Thursday, December 17, 2015

Chemical Imbalance

“Cj….” DL appears before me across the darkness of 23rd street, the Oakland Y looming squarely behind her.

I recognize her by her hair first and then her walk and then her voice.
“Hey Neesie! I made it!” I grin tiredly, heaving my fins up under my massively heavy gym bag.

“I’m glad I caught you,” she says, “you’re not going to believe this. The pool is closed….”
“Shit!” I try to keep my voice down. “Seriously? Why?”
“I have no idea. All I know is that there’s a sign up that says the pool is closed till further notice.”

“Okay,” I sigh, surprisingly calm in spite of this major setback. “Thanks for letting me know. I guess I can do other stuff with you tonight since I brought my workout clothes too. I mostly came to see you. And to swim….” I shake my head.

How can they just close the pool willy nilly out of the blue? It happens, I know, for unforeseen circumstances, usually involving a ‘Brown Alert’—I don’t need to explain that one right? But tonight, when we enter the too bright lobby bustling with YMCA members and their families, the Christmas tree with its sock collection and the good looking useless crew at the front desk, I make my way over to the pool lookout.
It’s empty. Closed, obviously. But why? It looks perfectly fine from this vantage point.
Heading over to hassle the good-looking team, I light upon a fine young man. The only one who doesn’t back away from me when I ask why the pool is closed.
“It’s closed because of a Chemical Imbalance,” he tells me, his round moon face serious.
“What’s that mean?” I ask.
He shrugs, “I’m not sure. That’s all they told us.”
I sigh loudly as DL lingers behind me, waiting. “When did it close?” I ask.
“It must have been before I got on shift tonight, round 4.”
“Why didn’t they email us?”
“They don’t have the system set up for that…..” He’s starting to get nervous now, I can tell. The grilling is taking a toll. I know it’s not his fault the pool is closed and the Y is so lame that they can’t email its members about such closures before they make the trip, but I can’t help myself. I keep needling him.
“They used to have an email system,” I assert. Did they? Or am I just imagining it?
“Yeah, well, I dunno….”

A sympathetic co-worker butts in, “It’s probably too late now, but you can use the Berkeley Y”
I try not to glare at her, but sure I’m unsuccessful in this attempt, “Yeah, it’s too late. I’ll just go to Hilltop tomorrow if it’s still closed.”
She nods, backs away. She tried.

Moon face man stares at me for a moment, “Yeah, you can go to Hilltop.” I bet he wishes I were there now! Well, so do I!
“Okay, well, guess there’s nothing I can do about this tonight, right?” I sigh loudly again.
He nods. “Have a good workout.”

I almost laugh, but just turn toward DL, who’s shaking her head. “Chemical Imbalance!” she huffs. “I’ll show you a Chemical Imbalance!”

We both crack up. And it’s true. I could have demonstrated a fine Chemical Imbalance but for whatever reason, I didn’t. Why is this? In the past when the pool's been closed for random reasons, I have let the chemicals get the best of me. Sat down on the front steps, crying. Walking down the street in a daze till someone asks me if I’m okay. Then I have to admit that I’m having a nervous breakdown because the pool is closed. They shake their heads at me sadly. Poor woman. She’s a pool insanity case.
And so….why didn’t this happen tonight? I think cause DL was there. If I’d been by myself, the Chemical Imbalance would’ve raised her ugly head. Yet with DL, her funny quip about the chemical imbalance just set the tone for the night. We went up to the torture machines and shook our heads over the roving band of teens screaming through the weight room. We walked on the treadmill, DL watching the Warriors cream Arizona, me watching the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, Living the Dream.
Then to the hot tub and sauna where another swimmer bemoaned the lack of working facilities. “No hot showers. No pool. Why! Aren’t those the very things we come to the gym for?”
And everyone in Utopia had nodded and laughed.

It was a bit humorous at this point. I mean, what are you gonna do? It’s 9:45 pm on a Wednesday night and you’ve had a long hellish day at work and all you wanna do is go for a swim, take a hot shower and then collapse.

But nope, can’t do this at the Downtown Oakland YMCA.

Why is this? Chemical Imbalance.

I think this could be the reason for everything that’s not working.
The car won’t start?
Chemical Imbalance.
The student cries over her grade?
Chemical Imbalance.
The showers are cold?
Chemical Imbalance.
See? It can work for everything.

