Wednesday, December 31, 2014


So, out of curiosity, I decided to swim past the 9:25 time last night to see if the lifeguard would kick us out.
It was a calm night at the Oakland pool—the wild winds probably keeping even the hardiest swimmers at bay. (Yes, even though the pool is indoors, it’s a psychological thing, you know? If the weather’s cold, then the pool is less appealing.)

Yet there were a few of us. Chinese Guy Bad Butterflier. Stringy grey haired square woman. Timer guy in Hawaiian Trunks with cute girlfriend stop watching his intervals.

And me. I’m back up to swimming half of my swim again. My arm is better. The exquisite pain lessening. Though it’s still not 100%, so I moved into the walking lane at 9:20 and watched the clock. 9:25 came. I glanced up at the Bored Lifeguard who was making zero move toward her whistle. Interesting. Maybe the 9:25 enforcement last week was simply that one overzealous guard?
In any case, tonight, I just kept swimming. Till 9:30 when over the intercom I hear, “It is now 9:30 at the downtown Oakland YMCA and the pool is closed.”

A formal 9:30 closure.

This did seem official, yes?

Could it be that I had just happened in on the one night last week where the guard decided to follow the schedule for the first time in the 8 years I’ve been swimming at the Downtown Oakland YMCA?

Later, in Utopia, I’d mentioned this to Sandy and she’d just nodded and said, ‘Hot date.’

Stringy grey hair woman added her two cents, saying how they’d told her that the closing time was 9:25, but she just kept swimming.

Always my modus operandi. Just swim till they kick me out.

For instance, last week, when the Lovely I finally swam at the Richmond Plunge ("I'm no longer a Plunge Virgin!" she'd proclaimed) and we’d gotten there late and I only had 35 minutes to swim, I just kept swimming till they kicked me out. A full 6 minutes after the end time. “Time to get out,” the Richmond Plunge Guard Girls had yawned at me.

They didn’t care. I just grinned, “Oh, I know. I was just taking advantage of you guys.”
They’d looked at me in bored perplexity, then ambled away as I climbed out.
So, last night at the Oakland Y, when no whistle blared at 9:25, I just kept swimming. And then at 9:30 with the intercom announcement I couldn’t help but grin to myself.

Intercom Validation!

When DL and I huffed to the top of the stairs, I spied Smug Manager Boy at his post. “Should I ask him about the 9:30 intercom pool closure situation?” I said to DL.

Breaking into a mischievous grin, she nodded. “It might be fun.”

I glanced over at him, sitting officious and smug. Nah, I didn’t have the energy. Besides, if I lorded over him the Intercom Validation, he’d have to do something to show his power over me.

My silence was my power. Doesn’t happen often, but in this instance, I knew when to keep my big mouth closed!
A New Year's Resolution?

Nah, only if it gave me more time in the pool. Which, as everyone knows, is the only New Year's activity that matters!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Stop Being So Nice!

“POOOOOL CLOSED!!!!!” Puffy Pasty Lifeguard bellows and whistles.

I pause in my kicking, glancing up at the clock. It’s only 9:25; the pool has always closed at 9:30. What’s up? Special holiday cheer for all swimmers? You thought you’d get that last 200 yards in before the whistle, but no, time’s up. Get out and get out and hey, would you just get out of the pool already?

I glance around at the other few swimmers in the pool. There are only a few of us this 23rd of December. Everyone’s at the mall? Or out of town? Or they got the memo about the pool closing 5 minutes earlier this evening and decided to stay home and watch Happy Holidays from NBC?

“Don’t we get till 9:30?” I holler back now.

She shakes her head, blows on her whistle again at one lagging swimmer. “Nope. Pool closes at 9:25.”
“Since when?” I ask.
“Since about a week ago,” she answers, as the last straggler stops at the wall. Perplexity all over his mug too.

“They should put signs up or something so we know about the change,” I suggest now, taking my time getting out of the pool. Hell if I’m gonna get out before 9:30 since I had no notice of it.

“It’s on the schedule,” she asserts, picking up kickboards and clucking her tongue. (Okay, maybe she wasn’t clucking her tongue, but she had the clucking the tongue attitude, you know?)

“I don’t read the schedule,” I answer. “It’s so small….” Okay, I realize this is no excuse. I should read the schedule, but at the same time, if they make a change to it, they should let us swimmers know, right? 5 minutes might not seem like such a big deal, but…..

Later in Utopia I mention this 5 minute early closing travesty to Sandy, “Of course, it’s a Big Deal!” she harrumphs.
“Yeah, I was counting on that last 5 minutes for my 200 yard warm down.”
“Exactly!” she agrees. “I’d have a bit of selective hearing if it were me. Did you blow the whistle? Say the pool was closed? What? I didn’t hear you. And then I’d keep on swimming till 9:30.” (Damn. Why didn’t I think of that?)

