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.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Lane Lines and Macaroons.....

“Let me ask you this,” Sandy’s slathering lotion on, preparing for her final exit.
“Sure,” I say, rubbing in my own Safeway brand. DL sits serenely on the stool behind me, spacing out? Eavesdropping?

“Have you noticed anything different about the new lane lines?” Sandy asks.
“What do you mean?” I grin. “I mean, they’re new. They’re in the pool. Which is a big improvement over old and NOT in the pool. I actually had to go to Berkeley to swim before they got the new lane lines.”

“Yeah, it was chaos. I couldn’t even swim one lap.”
“I understand.” Sandy grabs the red zippered top of the sweat suit leisure ensemble she likes to sport. Tugs it over her wet hair, starts pulling her crap out of the locker to fill her gym bag. “What I was going to ask was, did you notice that the pool had fewer waves in it?”
“What do you mean?”

“Well, someone was telling me how these new lane lines are Wave Barriers. That they create a calmer pool with fewer waves.”
“Uh…well, I’ve never heard of that. I think that fewer waves have to do with fewer people in the pool and then those fewer people aren’t creating Splash Sandwiches.”
Sandy chuckles, “I hear that one. But this person was emphatic about how new and improved these new lane lines were and I was just wondering if you noticed a difference.”
I shake my head, “Nah, honestly, I think that’s hogwash. I mean, any lane line is going to help the splash situation. It’s when there aren’t any that it gets to be a problem.”
She nods, “I understand. At the Bellevue Club there are no lane lines.”
“And I bet very few people.”
“You got that.” Sandy dries off her flip flops, stuffs them in her gym bag.
“So, if there are only a few people swimming I can see how no lane lines could work,” I continue, warming to my topic. “But not here. It’s anarchy here without lane lines.” I shake my head, remembering Dante’s 9th Circle Swim of Hell a few weeks back.


The intercom is deafening. DL covers her ears. Sandy shakes her head. “Can someone please explain to me why they can’t just use one finger to hang up the intercom instead of slamming it down?”
We all laugh, including the women unseen in the rows behind us.

“They have to slam it. It’s a theme of Noise Hell. Why is it so loud tonight?” I ask.
“It’s been that way for a while. People have complained.” Sandy shakes her head in resignation as she heaves her gym bag over her shoulder.
“Whaa whaaa whaaa intercom…..wha whaaa wha….intercom!” I joke.

DL produces a beautiful sea foam green box from her bag. Holds it out to me: “Do you like macaroons?” she asks.
“No, not really.”
“Me neither.”
“Where did you get them?”
“She brought them all the way back from Paris for me.”
“Doesn’t she know you don’t like macaroons? I mean you’d think a lifelong ex would know such a thing.”
DL laughs. “I never thought of that, but yeah, you’d think so, but she didn’t….. I guess.”
“Well, I guess I could take them for Ian.”
She brightens, holding the pretty box in front of me to take. It’s enticing. Seductive. But…..
“Oh, but you know what,” I say, suddenly too tired and hungry to even think about the macaroons and all they represent let alone take them off her hands. “I think I’ll pass. Sorry.”

She’s slightly crestfallen. Or is it my imagination? I feel bad, but I really can’t take them. I almost ask Sandy if she’d like them, but then think that might be overstepping. So, DL puts them back in her bag, the sea foam green disappearing under the navy zipper.
For a moment, I want them. They’re so pretty. So what if I don’t eat or like macaroons? And besides that, as usual, I’m starving after my swim.

But this momentary macaroon desire passes as I turn to toss all my stuff in my bag.
“Night, Sandy,” I call out.
“Good night, Ladies. See you next month.”
I grin.
Only Sandy would think to say that. That next week will be September.
Any significance to this?
I don’t think so.

Though now, as I head up the stairs next to DL, I think of September in Paris. Of cafes, and wine, and fancy women clip clopping down the cobblestones in their stilettos. How the hell do they do that?
Maybe they live on those beautiful macaroons. Such sweets build balance and beauty. No waves for these women. The lane lines are always there. Guiding them down Parisian streets toward lovers and cocktails.
Damn, I wished I'd taken those macaroons!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

It's the Thought That Counts

“It’s the thought that counts,” Floating Botticelli Tub woman pronounces.
She wasn’t really even on my radar. I’d been whining to DL about how I can’t seem to keep my hair dry no matter what I do. It’s wet from the pool. I wrap it in a towel in the hot tub to keep it from getting even more wet. But it’s a losing battle. So why do I even bother? And this is when Botticelli Woman made her pronouncement.

