Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Next Mayor of Oakland!


“Sandy should be Mayor of Oakland,” DL announces, floating down Broadway after an evening of Utopia.

“That is an excellent idea!” P exclaims. “She would make a perfect Mayor of Oakland.”
DL nods as she unlocks Moondoggie’s passenger door, P climbing in for a last ride in DL’s 13 year old chariot.

Settling in, P muses about all the reasons Sandy should be Mayor of Oakland.

1. She is a member of the downtown Oakland YMCA
2. She is a swimmer
3. She has opinions

4. She used to be a travel agent
5. She knows how to navigate Utopia’s strangeness
6. She wears aqua and lavender leisure suits
7. She feels guilty about having a maid
8. She has a sense of humor that surprises
9. She is open to anyone and everyone
10. She vacations in Mexico
11. She has danced at her cotillion
12. She drives a big white car
13. She knows where to shop
14. She has a Greek husband/partner
15. She knows when to be silent
16. She wields a wide spray bottle
17. She reads the New Yorker on the Treadmill

18. She narrates stories with aplomb and panache
19. She thinks DL and PP are fun
20. She is Oakland

So, yes, DL is right. Sandy would make a great Mayor of Oakland.
P wonders if they can start a write up campaign. Sure, Jean Quan is powerful, but can she lay claim to all of the above? P has NEVER seen her at the Oakland Y, and frankly, a regular membership should be a requirement for any mayoral candidate. Why, you may ask?

The downtown Oakland Y is a perfect microcosm of what Oakland could be: it’s got ‘community’ and ‘heart’ and ‘health. Everyone gets along at the Y---it’s a diverse and divergent membership.

Plus, it has a pool. And if the Mayor of Oakland were a swimmer, like Sandy, well, then, all would be well with the city.
For doesn’t water solve all problems? P has never seen any of the ills that plague Oakland in the pool, with the exception of some minor violence against rubber duckies by naughty children.
So! Sandy for Mayor of Oakland!
DL and P just have to find out her last name before the next election.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Secret Santas


P watches in rapt fascination as Asian Towel-Headed Woman stands at the plastic bag dispenser machine. Methodically, forcefully, she pulls and pulls and pulls one after another after another of these plastic bags down, wrapping them around her fist into a giant plastic bag ball. With each pull of a bag, she gives a little grunt, her focus on her task, taking zero notice of P standing next to her staring.

“What the hell was she gonna do with all those plastic bags?” P asks DL a few minutes later as they exit the locker room, heading up the stairs to the torture machines.

“I dunno,” DL shakes her head, the mass of dark tresses creating a wave of puzzlement.
“I mean, is she gonna take them all home and use them as freezer bags? Or is she gonna pack up all of her socks and panties and such and preserve them from the elements? Or what?”
“Maybe she’s gonna use them for ice? You know how everyone in Utopia has those plastic bags of ice that they strategically place all over themselves?”
“Yeah….” P giggles, nods, then shakes her head, “Maybe. But that’s a lot of ice!”
DL joins in the giggle.

It’s good to be back at Utopia with DL. It’s been too long away. What with one thing or another, P and DL’s schedules have been skewed and P’s been swimming at Hilltopia more often.
Tonight’s off to one hilarious start with Plastic Bag Fist Woman. And as DL and P climb the stairs, their eyes wide with amusement, they begin their ritual routine. Giggling on the red mats; staring at Muscled Men; losing count at the machines.

And the pool! After her torture machine gossip ritual with DL, P heads out onto the pool deck. Is beyond pleasantly surprised when there's just one slow snail swimmer in the end lane and two playing teens in the lane next to him.
All the other lanes were open!
A too fit swimmer, stretching seriously on deck, barely glances at her, but she can't contain her delight: “This is what we like!” she waves her arm at the empty pool, grinning.
“Yes,” he manages a small tight smile, his stretching a most serious business. Later P noticed he was doing laps and laps of butterfly.
Of course.

Later in Utopia, it was back to the women’s gossipy banter. Sandy griping about how she was in a funk from pointless obligatory letters from friends she hadn’t heard from all year: “Get over it, Sandy!” she harrumphed at herself as she stretched her legs up and over her naked belly. Then she was on to some place on Grand Ave where you could buy specialty spices for all those ‘Secret Santas’ in your life.
“Oh, that’s a great idea,” Gap Tooth Woman exclaims, eyes bright with anticipation. “I have a Secret Santa in my office and I had no clue what to get her.”
“That’s right,” Sandy nods. “And you can re-gift too.”
“Yes! Otherwise you just perpetuate a cycle of Hoarders!” Gap Tooth exclaims to the titter of all the women in Utopia.

