Sunday, December 18, 2011

Arividerchi Richmond

Since PP has had negative writing time for the last several weeks, and she’s leaving for Italy imminently, she’s going to summarize the highlights or give the highlights or offer summaries....Hell, you know what she means.

Here’s 3 PP stories that never got written:


Russian Cat Lady

PP has been in a dither about what to do with her cats while she’s in the Old Country. “You don’t want to leave him out in the cold, poor baby,” Sandy declares after PP explains her dilemma about the cat peeing in the house when she’s gone; the raccoons intruding the house if the cat door’s left open; the bitter cold and rain if he's left outside for 3 weeks.

From her left, PP hears her. The Scoff. As she finishes up her naked downward dog in Utopia. The scorn in her scoff is as thick as her accent, “Cooold? You think this is cold?” She turns sideways, stretching a round white limb over her head, “In Russia, the cats. They are outside all of the time. They know cold. Here, it is not cold.”

“Very true,” Sandy nods, “but you can’t turn a housecat into an outdoor cat even in Northern California.”
“How do the cats in Russia do it?” PP asks. “Do they have extra thick Russian Cat Fur?”
Russian Cat Lady eyes PP for a moment, serious, considering just how much Russian Cat Lore to divulge.
“Those cats, in Russia, they are outside. But....” she pauses; it’s here that PP knows Something Bad happens to Those Russian Cats. She doesn't want to hear it. RCL intuits this. Russians: They are Intuition. At least according to Tolstoy. Or maybe it's just according to PP.

Sandy leaps in, “Yeah, well, I’m sure that those Russian Cats are Some Bad Ass Cats. They don’t let a little cold get them down.”
RCL nods, lets loose a little smile.
“Yes, they are...Bad Ass Cats. That is very good way to describe.”
She sighs deeply, picks up her towel and saunters out of the sauna.

DL’s eyes are wide as she inhales her pale shapeliness. Later, when PP brings up RCL, DL just grins, “She was stupendous.”

My Lifeline

“Oh, Baby, it feel so good in here!”
PP nods, sighing inside Hilltopia after another ‘cold’ swim. Not as cold as Russia, she’s sure, but for her, if the pool isn’t at least 84 in the middle of December,’s cold!

“I been in that water for a whole hour,” she chuckles, letting her cane fall on the bench as she plops down.

PP had seen her in the pool. In the walking lane. Her bright blue turban matching her royal blue suit. A large white bandage on the side of her sunken below the color bone area. The brown skin withered and ancient around the band-aids.

PP thinks she musta just had some surgery and she was in the pool for her water therapy. Post Surgery Walkers love the walking lane at Hilltopia.
“An hour!” PP exclaims, impressed. She can never last that long. Gets way too cold.
“Ummm....yes ma’am. And then I was up on them machines for a hour and half.”
“Wow! That’s amazing!”

“Ouch!” Hour Walker cries, reaching up to her face and pulling at her ear. “That gets so Hot in here! My earring.”
“Oh, no!” PP eyes her anxiously, “I bet. You okay?”
“Oh, yeah, don’t you worry. I be fine. I just need to tuck it up here offa my neck and then it don’t bother me little granddaughter, she tell me, 'Grandmamma. Just take it nice and slow.'” She laughs softly, shaking her head.

“She’s got it right,” PP says, still worried that she’s going to have to peel some hot metal off of this frail grandma’s neck.
“There! That’s it!” She sighs, sits back against the wall, pats her band-aid. “And my arthritis. That can be the clincher!”

“Do you ever take that Arthritis Water exercise class?” PP asks. “Rusty Hinges?”
She laughs, “No, baby, I can’t do none of that. I gotta keep my self dry here.” She pats the band-aid, thick and white and clean and dry.
“I’m on dialysis. This here is My Lifeline. I can’t get it wet.”
“Oh, of course not,” PP murmurs, wondering how the hell people do it. Here she is complaining about the pool being a less than ideal temperature and other people. On dialysis. Shit.
“Yes, 13 hours a day,” she nods, closing her eyes.
Did she really say 13 hours a day? PP can’t remember now, but it was a lot of time and she seemed so blissful about it.
Pool Therapy. Will do it every time.
And for PP, as you all know, it’s her Lifeline.


Happy Christmas

“Oh, my that’s a pretty suit! You mind if I ask you where you got it? I been looking all over for a suit and I just for the life of me can’t find one near as pretty as that one. I went over to Big 5 cuz I thought, well they’re a sporting good store and swimming is a sport and I did find one that I liked, but it was a used one and I just didn’t’ think that was right for me,” she finishes, giggling softly, her round brown belly jelly between her silver brassiere and black panties.

PP had never heard about used suits at Big 5. In fact, she thought that this must be wrong, but hell, she wasn’t gonna question it. Maybe they do sell used suits at Big 5 and she just didn’t know about it.

In any case, Round Belly Woman was right about one thing. A used swimsuit is wrong.

“I’m not sure where this suit is from,” PP answers the original query instead. “A friend of mine got if for me. I think she goes to Ross.”

RBW nods, “Ross, okay. That’s a good idea. I didn’t think of them.”
“Yeah, but I dunno, it’s winter now and they may not have swimsuits,” PP laughs. “Even though we all still swim in the winter.”

Chuckling, RBW nods, “That we do. That we do. And I know it’s time for me to get a new suit. Mines is getting all stretched out and you can see....” She pauses, grinning, or at least PP thinks she must be grinning though it’s hard to tell in the darkness of Hilltopia.

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” PP saves her from the embarrassing description that every swimmer knows. The point where the suit reveals the butt crack.

Gross! PP can’t believe she just wrote that.

“You have yourself a Happy ..... Christmas” RBW seems to hesitate, just for a moment before the word ‘Christmas’—like no one is supposed to say this anymore in case we’re not all Christians? Hell, PP has never been a Christian, but she has no problem with being wished a Merry Christmas. It’s the sentiment, right?

You’d think.

And PP does. At least today, “You have yourself a Happy Christmas too,” PP answers.
RBW beams. “Thank you, I will.”

And PP wishes all of her readers and all of her non-readers a Happy Christmas too while she’s in Italy.

How do you say it in Italian?

Arividerchi Richmond!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Maria Bello's Pool Therapy

“Betcha can’t hold your breath underwater as long as me!” Maria Bello taunts Traumatized Child.
TC takes the bait, forgetting her trauma for a moment.
Pool Therapy. It works every time, esp. with Maria as the Therapist.

Maria’s eyes gleam, her sleek head wet from diving into the seedy motel pool. Before dunking under, she teases TC with one last challenge, “I was the Champion in my neighborhood for holding my breath underwater! Ready? 1....2.....”
TC smiles, engaged for the first time since her ordeal. The pool will do that. Make you forget for a little while.

“3!” Maria and TC dunk under the pool's shimmering surface at exactly the same time. Now the camera is underwater. Blue murky foggy white limbs flailing under the surface. Bubbles rising as both Maria and the child struggle to stay under. PP begins to count silently to herself as she watches the scene, riveted, on the bed next to DL and Owen Hill. One one thousand....two one thousand....three one thousand....
Maria and TC are still underwater.....facing each other in a breathless standoff. Their white flailing limbs eerie and other worldly.

24 thousand...25 thousand....PP continues to count to herself. Could the scene really be going on this long? Or is she back in Hacienda Heights, with her sisters, playing a similar challenge?

Maria pops up first, a split second before TC. She shakes her noble head, sputtering spray out and into the crisp cool air, the steam rising from the outdoor pool as TC pops up.
“Why would someone do that?” TC begins, loudly, poignantly. She’s not spoken since the event. “Why would someone kill my parents like that? Why would someone shoot them in the stomach in the head in the eyes?” she pleads, her eyes shinning, the wet drips beading on her forehead.

Maria takes her into her arms, enveloping her, “Shhh’s okay. I don’t know, Sweetie. I don’t know why anyone would do that. But I’m going to find out. I can promise you that....Okay?”
TC nods, rests her head on Maria’s shoulder as Maria strokes her wet hair.

And PP, DL and Owen Hill sit on the bed, stunned. DL’s gf, RQ is silent. They’ve all just been witness to the healing power of the pool.

PP cracks a joke about this and they all laugh, relieved. It is, after all, only a TV show. Maria Bello plays a tough ass detective; the TC is a talented child actress; the bodies of her parents, bloody and lifeless, aren’t real.