It was kinda a weird thing to say. I mean, don’t you usually use this cliché when you forget to buy someone a birthday present? Or give someone a crummy Christmas gift? What did it have to do with keeping my hair dry?

Like if I thought about keeping it dry that would count for something? How so?
But we all laughed anyway. I and DL and BW and beatific smiling head out of water woman. She smiled at this comment and then she just kept smiling. I guess she was just really happy to be in the hot tub. And who wouldn’t?

I know I was. After the pool, which for the second week in a row was empty! I only shared my lane for two laps with pepto bismal pink capped woman. Then a lane opened up for her and she zoomed over there.
What was up with the Calm Pool? I dunno, but as Handsome Walking Man said to me last week, “Enjoy it while you can!”
And I do!

“I hear they’re gonna close the Y in Berkeley and Oakland on Sunday cuz of the protests,” Botticelli Woman continues. She’s got a lot to say. And for a moment, I think what protests is she talking about? I mean, I just got out of the pool, I’m floating in warm embracing water, do I really want to hear about some goddamn protests that are gonna be so fraught that they’ll have to close the Y?
And then I remember that there’s some sort of Neo-Nazi demonstrations going on in Berkeley. And so these protests will be the Bay Areaites protesting these despicables. Sorry, but that’s just my opinion. I mean, what the hell? Are we back in pre-Nazi Germany, circa 1939? I guess so. This was my fear when Trump was elected and now lookit.....I was, unfortunately, right.

All I can say is that I hope no one gets hurt. I mean, I think the Neo-Nazi’s are despicable but I still don’t think violence is the answer.
I don’t know what the answer is, except to keep swimming. But that only works for me, I know. Though I wonder, if we got all of those NNs into the pool, or no, how about a very cold ocean? and let them swim around with the fishes, maybe they’d calm down?
Or the fishes would eat them.
Whoops. I said no violence.

Oh, it’s the thought that counts. And in this case, maybe mass thought against these horrid NNs will count for something. You know crowd psychology and all?

We shall see this weekend what transpires. In the meantime, I’ll swim in the calm pool, and enjoy it while I can.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Things People Tell Me in the Pool....

"You move through the water like a hot knife through butter!"

"Wow! Thanks," I beam, resting at the wall for a moment, thinking how I have a poetess in my fan club.

"You’re real in tune with the water," she continues, nodding emphatically as she grips her blue and green striped noodle.

"Yes, well, it is the place where I feel the best."
"It shows," she nods, floating off.

As I turn to start another lap, I think about appearances. I mean, I felt horrible today before I got in the pool. I hadn't had any sleep. I'd had to resort to a Unisom at 4:30 am to help. Consequently, I was swimming with both sleep deprivation and drug hangover.

I didn't feel like I was moving through the water like a hot knife through butter. No, more like a spiky porcupine moving through molasses.

Yet, others can't tell. And this Poetess, cuz I'm convinced she is, couldn't tell that I was actually feeling quite sluggish and prickly.

How could this be? How could someone think that I was moving through the pool so effortlessly?
Appearances. No one can know how you're feeling inside. All they can know is what they see. If I'd actually talked to her longer, I may have told her how awful I really felt. But now, after her comment, did I feel so awful anymore?
Hell no!
And as I took off down the lane, I felt myself buoyed up by the water's warm embrace. Slipping through the water in poetic floating.

I really am a hot knife through butter.

“I just love watching you swim,” Blue Suited Square Woman shakes her head, little drops falling from her short grey locks. “You’re just beautiful. It looks so effortless.”

“Yes, well... thanks,” I nod, thinking about the hot knife through butter comment of a few days before. Is there something up with my swimming lately that I’m not feeling? But I don't tell her this.

“I often don’t feel like it’s effortless, you know? But I musta had some good instruction when I was little. I’ve been swimming all my life.”
She grins, “Yeah, well it shows. The rest of us are all just flailing spastically about.”

I chuckle, “Oh, it doesn’t matter! As long as you’re in the water. That’s what counts!”
“You’re right about that!” she agrees, heaving herself out of the pool and lumbering over to retrieve her towel and roller case.

