Tuesday, August 29, 2006

First day of school.

So I packed my lunchbox (=gatorade) and my gym clothes (=swimsuit) and my school supplies (=fins, goggles, pull buoy, more fins) and went to the first day of school. I could hardly sleep the night before, I was so nervous, but the other kids were really nice and the new teacher seems like he'll be OK too.

Here's the thing, though. What I could not find was . . . the wall.

Turns out the new team swims in a 25 METER pool instead of a 25 YARD pool, so I would keep expecting a given lap to be over, only to find I still had about 3 strokes to go.

But the water in the new pool is cooler--which is a nice change. (Check back with me in January)

And the first practice was pretty relaxed--good long swimming with strong technique but not a lot of speed work.

The new coach made the mistake of asking me about my previous training, how much swimming I used to do and what kind. I gave him a pretty routine answer for the "what kind," but what he did not know before he asked me "how much" was that I had spent a bit of last Sunday making spreadsheets for my yardage data from the previous 3 seasons. And graphs! That was fun, because I could see where the peaks came in the season. What my data does not show is what the intensity level was in any given week, but really: this is a hobby. Anyway, I was able to tell him that last season I averaged 11,300 yards per week, and that I had 3 weeks where my total yardage was over 20,000. What he really wanted to know, it turns out, was roughly how long I swam in each practice. Oh. That's easy, and does not require a spreadsheet.

But graphs!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Wish me luck.

I feel like it's the first day of class at a new school: tonight we go to our first swim practice with the new team. I gave in last week and swam with the old team, clocking 11,300 yards--and let me just say that almost 50% of that was on Saturday morning. And that I took a big nap on Saturday afternoon. And that I could not lift my arms Saturday evening. And that I slept like a baby Saturday night.

But last week I was kind of kidding myself, pretending I could stick it out with the old team, which I love. This week reality returns.

Will my new teacher be nice or mean? Will we have a lot of homework on the first day? Will I make friends with the new kids?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Sittin here in my safe Upstate home.

Home? I am trying to figure out what that is, and how long it takes for this to be it. Is it not being surprised by how your front door looks when you go to put your key in it? Is it not noticing your neighborhood anymore when you walk through it to go downtown? Is it not wondering whether it is worth trying to convince the neighbor's cat that this is your porch, although he is perfectly welcome to climb around on it? Is it not having dreams anymore about having to move again, or whether to stay in this house or the old house tonight?

I hope it is not the latter one, because I have those dreams about every night. Sure, it is a relief to wake up and find that really and truly it is not necessary to pack everything up again and move it back. And it is a relief to discover that there is only one choice for where to sleep on a given night.

But when I did a final walk-through in the old house to make sure everything looked OK for passing it along to its new owner, I did--and who is surprised--feel sad. It was the first house I had owned, after all, one I had bought more or less on my own, as if to say sure, I can find a partner sometime but I don't have to keep my life on hold in the meantime. And I did live there for four and a half years, so some pretty important things happened there. I hated that it looked small by comparison with the high ceilings of this new place; I hated feeling like I might think I was better than that good house that took good care of me.

And still when I go into the basement here and see the many odds and ends that were left here by someone moving out, I feel like I am leasing space. I look at my little wine rack down there, and the first thing I think is, I hope it is not in anyone's way. Then I worry that I am disturbing someone's stuff. Then I get my wits about me again and remember this is our house, and sometime we really should clear out the baesment.

The door to the basement locks with an old key that sort of jams in the lock. The key doesn't come out, it just turns. Or didn't come out: for some reason recently it did come out, and now the door won't lock, even if you turn the key in the lock. But when I pull the key out and look at it, I think how cool that there is this old key in this house. It looks like the keys I have used in Rome apartments. Now there is one in my house, and until recently it worked. Then it struck me that it is my key, that I am not just using it during a sojourn in a strange city (though Greenville is strange).

How long will it take before I stop feeling like my furniture is squatting in this house? Or like I don't need to tiptoe around the neighbor's cat?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Biting the bullet.

So I went to practice with my old masters team yesterday morning. I decided I just could not wait another week, since I could see that they started back a week before my new team will. Sadly, doing this required getting up at 4:20 a.m. to allow time for the 40-minute drive and making it to 5:30 practice. Let's just say that 8:30 p.m. may well have arrived last night, but I would not know.

But the practice was perfect: not especially difficult, not a large yardage amount, but good drill work on freestyle, and trying to get the body back in shape. Luckily I was not the only one who had been out of the water for a bit, and a number of us traded stories about just how long it had been. (Mostly since practices ended back at the end of July, but one person was now sans tonsils as well.)

We worked on keeling, or kicking on your sides in order to improve your posture moving through the water. Since long-axis strokes (i.e., freestyle and backstroke, where you rotate on along the long axis of your torso) are all about being, well, long, much of what we did was focused on lenghtening and thereby streamlining body position in the water. Some of this drill work was done with fins, then we switched to swimming without fins, the goal being to maintain the feel for the water of swimming with fins even when your feet are now back to their regular length. During that swimming I focused on my stroke count: I tried to keep it to 15-16 pulls per 25 yard length, but often I strayed into the 17 pulls realm. But I was able to keep my time per 50 yards consistent, so that is also cool.

But more than anything it feels good to be back in the water. Don't get me wrong: it also felt good (in a strange way) to be a couch potato. I think those rest periods are important in terms of the rhythm of the season, even if I do struggle with a lot of guilt during them.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

T-minus one week.

