Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lost and Response

“Can I help you find something?”

Shaking her head, PP smiles, “Oh, thanks. It’s nothing really. Just an earplug. I just don’t know where it could have gone.”

PP had been drying her cap where she stores the earplugs after swimming when one of them popped out. She’d been scanning the disgusting floor at Hilltopia, but it had completely disappeared.

Helpful Woman nods, her round wrinkled pale face sympathetic. “Yes, I know what you mean. I once lost an emerald green earring. It just disappeared. I searched and searched all over the place. Even in the emerald green stripe of the rug,” she laughs. “But it was just gone.”

”Well, that was something valuable,” PP nods, still frowning as she tries to squat down to examine the floor. Her neck is killing her today. So the angle isn’t quite right for an optimum examination.

“It was nothing really,” HW shakes her gray wet curls in front of the mirror before attacking them with the brush.

“I’m always losing things,” Scraping Walker Woman joins in. She’s party to all locker room discussion, esp. those in front of the mirrors since she’s splayed out on the concrete floor adjacent to them, forever trying to put on her clothes. “And then I find them again but it’s too late,” she chuckles.
“You mean you replace it and then find it later?” PP asks.
“That’s right! Why once I had a boyfriend...”

PP’s mind races. She once had a boyfriend? This was amazing enough given her present condition. But then she hadn’t always been this way, crippled by a car accident, leaving her with botched surgery legs. And so, yes, she certainly could have had a boyfriend. But then?

She lost him? And then replaced him? And then found him again, but it was too late? He was history? Too bad, Jack. You disappeared and I searched and searched for you, but when I couldn’t find you, I had to find another boyfriend!

“And my checkbook was missing,” she continues. Again, PP starts to imagine. The boyfriend stole the checkbook? He was a no good slacker thief who’d stolen her checkbook? But SWW doesn’t explain the transition between the boyfriend and the checkbook. “And so I went and canceled my account and you know where I found it?”

PP glances over at HW who’s still trying to detangle her wet hair, but manages a response, “No, where’d you find it?”
“On top of the refrigerator!” SWW laughs loudly as PP tries not to show her perplexity.

“I once had a boyfriend,” HW takes up the theme, a little late, but hell, it’s more organic that way. “And he always asked me why I had to dry my hair after swimming and I told him, ‘If I don’t, then I get an earache, goddammit!' He didn’t last long.”

“Yeah, me too,” PP echoes, thinking about the earache part and not the boyfriend part. “If I don’t dry my hair right after swimming it’s all over for my ears.” She thinks of mentioning DHBF and how he’d certainly get it that she has to dry her hair after swimming to avoid an earache. But the moment is lost.

“Here I am, talking to myself again,” HW laughs. PP hadn’t noticed her talking to herself. Maybe the remark about the Clueless Earache Boyfriend wasn’t supposed to be part of the general conversation?
“I should make a New Year’s Resolution,” she continues, laughing. “To stop talking to myself.”
Laughing, PP nods as she steps back from the counter, feeling a slight bump under her flip-flop. “Hey!” She lifts up her foot and behold, the errant earplug. “I found it!”

HW had been talking to another woman, who’d joined them, about watching someone the other day using two hairdryers when PP interrupted her. HW had been expressing her surprise and admiration for this practice. But she takes PP’s interruption in stride, pausing for a moment, before grinning over at PP, “Happy New Year!” she exclaims.

Beaming, PP picks up the earplug and rinses it off thoroughly in the sink, “Yes, it is!” she agrees, now that she doesn’t have to make a trip to the sporting goods store to replace her earplugs.

“Yes! Happy New Year!” SWW joins in, unsteadily rocking on the floor as she
pulls on a skin- toned knee sock.

“Happy New Year to you all!” PP calls out as she heads back to her locker, tightly clutching her swim cap closed to keep safe the new found earplug.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

“Merry Christmas,” she sings out across the lane line as PP turns at the wall. It’s Scraping Walker Woman, happy and buoyant in the water now, wishing good cheer.

“Merry Christmas,” she sighs, her round dark eyes a mixture of resignation and knowing; she wraps her towel round her ample mounds as PP leaves the Sauna. “For one week, we have no Sauna,” she’d bemoaned, yet not letting this loss stifle her holiday spirit.

“Merry Christmas!” they all holler into Utopia between giggles, as DL and PP smile in rapt delight. Three generations of Ethiopian Women, grandma, daughter, granddaughter, all rubbing sea salt on their rich dark skin, their faces masked in green avocado salad.

“How do you say “Merry Christmas in Ethiopian?” PP asks. They tell her, too fast, between more giggles. PP doesn’t even try to repeat it.

“It comes one week after,” the granddaughter tells PP, as DL takes some Sea Salt from their favorite Green Mask Woman.

"It feels nice," DL murmurs as she slowly rubs it into her rich olive skin.

“Merry Christmas!” PP hears one woman to an old friend, as she dresses in the locker room at Hilltopia after her swim.
“Merry Christmas,” her friend replies, warmth and song in her tone.