The door opens. A square sullen Asian woman saunters in, climbs up to the top shelf corner, perches next to Sandy. Spreads her legs as far apart as possible and then stares at P and DL who both sit directly in the line of her Belligerent Vagina Exposure.

What the hell was up with her? P wonders. Did she have a case of Sullen Sauna Exhibitionist Disorder? (SSEC) P wants to look at DL to gauge her reaction but doesn't dare.

Sandy shifts, but almost imperceptibly, away from Vagina Woman. P could tell that Sandy thought there was something off about her, but was too classy to say or do anything.

Sullen Vagina continued to stare at P. It was a bit unnerving, but also fascinating. What the hell was up with her? Sure the women were all naked and sure there were Vaginas galore exposed, but not in such a belligerent way.
Maybe she was testing them all?
But about what? And why?

“What time is it?” DL asks.
“The Witching Hour,” Sandy responds, sighing and rising.
“Oh, my, I had no idea it was so late,” DL murmurs, heading out the door.

Vagina Woman stays put. Never says a word. Continues to stare with Vagina bared.
She was mysterious. And unnerving.


She was being a bit naughty even. What if Santa found out? Oh, he already knew, right?
But just in case, P wasn't gonna tell. Well, at least not till she published her blog.



Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hair by the Numbers



“Hey DL!” P yanks at another tangle before shoving a lock in DL’s face.
“Smell my hair! I used that Suave Coconut Conditioner yesterday and my hair still smells like it!”
DL takes an obligatory sniff, “I like that stuff.”
“Yeah, me too. At least the smell. It does have staying power that way. But it dries my hair out.”
“Really?”
“Yeah, I think so. Well, it’s hard to tell cuz swimmers have notoriously wrong dry hair anyway, but the Suave isn’t great for the moisturizing hair situation” (MHS).
She nods, “I never knew that. I use the shampoo and I thought it dried my hair out, but now that you mention it…..” DL’s voice trails off. Lost in Hair Moisture Reverie Situation (HMRS)? “What kind do you use instead that’s better for the moisture situation?”

“Well, I got some huge tubs of Tres Semme conditioner, but it’s shitty too. Of course, I won’t throw it out; I’m too cheap. I used to use Finesse, but then I dunno…..”
P yanks at another tangle as the YMCA girl comes swooping through the locker room to collect towels, “5 minutes, Ladies! 5 minutes!” she hollers at them cheerfully.
DL rolls her eyes, “You know what you should do, P?”
“What?”
“You should find out what kind of Product is good for the Moisturizing Restoration Situation” (MRS).

“Yeah, that’s a good idea.”
“And you should find out the prices too. Like give us the Product from cheapest to most expensive.”
“OKAY! Good idea. And then I can put it on the blog!”
“Yah! Put it on the blog.”
And so, here P is writing the blog but without the full research product situation finished. Cuz to be honest, she tried, but it gave her a headache. All that Product. And then the prices? She never even got to that point.

She just found some funny pictures, which she’ll put on the blog and then she’ll do the price point research later.

Just kidding.
She’ll never do that. Numbers hurt her head. And her hair.
Do numbers hurt hair? How could that be? Can you just picture it? You’re standing in the pool and all of a sudden a bunch of numbers come raining down on the swimmers’ heads. 9’s and 3’s and 4’s and 7’s and then even two digit numbers like 22 and 77 and 88 and why are these the same number? They could be numbers like 34 and 59 and ....

And the numbers would be different colors. The 3’s could be orange. And the 4’s could be lime. And the 9’s could be aqua.
Can you see the numbers?

And then the numbers could also play music. The 5’s could play a phrase from Beethoven and the 2’s could sing out some Schubert.
Can you hear the numbers?

P can. But then, she’s got a vivid visual imagination when it comes to the pool. And her hair. And numbers?

Surprisingly, these too. She owes this to Suave, though, and her tangled mass of tresses.
Product anyone?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Rubber Ducky?


P surveys the scene from the deck for a few minutes. Mayhem. Sigh. What the hell were the kids doing still in the pool at 8:45 at night? Didn’t they have school now? Why were they still here, preventing her from any hope of a decent swim?

All the lanes have at least two swimmers, if not three. P refuses to circle swim at the Oakland Y. It is hellacious beyond words.

Standing forlornly on the deck, clutching all of her equipment, she curses the Oakland Y. Damn damn damn I hate hate hate this pool! she mutters to herself.

Then, lo and behold, she spies a swimmer stopping, removing his cap, preparing to climb out. A lane! Yes! Quickly, she scurries over to grab it before another forlorn swimmer soul gets in ahead of her.

“Mind if I share your lane?” she asks the super swimmer guy.

Politely he lifts his goggles, revealing a beautiful set of handsome guy eyes. You know the kind? Where the lashes are long and lovely, but he’s still a guy?

