Waterslides

When I was a kid, I loved going to a pool, any pool. If a friend had a pool, we were in it all summer, or as much as their parents would allow.

I even went to pools where I didn’t know anyone. If we took a road trip as a family and stayed at a motel with a pool, I would grab my trunks and tell my folks “I’m going to the pool.”

I was never the kind of kid who would start a conversation with other kids. Other kids always had to approach me. Not because I thought I was better than anyone else, but the opposite. But in the pool I became someone different. If there was another kid in the pool I would give them a few minutes of space and then go over and start talking to them. I don’t know why. Perhaps the semi-nudity of the pool made me feel like they weren’t better than me.

Unless they had goggles. Goggles were something I never had as a kid. I used to love swimming underwater, testing myself to see how far I could go on one breath. But without goggles, I had to either open my eyes underwater and suffer burning eyes for hours after, or worse, risk bumping into someone and that whole embarrassing confrontation. I once got to borrow goggles but that was worse – because suddenly I knew what I had been missing all those years.

And now I have a 9 year old daughter and she loves pools. She takes swimming lessons, something I never did, and always wants me to get into the pool with her before the lessons so that we can have some free swim together. I do it occasionally, but I have to admit, I’m not a fan of the pool anymore! I don’t know what happened. Maybe I’ve experienced all that there is to experience in a pool. I’ve scraped my face on the bottom, I’ve flipped a friend, I’ve played chicken, I’ve swam underwater with goggles, I’ve cannonballed (so many times), I’ve swan dived, I’ve jumped from 15 meters, I’ve sat on the bottom of the pool cross-legged and held my breath for well over a minute – imagining myself on the cover of Joe Walsh’s But Seriously Folks, and I’ve kissed a girl I was in love with on a moonlit night – pressing our warm and slippery bodies together to keep the cold water at bay.

Nowadays pools are sterilized anyway. If I get in the pool with my daughter I won’t be able to teach her how to backflip without some preppy teenager lecturing me on pool safety. You can’t even play chicken anymore. Or hit each other with pool noodles. There’s no diving allowed. No running. And they even have posted rules about how you’re not allowed to hold your breath underwater too many times in a row because it “makes the brain think it’s drowning.”

But then again, the pools around here also have fun stuff like waterslides and weird little sort of river-floats that you can do. We also have wave pools. And I have to admit, that stuff is almost as fun as being in a huge square pool and water-wrestling with other kids.

Avie and I were at the pool down the street the other day and after a few minutes of swimming together I went to sit down and read an essay by Kurt Vonnegut in Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons about why kids these days (the 60s) are all reading Hermann Hesse. I can assure you, none of the kids these days are reading Hermann Hesse.

I had gotten about two pages in and she appeared in front of me, her shadow cast over my book.

“Dad.”

Yeah.

“I’m wondering.”

If I will come swim with you? No. I’m reading now. Maybe in a few minutes.

“Ok.”

Dejected, she put her goggles back on – her impossibly long eyelashes smushed up against the lenses, looking like a Venus fly trap which had just shut to digest a fly – and went back to the pool.

After a few minutes I wondered what she was up to. I scan the pool to see that she is swimming alone. Bobbing up and down. Holding her breath under water.

Vonnegut went on about how drugs maybe something Steppenwolf hippies freedom and the loner boy travelogue which is still one of the most popular stories of all time. I can’t help but tell Kurt’s ghost that the hippies ruined everything, “KV, sorry my man. They became what you most feared. They became the Nixons they hated. The hippies who most avoided Vietnam and smoked dope are the ones who started wars of choice and turned the country into a police state so they could throw drug addicts in jail. They used their freedom from the cultural norms of the 40s and 50s not to make the world a better place but to become Donald Trump: indulgent egotists who devised “participation trophies” because they are the kind of people who need constant reassurance and daily briefings about how great they are.”

I look up from my tirade to see Avie is playing with another kid. They are chasing each other in the water, the new kid’s eyes closed, playing Marco Polo. She’s made a friend at the pool.

An hour goes by before she comes out again. This time I ask if she wants to do the waterslide. I’m not really asking.

“I don’t like water slides.” She says.

I don’t care. You’re doing it. It’s good for us to try new things.

We climb the hot stairs. She tells me I have to go first. I tell her that because I’m so fat I’ll go super fast. I jump in and zip down the waterslide, my body climbs up the walls in each turn, and it feels like I’m going to be bucked out of the slide. My two second ride ends with a huge splash. I look up and I can see her laughing at the top of the tower. There’s no hesitation. She jumps in.

After her first run she asks to do another, then another, then another. Each time, closing her eyes and letting the slide just take her.

Qq

24 Comments on Waterslides

  1. You’re such a f$%king weirdo. Kindred spirits. Why I like it here. Keep working it. The writing is getting better. And your daughter is da bomb.

