Everything I Know About Swimming I Learned From YouTube

I never really knew how to swim. Not really. I knew you had to windmill your arms and kick your legs and turn your head side to side, but that was about it. I managed to live a life that way quite nicely. Bobbing and floating was all that I expected when I was in the water -pool or ocean – and I was happy with that.

Now I live in Florida and I have a swimming pool right outside my door. Coincidentally, this happened just about the same time as I was referred to physical therapy for two bum knees. When the insurance authorized evaluation + five sessions were over, I continued on my own but in the pool where gravity could not do its evil work. Those exercises made a world of difference in my on-land mobility and stamina. So since I’m such a fine physical specimen now, I decided to add actual swimming to my repertoire.

“Swimming” as in windmilling my arms, kicking a little, running out of air and getting hit by all the water that I pushed ahead of me to end of the pool just as I was about to take in a breath through my mouth. All this with the added effect of arching my back to keep my head above the water line.

But then YouTube taught me how to swim.

Hey, you guys- there’s a lot to this. I had to focus on one part each week and add it to what I had already learned. It took me WEEEEEKS to get it all together and I still have to concentrate on each part to get it right. But it paid off. I can feel it when everything is going right – I can swim longer because I’m not as tired out from fighting the water and I don’t get overtaken by a big bad wave at the end of the pool anymore. But get this:

My last out-of-state visitor was here earlier this month and we were blessed with beautiful weather almost every day. Lots of pool time. My knees had been especially achy then so I mostly bobbed and floated through the early days but when I finally did a few laps in front of him, something happened that was so astonishing, I’m still thinking about it. When I stopped to take a rest , he asked me if I ever took swimming lessons. And then he said

“Your form is really good. You hardly make any movement above the water. I asked about the lessons because Little Edie had perfect form when she swam and you reminded me of her when you were doing laps.” *

[Now this might not be an exact quote. I was then and still am stunned to realize what he said. My recollection is that he said my form was perfect but I didn’t want to overstate it here in case he didn’t really say that. Something about Little Edie (Beale) taking swimming lessons and seeing her (in a film clip) gliding so smoothly the water wasn’t disturbed at all.]

Well, now I have a wardrobe of swim caps and two sets of goggles that I make good use of. They sit in a plastic bucket with multiple ear plugs and nose pinchers that I never wear but I place them pool side every day in case I change my mind.

I’m up to 50 laps a day now. It doesn’t sound like much but considering the absolute zero of exercise I’ve been doing lately (for years) , I’m proud of that. The pool is only about 12 strokes long, 11 on a good day but a lap is a lap and I’m only comparing myself with myself, not with Olympians or even Little Edie. Okay maybe with Little Edie. This happy state could crumble at any time depending on what’s going on with the knees so except when it’s a full out thunderstorm, I’m out there every day, plugging along, silently chanting Head still Eyes on the floor Cut into the water Power scoop Rotate the shoulder Rotate the hip Straight leg kicks. When I get to the end of a lap where I’ve got it down perfectly and I can feel myself absolutely SLICING through the water, now I pop up for a turn and add Ooh, you Little Edie to the silent chant as a private reward.

And that brings me to this:

pool brush/swim lane marker/Suzette/sunhat

Not only is my friend a sincere complimenter, but he’s also quite ingenious. When he saw that I was pulling to the side and ending up far off from the center of the pool where I intended to be ( because I was staring intently at the floor and not trying to look up to see the pool wall ), he started thinking about how we could mark the bottom of the pool and quickly came up with laying the long-handled pool brush down as sort of an underwater runway. It works! It seems so obvious now, but I never thought of it on my own.

So now , when I come to the end of a lap the silent chant doesn’t change, but when I see the broom handle I realize with relief and pride that I’m headed on the right path and that my form could hold up against Little Edie. It’s a weird feeling.

post script: I haven’t thought about Little Edie in years, not since I saw the Drew Barrymore movie in 2009. In googling around the web fruitlessly searching for a film clip of Little Edie swimming, I did come across many articles noting Little Edie’s struggle to be her own person in the shadow of Big Edie’s dominance. This article The Edies After Grey Gardens discusses how she lived after her mother died. Spoiler: she sold the old house. It made me happy to read this: “Photos taken during that time show the smiling ex-socialite lounging on leather furniture, posing with family members, and—generally—enjoying her life. By all accounts, Edie returned to the world of wealth and pomp with the grace and poise that had always resided beneath the patina of her circumstance. “

So here we are after all this time, me and Little Edie. She returned to the world of wealth and pomp with poise and grace and I’m the backyard athlete that has always resided beneath the patina of my physical circumstance.