“No problem,” he smiles, shooting out a killer sexy swimmer vibe.

P slips her feet into her fins, trying not to be too distracted by Sexy Swimmer. Glancing down her lane, she notices a toy floating in the lane. The kids had thrown it in, obviously, and now it bobs gently up and down, small and sweet.

“I see, though,” P grins, pointing, “that you already have someone in your lane.”
Sexy Swimmer glances down the lane in the direction she's pointing, then gives her a sidelong smirk, “A Rubber Ducky?”

Laughing, P dips her fins into the water, “Yup, that’s what it looks like. I bet we can swim circles around it!”

He grins, pulls his goggles back down over his handsome eyes and takes off.
P hops in, swims up to the Rubber Ducky and scoops it up. But it's no Rubber Ducky....it's a Rubber Walrus.

Even better.

A walrus means what? Hell, she has zero associations with walruses. Though weren't there a couple of walruses in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland? And weren't they zany and funny and well.....duh, if they were in this story, they'd have to be silly.
She'll have to do some research on this vague association. But for now, she
tosses it into the kids’ side of the pool, and dives under the water, noting how Sexy Eyes has already lapped her, Rubber Ducky notwithstanding.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Panties in the Coal Mine


“What’s That over there in the corner?” P nods toward a mysterious square dark cloth laid out neat and flat on the top bench of Utopia.

“She’s drying it,” Sandy sighs, loudly. “I remember once I was at the Berkeley Y and this woman was drying her swimsuit in the sauna and I started to smell this horrible stench and said to her, ‘I think your Nylon is burning.’”

P and DL both chuckle. It’s a common theme in the women’s saunas of the YMCA. Women hanging their various clothing situations to dry.

“And these women that are always drying their panties in the sauna?” Sandy harrumphs, “I’d just toss a clean pair in my gym bag. Enough with the laundry at the Y.”

“Yeah,” P agrees, “I mean, how dry can those wet panties get in the sauna anyway?” P thinks about saggy droopy moisty panties and wrinkles her nose. But she has to laugh to herself about the Panty Theme for the day. That very morning, she’d been at a meeting, where the Chair of one of the Graduate Departments was going on and on about how her plumbing for her washing machine was clogged up and the plumber kept telling her it was her fault and she’d miffed at him and said, ‘Hell, do you think I just bunched up my panties and jammed them down the pipes to give you a thrill.”

Did she really say that?

P isn’t quite sure now after her long day and arduous swim.

Sandy shrugs, “I dunno. I just remember that stinking nylon suit at the Berkeley Y and how surprised the woman was that her suit was burning up. Hell, it is nylon after all.”

P nods, “It does seem like it’d catch fire even.”

“That it could. That it could. Hell, that’s why they have the signs all over the place saying don’t hang your wet shit, excuse my French, on the sauna rods.”
They all share a giggle. Then sit in companionable Sauna Silence for a few moments.

“How was your swim tonight?” Sandy asks.
“Oh, pretty good. I shared a lane with a super beautiful efficient swimmer.”
Sandy nods in approval, “Very good.”
“Yeah, I was amazed. She was so smooth and fast. I could tell she was pulling really hard under the water and so when she stopped I asked her about her stroke and she told me about it.”
“What did she say?”
“She said that she was pulling out to the sides instead of under our bodies, like I thought you were supposed to.”
Sandy frowns, “The S shape, under and around.” She makes the S shape motion in front of her sweat beaded torso.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought too, but this woman, well…she was so fast…..” P pauses for a moment, thinking of Super Efficient Swimmer Woman. “I do hafta admit that maybe I got it wrong though. I had my earplugs in and I was super distracted by her beautiful eyes.”

DL laughs, softly? Or does P just imagine this?

Sandy continues to puzzle through the S Stroke Paradox, “I wonder what she said exactly?”
“If I swim with her again, I’ll try to ask and pay more attention to what she’s saying,” P offers.
“Yes, do,” Sandy advises.

DL rises, weaves out of Utopia.
“Ah, the Canary in the Coal Mine makes her move,” Sandy chuckles. “Guess it’s time we follow suit.”
P tries to remember which story she used to teach that used this idiom. It was something famous and literary where the entire narrative was spun from this premise. There was an actual coal mine that the characters were all trapped in and the canary actually was sacrificed and it was horrible and sad and real all at the same time....

What was it? Something by Steinbeck? Or Nabokov? Or hell…..she can’t remember now. Maybe she’ll remember it tomorrow.

Or not.

Exiting out of Utopia, P encounters Evil Eye Towel Woman heading into Utopia (She’d given P and DL the Evil Eye earlier in the hot tub—P didn’t know why, but could only guess it was because she was giggling at something DL had just said. No giggling in the Hot Tub! the Evil Eye seemed to be saying).

