping into the lane ahead of PP who still had to wait for her turn. Eyeing his mighty splashing, PP shook her head. Would she be able to breathe without swallowing all his whitewater? Oh, who cares today! She thought to herself as the woman who she was waiting on finally finished her mile and the Cute Counter Girl with the blonde ponytail and big yawn told her she could start her swim.
“Do you want me to time you?” CCG asked.
“Nah, that’s ok,” PP answered. Hell, she didn’t need to know how goddamn slow she was even though Dora still thought she looked the same as 20 years ago. PP knew she sure as hell wasn’t as fast a swimmer as she was even a year ago, let alone 20.

Today, though, PP wasn’t gonna get down on herself for being slow or old or any of those negative thought patterns that usually ran through her water soaked brain. Today was all about the Swim and raising money for this important cause and hell, getting CC to swim a mile!

Now, that would be an accomplishment. And as PP easily swam her mile, (DHBF spinning insanely loud and obnoxious noise makers in her watery ear with every lap in between taking pics of her on her mile long journey) she marveled at the wonder of it all again. Swimming. It was the reason for living and the celebration for surviving.

Okay, that’s pretty hokey, but you know what she means.

Donning her Angels visor and sunglasses, PP slipped on her long cheating fins and kicked a few easy laps, the CCG laughing at her and snapping pics on her phone. Pleased, PP hammed it up a bit. Waving and grinning. Hell, maybe she’d get on the Women’s Cancer Resource Center’s Website. Maybe those cell phones are good for something after all!

Glancing around, PP noticed that swimmers were finishing; Adam was out. Now PP had the lane all to herself and relished in its buoyant embrace. Finishing her mile, she ducked under backwards, floating for a moment, before surfacing to head off to the hot tub to warm up, Ian and Dora cheering her on as the announcer read her finishing card: “Carol Swimkitty Jameson is outta the water swimming in honor of Samantha Archer, a breast cancer survivor.”

Grinning, PP had a pang of worry. She hadn’t actually heard from SA for a long time and while she felt, intuitively, that she was a ‘survivor’ knowing her all these years (another friend from UCSC), she had a nagging worry that what if she hadn’t? (Note: PP got an email from SA this morn sounding very much alive and kicking! Go SA! And what a relief!) Another happy result of this swim---PP’s getting this email, full of sassy tales of cancer treatment. Leave it to SA to be able to make a joke out of it. But PP knew that everyone must have their own way of dealing with cancer. Hers had been to keep swimming. SA’s was to joke. Whatever worked was what they all had to do. Otherwise, well, PP didn’t want to think about the Otherwise. Esp. today!

Hanging out in the hot tub now, PP hears the announcer, “AND the LAST Swimmer is getting out of the pool and it’s CC –of course pronouncing CC’s last name wrong—but no matter, CC gets out of the pool, takes a long dramatic bow in her cute Hawaiian sporty two piecer before heading over to the hot tub to join PP.

“You made it!” PP exclaimed.
“Yup. You were right about those long fins. No prob.”
“That is so awesome.”
CC giggled.
“I’m starving,” PP whined. “Ian’s getting me some food. You want anything?”
”Nah, K made me a big breakfast.”
“What’d she make ya?”
”Bagels and lox and coffee and fruit and….”
”Don’t let that one get away!” PP joked as Ian arrived with plates full of shiskabobs, rice, fruit and ice cream.
“YUM! I’m so hungry!” PP grabbed at a shish kabob and started to chew off a piece of delicious grilled chicken as CC giggled in relaxed delight.
Ian stood by, taking more pics and eating little cups of Hagen Daz. Yum. “They have lots of these if you girls want me to go get more?”
“Nah” PP chewed happily on the chicken as she spooned up a piece of fruit. “We’re already breaking all the rules here eating in the HOT TUB!”
CC giggled again as she pulled herself out of the tub and lay down on the warm cement.
“You sure you don’t want any ice cream?” PP teased.
“Ok, I’ll have a bite,” CC climbed back into the tub as they shared the cup, Ian taking a pic for posterity. (And proof that Rules can be broken if it’s for a Good Cause!)

But the packing up had begun. The food tables dismantled, the DJ’s breaking down the music stand in process, the pool manager giving CC and PP the You-Better-Hurry-Up Eye. “We’re going!” PP called out to her, sneaking a last mouthful of rice and chicken before packing up and heading for the locker room.

Hugging Dora and her daughter once more before leaving, they all made promises to keep in touch. Or, if not, PP thought, there was always next year’s Swim a Mile for Cancer Women.

Though, secretly, she hoped that it wouldn’t be that long before she saw Dora again, or CC swam a Mile, or….she

broke all the rules, by EATING in the HOT TUB!!!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Mills Swim-a-Mile for Cancer Women Today!

Pool Puss is supurr excited to be swimming in this event today! It certainly has added weight for her being a LUCKY cancer survivor herself! What a happy kitty she is!

More stories on the blog this week about this wonderful swim to benefit the Women's Cancer Resource Center in Berkeley!

Go kitty! (Don't worry! She won't forget her Hello Kitty Kickboard with her little thumbs up for inspiration on her Mile!)