“My sister, she at home," the first woman explains, "she can’t believe that I come here to the Y on Christmas, but I tell her why not? All I do is sit at home. Doing nothing. At least here I do something.”

Warm Song Friend laughs, “Your sister doesn’t know how addicted we are!” They both laugh together; it's all music now.

Merry Christmas, PP thinks to herself as she sits in her loft later in the afternoon, wearing Grandma Birdie’s pink fluffy sweater, remembering those Christmas mornings so long ago when Birdie and her sister Aunt Tea were already there, arriving way before the sun came up, to surprise PP and her two sisters on Christmas morning. The smell of PP’s Mother’s homemade Cinnamon Christmas bread later wafting through the air after the presents had been rifled through, the paper strewn all over the carpet in front of the Christmas tree, Birdie and Tea tired but happy as they drink coffee and sample the sumptuous bread.

And so, PP wishes you and all of yours a Merry Christmas. May you swim, laugh, eat and love this holiday.

And go ahead, wish a stranger “Merry Christmas” when you’re out and about this holiday season. You don't have to be in the Pool, but if you are, all the better!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Russian Beauty

“I know it’s one of these,” PP laughs as she searches for her locker. She’s marked the lock on the back with a Victorian Kitty sticker for just these occasions. But this means she has to lift up all the locks and inspect the backs of them.

It’s a little awkward, esp. with an audience.

The audience, a lovely dark haired Russian Beauty, laughs with, not at PP. Already many points in her favor. (The laugh, not the beauty. Though the beauty doesn’t hurt.) And who knows if she’s really Russian. She has a lovely accent that could be Russian. And Russian is so romantic, right? Rachmaninoff? Tolstoy? Tchaikovsky? Siberia…? Okay, not the last one, but you get the drift. It’s not often that one meets a Russian Beauty in the Hilltop YMCA locker room.

“I always take the same one,” RB remarks, smiling sympathetically as PP continues to inspect the backs of locks. PP’s completely spaced out: hungry, tired, relaxed. The usual aftermath of a swim and a sauna.

Which makes remembering where your locker is more of a challenge.

“That’s a really good idea,” PP answers RB, “Wish I’d thought of that…”

“Sometimes this also happens to me with my car,” RB continues, her accent oozing empathy. “I don’t know where I left it in the parking lot. And then I walk out and I can’t find it. It’s very alarming.”

”Oh, yeah, me too!” PP agrees, trying to stifle her frustration at not remembering which locker she’d used. But hey, evidently, it was a good conversation starter.

"Why, I sometimes am sure I know where my car is but since it’s so small and everyone else’s car is so HUGE, I can’t see my car behind these monster cars. And then I think. Oh no! Someone has stolen the Geo!” PP laughs as she continues to lift up lockers. “But who would want to steal a Geo, I ask you?”

RB nods, serious. “You never know. I, too, have had that fear. My car. It is so small. And where is it? What if someone has taken it? Whatever will I do?”

In her Russian Empathy, she’s in the parking lot, trying to find her car. PP can hear it in her voice.

Finally, PP lifts up the Victorian Kitty Locker. “Aha! Here it is!” she exclaims in relief, beginning to dial in the combination.

And with the locker open, now the business of getting dressed. The lotion. The clothes. The shoes. The hair.

RB is also concentrating now, though PP can’t help but steal a peak at her curvy pale thigh as she smoothes the lotion in.

They don't speak again. The crisis over.

PP heads off to dry her hair, and when she returns, RB is gone. Had she really been there at all? Commiserating over lost lockers and stolen cars?

It all seems like a figment of PP’s imagination.

Except for the faint smell of lilacs in the air.

Russian Beauty lotion? (This delights PP on many levels, number 1 being that RB was completely ignoring the posted signage warning):

Please refrain from using Scented Products
in the locker room.
Other Members may be allergic.
This may cause physical distress beyond the YMCA's capacity to help.
The YMCA can not be held responsible.

RB didn’t care if someone keeled over in a coughing fit because of her lilacs.

And this makes her even more Romantic.


PP has no idea, but it sounds (and smells) good, don’t you think?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bad Man!

“She a cocktail waitress. That mean she not smart. He pick woman who not smart.”
“We don’t know that she’s not smart just because she’s a cocktail waitress.”
“Then why she do that kind of job?”
“She may like it. Or she may even own the bar. We don’t know. What we do know is that most men pick women who are ‘under’ them, not as smart as them. What do you ladies think?”

DL and PP grin at each other; DL’s big brown eyes wide with delight under her steamy wire rimmed glasses. The women at Utopia.
They know how to discuss!

“I think she dumb woman.”
“What are you guys talking about?” PP finally interrupts.
”We’re talking about Tiger Woods. His mistress who’s a cocktail waitress. T thinks that she’s not very smart because she’s a cocktail waitress.”
“Or she’s not very smart cause she’s Tiger Woods’ mistress,” PP laughs. Then reconsiders. “OR she’s very smart cause she’s Tiger Woods’ mistress.”

“Yes! She get all kind of TV now. The cameras are all on her!” T says, sitting up and adjusting the plastic hair clip that holds her towel together in front of her. (You all remember her? The Towel That Never Slips Woman? Well, this is T tonight, making the case against stupid cocktail waitresses.)

