Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Way You Wear Your Hat!

Back in Oaktown, and it is a culture shock, esp. at the YMCA.

Those Midwesterners in Corydon—oh so reserved. When PP tried to engage anyone in random chitchat in the locker room, she was met with a shyness that just isn’t found here in Oakland.

For instance: Corydon Locker room: PP’s getting dressed, she’s had a lovely private swim in the perfect pool with a lane to herself—-yet there’s a ‘crowd’ in the other half of the pool. A redneck couple doing handstands; the Big Butterfly Man swoopin thro the water in the lane next to her; a youngish middle-aged white woman (come to think of it, everyone at the Corydon Y is white), in her wire-rimmed glasses doin head outta the water breaststroke in the shallow end.

And this is the woman that PP meets later in the locker room, so of course, PP thinks, perfect, I’ll engage her in some after pool chit chat. “Did you have a good swim?” PP asks her. (Granted this is a banal opener, but PP didn’t want to scare her off) “Yes, Ma’am,” Wire Rimmed Glasses Woman answered quickly, making zero eye contact and then running off to the showers.


And today? At the Oakland Y—oh no shy politeness here!

PP is getting dressed after her lovely swim (and yes, with the exception of a few laps shared with Dashingly Handsome BF, she had a lane to herself—very lovely—must be to welcome her back!), she’s had a much missed hot tub and sauna—no such luxuries in Corydon—do Midwesterners not need such heated relaxations? )So, PP is a bit spacey and slow and jetlagged getting dressed, when all of a sudden, a Boomin' BOLT thru the locker room explodes—BURP!!!!

PP starts to giggle before she turns to see a NOT embarrassed HUGE (sorry, but it’s true) waddling Purple Tie Dye Woman ambling down the aisle toward her.
“Whoops!” she exclaims and then belches again, except this time not so rumbling, “Musta been what I had for lunch. I had a POP and I usually don’t drink Pop, but it came free with the meal and so I thought what the hell, and ....” She belches one final time. “It was Root Beer...”

She grins. PP wonders if she’s revisiting the Root Beer, but doesn’t want to go there. So disgusting!

Instead she makes a joke, “That root beer has lots of bubbles. They can sneak up on you!”

Tie Dye Purple Woman grins, and nods, “Yup” and then breaks into song,
“The way you wear your hat....
The way you sip your tea
The memory of all That!
No, no,
You can’t take that away from me...

And PP thinks,
The way you burp your
Root Beer,
The way you
Gross me out
The way you
Burp again.
No no,
You can’t take
That away
From me

No, you can’t take
From me!

Oh, Oakland,
We love you

And yes, PP is actually glad (at least at the Y) to be back!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cicada Tree People and Farewell Mary Anderson!

“Did you hear about one of the artists that stayed here who wrapped up people with tape to make a cicada shell and then he sliced them open in the back and they stepped out and there was this giant tape shell left over and then he went around the grounds here and put them up in random trees. He really was into trees too, besides cicadas. He said how his whole life since he was 8 years old, he’s always climbed one tree every day. Anyway, because he liked climbing trees so much he went around and put these cicada people shells in the trees years ago. There’s some still here. I saw one today.”

LaFonna is on her 3rd glass of wine and the stories are rolling. PP is loving this ‘event’—an author reading, full of the politics and poetry and art of George Ella Lyon, who was marvelous.(Check her out--kids books: My Friend the Starfinder; life after death woo woo!: Don't You Remember? are just a few of her titles) Then after the reading, everyone’s back at the Lotus House drinking and eating and smoking and telling stories.

“No, I didn’t hear about this!” PP exclaims, delighted. “Where’s this person-sized cicada?”
LaFonna takes another hearty gulp of wine, “Down by the lake" (PP thinks of course it's by the lake!). You know that tree that’s right over that metal dockee thing?”
“I think so.”
“Well, if you’re like me you never look up.... I know I don’t. But for some reason this morning I looked up and there he was. Just clinging to the tree. This giant taped shell of a person wrapped around the trunk waaay up high. Freaked me out! But fortunately I knew about this artist and how he did this a few years back so when I saw this giant bug person, I knew what it was."

"Sounds like the Pod People. You know invasion of the cicada snatchers!” PP jokes.

“But actually, it would be quite a transformative experience,” George Ella interrupts seriously, “I mean to step out of your shell and then look back at what you once were.”

“A bug!” LaFonna laughs as she pours herself another glass of wine.

“I’m gonna go look for it tomorrow on my walk around the lake,” PP announces. And she does.

The next morning she heads to the specified tree and looks up and sure enough is the shell of tape in the form of a human being wrapped around the trunk of the tree. It was a bit creepy. But in a good way. The brown taped form had held up pretty well for who knows how many years. And it had a good view of the lake the way its head was poking between two limbs of the big tree trunk.

Wonder if the Cicada Person has seen the Monk Ghost? PP muses.

Wonder if cicadas believe in ghosts?

Wonder if cicadas swim in lakes?

See how much valuable wondering happens on an artist's retreat? Good thing PP is going home soon, or she may just wonder off into artist lala land.

Which actually, come to think of it, wouldn't be half bad!

Yes. And so this is PP's last post from the Mary Anderson Center for the Arts. She's very sad to leave here...but she's written so much and has had so many fun stories--and a great audience for her blog! (Thanks to all you readers for your comments and insights about swimming and ghosts and snakes and Jesus? Did anyone comment on Him?)

So, PP is sure that you all want to know if she swam in the lake today this being her last day. No, and yes.

No, not literally. She just never got up the courage to defy Brother Bob. After all, He can walk on water!

