Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving--it's her 'Season'!

“I think you hafta resign yourself to a Pool-less Thanksgiving,” Dashingly Handsome Boyfriend sighed as they sat in the post Thanksgiving Sunday afternoon traffic through heinous San Rafael.

It had been one pool disappointment after another this last weekend. First the Divine Arcata Pool. Then the closed Benbow Inn Pool. Now the out of reach Marin YMCA.

Was a swim for the holiday asking too much?


PP hated that. Why the hell can’t all the pools be open all of the time? Who the hell decides that pools must be closed for holidays? Or the‘season’? It just was not right. And there was a part of PP that was heavily in Denial about the reality of ‘closed pools’. Any sane person, who tried calling the Acrata pool 3 times with no answer on the day after Thanksgiving would just assume that the pool was closed. It was a holiday after all. But no. PP had to conjecture that it was just those good for nothing lazy lifeguards not answering the phone as is their want much of the time. PP had witnessed this transgression time and time again at various pools. For instance. She’d call Mills at the time that it was open for lap swimming, even giving the pool girl an extra five minutes or so. And the phone would ring and ring and ring and then transfer her to voice mail. Now PP couldn’t find out what the all important pool temp was and had to just drive out to Mills only to discover that the Pool Girl had been there all along. She was just too busy reading her goddamn Anatomy Text to bother answering the phone.

Granted, at the Arcata Pool the day after Thanksgiving, this probably wasn’t the case, but PP wouldn’t take no answer for an answer and so had made DHBF drive out to the pool along the lovely ‘safety’ corridor from Eureka to Arcata at only 50 goddamn miles an hour and then, of course, when they FINALLY had gotten to the pool and the parking lot was completely empty, PP had let DHBF get out of the car and check the locked door.

Damn! The pool was inside there! Why couldn’t she just go in and swim? PP could just picture it. All the turkeys who’d escaped their final hour were in there having a fine swimming time, just gobbling away on their little turkey air mattresses, laughing at PP’s plight, feasting on…. what the hell do turkeys eat anyway?

Well, you get the idea. PP just wanted to swim and she knew that it was possible if only…..

And then, the Benbow Inn. PP has been intrigued by this fanciful ‘chalet’ perched on a grassy knoll overlooking the Eel River and the Giant Redwoods ever since she’d been doing the drive to Eureka to visit the folks. So. When the idea to stay there on the way back to Oakland had first entered her mind, the first thing she thought of was, of course, Do they have a pool?

Browsing their web site, she saw pictures of the pool with ‘spa’ and ‘sauna’—all part of the unique resort experience. So when she’d called the morning of their trip back down south and the hotel clerk had been so frazzled that she hadn’t been able to ask about the pool for sure, PP had just shrugged. The web site featured the pool and spa and sauna. Surely they weren’t lying.

Oh, but they were. Goddamn seasons. Why it’s never really winter here in California! So why the hell do all the pools close in November? Do people really NOT swim in the winter? How stupid is that? PP for one, always swims year round as do all of her swimming friends, the Lovely I, and JL and Miss W, and DHBF….well, actually he probably wouldn’t if it weren’t for PP. But you get the idea. Swimming is NOT just a summer recreation!

So, when they arrive at the Benbow Inn, utterly charmed and delighted by the gaudily ornate lobby replete with tea and scones at 4, only to be informed that the pool was closed for the ‘season’—well, needless to say, PP had to hold her tongue. And she did. But she was thinking how very stupid it is that pools are NOT open year around, 24/7 just for her benefit. Hell. It was the least they could do!

So they’d gone on a lovely hike in back of the Inn, past the 8.3 million Julia Morgan home for sale perched above the Eel river and out into the redwoods and tawny hillsides full of cute square cows. And this had been very nice and peaceful and full of nature and all.

But it wasn’t the same as a swim.

Now, sitting in traffic on 101 in San Rafael, DHBF had pointed out the Marin YMCA perched on the hillside, the parking lot full of lucky swimmers. Sighing inwardly, PP wanted to ask him to get the hell offa the stupid freeway and take her to the Marin Y, but then, what would he do? Could she bring a guest to a guest Y?

Now there’s a question and frankly what with her pool-less luck all weekend, PP wasn’t willing to test it out and so they continued on at the pokey pace toward Oakland, knowing that she’d be too late for the Oakland Y at the rate they were going.

