Monday, December 20, 2010


“SHIT!!!!” PP hears the curse, and then a giant THUD.
PP knows who the Curser is—Scraping Walker Woman. And the THUD must be her flailing and knocking something or falling and hurting something.

PP had made a resolution not long ago not to ask SSW if she needed ‘help.’ She can’t remember the details now of why she’d made this promise to herself. It musta had something to do with being made to feel stupid asking SSW if she needed help.
And so, today, her first impulse is to just ignore the curse and obvious (from the sound of it) injury. But yet….What if she really had hurt herself? And was lying over on the cold cement floor, 20 feet from PP, hidden by two rows of lockers, writhing in agony? Or passed out? Or bleeding to death? Or…..


PP pulls on her black pants and marches over to SSW’s domain.
She’s there, as PP had pictured, crumpled in a heap on the floor, struggling with putting on her own pants.

“Are you okay?” PP has to ask now. She’s there.
SSW turns, totters on the floor, manages a grimace in PP’s direction. “Yes, yes, I’m fine!”
“Okay, just checking. I heard you….”
“Oh that!” SSW chuckles. “I was just thinking about this Christmas card that my sister-in-law sent me and it had all this religious junk on it….you know Mary and the Baby Jesus and……”

She harrumphs. “My brother is not particularly religious, so I don’t think it was his idea to send the card, and then I started thinking that I shouldn’t be having this reaction to the Baby Jesus and Mary. That I’m a Bad Person. But then I thought, 'No, I am not a Bad Person.' What do you think? Oh I’m so sorry if I’ve offended you. You might be religious and….”

PP laughs as she heads over to the counter to start brushing out the tangles. “No you haven’t offended me.”

“Oh, that’s good. That’s a relief. Because some people you know would be offended and I wouldn’t want to offend them and this damn mark on my face I fell on the carpet the other day. Can you believe that falling on the carpet would do this?”

PP had noticed the large dramatic purplish reddish blotch on SSW’s face when she’d been in the pool and SSW had been doing her herky jerky water walking. It looks bad, but PP doesn’t say this now. Not wanting to offend SSW. Though frankly she thinks that offending her would be pretty hard.

“And when I fell, oh I was so mad.” SSW rarely waits for PP (or anyone else for that matter) to answer. “But Sam was home and just put some Vaseline on it and that reminded me how my father he was a physician and one time I think it was around the holidays actually I scalded myself something awful I don’t know how, but my father who was a physician, he just put some Vaseline on it and I remember I was little maybe only 7 or 8, and that it was very soothing. So when my husband did the same thing with this,” She points at the wound, shaking her head, disgusted, “well it was very soothing.”

“Yes, those old fashioned remedies are often the best,” PP agrees, trying to think of a way to get her to stop her Vaseline Monologue so she could turn on the hairdryer without being rude.

“….the other day I ran into a friend of mine who knew me before the surgery and he told me that I should have one of those little electric chairs and then I could just zoom around so much more better. And it made me so mad. That he would say that. The doctor who did the surgery, he said that I was healing just fine. That I should just keep doing what I’m doing. That it’d take time. But that Dan, this friend of mine or really he’s not someone that really knows me anymore. Obviously. He just made me so mad….”

PP finally just turns on the hairdryer. She had been actually encouraging the Anti- Jesus Story and as she was doing it, she knew that it was going to digress into something that she didn’t want to encourage and also that she wouldn’t be able to stop SSW cuz once she started in talking, she didn’t stop.

And even as PP begins drying her hair, she can still hear that SSW is talking. She just can’t make out the words anymore.

Does it matter? Does SSW find offense with PP’s Dryer Noise Deterrent?
She doesn’t seem to. The only thing that really seems to set her off is any mention of her differently-abled situation. Whether it was an offer of help or a suggestion of easier transport.


PP can hear this through the dryer noise and this time she just smiles. Thinks of Mary and the Baby Jesus, and starts to hum Away in the Manger, the image of Mary holding the Lord Our Saviour and the Three Kings of Orient Are vivid in her mind's eye as SSW's muffled drone goes on and on and on.....

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Found Suit, Lost Time

“We’ve ______ you!” Hemophiliac Swimmer, Floyd, beams over at PP, stopped at the wall to adjust her mask.
“What?” She could take her ear plugs out, but then they’ll leak and….
“We MISSED you!”
“Oh, yeah, thanks. I usually swim up at Hilltop, but today….”

It was really too much to go into the explanation of why she was there at the Oakland Y on a Saturday afternoon instead of the more convenient Hilltopia. She’d lost her swimsuit. Horror of horrors. Wrapped up in a towel on Wed. There had been a Disruption of Ritual (DOR) by DL—-she’d had to show PP a lock---it was ‘cornflower blue’. Very pretty, but in the distraction of the pretty blue lock, PP had left her suit wrapped in the towel. Had tossed it into the dirty towel bin and left.

Needless to say, when she arrived home 30 minutes later the nervous breakdown was inevitable and full-blown. To lose a swimsuit is the worst! Esp. at Christmas when a trip to Ross would be from hell.

So on this Sat., she’d come to find the suit. And she had. Or rather a very nice Y Woman had donned rubber gloves, dug through two trashcans of ‘lost’ crap, and voila! there it was at the bottom of the second can.

She didn’t need to tell Floyd all of this obviously. So she just nodded, made an inane comment about how he was still swimming.
“I’m retired. I can come every day.”
“Can’t wait!” she’d joked, then taken off down the lane.