“That’s true. She’s in the limelight now,” Super Swimmer Woman agrees. “But Tiger, now that’s another story. Did you all hear how he won the blah blah blah award?” (PP didn’t recognize the award, so she doesn’t register its name.)
“He should NOT get award!” T scoffs. “He cheat on his wife. He pick stupid cocktail waitress to do that. He does NOT deserve award!”

“Well, I don’t know about that….” SSW grins, or at least PP can hear the grin in her voice. “What do you ladies think? Do you think that one's Talent should be judged by one’s personal life?”
“Hell no,” PP asserts. “Why, look at all the writers who are ‘awful’ people: alcoholics, womanizers, thieves. Yet their work is genius. I absolutely don’t believe that a person’s work or talent should be judged negatively because of their personal transgressions. Look at F. Scott Fitzgerald. Hemingway. Dorothy Parker….why the list goes on and on….”

SSW nods, “Exactly. Talent should not be judged by Personal Transgressions. I agree with you.”

“BUT HE A BAD MAN!” T cries.

“That may well be, but he’s also a very talented golfer and so he should be rewarded for that. Not punished for it.”

T shakes her head, adamant in her belief. Maybe it’s a Cultural Thing? In Vietnam, if you’re a BAD MAN, then off with your head.

PP on the other hand, enjoys a Bad Man every once in awhile. Especially if he's under her.

Or as Bad Girl Dorothy Parker quips:

I like a martini.
Two, at the most.
Three, I'm under the table.
Four, I'm under the host.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


“Wow!” PP pauses at the wall, looking up from her tunnel vision swim focus at the empty Oakland Y pool, “There’s NO one here!” she hollers at the two lifeguards flirting in oblivious abandon.

They laugh, forced to acknowledge her for a moment.

“I’m going to swim in EVERY lane!” PP laughs. They laugh. Loudly this time.

Then PP does it. Really.

Dives under each lane line, swims down the lane, then dives under the next lane line and swims down the lane.

It’s like a dream she wishes would never end.

Her life out of the water is in such turmoil. Her Evil Landlord walking in on her while brushing her teeth to show HER cattage to prospective buyers. “You have to give me 24 hours notice!” she’d shrieked at him, shaking.
“Didn’t you get my email?” he asked, sheepishly, knowing damn well that duh, she hadn't.
“Email!! I don’t look at the email every day. You need to give 24 hours notice,” she repeats, her shock at his trespassing into her private domain gone wild. Who the hell does he think he is? The Landlord. That's who. He's exempt from common respect and courtesy--the law? If it's for the tenant, well then, he's exempt from that too.

He backs out, tail between his legs; she sends him a copy of the California Civil Code 1954 detailing the basic right of a tenant to 24 hours notice before a landlord enters the premises. He responds, incensed by her ‘legal’ blow with a threat of eviction. How dare she throw the law in his face? Doesn't she know that it doesn't apply to HIM? After all, it's his property. What does he care if she's paying rent and thus is protected by a (minimum) of laws guaranteeing such luxuries as peace, privacy and comfort.

PP reads his threat and tries not to cry.

Why was she being 'punished' for asserting her rights? She hadn't done anything wrong. It wasn't like she was some deadbeat who never paid her rent. No. She pays her rent on time every month. Keeps the cattage sparkling clean. Is quiet and respectful.

How the hell did she go from being the Ideal Tenant to one being threatened with eviction in only 24 hours?

Hell, he’s lucky she didn’t call the cops on him for breaking and entering.


See what happens when PP is out of the water? The Landlord PTSD all comes flooding back into her brain and onto the page.

But for a moment, last night, diving under the lane lines, she’s blissfully and joyfully breaking all the swimming in lanes rules. When she gets to the ‘Walking Lane,’ she stops, grins over at the lifeguards who are half watching her crazy swim but mostly back to their more interesting flirtation. “Can I swim in the Walking Lane?” she calls out.

“NO!!!” they both shriek, terror in their voices. How could she even think of such a transgression? So what if there’s NO one in sight. It’s against the rules.

And so, she doesn’t. Break the rules. And they laugh with her a moment, before going back to their fun.

Diving back under the lane lines, PP thinks, yeah, some may 'own' property and lord this ownership over lowly tenants, but as far as she's concerned, Pool Ownership rules.

And for just 5 blissful minutes, the Downtown Oakland YMCA was absolutely HERS!

Thursday, December 03, 2009


“I really appreciate it,” she murmured, smiling shyly as she finished tying the bright blue, gold and red leafed turban round her head.

PP nodded, spaced out and tired, but Turban Woman was right. The YMCA was something to appreciate. Esp. after these long arduous days of soothing students, fighting landlords, and cursing traffic.

Without the Y, PP would be completely insane. (Okay, she heard that!)

Yet appreciation is often something that is so clich├ęd and/ or overlooked in our lives today. Of course there’s the goddamn woo woo ‘affirmations’ where you’re supposed to write out what you appreciate about yourself. (I am beautiful. I am smart. I am loyal. I am stupid. Oh, maybe that last one isn’t really an affirmation, even though it often feels like it)

Hell, PP doesn’t appreciate anything about herself, unless it’s her ability to not appreciate.

