Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Chlorinated Proposal




“I just don’t think I coulda manipulated the situation to a happy ending….” Sandy shakes her head as she rubs lotion meditatively into her toned tummy.

They’d been talking about chlorine in the pool. How since all of the Brown Alerts of the previous summer, the Oakland Y had upped the concentration. Sandy had asked PP if she’d noticed the more intense concentration of chlorine. PP had responded with, not really. The Oakland Y’s chlorine level seemed always to be the worst of any pool she’d ever been in.

“Why the hell they just couldn’t require the kids to wear water diapers is beyond me!” Sandy had exclaimed.

“Yeah, it makes no sense,” PP had agreed. “Every other pool I’ve been to requires the babies to wear ‘em. But there’s enough chlorine in the pool to kill anything I’d think,” she'd added, laughing.

Sandy had nodded, “And hopefully it’ll kill the babies too!”
Delighted with Sandy’s Babycide Desire, PP had laughed. “It’s a theme!”
“What do you mean?”
“Earlier today I was working with a student on Swift’s “Modest Proposal” and you know he’s all about killing the babies and making yummy stews out of ‘em!”
Sandy had grinned, “That’s right. Thanks for reminding me of that!”




“Yeah, but this student, she thought that he was really meaning to eat the babies. You know, literally. She was very disgusted.”
“Wait a minute….” Sandy had paused in her lotion application ritual, “you’re kidding me, right?”
“Nope,” PP had shaken her head.

How to explain that the idea of satire is beyond most of the average person’s conception. If this weren’t the case, then reality shows wouldn’t be as popular as they were. PP has no idea what she means by this, only that somehow Beverley Hills Housewives was satire to her, but to other viewers? Maybe not so much. Though come to think of it, she doesn't know anyone else who partakes of such guilty pleasures. She was almost certain that Sandy didn't.





And so, after PP had mentioned the student's literal mindedness round Baby Stew, Sandy had just stood there, in mid-lotion application, astounded, “I just don’t think I woulda been able to manipulate the situation to a happy ending.”

PP had laughed, “Yeah, well, I don’t think I did. I mean, I think I kept it from being an absolute tragedy, like if those babies in the pool were really in danger of being gassed by chlorine the lifeguard would at least have been able to prevent that. But they’d still be damaged. You know?”

“Oh, yeah,” Sandy had nodded. “Their little faces would be all scrunched up in chemical anguish!”
PP had laughed. Did Sandy really say that?
Who cares?
Swift would have liked the image, right?

After all "A Modest Proposal" is just that, all about the image. And the seasoning. And the tenderness. And the screams of agony....

Would A Chlorinated Proposal, if PP were to write it, be seen as satire?

Somehow, she doubts it.

Though if she showed it to Sandy, well, she'd surely at the very least, get A Modest Chuckle.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Hug



“EEEEUUUUWW, Gross!” PP exclaims, dancing around the puddle on the disgusting locker room floor. She’s just accidentally soaked the bottom of her skirt in the mucky water. Lifting up the edge of it, she tries to shake the wet spot out.

Malena giggles, delighted. “It’s just water,” she grins.
“Yeah, I know, you’re right, but it’s yucky!”

M laughs again, her eyes sparkling behind her thick foggy glasses. “I have a hula hoop,” she announces, trying to detract PP from her water grossness obsession?

She pulls out a black, red, and blue striped hula hoop from her locker; folded in half now, she unravels it and shows it to PP, who’s sitting down, pulling her Kitty Kat socks on, having given up on the skirt dampness.




M stares at the cat socks, but makes no comment as she holds the hula hoop up for PP to admire.
“That’s super cool,” PP smiles, “Did you take a hula hoop class tonight instead of swimming?”

Earlier M had plopped down on the sauna bench adjacent to PP, already dressed in her “I Heart NYC” t-shirt and black stretch pants. Her long dark hair wet and stringy.