But yes, in her imagination, she defied the hell out of him. Stole into the lake one golden crystal clear morning, dove in and swam out to the center of its loveliness where a sweet turtle popped his little head up and said, "Howdy"! The water was warm and welcoming and snake free in her imagination.

And frankly, after being here for 3 weeks, her imagination is a much better place to be than reality.

Any day. Any lake. Any story.

Adieu Mary Anderson Center and Thank you!

Monk Ghost Take II

"Did you ever hear about the Monk Ghost?"
PP nods, wondering if it's the same Monk Ghost that Molly had told her about. Maybe, maybe not. She's gonna go for not just to hear the story. Even if it's the same story, it'll be LaFonna's version.

"Well, every summer these Jr. High School kids come up from Ketuckiana and stay over at the dorms at the friary and every summer, they hang out at the lake and Brother Bob plays this trick on them...."

PP thinks, how of course he does. BB is so goddamn evil. She's sure he has many devious torturous Christian tricks up his robe!

"You know how the lake has that dam down the middle?"
"It does?" PP has seen the dam at the end of the lake where the snake lives, but not another dam.
"Yeah, if you look you can see this wall down the middle of the lake. It's a few feet under the surface."
"The lake used to end there," Cigarette Smoking Board Member offers as he flings another butt onto the grass. PP frowns at this crass behaviour but fortunately, or unfortunately, it's too dark for him to see her.

"Right...." LaFonna takes another gulp of wine. "So, anyway, every summer these kids are here, and BB goes down to the lake, dressed in a white robe instead of his usual black one, and he goes to the far side of the lake and walks across that little dam wall and the kids screech like hell. They think he's a GHOST! They think he's fuckin' Jesus Walking on Water!"

PP nods, well well well. Maybe it was BB that she saw the other night down on the dock pretending to be a ghost to freak her out.

She certainly wouldn't put it past him. He's so evil.

"That seems a little mean," PP observes as LaFonna and Cigarette Flinging man crack up.
"No it's NOT!" LaFonna slaps her thick thigh. "Those kids deserve to get the shit scared outta them. They're such a goddamn pain all day long. BB is just payin 'em back for all their fuckin' round they've been doin all day!"

They laugh again, and PP hasta admit that it is kinda funny. But on the other hand, aren't these 'Brothers' supposed to be all about love and caring and honesty and other such heartfelt Christian Values? Is dressing up like a Monk Ghost to scare the hell outta a bunch of teenagers, no matter how deserving, really part of the Lord's Plan for his Servants?

PP thinks not. But then she thinks NOT a lot about this BB....

Esp when it comes to the lake. He has time to dress up like a ghost and scare teens but no time to swim with her?

Maybe she just needs to act like a teenage girl and throw a huge tantrum and scream and cry and.....

Yup, PP can do that.
Watch out BB cause here comes the 50 year old teenager from hell!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Little Turtle Saviour

Tromping down the path round the lake, near the end of the circle before the grassy snake in the lake knoll, PP is thinking about swimming of course, and how she’s gonna go to the Y later since she can’t swim in the lake—at least not right now--when what does she spy right in the middle of the trail?

A sweet little Lake Turtle!

He’s just frozen there. In the middle of the trail. And this is a LONG way from the watery home of the lake.

“What are you doin all the way up here, Little Guy?” she asks, as she kneels down next to him and looks him in the turtle eye, or she thinks she does. It’s hard to tell with a turtle. But what she can tell is that he seems distressed. His little yellow throat is pulsing rapidly and he’s not moving at all.

Should he be out of the water? she wonders. Do these Lake Turtles often take strolls out on the trails? Maybe there’s a little turtle luncheon happening on the other side of the trail, and he’s just heading over for a delicious buffet of dead bugs and spiders.

But....somehow, it feels wrong to her, like he shouldn’t be out of the lake. That he might not make it back into the lake; it’s so far away. (At least 10 –15 yards, she thinks—PP is terrible at gauging such things!)

What to do? If she just leaves him, and lets nature take its course and he doesn’t make it back to the lake but ends up just dying on the trail and she were to stumble upon his little lifeless shell on her walk tomorrow, how bad would she feel?


(PP remembers on one of her early walks around the lake before the hurricane, when she’d come upon two tiny lifeless upside down little turtle shells on the path by the prairie grasses--they were very far away from the lake. It was so sad! They were just little tiny babies!)

So now, this image of the dead baby turtles flashes in her mind and she decides to take action. But what if it’s the wrong action? What if she moves This Turtle into the lake and he just sits there and his little shell fills up with water and he drowns? Maybe he’s sick? And he won’t be able to swim?

Damn. There’s no Lindsey Wildlife Center here at Snake Lake—or maybe there is but she doesn’t know where or oh.....what to do?

She decides to try picking him up. If he lets her, then she’ll go ahead and put him back in the lake. (How would he not let her? It’s not like turtles can yell at you, “Put me down!”)

So, she wraps her hands round his shell, (He’s a fairly big turtle, maybe 6” across--not a tiny baby like the ones she saw before) and of course, he immediately goes into his hide in the shell mode. All four legs, and his little scrawny head, disappear.

Okay, this seemed normal at least. Maybe he wasn’t sick.

So she carefully lifts him off the trail and cautiously walks down the grassy slope to the muddy waters at the edge of the lake. Damn. This is the snake in the lake territory. What if the snake appears and eats the little turtle before he can swim away?

Oh, but he has his shell. So maybe the snake can’t hurt him, right?

This was so complicated and harrowing, being the rescuer of a little wayward turtle who may very well have been perfectly fine on the trail. Yet the image of the little dry upside down shells kept popping into her mind. She had to do something!

