Saturday, December 30, 2017

Orange Night

Neesie's Poem

Ode to Orange
Once my mother's lipstick was almost
but red was the actual color
of my wagon too
Yet the roses were kind of orange
and I thought about this alot:
Could the clouds be orange?
What about an eye?
And the weather wrapped itself
around me like the skin of an orange
and it was warm there
like lying in a lush warm sea
with orange fish
swimming about as if that was the only thing
and my small scoffed shoes
took on an orange hue
in the afternoon
I ran to the fence and climbed it
before night fell
and the street glowed from the
yellow lamplight
and I thought of an orange-eyed cloud

Ian's Poem

Ode to Orange

Oh oh the range, the danger
Orange is an almost color
Almost yellow almost the sun
Almost red, close to the fire
But cooler, warmer too.
And then the odious of
Orange marches, banners
Almost as ferocious as the
opposite of the I.R.A., tho
O.R.A., the yellow and red
And Rusty the cat in orange
Fur, not at all ferocious, not
even almost. Marmalade the
English way, where oranges
Do not grow.

Cj's Poem

Ode to Orange

O! Orange!
How delicious!
& nutritious!
In every form:
ice cream
tic tacs
orange rolls--Pillsbury pop &
fresh, of course!
O! Orange!
Where would we be
without you?
No sunsets with brilliant fire
No safety cones on the
Slow for the cone zone.
No life preservers to
place on tiny toddlers
in the pool
Well...actually, let the
toddlers sink!
They don't deserve

O Orange!
Scriabin saw orange in
his chords of the Preludes
Scarlet saw orange when
Rhett said "See you later,

Who else sees

Not I!
I only see blue & blue
& blue & blue
Be damned....till the
next Orange Night, that is!

Lu's Poem

Ode to Orange

--Oh, I never did see orange at all;
--Until the S.F. Giants I saw
play the baseballa---

--Buster Posey did wear it every
warm summer night
--Orange was all around, everywhere,
and I learned to delight.

--Now, and again, I
think I should add

--Oh, orange, my orange, you're
not-a-so bad!

Frank's Poem

Why I Am Not a Painter

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,

for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
“Sit down and have a drink” he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. “You have SARDINES in it.”
“Yes, it needed something there.”
“Oh.” I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. “Where’s SARDINES?”
All that’s left is just
letters, “It was too much," Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven’t mentioned
orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike’s painting, called SARDINES.

Frank O’Hara, 1926 - 1966

~Grace Hartigan

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Special Magic

“You sound just like my twin sister!” Sandy jokes as I try to croak out a “I’m headed to the pool” farewell.
“Yeah, I have this cold,” I shake my head. “I need to swim it out.”
“I wasn’t gonna say that, but glad you did.”
I wave instead of more croaking, head out to the pool, which on the night before Thanksgiving at the Downtown Oakland Y I expect to be empty.
It’s not.
Every lane is packed. Kids are screaming and hurling toys. The lifeguards are circling the deck, actually paying attention to the mayhem.

I choose a lane to split with a swimmer who seems to have the least amount of splashing. But then she gets out. I spy a Large Man at the wall. Damn, he’s getting in my lane. I hate sharing a lane with Large Men, esp. if there’s a Large Man on the other side of me too. I’m in a Large Man Splash Sandwich, being tossed back and forth between Man Tsunamis.
It’s hell. The 9 circle, of course.
I press on. Get through my swim portion of my workout, swallowing only 10 gallons of water, before grabbing the kickboard, peeling off the mask, and putting on my flippers.
Ah, mobility at last! And I can see. The Mayhem still abounds, but over in the corner of the walking lane I spy the Beauteous Linda Norton chatting with a beauteous blue turban woman as they both serenely stretch and float.
Damn. That’s the way to swim at the Y! Not swim! Both women look so calm and engaged. They don’t have that frenzied aspect that I always have whenever I try to swim my laps here. They just chat, and lift a leg once in a while and then float a bit.
Plus they have their hair in marvelous cover-up situations.
TBLN has her towel tucked under and around her head in some sort of intricate get up. How the hell does she do that? I wonder. Her hair looks like it doesn’t get wet at all! I need to ask her how she does that towel wrap.