“I wonder why they changed the time…” I muse. “Who do I ask?” Sandy knows all. She has the pulse on the intel at the Oakland Y.

“Ask upstairs. Though they will all be in Party Mode. Chattering away. Running down here and putting on their make-up. It’s 10 pm. Time to paaarrrteeee!”
DL and I crack up. It’s so true. They’re all about 17, running the place in the evenings. Though actually they’re probably in their 20’s. But everyone looks 17 when you’re in your 50’s.

So, I do. Ask the smart young man running the show on our way out. DL stands to the side, spacing out. She’s not a swimmer, so I don’t expect her to participate in the inquiry. Though a big part of me wishes Sandy were here.

“Excuse me?” I ask.
“Yes?” His tone is ‘helpful’ but in that I’m annoyed with this middle aged woman’s question before she even asks it edge to it.

“Do you know why the pool is closing at 9:25 instead of 9:30?”

He shakes his head—this woman is so stupid. “It’s always closed at 9:25.”
I start to simmer….if it always closed at 9:25 would I be here asking you?
“Well, no, I’ve been swimming here for years and it’s always closed at 9:30.”

He smiles oh so sweetly. So helpful. So condescending. What is it about young guys in charge? Do you know what I mean? They have all the answers and everyone else is just so simple, so wearying, such a waste of valuable time.

“No, it’s always been 9:25. Maybe you’ve had lifeguards that didn’t think it was a big deal and were being nice and so they let you swim till 9:30.”

“Really?” I shake my head. Why the hell would they do that? They make a huge production out of blowing that goddamn whistle at precisely 9:30 on the dot. It didn’t make any sense that they were just being ‘nice’ all these years. Those lifeguards wanna get the hell out of there. Understandably. But if they coulda gotten us out sooner all these years, wouldn’t they have?

“Check the schedule. It’s been 9:25 since I’ve been working here,” Smug Manager Boy continues.

I sigh. I’m not gonna argue anymore with him. What’s the point? Yet why isn’t he at least acknowledging my point that they should notify us of a change?

Cuz in his point of view, there was no change. The lifeguards were just being nice. But if this were the case, why did the lifeguard tonight admit that there had been a change in the last week? Why, she’d even walkee talkeed up to the Smug Manager Boy (I’m assuming) when I’d asked from the pool.

Such a puzzle.

But more importantly, such a Smug Little Response from Manager Boy.

I ask for the pool manager’s name and number. He gives it to me. DL and I amble out.
“That was weird,” I say.
“Yeah,” she agrees.
“I wasn’t expecting him to stand there and argue with me.”
She nods, “Yes. All he had to say was, thank you for letting me know and I’ll check into it and get back to you.”


I get home. I get my glasses out. I check the schedule. Yup, it says 9:25. Guess, I shoulda read the schedule. But yet, it still seems so strange. There is some policy situation going on that I'm not privy too.

Yet, for now, it does seem that Smug Manager Boy was correct. Though I still wonder why the lifeguard said there was a change a week ago? Did the pool manager come down on all the lifeguards for being too nice?
Well, that needs to change! Because as everyone knows, there’s just way too much niceness going around. Gotta nip that in the bud when it blooms to excess.

I think I’ll still email the pool manager. Find out what has changed.

And next time I want to complain to one of the Partyers in Charge, I’ll be sure to bring Sandy with me. She’ll back me up, no matter if I’m right or not!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Elephant Tattoo Adonis

“Is that an Elephant Tattoo?”

Of course it is. I can see that plainly. But what else to say in the thrill of the moment, when paused at the side of the wall after kicking kicking kicking ,so amazingly boring, for the past 45 minutes, and then lo and behold a young Indian Adonis rests at the side of the wall, sporting an elegant elephant tattoo right below his collar bone?


I am in love.

Of course, not all of my readers may know about my obsession with elephants. It began about a year ago, in the class Art and the Symbolic Process, part of JFK’s Masters of Transformative Arts Program. We were all to pick one symbol to make art from all term. I chose the elephant because of a baby elephant dream I had and also because I saw the silhouette of an elephant during the first night of class meditation. I initially thought it was a mushroom, but no, it was the ears and trunk of an elephant.

So, now, tonight, at the Oakland Y, after kicking endlessly since I still can’t use my little arm, when I see Elephant Tattoo Adonis, all I can do is blurt out the obvious question.

He is charmingly shy, nodding, his big brown eyes sparkling in the chlorine dropped haze. “Yes, it is.”
“I LOVE elephants,” I gush.
He grins slowly, “Me too.”

