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.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Daddy Magic

“Hey, Carol, you wanna go for a ride?”

I was getting nowhere fast with Chopin’s Waltz in C# minor. A ride with my father sounded perfect. “Sure, where to?”
“Oh, I thought we could drive down the coast to Dana Point.”
“Bob, don’t forget that you were going to go to the store,” my mom called out.
“Sure, Ruthie, don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten.”

He stood in the doorway, grinning at me as I closed the sheet music and grabbed my sweater. “Can we get some little Hershey Bars and Dreyer’s Vanilla?” I whispered, conspiratorially.

“I heard that!” Ruthie called out.

Giggling, I followed him out to the drive, letting the door slam behind me.

He often took me to Dana Point in those days. Of course, now, I can’t remember exactly when those days were, but they must have been when we were living in Irvine and driving down to Dana Point was a fairly easy trip. We’d sit on the cliff overlooking the sea and he’d tell me all about the rocks. How there were certain layers of rock that he, as a geologist, could read. He'd tell me the names of the layers, how old they were approximately, and how they came to be.
I was fascinated. Not just with the stories of the cliffs, but with his amazing mind. How did he remember all of this detailed information? What kind of brain had that capacity? Certainly not mine. I was still in Chopin Land as I listened to my father lecture. I asked questions, too, of course, but mostly I listened. I just loved to hear him talk. I treasured these trips to Dana Point. I was so lucky to have a father who was a geologist!

“Hey!” I interrupted. “Is that a dolphin out there?” I shaded my eyes and pointed out to sea, a subtle splash had lifted up and then vanished.
“I don’t know,” my father gazed out at the choppy waters. “It certainly could have been.”
“Maybe if we watch real close, we’ll see it again?” I suggested.
“Sure,” he said, grinning over at me. “Maybe.”

And so we sat, in companionable silence, watching the sea churn and dance. “There!” I cried again, “Did you see it?”

He chuckled, shaking his head, “I don’t think so, Carol….but….” He paused for a moment. “Yeah, maybe.” He pointed down the coast, past the purple orange layered cliffs. “Is that it?”

I grinned, “Yeah, I think so.”

Another splash and then it was gone. Was it a dolphin? Maybe or maybe not. But it didn’t really matter. What mattered was that I was here, on this cliff with my father—and it was magic. Not because of any dolphin. Or stories of ancient cliffs.
But because he was here, with me, sharing his time and his knowledge and his love.

“We better get going,” he said. “I hear the Albertson’s calling.”
Giggling, I nodded, rising to gaze out to sea one last time, then turning to him. “I think dolphins are especially fond of Little Hershey bars.”

Laughing, he headed back up the path, “And Dreyer’s Vanilla Ice Cream.”
“With chocolate sauce,” I answered.

“Of course,” he grinned, opening the door to let me in the Mach I as the sea breeze flitted through my sun bleached hair.

Sunday, June 01, 2014


“This may be completely inappropriate, but why don’t they have some sort of signage requiring that the little ones wear diapers in the pool?”
DL and P chuckle. A pronouncement has been made by the Mayor of Oakland. Even though it sounds like a suggestion.

That’s a good question,” P grins, stretching out on the top shelf of Utopia, wriggling her toes.

“I mean, they don’t know any better.” Sandy sighs loudly as she douses herself with a hefty splash of water. “I take my niece and nephew to the pool. I ask, them, ‘Do you have to use the restroom?’ No, Auntie, we don’t have to go.’ And then sure enough, my nephew lays one on.” Sandy shakes her head, “It’s like he left a Trophy in there!”

They all crack up: P and DL and the random supine woman who’d been resting, quietly heaterized till this point.
“Well, you know what I mean,” Sandy glances around at them all.
“Oh, yeah, of course,” P answers. “It’s just that that was a really funny way to describe it.”
“And while we’re at it, when my pool was closed over the holidays, I had to swim in this pool. And you remember how they had this one closed for weeks to ‘super clean’ it?”

“Yeah,” P answers—she kinda remembers this so she’s not just priming the story.
“And so when I go for a swim here and I swear it’d only been open for 3 hours….”
“Well, a hundred people had already used it by then,” P jokes.
Sandy eyes her for a moment. Frustrated? Why oh why must P always interrupt with her inane exaggerations? Yet she doesn’t say this. Instead she just answers like P was serious. “Well, I think it was not that many.”
“Well, you know what I mean,” P offers sheepishly.

“Yes, I do. I totally do. Anyway, I’m in the pool and I’m swimming down the lane and I’m grabbing big, I mean HUGE hunks of hair in my hands, not just one or two strands, mind you, but big GOBS of hair, as I’m pulling through the water.”

“EEEWWW gross!” P cries with appropriate disgust drama emphasis, but not before noting to herself that Sandy has mentioned this particularly gross pool hygiene story several times before. Hair does get in the pool. P does have to shake off a strand or two every once in awhile and while a nuisance, it's not Gobs, like she often spies in the showers. Which is another story and not one she's going to mention right now.

“And so I ask you, why don’t they require that folks wear swim caps in the pool? I mean c’mon, people.”
“They do at Hilltop,” P says.
“Really?” Sandy perks up for this.
“Yeah, I think so. I know I’ve seen a sign before you get in the pool about how long hair must be tied back or in a cap.”
“Well, see there you go.”
“And there’s a nice visual and directive about using the toilet before you get in the pool too.”
“See? And I bet they don’t have as many pool closures as they do here in Oakland, am I right? Remember how that one summer this pool was closed like every other week because some kid had taken a dump in the pool?”

“It was a Trophy Summer!” P exclaims.
Sandy chuckles, shaking her head, as DL rises and weaves out. The other woman lies completely paralyzed. The trophy conversation old hat by now.

“Okay, I’ll stop complaining now,” Sandy rises too and follows DL out.

P thinks to herself how she certainly hopes that this was just a polite proclamation, the no complaining assertion. For P, without complaining, there’d be no story. Nothing to talk about. Nothing to write about.

Why no Trophy at all without complaints.

Which would be entirely inappropriate, don’t you agree?

Mad as Hell!

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” Remember that line? Remember that movie? Network , right? What was everyone so ma...