He waited for her, stopped her before turning, admonishing, shaking his finger at her, “It’ll come soon enough. Don’t wish the time away.”
“Oh, sure,” she’d agreed, “of course.”

And as she swam back down the lane, she had to think that he was so right. The time just swam by so fast. Before she knew it, she’d be 80 years old, swimming in her own lane cause of some special swim malady.

As long as she kept swimming, that is!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Hard Headed, Soft Bottomed

“Oohh, that’s hot!” Dyed Blond Ringlet Woman dips her big toe into the hot tub. PP laughs, nods, agreeing. She’s still sitting on the edge of the tub, unusual for her. Rarely does she not just plunge into the soothing heated water to counter the pool’s cool temp.

Yet this evening, the pool had been perfect. Warm and empty. PP had had the end lane where the stupid families usually frolic. This lane is the warmest since it has tiny heaters lining the wall.

She swims as close as she can to these without running into the wall.

So, when DBRW cries out over the hot tub temp, PP agrees. It is hot and maybe it seems this way since the pool hadn’t been too cold.

Glancing at the temp, DBRW grins, then shakes her curls, “106! No wonder!”
“That is toasty,” PP slips in now, the heat delicious.
“It’s empty. That’s why the temperature is so hot. The more people that are in the tub, the more the temperature goes down.”
PP’s puzzled by this. Wouldn’t it be just the opposite? The more people in the tub, the more they heat it up?
“How’s that?” she asks, curious.
“Our body temperature, it’s 98 point something, and so when lots of people get in their body temperatures bring the total temperature down.”

She glances over at PP. “I don’t think you and me are gonna bring the temperature down just the two of us.” She chuckles as she inches into the water, her round brown belly half way covered by the swirling bubbles.
“I never thought of it that way,” PP nods. “I guess that does make sense.”
But does it? PP is skeptical yet decides not to voice this. It’s too good of a story the way it is.

DL arrives, perches on the edge of the tub, grinning at the already started Aquatopia Dialogue. When DBRW explains her water temp theory to DL, DL just nods. It makes sense to her. But she’s a poet. Everything makes some kind of sense in a metaphorical way, right?

“My daughter, she is good at math!" DBRW starts the topic out of nowhere. Apropos of much of the dialogue at the Oakland Y. "Don’t let no one tell you that girls ain’t good at math. They are. And I tell her, you use your algebra. You go to the store, you see a can of peas for 30% off, and you figure it out using your algebra.”
PP’s not sure that algebra is the exact math used; but then again, math isn’t her forte.

Because she’s a girl?

No, because it’s stupid.

“And when I tell my daughter this, she just stands there, hands on hip and refuses to listen to me. She thinks she knows it all. And the kids. They are smarter than they used to be. I look around and see that how are all these kids being born smarter and smarter?”

“It’s the math?” PP ventures.
She laughs, “Exactly!” Not missing a beat. “And my daughter, because she is so smart and she knows it all, when I tell her the opposite she just shakes her head. Tells me, No, it ain’t so. She’s so Hard Headed that girl is.”
She laughs. They all do.

“And I know that she get it from me. Why when I was growing up, everyone would say, “'Nadine,' that’s me 'you are so hard headed!' But I’m not so hard headed anymore. No. But I am soft bottomed!” She laughs, they all do.

“And I don’t have to do a thing. It just gets softer and softer and softer!”

She grins, shakes her head, sighs deeply, thinking of the softness.

DL and PP crack up, their soft bottoms growing too.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Was Mark Twain A Racist?

“Not to change the subject, but….” Sandy interrupts PP’s gushing rhapsody of her perfect swim: warm water (82), own lane, (rarity) and no air conditioning until the end of her swim. (Sorry to break that parallel structure, but in reality there was no parallel structure, just free form gushing.)

Sandy had been her usual listening self, nodding and agreeing with appropriate "uh huh’s” but she’d had enough. She needed an answer.

“Let me ask you this, Was Mark Twain a Racist?”
PP can’t change gears fast enough, from swimming euphoria to race relations. So she’s glad DL is there, and after a LONG pause, asks, “What do you think, DL?”

DL has the perfect answer, of course. Something about Twain writing about a certain period of history and thus documenting a certain truth of the times; however, on the other hand, in our time, today some might very well perceive his writings as racist.

She said it more eloquently than this, but you get the gist.
Sandy nods.
“Why do you ask?” PP wants to know. After all it is 9:45 at night in Utopia and everyone’s tired and spaced out from their workouts.
“Well, you know Iris?”
“Yeah, sure,” PP nods.
"Well, she was reading White Oleander....."
”That’s a good book,” PP interrupts wondering how racism fits in to this read. She can’t remember any race relations in it, but her memory is abdominally abysmal.

“Yes, well, it’s okay, but the point is that when I asked her if she’d read Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer and she’d said no, and then when I said oh you must read them another woman butted in and said that oh yeah they made her read those books in school and they were racist and so I was just wondering what you thought. After all N_____ Jim was one of the sweetest, kindest most beloved characters of all time. (PP can’t write the N word out, but bear in mind that Sandy said it, no qualms at all even though African American Princess was sitting in the corner wide eyed listening to the entire discussion.)

PP on the one hand admires Sandy’s nonchalant usage in the context of the discussion, yet on the other side, well…in the context of our times and Utopia it seemed a bit brazen or inappropriate or in any case PP was a bit uncomfortable to say the least and so she blathers in something about Jim being the moral center of the novels (Like she remembers! See note above)

Sandy likes this assessment though and agrees. Then goes on to talk about Thanksgiving and going down to her uncle’s and how he sets a table like Martha Stewart with the turkey centerpieces and fancy flower arrangements and matching china etc. and how everyone asks if he’s gay, and she always laughs and says, “Nah, he’s been married for 26 years and is one of the straightest guys I know.”