  2. Living by the ocean has forever ruined pools for me; they’re so small, and confining. Kinda like the local ice-skating rink after having skated the whole 5-mile canal in Ottawa. It’s just never the same after that, and going ’round and ’round in circles… I do miss diving, though.

  3. I love pools. There is a county pool 2 minutes from my house. Last year my wife and I would go when she was 8 months pregnant and it was so relaxing, for the both of us.

    This year we went a few times with our 7-month-old daughter. Sometimes she liked it, sometimes she didn’t care for it. It wasn’t as relaxing either. And the lifeguards wouldn’t let me walk around with her on my shoulders. But I love the pool nonetheless.

  4. I swam competitively as a kid, but then pools went off my radar for twenty years (apart from wading in half-heartedly with my kids). Swimming was the sport I was good at, though, so I should have kept it up beyond my youth. Soccer, the sport I really loved, never came naturally to me, much to my chagrin. Recently started swimming laps again, but it feels more like flailing than an actual stroke!

    Ah, the hippies. Yes, it’s easy to be anti-establishment when you’re young and without responsibility. Funny thing happens when you start getting older, want a career, want a family, want money and comfort and nice things, house in a nice neighborhood, kids in good schools, etc. Most of my lefty lefterson students will be conservatives (fiscally, at the very least) within a few years of graduation!

    • I wonder if there isn’t something about the Hippie revolution that wasn’t fundamentally about selfishness though. For most of the men of that era “women’s lib” meant “we’re all gonna get laid!” And it’s pretty clear that the drug culture of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s led directly to the war on drugs, while also leading to the rise in legal drugs like ritalin, Oxy, and pot. Plus, where are the massive protests against the wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East? I guarantee that if there were a draft and middle-class kids from your school were going off to die in the desert, we wouldn’t be still fighting.

      They are the “me” generation and they all voted for Trump: who is their perfect king.

      • Funny, I was thinking about that the other day listening to one of my fave hippie anthems The Hollies, “He Ain’t Heavy (He’s My Brother). Soaring harmonies, beautiful simple arrangement. But why not “She Ain’t Heavy, she’s my sister, her welfare is my concern…”

        • My favourite Hollies has always been the Distant Light album from ’71. You can really follow the collapse of the Hippie into the simply strung-out and desperate on that one. It’s a Long Dark Road…

      • It absolutely was selfish. It was about self-gratification, not about principle, even if they claimed all along it was the latter. One proof is that this same generation, when their own kids grew up, suddenly grew authoritarian and controlling, taking umbrage at things they lobbied for like FERPA (which suited them when they were young, but not when they became parents and wanted to find out what their kids were doing in college), or sexual autonomy, now being reversed everywhere because of ‘unequal power dynamics’ impinging on a woman’s ability to enter a relationship freely. Turns out you can tell a woman what she can and can’t do with her body.

        I’m not arguing for free love, by the way. I just find it ironic how quickly an anti-establishment impulse turns puritanical, a new moral orthodoxy. One modern instance of this can be seen in two simultaneous, mutually celebrated, but entirely conflicting cultures on American campuses: hook-up culture vs. campus rape culture. The desire for sexual liberation against moral and societal strictures vs. the need for ever more stringent guidelines about what constitutes a correct sexual encounter.

      • Nixon aide, John Erhlichman:

        “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

        https://harpers.org/archive/2016/04/legalize-it-all/

        As for your point about selfishness. You are right. Stephen Slater’s
        “On Social Regression” American Sociological Review 1963, provides a handy analytical framework. Building off Freud, he writes that society depends on harvesting sexual energy, on sublimating desire into projects that require interacting with larger society, e.g. replacing onanism with materialism gets you working longer and harder beyond the level to maintain mere subsistence. The more precarious the society the more strict it becomes, because it needs your energy. A richer and fatter society, like the US in the 60s can afford to be more permissive. Fascism becomes a natural response to economic or military crises, like mounting a fever when you are sick.

      • I don’t know Tim.
        Maybe you’re right, but it seems like you’re making
        some sweeping generalizations about the motivations and voting habits of a large group of people.

        Maybe some liberal guys did support women’s rights because they thought they’d get laid but at least they supported the movement when so many had been historically opposed to it. I’d take guys voting for marriage equality because they think there’s a bigger chance they’ll get to see hot girl’s making out in public than guys who vote against it because they don’t believe in human rights.

        And maybe some hippies are partly responsible for Trump but, I don’t know, I think the kind of people who are mostly against whatever hippies stand for were probably a bigger factor.

        I don’t know man, I’m not American and I don’t live in America, but are you being a little overly critical of them? Like when people found issues with Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein and then, because they weren’t ‘perfect’ chose to right them off as being just as equally bad or shady than people like Trump or Clinton.