Duh, of course he does. But I don’t ask him why. What the significance of the tattoo is. Why he chose to wear an elephant on his chest for the rest of his life.
Did he have dreams of baby elephants too? Or is it some cultural symbol? I know from my class that elephants are kings---loyal and emotional. They’re communal beings. They take care of their own without question. They are the largest land animals. (Okay, I’m not sure if that’s true, but can’t think of anything else that’s bigger right now) They are matriarchal in organization. The cows taking charge of all. And it’s true that old adage, an elephant never forgets. I remember a special on PBS where two elephants were separated for over 30 years, mourning each other all this time, and then when they were brought back together, they remember each other in joyous elephant reunion.

Elephants! They are magical. They are enormous. They are inspirational (I now have an entire room of elephant ‘art’ that I created that semester for class)
And tonight, one of them was swimming! (They do like to swim, too.) But this elephant was swimming on the beautiful breast of an Indian Adonis.
He takes off now, back down the lane. I watch in awe. His stroke is strange and elegant and splashless. He moves from side to side in an off kilter dance with the water.
I wish I could swim too! I'd follow him, slyly, stealthily. The elephant calling to me, his trunk up and poised for a mighty trumpet.

Sighing, I shake my head. Delighted by the elephant tattoo Adonis and his strange swim style.

Later, in Utopia, I tell DL about the encounter, describing the tattoo, the Adonis, and the wonder of it all.
"I don't think I've ever seen an Elephant Tattoo before," I murmur to her.
"No, come to think of it, me neither," she agrees, before rising to weave out of the sauna's heaty mustiness.

We walk out of the Y at 10:01. The wind is whipping up. A Mighty Storm is on its way. I give her a ride to her car in the Geo and as we turn the corner, I spy Elephant Adonis.
“There he is!” I point out the windshield excitedly.
DL grins, nods, then sighs, “Oh, my, yes, he is beautiful.”

The wind whips the Geo around as we turn the corner, Elephant Adonis disappearing down Broadway, the darkness swallowing him up.
Was he really there? Was it all a dream? Did I really swim in the same pool with an Elephant Tattoo Adonis?

A gust of wind splashes the first of the big storm upon us. I turn the corner and drop DL off at her car.

An Elephant Tattoo? Why not? I think to myself. Now that I've seen one. Well, elephants and Adonises are inspiring!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Exquisite Pain

“You sure have Strong Legs!” Water Walking Weirdo gives me a strange sideways leer.

I’d seen him earlier when I’d been kicking back and forth back and forth back and forth in one of the lap lanes: so boring! But I’ve somehow mysteriously injured my arm and while the Nurse Practitioner, when she examined me and I winced, pronounced I had “Exquisite Pain”, she also told me that it would take several weeks to resolve. I was to rest it.

This meant, no swimming. Can you even imagine?

I’d been going crazy. But then I texted the Lovely I who’d suggested that there were other ways to be in the water: “You can kickboard. Or use the water belt. Or even water walk.”

Duh. None of these would be using my arm, so on this Sunday, here I was at the Oakland Y, fin kicking mightily with the kickboard, hoping WWW would leave before I switched from kickboard to walking.

He didn’t. Much to my dismay.

I’d observed his strangeness while I’d been kicking. He had a lopsided grin and seemed to be singing or talking to himself as he jumped and danced and lunged away in the water walking lane.

Oh, great, I’d thought to myself. A weirdo in the walking lane nice special for me.
Maybe he’ll get out.

But no, he was in for the entire afternoon, or so it would seem. So finally, exhausted from kicking (I think I actually did get a workout), I moseyed over to the walking lane and was greeted with the Strong Legs Proclamation.

“Well....I was using the fins,” I answered, trying to walk away from him, but in that water walking lane, you’re kinda trapped. Ian saw me from the deck and just shook his head. Why didn’t he get in with me? I wondered. Oh, I’m sure he thought I could handle myself.

And of course, I can, but this Exquisite Pain Alternative Swim Plan was more complicated than I’d anticipated.

“Do you go faster with fins?” WWW eyes me crazily, the strange toothless grin creeping me out but I needed to stay in the delicious water just a little while longer.

“Uh…yeah….” I answer, as he continues to walk parallel with me. A Swerving Asian Woman joins the lane, but isn’t walking, just swimming head out of the water breaststroke so we have to go around her every lap. “I usually swim,” I say, “but I hurt my arm.” I’m holding my little arm out of the water slightly in delicate anticipation of a mishap crash with Swerving Asian Woman.

“What did you do to your arm?” he asks.
“I have no clue. “
“Is it from swimming?”
“Maybe, I don’t know. All I know is that I need to rest it and so I’m just kicking and walking today. But it’s good to be in the water.”