AAP is nodding this whole time, taking it all in? She never commented upon Twain, so PP doesn’t know if she was offended or not. But after Sandy’s ‘Gay Story’ PP just comments on how those ‘stereotypes’ are everywhere.
"That they are," AAP pipes in.
And they all laugh, nodding and agreeing.
“What time is it?” Sandy asks.
“9:45,” PP says. “I better get going. I’m so slow.”
Chuckling, Sandy rises and gathers up her towel and water spray bottle and saunters out.

PP follows AAP out who turns and grins at her, “We really got goin in there, didn’t we?” she laughs.

And PP agrees, that yes, they did.

But did they answer Sandy's question, she wonders? Hell, wonder what would Martha say?

Shut up, sit down, and eat the goddamn turkey!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Utopia in 3 Parts

Something to Hold On To

“Oh…what a day!” African Princess sighs, lounges longer on the side of Aquatopia. DL and PP smile and nod. Every day is a long day if you ask PP. “All day I was directing traffic. And all the people. Picking up trash. We’d clear one street, then the trash was covering it…” She sighs deeply. “It was such a mess.”
“You were in the City today for the Giants’ parade?” DL asks.
“That’s right.” She shakes her head. “It was a mess. We didn’t write no tickets today at all. It was a free for all. Everyone got away with murder. People were crazy. There were so many of them. It was insane.”
“I wonder why the Giants winning the World Series is such a big deal,” PP muses aloud the unspeakable.

But there’s careful thought going on in Aquatoipa: “People have nothing else to hold on to,” In the Corner of the Hot Tub Woman nods. Serious.
And all the women nod. Serious. Knowing that it’s true.

Kissing Make You Sick

“You make the ginger, the lemon. You put in a cup of red wine. You drink it and you not sick. No more!” Diabetes Woman nods her dark head, waves her arm dramatically to any and all in the Utopia Sauna.
Does this really work? PP wonders. She’s not gonna try it since she can’t drink red wine.
“You’ll just pass out asleep then,” Sandy laughs.
“No. You try it. If you get the sickness. Then this will stop it. I always take it. When I take care of babies, they always kiss me. They try to kiss me on the mouth.” She demonstrates, puckering her lips, “ but then I turn away, give them my cheek. They kiss me there. Not on mouth. Babies want to kiss on lips. But then you catch their sickness.”

“Now I know why I don’t kiss babies!” PP exclaims. Everyone laughs except DW who just plows on. “It is how babies are. My own babies. They were this way too. Always kiss on the mouth. But no no no. I say, here.” She points to her cheek. “Then you make the red wine one cup with ginger and lemon and you not sick. No more.”

Our Person

PP comes back from her shower to hurry into her clothes before getting kicked out of the locker room. DL is in deep conference with Liver Transplant Woman, Sally. They’re head to head, whispering. DL is mostly nodding while Sally is almost crying. PP can tell she’s close. She does cry easily. But this can happen when you’ve had a liver transplant, you’re off your meds, and your grandfather is dying.

Hell, anyone would cry.

But yet, DL holds her own. Says something soft and soothing every few words, placing a gentle hand on Sally’s shoulder. PP marvels at DL’s therapist abilities so late in the day at the end of Utopia. How does she do it? PP wonders.

Later, trudging up the stairs, PP asks DL what it was all about. But DL can’t really articulate it. Too overwhelming. Something about Death of her Person.

Cause we all have Our Person/s. For PP it’s her Gram and her Niece. For DL it was her dad and her aunt. For Sally it is her grandfather.

It has been a long day, PP thinks, as they walk out into the dark breezy night. But thinking about her Persons, now, at this moment, she has something to hold on to.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Richmond Plunge: 2 Perspectives

“You do Pilates?”
She eyes PP up and down, focusing in on her belly, then patting her own round soft melon of one, her wet turquoise flowers ballooning out.
“No,” PP laughs.
“Just swimming?”
“Yeah, just swimming,” PP answers.
“Bet she always been small,” Pilates Asking Woman’s Friend snorted.
Laughing, PP nods, “Yeah, that’s true. I’m small.”

And she is, esp. when confronted with the Richmond Plunge Swimming Crowd. No one did Pilates is one way of putting it, making PP and her partner today, CC (who’s really really small!) stand out even more.

The two Pilates Snorting Women give PP one more up and down before heading into the lovely lockerroom. Does PP need to describe how deluxe the Richmond Plunge is now? Maybe a little.

The women’s bathroom’s showers are white pristine tiles with little orange, red and green star fish mosaics in the floor. A sparkling mermaid graces the wall on the way out to the amazingly stupendous pool. A gigantic mural fills the far wall: a scene of a pond with white egrets, a little island and a woman wading into it. It’s all bright greens, and blues, and browns.

The pool itself (PP had to ask the lounging about lifeguards) is 60 meters long!!! And 20 across. The kids are relegated to half, leaving tons of room for lap swimmers.

It’s a swimmer’s dream pool. At least it is for PP. Swimming in her lane, a pasty middle aged guy shares her lane intermittently. Yet the lanes were so wide that PP barely noticed him. Well, she did notice him, but still, the width of the lap lanes easily held two side by side swimmers.