“You can have this lane,” I offer the round polar bear furred little man as I stretch at the side. “I’m getttin out.”

“Oh, well….” he smiles, nervous and appreciative, “thank you kindly.”

He plops into my lane, the fine white fuzz on his back speckling drops of water. I have a feeling of slight ickiness in the pit of my stomach, but why? I mean, people have fur on their backs, esp. men, yet there’s something strange about him since his ‘fur’ is so white.

Maybe he was a polar bear come to Hilltopia disguised as a swimmer?
“The last time I was here,” he leans toward me, conspiratorially, “I jumped into the pool and swam half a lap and then stopped because the swimmer I was sharing a lane with was waving me down, his face was all contorted and I wondered, what was wrong with him? And then I looked down and I had forgotten to put my swim trunks on!”

He chuckles heartily. I stare at him, speechless, so glad that this didn’t happen to me. I wondered if he had jumped in the pool in his underwear or was he completely naked or….

Damn, I don’t want to think about this image, you know?

The things people say to me in the pool!

I’d much rather imagine a hot knife through butter than a former polar bear man naked.

I watch him as he begins his flail down the lane. Square Woman is right. Everyone does flail in the pool.
But like I said, that doesn’t matter. As long as I am not sharing a lane with them that is!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Circle Swim Hell

“Just to let you know,” Large and in Charge Lifeguard nods at me sympathetically, “what you see before you is just a temporary situation…..”
I stare at the spectacle that is in front of me in stupefied horror. The Downtown Oakland Y pool has been closed for weeks for ‘improvements’. This morning, I had called ahead of time to find out if the pool was indeed open as previously announced. And had been assured that it was.

And, yes, as I stand on the deck, L&I C next to me, the pool is open. But the mayhem that is before me is beyond description.
Though I’ll try.

Usually the pool is divided into 6 lanes, with swimmers splitting each lane. One going up the right side of the black line painted on the bottom of the pool, one going up the left side of the black line. If a third swimmer enters the lane, which is rare, then there is something called circle swimming. The 9th circle of hell as far as I’m concerned. No one at the Oakland Y knows how to circle swim. They are completely oblivious to anyone behind or in front of them, but blithely swim along as if they’re the only one in the pool. Kinda like how some people drive.
So, tonight, instead of the 6 lanes, there are only 2 huge lanes and at least 8-10 people are ‘circle swimming’ in these vast sections of the pool.

It is a complete disaster. Kids are doing handstands in the middle of the lanes. Slow swimmers are plodding down one side; faster swimmers are trying to swim around the handstand kids. A couple stands at the wall, chatting.

“So, as you can see,” the lifeguard continues, “it’s circle swim. You can pass going up toward the far wall, but not on the way back down. And like I said this is a temporary situation.”
“What happened to the lane lines?” I ask, shaking my head in profound disbelief.
“Well, they ordered the wrong length so they had to send them back. They should be getting the new ones in a couple of weeks.”
“A couple of weeks?!!!”
“Yeah, sorry, I know it’s not ideal.” He is sympathetic, but what can he do?

And what can I do but try to enter into the mayhem. I’m already on deck, showered and goggled and capped.
Super Nice Walking Man spies me talking to the lifeguard. After the guard leaves, SNWM nods toward me, “You can share with me. I’ll just stay on this side walking.”
“Thanks, but I don’t think they’ll let me swim there.”
He nods, understanding. The walking lane is only for walking though under the circumstances, couldn’t I swim there? Just for tonight?

I opt not to for now and choose a lane. Sitting on the deck, I feel a rising dread. There is no goddamn way I’m even going to be able to swim to the other end let alone swim my 80 laps. It’s like my bad swimming dreams come true. The ones where I encounter obstacle after obstacle to keep me from swimming. The water is so shallow that my hand scrapes the bottom till the pool becomes a lawn.
Now, in reality, which is often so much worse than my dreams, I am pissed at those kids doing handstands. Seriously? I tell them to go play in the family lane. They grin at me, nod, and then dive under for more handstanding.

I want to scream. But what good would that do? No one would even notice!

I jump in. Try to swim around the slow butterfly purple suited woman. Almost have a head on collision with a bikinied oblivious woman. The handstand kids are splashing and laughing now, joyous in their mayhem.