Okay, I admit, I can’t help myself. I don’t have to engage, but when I’m in the pool, I just am so happy to be in the water, that I lose my usual wariness of weirdoes prevalent on land. Plus the water walking lane is more convivial that way, you know? Your head is out of the water and you can talk; whereas, when you’re swimming laps, this isn’t an option except for resting at the side of the pool, which I rarely do. So the water walking was a novelty this way. A social pool situation if you will. Even if the social situation is strange.

“I’m a Pisces,” he announces.
“Oh, me too!” Again, I know, I’m engaging. But it was a strange coincidence. Maybe WWW wasn’t so weird after all.
“When’s your birthday?” he asks.
“February 20th.”
“Mine is March 20th. Right at the end. And you’re right at the beginning.” He gives me another lopsided leer.

“Yeah…..” I’m beginning to think that I may have to talk to him the entire time I’m walking. But what to do. Oh dear, here comes Asian Swerving Woman!
“Oh, thank you, thank you,” she smiles sweetly, circling around us as I lift my arm away from her.

“I learned lots of different moves for this walking lane. Some with the weights….” He chuckles. A crazy gleam to his eyes. “But that probably wouldn’t be good for you. But you can walk backwards….” He demonstrates and I follow suit, thinking maybe this way I won’t be facing him and thus won’t be as obligated to chat.

But then, lo and behold! I like it. Backwards is better! I can go faster; maybe I can break away from him….But no, he’s a water walking expert and is glued parallel to me. “I can’t walk too good on land,” he says sotto voice to me, and I wonder what the hell this means. I don’t see a wheelchair or cane on the deck. Maybe he just means he’s got a limp? Or he gets dizzy? Or one leg is weaker than the other? Or….I don’t ask for the details, but just nod, glad that it’s only my arm and not my legs that has the Exquisite Pain.

“Thank you, thank you…..” Swerving Asian Woman grins after us again.
“We gotta watch out for her,” he nods, beginning to flail his arms in spastic over the head circles.
I nod, thinking how I was starting to feel pretty darn tired.

Was it from the walking? The talking? The kicking?

Or just the energy it took to navigate a Weirdo Encounter in the pool?

Frankly, I think it was all of the above. I certainly hope my Exquisite Pain heals quickly. Cause even though my legs may be strong, my tolerance for water walking and all its eccentricities may be limited, exquisitely or not....

Sunday, November 23, 2014

It Should Be Illegal!

“It should be illegal!” Aurelie hisses, clucking her tongue as she dries her wet hair.
I laugh, lightly, but really it’s not funny. Having benefits (health insurance, sick and holiday pay), for so long, and then poof! The Powers That Be take it all away has been no laughing matter.

“You know,” Auerlie says, in that quiet but passionate way she has (Do all French women possess this fire?), "they have money…,” she shakes her head, sadly, resignedly, “they just don’t like to share.”

“Unlike France!” I exclaim, not really knowing anything about the politics of France, except for a PBS special on unlimited sick pay for workers (What are they supposed to do? A French worker, out on sick pay for several months had said, when asked about the lack of sick pay in America. Go to work sick?)

Yup, that’s exactly it. Go to work sick. And while Auerlie’s passion helps me feel slightly vindicated about it all, taking away a worker’s benefits isn’t gonna be illegal in America anytime soon.

How had they even gotten on this subject, I wonder now? Aurelie had asked me what I was doing for Thanksgiving. I’d shared how I was eating someone else’s food---a necessary audience for someone who enjoys the production of creating the feast. She’d said how she, too, was going to a friend’s. With her daughter. And then somehow it came up that her daughter’s job also was insecure and benefitless. Just like mine.

Hence the illegal comment. And the passion! Where did that come from? Is it a French thing? Or a personal thing? I don’t know her well, though if I had more time, I’d talk to her more than just at the pool.

I’d seen her earlier, in the water, leaning against the wall, in deep conversation with another swimmer, or maybe I should call her a floater. I used to call her Turban Woman since she always donned one for her swims. Then she ditched the turban and substituted music earplug thingies. “I’m learning German” she’d announced to me one day when I asked to share her lane. So then I started calling her German Scholar Swimmer.

Now I know her name, and will give a made up one to protect her anonymity as if that matters with the internet anymore. Let’s see, I think I’ll call her, Tatiana. I know she’s not really Russian, but maybe she’s of a Russian persuasion. It doesn’t really matter as I digress.

For when I saw her earlier today, in the intense discussion with Aurelie, I really wanted to go over and see what they were talking about. For the blog. But also cause I like them.