She sets him down in the water. He doesn’t move and so his shell starts to fill up with water. Fast! Damn. Quickly, she retrieves him. What if he’s hurt and can’t swim? Hell what if he isn’t even a lake turtle but a land turtle and he doesn’t belong in the lake at all. She’s no turtle expert!

Holding him aloft again, he’s still hiding inside his shell, she places him in the muddy part of the lake so he can touch ground at least and then stands back and watches.


He doesn’t move at all.
Oh dear! She’s probably traumatized him and he’ll never swim again.Or she's contaminated him with her human cooties and all the other turtles will ostracize him from future turtle luncheons!

It's all so awful! What has she done?

PP stands on the shore staring at the turtle for what seems like hours, but maybe it’s only 5 minutes. One....two...three....four...five.....

She starts to feel like crying. Why oh why doesn't he swim away....?

Then....finally... he moves! Yah! His little head pokes out and his little feet start to crawl in the mud and he makes a little progress to some yucky moss stuff and then he stops. Hiding here...

He’s sick, she thinks, and she can’t even reach him and oh no, now what can she do?

Again, she waits....and waits...and....

He MOVES again! And this time the little head pops up and the little legs start moving vigorously and he’s off and in the lake, going deeper and looking like the little expert swimmer that he is!

Praise Our Lord Jesus Christ as they say around here! He is the Turtle Saviour!

She is so relieved as she watches him paddle out and under a big bunch of lake branches hanging from a fallen tree, that she finally remembers to breathe.

“Bye-bye little turtle,” she calls after him, beaming. “Have a good swim in the lake!”

And he does. She's sure of it.
She just hopes that she didn't screw up his Bug Buffet!

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Ghost Monk

“I saw a ghost last night when I was down at the lake," PP offers after listening to Molly's Artist Ghost Story, which is definitely another blog.
“You did?” Molly’s eyes are wide behind her thick glasses as she takes another bite of oatmeal.
“Yeah....I mean, I dunno....” PP tries to laugh it off, but part of her really does believe that she saw a ghost on the dock.
“What did it look like?” Molly’s a great audience. But maybe she’s not awake yet.
“Well, it was tall and floating and ....”
”Was it a man or a woman? Could you tell?”
“No...it was just a figure and it looked like it was in a white robe and.....”
“Have you heard the story about the Ghost Monk?” Molly asks, completely serious.
“No....” This is even better than PP had hoped for. A Ghost Monk. How validating would that be?

”Yeah...one of the artists who stayed here said that he was down by the lake and he heard this voice and he couldn’t really understand exactly what the voice said, but whatever it was, it made him get down on his knees and pray!”

“You’re kidding?”

“No, he said that the voice was right next to him on the dock when he was down there one night and it was really real, and then when he was down on his knees, something made him turn to look to his right or his left I can’t remember which, and he saw this white figure in a robe, a monk’s robe he said he was pretty sure it was a monk’s robe and then later we found out that a long time ago, I don’t know how long ago, but a monk died or drowned in the lake and so this artist, I think his name was Steve, said yeah, that musta been the Ghost Monk that he heard and then saw when he was down there....”

“Wow....” PP takes a big gulp of her coffee and a bite of bagel and mulls this most illuminating info over. If it’s true, she thinks, well then that would explain why she saw the ghost the other night.

And...it would also clearly help her out with her swimming dilemma. Cuz if the lake is inhabited by this Ghost Monk, that means that there’s ALWAYS a friar in the lake, and voila! All of a sudden, she can go swimming anytime.

The sign only says 'NO Swimming except with a Franciscan Friar'.
It doesn’t say 'NO Swimming except with a LIVE Franciscan Friar'.
So take that Brother Bob!

Now PP has no qualms about swimming without one of His friars.

And swimming with the Ghost Monk?
Does she have the courage to brave this?

Hell yeah!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cockadoodle Days

The next morning, PP hears a loud knock on the front door of the Loftus house that rouses her from her lazy sleep-in slumber.

Could it be? A Friar come to take her swimming in the lake? Did Brother Bob really round up one at supper the night before to make her lake swimming fantasy a reality?

She's just too excited, so she hurries down the stairs, and throws open the door and......

There stands Friar Rake to take her for a swim in Snake Lake. He's got his brown baggy swim trunks on, his Teen Spirit sweatshirt on, a big orange towel draped round his neck, "I hear you need a friar to take you for a swim in the lake, Missy," he grins, as PP jumps up and down.

It's just too good to be true....
And so it is.....

Not true. (Had you goin for a minute though, eh?)

So, yes, no friar appeared at her door this morning or any morning, and she has no hope for any appearing in the flesh anytime soon. She knew that Goddamn Brother Bob was lying to her the other day, and she was right.

(Though she does have a secret plan for her last night here....stay tuned!)

But, for now, she's gonnna hafta make do with the Corydon YMCA, which is much nicer and much funnier than the lake anyway, esp. since right now, the Y is all a-buzz over: Cockadooole days! Whoopee!

Heading through the double-doors of the Y, PP ducks under a bright yellow banner across the entrance advertises $1 off your chicken dinner coupon—get yours now!

Inside, on the way to the pool, there's a bulletin board detailing all the fun:

There’s a poster of red tractors arranged in a big circle, each tractor driven by a disembodied head, (cut from a photo of a smiling YMCA employee is PP's guess)pasted atop a poor cartoon chicken. There’s big fun with the Corn Hole Tournament, The Old Hen Singing Contest, The Big Cock Sucker—whoops, no, maybe that’s not part of it.

