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....

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...