And later I do. After Utopia banter about movies, (You must go see Ladybird); art (Carol can paint the three eyes on the back of DL’s head); and heat or lack thereof in the new Utopia (They just installed that new heating unit and it’s not hot enough,” Sandy harrumphs. “I think people are saying that it’s too hot. Well, hell, if they don’t like the heat, they should go in the steam room, you know?)

Then….DL leaves. It’s plenty hot for her. Sandy turns and sighs. BLN rises serenely, her marvelous Towel Head still firmly in place. I hail her before she leaves, “Linda! How do you wrap your towel like that?”
She gives me her Mona Lisa smile as she glides out the door, “Special Magic.”

All the women laugh as the BLN exits.

“She is so funny,” one woman exclaims, chuckling still.
“Yup, that she is,” I agree.
Later, I tell DL the ‘Special Magic’ explanation for the towel wrap and her eyes light up. “That’s fantastic, CJ. I think we can use that phrase for many things.”
And she’s right.
Michelle Pfeiffer in Murder on the Orient Express: Special Magic.
The cat eating the pills hidden in her treats: Special Magic.
The pool lane empty and warm and free of Big Man Splash Sandwich: Special Magic!!!

Sandy and I: twins? Now, that would be the most Special Magic of all!

Just like Mariah and Cassie on the Young and the Restless.
Or Adam and Stuart on All My Children.


Stay tuned....there's more Special Magic in the future. You can count on Utopia for that!

Thursday, November 16, 2017


“Did anyone turn in a purple water bottle?” DL takes a chance. Asks the 12 year old at the front counter of the Downtown YMCA: Time: 9:59. 1 minute till closing.
No way is she going to get any action now, right?


12 year old girl (actually, she’s probably 25) makes a pretense of glancing around behind the counter, a look of intense bored concentration. “I don’t see anything.”
“I think I left it upstairs,” DL continues. “I was on the treadmill and the bikes.”
“I’ll go take a look,” 12 year old nods, trots out of our sight.
I glance over at DL, shrug. “I gotta set this stuff down,” I motion to my hugely laden gym bag.
“Sure,” DL and I walk over to the chairs by the front door. I plop my bag down next to Large and In Charge Lifeguard who’s plugged into something, staring into space.

I stare at him. Wanting to fuck with him. What can I say? Oh, yeah, my favorite, complain about the pool temperature.
He sees my stare, takes out his earplugs, “WHAT?” he looks at us, aghast at our effrontery to interrupt his plugged in state.
“Nothing,” I say.
“Okay, well, why were you staring at me?”
“We weren’t staring at you,” DL says. “We’re just waiting.”
“Oh, okay.” He glances at me. “I thought I did something wrong.”
I grin. “Actually, you did.”
“WHAT?” Now he’s pissed off, mildly so, but I like it.
“It’s all your fault that the pool was cold tonight.”
“What are you talking about? The pool was 84 degrees!” he proclaims, shaking his head, and starting to plug in again. He’s had enough of the stupid middle aged women hassling him.
“It was NOT!” I try not to shout. “I wouldn’t have been cold if it had been 84!” And it wasn’t. I’d even talked to another swimmer and asked her if she had been cold. She’d paused for a moment, then nodded, ‘Yeah, it was a little chilly tonight.’

Too bad I didn’t have her here to back me up. It’s always just me complaining and then the lifeguards, 12 year olds and other sundry Y employees roll their eyes at me. Complain complain complain. It falls on deaf ears.

I stare at Large and in Charge. He seems genuinely incensed at my claim that the pool was cold. I think he’s lying. Why? Just to fuck back at me.