“You weren’t in the pool tonight?” PP had observed.
“No, I’m too tired,” M had sighed.
“Yeah, me too,” PP had agreed, thinking of how exhausting the pool has been lately. Full of screaming kids splashing and novice lap swimmers crashing. Summer was coming. Ugh.
“I’m hungry too,” M had announced.
“Oh, yeah, me too,” PP had agreed, “What’re you gonna eat?”
She’d shrugged, “I dunno. Probably a cereal.”
“Sounds good,” PP had nodded, rising and heading out of the sauna.
“Same old thing!” M had pronounced, referring to their Tuesday night shared locker area as she followed PP out.
“Yup, same thing,” PP had agreed, “I know it’s Tuesday cuz of you!”
M had giggled, so easily amused by PP’s random nonsenses.


Now, with the hula hoop, M glances around, “No room here,” she muses.
“Nope,” PP’s gathering up her lotions and hair brush, preparing for the next phase of the getting out of here ritual. Heading over to the mirrors, she thinks of how she really needs to get out of the Y before she faints from hunger and exhaustion. It’s been a long day.

M appears behind her, stands next to the mirrors in a space that may be roomy enough for a hula hoop demo. She gives it a try, but the hoop knocks into a locker. She sighs, then smiles, glancing up at PP who’s trying to get the goddamn tangles out of her wet hair.




“Guess there’s not quite enough room here, eh?” PP observes as she picks up the blow dryer and attempts to administer its half-assed warming agents.

M continues to try the hula hoop, but then after it falls down again, her rounded hips unable to keep it going, she sighs. Giving PP a shy smile, she heads back to her locker.


A few moments later, while wringing out her suit at the sink, PP feels a firm, shy arm wrap around her from behind. A wet head nuzzles into her side, resting on her.

It’s M, giving PP the sweetest Surprise Hug. “Oh….” PP exclaims, touched. “A hug! That’s so sweet. If my hands weren’t wet, I’d hug you back.”

M continues to hold PP, gently but firmly for several seconds, her arm wrapped around PP’s waist possessively.

Her affection does surprise PP. She’s not used to such advances, esp. from sweet youngsters. PP’s not sure exactly what inspired M to give her a hug this evening. Was it her jokes about the gross water? Her willingness to watch the hula hoop demo? The commiseration with being tired and hungry?

Maybe all of the above? PP, nevertheless, is genuinely touched by M’s gesture.

It’s not often that appreciation and affection come at one out of the blue. And when it does, well, there’s a lot to be said for it, isn’t there? Esp. if it’s from a sweet girl who obviously has a lot of love to give, cliché as that sounds. PP’s just glad that she’s the lucky recipient of M’s fondness.





If only more of us showed our feelings so openly and spontaneously. It’d be a very different place, wouldn’t’ it?

M lets go and backs away, picking up her pink panther backpack and heading out of the locker room.

“Bye, bye,” PP calls after her. “You made my day!”

M giggles softly, shakes her head as she gives PP a little wave before trudging out into her world.

Monday, April 04, 2011

The Simpkins Family Swim Center




Anytime ‘family’ graces the name of a pool, PP knows that it bodes odiousity. And the Simpkin's Family Swim Center in the Live Oak neighborhood of Santa Cruz was no exception.

It wasn’t the pool. No, the pool was stupendous. 50 meters long. Divided into 18 wide wide lanes. When PP shared the lane, she could hardly tell there was someone else on the other side. Except for String Bikini Big Yellow Cap Girl. Swimming with her head held out of the water high. No goggles. Like she was playing water polo. But she wasn’t. She was racing some middle-aged dude in the lane next to PP and kicking his ass. Easily. Even with stopping at the wall at the end of every lap to re-tie her string round her neck.

But she only lasted 5 minutes. Had proved her point. 18 year old girls can out swim middle-aged dudes with one bikini string untied behind their necks.

Before String Bikini Girl was Hawaiian Swim Trunks Breast Stroke Guy. Quiet and slow and peaceful. Definitely PP had little inkling that she was sharing a lane with him.
Finally another beefy mid-aged guy (Was this the pool for this demographic?)barreled in, beating the water for the last 20 minutes of her swim. Yet again, the wide lane went far to mask the water beating action.