So, next time you’re wondering why something’s broken, just chalk it up to a Chemical Imbalance.
Honestly. It’s the reason.
Trust me. I know what I'm talking about as only an expert on Chemical Imbalance can!

Saturday, December 05, 2015

The Russians Can Do IT

“The Russians can do it! We can do it!” Annaliese raises her arm in emphatic emphasis. Grins from ear to ear.
I nod, chuckling. She’d been telling me about how she swims at the Richmond Plunge at 8 a.m. on Sunday mornings.

Already, she’s more Russian than I am. 8 a.m. on Sundays? I’m snuggled in bed with the kitty and Ian, dreaming of spaces ships with calico cats and pools with gads of children.

“And I go to the Plunge,” she tells me, her French accent becoming thicker in her excitement of the narrative. “And it is so cold. It is so hard, you know?”

“Oh, yeah. I was going to try to come to the Y last Tuesday night, but it was cold. It was dark. I just stayed home under the electric blanket and watched Supergirl.”

She nods, “Yes, you see? It is hard in the winter. And I go to the Plunge. And when I get in the water, it is warm. It is all over your body…..” She makes a sensuous gesture that only a Frenchwoman can make –is this somehow Frenchist? But you know what I mean? The way she wraps both her arms around herself, and slowly undulates as if she’s climbing into the pool right there at the base of the stairs of the Hilltop YMCA, the hands creating a wave of the water that is wrapping her body in its warm embrace.

“…but then, as you swim, your body, it is in the water and the water, it is cold and your body is now used to the water and so you are cold too.” She shakes her head. It is so sad. The cold water.
But then she brightens, “The Russians can do it. We can do it!”
I laugh.
“You know how they swim in the cold water?”
“Sure,” I grin.
“We can too.”
“Okay, I’ll remember that.”

And we both laugh, but for myself I can’t imagine being Russian. Where do Russian swimmers swim? What cold water is there for their hearty Russian Constitutions? Is it the Black Sea? Is it the Baltic Sea? Is it some goddamn lake on Tolstoy’s estate?
I have no idea.

All I do know is that I’m no Russian. I like much of what is Russian. Rachmaninoff. Dostoevsky. Vodka.
But, the cold swimming stamina?
Nope, not for me.
Give me the warm tropical oceans of Hawaii any day.
Now there’s a people and a place that I can relate to. And the main reason?
The swimming. It is warm!
The Hawaiians can do it! We can do it too! Swim in the warm warm sea of Waikiki. See the bright yellow fishes.

Drink the Matais.

Do the hula.
Well, maybe not the hula. But frankly, for me, I’d have better luck tackling the hula than the frozen waters on Tolstoy’s estate any day!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Time Out?

“Time out! Time out!” The little round gnome of a man waddles toward me. Out of the pool now, he hollers and grins, his squashed Santa-like visage all crinkles and sprinkles.
What’s he talking about? I wonder as I perch on the edge of the deck, feet in the water, preparing my cap, mask and earplugs for my swim.

I glance over at Ian, who’s already in the pool. He’s giving me the Big Grin. It’s the Theater of the Pool. All the deck’s a stage!

“I saw you coming,” Time Out Santa huffs at me, getting closer and closer to my sacred prep spot on deck. Giggling, I nod, again wondering why he’s so excited. Why is he yelling ‘time out’ at me? Do I need a time out? Isn’t that what frustrated moms yell at their kids when they’ve been brats? “Matilda! Stop biting your brother! Time out!” And Matilda pouts. The brother beams. The mom shakes her head as she drags Matilda over to the corner of the room, away from her brother and all biting temptations.
Yet, doesn’t everyone need a time out?

I could actually use a time out. Maybe not in the bratty child meaning, but in general. It’d be nice to have some time out. To just you know, hang out. Do nothing. Stare at the wall. Or the sky. Lie on my back in the green green grass and stare at the clouds. Float in the sea in Waikiki. Watching the little fishies swimming under me.
Yes, a Time Out would be real nice right about now.

Yet, I don’t think that this is Time Out Man’s meaning. Though, frankly I can’t really figure it out. And don’t try now as I need to get in the pool before I freeze to death.

“I saw you coming,” he repeats, close to me now. I see his grizzled white whiskers and bright blue eyes close up. He’s very excited. Why?
Not knowing how to respond, I just nod, continue tucking my hair in my cap.