12 year old returns. It’s only been a few minutes. Did she really go all the way upstairs and scour the premises for DL’s water bottle?
“I don’t see anything,” she murmurs, turning away from us.
Surprise surprise.
She’s lying too.
Later, in the car, I mention to DL that I didn’t think she’d had time to really go upstairs and look for the water bottle. She probably just ducked around the corner, counted to 50 and then returned. Then lied to us.


Why is this? Is it just easier to lie? I think so. Sometimes. Those little ‘white’ lies—the typical ones done out of politeness-- just roll off the tongue. ‘Oh yes, your hair looks fabulous!’ When in actuality it looks like shit. Or, “Gee, that production of Oklahoma that your community playhouse put on was marvelous!” When in fact no one can compare to Shirley Jones!
Or sometimes the lies serve a darker purpose: my all-time favorite: “The shake machine is broken” from my stint as a soda jerk. This lie came so easily to me as the stunned family of 5 stood open mouthed, disappointment lining their mugs. No way was I going to make 5 milkshakes 3 minutes before closing! The lie worked perfectly! They got cones instead. Or maybe they just left. I don’t remember. But The Lie did wonders for my mood!
And so, tonight, the liars at the Y can be excused. I get it. It’s just easier. Esp. when you’re about to close. But poor DL! I bet her purple water bottle is up there somewhere.

Or not. Maybe 12 year old clerk took it. Saw how very pretty it was. Snatched it for herself.
Would she? I mean, a water bottle? Isn’t that kinda gross? Of course, DL is NOT gross, so maybe when 12 year old saw DL she thought, hell, the only way I can get close to someone so beauteous is by lying and then stealing her water bottle.

Yup. I bet that’s what happened.

I’m going to run this theory past DL. In the meantime, if anyone sees a pretty purple water bottle at the YMCA, can you please turn it in to the lost and found?

And do NOT give it to the 12 year old.

I don’t trust her!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

That's What I Would do!

“Oh…..sorry…sorry…so sorry!”

I had felt the short stabbing pain a moment before. A kick to my neck. My bad side of course. I’d been placidly kicking on my back, enjoying my warm-down, after the blissful swim at Joanna Banana’s Claremont Community pool.

And then, wham! The kick!

After her 'so sorries', I watch her hot pink cap disappear under the lane line in a watery blur as I rub my now aching neck. Apology made. On to the next disaster.

What the hell? I mean, why do people do that? I get that she was trying to climb out of the pool at the steps. That she had to dive under my lane to do this. But, c’mon. She had a ton of time to do this. Why pick the exact moment before I turn at the wall?

I tell Joanna this later, and she just cracks up. “I know! I hate it when people do that! I time my laps.
I swim a 50 in 50 seconds. That means that there are at least 40 seconds, 45 seconds even, to duck under my lane line when I’m not at the wall. And I tell myself, why do people not figure this out the same way I do? Why doesn’t everyone think the way I do? I mean, when I was supervising people at work and they did some dumb ass thing, I’d think to myself, why didn’t you do it like I would have? Doesn’t everyone think the same way I do? I mean, c’mon people. Get it together. Think like me!”
And we all crack up, me, Joanna and Ian.

I have to agree. Why didn’t Kick Me in the Neck Lady figure out that she could have dipped under my lane line at any number of points in time without kicking me! All she had to do was either time her lane crossing to before or after my turn at the wall. If she had waited till I turned, then she would have had a full minute (I’m not as speedy as Joanna) to dive under the lane line and make her way to the steps. Even the slowest turtle could do that!
But no. She had to choose the precise moment that I come to the wall right before I turn around to dive under and wham, she kicks me and then she’s all apologies. Plus!Couldn’t she see I was on my back? That my vision was obviously skyward rather than herward?
“Well, at least she apologized,” Joanna grins.
“Yeah, there’s that,” I shake my head.
“But why did she have to choose that moment in the first place?” Joanna muses, laughing.
“Exactly!” I laugh.