But yet, the pool scene. It felt so real. The child hadn’t spoken until this scene. The trauma was too much for her. But Maria knew the answer. Go for a swim. Play a game in the pool. It’ll help. It’ll heal.

So, PP thinks, after seeing this scene, that this is what she needs. Pool Cure for her goddamn cold.

And so she gives it a try the next day. Swims her usual Hilltopia workout to the exercises of the Rusty Hinges and the tunes Nat King Cole.

She feels better afterwards. As she knew she would. Pool Therapy. It works.
But then the next day.Wham. She’s sicker than ever.
Did the swim relapse her?

Or did she just need Maria Bello to swim alongside her? Egging her on. “C’mon, PP, it’s just a Cold! What’s the big deal? You’re not really sick! Hell, it’s not like you just witnessed a double murder in a NYC hotel room, now is it?”

Yup, this is probably the difference. If PP had had Maria by her side, she’d be better today. Or at least inspired. Which is almost the same thing, isn't it?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jean Quan

Jean Quan looked dynamite in her backless leotard/skirt gym wear. Surprisingly so. PP admired her smooth bare brown back with various communication devices tucked into the waistband of her Hawaiian print skirt.

She was busy directing. Naturally. What else would the mayor of Oakland being doing at the downtown Oakland YMCA? Here in the upstairs Torture Machine room, the floor was rapidly being emptied of all of the broken machines. “That one there. Out with it!” Quan bellowed as two Y clerks hurried to do her bidding.

Jean marched around the rapidly expanding space. Hands on hips, surveying the scene. PP wondered how she had time to come to the Y given all that the City of Oakland was dealing with at the moment. Occupy Oakland and all of its myriad headaches had not been kind to Jean.

But she was undaunted. She knew that she still had Some Authority, goddammit. And if it wasn’t with those stupid protesters or her stupid police chief, then hell, she could show who’s Boss at the Downtown Oakland YMCA!

“Mrs. Quan,” a Timid Helper ventured toward her, holding a mangled fan. “Where do you....”
“It’s Mayor Quan to you, young man,” Jean commanded, “and don’t you forget it!”
“Yes, Ma’am...”

Jean frowned mightily at the Offending Youth, “I mean, yes, Mrs. Mayor....”

Sighing heavily, Jean shook her head, Did no one get it that she was in Charge? That what she said was Law? Maybe she needed to show them all just how serious she was about this business of revamping the Downtown Oakland Y. Sure she had her sleek workout ensemble on, and maybe this detracted from her authority. Or was it something else?

Jean scratched her head as she directed the OY to recycle the fan in the appropriate pile of discarded equipment.

Okay, she had to admit, even to herself, that maybe leaving town for the Big Protest hadn't been the swiftest of moves, but hell, isn’t that why she had a Chief of Police? Shit. If a Mayor can’t even leave town for one teeny weenie little political soiree, what was the use of all her power of office? And, yeah, okay, maybe she had said the Protesters could camp and then she’d said they couldn’t or .....

Hell, who cares! The Protesters, the Chief of Police, the City of Oakland be damned.

She had a Y to revamp and then a workout to complete before she could bother with such mundancities.

PP watched as Jean headed across the room to confer with a Too Fit Blonde (in Oakland?) Zumba Instructor, before wandering into another side room off the main big room; riveting as Jean was, PP had to check out the rest of the remodel situation.

Entering the empty blue walled room PP gasped, stricken. To her horror all of the pool equipment was piled forlornly in the corner. The kickboards. Pull buoys. Hand paddles. All tossed in a heap on the floor.

What did it mean? Was Jean gonna close the pool?

PP wouldn’t put it past her. She didn’t trust Jean at all. Sure she was the first woman mayor and sure she was the first Asian mayor, but obviously, Jean was not a swimmer; otherwise, she wouldn’t have been so quick to divest the pool of all of its lap swimmer accouterments.

“What are you doing in here?”

Startled, PP glanced round to confront Mayor Quan, whose brow was furrowed in furious frustration. PP wondered if this was because of her own transgression into the pool equipment room or if it were some permanent face situation from being mayor.

“I...” PP began. But what could she say? She was here to snoop around and she’d been caught red-handed. By the Mayor herself.

“Don’t give me that drivel!” Jean interrupted, pulling a threatening sort of instrument from out of her waistband. It was long and silver and pointed, looking suspiciously like ....a gun?

No, PP hadn’t done anything that bad. Hell, she was just leaving anyway. “I just was looking for the exit is all, Jean,” PP smiled her biggest kiss ass grin.

Quan continued to glare at her pointing what was definitely a gun into PP’s too close mug. “Do you think I’m an Idiot?” she demanded.
“Well...actually,” PP began, but then thought better of an honest response. “Of course not. I just was wondering why all of the pool equipment is up here in this room so far away from the pool and....”

”I see,” Quan sneered, “a Swimmer, are you?”

“Yes," PP spoke quickly, hoping to talk her way out of an increasingly bizarre situation, "and while I get what you’re trying to do here by getting rid of all the old and broken machines, I can assure you that this pool equipment is perfectly fine and has many good years of use left...”

”Shut up!” Jean commanded, waving the gun closer. “I say what stays and what goes. You got that? I’m sick and tired of everyone questioning my Authority. You people elected me and....”
“Actually, I think you came in second or was it third...” PP began.

Jean raised her arm, taking aim; PP stared down the barrel of the weapon, stopping in mid thought.


With a start, PP cried out. She'd been shot by Jean Quan? For coming to the defense of some inconsequential pool equipment. What had she been thinking? Kickboards and hand paddles weren't dying for!

It couldn't be!

And, of course, it wasn't.
It had all been a horrible dream. Or a hilarious dream. Depending on your point of view.

PP opted for the hilarious angle.

Especially since she was pretty goddamn sure that Jean Quan had never stepped foot in the downtown Oakland Y.

At least not in That Slinky Workout Getup. Though she didn't doubt that Jean could clean up the Oakland Y's dilapidated third floor weight room.

If only someone, anyone, would give her a chance.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Occupy the Swimming Pool

“I was trying to avoid talking to a certain someone who shall remain nameless, but earlier today, she asked me ‘What was going on up there’ in reference to the helicopters overhead.”

Sandy shakes her head, amused? Bemused? Disgusted?

“What did you tell her?” PP asks, not being able to help herself from questions even though she knows the possible consequences.
“I try not to have much truck with her, like I said, so I didn’t say anything, just beat a hasty retreat. You remember, Dexter?”
“I think so.” PP nods, pretending she knows who she’s talking about.
“Big handsome African American kid who worked the front desk?”
“Oh, yes,” PP lies.

“Well, one day, This Woman Who Shall Remain Nameless, she wants to go workout, and she has this kid too, 'bout 7 or 8, and she brings said kid up to the machines and puts him on a treadmill and Dexter sees this and says, 'Whoa Nelly, no way Jose. You can’t have the kid up here on the machines!' And so she just nods and starts fishing around in her bag and digs out some crayons and paper and starts to hand them to Dexter saying how he can just take her kid down to the front desk and watch him for her and Dexter says, ‘No way, Lady. Not in my job description'.”

Sandy chuckles at the memory. PP nods thinking of how Dexter was coming back to her now. Wasn’t he the one that came running into the women’s locker-room without warning when someone fainted in the hot tub? Hollering at the women to ‘Cover up! I’m coming in’ and then all the women were up in arms about his invading their sacred naked space even though he had good reason. Someone’s life was maybe in peril.

PP could ask Sandy if this was the same person. Sandy would remember. But PP decides against it this time.

“You know how at the end of the pool,” PP starts instead, “there’s a board with the Master’s Team work out?”
Sandy nods.
“It just lists the workout: 200 warm up. 200 kick. 200 free, etc.”
“Sure, of course.”
“Well at the bottom of the board today it said, “Occupy the Swimming Pool.”

DL cracks up, her brown belly happy in giggle. Sandy continues to sit for a moment, seemingly confused.
DL offers, “You know, Occupy Oakland, Occupy the Swimming Pool.”
Sandy grins, and then laughs slowly. “Ah, I see. Very clever.”
“Yes, I thought it was funny,” PP adds. “'Bout all I can handle. I know I wouldn’t be able to Occupy Oakland.”
“But the pool,” Sandy nods, “you can Occupy That.”