“The lane….” he grins. “It’s all yours!”
“Oh….thanks,” I smile, the giggles starting to bubble up. Why is he so funny? Is it the way he waddled over to me, flailing his arms about and yelling ‘Time out’? Why is this so funny? Maybe it’s the non sequitur aspect of the hailing? Maybe it’s his appearance? So round and crinkly and St. Nickly.

I dunno. But I can’t stop giggling and Ian, I can see outta the corner of my eye, is laughing too.
“It’s my favorite lane….” I offer, slipping on a big fin.
“Me too!” he confides, winking at me. “I have to pee a lot.”
The lane is the closest one to the locker rooms, yes, but….the pool is small. All the lanes are pretty close to the locker rooms. And…do I need this intimate bladder condition divulgement? I mean, I can relate. I have to pee a lot, too. But hell, I’m not gonna tell Time Out Man this. Is this what Time Out means? It’s time to get out cuz he hasta pee?


Later in the Prius on our way to Safeway, Ian speculates that it was just this meaning, “It’s the bad English shorthand,” he ventures, beginning his usual circular analysis speculation. “He probably meant it was time for him to get out, and so he just says, “Time out’ meaning time for me to get out when you and I might say It’s time for me to get out and…..”
“Yeah,” I agree, kinda understanding, “you’re probably right.”

But with Time Out Man, there was a part of me that felt somehow blessed. That the ‘Time Out’ was some sort of special permission bestowed upon me. My favorite lane was vacated just for me. And Time Out Man had made it possible.

And isn’t this just a most wonderful bestowment? Your favorite lane just handed to you with no strings attached? All Time Out Man wanted was to give me a treat. My favorite lane. Free and clear.
Time Out, indeed!
I needed that!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

It’s Like We’re Rich People

“When this pool is perfect, it’s really perfect!” I exclaim to Handsome Swimmer Man, waving my arm in sweeping drama at the empty pool.

I hadn’t seen him in months. Had run into him one day coming out of the locker room, heading up the stairs. He told me he had arthritis in both his shoulders. Ouch. And so wrong for a swimmer. I’d suggested that he get some fins, kick laps, just to get in the pool. He’d nodded, thought it was a good idea, but then I hadn’t seen him.

So today, when the pool was empty except for the two of us, I kept trying to catch his eye as we both swam back and forth, back and forth. He seemed fine. Zipping past me, doing all the strokes. No evidence of any arthritis that I could see.

“It’s like we’re Rich People!” he joked, tossing his cap onto the deck and shaking out his hair.
“Oh, yes! If I were rich, the first thing I’d buy is my own pool!”
We’d laughed. “It seems like you’re feeling better?” I ventured. “The arthritis is gone?”
He shrugged, “Nah, not really.”

“But you’re swimming! Zooming past me!”
He chuckled. “Yeah, well, it’s better, but ….I’ve been running. Though it’s not the same.”

“No, nothing is the same as swimming.” For myself, I won’t run. It is torture. I immediately am felled with a side ache that would progress into nausea if I ever were to try running for more than 10 feet.

Silent for a moment, he stares into space, then turns to me, polite, interested, “How’s your health?”
Do I tell him how crummy I feel when I’m not in the pool? How I haven’t been able to sleep for over a year. That I have no energy or that….
Nah, I just nod, “Fine…fine….I don’t have any arthritis!”
“That’s good. And your Significant Other?”
“Oh, he’s fine.” I’m a little thrown off. How did he know Ian? I guess it’s a small place, Hilltopia is, so people see each other and their Significant Others. For instance, I’ve seen his. I can’t really see any details of her, except that she’s beautiful.
“He swims too?” he asks now.
“Yeah, but only once a week.”
“That’s good. That’s a start. He seems fit.”
“Yes, well, I chose him for that reason. His family has longevity and good health.”
“That’s a good criteria.”
“And your Significant Other? Does she swim?
“Yeah, she does, but not here. She says the chlorine is too much for her here.”
“Yes, it’s awful. Though not as bad as the Oakland Y. Has she tried the Richmond Plunge? They don’t use chlorine there. It’s some sort of salt based additive. It’s buoyant and beautiful."
He nods, “No, we haven’t tried there. We should check it out. We were just in Hawaii and we went to a pool there with no chlorine . You had to have a special certification for mixing the non-chlorine chemicals…..”