Ah, but she gets muddled here.

“And you teach all day, too,” PP had answered Turban Woman, who’d given her another sly smile.

“Yes, I do. And that’s what really makes me appreciate it here. Often I don’t think I’m going to make it after a long day, but then when I do, I always am so glad that I did!”

She giggles softly, turning to her display of skin products laid out on the counter, selecting some eye thingee that PP has no clue about, and carefully applying it round her brows. She has such a calm almost mystical quality about her. Like she’s in another realm altogether and not in the Oakland YMCA’s locker room at 10 o’clock at night. Maybe teaching 8th grade science does that to a person?

Or maybe some people are just like this? Calm. Mystical. Appreciative.


PP wishes she could be more like this sometimes, but at others, well, she’s glad she’s got the gift of complaint.

It makes for a much better, blog, don’t you think?

So, when we’re all feeling like there’s nothing to do but gripe and whine and complain, we can remember TW’s nod to how there is much to appreciate.

Or at least pretend to.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


“Was I snoring?”

Glancing down at the Peaceful Questioner Woman, who’d been lying sprawled out half the length of the wooden bench, PP smiled. (Even though she was sure PQW couldn’t see her in the dark that was Utopia.)

“Nah,” PP answered. “Were you really asleep?”
“Oh, yeah.”
“Do you usually snore?”
She sighed thinking about it. “My daughter says I do.”
”Well,” PP laughed. “That’s probably just your daughter.”
“Yeah, maybe.”

Later, PP asked DL if she snored. “No, but RQ does.”
“Yeah, so does my sis,” PP offered, trying to get her swimsuit untangled after pulling it off in the shower. Why oh why didn’t she just go buy a new suit instead of wearing two ancient falling apart ones on top of each other to keep her ass from showing?


But that’s another blog.

This one is about snoring, which actually has nothing to do with swimming, but when has that stopped PP? After all, she did get the reference to her pitiful swimsuit apparel in. That counts, right?

“Have you heard your sis snore?” DL asked. Or PP imagined she did to keep the story going and back on track.
“Oh, yeah. And it’s the same as the woman in Utopia who complained about her daughter. My sis’ daughter also makes a point of pointing out her mom’s voluminous snoring. Much to my sis’ dismay. And denial. “I do NOT snore!”

But yet she does. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of, right?

Yet PQW seemed alarmed that she might have been snoring in Utopia. And granted this might have been a bit disconcerting. If she had and she had heard herself.

Isn’t that the beauty of snoring? You’re asleep so you can’t hear yourself?

PP doesn’t know. Since she doesn’t snore.

Or does she?

Good thing she doesn't have a daughter to let her know if she does. She'll have to leave that task to her substitute children.

Those cats will let her know, right?

Or not.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Not Everyone’s a Swimmer

“I hafta tell ya, every time you say you’re gonna go to the pool, I cringe”, PP's coworker laughs, shaking her head.
“Why is that?” PP asks.
“It’s just that I’d rather go on a hike, or walk the dog, or hell, visit the dentist rather than dive into a pool! I’m not a swimmer.”

“Yeah, I understand." PP nods like she does understand. But really she doesn't. At least not yet. So, she tries for some sort of understanding rejoinder: "Yeah, well, I just grew up with it.”

“Exactly. But my parents never gave us swim lessons. For whatever reason, it just wasn’t important ….so I didn’t know how to swim. I actually didn’t learn to swim 'till I was in Jr. High. I was 13. You know Willard Jr. High School?”

“Oh yeah. Nice little pool there.”

“It is. But for me, it was almost traumatic. I mean they weren’t gonna let me graduate from the 8th grade till I learned to swim. And unlike you, since I didn’t grow up with it, I was just terrified of the water. I have this fear of drowning. And I’m sure that stems from not being familiar with swimming and growing up in and around pools. So when I was at Willard, they put me in this swim class, and I tell you, PP, I was the only White Chick in this crowd of African American girls named Latisha. And they were all scared to death of the water and LOUD. ‘Help help me oh Lord I gonna drown!’ Which of course just terrified me and made my fear of drowning that much worse.”

Laughing, PP nods, “So, did you learn how to swim?”

“Oh, yeah, I did eventually, and for me, it was a Real Rite of Passage, so when I got married and had kids, I vowed to myself that I wasn’t gonna let the same thing happen to them. So I gave them all swim lessons and the older two took right to it, but the youngest, he was just like me. Scared to death. Used to fool the swim instructors out at King Pool, you know it? Out on Hopkins?
“Oh yeah…”

“Well, when my youngest took group lessons there. He used to scoop up handfuls of water…” She cups her hands over her desk to demonstrate.“…and then splash the water on his head to look like he’d dunked under. And I thought, hey, that’s pretty smart.”

“That’s so funny,” PP says, “cause it was the same in my family. Me and my middle sis took right to the water, but the youngest. She had a harder time with it. Didn’t learn till way later.”