Now I speculate that they were probably just talking about Thanksgiving. Which as we all know can be an intense topic of conversation. What’s on the menu? Who’s coming? What to bring if you’re the guest?
And if you get holiday pay for the day off.

Of course, you all know the answer to that on my account.
Nope. I lose the day’s pay. And this should be illegal. To close the university and not pay instructors. But hey, we’re not in France. Right?

I bet they get paid for Thanksgiving.
Oh, hell, the French don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s an American holiday.
What’s the French equivalent?
I have no clue.
All I know is that the French, as Ian said later when I related the "It should be illegal story", are a Civilized People who value workers’ rights, fine wine and large complicated swimming pools.

But that’s another blog.
Viva Le France and Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Courage to Move

“I lost my contact.” It is more of a resigned announcement, rather than a plea for pity or a cry for help.
She sags on one of the little square benches, her great folds of flesh spilling out of her suit. Shaking her head, she sighs mightily.

I plop my gym bag down on the locker room floor, letting my fins slide to the ground. “Ummm…..” I squat down, scanning the grey cement.

“My eyes are terrible,” she moans, “and I have to drive home…..”

Laughing softly, I commiserate, “Yeah, my eyes are bad too. Guess that’s one of the hazards of middle age.”

She smiles ruefully, sighing again as she starts to feel around on the floor for the lost contact.

“Is it clear?” I ask, scanning futilely. Why do they make the contacts so goddamn hard to see when they fall out as they always do? And the wearer is blind. Couldn’t they turn hot pink on hitting the ground? Or hell, phones are always playing cute little tunes. Why not a contact? It falls to the ground, and “I heard it through the Grapevine” could sound off.
Shaking her head, she continues to feel the floor. “No, actually it’s blue.”

Okay, I think, blue might be easier to see, but yet I can’t see anything except the ickee gray floor with bits of talcum powder residue, gum wrappers and other unidentified detritus that I don’t want to analyze too closely.
I carefully move some of my stuff aside, glancing under where my bag had been. She scooches her little bench back with an awful fingernails on the blackboard screech….

“AH!!!!” she exclaims, triumphant. “Here it is!” She holds it up. I still can’t see it.
“You gave me the Courage to Move,” she nods, grinning.

I smile, “Well, I didn’t do anything.”

Beaming she gathers up her swim gear and heads to the pool and I think, Isn’t that what it’s all about? The Courage to Move? Without this fearlessness around exploring new terrain, we’d all be stuck in the same place. Afraid to venture out into the world, the unknown.

And we need someone else to help with this movement. Sure we can venture out alone. Courage to Move Woman may very well have found her contact without my stopping to help. But then again, maybe not. Maybe she would have just thrown in the towel. Shoved her swim gear back into her locker. Called a cab. Gone home and drowned her sorrows in soap opera and fast food.

Who knows? But I was glad I could help. It felt good to be of service. And that’s part of it too. Not being alone. It helps the helper too.

So, when I got out onto the pool deck and all the lanes were full, I see that Courage to Move Woman has beat me to the last available lane by the wall. Demoralized, I plop down on the deck, deciding to wait for an open lane instead of sharing.

“You are welcome to share the lane with me!” Courage to Move Woman calls out joyfully, encouraging.
Shaking my head, I decline. “Oh, that’s sweet of you. But that’s okay. You’re by the wall. It’s hard for two people.”

She grins, “It’s the worst lane!” Then floats off down the pool.

Sighing, I try to recapture my altruistic feel good mood from a few moments before.
“What happened?” Ian’s on deck now, clucking his tongue in full lane dismay.
“I dunno. It was empty a few minutes ago. I hope I don’t start crying…..”
“Just choose your victim,” he chuckles. And I know he’s right and so I do. I have the Courage to Move beyond the tears and the frustration.

Because of Ian? Because of the pool?
Sure, both. But actually, it’s because of the story. The Courage to Move. It’s all about the story. How it gives me purpose and drive and energy. Without my writing, I have no movement. I stagnate in the void of a narrative vacuum.

The story is what gives me the courage to move through the world.....with a little help from The Young and the Restless.... of course!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

The Entire Month is my Birthday!

“I’m going to be 39! Next week! 39! I am SO old!”
Shaking my toweled head, I laugh, “Oh, you are SO young!”

Stunning African Dance Woman opens her eyes wide, sparkling, “Really? Cuz I sure don’t feel that way.”
“Well, I know what you mean. Those ‘9’ years are hard. And then the decade one looms on the horizon. But your 40’s are the best if that’s any consolation.” I sink into the hot bubbles, sighing softly after successful navigation of Butterfly Mayhem Man in the lane next to mine.