My ears are still clogged, so I don’t quite hear this or understand. A special chlorine certification ?Like a chlorine chemist? What was that? Was it some sort of Tropical Regulation Situation? Like the pets have to have their shots? So the pools have to have their chemists?
“I love Hawaii!” I gush instead.
He nods, then shakes out his goggles. “Well, good to see you.”
“Yes, you too. Nice being Rich for an hour!”
He grins, then climbs out of the pool, again no evidence of any shoulder arthritis in this action.

I'm happy for him. That he's swimming again. And for me. A Handsome Swimmer Man in my pool---There's no 'like' about it--I am a Rich Person!

Monday, October 05, 2015

Dinky Pool!

“Someday, we need to talk about Sandy’s vocabulary: ‘dinky’!
“As in, ‘I’m NOT swimming in your dinky pool!’?”

“Exactly!” DL’s eyes shine bright behind her glasses, delighted by words and pools. Of course, she’s a poet and a surfer. And granted, she doesn’t swim in pools much (at least I’ve never witnessed this try as I might to entice her), but she appreciates a good adjective when she hears it.

After our workouts, getting dressed in the locker aisle, we’d been the lucky recipients of Sandy’s narration around her latest trip. She’d been visiting family on the East Coast. They knew she was a swimmer and so had heated up their pool especially for her. However……it was someone’s backyard pool. I imagine one of those kidney shaped numbers with no ends to turn round on let alone swim laps in. Or….even it was shaped rectangularly, it was ‘dinky’. Hence the use of this excellent descriptor!
“And if it were up to me,” Sandy had continued after the dinky pool pronouncement complete with reasons why she wouldn’t bother---(“I don’t want to get all wet and take a shower. I don’t want to wash my hair for no reason…..” )she’d joked about how if she were to swim in their dinky pool, she’d at least go skinny dipping: “It’s two gay guys,” she’d announced. “They don’t give a shit about me.”
Again, no one can make a proclamation like Sandy. And I have noticed her vocabulary, but not really noted it specifically in the blog. I think I have to expand to not just single words, but phrases that she likes, that only she can pull off. Let me see if I can think of any others:

Dinky, And such, Good evening, Ladies…..

Okay obviously I’m going to have to go back and reread the blogs where she’s featured. Or have that discussion with DL. She’s the keeper of the vocabulary as the Poetess Extraordinaire.

In the meantime, I will totally agree with Sandy that no ‘real’ swimmer wants to swim in a ‘dinky’ suburban pool. What’s the point? Yet those surburnites don’t get it, right? They think that since they heated up their pool for her, she better damn well partake of it and show her gratitude too! After all, it must be expensive to heat an outdoor pool on the East Coast in October, right?

Which is beside the point. Swimming is the only point. And whether it’s laps or the wide open sea, you have to have latitude.
Obviously, a dinky pool just won’t cut it! Neither will a tiny pool. A minuscule pool. A small pool. A pathetic excuse for a pool.

Nope, dinky is the best word choice! And only Sandy would use it! Ladies!

Monday, September 07, 2015


“Lemme tell you something, I’m 60 years old and That is Bullshit!”
Her patrician nostrils flare under her shampooed head. I have no clue what she’s talking about. Yet…but I do love this. 60 years old! Don’t mess with me, YMCA millennials!

“I know this place is mismanaged. I know this place doesn’t pay well, but that is no reason to not notify us about the change in pool schedule! It’s always been 2:30 when the facility closes at the 3 pm early for a holiday schedule. Always. And today? I get in the water and they inform me that they’re closing at 2!!!”
“You’re kidding!?” I’m standing in the shower, trying to dry off, but too rapt by the story to move. Plus I’d kinda been a witness. More on that soon…..

“No, I’m not! And you know what they said when I told them that was bullshit?”
Her indignation flows out of the shampoo and into the steamy shower air.
“They said ‘Don’t disrespect us!' Disrespect you?! They’re disrespecting me!”
“They are disrespecting all of us who rely on being notified of a change in years’ long pool schedule protocols,” I huff in agreement, starting to shiver in spite of the heaty shower situation.
"Yes, that's exactly right!"

But back to the kinda witness part of the story. And apologies for lack of linear narrative here, but I just had to open with that line. The 60 year old one. The bullshit one. It was too good! Because as a kind of witness, I didn’t hear any of this even though I was in the next lane over from where 60 year old woman was fighting for our collective pool rights. Those stupid earplugs. Necessary for the swim, but damning for eavesdropping. I could see that the lifeguard was rattled. His wild top hair was no match for her wrath. And so he brought in reinforcements, but the holiday management was no match either. I watched as they both tried to calm her down, but to no avail.