After a moment, Evil Eye emerged from the sauna with the ‘dry’ fabric that had started this whole story.

Of course it belonged to her. How else could the story end?

She gives P the Evil Eye as she passes by while folding neatly her damp square cloth.

Proudly, she saunters into the steam room. P stifles another giggle, hurrying into the showers before it escapes into the steamy damp air.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Yoshi and Baby Food


“Did you see that woman that just walked past?”
P cranes her neck to try to catch a glimpse of the woman Sandy’s pointing out. All she can spot is a bright orange and pink swimsuit?

“Was she in the pool?” P asks, thinking how she must have been. It seemed like the entire Y population had been in the pool that night! P had even ventured into the ‘walking lane’ and gotten away with it for 10 minutes since the lifeguard was in total “Bump on the Log Boredom Mode”. Then walkers had appeared and she’d had to move.
To circle swim with 4 swimmers! At the Oakland Y? Hell doesn’t even begin to describe it.
So, the pink suited woman might have been in the pool and P wouldn’t have noticed with all the circle swim mayhem.

Sandy shakes her head though, “No, I don’t think she swims.”
“Who is it?” another woman asks.
“Yoshi.” Sandy nods, calm and firm in her celebrity friendship sighting status.
“Yoshi, like in Yoshi’s?” P asks, confused. She’d never thought of “Yoshi” as a person, or if she had thought of Yoshi as a person, not a woman. Was P sexist in her small business jazz club owner assumptions?
Guess so.
Or she’d just never really thought about it before. Remembers the time that Owen Hill took her to see McCoy Tyner at the old Yoshi’s location on Claremont Ave. P isn’t a big jazz fan, but Tyner’s piano is smooth and elegant. A genius at the keyboard with floating hands and humming background. It had been over 20 years ago probably, but P still remembers his humming.

Sandy grins, “Yup, that Yoshi. We used to dance together at Shawl Anderson years ago. Used to eat baby food on point cuz that was the only thing we could stomach before all that exercise.”
P glances over at DL when the baby food detail arises. DL is stoic. Is she listening? Laughing? Amazed?
P is sure she is, but DL is so cool. Never shows it. Unlike P who is full of questions and astonishment.

“Baby food!” she exclaims, though the mention always brings her back to her sick cat Gus and how she and Owen fed him baby food during his final days. It was the only thing he could eat.
He musta been a Ballerina Cat at the end.

“Yup,” Sandy continues. “And the smell of the bakery next door. You remember the Buttercup?”
“Oh, yes!” P enthuses. The Buttercup Bakery was famous for its pastries, breakfasts and lousy coffee.
“Well, the smell of blueberry muffins wafting through the window of Shawl Anderson’s studio space used to drive us crazy. We couldn’t wait to finish the class and race over to the Buttercup.”
“I bet!” P laughs, thinking of the baby food deprivation pose on point. Torturous!
“She’s done so much for the community,” African American Goddess murmurs loud enough for everyone in Utopia to hear.
“That she has, that she has,” Sandy agrees.
“And it’s cool she comes to the Y,” AAG continues, moving a plastic bag of ice from her firm brown belly onto her firm brown thigh. P wonders what it’s like to be that firm and that inured to the sensation of ice on your skin.
“I think she just comes here to stretch before she heads into work,” Sandy speculates, rising to eye the clock.

“What time is it?” P asks.
“9:39,” Sandy sighs heavily, “time for me to hit the shower.”
DL leaves ahead of her. The heat of Utopia, as always, too much for her after a few minutes.
P sits for a moment with AAG, thinking about Yoshi’s, McCoy Tyner and Gus. It’s strange how time goes by and events co-mingle and mix. On the one hand, it seems like yesterday... no not really. That’s the cliché. It seems like a long long time ago. P was a different person.
But she still was a swimmer. Always a swimmer.

Some things never change. P can embrace that cliché. As long as she can swim. Though preferably without the Y circle swim hell.

Please?


Sunday, August 04, 2013

BEWARE THE SEA AT WAIKIKI!


“There’s a lot of rocks here,” Ian comments as he struggles to don his fins and avoid the rocky bottom.
Yeah, I think and that’s not all, gazing out at the high surf that rolls and rolls across the sea of a normally calm Waikiki.
But this week was Flossie. The tropical ‘depression’ that had hit Oahu a couple of days earlier. I’d been so eager to come to this beach and swim in the smooth warm ocean, floating in the soft sea as Diamond Head loomed over my shoulder.