Why oh why can’t everyone think and behave just like me? I think of this all the time. Why can’t that driver of the monster red truck just let me merge in front of him onto the freeway? That’s what I would do! Why can’t the cat pee inside the box instead of outside of it? That’s what I would do! (If I were a cat!) Why can’t Ian agree with everything I say? That’s what I would do….okay, maybe not. But you get my drift!
If everyone followed the same pool etiquette that I do, then it would make the pool a much safer place to be. Not to mention the world a much better place to live!

Because as everyone knows who knows me, my thoughts and behaviors are perfect.

At least in the pool that is!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Pick your Poison

“Pick your poison,” Smart Ass Lifeguard stares at the pool testing thingamajigs for a moment before dumping the liquid back into the pool.
Rolling my eyes, sighing loudly, glaring at him, I resume my complaint about the water being way too cold for me to workout. SAL had given me some convoluted explanation about the door having to be kept closed because of the fires up in Napa and so the pool had to be kept a colder temperature too as a result. So, I could either have the door open and warmer water and smoky air, OR I could have the door closed and colder water.

Hence the Pick your Poison cliché. Cold water or bad air. Which will it be?
Frankly, give me the warm water over anything any day! I don’t care if I have to breathe smoke or fight crowds or suffer screaming children: I DETEST COLD WATER! I cannot swim in it without hurting myself. My poor shoulder hurts first. And then the pain moves down my entire arm and then to my back till I’m just a frigid hunk of hellish pain.

Is this why I swim?
I think NOT!

But when I try to explain all of this to Smart Ass, he just shrugs and says, oh so predictably: “I like the water a bit on the cold side myself.”

Yeah, big surprise there. It’s always these men, trying to prove how macho they are, who like the cold water. Or maybe it’s not just limited to men; I’ve known some women, too, who like the ‘cold’ water. “I get a better workout.” Or “It makes me swim faster.” Or….. “If it’s too warm, I get lethargic.”

Frankly, I think all of this is hogwash. Who would want to be cold in order to get a better workout? It just doesn’t make any sense to me. What about that new yoga? You know the one where it’s in the HEAT and this help to limber one up and stretch better and get a more intense workout?
Why wouldn’t this apply to swimming too?

I mean, hell, if I’m warm, then I can stretch and if I can stretch without pain, then I can go faster and oh, what about the fact that I will ENJOY it more!?

Yet, those types who like the cold and follow that adage, ‘No pain no gain’ aren’t about enjoyment or the sensual pleasures right? They’re all about the ‘workout’ and if it doesn’t hurt then you’re not accomplishing anything.
I believe the opposite. If it hurts, stop doing it. And if it feels good, do it more!

Wasn’t it Oscar Wilde who had a quote about that?
Just a minute and lemme see if I can find it on the internet.............................. Okay, I'm back. How about this one?
“A passion for pleasure is the secret of remaining young.” ~Oscar Wilde

No wonder I’m a glutton for pleasure, warmth, and sensuality. I knew this secret…..I am forever young because of my love of warm water! Swimming in a cold pool will age you prematurely!
Cold water is poison. Pure and simple.

But try telling that to Smart Ass Lifeguard. Well, obviously, he’s never read Oscar Wilde!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

3 Scenes.....

“Arrrggghhhh! Too hot!” DL hisses, pulling her big toe back out of the hot tub, grimacing.
“Yeah,” I agree, “it does feel really hot today. Even for me.”
Botticelli woman floats blissfully in my favorite corner, a beatific smile edging out, nods toward the temperature gauge, “They took the needle away.”

DL and I both nod. The needle that tells the temperature has been gone for weeks.
“So, you have to believe yourself,” Botticelli Woman advises. “Or not.”
We both laugh. “Do you believe yourself?” I ask DL.
She shakes her head, “Never.”