PP hopes she gets to swim in the Hot Pink Cap lane! Especially if it's full of awesome Studettes like this woman. Talk about inspiring. Hello Kitty better get on her little kitty flippers to keep up!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Utopian Police

“You take shower before get in!” Hot Tub Mama commanded, her imperious echo shocking Beauteous African Princess, who had just emerged from the steam room, into instant Shower Submission.

DL’s eyes widened in surprised delight behind her dark glasses while PP giggled under the guise of the bubbles. “Guess I better go…..” DL pointed to the showers as she scooped up her clothes and followed BAP to cleanse their hereto concealed germs with the help of the shower's contamination prevention properties.

HTM sunk back into her corner of the tub, her ample bosom pressed against the jets, her hair wrapped in a turquoise turban. PP wondered what was up with her sanitation commands on this otherwise mellow Monday afternoon. She wasn’t usually so vigilant. In fact, even though there were signs all over the hot tub and sauna area with instructions about “NO scented Products allowed to respect those with environmental sensibilities” (PP always wondered about this what with the chlorine fumes enveloping the entire area –weren’t these gases a bit hard on those with these environmental sensibilities?) and “Showers MUST be taken before entering the Jacuzzi or sauna.” and “NO Hair products or Lotions allowed in Jacuzzi.”

Everyone always seemed to ignore all these written commands but went blithely about their hair product and non-shower business.

It took a STERN Command from HTM to put the fear of serious repercussions into their otherwise lax sanitation standards.

DL, back from her shower, big grin on her mug, sunk into the tub, her eyes still wide from her near miss with HTM. “PP, you have to orient me to the Ritual down here in the hot tub. I never come down here, so I don’t know.”

PP nodded, “Of course, just follow my lead.” DL usually just worked upstairs on the torture machines, which she’d spent the last hour showing PP so she could work on her Menopausal Loss of Muscle Mass. But mostly they’d giggled and gossiped. Weight Training was just not PP’s thing.

“Have you been in the Sauna?” PP asked DL.
“No, can we?” She glanced around for HTM—where’d she go?

In the sauna, that’s where, as PP and DL took a seat on the warm wooden benches, the piney smell of redwood permeating the tiny heated room.

“Where your towel!?” HTM questioned imperiously. Ever vigilant, she immediately had noticed PP’s and DL’s naked bums oh too casually sitting on the bare wood.
“Oh!” DL exclaimed, giving PP another wide-eyed giggle, “mine are outside.”
“The Table. It is not Clean!” HTM snorted, her scorn filling the close room.
“Well, we’ll take our chances this time. Thanks,” DL answered as PP just giggled, reminded of China once again.
“When I was in China, I was always being admonished for sitting on the bare wood without a towel. The women in the sauna there would always get me to sit on a plastic bag and then it would stick all gooey on my ass from the heat. ”
“You in China?” a Familiar Asian Woman sitting in the corner asked. PP often shared a lane with her, and was always greeted with smiles and nods, but had never actually conversed with her before.
“Yes, a long time ago.”
”Dalian? Do you know it?”
”Dalian? Yes…no…I not been there…. Shanghai…. Beijing.”
“Cool. Are you from China?”
“No, Taiwan.”
“Ah, yes, those are very different countries.”
DL started to giggle uncontrollably.

“You been to Utopia?” HTM asked.
“We're in Utopia right now,” PP answered.
“You in Utopia?” HTM repeated, confusion in her tone.
“We just feel like we’re in Utopia right now,” DL clarified.
“I from Utopia,” HTM asserted.
The epiphany hit PP and DL simultaneously. Oh! Ethiopia! Not Utopia. Duh!
Giggles took over, replacing the confused scorn with magical hilarity.
“No, we haven’t been to Ethiopia,” PP managed to get out between giggles.

HTM sighed and rolled her huge mass over onto her side. Grunted in boredom as Taiwan Woman pointed to the shredded sweated-on paper towels that she was using, still worried about PP’s and DL’s germ contamination potential.
“You get towel now?” she asked, her voice heavy with concern.
“No, no, I think we’ve had enough,” DL answered, glancing over the top of her dark glasses at PP. Maybe PP usually escaped all this Towel Concern cuz she wore her suit in the hot tub and sauna after swimming. But to keep DL sexy naked company today (“But I don’t have a suit!” she’d protested when PP had first mentioned meeting in the hot tub after their respective workouts—DL wasn’t a swimmer—YET!), PP had happily tossed off her wet suit while in the Hot Tub. After all she was hell of clean after her hour-long chlorination immersion!

Rising with DL, PP shook her head as she held the sauna door open for the two of them to exit. “See y’all next time,” she called out as DL slipped by her, the giggles cascading after her as she hurried off for her second shower.

“Oh, PP, you really must instruct me better on the Ritual of the sauna next time.”
“Hey, you got it now,” PP grinned. “Thanks to the Utopian Police.”
And with a final hearty guffaw, DL shuffled off to the shower, after retrieving her clean, non-sauna used towel from its hook on the locker room wall, giving PP one last startled glance over her sexy dark glasses.

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...