And so. . . I braved a day "out." I put on some surfing trunks and a ratty t-shirt, loaded a travel bag with gym clothes, and grabbed a very portable 4x5 camera and film holders, jumped in the car, and asked Siri to take me away. I was going swimming.
Wednesday, September 27, 2023
The Land of the Lost
Why not just go to the pool at the Club Y, you might query? It is much closer and simpler. Well, for one, chlorine isn't good for humans, and it is even worse for bleached blondes. Two, I can't swim. I mean, not like a normal human being. After the accident, I could barely with much effort raise my left hand above my head. Later, I was able to make a silly half swimming move with it. The last time I was at the beach, however, it rotated more like a normal shoulder, but I still look like a thrashing man about to drown when I "swim." And as I've noted here before, I don't float. Like my African progenitors somewhere in the distant past, I have heavy bones or whatever it was Jimmy the Greek reasoned was why there were no Black Olympic swimmers. With a full breath, I just sink to the bottom, and now, after the punctured lung, that isn't even a full breath. That boil you see in the gif above? It is shallow enough to stand up anywhere, so no es un problema. Which brings us to reason #3. I'm too fat to use the Y swimming pool. I just don't want to embarrass myself in front of people I have to see over and over again. I've gone the way of Orson Welles, Marlon Brando, and Jack Nicholson. "The Whale."
When I arrived at ten, the parking lot was pretty empty. It was a walk downhill to the springs and I could see that there were only about ten people there. A late September Tuesday is a perfect way to avoid crowds. And there was a bonus. Everyone there was fatter than I. I felt like an otter in a cove for walruses. I set my towel and keys next to a tree, kicked off my flip-flops, and walked down the steps. The water was cold, a constant 68 degrees. When I got mid-thigh, of course, I paused. A fat man told me to just jump in, that it wasn't cold once you got in. His 300 pound wife was struggling up the steps and said it felt really good. I motioned to the space between my thighs and my belly button.
"This is the hard part."
Another woman in the water, a big, rough looking lady with a lot of tattoos said, "that was the hardest part for me, too." I looked again. She wore what is referred to as a man's regular haircut. I wondered.
"O.K." I announce to the small band of bathers, and without much of a flourish, I jumped in.
For years I've touted the ear spoon. Oh, my. . . if you have any problems with ear wax, this is the thing for you, I tell everyone. In Asia, where people have dry cerumen (ear wax), they have ear cleaners who extract it for a fee. They use ear spoons. I found them at an Oriental store in town. They are kind of scary at first, but once you get the muscle memory down, they are the bomb. You will NEVER get water stuck in your ears again.
Nobody ever believes me.
When I came out of the water, my right ear canal was full of water. No problem. I tilted my head to let it run out. It didn't. I shook my head, jumped up and down on one foot, pounded my head with the heal of my hand. I was beginning to panic. I was stone deaf in that ear. I know I was looking around with panicked eyes like a dear with its leg caught in a noose. I turned my back to the crowd so they wouldn't think I was having a stroke. I tried everything, but the water wouldn't come out. What was I going to do? I tried to meditate myself into a bit of calm. O.K. Getting in the car would do no good. What the hell. . . I would try to swim.
Of course, within a moment, the water ran out of my ear. My heartbeat slowed. I paddled by the crowd as if nothing happened, waving like a debutante.
And I swam. It was a clunky, awkward swim, my feet sunken too low into the water, head doing the Johnny Weissmuller above, but I was moving. The water churned around me like I was an egg beater, but I was progressing slowly toward the other side of the spring. When I got there, I stood up. Look at that. Small miracles. I swam back. And it felt great. I did this for about half an hour. I'd stop and stand and people would talk to me. A kid of about eleven told me he kept stepping on fresh water crabs. He didn't look right to me. His mother, I guessed, the tatted person with the regular haircut, said that there were sometimes monkeys in the trees. I pointed to the kid.
"Here's a monkey," I said with a smile. The kid looked terrified, but he almost laughed.