PP grins, suddenly tired, remembering how she'd had another conversation with Hilltopia Nurse the night before. Her accent inhibiting the content of the dialogue. “I listen radio tonight on way here and did you hear in Oakland they throw cannis….I’m not understand. What they throw. But the people their eyes were burning and their throats were sore and do you know why they do this?”

PP had been confused. What the hell was she talking about? Something 'bout the protestors in Oakland? Were the police throwing tear gas into the crowd? That’s what it sounded like. Could this be?

PP didn’t doubt it; and sure enough, when she got home and turned on the news this is what had happened.

What the hell was the City of Oakland thinking? Gassing the crowd? Shit.Though on the other hand, why were all these people camping out in front of Oakland’s city hall?

“It’s symbolic,” DL had explained. “They have a right to free assembly to protest.”
And of course, PP understands this, but….

You won’t catch her camping out anywhere, especially in downtown Oakland. In the middle of a huge crowd.

No showers. No TV. No pool.

Nope, she’s gonna stick to Occupying the Pool. She's all for the Symbolic, but when it comes to Occupations, it's the Pool and not the City for her.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stop Asking So Many Questions!

“Do you have plans for the weekend?”

Serene Latina sighs, deeply, sadly, palpably.

Damn, PP thinks, what the hell have I done? Something bad is gonna come out of her mouth and it’s my own damn fault. If I wasn’t always digging for stories, then whatever she’s gonna tell me, well…..I wouldn’t know.

Up till this moment the conversation had been Sauna Banal. SL and answered PP’s questions about tennis and its myriad intricacies. Did she play singles or doubles? (Singles) How long has she been playing? (Off and on for over 20 years) Where did she play? (Some league in Contra Costa County that PP had never heard of and so it went immediately out of her brain.)

Yet, underlying all of the banality, there had been an undercurrent of Something. PP had felt it the moment SL had entered the Sauna. She’d thought, well, maybe she’s been ill or maybe she’s been working too much or maybe one of her kids went off to college or…..

Who knows? PP had ignored her first intuition and gone ahead and continued to probe with question after question and then with the ‘weekend plans’ question, the most banal of all, well, she’d stepped into it, hadn’t she?

“I actually have sad plans….” SL sighs again, softly, heavily. “…very very sad plans….”

Shit, PP thinks, this is worse than she’d anticipated. What the hell could it be other than a Tragic Death? Damn. PP does NOT want to hear about a Tragic Death, but now it was too late. She can’t take the question back. She has to listen and not start crying.

Or hope that SL doesn’t start crying.
Which she seems on the Verge of.

“My co-worker, I know her not that well, but I know her pretty well, and I have been working with her for 10 years only but this last week, her 21 year old son, he was killed in a car accident...."
“Oh, no!” PP exclaims softly. “How horrible. I’m so sorry.”

SL nods. “Yes, thank you. It is very sad. He was so young. And I feel like I knew him because I saw him grow up. At company gatherings he would be there when he was little and then over the years I saw him turn into a very nice young man and now…this weekend... I must attend his funeral on Sunday at 4....”

She pauses, sighs again. PP doesn’t respond. How can she? What can she say? It is horrible. 21 is so goddamn young. And then it all goes back to, strangely, what PP was thinking of earlier as she left work, walking out to her car through the darkening parking lot. “I could get into my car right now and get in an accident and that would be that.”

She had actually thought this this specifically only a couple of hours before.
What did such serendipity mean? It was strange. Not like PP had gotten into an accident. And not like she’d thought this before SL’s 21 year old Tragic Death accident, but still… was a little eerie.

PP believes in superstition. Not in any concrete way, but when Something happens that she had a feeling would happen, she’s not surprised.

So tonight, as she listens to SL tell her story about a life cut short, as cliché as that sounds, it doesn’t surprise her that she had known Something was wrong. PP barely knows SL; they’ve exchanged banalities a half a dozen times in the last few years, but yet, when someone feels this sad, you know it. It’s there and can’t be hidden.

Perhaps it would have come out even if PP hadn’t been asking all the questions?


Yet, PP thinks that she just better stop asking so many questions. It’s not healthy. For her.

Yet, maybe for SL, it was good to talk a little bit about the Tragedy to a stranger? Maybe.

Though PP doubts this. When tragedy strikes, it’s better to just stay home, cry a lot, and then go to the pool and swim and swim and swim and swim.....

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Oh Those Sisters!

“I don’t know why I’m telling you all this.”

And PP wonders this too. Why is it that many of the women in Utopia (or in this case, Hilltopia’s sauna) feel like they can tell her everything? If they only knew how she was writing it all down in her blog! Maybe they do know and they want to be part of a ‘story’?

PP doubts this. For whatever reason, she must be a sympathetic listener. Or at least sometimes, usually when she’s just finished swimming and she’s too tired and relaxed to interrupt. Though she’d be the first to admit that she encourages the ‘stories’. Which is exactly what she’s done today.

Chevron Woman has been on a Sister Rant for a good 15 minutes:

“I just got back from vacation. Well actually it wasn’t much of a vacation. I mean it was in a way, but well I just went to visit my sister. In Modesto. I’ve never been to Modesto. And she just really got on my nerves….”

“Why was that?” PP asks. “Just Sister Stuff?”

CW nods, “Yeah, just Sister Stuff. You know she’s just on my case about this Black Mold in my bathroom and I try to tell her that I don’t have time to deal with it. I work full time and so it’s hard to wait around for the contractor and then once the contractor’s there then you have to supervise them and then so I just don’t have the time.”

“Does she work?”

“No, no she used to. So she should get it. In fact there was this one time when we were all gonna drive to Disneyland and we all had to wait until she got off work at 5:30 even though that was right at rush hour but no she couldn’t get off early and so we all had to wait and so she should get it that I can’t just take the time off and deal with some contractor and I don’t even know if it is Black Mold I mean I would have to call someone and have him come out and investigate and then once he did I’d have to have him come back and do the work and well….”

Her voice trails off for a moment as she takes a breath. PP intercedes, “Well, she’s probably just concerned about you.”

“Yeah, she’s probably just concerned about me. You’re probably right, but still, I don’t have the money either it takes 1000’s of dollars to fix something like that, right?”
“I would imagine. I don’t know.”
“I would imagine too even though I don’t really know.”

PP observes how CW immediately clings to her rejoinders, repeating them verbatim. It’s like PP is leading a very receptive one-on-one tutorial with a student from China who is proving she knows the material by regurgitating it word for word.

“Anyway, I didn’t really want to talk about this when I was down there visiting it was my vacation after all and her husband didn’t seem to mind even though I thought he’d be bored with it and when she said that I could stay an extra day but then she said maybe her husband wouldn’t like me to stay an extra day and so I said okay, I can go but then she went out I don’t know where to the store or something and her husband came in and I asked him if he would mind if I stayed an extra day and he said sure no problem. So you see it was all her.”

“Oh those Sisters!” PP exclaims.

“Yes, Those Sisters!” CW repeats.

"And then I had to apply for vacation from my job way in advance and Management said that it was okay back in January but now that I’ve left they didn’t have anyone to fill in for me so we’ll see what’s piled up since I’ve been gone. It’s not my fault it’s Management’s Fault.”

“It usually is.”
“It usually is,” she repeats, nodding and then stops and stares at PP for a moment, “I don’t know why I’m telling you all this.”

Laughing, PP shrugs, “That’s okay. I don’t mind. Just go for a swim. That will help.”
“That will help!” She grins before shuffling down the slick hall past the showers to the pool.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Most Odious Child

“Come over here,” PP could barely hear the mother’s soft plea by the mirror, "and look how cute you are!"
“I DON’T WANT TO LOOK CUTE!!!” The Most Odious Child screeched. And at this point, PP had to laugh.

The MOC had been screaming, crying, and coughing for the entire time (about 20 minutes) that PP had been trying to get changed.

She was tired, it being a Friday evening after a long day in Unpleasant Hill. The air in her office had given her a sore throat and headache, so much so, that she’d thought she was coming down with something.

But she’d forced herself to go for a swim, telling herself how it would make her feel better. As it always does.

And it had.

Until the Most Odious Child had entered her Locker Room Reality.

When the child had first been crying, PP had thought, Okay, It’s tired and hungry and wet. It just needs to get home and be put to bed.

This is something that mystifies PP: why the hell are these small children swimming and screaming at the YMCA at 9:30 at night? Obviously, they’re not happy. They’re tired and whiny in the best of circumstances and Hellish and Odious in the worst.

