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.

ARRRGGGGGHHHH!!!!
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.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The 100 Mile Club in the 100 Degree Heat

“I noticed you were wearing a full body suit,” Too Tan Woman smiles, shy now after enthusing over vanilla scents and associations with pudding. I’d initially started talking to her because she smelled so good. The vanilla essence wafting through the locker room, even overpowering the chlorine. “Is that you that smells so good?”

“Oh, yes!”

I know I’m not in Berkeley anymore. Or anywhere in the Bay Area where scented products are to be avoided as they cause allergic reaction to some members.
“It’s interesting the different reactions I get to the scent,” she gushed, warming to the topic.
“Why I had these two women exclaim about how I smelled like burnt toast. And one of my students, I was a school nurse, asked me if I’d share my cupcakes with him!”
I’d grinned, liking the Cupcake Nurse image.

But after her Cupcake giggle, her tone turned serious about the full body suit. And my answer was measured. I don’t mind talking about it, but I do mind having to worry about it. So now, when she’d asked about the full body suit, I sigh inwardly.

“Yeah….I have to wear the full body suit,” I answered, thinking how it was way too sunny at the Shasta Family YMCA. The pool was outdoors. There was no shade. The temp was 106 and climbing. And it was high noon. But for one day, on vacation, I figured, what the hell. I can swim in this divine little pool. It’s just once and I’ll wear my sun gear.
Besides, this time I remembered my suit so I have the added layer of protection!
“Is it because of skin cancer?” she asks, toweling her wet hair off in the quiet little locker room.
“Yes.”
“If you don’t mind my asking, was it Melanoma?”

“Yeah, it was,” I shake my head. “But you know, I’m fine now. I don’t usually swim outdoors like this in the middle of the day in the 100 degree heat.” I try not to stare at her too tan leathery skin. She is so dark! It’s scary! Does she swim in the middle of the day like this every day here in Redding? Swimming here even once is so daunting to me.

She nods, “Yes, that’s good, I’m glad to hear it…..” She paused, contemplating for a moment, before plunging onward: “I did have some cancer removed from my upper lip. Can you see?” She points her chin toward me. I can’t really see anything and tell her so.

“Yeah, well, it was an ordeal.” She goes on in too much detail about the procedure. I start to feel funny. Why do people insist on telling you all the specifics of their medical procedures? Don’t they know that some of us can’t handle it? But she had been a school nurse. So, she was probably completely unaware of the impact of her medical details on a squeamish swimmer like myself. But then, because she was a trained medical professional, wouldn’t you think she’d be more careful about the sun, esp after her ‘procedure’? It didn’t make any sense to me. Why wasn't she swimming in the late afternoons? Why wasn’t she in a full body suit herself? Or hell, why wasn't she swimming in an indoor pool!

I make several sympathetic cooings to try to cover up my squeamishness and my unease around her sun denial behavior. I want her to stop talking about the medical details, but don’t know how to waylay her. Could I distract her with another subject?
“How long have you been swimming?” I interrupt.
“Oh, not long,” she giggles softly. “I’m not a real swimmer like you. I actually started swimming cause I wanted these sweats that said ‘100 mile club’ on the sides. I really wanted those sweats! They were so cute! But then I knew I could never swim 100 miles so I put it out of my mind. But I kept thinking about those sweats. And so one day, I just decided, goddammit, I’m going to do it. I’m going to swim 100 miles. So what if it takes me a year. Or 2. Or 5. I really want those sweats!”
“Fashion Motivation!” I exclaim.
“Precisely! And you know, I did swim that 100 miles. And I got those sweats!” She beams.
“That’s so great. And now you swim all the time?”
“Yes, well, like I said, I’m not a Real Swimmer like you….”
Her voice trails off, wistful. I didn’t take note of her in the pool very closely other than to notice that she did use a kick board and she did wear a white visor. So, yes, I’d agree she might not be a ‘Real Swimmer’.