CC, on the other hand, as PP found out later, had a less welcoming experience than PP’s Pilates Curious Women.

Evidently, when CC had gotten in the lane, there’d been a boy swimming in her lane. CC asked if she could share. The kid just nodded and swam away. Then the father jumped in, nearly on top of CC, so she decided to move to the next lane.


The woman who was hogging the wide lane next to the boy and dad was having none of this ‘sharing a lane.”
“Excuse me,” CC had asked. “Can I share your lane?”
The woman had glared at her, harrumphed, and then pointed to the kid/dad lane, “Why can’t you swim over there?”
Disbelief enveloping her, CC explained, “There’s a kid and his dad swimming over there (duh!) So there’s no room for me.”
No Share Woman shook her head, and repeated her query, “I don’t see why you can’t swim over there.”
“Is that a NO?” CC asked. “I just want to swim my mile.”
NSW grudgingly moved over, allowing CC to share, but it musta been a tense swim. Which was so too bad since this was their first time swimming at the Plunge and CC had wanted to come here for months.

When CC had told PP this story later, PP couldn’t believe it. “They can’t say no!”
“Yeah,” CC nodded. “It’s a public pool. Not some country club. I remember when I swam at 21 Hour Fitness in the City, you’d have to call up ahead of time and reserve your lane; you could only reserve 30 minutes at a time. But the regulars knew how to manipulate the system, get in good with the staff, so they’d reserve their time back to back even though technically this was against the 'rules'.”

PP nodded, told CC of the Hayward Plunge’s Reservation system. Of the Claremont Pool’s One per lane waiting ritual. Of KW getting shut out of 3 lanes at some pool in Marin till a smarmy gold chain guy let her in his lane. Of course.

Where did NSW think she was? The Richmond Plunge was in Richmond for Chrissakes! Not some hoity toity tony city!

Maybe NSW wished she were in Marin, or Claremont, or Monte Carlo. Maybe she thought she was special cuz she had been there first and she was a regular and who was CC horning in on her territory?


PP declared that they needed to revisit the Richmond Plunge. Seek out this Odiously Selfish Lane Woman. Find some kids and get them to jump in her lane. Then get some parents to jump in the lane too.

But before this, make sure that CC had her own lane next to hers. So when OSLW had to escape the family pandemonium, CC could smile sweetly and say, “Why can’t you swim over there?”

That’d show her, eh?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Cost of Color

"Here we are losing jobs and they're paying 4000 dollars a day on orange lights around the rotunda!"

PP glances down at DL lying dazed on the utopia shelf below her. DL’s a Giant’s Fan. Yes, with capital letters.

What’s more important?

PP isn’t gonna venture into this territory. But she will do her usual prompts to keep the ‘ball’ rolling.
”You meant the top of the city capital building?” PP isn’t quite sure what a rotunda is. It’s late; she’s already done her swim, and now Utopia. None of this helps her recall of architectural structures.
“Yes, that’s right,” Sandy nods. “I mean, okay, I have nothing against Lesbians but why do they have to light it up pink?”
Does DL shift slightly? Again, PP isn’t gonna drag her into the dialogue, at least not yet.
“Why pink?” PP asks.
“That’s a good question,” Sandy says.
“It’s because of the Nazis,” DL helps now. “They used pink triangles to identify gays and lesbians during the War.”

“Really?” PP asks, not ever having heard this before. Not that Nazi history is a particular interest of hers. In fact, she hates Nazi stuff. But doesn’t everybody?

Well, no, some people are fascinated by it. Why PP knows of one person who….oh but she transgresses. Back to Utopia.
“Yes, it was a Witch Hunt,” DL says solemnly.
“Oh,” PP pauses, “yes, I knew that.”
“I didn’t realize,” Sandy says.
“Yeah, I never knew that pink symbolized anything other than that pretty girlie girl thing.”
Sandy nods, “Yes, and boys are blue. Starting at birth.” She rises and slowly makes her way out of the sauna. "The things one learns in the sauna" she sighs. “Good night ladies,” and waves at them before opening the door and letting herself out.
“I’m hot,” DL says. “I gotta get outta here.”

PP nods, thinking that she’s gotta get out of here too. All those colors are making her queasy.

Orange for Baseball.
Pink for Lesbians.
Blue for Boys.

Green for solar.
Purple for Barney.
Red for Passion.

Wait, that last one isn’t a thing. It’s an idea.

But then isn’t the pink for Lesbians also an idea?

Of course it is.

And it’s worth much more that $4000 a night…..

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Is It Real? (Part II)

“You need to get out of here NOW!” Sexy Latina Clerk was having none of PP’s usual dilly dallying round getting dressed.

Not like PP was. Dilly dallying that is. With the shrieking HONK HONK HONK of the fire alarm and her (imagined?) smelling of smoke out at the pool, she was going as fast as she could.

But as any swimmer knows, there’s a LOT of stuff involved. The peeling off the suit (No, she didn’t even consider taking a shower –duh), drying off, putting clothes on. Collecting the cap, ear plugs, mask, water bottle, etc.

“Just wrap a towel around you!” SLC hollers over the alarm as she runs up and down the aisles of the locker room, making sure everyone is out.

Yeah, right, like PP is just gonna wrap a towel around herself, soaking wet, and run upstairs and stand naked (under the towel) in the freezing cold night fog of the Hilltopia parking lot.

Fire or no fire, she was gonna at least put her clothes on first.

And she did, skipping most of the drying off, and tossing her junk into her swim bag, wondering (for only a moment) if she’d lost her earplugs.