And today, the two bored YMCA clerks, one a cute chestnut haired young woman, the other a big blond strappin' young man, taking her membership card are dressed in down-home orange and yellow striped aprons with big roosters on their bibs and 'Cockadoodle Days' emblazoned across their bibs.

PP hands the cute Bored Cockadoodle Girl her card, who swipes it and gives it back, “Okay, Carol. Thankyee. You’re ready to go.”
“Thanks...” PP takes her card and starts to head into the locker room but then thinks she’s just gotta ask, “What are Cockadoodle Days exactly?”

BCG blushes, shy but forthcoming. (How do some girls, and they’re always girls, manage this? It seems esp. charming with the Midwestern politeness factor and drawly accent.) “Well, Ma’am, it’s this big festival we put on every year. And there’s lots of contests and.....”
“What kind of contests?”
“Well.....” she hesitates as her big blond cohort grins not saying anything to help her out, “They have Tractor Pulls and....”
“Wait a minute, what’s a Tractor Pull?”

She stares at PP completely astounded, her sweet mouth round, her big blue eyes bright with confusion. “You don’t know what a tractor pull is?”
“Well, they have tractors you see and they pull a sled up this kinda slope... and the farther they pull the sled the heavier it gets...”
PP doesn’t ask how this is possible. Probably has something to do with rattlesnakes, signs or corn.

“And so they see which tractor can go the furthest....” Her voice trails off. “It’s kinda Redneck I’m afraid.”

She seems sheepish but also proud of this designation. Her coworker laughs in appreciation.
PP nods, “Thanks for the explanation. I never woulda guessed."
"You're welcome," she smiles, before going back to her computer.

Chickens, Tractor Pulls, Rednecks. (Why are they called Rednecks anyway? Do they really have rednecks? Or is the derivation something not quite so literal?)

The Indiana Y has it all.

And PP's purrty sure, that even though Rednecks like to pull tractors, she bets they probably like to swim too!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Autumn Lies

First day of fall. The autumnal Equinox. And it feels like it as PP does her morning walk around Snake Lake. The breeze is more frequent, the leaves fall floating in golden whispers, the sky is a bright clear blue.

A sudden wistful panic hits PP. What if the weather really turns and she still hasn’t gone swimming in the goddamn lake cause she can’t round up even one stupid friar to go with her?

So. She decides that today she will simply march into the friary cafeteria and confront those sacred non-swimming holy men. Interrupt them in mid-overcooked-meat chew and demand that one of them, anyone, come swimming with her!

12 noon. All is quiet on the grounds. PP figures they’re inside chowing down, so she does her march into the industrial green cafeteria ('They could take a hose to this place,' she remembers Christina joking) and peers down one hall, then another, then into the big eating room and....

It’s entirely EMPTY!!!

Shit. Where the hell are all those goddamn friars? Did they all go swimming in the lake without her and get bitten by multiple poisonous snakes in the lake and drown?

Would the wrath of God be so on her side?


Lunch doesn’t start till 12:20. (She remembers now some notice on the fridge back at the house, stipulating this odd time—and how it must be strictly observed) 12:20? The friars eating schedule is even ungodly.

So, PP wanders back outside and spies two of the worker guys tootling along at about 5 miles an hour down the drive in their little green go-cart in front of the friary, pointing at all the still broken branches from the hurricane and smoking cigarettes.

PP hails them.

“Hiya, how’s it going?”
“Purtty good,” George, the one in charge or so he says, answers.
“Cool. I know you guys are busy, but do you know where all the friars are?”
They both look at her like she’s crazy. They’re parked right in front of the enormous ostentatious friary and she’s asking where the friars are?
The one that’s not George nods to the left, “I’m purrty sure they’re in there.”

“Uh...yeah, I know, but I can’t find anyone and I just want to get one of them to swim with me or if I can’t get one to swim with me then maybe I can just check to see if I can take a swim buddy with me. You know, one of the other artists or Emily (the resident coordinator) or LaDonna” (the resident coordinator in training).
“Well, now I wouldn’t know ‘bout that,” George contemplates seriously, flicking a cigarette ash on the asphalt. “You’d hafta check with Brother Bob.”

Goddamn Brother Bob, PP wants to scream!

But instead she says, “I have talked to Brother Bob, numerous times, and he’s been a little.....” PP searches for a word that’s not too offensive, “standoffish.”

Now they both look at her like she’s really crazy. Finally George says, “Well, I don’t know if he’s ‘standoffish’ so much as he’s just a bit busy right now what with all the work we hafta do here on the grounds cleaning up after the storm and all.”
“Yeah. I know....” PP tries to think what other argument she can offer. “It’s just that I do know how to swim. I was in the Junior Olympics!”

Why did she say that? She was never in the Jr. Olympics! See what comes out of her mouth when push comes to shove about not being able to swim in some vermin infested, ghost haunted lake?

It’s appalling, isn’t it?

But George and his pal just nod. They believe her, but it don’t make a bit of difference.
“I mean, how deep is that lake?” she continues, brazen now with her Olympic Fibbing Spirit. “3 or 4 feet?”
“Depends where you’re swimming. Deepest part nigh on 22 feet.” George’s sidekick drawls.
“I’d talk to Brother Bob if I was you,” George repeats, nodding again up to the Friary offices.
“Okay, thanks, I will.”

And she does. And Brother Bob in his too tight orange Spirit for Youth t-shirt puts her off again when she asks about bringing a swimming buddy, “No, it has to be a friar. You understand. For insurance purposes.”
NO, PP does NOT understand. But she doesn’t say this. She lies again and says, yes of course she understands and she knows he’s busy, but ....
”I tell you what,” BB continues to shuffle papers around in file drawers, his back to her, “I’ll ask at supper tonight if anyone can go swimming with you.”