And who could blame her? Hell, if I’d come 45 minutes later, I’d been in the same boat. Planning on having plenty of time to swim and then out of the blue, nope, the pool is closing 30 minutes earlier than it’s usually closed on these already mayhem filed holidays.

Swimmers time their swims. To the minute. I swim for 55 minutes. Someone else swims for 45. Another swims for 30. And we all rely on the pool sticking to its posted hours.
The problem today was that this pool closure wasn’t posted anywhere. I didn’t’ see any signage announcing the pool’s closure at 2 instead of the accustomed 2:30. Not to mention any newbie that might venture into the aquatic experience today cuz of the goddamn heat, thinking, the Y is open till 3 today, I’ll just pop down to the pool for a quick dip and…nope, too bad the pool is closed.

Why I even tried to do the right thing later as I was getting dressed by letting one of the water walker elders know that the pool was closed.
“It is? After I drove all the way down here?” She had shaken her silver curls, frowned and then sighed. “Well, I guess I’ll just take a shower.”

I had admired her flexibility. I would hadda fit! Maybe by the time you’re 80, you have more class.
And then another swimmer comes into our locker realm, and announces how she had just gotten out of the pool. “I just went out there and no one was there,” she beamed.
“But I thought they’d locked the door,” Elder Shower Taker said.
“Nope, I just was out there and no one was there,” she repeated, triumphant.

Shit, I thought. I stopped Elder Shower Woman from going out to the pool after the brouhaha over the closure and now, damn. It wasn’t closed after all?
“You came here just to see me,” Shelly joked, wrapping her towel futilely around her ample curves.
Elder Shower Woman laughed, “I did?”
“Yes, you did! What would I have done if I hadn’t seen you today? I would have been so sad,” she chuckled.
“See, it wasn’t all for naught!” I tried to help, but hell, it was all too much to process. I had to get out of there before Disrespected Woman came back and started in on her story again.

Yet….it all could have been avoided with simple signage letting everyone know that the pool was closing an hour earlier than the facility. (Why this is I have no clue. But that’s a story I don’t even wanna know)
Signage. Notice. Respect.

Is it possible in our busy, overloaded world?
I think so.
It may just take a few elders to get on the case. Call it bullshit when it is.
And demand respect for all swimmers, especially aged 60 and up!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

One of Those Days.....

You ever had one of those days where everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is thwarted in some strange way? And then, by the time you’re through the first half of the day, you think, okay, that was 6 things that went wrong. That must be it, right? But then 6 more things go wrong and you start to think, is it me? Am I inviting the wrongness to my sphere? Or is it the universe trying to tell me something?

Like go back to bed?

Well…yes, I’m sure you’ve all had such days, and while it’s happening, it’s surreal and upsetting. Yet……

It’s good to know there’s a reason for it, isn’t it?

“Hello, Carol,” Sandy’s getting ready to head to Utopia; I’ve only just arrived, an hour later than usual, slinging my too heavy gym bag on the bench and sighing too loudly.

“Hi, Sandy,” I manage. It’s hard to answer and pretend like everything is all right. So I don’t try.
“How you doing today?” Sandy asks.
“Don’t even ask,” I try for levity.
“One of those days?” she nods, sympathetic.
“Oh, yes! You know when everything goes wrong?”

“I do indeed,” she slams her locker shut, gathers up her towel.

And then in spite of my intention not to pour it all out at her, I start in with the most recent list of obstacles.

“The off-ramp to get here was closed for who knows what reason. I’ve been living here in Oakland for over 30 years and I’ve never seen that off-ramp closed! And then I got lost cuz there were no detour signs, and I got turned around on San Pablo and then I couldn’t find a parking place and then……”
I stop, catching my breath, fighting back the tears.

Sandy nods, then proclaims: “There’s the Perseid meteor shower happening right now. That’s what the problem is.”
I crack up. Leave it to Sandy to make me laugh in spite of my bad mood overwhelm. “Of course!” I grin. “That explains everything. Cuz you know, it’s been a series of bad things all day long.”

“Well, let’s hope for a Miracle and you get a lane to yourself.”