I glance over at Walking Man who motions for me to join him.
I take a risk. And do.
“Thanks!” I exclaim to him, slipping into the calmness that is his lane. It’s free and clear for me and looks delicious!
“There was no way I could swim over there.”
“Yeah, I noticed,” he chuckled.
“I bet they won’t let me swim here,” I say before taking off in the lane.
“Well, go for it as long as you can!” he proclaims, turning and walking up the lane.

And I do get away with it for about 20 minutes, till L&IC saunters back over: “You can’t swim here.”
“Even though it’s complete chaos over there and I can’t even swim one lap?” I whine.
“Nope, sorry, if it were up to me I’d say fine, but someone ran into the ladder the other day and so they’re being really strict about not letting anyone swim here.”
“They ran into the ladder?” I glance at the plastic ladder that is at the end of the walking lane. "How the hell did someone swim into it?" I ask him.
“Well, it wasn’t on my watch, but apparently they were swimming backstroke and you know how you count your strokes for backstroke once you spot the flags?” I nod. “Well, they forgot the ladder was there and were counting the strokes and whoops! There were fewer strokes to the ladder cuz it sticks out.”
“Oh wow,” I murmur thinking how idiotic that was. “Was he hurt?”
“Nah, I don’t think so. Though he got out. He was done for the day.”
“Ah…..” I glance over at the lane next to me It’s a bit calmer now –the pool is closing soon and the chaos has cleared out a bit.
“Can’t I even swim here tonight?” I plead. “It’s impossible over there!”
“Nope, wish I could say yes. I know you can swim and wouldn’t swim into the ladder, but like I said….”
“Okay,” I sigh, but then see a couple more people get out. “It’s not as bad now. I’ll move.”

“Thanks,” he says, weary.
I don’t envy him his job. Hell, imagine what his day has been like trying to manage the chaos of mass circle swim.


Later, I tell Sandy about the chaos. She shakes her head, “You’re telling me that they’ve had the pool closed for over 3 weeks and it’s still not ready?”
“Yup,” I sigh, better now that I’m in Utopia.
“Typical,” Sandy snorts.
“Yeah, well, I did swim in the walking lane for a little while.”
“Good for you!” she exclaims.
“Yeah, but they kicked me out. Someone swam into the ladder.”
“What the hell?” she says. “How’d they do that?”
I tell her. She shakes her head. “Well, I suppose you could complain but frankly they’re pretty immune to complaints around here. All they hear is ‘Blah blah blah pool blah blah….’”
We all crack up. DL weaves out. Thanks to Sandy, I’m in a much better mood.
Yet still…..what to do about swimming?

Maybe I’ll just take up walking in the walking lane. Or stay upstairs with DL and do the machines. Or…..I could just compare my experience to Dante’s---I’m faring much better, right?

Then I beheld a thousand faces, made
Purple with cold; whence o'er me comes a shudder,
And evermore will come, at frozen ponds.

And while we were advancing towards the middle,
Where everything of weight unites together,
And I was shivering in the eternal shade,

Whether 'twere will, or destiny, or chance,
I know not; but in walking 'mong the heads
I struck my foot hard in the face of one.

Weeping he growled: "Why dost thou trample me?
Unless thou comest to increase the vengeance
of Montaperti, why dost thou molest me?"
(`Longfellow translation of Dante’s Inferno, 9th Circle)

I coulda trampled on those kids doing handstands, right?
Maybe next week. Stay tuned….

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Quiet Space....????

“Did Agent Vargos contact you regarding the asset?”
“Affirmative, Commander.”
“Is the mission following protocol?”

What the hell? I think to myself, opening one eye toward the dialogue floating through the heated air. Is someone watching TV in the sauna?
In my sights is a young Latina, phone pushed up toward her smug mug, a big grin on her face. She lets out a cackle.
“What are you watching?” I ask, thinking she’ll turn it off if she knows what’s good for her.
“Queen….blah blah blah…” She doesn’t unglue her eyes from the tiny screen, making no contact with me whatsoever other than to mumble the title of the show that I can’t quite make out with my stupid stuffed up ear.

There are several women in the sauna now, including DL who is staring at me across the room, eyes wide in disbelief as the TV continues to blare on, Latina Clueless giggling every few moments.