”Exactly! But this kid, my youngest, finally did learn when I took him to private lessons one-on-one. The instructor was this really mellow knowledgeable young lady who just worked with him about the dunking your head under the water thing and told him, ‘Hey if you don’t want to dunk your head in you don’t have to but if you do dunk your head under, it won’t kill you.’ So eventually he tried it. And it didn’t kill him.”

PP nods. “Yeah, not everyone's a swimmer. I get that.”

But actually she still didn’t. Why the hell wouldn’t everyone want to swim? Of course there is the real possibility of drowning if you don't know how to swim. But why wouldn't everyone want to learn? It’s the BEST thing in the world. Why it’s the closest thing to being back in the womb as Super Swimmer Woman had said one night in Utopia.

PP wasn’t so sure about the Womb Thing, but she did know that there was, as you all know who read this blog, something about swimming that you can’t get anywhere else.

“Is it kinda meditative for you?” Non-Swimmer Co-worker asks, interrupting her reverie.
“Oh, yeah. As long as I don’t have to run the YMCA obstacle course.”
“You mean if you hafta share a lane?”
”Yeah. That can get a little dicey.”
“I could see that.”

But PP could see that she really didn't. For her, swimming was probably still a dicey affair. And this was such a tragedy. For what would Reality be without Swimming?

PP couldn't imagine. It'd be like living without chocolate. Or Dancing without the Stars. Or barfing without the cats. (Well, she could live without cats' barfing.)

You get the gist.

Life without swimming?

It just isn't living.

At least not in PP's Reality.

And frankly, what other Reality matters?

Thursday, November 12, 2009


"It was brilliant!"
Owen Hill, poet extraordinaire and mystery writer magnifique proclaimed.

And it was. DHBF, aka Ian Lambton, swam to glory in his debut as the narrator of Melville's Bartleby.

"Your BF certainly has a LOT of different people in him," KS said.
"Yup," PP responded. "Means I don't have to sleep around as much as I used to."

So, let's look forward to DHBF's next run of his genius one-man show. At the Marsh Theater or beyond.

Oh, and PP thinks there's a Brilliant Swim in his near future. Without the top hat of course!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bartleby Swims in the Marsh

And when he arises, he can don his goggles instead of his top hat and join PP at the Pool where he's been sorely missed for weeks and weeks and weeks!

Tomorrow is the day!

Ah, Bartleby!
Ah, Humanity!
Ah, Poolby!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Dangling Modifiers

“Ouch!" PP shrieked in agony at the bottom of the hot tub, not knowing that the weird wrong sharp plastic thingee was on the bottom of the tub. When the hell did it get installed? Had she missed stubbing her foot on it all these years?
"Attacking my big toe where did that thingee come from why didn't I see it?" she whined. "Hey, how's that for a Dangling Modifier?" she asked DL.

"What's a Dangling Modifier?"

"I'm not exactly sure, but I think that...." PP can't summon the definition to the surface of her pool soaked brain.

Sometimes, she wonders how the hell she’s ever gotten this far in her career as an English Instructor. Since she called the above a dangling modifier, which it isn’t even, but actually more of a run-on sentence. Then neither she nor DL could define one as they headed into Utopia.

“Sandy will know,” PP announced when she saw Sandy lying naked, sweating and relaxed on the top shelf of the sauna. Obviously, she was a Grammar Expert.
“What will I know?” Sandy doesn’t miss an opportunity to participate in Great Utopia Queries.
“A Dangling Modifier,” DL said.
“Do you know what one is?” PP asked.
“Here we are an Editor and an English Teacher and neither one of us can define it.”
“Ummm……” Sandy thought aloud, still lying down. She wasn’t gonna expend too much effort. Or she was good at Grammar Analysis in the prone position. “Isn’t it when you don’t know what something is referring to?”

“Maybe,” PP agreed, not sure. “Can you think of an example?”
“That’s just what I was trying to do,” Sandy paused, thinking hard. “But I just can’t come up with one right now.”

“Well, it is 9:30 and we have just worked out and it’s time to eat and go to bed,” PP offered. Maybe this is why she can’t get her brain to spit out a definition and an example?

“Dangling Modifier?” Towel Covered Always Vietnamese Woman Swimmer asked, sleepily. “What is this, Dangling Modifier?”
“Oh, that’d be good. To get the answer from the Vietnamese contingent.”
“Actually,” PP interrupted, “from all my working with international students, they do know their grammar terms. They might not be able to write a sentence, but they can tell you what a Conditional Subjunctive Blah blah blah is!”

“Do you know what it is?” Sandy asked TCAVW.

“Dangling Modifier….” She rolled over onto her side, careful to keep covered up. PP has always marveled at her ability to keep the towel on her body with it never falling off. It seems to have some sort of special elastic holder at the top to help. But she wears it everywhere. In the hot tub. In Utopia. In the shower.

Not in the pool though. Here she dons a swimsuit. But PP has always wondered how she gets from her street clothes to the swimsuit without the towel? Maybe she does use the towel?

Oh, how far off the topic of Dangling Modifiers is this?