However, she did swim that 100 miles for those sweats, so that counts for something, right? But I was still worried about her skin. Why? I don’t know. It wasn’t like I would ever see her again. But there was something about her story that made me uneasy.
Yet what could I do? If she wanted to swim out in the middle of the day in the 100 degree heat, then it was her choice, right?

But maybe, just maybe, she might think about it a bit more after chatting with me. She might get herself a full body suit. She might not swim in the middle of the day. She might spare herself any more bouts of skin cancer and avoid Melanoma.

“Well, nice chatting with you,” she paused for a moment, smiling at me.

“Yes, you too,” I answer, deciding not to chide her about the dangers of swimming outdoors. She knows it and for whatever reason, the swimming is worth it.
I get this. Swimming is everything.
Yet, I do hope she gets a full body suit. She could even paint 100 mile club on the leggings!
Now wouldn’t that be fun? I grin to myself as I pack up my gear and head back out into the 100 degree heat to meet Ian, the smell of cupcakes and burnt toast lingering in the hallway......

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Dunsmuir Community Pool!



“Damn damn damn damn!!!” I try to keep my swearing at low volume here at the Dunsmuir community pool. But it’s hard.
All the years swimming, I’ve never done this one. Sure, I forget essential swim items at times: caps, goggles, fins, ear plugs.
But my suit?
Have I ever forgotten my suit?
Hell no!

And now, here at the beautiful Dunsmuir Community Pool with only an hour allotted for lap swimming, I am in the dismal little locker-room frantically searching through my gym bag for my suit.
Cap: check
Fins: check
Earplugs: check
Leggings: check (The pool is outdoors and hot hot hot. So I’m happy that I didn’t forget my anti sun leggings.)
Rash guard: check: for the same reason as above, I’ve packed my sun shirt.
But no suit? Really? Can this be?
I try not to cry. How could I have done this? I take all my stuff out of my gym bag, laying it out to double check. But no. no suit.


Okay, so….the minutes are ticking by. And the beautiful pool awaits. I don’t have time to go back to the Cabin and retrieve the suit, if that’s where it is.

I have to swim in that pool!
So…yes, this will work. I have the pants. I have the shirt. Why not just wear my elephant t-shirt under the shirt and the pants will work on their own since they’re black? No one will know I don’t have a suit on under this ensemble, right?

Oh! It’s Dunsmuir. The locals are all heaterized in their cut offs and tank tops, smoking cigarettes and flip flopping round town. They won’t care.
Plus, there’s hardly anyone here at the Dunsmuir community pool with the exception of the 5 water aerobics ladies on their noodles bobbing up and down.

So, what the hell.

I don my make-shift swim ensemble and venture out on the deck, still upset but the pool beckons. Ian’s waiting on deck.
“Everything okay?”
“You’re not gonna believe this, but I left my suit back at the cottage I guess. Or maybe it fell off in the car….or…”
“I’ll go look!” he offers, eager to ward off a pre swim nervous breakdown
“No, there’s not time. I’m just gonna wear my elephant t-shirt and sun pants. I’ll be in the water. No one will know.”
And they don’t.

I hop into the aqua beauty of this lovely pool and it’s so delicious. The water is ‘solar heated’, meaning that it’s not. But it’s okay since it’s been over a hundred degrees this day. I swim the first lap and feel the soothing coolness of the water. The clothes are hard to swim in, but I don’t care.


I’m in the Dunsmuir community pool with the scent of burgers wafting over the water and the sounds of I-5 in the background.


Two middle aged guys jump in next to me; they’ve had a few beers. I smile to myself. They’re not really swimmers, so my strange swim apparel won’t register, I’m sure.
Then one breaks into an impressive butterfly and I have to re-evaluate. Okay, maybe he was a swimmer before the Dunsmuir Daze took over his paradigm. His friend cracks up after trying to fly, and they splash each other like boys.