MOC was just revving up. “I TOLD YOU I DON’T WANT TO DO THAT! WHY DID YOU....” Then some coughing and crying interrupted the Refusal. PP heard The Mom murmuring, but couldn’t make out her speech. She was so quiet. So calm.

On Valium?

PP has to wonder about this too. How is it that parents can just blithely go along, letting their children screech to their hearts' contents in the women’s locker room without blinking an eye? It’s like they have NO clue that the child is practicing Advanced Odiousity.

Must be nice, PP thinks as she cringes with the next wave of Screaming Protests, “I WON’T DO THAT! I DON’T LIKE YOU! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!!!!”

And the then clincher with “I DON’T WANT TO LOOK CUTE!”

PP was in the mirrored area during this last assertion. And she had to agree. MOC did NOT look cute. He was a sniveling, miserable, Red Nosed Monster. And sure, maybe he was dressed cutely in his little navy shorts and striped shirt, his dark brown hair cut neatly over his big blue eyes.

But cute?

No fucking way.

“He must be tired,” PP tried to half-heartedly commiserate with Valium Mom, who just gave PP a serene smile and nodded, before turning to fill a cup of water for the screeching child. “Here, Honey, have some water.”

For an instant MOC eyed PP, his eyes bright with malice. Then he swiveled round to eye the outstretched cup of water, before raising his fat little fist and knocking it out VM’s grasp.

“OH!” she cried, “That was not a nice thing to do!” the water splashing in an arc toward the open door.

MOC smirked, and then gave PP a very naughty grin, before dashing out of the locker room with VM in resigned pursuit.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Out of Control

PP watches in horror as Scraping Walker Woman’s Volvo lurches forward, out of control, at lightening speed, the engine gunning a horrific screeching. Over the curb, into the light post, the car comes to a halt, the tall pole vibrating back and forth from the impact. The car perches precariously on the embankment, the center of the old station wagon balancing on the curb between the upper and lower parking lots of the Hilltopia Y.

Shit. PP starts to run toward the accident. SWW must have hit the accelerator instead of the brakes. PP’s been wondering for years how SWW does it. She obviously has some sort of modification for the car so that she can operate it with her hands instead of her crippled legs. But yet, even so, PP has worried about just such an accident like the one she’s just witnessed. SWW’s coordination seems to be, at best, just a precarious as the Volvo’s balancing act right now.

A Compact Man in khaki shorts drops his gym bag into the open trunk of his car before rushing over to the scene, getting there way before PP. PP sees that SWW is talking to him, shaking her head, as he tries to help her out of the car.

“I’ll run for help!” she calls to them, before turning and heading back to the Welcome Center.

Damn, she thinks as she tries to pick up the pace. I can’t run for shit. Wish I were swimming instead to get help. That’d be hella faster. Swinging open the front door to the Y, she leans over the front desk.

“You all know H?” she interrupts two clerks deep in consultation over the computer screen.
“Sure,” Round Tall African American Youth nods, “she’s disabled.”
“Yeah, well, I hope she isn’t more so. She just had an accident in the parking lot. Drove right into the light post and.....” PP catches her breath as RTAAY takes charge, “Call 9-1-1” he instructs his co-worker before shooting past PP through the double door and out into the lot.

Why the hell didn’t she think of that? To call 9-1-1? It did not even occur to her. She blames the combination of her panic and phone phobia as she hurries after him.

He can run in spite of his solidness. And is there at the car well before PP.

As PP hurries after him; she slows as she approaches H’s situation. Then peers in.

H is rattled. Her glasses askew on her pale face. Her bright red lipstick smeared across her upper lip. Her eyes wide in agitation.
“Are you all right?” PP manages as she peers over Compact Man and AAY.
“I’m all right, I’m all right, I’m all right...” she repeats, her voice firm in spite of her shaking hands.
“Okay, well...” PP backs up. It does seem like she’s ok. Even though she’s understandably shook up.

Who wouldn’t be? But yet, PP realizes that such a near miss may be doubly horrific for H. Her crippled legs are a result of a botched surgery after a car accident. (At least this is what PP recalls overhearing many times in the locker-room.) So such a near miss as today’s must trigger all sorts of hellish memories.

Plus there’s the issue of her Independence. H is fiercely so. Whenever anyone in the locker-room asks if they can help her, she fires back: “I’m fine. I’m fine. Why does everyone think I need help?”

Maybe cuz you can barely walk and you’re grunting up a storm?

Yet PP gets it. Who wants to be asked if they’re okay over and over and over again? It must be so exhausting and frustrating.

So PP worries that with such an accident as today’s, she may not be able to drive herself, or even worse, she might have to ask for help to get to and from the pool after this.

Suddenly, PP hears the sirens. Lots of them. Then the fire truck, the ambulance, the police van and finally another ambulance all pile into the parking lot.

Wow. The city of Richmond comes through for H. But again PP worries that the police will take their report. Note how H couldn’t control her vehicle. And then pronounce her unfit to drive.

How horrific would that be for her?

PP knows that for H the pool at Hilltopia is her salvation. (As it is hers) That without this water workout, she’d be lost. Why she’d probably be relegated to sitting at home watching re-runs of Oprah if she couldn’t make it to Hilltopia. And while PP has heard she has a husband, she’s never seen any manifestation of said spouse. Wonders if, in fact, it’s true.

Why is this? It’s not like H couldn’t be married. But yet, there’s something odd about how he never is on the scene. Not even once has PP seen him bring H to Hilltopia.

PP wonders if he would. If it does turn out that H can’t drive anymore, will Ghost Hubby step up?

Pulling out of the lot, PP sees in her rearview mirror how the paramedics are helping H with her walker and how H is standing.

This is a good image to leave with.

A much better one than the one she began this story with: A battered old Volvo Station wagon, with a crazed looking woman at its helm, lurching scarily into the light post....out of control.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Professional Swimmer?

“We just love watching you swim,” Black Tank Suit Tank Woman gushes, leaning over the lane line as she walks alongside PP’s lane. “You swim so beautifully. So graceful. You don’t make a splash at all!” she laughs as Scraping Walker Woman passes by her, nodding in agreement.

“Thanks,” PP grins. She’s heard it before, but the compliments work for her. Especially from someone so charming. She’d not seen Black Tank Suit Woman before, round and soft, but there were so many like her at Hilltopia. They all partook of the water walking lane, chatting and chuckling. A real community of aqua walkers.

“Were you a professional swimmer?” BTSW asks.
“Uh….” PP’s not sure what this means. Who the hell is a professional swimmer? Like someone in the Olympics? But no, they were all ‘amateurs’ right? Maybe after the Olympics, when they’re on the cover of a box of Wheaties and get paid for their poses?

PP couldn’t even think of one Wheaties Box sporting a swimmer. Was Mark Spitz on Wheaties?
Probably, but that was eons ago. And she was hardly in his category. Still, she liked it that ‘professional’ was a possibility for a swimmer.

Then of course, Esther Williams did occur to her, but that was it.
Mark Spit. Esther Williams. PP.

Why not?

“You just swim so effortlessly,” BTTW continues, “not like us old slow swimmers!” She laughs, shy now.
PP doesn’t point out that actually BTTW isn’t swimming at all. Why burst her bubble? Instead she grins, “Hey, it’s being in the water that counts. Doesn’t matter how fast you swim!”
BTTW likes this, nods in agreement, “That’s right. Of course.”

And off she goes, catching up to Scraping Walker Woman, “Did you see that I was here a little later today?” SSW asks.
“No, no, I didn’t notice…..”

PP sometimes wishes she were a Walker, but then it just wouldn't be the same even though she might get more idle chit chat stories for her blog.

For now, she'd keep to her graceful rhythm.

Pushing off from the side of the pool, she dives into the middle of the lane, takes one long stroke and then another, stretching, reaching, swimming…smiling..

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lap Swimmers: Second Class Citizens @ Hilltop Y?

PP has had enough! After several weeks of lap swimmer disrespect, she's composed (and sent) a letter to the Director of the Hilltop YMCA Pool.

This took up her designated PP blog time, so she's just gonna post it for all her readers, many of whom she knows will sympathize!

Dear RJ,

I have had several instances in the past couple of weeks of lap swimming hours not being honored. These hours are very specific and limited; therefore, I would really appreciate it if you’d enforce these hours and not allow the families to ‘spill’ over into scheduled lap swimming times.