A Dangling Towel would be much more interesting though, don’t you think? What is under that towel that she doesn’t want anyone to see?

Something else that dangles?

“No….” Constant Towel Woman answers slowly now, “I never heard of this. Dangling Modifier.”
“Ah, okay, well, I’m curious now,” Sandy said. “I’m gonna look it up first thing when I get home.”
“You’ll let us know, next time?” PP asks.
“Sure, of course.”

But yet, of course, PP had to look it up when she got to Woo Woo U the next day.

“A dangling modifier fails to refer LOGICALLY [PP’s caps] to any word in the sentence. Dangling modifiers are easy to repair, but they can be hard to recognize in your own writing.” (Diana Hacker, Goddess of Grammar)

And here’s Diana’s example:

“Opening the window to let out a huge bumblebee, the car accidentally swerved into an oncoming car.”

To fix:

When the driver opened the window to let out a huge bumblebee, the car accidentally swerved into an oncoming car.

The message of the modifier is:

Let the Bumblebee drive!

And the message of the Towel is:

Let it fall let it fall let it fall!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


“The only thing that was grossing me out was that Asian couple in the lane next to me.” CC wrinkled her cute nose, shaking her head.

“Why? What were they doing?” PP hadn’t noticed them other than the fact that they weren’t swimming much. Just hanging around on the side of the pool, taking up the lane. Which didn’t really matter. For some reason the Hilltop Y was unusually quiet. Was this because everyone was home mourning the loss of light with the demise of daylight savings time? (Sad sad sad SAD!!!)

CC took a deep breath, then went on, “They kept leaning over the side of the pool and spitting kaapuuukuuueeee into the drain. It was so disgusting!”

PP laughed. “Maybe they were from China? It’s a cultural thing?”
“I don’t know.....” CC was dubious.

“...Cuz when I was teaching in China, and of course, I’m generalizing here with gross stereotypes and all, but this was my experience. One of my students, in the middle of my lecture, just up and spit a huge loogie (PP hates that word, but it’s the only one she can think of right now) in the aisle right in front of me. Naturally, I completely freaked out. Yelled at him about how rude and disgusting this was. How disrespectful to the professor (this always shamed them) and the other students (not so much). He was initially confused, and then as I continued to hurl invectives at him, I could tell that he was starting to feel really bad. He didn’t realize that it wasn’t an acceptable behavior in the classroom setting. Then I felt kinda bad for yelling at him. But not too bad. Cuz it was disgusting. Lying right there on the cement floor 4 feet away from me."

“UGGHHH!!!! OKAY! Enough!” CC shuddered, completely grossed out now. Her swim at the Hilltop Y had been so nice, relaxing, rejuvenating, till PP started going on and on about spitting.

Well, CC'd brought it up in the first place, right?

"Maybe you shoulda just ignored the Spitting Asian Couple in the lane on your left side and instead concentrated on Gandhi swimming in the lane on your right. Then all would have been so peaceful."

Laughing her raucous guffaw, CC nodded. "Yeah. I did notice Gandhi too. His boxers ballooning underwater. His scrawny legs flailing inside the too big leg openings....” She had to stop, wrinkling her nose again. Another image that was not so pleasant.

"Well at least he didn’t spit," PP laughed.
"No, you’re right. He didn’t spit."

For Gandhi was above such Human Expulsion Fluid Frailties. He was a man of the mind, not of the mucus, as evidenced by the following quote:

Action is no less necessary than thought to the instinctive tendencies of the human frame.
Mohandas Gandhi

In other words:
Spitting is no less necessary than swimming to the instinctive tendencies of the human frame.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Own Lane!

PP got her OWN lane!
How happy is she?
This never happens at the Oakland Y.
Cuz there are too many swimmers who want to share your lane. And you don’t want to share your lane, but you have to; otherwise, you’re a swimmer without morals. Which PP admits she’d like to be. But when it comes right down to it, she can’t help but share the lane if someone asks, albeit begrudgingly.

DL thinks that PP should keep track of the number of times she gets her own lane (for the entire swim!) She thinks that there’s some way to track this on the blog. PP is gonna look into this. But she doesn’t have to hurry with her investigation.

She won’t get her own lane again for a long long time.

Unless she does.

Which will make her very very happy!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


“She really is a fish, isn’t she?”
GP grinned as she relayed her husband’s assessment of PP. Going swimming in this weather?

In the worst storm of the year? (Okay, it was the first storm of the year, but still.....)

“Or he coulda said she was the Craziest Fish, really!” PP muttered aloud to herself as she vainly tried to see the freeway in front of her through the driving gray sheets of windy rain.

What she will do for a swim!

Is the pool worth risking your life for?

Goddamn right it is.

PP hit the brake as the cars in front of her slowed to a crawl, red brake lights thankfully warning her to keep her distance. The gargantuan yellow truck at the front of the line of cars spewed a ghastly black smoke as it chugged up Hwy 80 toward Pinole.

Glancing down at her speedometer, PP saw that she was barely going 35 miles an hour.