“That’s what everyone keeps telling me!” SADW exclaims, glancing over at her friend who’s been soaking into a jet.
“I keep telling her that,” Jet Woman nods, turning slightly to gain the best jet action. It’s serious business.
“I know, huh? You do!”
I’m trying unsuccessfully to remember 39. It was so long ago. I give up. Nothing coming to mind other than the warm water therapy at hand. And the birthdays.

“Yes, I do.” Jet Woman doesn’t quite roll her eyes, but I can hear the eye roll.
“How’s it goin?” DL eases into the tub, her eyes wide with delight at the scene.
“Good, good,” I answer. “We were just talking birthdays. Her birthday is next month too.” I nod toward SADW. Why don’t I know her name yet? I’ve seen her every week for the last couple of months. But the name exchange takes time. It’ll come.
“Really?” DL grins. “What day?”
“August 4th.”
“Mine’s the 9th”

“I always say the ENTIRE MONTH is my birthday!” SADW exclaims.
“So does DL!” I cry.
DL beams, nodding, gives SADW a comrade in arms fist touch.
“I have since I was a little girl. My month. My birthday. Every day in the month of August is a celebration of me!” SADW continues.
“What’s up with that?” I ask.
Jet Woman shrugs, “I always thought it was a Black Thing.”
We all laugh. “But DL is Italian!” I exclaim.
“That still is Of Color,” SADW nods.

"And I’m a White Girl and I don’t celebrate the whole month, so there you go!” I proclaim.
The entire tub of women cracks up. I don’t tell them this, but I don’t really get the Entire Month Birthday celebration ritual. I mean, isn’t one day enough to remind you how old you are? But maybe it’s more about the celebration of “ME”. That if the entire month is your birthday, well, then every day is about you, and the wonder that is you and how fabulous it is to be alive and please, everyone, just don’t forget it, OK?

And how could you forget either DL or SADW? No way in hell could you. They’re both so THERE! And not just in the month of August, but every day of the year.

Right? So should we all be celebrating ourselves every day? Well, in some cases, I think so. Esp. if you’re turning 39. Maybe this way you wouldn’t forget it.

Now 40, I remember. The trip to Paris. The almost thwarted by a migraine trip to the top of the Eifel Tower.
I’ll never forget that birthday.
But 39?

Hell, it’s gone. And that’s okay. I’ve got DL and SADW to remind me how fabulous it is to be 39 .....or ? How old is DL gonna be?



Happy 39 every day of this month of August, DL!

Sunday, July 20, 2014


“Oh, Carol! I didn’t know you come upstairs!” AurĂ©lie grins at me as I pull down spastically on one of the weight machines.
“I try to come a couple of times a week,” I say, glancing over at Ian who’s pulling his own weights. “How’s the pool?”
“Oh, it is good. Very good. You know? No one was in there today. I don’t know what is with that, I asked the lifeguard. Maybe it’s the weather?” Aurelie shrugs as only the French can shrug, glancing over my head at the couple working out on the leg machines. “That is my daughter. She graduated. She’s back now, with her boyfriend.” She gives a little frown, then sighs softly.
“Oh, that’s nice for you, isn’t it?” I ask.

She shrugs again. “I don’t know. Maybe….” Her voice trails off, distracted.
“She probably came to Californian for the weather,” I joke, vaguely remembering that Aurelie’s daughter had been at college somewhere back East.
“Yes, yes, that could be it.”
“Though with the drought now, the weather’s not so great,” I sigh, thinking about the pathetic little spritz of drops that fell on the back deck that morning. I counted them. 12.

“She got a letter to the editor published yesterday about the drought,” Ian says.
“Oh, really?!” Aurelie’s eyes light up. “My husband, he gets the paper, but yesterday?” she frowns. “It is in the recycling.”
“That’s okay,” I smile.
“What was it about?” she asks.
“Oh, there was this article about how the water agencies are setting up hotlines so that neighbors can snitch on each other if they see water waste.

“OH!” Aurelie exclaims, disgust lacing her exclamation.
“I know, it’s disgusting,” I say.
“It is the Gestapo!” she proclaims, shaking her head.
“Big Brother, 1984,” Ian adds.

“Why don’t they just allot the water per person?” she asks.
“Yes, that was my proposal. So simple. Which is why I wrote the letter.”
“You, know,” Aurelie leans in close to me, conspiratorially, “I see these women in the locker room in the shower they take the shower for so long!” she harrumphs. “I take a shower, I dry off, I get dressed, I pack up and still they are in the shower!”
“Yes, I’ve noticed that too,” I nod.
“And sometimes….” Here she leans in closer, “I see they leave the shower on. They walk away. I turn it off.”

“Yes, I’ve seen that too,” I say.
“In the men’s showers it happens too,” Ian adds.

