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.

Mad as Hell!

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