This would be a miracle, especially considering the hellish circle swimming mayhem that has dominated the pool lately at the downtown Oakland YMCA.
“I won’t hold my breath,” I joke. “But I just want to get in the water at this point, you know? It’ll help.”
“Yes, it will,” she agrees as she heads off to Utopia.

And it did. The Miracle almost materialized.

Initially upon entering the pool arena, it was the usual mayhem. Kids screaming in the Family Lane. Three swimmers circle swimming in the remaining lanes. The side of the pool where the aqua folks had been was still open, but the Aquas had left except for the enormous computer programmer guy trying to pick up on Beauteous Bun Head woman.

And then there was frantic albino guy at the far end or the pool flailing his arms about strangely.
Okay, so, I just got in and swam anyway. After the day I’d had, this was nothing.

Yet….miracle of miracles, the kids and families got out. The lifeguards put in all the lanes. I shared a lane with serious sparkly earring woman swimmer. It was smooth and soothing and yes, the day’s hellishness began to melt away.

Later, as we’re getting dressed before the final last call of 10 pm, Sandy told us about the woman on the Bay Bridge who’d jumped over the side to escape arrest after crashing a stolen car from LA and this is why 80 was backed up on my way to work that morning.Evidently, she'd been picked up later, soaking wet in nothing but bare feet and a little black dress, by an unsuspecting truck driver.
“How did she survive?” I asked in astonishment.
“She was very well insulated, I’m sure…..and high as a kite,” Sandy explained.
DL’s eyes widened.
“Well,” I nodded, “at least I wasn’t her!”
Laughing, Sandy stuffed her stuff in her gym bag. DL stared into space for several seconds and then grinned, “I just got what you said….” she murmured. “It took a few moments to process.”

And it does take time to process. And I was right. At least I wasn’t this poor woman jumping over the Bay Bridge or the poor man who was shot by the Oakland police (this is probably why the 27th street off-ramp was closed) or the other myriad REALLY bad things that can happen in a day driving around the Bay Area or trying to work your work.

And when I think about it, everything that happened on this Wrongsday (DL’s name for this Wednesday) did turn out okay. I did get to work. I did finally help students with their writing. I did get my boss to fill out my time card. I did find a parking place. I did get to the YMCA. DL did get me to stop crying and start laughing: (“Sit down….sit down for a minute….let’s just watch this funny man here on the treadmill doing strange things with his head.”)
…..And I did make it back home.

But those meteors! Damn! Good thing they only come around once a year. Cuz frankly, I couldn’t take another day like this for a long long time!

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Daddy's Swim Lessons

“Are you giving her lessons?” He gazes up at me blankly as I prepare to enter the lane.
“No…no….she is my daughter….”

The daughter grins at me from the two lanes over. Actually, she’s in the Mayhem Family swim section, the pandemonium flailing about her as she dives, her aqua fins flapping.

I’m hoping that Non Lesson Giver Dad (who had been demonstrating the freestyle stroke walking style) would get out of the lane and let me swim. But evidently this was not to be. I sigh inwardly. Again, circle swimming, though the pool has the appearance of less mayhem than the week before. Its surface is smooth with less tidal wave action since most of the swimmers seem to be lolling about at the walls.
Still, there are two swimmers in every lane, hence circle swimming again.

I inch into the water and take off down the lane, feeling immediately freerer as I glide. What was it about swimming? Granted my back is still bugging me, so the water’s buoyancy feels delicious. But as I’ve written about endlessly, swimming is my heaven. Some have a heaven with angels and trumpets. Some have a heaven in nature’s canyons. Some have a heaven in a bowl of Hagen Dazs.

Me? My heaven is being the water. And granted it wasn’t exactly angelic tonight with the threat of more circle swimming hell looming, but even with this possibility, I am feeling better than I had all day.

Non-swim lesson dad abandons my lane. Heads over to his daughter for closer stroke instruction. Yellow snorkel nose man hops in. Damn! I thought maybe I was gonna catch a break and be spared the starting and stopping of circle swimming.

Yet, Yellow Snorkel man can swim and so he pays attention. Plus we’re about the same speed which helps (unlike Backward Butterball who was nowhere in sight, thank goodness!).

Where do people come from and where do the go? Whenever I swim, there are the usual suspects---the same ones every Wednesday night from 8:30 to 9:30, but then there are those I see once and then never again. And then there are those who I saw for years and then they disappear.