“And then sometimes, I am in the shower and the woman she is soaping up for oh so long and I want to reach around her and turn off the shower while’s she’s in it, but I don’t….” She clucks her tongue. Or do I just imagine this?
“Yeah,” I laugh, “that might be a little too intimate.”
“Too intimate!” she laughs. “Yes, you are right. But still, it makes me angry. I hear they are going to raise the dues here because of the water rates and then people will change.” She rubs her fingers together in the universal filthy lucre mode. “When they have to pay their money, then they will care.”

“Yes, that’s the only thing that will really change people’s behavior.” And I have to wonder, would I be so obsessed with the drought if I weren’t worried about my water bill? I keep hearing women in the locker room berating ‘renters’ and their water waste since they don’t pay the bill: “This guy, he’s a renter, washes his car twice a week! Can you believe it?” I overheard one afternoon as I was packing up to leave after my swim.

And the pool….I have this fear that if the drought continues, all the swimming pools will dry up. They won’t be allowed to waste all this water for such luxuries. How many 1000’s of gallons of water does one pool hold? And then you multiply that by all the pools in California, well …’s a LOT of water.

I hope that it doesn’t come to this. But it may. And if it does?
I’m moving. To somewhere where it rains all the time, filling the lakes and rivers and pools with abandon.
This would be paradise.
Oh, yeah, that’s right. Hawaii. Waterfalls. Oceans of fishes. Rain showers galore!

“You have a good swim,” Aurelie interrupts my Paradise Reverie. “I go now. Wait in the car for them.” She nods shortly toward her daughter and the boyfriend.
“Did you have a good swim?” the boyfriend appears by her side, grinning in youthful bearded sweat.
“Yes, yes, of course,” she answers. He lumbers away. She gives me the French eye, grins, and then disappears out into the lobby.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

That’s No Defense

“I do not swim in straight line.” With an elegant little shrug and a beautifully sheepish smile, the swimmer I’ve asked to share a lane with makes this announcement.
What can I say? This is a first. Sure lots of swimmers at the Y don’t swim in straight lines, but most won’t admit it. (Or don’t know it.)

On the other hand, how do I share a lane with a Crooked Swimmer?
I glanced over at the lane I’d just vacated that was now completely awash in Butterfly Testosterone Situation. I can’t go back there, and so, I just smile at Crooked Swimmer and say that it’s okay. I can swim around her.

She nods, then ventures off in a shaky floaty stroke.

Shaking my head, I follow her. She’s not moving fast, so if we do run into each other, well, we’re not gonna end up in the emergency room.

And we do run into each other. But this is later. For about 20 minutes, I think she’s making an attempt. I catch her at one point when turning at the wall and compliment her, “You’re not doing too bad with staying on your side,” I say.

Nodding, she gives a little smile frown. “You are so kind to say this. I think the lane it is very narrow.”

And yes, it is. All the more reason to make an effort right?

Which, like I said, she did, till oh I don’t know she got tired? She forgot I was there?

And so, we crashed gently into each other. “Oh sorry sorry,” she murmurs.

“It’s okay,” I nod, then try to get on with my swim. There’s only 20 minutes left and I’ve only done about 1200 meters. I’ll never finish at this pace.
Another crash. This time she doesn’t apologize. Just continues on, weaving up and down the lane.

I start to crack up as I glance over at Handsome Walking Man, who's been observing the situation, and is shaking his head.

“She did warn me that she doesn’t swim in a straight line,” I holler over at him.

He frowns, as he purposefully strides backwards, “That’s NO defense!”

I chuckle in delight. He’s right, of course. We are at the Downtown Oakland Y. It’s the middle of summer. The pool is crowded with the usual suspects of screeching children, butterfly guys, and clueless couples.

So, again, I do have to give Crooked Swimmer credit for warning me ahead of time. And the way she said it made me think how kinda strange it is anyway to ‘swim in a straight line’. In other parts of the world, they don’t swim laps. I’ll never forget the first time I swam at a public pool in China -- absolute anarchy mayhem prevailed. Children screaming and jumping into floaty toys. Couples jumping up and down and laughing in delight. Random swimmers just stroking wily nilly across the pool in all directions.
No one was trying to swim in a straight line.
Except for me.
And I quickly gave up and joined in the mayhem craziness that was swimming in China.

So tonight, I just had to laugh.
Sure, it’s no defense. We’re not in China after all.
But….for a little while as I swam around her, and then started and stopped, standing in amazement at her seeming obliviousness of her crooked swimming, I had to smile to myself.
Maybe I am swimming in China in Oakland.
At least for one night.
And that is Some Defense.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Grizzly Guy, Hunky Firemen, Pregnant Swimmer: Oh My!