The 300 pound woman had an iPhone in a plastic bag looking waterproof case.
"That's cool. How much did that cost?"
"Five dollars," she said.
"Do you trust it?"
"Its' and old phone anyway," she replied.
"Well, then, I guess that's O.K. I should do that."
A family came up. A skinny family with young children in water wings, a boy and a girl. The mother was very pretty and had the body of a dancer. Her husband was regular thin. They must not eat, I thought. No, they must not drink. I was finished swimming, but now I was waiting an opportunity to get out of the water unseen.
Oh, hell, I thought, what does it matter. As I toweled off, I heard them talking to the person with the regular haircut. She was from New Jersey, she said.
"Where are you from?" she asked the pretty woman.
"We're from St. Pete. We are visiting some of the springs. We just came from Rock Springs earlier."
"Oh. . . how's that?"
"It is very pretty. They have a great river run there. That is where they have the monkeys."
"Did you hear that," yelled regular haircut to her group. Then to the pretty lady, "It's not far from here, right?"
"Only about fifteen or twenty minutes."
"Hey," yelled regular haircut, "let's go to Rock Springs. It's not far away."
I had dried and decided to get my phone out of the car before I did the nature walk. Back up the steep bank, slipping in my flops. When I got my phone, I had fifteen messages. Back at the Factory, it was Convocation Day. The factory was closed and all the workers were assembled for the most boring day of the year, speeches by administrators touting the greatness of the factory, accomplishments acknowledged and future plans announced. Awards were given. It went on for hours until a pause for the free lunch after which there were small breakout presentations that workers were required to attend. It is the most hideous workday of the year.
But I had a message from my old secretary. She had won a Pathfinder Award and had texted me right away. She was excited and happy. She deserved the recognition, I told her, and the $2,000 that went with it. My heart broke a little because she wanted to let me know right away. She thanked me for giving her a start, for helping her along, teaching her, etc.
"We were a good team," I wrote, "and now you are running with your talent. You go! I'll bet your father is beaming."
Indeed, she said, he was.
The other texts were from my factory group who were planning the after work party at the bar. Of course. I hadn't had a group text for a long while, and with my friend leaving the factory and going north, I was sure that the whole thing had broken up into smaller groups, but this one was "the new text group." I looked through and saw who had been left off and who had been added. Huh. I wrote back to the gang, "I made the team!"
"You ARE the team," one of them wrote back which got a lot of hearts and thumbs up. Yea, yea. . . small things are important to me now.
The nature walk was stupid, just a walkway through a swamp with no informative plaques to explain the flora or fauna, and the Nature Center was most pathetic, basically a terrarium with a pine snake inside and a bunch of bad drawings of animals.
Still, I felt wonderful. As I was leaving, more people came and the boil was getting busy. I noted that it was important to get there early if I wanted to keep swimming.
That night, I fell asleep in front of the t.v. on the couch. The phone rang. It was quarter past nine. I knew this was going to be a shitty night for sleeping, and though I have been trying to sleep naturally for awhile, I took a sleep aid before bed. I didn't wake up until quarter 'til nine. I've skipped reading the news this morning so that I can get on with my day.
And what adventure shall I have today? It is cloudy and rain is in the forecast. Perhaps I'll eat at some obscure little noodle shop in the Asian quarter and go shopping in places I have never been. Maybe I'll drive away to a distant town for lunch. I'm not sure. I have only just woken up. There is still coffee in the coffee pot. But I'll do something. I'm on a mission. And, as always, whatever happens, you'll be the first to know.
I've been trying to figure out how to write a post that matches this song, but I've already told most of my fair tales, about jumping fences and meeting Jo-Jo the Dogfaced Boy in the dark, of sneaking under tents to see the Hoot Shows, and later of helping to break down the rides while the sideshow freaks played games in the midway. Even later, I saw that one of the kids from my high school had become the Human Pin Cushion. That was the kicker. There is really little else to tell, so I'll just post the song. He captures the whole thing perfectly.