        I suppose what I’m trying to say is are you maybe angrier and more critical of so called hippies because they’re supposed to be the ‘good guys’ and so their faults/selfishness is in some way actually worse than the faults/selfishness of people like Trump because you kind of expect it from them.

  5. Graham Nash is still an incredible singer BTW. He can still do those 3 part harmonies.

    Arsenal 2, Leicester City 1

  6. I have a weird relationship with pools. I live in the Caribbean now, and they’re all around me. I can see one from my living room window as I type this. It’s not mine alone… it’s the communal one for our walled compound of townhouses.

    Anyway when I was a kid my mom, like many black parents, forbade me getting into a pool. I can’t say it’s the trauma of a relative who met his or her end in a pool — it’s simply how it is with many of my background. When I did sneak away to learn to swim, the old myopia kicked in, so bad eyesight and less than clear depths don’t make diving that much fun. If the day is sunny enough, I wear contacts and sunglasses. Of course, that rules out anything more than a chest-level dip.

    I want a better relationship with pools, and that’s why (like Arsene), I’m going to get my eyes lasered.

  7. I love pools, currently on a two week holiday in Cyprus which will see me through 50 hours plus in the pool with the kids 11 and 9. Great times. Claudeivan I’ve worn lenses for 28 years and swim eyes open with no goggles, never lost one yet. Give it a try. Looking forward to the game tomorrow, we should be top of the league for a few hours at least.

  8. This put a smile on my face. I always loved the water but wasn’t lucky enough as a kid to learn how to swim. Finally in my late 20s when I could actually afford someone to teach me, I learned it. I have been swimming every week for over a decade now. Going on vacation with my wife to Brazil and Hawaii and swimming in those waters are two of my favorite memories. The water is therapeutic – even in the small lap pool I use every week.

  9. I hate pools.
    I’m allergic to chlorine.
    I’m allergic to Jose Mourinho.
    I hate Manchester United.
    I love The Arsenal.
    I love the ocean which in which I have recently been.

  10. RE War on drugs:

    Nixon aide, John Erhlichman:
    “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

    RE: Selfish hippies
    You are right. Stephen Slater’s
    “On Social Regression” American Sociological Review 1963, provides a handy analytical framework. Building off Freud, he writes that society depends on libidinal diffusion, on sublimating desire from direct self-gratification into projects that require interacting with larger society, e.g. replacing onanism with materialism gets you working longer and harder beyond the level to maintain mere subsistence. The more precarious the society the more strict it becomes, because it needs your energy. A richer and fatter society, like the US in the 60s can afford to be more permissive. When things get really bad, when society faces an existential crisis, whether economic or military, society becomes truly demanding and fascism becomes a natural response, like mounting a fever when you are sick.

    The people who voted for Trump are heterogeneous. But a fair portion of them are the victims or the witnesses to social and economic devastation. He is the fever. Contrast them with the fat and happy coastal dwellers, who, though not elite in the 0.1% sense, are secure enough that they can afford to devote themselves to finding the best pour over coffee and avocado toast.

    PS: I repeated the comment b/c I got stuck in moderation. Likely b/c of links.

    • Gosh, the cliches. I suppose we should say well done on fitting in 3 in short order — “elites” being coastal, coffee and avocado toast.

      All tents are heterogenous. Trump’s was. As was that containing the people who (correctly) saw him for the dishonest, duplicitous and amoral and habitual liar that he continues to be — people you speak so sneeringly of.

      The irony in stating that good decent folks voted for Trump, anda bunch of out of touch, snooty folks don’t get it — is often lost on people making the argument.

  11. I learned how to swim about 8 years ago and I’m still scared of getting to the deeper side of the pool..maybe it’s because I’m short or maybe the pressure above 7 feet scares the hell out of me.. I really want to learn how to swim deep..I’ve not found a worthy teacher..
    I prefer going to the pool to going to the gymnasium…

  12. As its now Friday in Korea this was just the balm needed to stop the GoonerStress going into overdrive, so I can get on with work, without worrying about the team, formations and my fantasy teams! Swimming is just good – the outdoor pool here is a blessed relief from the summer humidity and hoping the weather holds off to go to the ocean on Sunday.

  13. Nice post, Tim. Many nuggets in there. My 8 y/o daughter is the source of many chances to improve myself; right wrongs; and do things better this time around. I take some of chances…probably not as many as I should (like a certain team we know). You seem to convert at a much higher rate. What’s your secret mate?

    • I think the one thing I do different from most parents is that I treat her like a full human. We talk about things and decide things together. For example, doing chores. I get her to help around the house by appealing to her intelligence: “would it be fair if YOU had to do all the housework? So, should I have to do it all?” And in that way, we share things. We share all the good and bad of the world.

Comments are closed.