This is for the best, she thought. Of course unless some stupid idiot rear-ends her. “Maybe you should think less about what’s behind you and concentrate on what’s in front of you instead,” DHBF had advised when she complained of yet another harrowing drive to his apartment on Fruitvale Ave.
“But I’ve been rear ended twice!” she’d exclaimed.
“So have I,” he answered. Why the hell does he always have to do that? Whatever she’s being highly sensitive about, he’s already done it. And it was nothing.

Trying now to follow his advice, PP kept a good distance between herself and the car in front of her, thinking to herself how CRAZY this was to be driving to the pool in such a storm. Esp. after her nervous breakdown earlier that morning after getting caught in the torrential downpour in the parking lot of Safeway. Couldn’t get the Geo’s door open. Had to run around to the other side of the car, spastically fitting the key into the front door, finally opening it to let the rain gush into the car. Tossing the plastic sopping wet bags all over the back seat. Her hair matted to her forehead in a pitiful clump. Slamming the door, she sat inside the car, soaking in the front seat, breathing in and out rapidly, trying to control herself.

PP tries not to have breakdowns in public places.

Was inside her car a public place? she wondered.

Damn. She breathed in again. Watching the rain hurling down from the sky through the foggy windshield.

If she were really a fish, a little rain wouldn’t really have bothered her, right?

Now, finally taking the exit for the pool, PP waited at the light, before making the left hand turn. A angry "HONK"! from behind startled her already rattled self. Had she just cut off someone behind her because of her fogged up windows? Damn!
That's what she gets for the followment of DHBF’s advice to not be so concerned with what’s behind her.

Oh, blame him! She grinned to herself as she headed down the windy hill toward the Hilltop Y.

Yet. 15 minutes later. In the pool. Only one other Crazy Fish was in the water.


It had all been worth it, she thought as she jumped in, streaming through the glassy water, feeling her arms stretch out and cut through the water.

Later, post swim, relaxed and satisfied, PP came out of the sauna and ran into Scraping Walker Woman, who had just done her water walking. “The weather is pretty bad today, isn’t it?” she said, giving PP her blue eyed twinkle even as she grunted toward the shower.

“Oh, yeah!” PP agreed as she turned on a shower. “The rain is Nasty. Esp. driving on the freeway.”

SWW nodded, considering PP’s plight before answering. “Yes, well I live close by. But I thought to myself that I needed to come here today. Because there were lots of days before when I wasn’t well enough to come at all.”

PP had nodded. Now here’s a person with real problems, not just Parking Lot Breakdown Disorder.

And she appreciated what she could do today. And of course, the Pool was key. Admirable to be so optimistic in the face of physical limitations, PP thought.
Oh, to hell with Optimism, she grinned as she headed back over to her locker.

She’d take Crazy any day.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Marriott at Kalapaki Beach

”Not that I don’t LOVE all of you beautiful people, but….” Love Fest Woman glances around the pandemonium that is the Lihue airport and sighs, “…I’ve booked a room at the Marriott.”
“How much is a room at the Marriott?” someone asks wistfully.
“$199.99. But I don’t care. I can’t take it anymore. Ciao!”

PP watches in a jealous cloud of exasperation as LFW strides purposefully out of the airport, husband and luggage in tow. Damn! Why can’t she go to the Marriott?

Oh, yeah that little thing called money.

Damn again. Bet there’s a really great pool at the Marriott too!

Sighing loudly, PP plops back into the uncomfortable plastic chair, her head aching, her nerves frayed.

She’d asked if they could be sent to a hotel when the flight had been canceled and there wasn’t another one till the next day. But nooooo….

“We can book you on a flight to LA and then from there you can get a connecting flight to SFO.”
“Are you serious?” PP had practically screamed at the Stony Faced Agent. “I’m not flying to LA! That’s ridiculous.”

Stony Face looked right through PP before continuing. "Or there's a flight out of Honolulu to SFO tonight. We could...."

"We just came from Honolulu! I'm NOT going back there! This is insane!"

“I’m sorry, Ma’am," she answered, gathering up some papers to prepare to walk away. She knew an abusive passenger when she saw one! "... but that’s the best we can do right now. Why don’t you just take a seat and wait.”

Wait for what? PP had wanted to holler at her. But what was the point? Obviously, Stony Face was NOT going to help her.

The sleep deprivation was debilitating at this point in the ordeal. (They'd gotten up a 6 a.m. to get to the Honolulu airport for the connecting flight to Lihue. Ass backwards, did anyone say?) And so, PP was NOT gonna spend the night on a flight to LA or in the goddamn waiting room at the Honolulu airport where she'd already spent an hour lying on the floor in the air-conditioned room. Why the hell is everything kept a miserable 53 degrees in Hawaii?

Hell, if she wanted 53 degrees she woulda stayed in San Francisco.

And so, she waited. And waited. And waited.

DHBF, on the other hand, was standing is some line, talking to various other passengers. He could juggle waiting on hold for United Airlines while chatting away amiably with complete strangers. How the hell did he seem, at least outwardly, to to be having a great time in all the chaos? While she, on the other hand, was way past a nervous breakdown and could only sit mutely in the damn plastic chair trying not to cry.

Must be in the DNA as her mother would say. Or all that acting background. Pretence would come in handy right about now.