While I understand that it’s summer and the families want to play in the pool, the lack of consideration for the lap swimming hours is appalling. Your lifeguards need to be reminded that there is a schedule that needs to be adhered to; otherwise, what’s the point of having a schedule?

Here are three specific examples to show you how pervasive the problem is. Keep in mind that I am only one lap swimmer who swims perhaps 3-4 times per week. If this is happening to me this often, imagine how prevalent it must be during the rest of the week.
1) August 5, 2011: I arrived on Friday afternoon for the 4:30-7:30 lap swimmer hours at approximately 6:20 only to find a group of kids and their adult caretakers taking up one of the lap swimming lanes. The lifeguard must have allowed them to stay in the pool even though it was designated lap time. They did get out after about a half hour, but I have no idea how long they’d been allowed to use the lap lane.
2) August 6, 2011: I was swimming during the Saturday lap swim/adult swim lesson time that is held between 1-2. At approximately 1:40 (20 minutes still left of lap time) the lifeguard allowed a family with children to take over one of the lap lanes.
3) August 15, 2011: I waited until 8:30 p.m. (I have built my entire schedule to accommodate your limited lap swimming hours) in order to take advantage of the lap swimming hour (only one hour) offered from 8:30 to 9:30 pm. When I arrived on deck at 8:35, there were still several families and children in two of the lap lanes. When I asked the lifeguard if he was going to request they leave so we could have lap swimming, he told me that this family had arrived late and had traveled a long way (I travel a long way; I wait for the scheduled time!) and so he was going to let them swim for a few more minutes.

This is completely unacceptable! He said that he would ‘Take care of them and ask them to leave if I really wanted him to’ (Like I’m the villain here? Asking that I have the scheduled time that you post for lap swimming?) When I said, ‘Yes, I’d appreciate your asking them to leave,” he did so, but made me feel like I was being unreasonable to make such a request.
Number one: I should NOT even have to make such a request. It’s his job to make sure the schedule is followed, right?
Number two: I don’t appreciate being made to feel like I’m some evil anti-family lap swimmer just because I follow the schedule.

Again, what’s the point of posting a schedule if you don’t follow it? I certainly would NEVER expect that the lap swimming hour would be lengthened and families made to wait or have fewer lanes in order to accommodate me.

The issue is NOT about room in the pool. The issue is about following the schedule and respecting those of us who do.

Thus, I would really appreciate if you would remind (train?) your lifeguards to adhere to your posted schedule. It seems this is the least I can expect as a paying member of the YMCA.


Pool Purrs

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


“Do you know how in every stereotype there’s a little kernel of Truth?”

DL pinches together her thumb and index finger to show how small the amount is. Sandy nods, eager to hear the answer to her question “If you could take one thing from your trip, one thing about the culture, or people, back with you, what would it be?” (DL’s been in Italy for the last month; hence, the profound lack of PP stories.)

“That’s a good question,”DL pauses, taking a deep breath, her concentration and attention to Sandy’s Italian Culture Question palpable in the Heaterized Sauna Air of Utopia. “I think I’d like to take that openness, that connectedness, that Italian Way of How Everyone is Welcome…..”

She pauses again, nodding to herself as Sandy and PP sit rapt in anticipation. But they get it. Italians have That Way. Everyone is welcome. Everyone is Family. Everyone matters.

It’s so embracing if that makes sense?

PP still remembers this about Italy even though she’s not been there for over 25 years. Those long dinners with piles of pasta, glasses of wine, miles of chatter—most of which she didn’t understand since she knew only about 5 words in Italian (Grazie, Gatto, Cappuccino, Gelato con panna--oh! That's 6!). But it didn’t matter. No one cared that she didn’t understand exactly what the conversation was about. She was there. She was laughing. She was eating (This was paramount)

And so now, when DL talks about this ‘stereotype’ of openness and welcoming in the Italian people, it makes perfect sense.

She goes on to tell the story of landing in the village in Sicily where her people are from. How over 30 members of her family were there at the docks to greet her. How they were so happy to meet her. Asking her why she’d come ‘back’: “D, everyone leaves This Place," one of her relatives had asked, "but you, you come back. Why?” And the great aunts had tears in their eyes, and DL is weeping too, and she tells them how she had to come back. That the place called to her. That her Artist Great Uncle was here. His art. His soul. His angel lurked in the Place.

And they all understood, even if they didn’t really have the ‘language’.

PP does understand this even though her entire life is about language and words and stories. One can be with people or be in a place and feel like it’s home.

And yes, while this might sound cliché or stereotypical, it’s true.

And so that little Kernel of Truth that DL so eloquently expanded upon for PP and Sandy this night has traveled back to Utopia.

Bella bella bella!

Sunday, July 10, 2011


What the hell was he doing?

PP had seen him come on deck earlier, just as she was turning at the wall. Could it be? Was it Man Kick Swimmer?


Looked like him from what she could tell through her foggy mask. Fortunately she was near the end of her swim and double fortunately there were other lanes open besides the one next to her.

She’d driven through the Rush Hour Friday afternoon traffic again to avoid just this situation, whether it be screaming children or kicking men, & she’d thought suffering through the stop and go traffic would be worth it.

But now?

She stopped at the wall for a moment to retrieve her fins. Slipping them on, she openly stared at Man Kick Swimmer sitting on the side of the pool in front of the lane next to hers, wrapping something around his Kicking Legs.

She was almost certain it was him now; though she couldn’t know for sure till he actually got in the water and began his tell-tale spaz splashing stroke.

Taking off down the lane, she would have shaken her head if it hadn’t been underwater. Why her? Why did he have to come at this time? And why did he have to get in the lane next to her?

Was she going to have to get out to avoid being another Victim of his Hideous Man Kick? (If you, Swimmer Readers, don’t recall what happened, PP had been kicked in the kidneys by Man Kick Swimmer a few weeks back. She’d even had to get out of the pool. See previous post for more details)

But now, back at the wall where he was still screwing around with tying what? Was he tying a pull buoy to his legs? And then tying his legs together?

Could this be?

She’d never seen such a swimming training tool if that’s what you’d call it. Once she’d seen a guy with an inner tube wrapped around his ankles to keep his legs together, but she’d never actually witnessed Pull Buoy Bondage Legs before.

Grinning, she had to wonder. Why was he doing such a thing? Could it be because he’d kicked her and felt bad and so was making sure it didn’t happen again?

Nah. PP liked to think the world of the pool swam around her, but this was stretching it even for her ego.


In the water now she could tell it was definitely him; his mighty spaz splashing was unmistakable; but now with his legs bound together, no way could he kick out to the side at all.

She was safe!

Did he do this when he saw that she was here? No, it didn’t seem like it since he had to have had the ropes with him already, right?

Or had he come out on deck for a moment, spied her, and then gone back into the locker room to get the necessary ropes?

She tried to remember if this had happened.

Part of her thought that it had; another part of her thought it was her imagination.

No matter. He was bound and harmless today.

PP liked this very much and decided that getting kicked had its rewards. What a relief to swim next to Man Kick Swimmer with no worries.

But there was still a part of her that trembled at the thought of his binds coming loose. Entirely possible since he was so damn spastic. The sheer force of his splashing might be the demise of his bondage.

PP decided she better get out before this happened. Just to be on the safe side. Tempting as it was to swim on the wild side, she nevertheless didn't need to get kicked by Bondage Man Legs! Impossible as that seemed, she knew he couldn't be trusted.

And maybe because of the tied legs his sanity was really what she was questioning.

Which of course made him doubly dangerous!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Giddy with Glee

“Excuse me,” PP’s on the pool deck, ready to go: cap and mask on, fins in hand, but yet....what's up with all the goddamn families in the pool still?

The spaced out but Frazzled Lifeguard gives her a tired smile (How can you be spaced out and frazzled? The Hilltopia lifeguards have this persona down to a science.)

“Hi,” FL manages.
“I thought that it was lap swimming at 4:30.” PP glances at the still mayhem-filled side of the pool where several families are doing their usual screaming Aquatic Antics. Shit. She’d driven up here specially at 4 in the stupid stop and go rush hour traffic so that she could avoid this Pool Chaos and now?

“Oh!” Frazzled Lifeguard looks worried, “Is that what the schedule says? I’m new.”
PP grins. “Yeah, that’s what the schedule says. Lap swimming from 4:30-7:40.”
“Okay, well, thanks for letting me know.”