PP thinks, YEAH RIGHT! Liar Liar Robe is on Friar!

But instead of singing this, she lies again with a, "Thanks so much", followed by her sweetest fake smile.

Then she heads out of the office, marches back across the lawn to the Loftus house to change into her swimsuit and gets ready to jump into the lake!

Or Truth?
Will PP really break the friar law and partake of some illegal lake swimming?
Stay tuned.
Same Friar Channel.
Same Friar Time.
Same Friar Lake.
Same Friar LIES!

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Therapy Pool Beckons

Day 3 at the Corydon Y and PP is breaking new ground. Today, it’s the Therapy Pool.

She’d spied the Therapy Pool on her first day here, but after her elusive Y search ordeal, she just didn’t have any more energy to explore. It looked weird and inviting. Another large room in a glass enclosure with a square ‘warm’ pool inside—at least PP assumed it was warm—full of shower cap women (though the women at the Corydon Y don’t wear shower caps, which as you’ll see, is an excellent thing!), and other various ‘therapy’ swimmers doing their walking and noodles and such. (Hello Lovely I and Ruthie—you both know and love the therapy pool rigors, yes?)

Then the 2nd visit here, after her lovely swim in her own exclusive lane next the Kentucky Navy Seals, PP was gonna go in the Therapy pool, but darn, it was ‘closed’. Maybe those Seals woulda been too distracted by all that therapy goin on in the next room? (PP realizes this makes no sense but she wants to develop this paragraph a little.)

So, today, Sunday, PP wasn’t even gonna go to the Y cuz it was Sunday and the Y in Oakland is a jammed packed chaotic zoo—thus she’s leery---but chances it anyway. She’s just spent from writing everyday for the last 2 weeks and decides she needs a break. What to do instead?

Go swimming of course!

She got her own lane again. Is it ever crowded? PP thinks perhaps not. The Midwest just has fewer people or fewer swimmers or hell no one can find the Corydon Y unless they need to take a shower.

And the Therapy Pool is OPEN! Yah! PP spies some noodle ladies floating in the shallow end—-and a woman walking who looks like Ardis Fucking Moonlight. Damn. She won’t go in if AFM is there! But fortunately, after another lovely swim, with only one teenager texting on his cell phone in the lane next to her between sporadic laps—what the hell message could be so vital that you'd stop your swim for?--PP enters


She knows there will be a story here. It’s just too weird feeling. She’s got a nose for this sort of thing as you all know.

Plus the woman she thought was AFM isn’t.

So, PP walks down the ramp, which she likes--it's so gentle and gradual and the water is warm and welcoming. The two noodle ladies continue chatting and one tired stringy guy is swimming languid therapy laps. The bored lifeguard (this is universally true of all Y lifeguards--they are all SO bored!) has country western music blaring on a boom box as she stares into space, not paying attention to anyone.

PP gets to the end of the ramp and floats over to the side where she finds a bench and sits down, takes off her cap and tries to keep her hair outta the water. (They’re very strict lately at the Oakland Y with the hair rule--if it's below the shoulders it must be in a cap or tied back, so she’s a little worried.) But no one cares in Indiana.

PP loves this! It’s so mellow here!

She floats over with her hair in the water toward the two conversing noodle ladies. When she gets near them, she smiles, and holds her hair up out of the water atop her neck. One of the noodle ladies, with stick-up straight Orange hair (Why do old ladies dye their hair such strange colors? it’s kinda cool, but kinda not), grins over at PP and starts in on Hair Talk.

“I do love me the long hair, but I just ken’t have it long no more! It is so thick!” She beams over at PP, who's still worried about her hair touching the water, murmurs, “Oh, mine is too long!”
“No! I love long hair. I just ken’t have mine so long. It’s too coarse. Here....c’mere....run your hand through the back of my head here....yeah, feel my hair....” She turns around and leans her large wet orange head toward PP.

PP pauses for only a moment. Is she for real? But it’s only a moment—here’s the story she knew she’d get in the Therapy Pool and it’s so much better than anything she could imagine!

So PP does, stick her fingers in the stiff short orange hair and it feels like thick wet straw. “You feel it?”
“Don’t it feel coarse?”
“Yeah...” PP is a bit embarrassed—isn't coarse kinda an insulting way to describe one’s hair? So she tries to answer a bit more tactfully, “It feels pretty thick, yeah.”
“Yeah, it does. I tell you it used to be long but it’d take me 30, 40 minutes to dry it with a hairdryer. I ain't kidding.”
“Wow,” PP nods, wondering if it was so orange when it was long and how marvelous that would be.
“My grandmammy, she used to not have hair on one side of her head and on the other side, it grew itself nice and thick, so she had this little trick of taking just a quarter inch on the side that wouldn’t grow and she’d cut a little snip of it off every month and lo and behold that hair would grow back nice and thick as can be!”
“Really?” PP stares at her not really understanding. “Wonder why that is?”
Touch My Hair Woman just shrugs, “Who knows? It was all about Signs and such in Those Days.”

PP nods. Okay, now she’s really confused. But it does seem to be a highly superstitious culture here in the Midwest, which is how she generally thinks of backwoods Christianity. Now she’s sure she’ll offend someone with this opinion, but the reliance on ‘signs’ and ‘snakes’ (Last night LaDonna told the story of how her Grandpappy was a Rattlesnake Preacher and when PP asked what this was, well....that’s another blog. Or not....maybe y’all know what one is?)