“I’m gonna go make a reservation at another hotel,” Marching over to DHBF, PP had finally gotten up after an hour of watching the pandemonium of non-action in action. Nodding at her, he continued to listen to both the phone and some dumpy guy go on and on about his flight to LA that he was just so relieved to get.

Shit, she thought as she went over to the phone booth and looked up hotels. There were only 4 listed on Kauai. (Of course, the Marriott caught her eye first) Dialing the number on her too small cell phone, she got on the line with the Kauai Inn. Had made the reservation when felt herself nudged in the middle of the call my Marin Aussie Woman who wanted a reservation too.

Funny how everyone bands together in a crisis.

Not that everyone would view being stranded at the Lihue Airport on Kauai a crisis. But an airport waiting room full of angry passengers is the same wherever you are: Kauai, Bakersfield, Beijing. (That’s another story. But even China Airlines put them up in a hotel when the flight was canceled. Hell, if it can be done in Communist China, why not America the Beautiful?)

PP and MAW made the reservation at the Kauai inn. Then sat down to wait for vouchers for tomorrow’s flight that their respective mates were supposedly getting.

Hours and hours and hours slogged by. By 6 pm there were only a few of them left.

No announcements had ever made about what United was gonna do with them. But something had happened to most of the passengers, cause by this time (the flight had been canceled at 1? 2? After waiting on the runway in the airplane for an hour) there were now only a handful of them left.

And United gave in.
The new crew came on at 6 and guess what?

They were going to the Marriott!

Relief poured thro PP’s tired limbs and brain. Thank goodness. At least this ordeal in the airport was over and she’d get to swim!

After settling in their deluxe FREE room, PP had to do you know what--find the pool!
And when she did, her expectations were more than met. Because this Marriott had the most amazing pool in the world. Five hot tubs surrounded by Greek columns that you had to swim to. The pool itself was not rectangular or the insipid liver shape, but ROUND!

Why this pool looked like a tacky replica of William Randolph Hearst’s Pool at his famous Castle. But this one at the Marriott---you could swim in!

When they arrived, it was dark evening, but the pool was lit up in romantic magic. Embracing couples floated in the dark, the girls riding on the boys' backs, their arms slung lazily round the boys' necks. Leaving little to the imagination even in the dark. The air was a balmy 78 degrees; the full moon shone its pearl light on the dark turquoisy water; the black tiles glistening seductively under the glimmering surface.

Enchanting and enchanted. PP couldn’t wait to jump in.

And when she did?

All the stress of the day just melted away. Floating in the warm moonlight under a giant statue of a Rabbit, she swam in circles till she was dizzy!

Once again, a pool saves the day.

But of course, you all know this already.

If only United Airlines had figured it out earlier!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

First Sightings in the Perfect Hawaii Sea

Swimming in the perfect blue warm sea outside their bedroom window in Hau’ula, PP revels in its embrace. Ah! Hawaii ocean. There’s no swimming like it in the world! She could swim all day in this sea if she didn’t get hungry or her ear plugs didn’t leak or she didn’t have to go to the bathroom.

Okay you didn’t need to know that last one.

But it was so lovely to be back in Hawaii again. PP swims and swims and swims. Out to the breaking waves on the coral reef several hundred yards from the shore and back again.

Dashingly Handsome Boyfriend is also in the sea, swimming away with his snorkel and red zoomers. So serious and cute in the Hau’ula waters.

Afterwards, resting on the porch that overlooks the water, PP sighs happily.

Till DHBF gets out of the water. Too breathless with excitement to be believed.

“You know what I saw?”
“You’ll never guess.”
“No, probably not.”
"I saw a turtle….” He waits for PP’s excited response. She sighs inwardly. How come she never sees a turtle? In fact when she thinks about it she hasn’t seen one since she’s been coming to Hawaii with DHBF. He must be taking all the Turtle Sightings away from her.
“Really?” She doesn’t try to keep the envy and disappointment for her selfish turtleless self out of her tone.

He doesn’t notice, but carries on. So excited. “Yeah! A Big One!” He spreads his arm wide demonstrating the Turtle’s Monster Size.

How could she have missed it? Part of her doesn’t believe that he really saw one. But then she knows better. DHBF Never lies! (At least that’s what he’s been telling her all these years.)

“….he was so close to me! And I could almost touch it and then it saw me and just up and sprinted away.” He pauses for a breath. Not waiting for her response this time. He’s so goddamned excited. “And you know what else I saw?”
“A Sting Ray!”
“Really? Aren't those poisonous?”
“Hmmm....I dunno...maybe. Anyway, it was real close too, but then it saw me and swoosh! It flew off. It was incredible!”

He looks down at her, sitting wet and morose on the white plastic porch chair. But PP doesn’t think he notices her cranky Sea Animal Sightingless State.

“What did you see?” he pauses, asking her.
She sighs, “You won't believe it...."
"Try me!"
"I can hardly believe it myself, especially after hearing your stories."
"What did you see?

"Well...." A little smile creeps up, "I did see a couple of golf balls."

Mad as Hell!

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