But no chance of this today. The sea was high, and when we’d arrived earlier, I’d had my doubts that we’d even venture in. Of course there were tons of the ubiquitous surfers; but these were locals, presumably, that knew what they were doing. Knew this beach and these rocks and the vagaries of these waves.


Sure I’d been swimming here before, but not in these kinds of conditions. The times before, this ocean had been smooth and calm. Perfect for swimming laps parallel to the shore or snorkeling slowly to visit the fishes.

Not today. And so, I hadn’t said anything to Ian earlier, but was silently thinking how it was too bad, we’d come all this way to Waikiki, but on this trip, well, it just wasn’t in the cards to go for that intended lazy swim.

But after our long walk to the Royal Hawaiian, Ian with a Mai Tai, and me with Umbrella Lemonade, I’d noticed, on the way back, that there were parts of the sea that looked calmer, less wavy and rough.


Maybe we could swim at one of those spots?

And so this is where we were, Ian ouching on the rocks, while I decided to meander down the beach to scope out a less rocky launching place.

I did remember this now about Waikiki—how the coral grew in thick sharp clumps on the bottom of this sea. Hence the beautiful tropical fish and the usually calm pool-like surface.

Today was a different story as I finally found a spot that seemed less rocky—judging by all the kids on boogie boards and squealing Japanese teenage girls, it seemed like an okay bet.

I backed into the welcoming warmth that could only be the sea in Waikiki, plopping down to slip on my fins. But already I could feel a familiar tug of the surf. I knew it was stronger than normal and was expecting this; but again, there was an element of denial or disbelief. This is Waikiki. Look at all these non-swimming tourists frolicking about. It must be safe, right?

Plus, I was a swimmer, an experienced pool one, yes, but I’d also done my share of ocean swimming over the years. I knew what I was doing. I could handle a few waves.

So I dove in and under the first wave, feeling a little thrill, but also a tinge of fear. That wave was big! And that coral was close! What if I wiped out and cut myself on the coral? Or worse, what if....

Another wave, and I was under it and swimming quickly forward to dive under the next one before it broke.

Shit. I was back in Newport Beach at 17th street with Joanna Brohard diving under the 10 –12 to 15 footers.

No these waves weren’t that big. Maybe 5-6 foot faces? And no, they didn’t come piling on me at the rate at the 17th street Red Flag days; yet, I wasn’t 16 and I wasn’t fearless.

Nope, at 55 and wary, I was feeling a bit scared. Not too scared, but just enough to turn around but no, here’s another wave, and under I went, the wave crashing behind me, the sunlight filtering through the pearly foam as I rose to the other side.

Shit. What had I gotten myself into?
I glanced around, noting that the waves had stopped and I was floating out pretty far between sets and lo and behold....

Diamond Head.
Oh My God.

There was just nothing like this swimview in the entire world of my swim experience. To be out in the sea at Waikiki with Diamond Head’s magnificence directly to my side. Well, words can’t describe it.

This is why I swim.

Yet today as I took just a moment to revel in Diamond Head’s enchantment there was an underlying tinge of panic?

Is that too strong a word?

Not when you’re in the sea with these giant waves and an unfamiliar coral bottom.

Plus, where the hell was Ian?

Shit.

I thought he was right behind me, but now as I glanced briefly behind before having to turn back and contend with another set of waves, he was nowhere in sight.

Intense worry set in. Ian can swim. He’s gotten so much stronger in the years we’ve been swimming together at the Y.
But that’s the Y. In a pool. With lifeguards.

And no waves.

I had to find him.

I turned and started back to shore, diving under waves that were starting to feel too challenging. Were they getting bigger? Or was that my worry?
Yet there were tons of people around. This was Waikiki. People don’t drown here, do they?

Of course not! Yet this sea was nothing to dismiss. I knew better than I did when I was 16. And so I made my way back to shore, diving under waves and narrowly avoiding scraping the coral bottom, my heart pounding in that danger danger danger mode.

I made it back. I was on the shore. I turned now to scan the sea for Ian. And.....

Damn. Where the hell had he gone?

Fighting the rising panic, I stood staring out at the sea for a moment, the sun filtering behind the clouds that promised to be a glorious sunset.


But no Ian.

Okay, I told myself, he’s fine. I’ll just go get my towel and dry off a bit –the wind wiped around me in a chilly reminder of Flossie's lingering power.

Grabbing my towel and hat and trotting back down to the sea’s edge , I scanned for him again. Still no Ian.

Now I was starting to panic.
The sea was rough. We were unfamiliar with it. The sun was going down. And....

Where the hell could he have gone?

I stood on the shore trying not to cry, telling myself I was being silly, but that nagging fear kept at me as the minutes ticked by.
5, 10? 15?
I have no idea until.....

THERE HE WAS!