Damn. A whole 4 days without a swim! What’s a swimming kitty to do?

Spend the day at the Y on Monday, regardless of the post Thanksgiving neo-swimmers in abundance, the water a chilly 80 degrees, not the usual lovely 83, the lanes full of purple-headed spazes, long-legged sidestrokers, tattooed weight lifters.

But PP is smiling as she’s swimming.

Ah…..who cares about all the Oakland Y’s usual pandemonium. She was in the pool and she was swimming and she was happy! Finally, it was her Season. All she needed was an open pool. Oh, and a little patience at the Oakland YMCA!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Perfect Day for the Campbell Pool

“You must go at Lunch,” the Lovely I asserted after listening to PP’s whining about how she couldn’t swim at the Campbell Pool after her shift at WWU. It would be too late. After 8 pm. Then the swim till 9, then the shower, rinsing off, toweling off, hair drying. Now it’d be 9:30 or maybe even 10 pm. PP was so damned slow. Then the drive all the way back to Oakland without any dinner. The hunger factor. Always a problem. If PP didn’t eat by 8 pm or so, well…..fainting was a distinct possibility and fainting on the 880 freeway at 10 o’clock at night sounded like more than Odiousness to her.

But then PP had another idea. What if she did this evening swim and then went and stayed at the Campbell Inn? Ordered Room service. Watched Cable T.V. She divulged this fantasy to the Lovely I. Confessed how she’d never done anything like this by herself. The Lovely I had sighed and confessed the same, “Me neither. I’ve never done that by myself.” This sorta surprised PP. The Lovely I seemed so worldly and sophisticated in that Cosmopolitan Artist way. But yet, she has been in a relationship with Fix-it GF for 17 or was it 18? years. So, it did make sense that the Lovely I had only done such hotel extravagances with her GF and not by herself.

PP still liked this fantasy though. And when last week, she’d driven by the Blue Sky Chinese restaurant on the way home, only a block from the Campbell Inn, the fantasy grew. It would be so cool to go for this evening swim, then stop at the Blue Heaven and order up some Mushoo to Go, then head over to the CI for a feast of Chinese and Cable.

PP is gonna keep this fantasy in mind. It’s still a possibility, but today…..well, it was simply perfect. PP had time for an early lunch (So she could make the noon lap hours) because of no appointments with students till later. The day was mild and sunny. (Yes, there still is that sun fear because of the stupid melanoma, but this ‘body anxiety’ is getting better.)

So, into the Pool Compound she went to ask the Scraggly Lifeguard about the equipment. Did she need to lug her fins, pull buoy ‘n Hello Kitty Kickboard to the pool? (Granted the pool was very close to both WWU annex in the Community Center and where the Geo was parked, but still…..PP gets so tired of lugging all her crap around. Why does swimming take so much equipment? And then the shower and after shower stuffs. Shampoo, conditioner, lotions—why so many lotions? One for her body, one for her face, no three for her face, two were sunscreens. Oh it was so heavy! PP always wondered why she couldn’t be like those swimmers who just seemed to jump in the pool, rinse off in the shower in five minutes or less, and then toss on some clothes and be ready to go.

She was never ready to go.

So now, when Scraggly Lifeguard confirmed that she had to bring all this crap with her, with the exception of the kickboard, she wasn’t that surprised. Every pool had its requisite equipment plusses and minuses. “We’ve got lots of those as you can see,” he pointed across the pool at the gray plastic cupboard full of boards.

After retrieving this equipment from the Geo, and paying her 5 bucks to the SL, PP could hardly contain her excitement. Finally! She was gonna swim in the Campbell Pool!

And in the locker room, PP thinks it’s Kismet that the first person she talks to has ‘goddess’ written in pink across her white shirted chest. This distracts her but also seems a good omen as she listens to this divinty soothe a Plump Young Latina about how important swimming is even when you don’t have time.
“When do you eat lunch?” the goddess asks PYL.
“Oh, I just been eating at my desk lately. So I have time to fit in a swim,” she rushes to pack up her suit, shampoo and towel into her backpack. PP likes this priority. Swimming over Lunching.
“Well, remember to take care of yourself,” the goddess continues, “you’ve had a rough week.”
”Yes, I will. I just need to swim.”
“Absolutely. The swimming will help.”
PYL nods as she rushes out, “You have a nice rest of the day!”
“You, too, dear,” the goddess calls after her, towel drying her short red locks.
“She sounds like she has a strategy for her week,” PP offers, always ready to strike up a conversation, esp. when she’s at a new pool.
“Yes. She’s had a very rough week and she needs to swim, but it’s hard.”
PP nods at this same theme of swimming as the cure for all that ails one. But it is true. It’s even worth giving up lunch for. Even for those who might not ordinarily want to.