TMHW continues to talk about the Almanac and 'Balances' and PP is now completely lost but she goes along with it. She just wants her to keep talking. It’s so delicious.

But then Therapy Pool Lifeguard rises and saunters over to the boom box and switches off the country western and then saunters over to the glass door and turns the OPEN sign to CLOSED and so PP excuses herself and heads back up the ramp to gather up her cap and fins.

“Bye, now!” TMHW calls out, giving PP a friendly wave as her friend who’s said nothing during the entire exchange tosses her noodle on deck.

The Therapy Pool. What a wonderful place, PP grins as she heads for the showers, her long hair dripping down her back.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


“Mercy!” she exclaims, plopping down on the wooden bench, a dark blue towel barely covering her enormous girth. She smiles tiredly over at PP, and then just sits. Breathing. It’s been quite a workout for her at the Corydon YMCA, PP thinks.

For PP too. Finally, she’s got the lay of the YMCA land here in Indiana. Today the swim was lovely and perfect. Why even the lifeguard, when he saw her come out on deck, created her own lane for her because the Kentucky Navy Seals were training in the lap lanes. Neither of these things would happen in Oakland: a lifeguard even caring she were alive, or Navy Seals venturing into the Oakland Y!

She doesn't know what's going on at first when she walks on deck and sees a coach in army fatigue pants, those scary jungle ones, and a Navy Seals t-shirt on, hollering numbers at the 4 scrawny white guys training intervals in the pretty little pool.

"28! 29! 30!” he yells. When PP ventures near Shouting Coach to retrieve a kickboard from under the lifeguard stand, she smiles tentatively and says, ‘Hi.” Navy Seal Trainer glares at her, kinda says ‘hi’ back but it was more like a grunt, accompanied by a ‘Can’t-you-see-I’m-busy-Lady’ frown.

Damn. PP had seen sadistic serious swim coaches in her life, but nothing like this guy.

It seems that Navy Seals train in the middle of the country so far from the sea that they hafta come to the Corydon Y. It is another world here. In so many ways.

But back to the wide tired woman in the locker room. Of course, PP has to talk to her. Anyone that plops down, exhausted in the women’s locker room and exclaims “Mercy” must be engaged. (And how ‘Midwestern is that? Mercy! PP loves it!)

“You musta had quite a workout,” PP ventures, knowing she hadn’t been in the pool, she woulda noticed her!
“Oh no. I ain’t a member here. I just took me a shower cuz they let you. I had no idea. I been without electric for 8 days now and let me tell you....” Mercy Woman’s voice trailed off as she shook her head.
“Wow! 8 days! That’s a lot!” PP commiserates. “I was only without it for 3 days and Lordy that was plenty enough for me!” (PP wonders if she stays here longer she’ll start talking Midwestern? Saying “Mercy” like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Wouldn’t that be cool?)
“Yeah...8 days. It is a trial.”

(Did she say that? Or is PP remembering the other dialogue she had with the Bible Belt couple walking by Snake Lake who had named their Jack Russell Terrier puppy after Noah’s great-grandfather in the bible. Of course, PP can’t remember the name, being the avid bible reader that she is. It was something like ‘Echo’ or ‘Ecchit’ or ‘Eckee’, no that wasn’t it....)

At the Y, PP takes out her Hello Kitty Hair Dryer and heads over to the sink as Mercy Woman continues to just sit on the bench, completely spent. That shower after 8days really did her in. PP can’t imagine going without a shower for 8 days. How awful would that be? Your hair. Your armpits. Your...Okay, you get the idea.

“.....and fortunately, I din’t hafta go to work this week or take care of my mom or any of that stuff otherwise I don’t know what....” MW continues, standing now to try to dry off the massive white rolls of flesh drooping round her middle.

PP tries not to stare. Hell, she should be used to Big Women with all of her experience at the Y in Oakland, and for the most part she is, but this woman, she was big in a different way. A slower way. Does that make sense? Like the rolls and folds and her movement around them had a quiet lumbering pace to them. And then when she was finally dressed, in navy stretch pants and white top, MW was completely tuckered out. Like this act of showering and dressing had just taken everything out of her.

Well, this made sense, didn’t it? If you hadn’t had a shower for 8 days, the process would be quite a shock to your system.

Drying her hair, PP sees MW waddle out; she doesn’t say goodbye. Too tired perhaps?
PP calls after her, "Bye! You sure must feel better now!" But MW looks right through her. It's that locker room glazed stare that takes over. No more words, acknowledgements or glances can be processed. Esp if the Hello Kitty hair dryer is running!

Suddenly PP is tired too. Today had been so much easier now that she knew how to get here. (Hell, when PP made the Left Turn on the YMCA road earlier and noticed the Shanghai Chinese Restaurant right on the corner, the big red and white sign so prominent, she wonders, why didn’t Ardis Fucking Moonlight just tell her to turn left at the Chinese Restaurant?)

Oh that woulda been way too easy!
(Hey, Lovely I, do you want a menu?)

And so, success! At last! For PP and her swim, MW and her shower, and the Navy Seals?

Lord have Mercy on them!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Ghost of the Lake

Sitting out on the end of the dock, the first stars appearing, PP shivers as she stares at the lake's blackness. Hell, it's creepy. Looks like black glass with nary a stirring except for the tiny bug rings that wisp the top of its surface.

What a perfect place for Lizzie Eustace to get her Revenge, PP thinks to herself, so involved she is with this new writing project. What would Lizzie do? Take Frank Greystock out on a friendly little canoe ride at dusk, tempt him with her wiles and seduce him with her helplessness and then....whack! Brain him with a canoe paddle and away he'd fall, into the inky creepy blackness never to be seen again.....