Everyone laughs as another woman enters, serene until she too feels the too hot water. “It’s HOT!” she exclaims.

“Yes, it is,” we all agree.
DL is perched on the side of the tub, her large brown eyes sparkling.
“Do you wanna go in the sauna?” I ask her.
She nods.
We do. I notice BW woman heave herself out. Her pale skin is bright red. Like a wrinkled overripe tomato at the end of its lifespan.
That hot tub really is too hot! But like Sandy said, last week, "They took the needle away so we can’t complain.”
I like to complain, so the lack of a needle wouldn't stop me. But I honestly don't care. Besides, I got a scene out of it. So there's that.

As we enter Utopia, Sandy's holding court as usual. “I’m glad that worked out for you, M. You deserve it.”
M nods, stumbles out of the sauna.
“Hello Ladies,” Sandy greets us.
“Hey, Sandy, how’s it going?” I ask.
“You really wanna know?”

We all laugh. “How was the pool?” she asks me.
“Well, there was a bit of a minor miracle tonight.”
“Do tell,” she says as DL plants herself on the bottom shelf, her hearing ear at the ready.
“I walked out onto the deck and the pool was full. Every lane had at least 2 people and some had 3 circle swimming.”
“Oh, joy,” Sandy harrumphs, leaning toward me for the story.
“Yeah, so I asked the lifeguard who was ready to get out. You know, cuz supposedly he’s paying attention…..”
“Lemme guess, he had no clue.”
“Yup. How’d you know?”
“Swimmer’s intuition.”

We all chuckle. I continue, “But back to the shocker. He told me that he’d move a slow swimmer out of the fast lane and then I could have her lane to split with this speedy cute guy.”
“Really?” Sandy nodded, impressed.
“Yeah, I was shocked. So it worked out. But it was crowded. The lanes are so narrow. I’m always afraid that someone is gonna kick me.”
“I hear you there! And let me tell you, if someone kicked me, okay, I could deal if it’s in my side or my leg, but if they kick me in the teeth? There’s gonna be a problem. And not just a problem with my teeth, but a problem with the lifeguard! You know what I mean?”
“Oh, yeah!” I grin as DL’s belly mirth starts to rise.

“Our friends from Southeast Asia, no offense, but they all learn to swim by doing the breaststroke and their kicks….well, let me just say, if one of them kicked me, there’d be hell to pay.”
We all chuckle and I think to myself, Did she just make an offhand racist remark about the swimming styles of Southeast Asians? I’m not sure. It could just be an observation she’s made over the years, and though I’ve never thought about it, she could be right. Though what about the two beautiful Korean women who swim like dolphins in the sea? Or are they not the Southeast Asian population she’s referring to? Where is Korea anyway? Is it considered part of Southeast Asia? Which countries are? I need to google that and get back to you…..
My sense of geography is haphazard at best.



Again, the hellish blaring intercom. Why? DL covers her ears. Sandy and M shake their heads. I grin. “Can’t they just turn down the volume?” I ask.
“Evidently not,” Sandy sighs as she slips on her white sweat pants, draws the string closed.

M stands next to her, her intense conversation about Oakland homeless encampments interrupted by the stupid intercom.
“You’d think that after just one complaint,” M holds up her index finger, waves it at all of us. It is the number 1. “….that they’d fix it.”
We all nod and laugh. Right. Like one complaint would fix anything at the downtown Oakland Y. or 10 complaints. Or 100.
Like Sandy said a few weeks ago, “They’re immune to complaints.” Which goes back to the missing needle in the hot tub. Complaining would not fix the situation.

I gather up the last of my stuff, cram it in my gym bag, heave it up into my arms, head out of the lockers. “See you next time,” I call out, DL waves.

“Yes, Ladies, see you next week,” Sandy says. M waves and nods.