FL gets up off her perch and starts to instruct the families to clear the water.
PP’s grin widens.
Such power!
All she had to do was inform the lifeguard that the schedule said it was lap swimmers time and then voila! Out with the families!

She loved it!

The families, however, did not.

PP watches in silent glee as they slowly climb out of the pool. Several parents sloshing over to read the posted schedule and shaking their heads.

YAHOOO!!! PP shouts to herself as she helps FL move the lane line over, almost smashing a slow to get out floating child with the line.

It was tempting to brain the little bugger.
But then it’d cry.
And then PP would feel bad.

Well, not too bad as she slipped her fins on and glided across the now clear lane. The water smooth and childfree.


Why couldn’t it always be like this, she thought to herself as she turned at the wall to head back down the empty lane.

Maybe it could, she thought.

All she had to do was tell the lifeguard that it was lap swimming time and....

Oh but there was that damn schedule.

It worked for her this time, and her moment of Pool Clearance Power was Delicious, but in reality, she couldn’t make the schedule her schedule all of the time, could she?

Gleeful and Giddy, she watched as a mom and her kid approached the lifeguard. Were turned away.

Come back when it’s Rec Swim! PP thought. Read the goddamn schedule! She laughed, thinking how it was strange that the new lifeguard hadn't read the schedule before her shift. Or kept it right there next to her to double check throughout the day.

Thanks goodness she had PP to save her from Lifeguard Space out Dereliction of Duty she smiled to herself underwater, dolphin kicking with gleeful abandon. 4:30 on Fridays were Her Time. At least for now.

And that's all that matters!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Season of Mayhem: Summer


“Are you okay?”
PP knew Something Bad was gonna happen. It had been inevitable. Hilltopia Pool was jammed packed with screaming children, spastic lap swimmers and wayward kickers.

Which is exactly what had happened to her.

She’d been kicked.


Was she OK?

It was too early to tell. The pain was sharp and shooting. Emanating from the spot on her back where he’d landed his icky big foot.

Into her kidneys?

It felt like it.

“Are you OK?” he repeats. PP can vaguely feel his concern. She can’t look him in the eye. Knows that it was an accident.

Except. It wasn’t. When the pool is this much mayhem everyone has to be a little more careful. Watch their kicks into the next lane a little more closely.

Yet no one ever does. Everyone just swims blithely on like they own the pool and they're the king of their lane.

And her lane.

For this is what happened. His powerful Man Kick (as DL dubbed it the next day when PP related the story) had strayed under the lane line and bonked PP’s kidney mightily. She had to stop. She had to swoon.

She had to get out of the goddamn pool.

Later she felt a little sorry for the Man Kicker. She had just left. Not responded to his query of was she OK.

And she was. OK.

But yet she didn’t feel okay enough to feel too sorry for him. At least not yet.

Maybe next time she sees him.
Or not....


“I just want to know why it is that the Master’s Team and the Aqua Aerobics are allowed into the pool 5 minutes early, yet the lap swimmers aren’t?”

PP’s pissed. She’d ventured into the El Cerrito Swim Center thinking maybe it’d be better than Hilltopia; but of course, she was wrong.

Summer: The season was enough to stop her from swimming.

She’d gotten to the pool early cuz she knew it’d be crazy. And when she parked the Geo at the end of the lot and witnessed the Spray Play Frog Fountain's gushing in the shallow pool with screaming children scurrying under it, she knew it was going to be a challenge.

Yet the deep pool where the lap swimmers swim was quiet. Still. Peaceful. Kid free.

So, maybe it’d be OK.

Yet no.

After waiting in line, ready to pay the exorbitant $5.50 fee, she faces the polite but non-registering her anxiety kid clerk who asks her, “You here for lap swimming?”
“You have to wait till 5:30.”
”What time is it now?” PP asks, craning her head under the window to see the clock as a parade of squealing kids with tired parents in tow pass thro the gate with no waiting.
“Can’t I go in now to get changed?” she asks. The lap swim time is only till 6:30 today. Only 1 hour. Which would be fine. If he would just let her in.

But he won't budge. Shakes his head, “Nope. Lap swimmers have to wait till 5:30.”
She wants to ask why but he doesn’t give her a chance, waving her to the side to help the next person.

So she waits. And the 5 minutes is a long one. She’s anxious since by the time he lets her in it’s gonna be 5:35 and it is.

In line in front of her, two Asian Hello Kitty Women’s Debit Card is declined 3 times. You Can’t Come In Clerk keeps asking them if they have another card. He keeps trying the same one when they shake their heads no. The clock keeps ticking. PP sees her lap hour slipping away.

Finally Hello Kitty Woman #2 pulls out some cash.
Why the hell didn’t she do that in the first place?

Can’t Come In Clerk takes his time making change. Lets them in. Motions for PP. Says some cheery bullshit when PP hands him the exact change, “Perfect. Have a nice swim.”
Fuck you Asshole, PP thinks as she hurries in.

It’s 5:35 now & Total Hell in the locker room. Kids crying. Moms swearing. Toilet paper draping.

PP hurries to get changed.But this takes 5 more minutes.

Now it’s 5:40; she heads out to the deck. Scrambles to put on her cap. Earplugs. Mask.

Now it's 5:45 as she jump into the pool.

45 minutes.

It’s better than nothing, but still. If You Can’t Come In Clerk had let her in at 5:25......well.... Her swim woulda been relaxing instead of stressing.

So afterwards, when she asks the Tired End of the Day Clerk why she wasn’t let in and got angrier and angrier as he made her repeat her question over and over until finally he shrugs,

“Actually, the lap swimmers are supposed to be allowed in 5 minutes early just like the Aqua Aerobics. In the past, the reason that we didn’t let the lap swimmers in was cuz they’d get dressed really fast and then jump in before a lifeguard was there."

“Obviously, that isn’t the case today,” PP interrupts, remembering how there were at least 5 or 6 lifeguards sprinkled round the deck for swim lessons. Lap swimmers. Good Measure.

“Yes....” He pauses. It’s so hard dealing with these middle-aged women lap swimmers.

PP is a type now; she knows it. Complaining about her ‘pool rights’.

“.... sounds like whoever you dealt with was enforcing a previous policy,” he concedes. Finally.

PP sighs. Loudly. Shit.

“Well, maybe you should let your employees know that the policy has been changed.”
He doesn’t look at her. “Yes, well....we have a meeting in 35 minutes. I’ll be sure to bring it up.”

Oh, sure you will, she thinks as she stomps off, shaking her head in frustration.

Is it a Small Victory that PP was proven right?

Did he offer to give her her money back?

Are you kidding?

Lap Swimmer Discrimination. That’s what it is.

Or Pool Clerk Idiocy.

Yeah, that’s really what it is.


“Can you help me move the lane line over?” Evetlana asks PP who’s just finishing up a surprisingly nice swim at the Oaktown Y in spite of the crazed crowd of parents and small children who’d been flailing in the side of the pool next to her for the last 50 minutes.

“Sure,” PP nods. “No problem,” as she takes her mask off and prepares to dunk under the lane line to help move it.
“Oh no!” Evtlana’s face falls, her pale features falling into a resigned frown of disgust.
“What?” PP glances to the spot where E is pointing.
“I have to close the pool. You need to get out.”
PP doesn’t have to be asked twice. The brown floating slime ickyness nudging its way toward her causes a momentary rise of nausea.

She didn’t need to add to the Brown Alert.

“How was your swim?” DL asks later as PP tries to recover in the hot tub.
PP tells her.

DL nods, “A Lily Pad of Poop.”

"Yes!" PP laughs.

Was she OK?

Sure. As long as she had DL to entertain her with Poetic Pronouncements.

Lily Pad of Poop! What a perfect way to end her first week of Summer: The Season of Mayhem.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

It’s Meditative


“I have a problem for you to ponder while you’re swimming.” Sandy opens her locker, pulling off her workout togs to prepare for Utopia.

“Well, swimming's good for problem solving,” PP laughs, tucking her hair into her cap.
“Exactly. It’s meditative.”

PP nods, waiting for the Problem Description. She’s getting a little anxious though. Last week she didn’t give herself enough time to swim and barely got a mile in. Tonight she was careful to give herself lots of time, but now Sandy has a Critical Thinking Exercise for her to do in the Pool. Not that she doesn’t believe in swimming's problem solving capabilities, but still....