Climbing awkwardly out of the churny waves down the beach, his handsome head poking out above the waves.

Relief spread over me as I raced down the shore.

Grinning, he waved. I’m sure he had no idea how worried I’d been.

Would I tell him as I hugged him hard, his wet cold chest crashing into me?
Of course I would!

“I was so worried!” I cried.
“You were?” he grinned.
“Yes!”
“Nothing to worry about. See, I’m here!” he beamed.
Punching him in the arm, I giggled in relief.
“I see that now, but a moment ago....”


My voice trailed off. I would tell him more later. How I thought I’d never see him again. How visions of the ambulance and lifeguards combing the beach for his floating body haunted me for a brief moment. How if I did see him again, I’d hold onto him tight. Ask him to marry me....

Okay, not that far... for now, I just was so happy and relieved to see him again. And as the sunset began its nightly show, I held him to me fast. Turning, I gazed out to sea, Diamond Head in growing shadows, the clouds turning golden pink elephants floating in the orangey sky. Sighing long, I breathed in the sea. I breathed in the wind; I breathed in the sunset.....

I breathed in Ian and laughed and laughed and laughed as I hugged him to me in Waikiki Relief Delight.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

RAINBOW WAVE DAY!


“How’s the bathroom?”
Ian shrugs, “The usual.”
I nod. Why the hell doesn’t Hawaii clean its public restrooms? It’s Paradise in every other way, but the bathrooms?
Disgusting.
I rise from my shady view of the lovely sea, snorkelers dotting the surface, the clouds floating over the blue grey sky. I do need to use the restroom, but…..
Sighing, I venture over.
Poke my head in first, the dark, dank, sandy, cave of the public elimination situation.
It is unusable.
Now. I know I’m a bit squeamish, but hell, I did travel and live in China. I think I’m pretty tough when it comes to bathrooms, but….today?
I simply can’t.
I will spare my more squeamish readers the terrifying details.
Use your imagination.
Or not.


“I can’t use this bathroom,” I announce.
“That’s too bad,” Ian points to the sea, “it looks like there’s a lot going on out there. It’d be nice to swim here.”
We’re up past Sunset Beach, at Pupukea beach, in Oahu's North Shore area. The sea is calm in the summer and I long to dive in; however, my wretched bladder calls and sure I could go in the sea but….
No I can’t.

So back in the car heading down Kamehameha highway to Kaneohe again.
We spy the sweet beaches along the way, jammed with dome tents and families and barbeques and suspect bathrooms.
Where oh where will we find a bathroom for me?
Then I spot it.
Atop a grassy hillside amidst a grove of graceful palms.
“What about that one?” I exclaim.
“You think that one will work?” Ian asks.
“I think so.” At this point it has to as Ian does a cab driver U turn and we head back to the parking lot. Leaping out of the car, I head up the little hill and into the cement block housing the bathroom.
Enter.
Ah….
No one there. No grossiosity.
I am relieved!

Okay, okay, I know this preamble is a bit much but it’s a big part of my travel experience—finding suitable bathrooms. So when I do, well…it’s such a beautiful thing.
And to top it off—the beach here…..
It is astonishing.
Sandy white slopes of shade under swaying palms. Not too crowded, but with the usual families boogie boarding. Mostly locals which is a good thing.
And WAVES!
"WARNING. NO LIFEGUARD. SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK" the signanage announces.
Perfect, I think.
“It looks a bit rough,” Ian remarks.
“Nah, it’s okay,” I grin, “let’s stay here and swim!”
And we do.


I don my bright pink suit and then cover up head to toe in my anti-sun suit.
Then wasting no time, I dive in.
Oh how delicious! The water is a balmy 80 plus degrees. The waves are small and fun. I body surf the first one.
Racing down the side of the little wave, I’m exhilarated. I forgot how much I love to swim in the ocean. It’s just the best.
And to top it off.
The sky.
There’s a shower approaching. I can see it in the distance as I bob up and down over the waves.
And is that a rainbow?



Only in Paradise would you have the combination of the perfect water temperature, wave action and a rainbow on the horizon.
Will it come my way?
I dive under another wave. It’s too wonderful to be in this water with a rainbow on the way.
And when it arrives?
Of course, it’s not a rainbow anymore, but a delightful shower of warm raindrops falling on my head, my face, my back.
Ian jumps in now and we crack up together.
This is the best! The rain comes down harder in sharp little pellets. I laugh like I haven’t since the last time I swam in the rain in Hawaii. I think of my student who has the picture of the delirious swimmer in the rain floating in the sea of Chile. “I’ll think of you, Alyssa, when I swim in the rain in Hawaii,” I told her the last time we spoke.
She’d laughed, “That’d be so awesome!”