Are we a member of her club yet? I hope so!
I’ll let you know next week for the next installment of Poolpurrs. Meanwhile, I'm going to file the umpteenth complaint about the intercom system. And the lack of the needle to gauge the hot tub temp. And....

Nah, just kidding. No complaints from me about the Downtown Oakland Y.
After all, it is Utopia....

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pool toys, Pringles and Cockroaches

“The water main went out at my Club the other day so I had to swim here,” Sandy sighed, spritzing herself with a healthy squirt from her Utopian Spray bottle to cool down.
“How’d that go?” I ask.
“It was fine. Until I hit something with my hand.”
“What do you mean?”
“At first I thought it was a kickboard, or the lane line, but then when I stopped to assess, I saw it was a toy.”
I laugh. “Yeah, they like toys in the pool at the downtown Oakland Y.”
“Which is fine, but not in my lane. I had half a mind to pick it up and fire it over at the lifeguard.”
“Like he would have even noticed.”
“Exactly,” Sandy shook her head, leaned back into the hot wall. DL was below. I could see the belly laugh in its silent giggle.

“I noticed tonight that the swimmer next to me, in the lane next to the family chaos section, was just swimming through the toys," I start in. "At one point a pretty pink ball was blocking his way and he just plowed right through it, not missing a stroke. I was very impressed. I would have stopped. Hailed the lifeguard. Thrown the ball back at the kids. Yelled that the toys belonged in that side of the pool. Etc. etc. etc. Like it would have even mattered, right?”
Sandy and DL both chuckle. “Yeah, I hear you…," Sandy said.

There was a moment of heated repose before Sandy began again. “Did you see all of those signs to bring your friends and family last Sunday for Labor Day?”
“Oh, yeah, I think so,” I said, still thinking of the swimmer with the pink ball.
“Well, when I went to my usual situation where my locker is there was a family and I’m tellin’ you they had a goddamn picnic going on.”
“Really?” I encourage.
“Yup. They had quite a spread: sandwiches, fruit….Pringles.”
“Pringles?” I crack up, noting that DL does too.
“Yes, and so when I went to open my locker, hell if I was gonna move away to get dressed, I told them, “You know, there are cockroaches in this place.”
DL bursts out laughing. I join in. “Cockroaches!” I exclaim.
“And what was their response?” I ask between mirthful breaths.
“Nothing. They just shrugged and continued their picnic. It didn’t faze them at all.”
“I’m not surprised. But cockroaches. That is disgusting!”

“Exactly,” Sandy nodded. “One time, I just got a plastic bag and positioned it over a roach, scooped it up and took it upstairs to the Powers that Be and said, ‘Here you go. What are you gonna do about it?’”
“And they got right on the case, right?” I joked.
“Yup,” Sandy sighed loudly.

“I can’t believe you actually captured one in a plastic bag.”
“Hawaii. They’ve got bugs there,” Sandy responded, Hawaiian native and seasoned bug capturing pro that she was. And I remembered how once, when I was staying at this hippy dippy place in Kailua, I heard this huge ‘thunk’ in the middle of the night and when I turned on the light, there was an enormous bug that looked like an alien from a Sigourney Weaver movie plastered on the wall opposite my bed. I screamed and opened the door and tried to get it out, yelling, flailing my arms, throwing flip flops at it, but it just hung out there, serenely, like a plastic brown creature from outer space that had landed for the duration of the night. Hawaii does have bugs!
“Well, I’m sure they don’t have cockroaches at your Club,” I smiled.
“Nope,” Sandy agreed, rising to head out of Utopia. “See you Ladies on the other side.”
“I’ll bring the Pringles!” I offer, following her out.
Sandy snorts, slinging her towel over her shoulders as she ambles out into the locker room and heads for the showers.
Before turning to close the door, I see a movement under the bench on the cement floor. Tiny copper antennae wriggle, exploring.
A cockroach?
ARRRRGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!! I think, scurrying out of the sauna to escape the wild beast.

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...