“What’s up with That Guy?” Penelope nods toward the wiry grimacing little man on the torture machine. He’s making strange grunting guy noises with a face that wrinkles up in agony. His intense powder blue eyes watering at the sides. His strange little body is clad in giant workman boots, blue jeans, big belt and black slinky top over a slight pot belly. For a moment, Penelope was worried that the black slinky top was a body suit for the pool.

Shit. What if Grunting Creepy Man was a swimmer? What if she had to share a lane with him?
She wouldn’t. She’d run back up to the treadmills and walk with DL and watch So You Think You Can Dance rather than share a lane with him.
DL gives him one of her Sicilian Glance Overs. “It’s a Guy Thing.”

He grunts on the machine right next to the one that Penelope wants to do next. But she can’t. His Creepiness exudes into the air with Stay Away from me Vibes.

DL starts on another machine and Penelope follows her, still eyeing him. DL glances over at him again, then announces, “It’s like he’s a Serial Killer.”

Penelope bursts out laughing. DL joins in.
It is so true! He is a Serial Killer! Penelope can’t stop laughing. Why is it so funny? It’s just such an apt description.
Poets. They get it right so much of the time, don’t they?
DL ambles over to the treadmills and Penelope follows her, but she can’t stop laughing as they start their machines and turn on the TVs. Ted Bundy rises from the dead at the Oakland Y.
He is dead, isn’t he?

“I gotta hit the pool before it gets too late,” Penelope says to DL. DL nods. “Don’t let Ted Bundy get to close to you,” Penelope whispers, still giggling.
“Don’t worry about me. I can handle him,” DL says, turning on the Giants game.

Penelope knows this is true. But still, he is creepy. She takes one last look at him, still grimacing on the same torture machine from 20 minutes ago. Of course he would hog one machine. But she wasn’t gonna ask him to move. Serial Killers scared her. Even if she did have the Sicilian Protection of DL close at hand.


“What year is it? Can you tell us your name? Have you felt this way before? Are you dieting?”
The questions come fast and furious from the group of hunky firemen clustered around some poor woman on a stretcher in the women’s locker room.

Penelope wonders what happened to her, but more importantly, is glad she already has her swimsuit on since there are several men in the women’s locker room. Why don’t they send women rescue personal to such situations? What was she supposed to do? It was so strange to have all these men in the women’s locker room. Granted, they were here on a presumable emergency and weren’t concerned with all the naked women strolling about.

Yet none of the women strolling about seemed concerned about the men being in their domain: this seemed quite strange to Penelope. She remembered a time when Sandy was all up in arms about just this sort of situation. Men coming into the women’s locker room without warning. Even if it was for an emergency. Maybe there had been advance warning and all these women gossiping and dressing just didn’t care?

Well, one good thing. They were all big and strong and handsome. And while Penelope felt really sorry for the poor woman who was being grilled on the stretcher; on the other hand, if the Serial Killer ended up following her down to the pool, she knew who to call.


“I saw Marianna the other day. And you know she’s pregnant, right?”
Penelope nods at Handsome Walking Man who works with the beauteous Marianna Snowboarder swimmer who’s moved to Orinda and gotten knocked up.
“Yes, how’s she doing?”
“Oh, she is so great. Why I haven’t seen her so happy ever!” he beams, stretching before his water walking workout.

“Is she still swimming?” Penelope asks, remembering how her sister swam during her pregnancy and how she’d said this made her feel wonderful.
“I don’t know. I don’t think so, but she was playing tennis. She’s just so happy!” he repeats before taking off down the lane.
And Penelope wonders how pregnancy can cause such bliss. It seems like torture to her, but she’s heard how some women just revel in the I am creating life situation. Penelope misses Mariana. She was so lovely and so nice to swim with. They’d split a lane and Marianna was smooth and fast. Just a little faster than Penelope which made Penelope swim just a little harder to keep up.
Cuz who wouldn’t want to keep up with a beautiful Latina in the Pool?

But if she was happy now, well that was all that mattered, right? Though how she could be happy without swimming was a mystery to Penelope.

She glanced up at the clock to check the time. 9:15—time for her last set of kicking. Reaching for the kickboard, she gulped.
Those boots. Big and new and clunky. Why was someone wearing big work boots on the pool deck?
No..... it couldn’t be......

The Serial Killer!?

Of course it wasn’t. Penelope had just imagined that one in her chlorinated haze at the end of what had been a kinda strange evening.

"You finished with the kickboard?" Weary Lifeguard nodded at her. Shaking her head, she grinned, "Nope, got a couple more laps to do, okay?"

"Sure, okay."

And off she zoomed, down the lane, her chlorinated haze lifting with each exuberantly finned kick.