No one else was in the locker room. The frantic mom and kid had evacuated minutes before. While PP was impressed with her own 3 minute quick change, it was nothing compared to the panicked mom rescuing her child.

And so, out PP goes, up the stairs, into the night where a little crowd of YMCA’ers are hanging around, chatting, bouncing basket balls, shuffling aimlessly.
A couple of the clerks come out with piles of towels, “Does anyone need a towel?” PP stood for a moment, surveying the scene. The crowd was decidedly unpanicked.

It certainly didn’t appear that the facility was burning down. On the other hand, even if it weren’t, how long would it take for them to figure it out? By the time they did, it’d be 9:30 and she’d have no time to swim cause the pool would be closed.

Or even if they did figure it out in time enough for her to swim, she’d still have to wait out here in the freezing cold with wet hair and damp clothes on for who knows how long.

Two fire engines come roaring into the parking lot, lights flashing, sirens screaming, firemen jumping out.


PP wasn’t gonna wait. Sure she was curious if the place was really on fire, but…..

She would surely get a shooting pain earache if she stood out in the cold wind with her wet head much longer.

And so, she stalked off to the Geo, followed by a few other workout quitters.

Maybe some might think a fire was the perfect excuse to get out of working out?

Perhaps. For PP, as any of you can guess, the entire episode was beyond crankiness.

She almost hoped the place did burn down.

Except then she’d never see David Cassidy’s smiling face anymore.
Or Autistic Dad’s friendly wave.
Or Swedish Accent Woman’s spastic backstroke.

Okay, she could live without the last one, but you get the drift.

Pulling out of the parking lot, she heads out Lakeside Dr, and then turns up the hill, just as another fire engine comes roaring down toward the Y.

Maybe it really was on fire?

Nah, she couldn’t believe this. But yet…. The evidence was compelling. The alarm. The smoke. (Well, maybe) The evacuation. The fire engines.

Honestly, she’d never been part of such a real fire alarm production.

It woulda been kinda thrilling if she hadn’t missed her swim.

Maybe it was thrilling anyway?

No. Definitely not, as she got on the wretched dark frwy and headed back home, fighting back the teary disorientation that was starting to take over from an interrupted swim.


“Hilltop YMCA. This is Marina speaking. How can I help you?”
“I’m just calling to make sure the place didn’t burn down last night. Obviously, since you answered, it’s still standing.”
Mariana laughs nervously. “Oh, yeah, I heard about that. No, the place didn’t burn down. We’re still here.”
“So what happened? Why did the alarm go off?”
“Some kid pulled it.”

PP shook her head into the phone. Duh. She knew this, but how could she have argued this last night amid all the pandemonium? “That’s what I figured,” she says now.

“Yes, well, we’re gonna send out a survey to see if we can find out who did it.”
PP laughs. Yeah, right, like some kid is gonna confess to his/her parents? Or even if the kid did confess, the parents would report their kid?

What would be the consequences? Would the kid be banned from the YMCA for life? Would the parents have to foot the bill for the Richmond Fire Department’s two responding engines? Would PP get the privilege of drowning the little monster?

It was a stupid idea.
But somehow so YMCA.

“Okay, well, thanks,” PP says now, “I can swim today.”
“Yes, the pool is open. Thanks for calling the Hilltop YMCA."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It is Real?

~Part I~

It was a swimmer’s dream. The pool was absolutely empty with the exception of one quiet (very unusual) family floating about in the rec lanes.

No one was swimming laps. The water was smooth and inviting. PP couldn’t believe her good luck. This never happens, well almost never.

David Cassidy Lifeguard gave her his hearty excited wave as he invited her to partake of the empty pool. PP felt almost giddy. Friday night after a long week; the pool was going to be perfect.

She slipped into the silky smoothness and began her gliding stroke.


Her mask started to leak! Damn! So cranky! And she’d just bought it. Brand new and it leaked? Yet, she could manage this. Stopping at the wall every few laps and dumping the excess water out. It was a pain, but still, the pool was all hers and this is what really mattered!


The noise was deafening.
What the hell was going on?
She stopped mid lap and looked over at David. He was in a flurry of activity. Trying to get the family out of the pool.

“YOU HAVE TO GET OUT!” he hollered over the noise.
“What?” PP continued to stand, mid lane. Did he really say she had to get out? Without finishing her swim? Why she’d only been in 10 minutes. Only done maybe three or four hundred yards.

She couldn’t get out.
“It’s the fire alarm."
“You’re kidding?”
He shook his head as PP swam over to the edge and clambered out, wet, cold, mad and puzzled.
The fire alarm? He was making her stop swimming over a stupid fire alarm?
Since when does anyone pay attention to a fire alarm?

PP has been teaching for so many years, and sure every quarter or so, the alarm will go off.

Does anyone pay attention, let alone evacuate the premises?

She remembers recently reading in her office when an alarm went off. It was obnoxiously persistent, so she wandered out into the hallway. No one was around. She moseyed over to the librarian to ask, “What’s that noise?”
“Sounds like a fire alarm,” he told her.
“That’s what I thought…..” She paused. “Shouldn’t we see if there’s a fire?”
He laughed. “I don’t think there’s a fire, but if it would make you feel better I’ll go check it out.”
And he did, PP following behind him down the long hall, down the stairs, till the culprit noise was located behind a locked door.
“Yup, here it is. I’ll get someone to unlock the door and turn it off.”
“So it just went off because….”? she ventured.
He laughed. “They go off sometimes. Don’t know why. But nothing to worry about.”