But before the swim, the real heniousity came in: The locker-room.

Initially, when PP had first entered the women’s locker room and come upon the tiny locker area—she’s terrible at space measurements, but maybe it was 10 X 12? Is that super small?--she was dumbfounded. She beheld only two narrow benches that could hold just one person’s stuff. (Well, PP’s stuff—maybe someone else’s stuff might be able to fit two people's stuff.) And two rows of lockers wedged into the corner and....

Okay, see? She can’t even describe it. It was so small. She’d thought that there must be another few rooms, identical to this one, if she just ventured around the corner, but no. Around the corner were the sinks and toilets. Then the showers. Then the door out to the pools.

Was it for real?

PP stood for a moment, awestruck, thinking, “Can I do this? Where am I gonna get changed? Should I just turn around and leave?” She glanced round at the full-to- capacity room of 3 moms, 4 kids, and a grandma sitting in the corner slowly rubbing lotion into her rolls of tummy.





“Here, let me move this for you,” One Woman offered, as she pushed aside her daughter’s Little Mermaid back pack.
“Thanks,” PP tried to smile, but didn’t manage a genuine one. Of this she was certain.



But she was here now. And the pool beckoned. Its 18 lanes enticing her. (Of course, 10 of the lanes were full of Special Olympics’ kids and parents. Here’s the family part. And what is it about the Special Olympics swim teams anyway? They follow PP and DHBF everywhere. At Hilltopia. Now at the Simpkins Family Swim Center.)




Yet, again, in the pool, all was bliss. Swimming under dusky sky, wispy with high pink clouds, the singing birds flitting about in the big tall trees surrounding the pool.... It was nice to be outside!



But as the time to close inched nearer, PP began to feel a bit panicky. She better get out of the pool and head to the showers before the onslaught of Special Olympics Families finished their workout.

And so she stopped. Giving herself 10 minutes before closing time. Heading into the locker-room to nab a shower.

Which she did, but Claustrophobia set in big time once she finished her shower. Crammed into the tiny locker-room, she tried to control herself.

Yet, she couldn't quite: “They coulda made the locker room a bit bigger,” PP grumbled as she tried to squeeze past a mom yanking on a pink and green striped sock of her Special Olympics Daughter. The daughter stared at PP, her bright red hair sticking out in all wet directions.
Another woman, PP didn’t even see who since she couldn’t turn around the space was so small, grunted a reply to her comment. Something like, “Uh, yeah….” Her voice trailing off. Like “Duh!” –we all know the locker room is too infinitesimally small for the size of any public family pool, let alone one of the Simpkin’s pool’s dimensions.

PP resisted a response, got herself dressed, and then ran out of the locker room, plopping herself on the carpet outside next to DHBF’s chair, where he was calmly reading Hunter S. Thompson. Finally, she could breathe now that she was out of the locker room.





“I hadda get outta there before I screamed.”
Nodding, DHBF finished his paragraph, “Yeah, I know what you mean.”
“I’ve never seen such small locker rooms. I thought Mills was bad…”
“Nope. Mills is a Palace compared to this place,” he joked.

Laughing now as she dried off her cap, PP was suddenly confronted with a small person’s staring gaze. A boy round 4? 3? 5? Hell she can’t tell. “Did you have fun swimming?” she asked, trying to be kid friendly even though it went against the grain.
He nodded.
“How far did you swim?”
He held up both hands and spread his fingers.
“10 miles!” PP exclaimed. “Wow! You’re a fish!”
Singing Dad glanced over at them, “She's a Rock Bottomed Woman....", a dopey grin finishing out the refrain.

“Let’s get outta here,” PP nodded to DHBF, who grinned and started packing up.
“She’s a ….” SD wailed as 10 mile boy danced.

And even though the Simpkin's Family Swim Center sucks at locker room proportions, PP had to admit that the pool had been worth it.

Though she didn’t plan on going back there anytime soon!