And I did think of her, working so hard on her writing, creating a book that she will be proud of. I know it. But still so frustrated and defeated when last I spoke with her.
Yet when I’d mentioned my trip to paradise and how I’d think of her when swimming in the sea rain, she’d brightened immediately.
The Sea Rain has the power to transform.

In the moment and in the distance and in the imagination.

And thanks to the bathroom gods who guided me to this enchanting beach below the north shore of Oahu….

Sunday, July 07, 2013

MIRACLE ORANGE ELIXIR



“Is That yours?” P nods toward the mysterious orange lotion in the shadows. She had noticed it when Retrieval Woman had left the sauna. The bottle was enticing. P likes to steal product left behind at the gym even though this goes against the Y’s Core Values. Maybe because it’s against these values?

No, P just likes free stuff. So she’d been eying the orange lotion when RW had reentered the sauna and claimed her elixir.

Laughing softly, RW shakes her head, a strong accent (Russian? Czech? Something Eastern European?) accompanying her embarrassed reply. “Yes, it is mine. I have it for my Fat Stomach.” She giggles strangely. “It gets fatter everyday. I eat a lot of bread and.....”

Her voice trails off as P nods, wondering how the Orange Lotion fits in with Bread Overindulgence.

“Do you swim?” P asks, knowing that she doesn’t but it seems like a good topic to bring up in light of the Fat Stomach Situation.

RW shakes her head, “Oh, no. I do not swim.”

“That’s too bad,” P replies, though secretly she’s relieved. The pool definitely doesn’t need any more swimmers to fill its Aqua Mayhem this summer.

“I use the Lotion on my Fat Stomach and it does help I think,” she continues.

P eyes her in the dark. A white Y issued towel covers her ‘Fat Stomach’; her bleached blonde hair hangs in curly waves round her pale face; her eyes are moist and round. RW seems on the Verge of something and P isn’t really in the mood, yet she feels for her and her Fat Stomach that keeps growing (even though P has no idea what this would be like—all that swimming keeps her stomach at bay)

What could be in the Orange Lotion that could make the Fat Stomach go away? Are there such Miracle Cures for eating too much bread? How does it work? Does one rub it on the stomach and then watch the fat disappear? Does the sauna’s heat help to fortify this process?

P has never heard of such a thing. A lotion that melts away stomach fat. She’s intensely curious, but there’s something delicate about RW. She seems like she’s ready to cry.
P isn’t in the mood for crying. So, she hesitates in her fact-finding questioning.

“I have a surgery 3 months ago,” RW announces.
“Oh?” P nods, wondering what this has to do with anything.
“And since this surgery, my stomach it keep on growing and growing.” She giggles, shyly, embarrassed? “But I do like to eat a lot of bread. This is why my stomach is fatter and fatter....”

P remembers a friend who had a similar stomach issue and thought the growing was due to too much gluten. Her stomach just kept growing and growing and getting bigger and bigger till finally she went to the doctor and it turned out she had a cyst the size of a football inside her uterus.

Damn. P wonders if RW has the same situation? But she said she’d had a surgery, so...Should she mention the Cyst Possibility?

She opts for vagueness: “I hope it’s not something more serious?”

RW sighs, “No, I had the surgery. I am OK. I just eat too much bread.”

P wants to witness the miracle of the Fat Eating Orange Miracle lotion but decides against a request for such a demonstration. She’s curious, but squeamish. What if the lotion bubbles off her stomach in weird little fat globules?

P wouldn’t be able to handle that.

“Well, I hope that your stomach improves,” P offers.

RW smiles shyly. Shakes her head sadly. Is it that hopeless?

Suddenly the day catches up with P and she has to leave the sauna pronto. She needs to get home and eat something. She thinks she has some bread in the freezer. She’ll defrost it. Devour it. Watch the Young and the Restless.
And be glad that she doesn’t have to worry about a Mysteriously Expanding Stomach..... Esp. since she wasn't able to steal That Miracle Orange Elixir.



Monday, June 24, 2013

WARRIOR MERMAID

It’s summer at the YMCA and every day is a battle. In the pool. In the locker room. P must be strategic if she hopes to win a lane. A hairdryer. A little piece of her sanity.


“You know,” Janet sidles over to the sink where P attempts to yank a chlorine saturated tangle out, “I was at the pool yesterday, and all the kids had just come in, and the lifeguard was there and I said to him, “Oh the sweet sound of children!” She giggles softly as the baby sitting on the locker room floor lets out another uncensored wail. Mom is busy with big brother and Little Bro is having none of it.

“WHHHHAAAAAA!!!!!” he shrieks as if someone has murdered his puppy in cold blood on the floor directly in front of him.