Oh yeah, that's already been done--A Place in the Sun? Monty Clift brains Shelley Winters in brutal cold-bloodedness and tosses her into the deserted creepy lake! Shelley was a pain, but did she really deserve to get murdered? Sure, Monty was motivated; Liz Taylor will do that to a guy, but the consequences.....Don't ya just love Tennessee Williams?

So PP decides that maybe Lizzie needs to find another scheme to gain her Revenge upon Frank, and as the last light disappears over the dark line of trees, PP wanders back up the hill to her room at the Loftus House (She's changed to Christina's Lake View room--now she can obsess about the lake even more!)

But as she makes her way back up the hill, she glances back down at the dock where she's just been and sees.....

Okay call her crazy, but it's true! She sees a shadowy white figure lingering on the dock right where she'd been sitting. PP quickens her step up the hill. It can't really be a ghost, can it? Glancing over her shoulder, she double-checks. Maybe she just imagined it? But no, it's still there. Floating in ghostly brazenness, hovering there on the dock.

Not only does the lake have snakes, but it also has a Ghost!

Of course, what creepy viper infested lake wouldn't have a Ghost? It's a given. PP just wishes that she hadn't seen it, or it hadn't been right where she'd been, or....
Could it be Shelly? PP isn't sure which Lake she was brained in--it could be this one, couldn't it?

Oh, yeah, that was a movie! Fiction! Not fact! But see what happens? PP starts to confuse the two.

Damn, she's writing way too much. Imagination follows her everywhere, which can be a good thing, but also, exhausting. (Or is she just exhausted tonight after the 'event' where the fabulous George Ella Lyons read her 'Tree' and 'Meadow' and 'I came from here' poetry, and the strangely smarmy board members of the Mary Anderson Center for the Arts invaded HER house and smoked cigarettes and drank wine and told boring stories of their power going out?)

Could be.

Maybe she'll just have to ask Anthony Trollope in the morning. He's sure to have a ghost story or two up his sleeve! And Lizzie? How will she get her revenge? Maybe she can conspire with the Ghost of the Lake to haunt Frank Greystock when he arrives on his mercy mission to find the lost Eustace Diamonds?

Or not.
In any case, PP is not swimming in the Lake tonight. Not without a Friar and NOT with a Ghost!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rescued by a Man on a Red Tractor!

(Dear Readers,
This is part II of yesterday's adventure, so if you want narrative flow, or what little may be achieved by chronological order, please read yesterday's story first. And sorry, Poet Owen, it's Corydon, not whatever was written incorrectly yesterday!)

Finally, PP spies the Swifty Gas-up, and pulls into the station, but at this point, her mermaid soul is almost out the window. She’s breathing hard and trying not to cry as a toothless Redneck with a money belt slung round his dirty jeans hips stares at her while she tries to figure out which side of the car the gas tank is on. Indiana has gas station attendants? When was the last time you saw a gas station attendant out on deck wandering round, chewing a piece of hay, and saying ‘Thank yee Ma’am.'?

NO, PP is not making this up. She couldn’t. It’s all just too weird as he watches her pump the gas into the Cobalt (Was she supposed to let him do it?) But he gets a task at the end when she can’t see the receipt, “Here you go, M’am,” he points at it barely sticking out of the slot. Doesn't reach in and hand it to her. Just points at it.

Well, PP is sure it's a minimum wage job. What do you expect? And hell, bet the minimum wage in Indiana is pretty darn minimum!

But thank goodness she found the gas station. To run out of gas trying to find the YMCA in Indiana would be way too much of a story!

Relieved, she pulls back out of the station and is waiting at a stop sign to turn back onto the main road when an enormous wobbly truck nearly careens into her making a left hand turn. PP watches aghast as she sees that 100's of poor little chickens are piled in crates on this crazy truck. How horrid! Feathers filter out and PP cringes thinking that the damn chicken head driver is gonna hit her. Narrowly he misses the Cobalt and PP thinks how she's never gonna eat chicken ever again.

Shaking and weirded out, she turns and heads in the direction she thinks the Y is according to the map she can’t figure out. Again, she’s out in the hills, rolling green and expansive fields surround her. No goddamn Y in sight. Where is it? She’s almost in tears. Why can’t she find it? Is it her Mermaid Soul? Has it abandoned her when she’s so near her goal?

It had to be here somewhere, didn’t it?

Ready to give up and just go kill Aridis Fucking Moonlight for sending her on this wild goose chase, PP sees a burly pasty farmer dude driving his Big Red Tractor on his wide green lawn in front of his Midwestern Ranch Style home.

Okay, she thinks, I’ll ask the Tractor Man. If he doesn’t give me directions I can understand and follow, then I guess I’ll just have lose my Mermaid Soul in Fucking Indiana.

“Excuse me” she pulls into his gravel drive and rolls down the passenger window, her voice tired and wavering. He turns off the tractor motor, and leans over with a big toothy grin, “Afternoon Ma'am.”
“Afternoon....listen I’m wondering, do you know where the YMCA is?”
He shakes his head, laughing loudly. That’s a good one she can see on his face, “You’re a long way from it I’m afraid.”
”Yeah, I believe you. Do you know where it is?”
“Sure, it’ back through downtown, over the bridge past New Bridge Road and then when you see Foundation Road, make a right and it hits Jenkins and well you’ll see it!” He chuckles again, and PP nods, resigned. It doesn’t match what she thinks is on the map but what the hell....why not go for broke?

Was he right? Did PP find the YMCA of Historic Corydon?

