Jun 16, 2013

To Swim Or Not To Swim?

  
Floating pool in the Bronx but I ain't swimming here.
When people ask me what's my favorite sport I'm prone to say swimming, partly because, in truth, I have no favorite sport, and it's the closest thing to a sport I've actually put in more than a half-ass effort, not counting my brief stint at Junior Tee-Ball and Little Boy Soccer at NOAH -- not named for the old testament ship builder, but an acronym for North of Airline Highway. My Uncle thought this was funny.

So swimming it is.
Every year, around this time, I make a pact with myself to go swimming. I have never really kept the promise. Last year I swam one time at the city pool -- but it was the last weekend of the season before they were shutting down Adult Lap Swim. People take Adult Lap Swim very seriously in this city. Every day during normal opening hours they close the pool down and open it only for those serious about swimming laps. They have those silly lifesaver looking dividers and everything.

I got a card last year to prove that I had done it at least once. The head lifeguard was not amused. "You know we only have a couple days of Adult Swim left, right?" Yeah, I told him. He shrugged and filled me out a card anyway. On the books I am an official lap swimmer at the Sunset Park public pool.

This year I am making the same pact but I am going to swim at the public pool in Gowanus. I figure a change of venue might put some spring in my leap or something like that. I vow that my pact to swim this Summer will actually work for me since I am viscerally disgusted at what appears to be a belly growing out from my midriff. I know I should not be so body conscious. I have always been a fairly skinny person but I must have inherited my mother's genes. Not that she's fat. Far from it. We used to joke with her that she was always trying to lose a few pounds but now, in my early thirties I can see what she meant. Losing three pounds is damn near impossible.

Damn I need to lay off the Peruvian rotisserie chicken.
When I am actually in the water I enjoy swimming. It's the prep work I disdain. Getting dressed, putting on the goggles, doing all that business. My only successful stint at swimming, unless you count the lessons I took to learn to swim and the many hours I spent as a child swimming at the neighborhood pool (yes I was a sexy stud in Speedos back then), was when I was in college. There was a fine indoor facility blocks from the Philosophy department and I loved to do blocks there after dinner. I was motivated, in part, by my environment. A few people in my dorm loved to swim and it was a fun way to take a break from the rather insular nature of studying Kant and Hegel. It was amazing how as an undergraduate we made those trips to the swimming pool quite fun, even though my bike was stolen a few times, but that was common, everyone stole bikes, so the easiest thing to do was to just steal another person's back. It was a kind of fucked up version of pay it forward. And I remember having many interesting conversations in the locker room about the existence of God. I know you would think locker rooms are bereft of conversation and more of a towel slapping hee-haw we're men and we're naked kinda place. But lemme tell you, a bunch of naked men in one room -- they're bound to get philosophical.

Anywho.
Beyond that time of childhood and college swimming, the only nautical exercise I have had are the numerous times spent at the beach and if you count the many restful evenings with a glass of Chianti in a filled-up bathtub.

So this year I am starting on June 27th (that's when the outdoor swim season starts in New York) at the Douglass-Degraw public pool. I still need to buy goggles. I have my swim trunks! Yeah! Last year I didn't buy any goggles for that one-time-only swim and my eyes paid the price. I'm really a wimp though. I still get scared of jumping in and because of my early memories of the drain at the far end of the pool (in the deep end) I still get anxious goose pimples. I am also dreadfully afraid that I will swim out of my lane and haphazardly swim diagonally into whichever crazy direction I should not go.

It'll be an easy go at first in the slow lane. The fast experts hate people who choose the fast lane so I will respect the fast experts and stick to the slow lane. I really wish I could sneak in a bottle of wine but I might end up dead.

I think this year will be a success.
If I can just tell myself that swimming is good. And oh. I need to buy some earwax because golly I can still remember that Summer I got a terrific earache from pretending I was a dolphin. I did too many flips and stayed underwater too much and my ears suffered and I got this terrible ear infection that pretty much has made me hard of hearing. It's quite an occupational hazard. When I am teaching I never know what questions people are asking so I've learned to read lips. And forget about it if I am in a crowded restaurant and you're trying to tell me an affecting story. It's embarrassing really so I really need to pick up earwax from Duane Reade.

My first lap will be splendid. I will swim and swim and swim. It'll be exhausting. I'm woefully out of shape. Yesterday I ran to catch the B63 bus and Jesus H. Christ I felt like I had done a triathlon. It'll be good though. I am sensing this Summer will be wet and wild.

Do you think I'll make it?
If I could figure out a way to read the New York Times on my mobile app while swimming that'll be an incentive. And oh. Does anyone know where there is a safe and clean place to swim in the Hudson?

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