Like what happened to Crashing Bongo Drum Man? Or Sideways Toe Nail Man? Or Foggy Mask Too Skinny Woman?
Did they find another pool? Are they at another Y? Or did they find another version of heaven that fit into their schedule better?

Or are they just in heaven?

I glance over at the father and daughter and grow a little misty behind my mask. I miss my father. We had such fun in the pool. Playing Mr. Banana Buddy and Dead Bug in the blistering summers of Hacienda Heights.

“Daddy!” Blue Fin girl cries out, splashing and grinning, swimming away from him. He laughs, takes off after her, no lessons on strokes now.

And I smile. Okay, sure it’s pandemonium and summer at the Oakland YMCA. But it’s also a reminder of what the pool can do.

Bring fathers and daughter together in a way that is full of fun, life and splash..... And for this, tonight, I’m thankful that this little slice of ‘heaven’ is swimming next to me.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Circle Swim Hell

“We now do need to do the Circle Swimming. The way this work is that you swim up the right side….”
I roll my eyes at Butterball Backward Swimmer’s start to her circle swimming lecture. I don’t care if she can see me doing this; though maybe she can’t because of my foggy mask.

In any case, I don’t have the patience for her pedantics. “I know how to Circle Swim!” I harrumph rudely, still not caring.

Tonight the pool at the downtown Oakland Y, needless to say, is utter mayhem. Summer is in full swing and the anarchy splashes to a crescendo. If I didn’t need to swim so badly because of my bad back, I’d just get out, but the water is so good for the pain.

And so, I’m rude.

Butterball has been swimming backwards, splitting the lane for the first 10 minutes of my swim, but now Hawaiian Swim Trunks Man wants to join the lane, and oh hell, this should be fun.
He’s in the water too now. We’re all clumped at the wall as the gang of Asian Teenage boys toss the water basketball into our lane. “Oh…sorry sorry so sorry.”
I grab the ball and toss it back. Shit.

Why do I even bother to swim during the summer?And now circle swimming with these two?

“I know how to circle swim,” I repeat, “but do YOU?” They both gaze at me, blankly. They have no clue.
“Yes, yes that is of course,” Butterball nods.
“Great,” I grunt. “I hope you can pay attention,” knowing that they won’t know what this means, but it just comes out. Is it really rocket science to wait at the wall if a swimmer is on your heels going 20 mph faster than you?

Butterball floats after me, her backward nonchalance unchanged in the new paradigm of circle swimming. Hawaiian swim trunks man proceeds to practice a WIDE breaststroke that knocks into me each time I pass him no matter how small I make myself.

I keep thinking someone will get out and then I can move to a better lane, but with the Summer Mayhem Madness, no way is this in my future. And with only 30 minutes left before the whistle blows, I just have to concentrate on swimming around these two without getting kicked too hard. Butterball I’m not so worried about. She’s soft and slow even though she’s floating backwards and can’t see me. Hawaiian swim trunks man, on the other hand, is more of a hazard. I just have to stop and stand to the side whenever he passes me.

Is this really swimming?

It is at the Oakland Y at the height of summertime!

And so, later, in the hot tub with DL, when she asks me how my swim was, I have to just roll my eyes again and say, “Summer! I don’t even know why I bother! If it weren’t for my back and this hot tub, well….”

She nods in sympathy even though I don’t think she’s ever tried circle swimming here at the Y.She swims in the sea. Something I can’t fathom in the frigid No Cal Waters. When I’d asked Sandy later if she swam in the ocean, she just looked at me like I was bananas: “I would if there were a reason for it….” I crack up. “But since I don’t surf, what’s the point?”

DL giggles in that quiet delightful way she has when we’re in the final getting dressed phase of the Oakland Y. She’s all for swimming in the ocean any and every chance she can. Loves loves loves it. I get this. I love swimming in the ocean too.
Maybe I need to take up surfing again? I know the water’s cold at Stinson Beach, but hell, I wouldn’t have to circle swim! I could revel in the brisk rush of the waves. Float blissfully between sets under a grey foggy sky. The seagulls overhead screeching in obnoxious abandon.

My toes frozen. My head an ice cube. My frigid eyeballs ready to fall out from their sockets!
Nope, I guess I’ll just stick to circle swimming. It’s warm at least. And for this, I am grateful.
Because if there’s one thing I loathe more than circle swimming, it’s the cold.

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...