“Do you have to watch that in here?” a woman asks, and I note she was in the pool . Of course. My ally is a swimmer!
“I pay my membership just like everyone else,” Latina Clueless announces, grinning at the next scene of Queen Idiot.
“Too bad for us,” Swimmer Ally answers.

Grinning, I can’t help but join in, esp. now that I’ve got reinforcements. I can see and feel DL’s encouragement from across the room. Hear her inner voice yelling at me, “What the hell? Go CJ!”

Latina Clueless ignores Swimmer Ally.

“This is a quiet place,” Swimmer Ally reminds her.
Clueless Latina continues to ignore her. Astounding, her focus and presumptuous disregard for all except herself and The Queen.

“Or you could just ignore us all since we can’t ignore you,” I proclaim.

Still no response.

Wow. I'm in awe....I mean, who does this? There's a room full of women who just want a quiet space to relax and have asked her to turn off her TV and she just blithely continues on, oblivious to the growing cloud of hostility surrounding her?

We all sit in silence for a moment. Well, except for the persistent drone of the Agent Vargas’ commands to the Queen.

“You know,” I continue, undaunted now and curious how far she'll take it, “there are signs all over the place saying “NO CELL PHONES!”
Nope still no response. My admonishments are way too subtle for her thick skull. She pays her membership and by God, she’s gonna do whatever the hell she wants, to hell with everyone else.

Where are my Big Take No Shit Sauna Companions when I need them? I know that Large and in Charge Indian Nurse Woman would just turn to Clueless Latina and tell her to turn her stupid phone off immediately. “Those are NOT allowed in here!” And because of her stature and her tone, I bet Clueless would turn the phone off.

Or maybe not.

Yet….a few women get up and leave, and now, Clueless turns off the TV and starts texting mightily. I can’t read what she’s writing, but can guess: “OMG! Ashley! You will never believe the bitches in the sauna tonight. They want me to turn off Queen….. and it’s the best episode yet!”

DL rises and weaves out. I follow her. We burst out into the locker room barely able to contain our mirth and disbelief, laughing loudly.

We are 12 years old!
“Can you believe that?” I ask her.
“I can not!” she laughs.
“I mean, what would Sandy have done?”
“She would have marched right over to the phone and called upstairs. She would NOT have taken that shit.”
We laugh even harder.
“Aren’t you glad you came to Hilltopia tonight, DL?” I laugh.
“Oh, yeah, I wouldn’t have missed that one for the world!”

We erupt into more giggles, head to the showers, shaking our heads.

Later I see Swimmer Ally drying her hair, she grins at me, an understanding passing between us.
Swimmers. We have a common bond. We like the water.... And we like a quiet place…..

No matter what The Queen says!

Thursday, June 22, 2017


“I can’t do that,” DL murmured at the sight of the packed hot tub. Women stacked in the bubbling waters like soft body bricks.
“Yeah, me neither,” I concurred, “especially after the Chaos that was the pool.”
“Let’s just go in Utopia,” DL headed to the sauna, opening the door wherein only Sandy lay, supine atop her usual queenly shelf.
“Hello, Ladies,” she said.
“Hi, Sandy,” I replied climbing up to sit in the corner next to her. “How’s it going?” DL situated herself on the shelf below, lying down in calming satisfaction at the status of the nearly empty Utopia.
“How was the pool?” Sandy asked. “As if I need to ask.”
“It was CHAOS!!!” I proclaimed, “I even had a Crash!”
Sandy sat up, shaking her head, eyes widening, “I hope you’re okay?”
“Oh, yeah, fortunately it was another woman and we weren’t going too fast, but hell, she didn’t tell me that the other circle swimmer had gotten out and she was gonna split the lane. I couldn’t see anything through the fog of my mask, you know?”

