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...