Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Out of the pool, into the politics

(photo by Chris McGinnis)

“Speechless, but focused.”

This sign caught my attention during the Women’s March through downtown Oakland (Saturday, January 21, 2017). Why was this the one I remember first when I think back around the energy of that day? Certainly there were tons of memorable signs: “Warrior Princess”; “Pussy grabs back ”; “It’s so bad, even introverts are marching!”
Yet this sign around a silent and deep attention seemed to mirror the words and meaning on my own sign: “This strains my credulity on so many levels…..”
Or are they opposites? Mine is broad and all encompassing. While the focused one narrows to a pinprick of consciousness. Yet, I can NOT believe what disastrous swipes of his pen Trump has already enacted. No more funding for women’s health care overseas? I can NOT even wrap my brain around this. Another sign echoes in my mind: “If you can take away women’s reproductive rights, can we take away yours?”

If only! There are already ‘little Trumps’ in the world; already they are filling important government positions; already Trump is spreading his seed of evil through his offspring.

What can we do? What can I do?

I don’t know. I am a writer. So I will write. And there is a long history of writers protesting repressive regimes: George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Maya Angelou?

Does she count?
More than most, I think. Her writing sings of pain and beauty. I will find a quote of hers to end with:

“A wise woman wishes to be no one's enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone's victim.” Maya Angelou
May all the wise women rise up and continue on their quest for women’s rights, civil rights, and humanitarian rights. And whether we are speechless or vocal, we can focus our energy on the task at hand. Defeating Trump and his minions. It won’t be easy. And the path is vague. But yet…..for myself, I won’t be his ‘victim’ and I won’t be cowed. I will use my words to fight the fight. It’s all I have.

For now…..

Thursday, January 05, 2017

What I can do.....

“The boiler’s out at My Club. So, I’ve been swimming here.” Sandy refrains from the wry face that I know is under her noncommittal mug. She’s swimming at the Oakland Y! Wow! In all the years that I’ve been coming here, I’ve never known her to swim at this pool. Why?

I bet it’s not as nice as her Club! That’s why! And, yup, sure enough, details are forthcoming. “I’ve never slid off the wall at My Club like I do here.” She leans toward me, conspiratorially, quiet not to bother anyone else in Utopia. DL is on the bottom shelf, zoned out? Can she hear us? I bet not. And why would she care? Tonight, it’s all about swimming!
“What do you mean?” I ask now about the sliding off the wall phenomenon. I can’t fathom her meaning whatsoever.
“When I turn at the wall with my fins, there’s this oily slickness to the wall. The fins slide off….”
“Oh….” I have no clue what she’s talking about. But I believe her that there’s some sort of slick film on the walls of the Oakland pool. I don’t want to think about it too much though. It’s kinda gross, right?
“And this is the first pool I’ve swam in where I can’t see the end of it from one side to the other,” she harrumphs.

This I know. The water is a murky mess here. I assume it’s from all the chemicals they have to put in it for you know what, which is what Sandy brings up next.
“I told a friend of mine that the kids all pee in the pool here and when she didn’t believe me, I said ‘Yup, believe it. The parents take their kids into the pool, tell them not to pee, but as soon as the kid hits the water, out it gushes.’”
She nods authoritatively.
“That’s why there are so many chemicals,” I offer. “To counteract the pee production.”
“You got it,” she agrees. Then continues with her Oakland Pool analysis: “I was swimming here and someone just jumped in without cluing me and hell, I almost had a head on collision.”
Cluing me in---I love this term! And the swimmers here at Oakland are so clueless! Perfect word choice, Sandy!
“Yeah, I’ve had a few collisions in this pool.”
Sandy shakes her head at the travesty of it all. DL gets up and wobbles out. I know she’s okay; she just gets hot before I do and has to exit. Pronto.

“When will they fix the boiler in your pool?” I ask.
“You know, I don’t know. My Sugar, he’s in Boiler Distribution, and I told the folks at My Club I could hook them up with him. Get them a good deal. But I haven’t heard back. They probably can’t get their shit together to take advantage.”
“Yeah…” Only Sandy would have a channel to boiler repair price reductions. The rest of us, if the pool’s boiler breaks, we just whine and then swim somewhere else till it’s fixed.