Yup! And what a perfectly sweet little pool, with her own lane, and teenagers aqua jogging in the shallow end in blue and pink polka dot bikinis as the lifeguard chats on her cell phone inside a canoe dry on deck. It was worth it!

But she never would've made it without the Man on a Red Tractor, or her indomitable Mermaid Soul.

A Mermaid May Lose Her Soul...

“That’s a long time for a mermaid to go without swimming,” Ardis Fucking Moonlight nods, when PP mentions how she hasn't been swimming for 10! whole days. She oozes sympathy in her boundary driven paradigm. But PP thinks that she probably is. Sympathetic. Esp. since now she’s told PP how to get to her YMCA in Coraday (From some poem, but AFM doesn’t know which one even though she lives there. It does sound kinda familiar to PP, but hell, she doesn’t live there, she only wants to swim there—Poet Owen? Do you know from which poem, Coraday comes from?)

“Yeah, it is,” PP is beaming. Finally, all the mermaid goddesses seem to be on her side what with the power back on, Southwest Airlines giving her back her original return ticket on the 29th for only an extra 68 bucks. (Damn, what a rip-off, but the airlines are scum right now. Everyone knows this, so PP is just happy that they didn’t charge her more!)

“A mermaid may lose her soul if she goes too long without swimming,” AFM intones as she waves bye to PP off in the Chevy Cobalt, fins and swim gear in hand.

Lose her soul?

PP almost very nearly did.

And she blames not only her abysmal lack of direction, but also the extreme disorientation that she’s experiencing moving between her fiction world and the real world, if you can call Southern Indiana the real world.

PP thinks she’ll call it the Chicken World.

First off, AFM gave PP abysmal directions to the Y. You know the kind, “Get on Hwy 64 East” Which way is East? “The way that’s not West. Then get off at the Coroday exit. Then turn left at the I think it’s the 2nd light once you’re off the highway? Anyway it says welcome to Historic Coraday and then drive down the road a piece and you’ll pass a produce market and a Mexican restaurant I don’t know if that kinda thing helps you out, and then you’re gonna make a left after the Mexican restaurant I don’t know the name of the street, but I think it’s Foundation and then just follow the signs and you’ll see the Y. If you get lost, just ask anyone and they’ll tell you. Everyone knows where the Y is.

Do you think PP got lost?

Has a Mermaid lost her soul yet?

The drive on the highway went okay though there was a moment of panic when highway 64 seemed to be an exit to Lanesville (why is everything a ‘ville’ in Indiana?) PP opted not to take the Laneville exit as it wasn’t Coroday, but the signage was confusing.

Next the sign for Coroday said 15 miles. 15 miles! Why didn’t AFM tell her it was so far? The mermaid’s soul is being tried!

But it’s pretty, with rolling green hills and big leafy trees and cornfields. Yes there are Real Corn fields in Indiana!

The trouble started getting off at the Coroday exit. PP counted the stoplights. 1, 2 and then turned left. There was a Mexican restaurant that she passed as she wound around a mall, and then down a hill into a big complex marked ‘Private Property” ONG Corp.
Ummm...this didn’t seem to be the YMCA!

So, PP does her first of too many U turns to keep track of and heads back up the hill. Thinks that she’ll take AFM’s advice and ask for directions. Pulls into a Lee’s Fried Chicken Drive-Thro and waits in line behind a redneck who orders an Entire Fried Chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, cole slaw and a large Lemon lime.

Astounded, PP thinks to herself how there was absolutely NOTHING she would eat from this place as she asks the Chicken Woman behind the counter if she knew where the YMCA was.

Chicken Woman stares at her, eyes wide behind smudgy glasses, shaking her head. Another Chicken Woman, this one younger with the ear order piece thingee plugged into her head, tells PP to head back out to the main road, and make another left and then another left and sorry she didn’t know the name of any of the roads, but keep making lefts.

PP does.

She’s lost again.

So many left turns, and no YMCA. It seems that AFM is wrong. Everyone doesn’t know where the Y is!

PP has to stop a minute and wonder, is this story getting boring? Maybe she should just cut to the chase?
Nah, why not let the reader experience her experience!

So, next she stops and asks the old retired southern gentleman at the Tourist Information center: “May I help you M’am?”
“I’d be eternally grateful if you could tell me how to get to the YMCA!” PP is still joking, her mermaid soul intact for a little while longer, but it’s getting drier and drier the longer she drives around in circles.

Tourist Info Man shows her a map, upside down, “Guess it might be easier if I turned it right side up!” he chuckles.

Yeah, PP thinks, she can’t read maps anyway. Later she wishes she’d tried harder over the years to read a map, but it’s too late on this day. The die is cast. She’s lost again with the upside-down map, driving up and down hills, past suburban green lawns and Duke Energy Guys sawing down felled trees and near tears now, she hears a ‘ring ring ring’ from the Cobalt. And goddamnit, she’s almost out of gas!

How much soul would she lose if she were to run out of gas trying to find the stupid Coraday YMCA?

Her soul would be gone forever, she’s sure of it as she turns around and panicking looks up and down each street for a gas station, the ding ding ding going off every few minutes, the green lights flashing, “LOW FUEL” at her.

Damn. The Cobalt is not like the Geo, which can run on other cars exhaust when necessary.

Where the hell is a gas station in decidedly non-poetic Coraday? PP is so sick of living her Blog! She doesn’t want to live all these Pool Searching Stories. She just wants to swim!

Will she find a gas station before it's too late? And then, will she find a pool? Will readers stay tuned?

PP hopes so on all counts.....otherwise her Mermaid soul will be sunk to the bottom of Snake Lake in Etenal Damnation!

~to be continued~

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