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!