After Bear died, I woke up depressed most mornings; for awhile, I went around dazed like a stoner in between hits; bong-hits being his only focused moments. But I wasn’t high, I was so low that outwardly, it looked like high till I opened my mouth and uttered something from the negative pole of my attitudinal structure.
When I got over losing Bear, I’d wake up full of bitches and complaints about whatever, and often, out of a dream related to it. As time went by, I began to keep a journal of stuff my mood exposed to the harsh, clear light of my “I-really-don’t-give-a-fat-rats-ass-about-it-but-let’s-not-bullshit-each-other” view of life, I had no problem seeing the honest-to-god-sheer-beauty of things like lying face up in the grass on top of the ridge above Pt. Sal but I could not shake the notion of nearby human infestation in Lompoc and one day in Bandor, Oregon, I nearly puked when a guy I met there told me about his relationship with Jesus.
This morning, I drove the Tracker 200 yards northeast to the park’s public pool for my morning hydrotherapy and get-in-shape-or-die-mother-fucker laps because I don’t like walking home tired and hungry after swimming. When I got there the place was empty and for the first 12 laps, I had the place to myself. Undisturbed through the night, the pool was cool and clear as the air in the rural southwestern desert east of San Diego. As I stroked and pulled back and forth across the surface, I imagine more like a fat tan rat than a water bug, along with the burble, gargle-blurp created by my attempts at graceful form, I also listened to the morning’s complement of my bitching and complaining thoughts. Weightless buoyancy and repetitious gurgle-blurgle-gurgle-splash began to calm the fires of discontent that fueled my inner conversation and a kind of stillness began such that, when turning my head to breathe, my brain double-took the recognition of bright blueness of the cloudless sky and a passing hawk.
However, as lap 13 began, I heard the clang of the iron gate slamming and saw moving, as if on wheels, a round, sunburned pink white man in a bright yellow bathing suit with a straw hat on his probably bald head, carrying towels and such, trailed by two small boys who I anticipated would now intervene in my finally at last even, measured strokes and meditation evaporated, replaced by another series of thoughts, ranging from spit-roast toddlers to phrasing the next carefully worded letter to management, suggesting swimming lanes and hours separating the beneficial enterprise of aquatic exercise versus the senseless child free-swim activities, not to mention the endless stream of children and their out-0f-shape fathers and mothers un-showered before entering the pools, the adults preferring to use the hot tub for that purpose, making it a soupy pot of chlorinated dead bacteria and microscopic particles of dead skin cells and other bodily detritus.
At the eastern end of lap 15, a pink urchin the size of a juvenile emperor penguin wearing a brown bathing suit crossed my bow forcing me to stop and I admit to momentarily contemplating the pleasure of drowning the little bastard on the spot, while his white trash parents farted in the hot tub oblivious to their mindless progeny’s inconsiderate activities in what had previously been my swimming pool.
“Look,” I said to him, catching my breath, “I’m going to swim back and forth along this side of the pool,” I indicated with my arms a lane about a meter wide, “ and you have the entire rest of the pool, ok?” As if not hearing me, he said, “I can swim, too, wanna see me?” “Ok,” I said, hoping to see his flailing body sinking to the bottom, “show me.” Taking a deep breath, he pursed his lips and threw his little body forward face down and for about three yards, did something like a desperate Australian crawl performed by a drunk cat. Stopping when he needed air, he stood up and shouted, “see! I can swim, too.” “Very good,” I said, “except for the breathing part.” “No,” he said, “I breathed. I do it under water.” “How does that work?” “Like this,” he dove head first to the bottom of the pool and surfacing, he exhaled, “see?” “I don’t get it,” I said. “Are you breathing water?” He looked at me like I am strange or blind and said, “you can go back to swimming now” and he swims away. Just like that, he tells me I can go back to swimming now.
As I pushed off lap 16, it struck, “you can go back to swimming now” in the authentic authoritative voice of an unaffected child, defining the difference between swimming versus bitching and complaining while pushing water around. The last 16 laps went by too quickly it seemed, I could have stayed and played in the pool all day.