“You have a nice weekend,” the goddess smiles mysteriously over at PP.
“Yes, thanks, you too. It’s a beautiful day for a swim.”
“That it is. Though I’m wondering what’s going on. I think Al Gore is right.”
PP nods. She’s all for global warming if it means not being cold in the pool!

And she wasn’t. This had been stopping her with the Campbell pool. Every evening when she left the WWU annex and walked by the pool in the cold and dark, it looked so daunting. The water a dark and uninviting ripply wetness in the night. Brrr……

So, today, with the sun and the warmth and the blue turqoisy water and the friendly chatting swimmers doing sidestroke while holding onto kickboards, PP thought, this is the best decision she’s made in ages. Now if she just doesn’t get in trouble at WWU for going swimming!

This did vaguely worry her, even though she was entitled to a lunch break. But still…what if someone discovered that she’d gone swimming instead of eating?

Like anyone would care! And when, after showering and packing up and rushing back to the geo after the swim, relaxed and happy and wet, PP heard a familiar voice behind her walking out of the locker room and turned to see one of her students smiling shyly as PP held the door open for her.

“Is that Simone?” PP asked, delighted to see her.
”Yeah, are you a swimmer?”
”No, not really…..but I see you are. You have all of your equipment.”
Giggling, PP shook her head. “Oh, yeah, I’m obsessed. But so nice to see you. Did you get my messages about making another appt to talk about your writing?”
”No, I am so sorry. I was out of town and did not use the email. But I have to tell you Carol what a tremendous help you were with my papers and even now with my process I really feel so much more confident about my writing!” Simone gushed and then looked away shyly, suddenly breathless.
“Oh, it’s my pleasure. And look,” PP grinned, “here I am at the Pool talking about writing! What could be better?”

Simone smiled and then gave a shy wave. “You have a nice weekend, Carol. I will make another appt soon.”
”Yes, great. I’ll look forward to it,” PP waved to her.

And as she headed out of the Campbell Pool Compound, the water walking ladies now in the pool bobbing up and down to Donna Summer, PP had to think again how the pool is where everything happened, even writing talk with students when one least expects it.

So. She’d finally had her swim at the Campbell Pool. And it had been perfect.
Now on to that other pool she’s been fantasizing about for years.

The Palace Hotel.

Wonder who she’ll meet there?

Only time, and Kismet, will tell!

Oh my God! The Campbell Inn has a pool!
The Fantasy grows!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Blame It on the Time Change

What the hell is up with the YMCA tonight? Is there such a thing as Organized Anarchy?

Trying not to drown in the washing machine wakes of a gazillion circle swimmers was not PP’s idea of a swim. And after she’d just been going on and on to her friend MC while walking round Lake Merritt about how restorative swimming was.

“Sometimes I get outta Therapy and I’m so wrung out, I wonder what the hell is that all about? Like I’m more depressed after Therapy than before it,” MC had lamented as they turned the corner next to Children’s Fairy Land, making there way back toward the Bird Sanctuary on the West side of the Lake.

PP had nodded, knowing exactly what MC was talking about. What was it about Therapy that made you feel worse?

Hell, swimming never did that. Unless, you timed it wrong. Like on aMonday night at 6 p.m. when all the after work swimmers were pouring into your lane causing circle swim overload.

PP hates circle swimming. It just sucks. It can work out for a little while if everyone is the same speed, but this happens so rarely at the YMCA. No one is the same speed. Or no one is PP’s speed, which is all that matters!

Do you wanna hear all the gory details? Of course you do. When first PP arrived, it was manageable. 2 to a lane. One lane had 3 swimmers that seemed to be calmly circle swimming. PP had sighed. Damn. Circle swimming. But oh well, she just wanted a short swim having already walked the Lake with MC. Choosing a two person lane, PP set her fins, kickboard and pull buoy on the deck, preparing to get into the water. Lucky for her, Tattoo Lion Woman was on her way out. Stretching a cramp out at the side.