Busy Busy Busy

I’m deep into visitor season now. You would think that the colder months elsewhere would bring people around to this part of Florida but it doesn’t work out that way. I’ve had 4 visitors since May 19, looking forward to 2 more in July and hoping for 3 more in September/October. That’s as far into the future as I can see.

Visitors mean lots of ill-advised pool time under the mid-day sun, eating out and a boatful of shrimp in the kitchen and later, lots of shrimp heads in the garbage can. Possibly a slight increase in cocktailing. Fortunately for me, the recent visitors have been from my demographic so it was relatively early to bed/ early to rise. A younger set arrives in June so they will be on their own after ~9pm.

Pre-visitors, there was a flurry of cleaning which as usual was not completed 100%. Are you familiar with a coastal storm surge? That’s when a hurricane force wind blows tons of water along a coastline, and the water floods up on the land. In the case of 2012 superstorm Hurricane Sandy, in NJ not only was the ocean coast devastated but the coast of the Raritan Bay took a heavy hit as well until there was nowhere else for the water to go and it crashed into an area that usually gets a rise in water but not in such volume or violent arrival.

I bring this up because this effect is exactly what happens when I houseclean and run out of time to finish – it’s a furious force pushing things along to the farthest point. This time, it was the master bedroom that sustained the accumulation of things blown in from other parts of the house. I just kept the door shut for a week. Now you know how it is.

In other news, I’m still working on that side garden. Year 2. We’re in the home stretch but sometimes I just can’t face the idea of hauling one more bag of rocks to finish the termite-proof mulching. So I made a little tropical container oasis under the palms out front, also unfinished.

It was glorious in my imagination. Maybe a few more pots?

The Friends of the Library volunteer thing is going well – I manned the information table in another branch of the library to promote our new group – the first event for us. And now another volunteer opportunity has arisen:

They didn’t specifically mention broken down old cripples, but hey – ALL ARE WELCOME. Pretty sure that includes me.

This is a brand new group, – organizing right now but they already have their debut performance – Cat On A Hot Tin Roof – with auditions starting in 2 weeks. Volunteer opportunities in general are limited for those who can’t run around or tote and carry, so I thought I might mosey on over and volunteer my modest sewing skills for the costume department. I figure right now at the earliest stages, they’ll take anybody they can get so good chance they’ll accept me (a broken down old cripple). Or maybe I’ll audition for the part of Maggie the Cat . If that worked out, they’d have to change the play’s name to Cat In A Hot Tin Wheelchair, so maybe I’ll just stick to repairing rips and tears in the cast wardrobe. [Note: I have some concerns that this might be too high pressure for a person whose retirement goal is to loll around, very unlike promoting a library where the focus is on lolling around reading. We’ll see.]

Off to see my new primary care MD for the first time today. That means hours of shaving and scrubbing before I go and then once I get there more time listing all the things that are wrong with me. Let me clarify that: listing all the things that are physically wrong with me. He can find out about the mental defects as we go along.

So now you know why my blogging has been light. I’ve been very busy busy busy.

How I Learned To Relax And Love the UV Index

Oops, did I forget to mention that I’ve been diagnosed with malignant melanoma? Blah blah blah closely monitored by great doctors blah blah blah que será será. I’m adjusted to the idea and realize that I have been in need of a mortality wake-up call but there are a couple of things that vex me about this situation:

  • The irony Apparently, I was cultivating this enemy within from my time in NJ. When I was in 4-seasonville, I sought out the shade wherever I was and never let the sun shine on me to the best extent that I could. I did this mostly for the sweat factor. I just don’t like the sun shining on me/making me sweat. Now here I am in the Sunshine State with the swimming pool and the beach and so forth and I cannot enjoy the great outdoors without looking like a freak.
  • The wardrobe
    • I cut up an old tube sock to make a driving gauntlet. I laugh about it and call it a fashion accessory but truthfully I don’t mind wearing it because I get nervous when the southern sun shines through the car window right onto the spot where the primary site was. I also don’t mind wearing it because it cost me $0 compared to the $Many for a commercial UV blocking sleeve, and they are all tight compression sleeves anyway. A big deal to get on and off.
    • gtlThis one kills me though. The swimwear. Not only do I wear a wide-brimmed hat and a long sleeved SPF-50 shirt in the pool, lately I’ve added a pair of full length seersucker drawstring pants. That’s for the benefit of my head more than my skin because I’m sure they are SPF-zero. My legs are starting to look tanned. Anyway – freakshow, but a color coordinated one. I might have to rearrange my morning schedule, which right now is as follows:
      • 7:00 am – Arise
      • 7:05 am – Make Coffee
      • 7:12 am to 10:00 am – Sit on patio drinking coffee, reading the internet on my iPad and making fresh mouth remarks on Twitter. Concurrently, pretend that some kind of outdoor work task is about to commence. Nah, maybe another cup. Oh, look – 10 o’clock and it’s too hot to work outside now.  I’ll go out after 6pm when it’s not so sunny and humid.
      • 10:00 – 1:00  – FlexTime. May include meals, indoor internet reading, feeling guilty over lack of accomplishments.
      • 1:00 pm to 4:00pm – Pool time.
      • 4:00 – 6:00 pm – Nap.
      • 6:00pm to Open End – cocktails/hors d’oeuvres/ TV. (Why should I go outside to do work NOW? Maybe tomorrow morning.)
      • 10:00 pm Bedtime
      • note – Occasionally, I will throw in a trip to Walmart or some laundry management. I’m not a complete sloth.