And so, this night at Hilltopia when the alarm went off, PP was just gonna ignore it. But David Cassidy wouldn’t have it. She had to get out of the pool.

What the hell was she gonna do? Was she supposed to evacuate into the dark cold Richmond night till the fire dept arrived?
“Where do I go?” she asked David.
He ran to ask his boss, who must have communicated the obvious fact that the building needed to be completely evacuated.
“Grab your stuff and get outside,” David hollered at her over the deafening noise.
"Do you think there's really a fire?" she asked.
"I hope not," he said, before running back to take care of some important evacuation procedure.

PP shook her head, was this really happening? In all of her many many many years of lap swimming, she’d never been booted from the pool because of a fire alarm.

Yet…..Was that smoke that she smelled?

Shivering, PP hurried into the locker room, shaking her head, but also just a little worried that it might all be real…..

~To be continued~

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Pool Renovation?

“What’s up with the cold air blowing on the far end of the pool?” PP asks the New Cutie Lifeguard after her freezing swim at the Oakland Y.
“Yeah, some other people have complained about that. It’s part of the renovation….”
“It’s part of the Renovation to freeze all the swimmers out of the pool?”
He laughs. “Yeah, it is cold. I was teaching a swim lesson the other day and I definitely felt it.”
“So, are they gonna fix it?”
He shakes his head. “I think they’re working on it.”
PP likes this answer. It works for almost everything doesn’t it? She can’t think what right now. But she’s working on it.

“What is the purpose of this Renovation”? she asks instead of commenting on the working time frame.
“It’s supposed to get rid of the mold on the ceiling.” He grins.
PP laughs. “You’re kidding?”
“I know. They think that if they blow air on the ceiling that it will help.”

“That seems like such a good idea,” PP jokes as Swim in her Shoes woman, who’d been sharing her lane, approaches. “Did you hear what he said about the cold air blowing on us?” PP asks S in HSW.
“No, what did he say?”
“He said it was to get rid of the mold on the ceiling.”
“Oh, yeah, right. Why the hell don’t they just clean it off and then give it a fresh coat of paint?”

Why not indeed?

Later PP tells DL about the Arctic Air blowing on the pool and she just shakes her head and says, “Typical Oakland.”

The next day, PP gets a message in her email alerting her to an EMERGENCY POOL CLOSURE. Oh, how surprising. Something to do with mechanical failure and flooding that caused them to close the pool indefinitely.

Was the Giant Arctic Air Blowing Renovation part of the mechanical malfunction? she wonders.

PP has no idea.

But she's sure they're working on it....

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

3 Tales from the Bijou Pool at Tahoe

I: Priorities

PP’s so excited to be back in South Lake Tahoe and headed for the Bijou Pool. Swimming under the pines. Under the bright moon. In her own lane....

Until…..She gets there and whoa!

It’s crowded!

What the hell is up with that? When she’d swam here before it'd been calm and empty. Tonight there’re at least two swimmers in each lap lane and a full group of ‘water aerobics’ women taking up the rest of the pool.

Plus it was freezing!

Of course this is to be expected. After all, she was in the high sierras. But still……how could there be so many swimmers in such cold conditions?

The Tahoe swimmers must be a hardy bunch.

She dives in, sharing a lane with two other women, then one gets out and she’s just splitting a lane with Tattoo Bikini Jockette. She’s not such a great swimmer, kinda crooked and splashy, but hell she looks good and isn’t that at least some of what swimming is about?

Afterwards in the locker room, still freezing after her hot shower (and yes, thankfully it was hot), PP watches as one of the Water Aerobic Women attempts to detangle her hair. “Oh, bother!” she exclaims, chuckling.

“Yeah,” PP grins, “that’s the hard part for me. The tangles.”
“Yes, well…” She sighs, continuing to tug at her wet tresses. “For awhile I colored the grey, but then I decided not to bother.”

PP had been admiring the color. The grays and whites and blacks all streaked together. “It’s wonderful as it is!”

WAW smiles, slowly, then shakes her head, “Well, I decided that really it was more important for me to worry about losing weight before I worried about the color of my hair.”

They both laugh, even though PP always feels a bit self-conscious 'round dieting women, being slim herself. Yet it did seem that the priorities were something WAW had thought about. “I’ve already lost 37 pounds!” she exclaims, beaming.
“That’s great!” PP says. “The water exercise helps, I bet!”
“Oh yes, it does. Though I need to come more often. I try to make it 3 times a week but…..”
“It’s cold!” PP offers.
She frowns. Then shrugs. “Yes, I suppose. Though that’s not what stops me. I just seem to have a hard time getting here is all.”
“I get that!” PP laughs. “Especially if you’re coloring your hair.”
“Remember! I was gonna hold off on that!” she grins, collecting her stuff off the bench and packing it up.
“Have a nice evening,” she calls back to PP as she exits the room.
“Thanks, you too,” PP says, as she heads to the mirror and begins the arduous process of her own detanglement.

II. Sharing

Night two at the Bijou Pool. This night is not as crowded. DHBF has dropped PP off for her swim so he can go to the store for dinner supplies (See why she keeps him around? Chauffeur, Shopper and Chef all wrapped into one handsome package!)