“You can have my lane,” TLW had smiled warmly, nodding.
“Thanks.” PP dipped a toe in. “Damn! It feels cold!”
“Yeah….it is a little. I think that’s why I got this cramp. Oh, and I don’t spend enough time stretching.”
“Me neither.”
PP never stretched. Didn’t usually get cramps either. Had never thought of the two being connected. Thought that cramps were from some sort of vitamin or mineral deficiency. Not enough magnesium or calcium. But maybe cramps were from not stretching for some swimmers. LTW sounded like she knew what she was talking about.

Admiring, LTW’s roaring lion arm tattoo, PP hopped in as the splashy mid-aged African American Guy stopped at the wall. Usually PP woulda said hello, but he didn’t even glance up at her. Deep in the exhaustion zone.

They shared a lane for 20 minutes or so, side by side, but actually Splashy AAG took up most of the lane. PP hated this. Why can’t swimmers stay on their own side? Good thing she was small. She could squeeze by them most of the time, though once in awhile there was some leg bonking.

Then the Anarchy started. 6 p.m. PP watched as swimmers poured outta the locker rooms and piled into the crowded pool. It didn’t take much to make the pool crowded. 5 lanes, with 10 people could suddenly become 5 lanes with 20 people and then watch out. It was crash city!

PP stuck with her circle swimming for a while. But it was an ordeal, esp. when the two Asian kids got in her lane, and hell, they were not swimmers! Standing in the middle of the lane, laughing, then jumping around while PP and the other swimmers tried to keep doing their laps. Finally, PP had had enough even though no way had she even done 2000 yards.

Oh, well, the hot tub was really why she’d come. The walk round the lake had been chilly and cold. Achy. PP was not ready to be cold for 6 months. How could it be that she lived in California and she was still cold all the time?

Blame it on the cancer. No sun anymore. This did impact her mightily. But, tonight at least after the circle swim mayhem she could escape to the hot tub.

Hot tub therapy. It always worked.

And it did. PP eased into the warm bubbles and closed her eyes. Ahhhh….

This was the life. Another woman got in with dangly earrings and serious gentle bouncing at the jets. What’s that about, PP wondered? Did she have those Benji balls inside her and when she gently bounced up and down it felt good? No Benji was a dog in those obnoxious Disney movies.

Well, you know what she means. And PP liked this thought that Dangly Earring Woman was gently getting off in the Hot Tub right there in front of PP.

The thoughts that occur to one in the hot tub.

Later DEW was in the hair dryer section applying her makeup and PP had smiled at her, asking her if she’d been in the pool with all the anarchy. DEW had given her a gentle and firm smile,” No, I just go in the pool once in awhile to cool off.”
“Oh, what do you do?”
“I do half hour on the bikes, half hour on the tread mill, then 45 minutes doing all the light weights.”
“Yeah, I do a lot.”
“I’d say so.” PP had gushed. “I was thinking how I need to try to do the weights more, but it’s such a time issue.”
“You really should. At your age, and with your frame. You’re so petite. I wish I had your body. Your body is my Fantasy.”
PP had to grin, wondering if DEW had been fantasizing about her body when she was doing the Benji Bounces in the hot tub.
She’d giggled, slightly embarrassed now. But also flattered. “Must be all the swimming I do.”
“My name’s Lydia. If you’re ever up there doing the weights and need someone to show you, just ask. Though I’m no expert.”
“Cool. Thanks. I will.”
DEW had nodded mysteriously, applying eyeliner to her dark brows. PP eyed her for a moment. She was definitely attractive in that dark, buxom Italian sort of way, with her long black hair, pale soft skin and piercing eyes.
“Well, you’re lucky you didn’t try to swim tonight,” PP had continued, trying to not to stare at the make-up application. “It was total Pandemonium in there. I don’t know what was up.”
“It’s the Time Change,” DEW had asserted. “It takes awhile to get used to.”
”Ah, yes, could be. I hadn’t thought of that. It certainly is very disorienting.” PP liked this analysis, even though it didn’t really make any sense. Why the hell would the Time Change have anything to do with all the swimmers converging on the lap lanes simultaneously?

But blaming the Time Change for all ills worked for PP. At least for week or so.
Then she’d hafta find something else to blame.
Other than herself, of course.