She really wants to swim NOW!

“You see, I have this vacuum,” Sandy begins, tossing her shoes into the locker, “and it has this very long hose. Oh it must be 30 or 40 feet long. It’s a special kinda vacuum..... What’s it called?” She pauses, thinking.

PP waits. Shit. A Vacuum Question? Like she knows anything about vacuums. In fact, vacuums, over the years, have been her arch nemeses. They never work. And when they do, they always jam up. And when that happens, she has a fit and throws them away.

She remembers the last vacuum she had. A bright yellow sporty model from ACE. It had seemed like a good investment but then the usual vacuum issues arose and the last image she has of it is its bright yellow plastic self, sitting forlornly on the sidewalk of 63rd street, just waiting for some poor sucker to pick it up.

Of course, someone did.

Did PP feel responsible for booby-trapping this poor person into a Delusional Working Vacuum World?

No. She was glad to get rid of it.

And now here’s Sandy wanting Vacuum Advice?

“.....I forget what it’s called exactly. But you know what I mean, don’t you?”

PP shakes her head. She has never seen a vacuum with 30 to 40 feet of hose. The potential for Various Vacuum Issues must be horrendous.

“Anyway, there’s something stuck in the middle of the hose and I can’t get it out. I tried hanging the hose off the 3-story balcony to shake it out. But no go. So, I was wondering if you had any ideas?”
“To get the Blockage out of the hose?” PP confirms the problem before heading off to the pool.

”Exactly. I need to find some way to get whatever’s blocking it out. I think it’s probably a piece of my old linoleum floor stuck in there and I can’t dislodge it. I know I could go to the vacuum repair guy and he’d cut it in half and splice it back together. But that’d cost a couple hundred dollars and I’m cheap.”

PP nods, trying to wrap her mind around the idea of spending $200 to fix a vacuum hose. “That is a dilemma,” she laughs. “I’ll see what I come up with while I’m swimming.”
“Thank you. I’d appreciate it.” Sandy shuffles off, wearing only her flip-flops as she heads to the sauna.


It was a glorious swim. PP had her own lane! The water was 84 degrees! And her mask didn’t leak.

A perfect scenario for solving Sandy’s Vacuum Hose Issue.

Of course, an idea did occur to her after about 1200 meters. But it was just a joke idea. Sandy seemed to be expecting a Real Solution.

Well, maybe this idea would work, she thought as she finished her 2000 meters and heaved herself out of the pool right before the lifeguard gave her half-hearted whistle, hollering “POOL CLOSED!”


Following DL into the sauna, PP spies Sandy in her usual spot on the top tier.

“So I came up with a solution to your problem,” PP announces. “You wanna hear it?”
”Please,” Sandy’s not sitting up for the presentation, but that’s ok. PP doesn’t expect her to.

DL plops down on the bench below Sandy, sighing.
“How big around is the hose?” PP asks.
“About 2 inches I would guess.” Sandy makes a circle with her thumb and index finger to show the circumference to PP.
“Perfect,” she giggles. “All you need to do is get a piece of cheese,” PP begins, grinning.
“And drop it down one side of the hose till it hits the blockage. Then on the other side, you drop a wee little mousie and let her push and push and push the linoleum out of the other side in order to get the cheese. It has to be a smelly cheese so that she really wants to work for it and....”

“I’m afraid that won’t work. All of the mice in Piedmont are too well-fed. The mouse wouldn’t be interested in it.”

“Oh....” PP allows her tone to show her deflation. “Well, I was only kidding.....”
“Yes, I know. But I have to take every suggestion seriously.”

And she was. Serious. It was no laughing matter. In fact, no one was laughing. Not DL and not Sandy.

But PP does, shrugging. Someone has to laugh at her stupid ideas. Besides what do you expect at the end of a long hellish day even if the swim was perfect?

“DL did you hear what Sandy’s problem is?” PP asks.
Sandy explains it to DL, who suggests running a snake down the hose.
“I thought of that too,” Sandy nods. “That’s a good idea. I’m going to give that one a try.”
“A Snake instead of a Mouse!” PP exclaims.
No one laughs at this joke either.
Deciding that it was time to call it a night, PP rises and heads for the shower.

Thinking how it just goes to show that while a swim may be meditative and thus a ripe arena for ideas, sometimes it just doesn’t yield anything worth sharing.

Even if someone does command it.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Alternate Universe

Dear Readers: Please read the preceding blog entry first, Missing Person, for proper chronological soap opera sequence.

~Part II~

“Hey, Sandy,” PP calls out to the prone form lying on the top deck of Utopia, Oaktown. “I found DL!
“Yeah,” DL laughs as she follows PP into the sauna, “ It only took a week.”
Sandy chuckles. “Very good. Where was she?”
“In an Alternate Universe,” PP jokes.
“Really?” Sandy shifts, squirts herself with a spray of water.
“Yeah, bet you didn’t know there was one at the Berkeley Y,” PP teases.

“Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me,” Sandy answers. “But seriously where was she?”
“In the upstairs women’s sauna. Did you know there was another women’s locker room, upstairs?”
“That’s right,” Sandy nods, knowingly. It does occur to PP to ask why the hell she hadn't mentioned another sauna to her last week when she'd been so panicked about DL's whereabouts. Chalk it up to Heaterization Disorientation?

“I had no idea,” PP shakes her head. “I’ve been going there for years and no one ever told me there was a Parallel Universe at the Berkeley Y.”
“The funny thing is,” DL interjects, “is that I did think of it. That there might be more than one sauna in that place. And when I asked this other woman who was in the sauna with me if there was another one she just looked at me like I was crackers and said, ‘No.’”

“Really?” Sandy says, “That’s odd.”
“Yeah, isn’t it,” PP agrees. “I wonder why she lied to DL about another Sauna? If she hadn’t, maybe none of this woulda happened.”
“No, you’re right. It could’ve been avoided,” Sandy agrees.
“I think the Lying Sauna Woman was part of the Evil Parallel Universe Cohort that didn’t want me to find DL or for DL to tell any of her friends about the other sauna. Then she could have it all to herself.”

”It was icky,” DL murmurs. “I didn’t know what to do. I was upstairs with a towel wrapped around me wondering where is PP where is PP I wonder if there’s another sauna and so when I asked this woman and she said no there wasn’t well.... I.... was very confused.....”
“I bet.” Sandy nods. “But tell, me, PP how did you end up finding her if you didn’t know the other sauna was up there?”

PP paused for a moment, trying to remember. What had she done? They’d told her at the front desk that they didn’t have a PA system and so she’d been completely flummoxed by this, not knowing what to do, when oh yeah that’s right, she’d mentioned that she was supposed to meet her friend in the sauna and then the Big Pasty Clerk had asked her which sauna.
“There’s more than one sauna?” she’d asked, astounded.
“Well, yeah, there’s one upstairs and one downstairs. Which one were you supposed to meet your friend in?”
PP had shook her head, “I had no idea that there were two saunas. I was just in the downstairs one..... I guess that’s what happened. My friend is in the upstairs one.”

And sure enough, when PP had hurried up the 3 flights of stairs, her bare feet cold, her wet hair tangling, her panic beginning to subside, she arrived breathless into the Women’s Locker room. Upstairs.

So weird.
A parallel universe.

PP glanced through the rows of lockers where a door was open into a weight room, the clanking and banging adding to her disorientation. It was too bright. Yellow. Eerily empty....

And then voila! there was DL wandering around in a daze, her eyes bright behind her wired rimmed glasses, a towel wrapped around her waist, “OH MY GOD!” she’d exclaimed.

“Here you are! I had no idea there was an upstairs women’s’ locker room!” PP had cried, so happy and relieved to see DL.
“Where were you?” DL asked, the panic melting off her face.
DL broke into a grin, “Upstairs, Downstairs.”

“Yeah, something like that,” PP laughed, her having to go to the bathroom suddenly hitting her hard.
“Okay, well, I’m so glad I found you,” she’d said, “Meet you downstairs?”
”Yeah, yeah....just give me a few minutes. I’ll be down after I put some clothes on.”

After PP finishes telling the story, Sandy laughs.“If you’d peeked behind her and seen Erica Kane working out, then you’d really know you were in a Parallel Universe!”

And it’s true. If La Kane had been there in her little black stretch pants and designer sneakers, lifting weights with her perfect make-up, it wouldn’t really have surprised PP at all.