I like this pool. It’s so different from the Y. It’s casual and clear and cool.
But best of all, I have a view of Mt. Shasta, when I turn at the wall.
What could be better than that?

My swimsuit?
Sure, this would help. But in the meantime, I’m happy happy happy as I swim swim swim across the blue blue pool!


















Thursday, July 02, 2015

Castle Lake

“If we had Cell Phone Service….. DAD! We could call him!” She’s teenage. And petulant, obviously, lazily wading in the cooling waters of the delightful little lake.

“There are some things that are better than cell phone service.”

I can’t help myself, but let out a hearty guffaw at Dad’s quip. He grins at me. She glares.

I want to join in the conversation. Tell the bored teen that she’s lucky to be here with no cell service, but realize that she probably wouldn’t get it. Obviously communication to ‘him’ was more important than the natural beauty of this charming little lake. Its surface smooth and glassy. The shores lined with steep little hills of granite rising to the hot blue afternoon sky.

I’ve just finished my swim, and am now perched on a slippery hot rock as I await Ian’s return from our swim to the center of Castle Lake. After swimming through the smooth crisp water, we’d rested on a Big Granite rock, gazing at turquoise dragonflies flitting in and out of the clear clear water.
Usually, I am leery of lake swimming. What the hell is under there? In the murk? A giant tree, fallen and rotting, soft and creepy? Or a series of sharp rocks, jutting up unexpectedly to scratch my tender knees. Or a wily mountain monster, lurking behind that fallen tree, ready to reach out and snatch me with its lethal claws, then popping me into its giant toothy mouth, swallowing me whole before I’ve a chance to climb Mt. Shasta.

Not like that was gonna happen, but my imagination does run amok when lake swimming. So there is a bit of anxiety in the endeavor, but today, with the heat on the rise, and after our tromp through the brambles (“Ian! Can you hold up a minute? I don’t want to climb down there!" "But look, Honey, there’s shade down here! And we can be away from all the people and….”), I’m ready to jump in.

So, when Cell Phone Bereft Girl whines, I just laugh. If she only knew just how lucky she was. And how stupid cell phones are! Why, only a few short years ago, they were a rarity. And today, if you don’t have one, and you’re not talking or texting on it, or taking pictures with it, or checking your email on it or tweeting Kim Kardashian on it, well, you are so OUT OF IT!
I love being out of it!

And on this day, a perfect one for this little lake swim, I grin and grin and grin. The air is too hot, but it’s still and heavy. And the swim was pure magic: my arms slicing through the clean smooth surface of the water. Sure there were unknowns below the brown murk, but hell, it was worth the risk to glide out to that big rock, and climb up its slimy surface to rest from the cold wet waters.
“Dad! Like what is better?” she whines again.
“Oh, now, you’re just being difficult.” He sighs, smiling in a spacey heaterized way. She shrugs, ducks her head into the water, goggles on, searching for what?
A cell phone?
A monster?
Who knows?

All I know is that this day, on this lake, with the air and the water and the dragonflies, I’m happy. Blissfully so.
And I don’t use that term lightly. As anyone who knows me knows.

“You ready to leave?” Ian’s back, huffing and balancing as he climbs out of the cool waters.
“Nah, not yet. Maybe a snack?”
“Sure,” he nods, shaking himself like a happy wet dog. “We have some little sandwiches and some carrots and….”
“Cookies?” I grin.
He laughs, “Of course.”


And he heads up the sandy little beach toward our shady little spot to retrieve the Oreo Heads & Tails double Stuffs. I follow, weaving slightly, her echoes in the background…..

“Daaaad! I neeed…..”

Should I offer her a cookie, I wonder? Is that better than a cell phone? I think so, but then again, I know I’m in the minority. Best to let her whine till she runs out of breath….

Or till her whining calls up the Castle Lake Monster. He'll gobble her up, spit her out, and swim lazily away, leaving us all in peace to enjoy the magical splendor of this sweet little lake.