I have actual biking shoes, but some days when I want to wear boots with my teaching clothes, it's easier to just ride in the boots than to carry them in my backpack, which is already stuffed with teaching clothes and make up and face wash and books and assignments and all the school things I always carry. My biking life has gotten better since my parents kindly bought me a neon yellow windbreaker that I wear when I ride home in the cold-for-SoCal weather Tuesday and Thursday nights. They also got me some legit front and rear bike lights so fewer cars will run me over, but I lost my rear light yesterday on the ride home. Sometimes my bike is more frustrating than my car. Today I rode it over to Orange 20 because it was sick and making a sad noise, so they oiled it up and taught me how to tighten my breaks. I want to get really good at bike mechanics so I can just do this stuff on my own, and the mechanic at the shop today offered to help me out with that. So I bought him a beer. Because that's how things work in my neighborhood. Probably in most neighborhoods, really. Most good ones at least. I finally feel like I'm settling into LA in a way that means I have my go-to neighborhood places the way I did by the time I left SLC. I have my bike shop [Orange 20], my auto mechanic [Ori's in Hollywood], my Trader Joe's, a farmer's market, my juice place, my few different coffee shops [Casbah, Intelligentsia], my frequented food places, my garden store, my yoga studio[s]. Even bars for the very few times I visit those places. My pet sitter [Sit Pet Sitting], my pet store [Urban Pet]. Gotta take care of this beast:
Don't gotta take care of this guy anymore though:
That's the last photo ever taken of my last fish, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who actually died a week after his namesake. I think I'm done with fish for awhile. I had Spinach, Lupita, Marfa, Ghost, Pink Marfa, and Phillip and over the last 6 months and I've lost them all. I learned a lot about fish and aquariums. Enough to know what was wrong with the fish that died before Phillip, but for the life of me I can't figure out what happened to Phillip. Other than that maybe he couldn't live without his human counterpart. My cleaned out empty tank sits on my kitchen counter in the same place as always. Maybe I'll get a new fish at the beginning of the new school year. Maybe I'll do a bunch of research about exactly what kind of fish thrives in a 3 gallon tank with very specific ecological conditions. I love watching a fish swim around. I miss Phillip. Shortly after he floated to the bottom, I somehow came to the conclusion that I was craving water. I was in the shower at my yoga studio last month and realized I needed to return to the swimming pool.
It's been 10 years since I've been in a regulation pool. There are things so specific to swim team that I don't encounter anywhere else in my life and that make me feel like myself, like home, in a way I can only begin to articulate. And all these things came rushing back to me yesterday like comfort food.
This past week, I finally bought myself a suit, a pair of goggles, a cap, and a little bike rack mountable bag to carry everything in, and on Thursday between office hours and my Digital Media class, I went swimming.
How the flags over the pool make me sting with anxiety. How they signal the need to PUSH. There was a kickboard I used in practice when I swam for my high school team. Someone had written on it, Pain is temporary, Pride is forever. I never forgot that. When I'd hit the flags in a race, I would push harder than I thought possible. The last race I ever swam, I pushed so hard that my arms and legs went numb. I'd been hyperventilating in the water. I quit swimming that year after I started "popping PVCs" as my first cardiologist called it. Premature ventricular contraction. It's like a kind of arrhythmia. The most common kind, actually. And it is mostly benign in that it will never be the cause of my death or anything remotely serious, but the tickle it makes in my chest and throat always made me panic, made me feel like I couldn't breathe, caused me to breathe incorrectly, which sometimes led to me getting lightheaded, which isn't a good thing to be in a pool in the middle of a race.
I was never very good at swimming, but I did it regularly, often competitively, pretty much from when I was three until I was 16. So I know that particular kind of light burning sensation in my nose right after an almost perfect flip turn. Tracing a line on the ceiling to keep myself centered in backstroke. There's got to be a name for the exact kind of fear one feels when one is worried they're about to be kicked by a fellow swimmer sharing the lane. My second skin is a speedo. Sometimes it's my first skin, really. How we'd have to buy extra tight suits two sizes too small for our racing suits. How I only made it to the State Championships one year, when I was maybe 8, because I got first place in the 50 [or was it 25] meter Breast while swimming for my neighborhood team, Ken Caryl Swim Club. We were called KCSC Lightning. My favorite number is 27 and I realized while in the pool yesterday that I'm pretty sure 27 seconds was the State requirement time for my chosen race when I was young. I think it was 27 seconds for the 25 Breast. Younger kids have 25 meter races in addition to the 50's, 100's, 200's, etc. Even though my best friend, who I swam with on three different teams for all 13 years of my swimming life, was infinitely better than me, actually competition level, I never quit. Not because I loved it or thought I might get better, but because it was what I'd always done, so I couldn't really imagine not doing it. We swam for KCSC, we swam for ACES when we got too old for KCSC, we swam for LHS. And then I stopped. I found theater. But in my insides, I am always a swimmer. In my outsides, too, really. The way my shoulders are built. The way my spine is curved. Genetics and repetitive motion during development. When I called my mom the other day to tell her I bought a swimsuit, she told me that's how she pictures me in her head. Me, dressed in swim gear. Me, chicken legs, hair too long to effectively hide under a cap without making me look like an alien.
I remember swim meets when we had to wake up at 5:30am and drive in the dark down to the pool. We always brought our sleeping bags to curl up in between warm ups and races. I was obsessed with the concession stand. I'd always get cup of noodles and some kind of candy. Once I ate a whole bag of War Head candies while waiting for my race and they made my tongue bleed. Sometimes in the late summer, the hot air balloons from Chatfield Reservoir would float above us during a meet. We'd win beads based on how well we did in our races. We'd win special beads if we made it to League. Or State. I used to make my mom bring me my heated up swim gear so I could put it on while still in my bed under the covers. For a while, I was afraid to take a hot shower right after I got home from practice because my best friend, whose dad was an ER doctor, told us it's bad to go from cold to hot too quickly. I have a State Champs t-shirt that says PEARL across the back of it. Swimming's the only team sport I've ever participated in or even remotely understood. But now I'm 25 and I haven't been to my community pool in maybe 12 years, and so I will swim once a week on campus and remember what it's like to feel 100 percent like the person I was before I grew up.
If you crack open my chest, my heart probably looks like this. Maybe that's why they had to do an EKG a couple weeks ago. Actually they did an EKG because part of me being grown up means I finally figured out my health insurance so I went for my first physical since I was 18 and they didn't have a record of my PVC arrhythmia, so they wanted to document it for themselves just in case.
Another thing my body is used to, aside from chlorine and speedos, is these sticky electrode things.
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AWP was last weekend. And today I went on a donut adventure. But I'm tired of writing and you're tired of reading this crap, so I'll update about those later. Basically the gist of both of them is that my stomach is ruined because I have not stopped eating in like a week. NOT STOPPED EATING FILLING MY STOMACH WITH BRICKS OF FOOD.