But again, it’s COLD! So PP has to snag a lane lickety-split before she loses her nerve (Actually the water itself is fine, she guesses 'bout 82 degrees, but the air? It’s heading for that low of 34 that’ll it’ll reach later)

One person swims in each of the three lanes. A flopping on his back elderly gent. A speedy bikini woman (What is it with the Tahoe bikinis? PP knows that these racing suits are made but it’s been awhile since she’s seen them—no one at the YMCA dons such attire), and finally, a bald headed guy. (Isn’t his head cold, she wonders)

PP chooses the bikini woman (naturally). “Excuse me, can I share the lane with you?”
BW stares up at PP through her foggy goggles, nods and then smiles. “You can have the lane.” She dives under the lane line to join Bald Swimmer. “We’re together.”

“Really?” PP is astounded. No one ever deserts her lane at the YMCA. Everyone clings to the lane if she’s lucky enough to have scored one to herself. Then don’t look at the person wanting to get in and share. Don’t wait at the wall and ask if they want to join. Let alone offer to hand over the lane.

So, PP is completely happily surprised by such gracious generosity. Is it something to do with the Alpine Air?

Maybe, as she hops into the lane and zooms down it gleefully by herself.
Or maybe it just has to do with the fact that the two of them really are ‘together’.

III By Myself

She’s only about 6? Maybe 7? Tadpoling down the center of the lane on the last night that PP is in Tahoe. Her bright red flowered suit reminiscent of a tropical fish.

Okay, PP thinks. A kid. But this kid seems serious. She’s really swimming laps.

There’s a bunch of kids in the other half of the pool tonight instead of the Water Aerobic Women. But none of them are swimming laps. They’re all just doing the usual kid stuff: screaming, splashing, fighting.

But Red Suit Girl will have none of this. When she stops at the wall, PP asks if she can share her lane. She nods, smiles shyly and then takes off back down the lane doing a mighty underwater breaststroke.

As PP swims, she notices that the kid keeps on going, rarely stopping. But at one point they are both at the wall turning, so PP praises her, “You’re a really good swimmer!”
She beams.
“Are you on a swim team?”
“Me neither,” PP says. “Do you like to swim alone?”
“Yeah,” she nods, her eyes sparkling.
“Me too,” PP grins.

And she watches Swim Alone Kid take off again, reminding PP of herself at that age, swimming back and forth and back and forth for what seemed like hours in the wonderful backyard pool of Hacienda Heights, reveling in the solitary freedom of it.

Which is part of what swimming is all about. Where else can you be immersed in the floating deliciousness of the water, surrounded by only its embrace, even if you're sharing with a fellow lap swimmer or a like-minded kid, and still feel completely and blissfully alone?


PP grins to herself as she plunges after Swim Alone Kid, enjoying the company, the moon, and herself in the beautiful Pool Bijou....

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Channeling Esther

“That’s a BEAUTIFUL breaststroke you have there!”

PP continues her Esther Williams backstroke. She’s been practicing this elegant pretence since seeing Esther in Neptune’s Daughter. Esther swims gracefully, effortlessly around in coy circles as Ricardo Montabahn proclaims his undying love for her. Of course, Esther is safe in her little pool. Until Ricardo threatens to dive in after her……

Don’t worry, PP is not going to give away the entire scene!

But the reality is that PP’s backstroke is a pale imitation of Esther’s. It’s never been her forte. The only way she can do it at all, besides channeling Esther, is by donning her big fins to help keep her afloat.

“HELLO!!!!” Breaststroke Mistake Woman hollers more loudly at PP. “I said, ‘You have a BEAUTIFUL breaststroke!’”

PP stops at the wall and grins over at the pale eager moon face, eyes shining, nodding in rapt admiration.

PP wonders….should she tell BMW that she’s actually swimming the backstroke?

Nah, PP just nods, smiles sweetly, “Thanks,” and, then dives under the water for her favorite stroke: The Breaststroke.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Gram Swims Backwards!

“Soon, you’ll be swimming, Gram!” PP jokes as she stares down at her Gram, so small and frail in her pile of pillows after her harrowing 'episode' in the hospital last week. Now she’s home, resting at Uncle Joe’s as PP, DHBF and Ruthie (PP’s mom) visit.

Gram laughs, her bright blue eyes twinkling behind her wire-rimmed glasses. “Oh, no!” she giggles, “I don’t swim.”
“Yes you do,” PP asserts. “Don’t you remember?”
Gram shakes her head. The ‘episode’ of the last week has taken a toll on her. Not just her memory, though this is what seems to bother her the most,but her entire self, body and soul has shrunk dramatically.

Of course, this is to be expected. Still PP can’t help but be so very sad that her Gram may be …….

But tonight, Gram is in fine form. Why, PP’s jokes were welcome and definitely encouraged.

“I don’t remember ever swimming!” Gram exclaims.
“Well, you did,” PP grins. “Remember our pool in Hacienda Heights?”
Gram nods, “Yes, I do.”
“Well, I remember one afternoon, you came in the water with me and Paula and Laura (PP's sisters) and we were all laughing so hard because you were swimming backwards!”
“I was?” Gram shakes her head, smiling.
“Yup. It was really funny. We were all in the water and urging you to swim towards us, but whenever you took a stroke for some reason you went backwards instead of forwards!”
Gram laughs, “That’s just what I’m doing now!”

They all laugh. It’s true. Gram’s ‘backwards memory’ of the past is crystal clear. She remembers the color and pattern of the dress she wore (green with black dots) and who was there (her brothers Wilfred and Wycliffe and their wives and children all of whom she can list off--- on the other hand, PP can’t remember them at all!); where they were (at the ranch in Oak Glen) and the time of day (it was late afternoon, round 4 p.m. before mom got supper ready….)All of this taking place over 50 or 60 years ago.