A little weather add-on that I have on my Chrome browser gives the basic temp/sunrise/weather of the day but if you click on the day –  and I just found this out – will reveal more and hourly- specific detail, including the UV index. I’ve been doing this all wrong.hd.JPG

My timing needs adjusting. I guess mad dogs and Englishmen instinctively know enough to stay out of the mid-day sun – too bad Florida retirees with skin cancer didn’t. I’ll have to work on rearranging the schedule . Perhaps cut out the self-delusion that outdoor work is going to start and just jump in the pool at 8am. Maybe again at 5pm. Both are times that the UV Index is 1-3 and the pool is in shade any way.

sfOn the positive side, I’ve discovered that Neutrogena Sport Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 70+  makes a marvelous moisturizer. It’s the only thing I wear now, pool time or otherwise.

I Don’t Know What I’m So Happy About

I now we’re supposed to be all worked up into a snit about cyber privacy invasion but  things have recently happened that make me ridiculously happy.

  • Last week: Google Maps finally updated thier drone shot of my house, specifcally the backyard,  so that it’s not just post-pool construction debris and what passes for dirt here in Florida. I’m not sure why this was so satisfying to me until I realized that it now it looks like a suburban backyard in Westchester, NY 1964  minus the acreage. Without even consciously acknowledging  that I even had life goals*, one of my early yearnings has been realized.

*I’m not kidding. Who has life goals, really, except Meghan Markle? Pretty much I did things that were supposed to happen, like go to school or get a job, or things happened to me and I either just waited them out if they were bad or worked the hell out of them if they were good. Now I’m retired and I set 2 goals** for myself and I feel burdened by the self-imposed pressure of acheiving them and I don’t like it at all.

**Bread baking (which isn’t working out) and daily sketching (which I don’t have time for). I hesitate to reveal that I have a 3rd unstated goal of driving around Florida on day trips just to see how the scenery changes. So far, that has only been realized by visiting 9 different Walmarts in 2 counties.

  •  Today: I have discovered that Google Maps has finally finally finally produced a STREET VIEW of my house. It happened within the last few days because I frequently activate the Google Maps little yellow man that then shows the places where street view is available and I did that just 2 or 3 days ago. This is good because I feel like a powerful major entity recognizes that this address is deserving of a street view, thus I am not consigned to the sticks.  I am worthy. Looking at the street view does make me a little nostalgic though because the American flag fluttering from our mailbox post is still there. Now there’s just a spot where the bracket used to be when the lawn service guy got the end of his riding mower tangled in the flag and ripped it down.

So anyway, now I’m Google Map certified and I couldnt be happier about it.

In Which I Flatter Myself

I like to think that I look younger than my years. It’s a harmless, pleasant fantasy that keeps me in a good mood. But every now and then, something comes along to shatter the delicate shell I keep around my ego. You wouldn’t do that , would you?

I didn’t think so. And that makes The Incident this week all the more annoying. Here’s a tip: If you want me to buy magazines from your 50 year old ass, do not take a quick look at me for the first time ever and then refer to me as your mother. This really happened. Sometimes I think you don’t believe the things I’m telling you here , so lucky for you that my Ring doorbell camera captured it.

You could tell this is going to be an event just from that knock, right? There’s a part 2 to this encounter where the solicitor and I get into an argument about whether or not he should be soliciting in a non-soliciting neighborhood but I’ll spare you that one.* That’s another tip: if you want someone to buy something from you, don’t get into a fight with them.

*Now that I’m thinking about it, I actually did sort of act like his mother when he was trying to give me the baloney how he had permission and I refused to let him wriggle away, point by point,  by calling him out on his bullshit. Apparently, I’m highly the suggestable type. I hope someone comes to the door today to tell me I look like a lottery winner.

Life in the suburbs can be rough if you are a hermit that wants to be the boss of their own time but mostly just wants to avoid being annoyed.  Also, I get all the magazines I want for free by taking quizzes about recycling at recyclebank.com