“Yeah,” Sandy nodded. “A little communication goes a long way. I remember one time I had the same thing happen to me and when the woman crashed into me, she had the nerve to exclaim, ‘WHAT!!! Do I have to get a Tetanus shot now?’” Sandy sighed in weary memory of the incident.
DL giggles were instantaneous. Their drifting mirth floating up to me as I grinned too. “What did you say?” I asked Sandy, wondering what the hell did that even mean? Did the swimmer who crashed into Sandy think that Sandy was a giant dirty nail that had plowed into her? The comment was completely outta left field as far as I could tell, but then much is in the pool, esp. in a Chaos Pool.
“What did you say to her?” I asked Sandy now.
She shrugged, “I don’t really remember. I remember thinking, Lady, what are you talking about? With all the AIDs and STDs and whatever the hell else is in this pool, it was a public pool mind you. This didn’t happen at The Club. And then I thought, to myself, no, I’m not gonna say all this. I mean, I have all of these judgments swirling inside my head. Do I really want to let them out and become one of those Angry Old Ladies that I despise?”
DL laughed harder. I chuckled, “Yeah, I know what you mean,” thinking that I was prone to letting the judgments out of my head and into the air more than I’d like lately.
Was it an Angry Old Lady attribute? Or did the world just need my entirely justifiable virulence on occasion?
Tonight, I hadn’t yelled at Crash Woman at all, even though it was, technically, her fault for not communicating. She was so apologetic and I hadn’t been hurt nor had she.
Plus, she was cute.
And so, summer at the Y. Oh boy!
Fortunately, I’m up to date on my Tetanus Shot.
I think….though maybe I better double check. For the future. Cuz the next swimmer I crash into may not be quite so cute….
….and I might just let those Judgements out of my head and into the pool.... Justifiably!

Thursday, June 15, 2017


“You saw the pool will be closed for several weeks this summer?” Sandy glances in the mirror, tussles her hair a bit, then shrugs. She’s wearing her half a duck t-shirt, but I can’t remember the joke that’s on it right now as I try to absorb what she’s just told me.

“What!!!” I exclaim. “In the middle of the summer they’re gonna close the pool?”
“Yes, well, they think there are more options for folks to go elsewhere in the summer than in the middle of winter.” She shakes her head, sighs loudly.
“Uh,” I mutter, “not sure that’s true. But thanks for telling me.”

“You didn’t see the signs?”
“Nope, but you know, there are a LOT of signs around here. Too much signage means that I don’t read anything.” Sandy chuckles, tossing some crap in her gym bag.
I continue my pool closure interrogation, “Where are the signs?”
“Oh, up at the front. You know the pool closure is in fine print,” she says. “At least it's posted.”
“Yeah,” I admit, “but why don’t they post the closure info on the door out to the pool? Or put the dates on the bulletin board under the water temp. Then swimmers would see.”
“Oh, well, you’re talking logic there, Carol,” Sandy laughs.
“Yeah, okay, I have to remember where I am. Logic doesn’t prevail here at the Downtown Oakland YMCA.”
“You got it…..” she agrees,zipping up her gym bag and putting on her sweatshirt.
And I have to think, where does logic prevail? I have to really scratch my head to think where it does. Not at my job. Even though, supposedly, teaching writing would seem to encompass much emphasis on logic. Critical thinking is key to structuring a well-written paper, right? Oh, yeah, the well-written part. That gets lost. Understandably, so, but still. Logic would help. A reverse outline. A reading of the assignment. Hell, even reading out loud. That would show the gaps in logic,right?
And where else would you think logic would prevail and it doesn’t? Let’s see, not in our political system. Damn. Do I even want to go there? But you know, I still cannot process who the leader of the free world is. And that he was elected by the population that supposedly has free will to choose who would be the best for their interests. But yet, they elect someone who is diametrically opposed to their interests. Take healthcare. Trump vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act and now he’s working on doing this. But yet…..don’t all those Trump Voters benefit from Obama’s landmark act? Don’t they pay less in premiums because of the government subsidies? Don’t they get free preventative care? Care for pre-existing conditions?

Not in the electorate.

And so, it’s no surprise that there’s little logic to be found in the workplace or the home or the YMCA.
Logic is a rare occurrence.

Part of me is appalled. Yet part of me, too, has to admit that logic can be vastly overrated. I mean where would artists and dancers and musicians be with logic? It’s all about emotion, right? Oh, dear. Now that’s something I am an expert in. Emotion.
But that’s another blog for another day.

Today, I’ll go with why the hell don’t they post the pool closure dates at the pool?

Logic, Carol, logic. Remember where you are. At the Downtown Oakland YMCA, where pool closures are rampant and logic is scarce.
"See you next week," Sandy calls out to me as she heads out.
"Yes, next week. If the pool isn't closed."
Sandy laughs, waves bye over her head, as I scurry to finish dressing before the Y closes.

Oh, and the joke on her T-shirt? I remember now! "Not playing with a full duck"!
Yup, perfect for the Downtown YMCA!