PP marvels at this memory of the past. Esp. since her memory is so awful. She can barely remember what she had for breakfast that morning even though it was only 3 hours ago and even though she always eats the same thing!

But the swimming backwards memory seems to be PP’s alone. Gram has no recollection of it, though she does believe it.
“Well, if you say that I swam backwards, then I swam backwards!” she laughs, shaking her head and staring up at PP from her throne of soft pillows. Her look is long and loving. PP stares back, trying not to cry.

The memory of swimming backwards does help with tear prevention.

If only PP could use this strategy for all of her tearful inclinations!

“Did I tell you about the time that your Aunt Nancy saved your cousin Leora from drowning?” Gram begins, launching into another story.
“No, I’ve never heard that one!” PP encourages, taking Gram’s frail hand into her own.
Gram grips her hand tightly as she begins, “Leora was just a little girl. Oh! She must have been only 7 or 8 years old and your Aunt Nancy, you know how she was such a good swimmer, she saw that Leora was in trouble and so she raced out to the middle of the lake and…..”

Tears start to well up in PP’s eyes, but she wipes them away.

This is no time for weeping!

After all, Gram has a story! Leora is going to be saved by Aunt Nancy!

And Gram's story will certainly save PP....

Thursday, September 02, 2010


The Ugly Stick had bonked the hot tub at the Berkeley Y big time!

PP keeps swimming in the freezing B Y pool. She hates this pool. It’s always cold! But it was the only choice since the stupid Oakland Y closed their pool and in fact the entire facility for the week—so DL and PP had ventured into the land known as Bezerkely.

Now, trying to keep her muscles from completely freezing up on her, PP keeps an eye on the hot tub. Yet… she said, the Ugly Stick had been working overtime. At least a dozen Ugly Stick Men were lounging about in the tub, their scraggly beards wet and stringy, their paunchy stomachs hairy and wet, their….

Okay you get the idea.

PP doesn’t want to make you sick.
(What is it about Berkeley and the Ugly Stick? Later in Utopia, PP mentions this to DL and she just nods and pronounces: “It’s the Smug Lack of Hygiene Aspect.”)

Yup. PP doesn’t want to take a hot tub with this Aspect, yet no one seems to be leaving and she’s getting colder and colder and colder till, finally she has to get out of the pool and venture over to the tub.

Is there room for her?

She’s super cold and afraid. Wishes that DL were with her, but knows that DL had had enough of the Berkeley Male Aspect. Earlier they’d ventured up to the Free Weights room, had stood at the door, staring in at the torture machines, unsure if this was the right spot. A Berkeley Groovy Guy with snow white hair and too tall legs in too short shorts sneaks up behind them. “You can go in!” he exclaims. “We can?” PP asks. Like they need his permission? “Absolutely!” he cries and then opens the door for them. DL gives PP a look like she’s gonna explode.

PP remembers this look from the first time she met DL at Polar Bear ice cream on 4th of July when the line was out the door and all the idiot tourists couldn’t make up their minds if they wanted a ‘sugar cone or a natural cone.’

So, tonight, with this look, DL and PP go into the Free Weight room, Too Tall Absolutely Man heads in ahead of them, ignoring them now. “What a sexist!” DL hisses. PP laughs, but knows that it’s serious really. Berkeley. So politically correct?

“He’s a Fem Perv” DL asserts later in Utopia.

What an apt description. Only a Poet Feminist would come up with this.

Anyway, back to the hot tub full of many Fem Pervs no doubt, PP climbs in, squeezing between a withered African American Hot Tub Elder and a pasty goat teed pasty blob.

“The gang is all here, my man!” AAHTE calls out to no one in particular. PP smiles in spite of her discomfort. Glad that she wasn’t really a part of this gang on a regular basis. One night was enough as she watches an emaciated Santa Claus pontificate as only Bekeleites can do about the lack of education in ……blah blah blah….

PP really misses Aquatopia in Oakland with the hilarious naked ladies that are familiar territory. It’s hard to be in a new place.

And so it is that they don’t know anyone and no one really talks to them till they’re getting dressed at the end of the night, PP trying to gather all of her crap up out of her locker, off the floor, out of the towel, DL lying comatose on the bench when a Pleasant Pasty Woman lumbers into their aisle.

Hurriedly PP tries to move all of her shit. “Sorry, I don’t need to be takin' up the entire bench,” she apologizes.
“That’s ok,” PPW nods, watching as PP piles her Swim a Mile bag to the brim.
“Your stuff does not all fit in your bag,” PPW observes.
“Yeah, why is that?” PP laughs. “It expands. Must be the wet swimsuit.”
She nods, understanding. “And your fins. They don’t fit in your bag?”
“Nah, I have to carry them. The expansion is too much.”

She laughs.
“And the expanded weight is so hard for me to carry,” PP grins, “esp. since I’ve gotten smaller!”
They all laugh, even DL who’s woken up from her coma.

Later, walking to the car, DL comments on PP’s ‘joke’ and how before this exchange they hadn’t talked to anyone. “But I guess we don’t know anyone here at Berkeley,” she muses.

“We know Laughing at Expansion Woman!” PP exclaims.
DL laughs.
”And Fem Perv Man!”

DL wrinkles her nose, “Where’d you park?”
Laughing, PP points to the Geo down the block as they head toward DL’s car.

Mad as Hell!

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” Remember that line? Remember that movie? Network , right? What was everyone so ma...