Parallel Universes. Missing Persons. Sauna Liars.

It was all just another day in the life of a swimmer. In an Alternate Universe, that is....

Monday, May 30, 2011

Missing Person!

Where the hell is DL?

PP’s been hanging out in the Berktopia Sauna chatting with Sandy about what else? All My Children. Who will discover that Erica Kane is in fact a crazed fan gone plastic surgery hog wild? Will it be her fiancé, Jackson? Or her lesbian daughter, Bianca? Or her archrival, Greenlee?

Everyone acknowledges that Erica hasn’t been herself since the kidnapping, but.....
Will anyone ever figure it out?

Yet, as PP and Sandy speculate about the possibilities of discovery, PP has this nagging worry as their talk continues.

DL was supposed to meet her in the sauna at 9:30 and it must be 9:45 by now.

Where the hell is she?

She’s never late—unusual for an Italian-- but there you have it.

Something’s very wrong.

Of course, PP jumps to the worst possible scenarios:

She’s fallen off the treadmill and been carted off to the emergency room.

She’s had a psychic breakdown from the unfamiliarity of Berktopia being thrust upon her, so now, she’s out on the streets of Berkeley, wandering aimlessly up and down Addison, strange weirdos accosting her in the darkness.

She’s passed out behind the counter of the Y, hidden away in a room with concerned YMCA clerks waving smelling salts under her nose.

Okay, she’s not in a Victorian Novel, but you all get PP’s anxiety.

Where oh where is she?

It had been a strange night to begin with. The Oakland Y was closed due to ‘paint fumes’ from an outside source—mysterious and stupid, but they’d been forced to venture into Berktopia spontaneously. Spontaneity with PP and DL is sometimes ok and sometimes not. DL had seemed unnerved this eve by being at Berktopia, so now that she’s gone ‘missing’ PP unlike the citizens of Pine Valley, knows that something is WRONG!!!!!

PP interrupts Sandy’s monologue about Greenlee being the most likely to succeed, “Have you seen DL tonight?”
“That’s so weird. She was supposed to meet me at 9:30 here. What time is it now?”
Sandy leans out and over to glance at the clock, “It’s about 9: 43.” (PP always thinks it’s funny that she says ‘about’) but tonight, it doesn’t strike her as funny.

Only as Anguish! 9:43! DL is 13 minutes late! What can it mean?

“I better go look for her,” PP rises, pulling her damp suit back on and weaving through the crowd of Japanese beauties to exit the sauna.
“You could have her paged,” Sandy suggests.
PP nods, relieved to have a plan of action. “Yeah, that’s a good idea. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. Good luck.”

PP wanders out, wrapping her towel round her waist wondering if she should go to the bathroom before venturing on her mission.
Decides against it. Time is of the essence. The Y is gonna close soon and she must find DL before it’s too late.
Not to be melodramatic or anything.
But it felt this way.

PP hurries up the stairs. Decides to take a quick look around all the exercise rooms before going to the extreme of having DL paged. Maybe she just got caught up in Ameircan Idol and lost track of time?

The floor cold on her bare feet, PP thinks for a minute how she shoulda put some shoes on, but then she was in her swimsuit and so....

It didn’t matter.

Hurrying though the weight room and then the treadmill room PP glances around. No DL in the weight room. She’s not on the treadmills though it was hard to tell where the room ended what with all the goddamn mirrors. PP’s anxiety exacerbates the mirror distortion.

Where the hell is she?

PP rushes back down the stairs to ask for the Paging Element.

A Big Pasty Clerk is chatting amiably with a Big Pasty Berkeleyite.
“I told myself I wasn’t gonna make it tonight. And then here I am.”
”That’s the important thing, Doreen,” PBC guffaws.
“And then my car was towed and I had to call my ex husband to help....”

PP sighs loudly, glaring at them. Don’t they know that she’s in the middle of a crisis? That there’s a missing person at the Y and she needs answers pronto!?

“Excuse, me,” PP finally butts in, “but can you page someone for me?”
They both look at her likes she’s crackers.
“We don’t have a paging system,” BPC shakes his head.
“You don’t?” PP is staggered by this information. How could that be? What do they do when the need to announce closing time? To call a staff member to the Welcome Center
To find a MISSING PERSON????

PP is beside herself.

What the hell was she gonna do?

~to be continued~

Thursday, May 19, 2011


“How was your swim?”

Modest Vietnamese Woman tilts her pretty head, thinking. “It was so peaceful. ….I had my own lane. ……The water was warm.” She considers for a moment, “There was no one else in the pool.”

PP laughs.

Of course, it’s all Fantasy. There was NO One in the pool tonight. The pool was closed due to “Mechanical Failure.”

PP had arrived for her usual Wed eve Oakland Y “Girls Night” with DL. There had been a sign on the door—-big red letters explaining the pool closure. But all PP saw was Pool Closure.

She couldn't believe it. 2 Pool Closures in 3 days! Last Sunday at Hilltopia had been Mayhem Hell. First Hector's Swim Party jamming screaming kids into the pool with so many writhing little bodies that two lap lanes had been taken away. Then the 'Emergency' where everyone had been forced out of the pool with rude whistling and no explanation, "What's going on?" PP had asked. "Why do we hafta get outta the pool?" She'd only been swimming about 25 minutes; less than half of her swim completed. Swimus Interruptus was hella cranky!

"It's a Personal Space Issue" the lifeguard had said, waving his arms frantically to clear the pool of Hector's revelers.
"What does that mean?" PP had asked.

PP hadn't found out till later. Someone had almost passed out in the pool. She'd seen a shaky blobby man in the corner being supported by his blobby wife when she was getting out and had wondered if he was the culprit for her Swimus Interruptus.

And yes, it turned out that his blood sugar had been too low.

Shit. Eat a goddamn cookie before coming to the pool, why don'tcha? PP had thought. Don't kick us out before she's done with her swim for chrissakes!

And so now, tossing her fins on the counter, she couldn't believe that another pool closure was a part of her week.

Waiting for the busy clerk to finish ordering her Chinese Takeout, PP sighed loudly, shaking her head. “Excuse me, but I see the pool is closed and I didn’t get any notification about it. Aren’t you guys supposed to send out emails letting us know about this?”

Chinese Take Out Clerk was confused, casted about for help. Another clerk offered that it had just happened last night. PP glanced at the clock—7:35 pm. “So you had all day to email us though, right?”

The two clerks shrugged, glanced round nervously for more reinforcements. DL stood next to PP, shifting back and forth from one foot to the other, rolling her eyes.
To the rescue, Head Clerk, H, the Only Clerk Who Knows What's Going On, scurried up, “Do we have your email?”
“Yes,” PP tried not to scream.
“Is it Swimpurr at Yahoo?”
PP sighed, Damn. “No, actually that’s an old one. It’s on Gmail now, but Gmail imports all the yahoo email and I didn’t get anything today.”
“Are you sure?”
PP had to back down. Shit.

But somehow she knows they’re lying. The next day she did find out that, yes, in fact, no one had sent an email notification of the pool closure. She had been right, but at the time, she didn't know it for certain. No hard evidence. Only intuition. Which counts for nothing with the YMCA....

What can she do at the moment except follow H into the inner staff sanctum and type in her new Gmail account for future notifications.
Part of her is a bit excited about this back of the counter experience. But most of her is pissed off that she can’t swim.

She finished filling out the form, “Is that working for you?” H called out.
“Yup, done.” PP rose and followed DL down to the locker-room.

And so, when Modest Vietnamese Woman muses about her ‘swim’—PP has to grin. Maybe Pool Closures are good for something. Fantasy. Imagination. Community.

Of which there had been much in U.

“They’re gonna cancel All My Children. Oprah’s gone now. Gonna replace her with another hour of news. I ask you, how many ways can you hear about Arnie dickin around?" Sandy hurrmphs as she moseys out of the sauna.

DL and PP crack up.
How many ways indeed!

The problem with Arnie is that he got caught in his 'Fantasy'--Reality sucks, doesn't it Arnie?

Esp for Maria.

But Maria would survive. She'd go on Oprah. Divorce Arnie. Take a fabulous vacation. Swim in the sea where no emergencies would happen.

PP wants Maria's Fantasy, now.

But not before she has her cookie. That's the most important part of the fantasy.....Well, except for the beautiful, empty warm watered pool.

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...