Janet has moved back over to the sink, drying her hands after a wash, when the giggles start to tumble out. P can’t help but join in. They laugh and laugh and laugh.


Wailer Baby stops for a moment. Stunned? Distracted? He stares at the two women, his big brown eyes moist with tears, before opening his mighty mouth wide to the ceiling, letting forth another impressive scream.

Janet starts laughing again, matching his volume with her mirth. P can’t stop the giggles, wishing she’d had this strategy of Warrior Mirth earlier when the Newbie Lifeguard had started letting kids and more kids into the lap lanes.

The back story for this battle began with a swim team from a closed pool somewhere in Pinole. These kids were taking up two lanes in what is usually a quiet time at the Y, Sunday late mornings, 11:30 or so. P had spoken to the Newbie Guard about the swim team. His response had been cool and detached, explaining the situation and how these kids were “Pretty serious and not too noisy. You can pick a lane and swim. No problem.”


P had sighed. Loudly Part of the battle each summer was training the New Lifeguards. Why it was her job, she’d never know. But it was.

Yet today, she could tell This One wasn’t worth her Training Time and so she’d just muttered about how cranky it was. To have the lanes taken up with a swim team. Not to mention it made her feel all of her 55 years swimming next to 11 year olds who could swim the breaststroke faster than her freestyle with fins.

But back to the families. And the ongoing battles with aforementioned children. P is somewhat prepared for Children Mayhem Eventuality as the schedule had said it was “Family Lap Swim” from 12-2. Whatever the hell that meant.

First it was a dad and his son. They were so fine. The dad coaching Jr. on his stroke; the kid serious in his attempts to traverse the lane.

This is what Family Lap Swim is all about right?
Wrong.

Next, enter Mom with Hello Kitty daughters. They all clamor into the lane next to P. No laps here. Not even an attempt. There is some maneuvering of a kickboard. Baby Hello Kitty climbs up on deck with the board bigger than her, slamming it down into the water, hitting big sister on the noggin. Crying and laughter ensues.
But not laps.
P had kept swimming. After all, what can she do? They are a ‘family’ she supposes, but where the lap swimming is seems of little interest if it is even in their vocabulary.


Then the mom with the 3 teenage daughters. The daughters jump in, giggling and flailing. Again, no lap swimming, though the 11 year olds in the swim team are making valiant attempts to continue their workout in spite of the girls flagrant disregard for their lane squatters rights.

P had glanced up at Newbie Guard, who sat, oh so predictably, like a bump on a log, atop his white lifeguard highchair throne. He doesn’t glance in her direction. He doesn’t glance at the end lane now rife with mayhem and no lap swimming whatsoever.

In strides another lifeguard. This one knows the ropes, or at least P had thought so till she saw, to her horror, his motions to his compatriot to undo the lane line and thus give free rein to the Mayhem.

“Isn’t it Family Lap Swim?” P yells to Rope Knower Guard.
“It’s Family Swim,” he manages to be heard over the shrieking.
“It’s FAMILY LAP SWIM!” P hollers back.

He stops the process of lane attrition and rises from his squatting position on the deck, wipes his hands on his red trunks, and lumbers over to the posted schedule on the bulletin board. Stands for a moment, finger scanning down the column of blocked times for Sunday. Ambles back to where P waits, righteous in her Lap Swimming Indignation.

“You’re right,” he sighs, kneeling to screw the lane back into this solid lap swimming position. “It is Family Lap Swim. Whatever that means,” he shakes his head.
“Seems like they should be swimming laps during it,” P offers, trying not to smirk, but sometimes when a battle is won, the smirk is hard to control.
“Yeah, I’d have to agree. They should be swimming up and down and up and down.” He motions one long arm back and forth to demonstrate.
“Not much of that going on over there,” P nods to the frolicking screaming kids in the end lane.
“No,” he agrees.
“Guess you need to clarify that with your boss,” she adds, just because.
“Oh, I will,” he says, “believe me, that’s the first thing I’m going to bring up at the meeting this week.”


P takes off down her lane, this battle won. For now. Wishes she could attend the meeting. Not as a participant, but as a Mighty Mermaid Warrior. Strong in her Win. Minor and half hazard as it was.

For after all, it wasn’t like the Mayhem Lane had been told to swim laps or get out.

Back in the locker room, swimsuit on now and ready for his role to add to the Mayhem, the baby wails one last time as Mom scoops him up off the floor.

Janet gives P a knowing look and a final big grin, before taking off.

P smiles to herself as she heads to her locker to collect her stuff. Warrior Mermaid triumphs in small ways today.


But such triumphs must be taken and appreciated. Exhausting as it was to have each day a battle, she knew she had no choice.

It was Summer. It was the YMCA. And Warrior Mermaid was ready to fight.