“You could swim up at Hilltop,” I suggest.
“No. Too far. I’d have to get on the freeway.”
Does she not drive on the freeway? This is a revelation. I know people who don’t like driving on the freeway. I get that. They're hellacious! My friend JL says the speed makes her nervous. But still, I think she will drive on the freeway if necessary.
I guess swimming at Hilltop isn’t a necessity for Sandy. Or the freeway is too much of an impediment? She doesn’t seem like the type to let a freeway stop her from the pool. But I’m learning so much about her tonight that I can’t contain my glee.

“Besides, I need to get in the pool by 3 and that won’t work,” she continues.
I nod. I wonder what happens after 3? Does she have to be home in time to field the calls about the Boiler?
“Well, it’s 20 to,” she rises, picking up her soggy towel, not wrapping it round herself. She’s completely at ease here, naked, in Utopia. Her kingdom.
But the pool?
Not so much.

I wish I could coordinate a swim with her here at the Oakland Y. I bet she’s serious.

“See you out there,” she ambles out, the towel slung over her shoulder, her swimmer’s legs carrying her to the showers.
I follow, thinking about boilers, slickness and cluelessness.

And, for a moment, Sandy has helped me to forget my earlier distress over the imminent installment of Trump. I’m even out of adjectives to describe his heinousness. But earlier, with DL, I was in a tailspin. Bemoaning to her my fear of losing my healthcare, getting sick, going to emergency rooms, wages being garnished till they’re used up, losing my house…..
I’m feeling very very scared. And I know that I’m not alone. Others feel this way too. Yet what can we do?
DL says do what I can. Sign petitions. Talk to friends. We can make a difference.

Yet, I can’t shake the horror of what’s to come. And so, I will sign petitions. I will talk to friends. I will write my blog.
What else can I do?
Swim, Carol, swim.
This I can do……

Wednesday, January 04, 2017


It’d been a cold swim. A hard swim. But now, a done swim. Whew! Here at the Encinitas YMCA they keep the pool a frigid ‘competitive’ temp. I am NOT competitive! I need warmth. And so, I plop down in the sauna, the heat a welcome embrace after my non-competitive swim.

I close my eyes. The talk of the two women with me in the sauna floats in the heat. Something about India. Something about holidays. Something about celebrations.
It’s that post-Christmas lament. Is that what I mean? Do they want more holidays here?
I open my eyes. They both smile over at me in the close quarters. Then continue on with their discussion. “In India, every week is a holiday.”
“Yes, I know what you mean.”
“Not like here where we have this big holiday and then bam. No holidays till when?”
“Valentine’s day?”
“Is that a holiday?”
They both crack up. I grin. Decide to join in. “The same was true in China,” I venture. “There was always a celebration. Parades. Balloons. Fireworks.”
“Yes, India too.”
I nod. Is one of the women Indian? I can’t tell in the dark. And frankly it doesn’t matter. I don’t know either of them. I’ll never see them again. There’s something freeing about this. I can say what I want without worrying about future interactions. Not like I really worry about this anyway in the Bay Area.

“Lots of fanfare and bright lights,” I continue.

One of the women nods, suddenly serious, “We need light. Especially now…..”
Her voice trails off and we all sit silent for a moment. I don’t answer. Know that she’s referring to the darkness that has overtaken our country since the King of Bigotry and Hatred has been elected. And now his reign is only a few weeks away.
We do need light!
But how?
I am thankful for these two women, voicing this wish. And here in San Diego, I am pleasantly surprised. I had the impression that there was a large percentage of the populace here that may have voted for the King of Hatred. Trumpland. It is here in San Diego?

Evidently, it’s everywhere. He did ‘win’ the election.

But for a moment, I can revel in a small sanctuary of this Encinitas YMCA sauna. No Trumpland here.
There’s light in the darkness here.

And for this I am so very grateful.

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