That's how long it will be until things return to normal. By "things" I do not exactly mean work, which begins in earnest this week. Nor do I mean an end to moving-related settling-in-type projects. Those seem destined to last and last. There is progress, of course: now you can get hot water out of the kitchen faucet, thanks to the removal of the world's largest chunk of rust. Also, the front porch can be seen at last, freed from the virtually solid layer of grime and dirt. We will have a new towel bar in the bathroom by the end of the day. But against this progress is the seemingly irresistable force of This Old House. We were nosing around in the basement last night, looking in a couple of boxes that contain old light fixtures and lighting parts. The PP went to unwrap one glass shade or another when a dead snake popped out of the box along with some wrapping. "I am getting so tired," he said, "of mother$*(#ing snakes ... in the mother$*(#ing basement!"

No, what I mean by "things" is swimming. For much of the summer I kept a fairly regular swimming schedule, swimming maybe 3-4 times a week (instead of the 5-7 I did at the peak of my training in the spring). And I had added in some weight-lifting, which seemed to be the perfect off-season activity. But then, well, the move. Weight-lifting in the weightroom was replaced by the hauling of boxes hither and yon. During the first week or two we were here, I could have swum, but we were so busy all the time with house unpacking, that I often felt I could not afford the time or the energy. Now the team is on its summer shut-down, and practices resume next Monday.

I cannot wait, because I am feeling flabby and out of shape.

I do not think I am going to set any serious goals for myself this year. Last year it was competing at SCY Nationals and the year before that it was working for my first national qualifying time. But this year I think I want to just swim, enjoy the sport for itself, do the local meets (in SC, NC, and Georgia), swim hard, work on my technique (especially fly), but not try for particular times or train for particular meets. In other words, it is a recovery season, both mentally and physically. I know there will be a lot of new things going on here in the big city, and I will need the flexibility to respond to whatever those are.

But meanwhile, I cannot wait to get back in the water.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Friday Unrandom 10: We have to put a barrier between us ... and the snakes!

After all the anticipation of mother%*#*^%&@ snakes that has been Jarrett House North this week, I decided to skip the random feature this week, and go straight for the snakes!

"Hello, Isis? This is Samuel L. Can you hook me up with some mother%*#*^%&@ songs about mother%*#*^%&@ snakes?"

Sure, Sameul L.! I am always happy to help!:
1. "Here Comes the Snake," Cherry Poppin' Daddies (Zoot Suit Riot)
2. "Aeroplane," Bjork (Debut)
3. "Snakes in my Bushes," North Mississippi All-Stars (51 Phantom)
4. "Union of the Snake" Duran Duran (Decade)
5. "Outbound Plane," Nanci Griffith (Best of)
6. "King of Snake (Fatboy Slim Remix)," Underworld (Remixes)
7. "The Snake," Al Wilson (This is Soul)
8. "Johnson's Aeroplane," INXS (The Swing)
9. "Tube Snake Boogie," Z Z Topp (Greatest Hits)
10. "Away from the Snakes," Tim Fite (Anti Records Sampler)

And thank you, Virginian Pilot for reminding us, "'Snakes on a Plane' Isn't Shakespeare."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The tide's gonna turn and it's all gonna roll you away.

Over at xtcian, Ian has written a history of his musical tastes. After reading it, I told him it was something everyone should do, so now I'm doing it. You should, too.

When I was a little kid, we mostly listened to my parents' music, which, lucky for me, was pretty cool stuff. I fell in love with Leon Russell by age 2, and requested him by name--"Play Yeon!" There was also a lot of Beatles in there, which has continued to be true throughout my life. A little Janis Joplin here and there, some Judy Collins, Maria Muldar. And a lot of classical music, too. I used to love to go to bed to the sounds of a record of Clair de lune and other French music of Debussy's era. And one year we painted our dining room, living room, and hallway, all the while listening to the soundtrack to Amadeus over and over and over and over. And over. My dad stacked the two record set on our turntable's spindle and let them play: you got about a CD's worth of music at a time that way, although I cannot believe it was good for the records.

I also had my own records as a kid: a lot of Disney recordings, including collections of famous songs from their movies and also book and record sets, where you could listen to the story as you read along in your book. "Turn the page when Tinkerbell rings her magic chimes, like this!" My favorite of all of them was Peter Pan, though my love of the music from that movie was wrapped up in my love of the story, which my father had read to me so many times that the paperback copy fell apart (though I still have it, bound in string). You might not believe me, but when the Peter Pan record was playing, our living room couch magically transformed itself into Captain Hook's ship. It's true!

I started collecting 45s when I was in the fifth grade, and I believe my first one was Dolly Parton's "9 to 5." Other winners followed, including "Elvira," "Queen of Hearts," and "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)."

While I was in elementary or middle school, I won some little contest or something at a Christopher Newport College basketball game, and the prize was a gift certificate to Tracks, the local record store. I did not know much about music at that time, but I did know I wanted the soundtrack to Fame, so that was my first grown-up album. Soon I had also gotten the Greatest Hits of Air Supply.

Never one to believe in paying retail, I taped a lot of music off the radio to listen to later. I started doing this by setting my dad's little tape recorder next to the radio speakers, and then when a "good song" would come on I'd race over and press record. Later I got a boombox, and could record from within the machine: higher sound quality, but still almost never the beginning of a song.

Around that same time, I decided that cassettes were far cooler than records, and The Dream of the Blue Turtles was the first album I bought on cassette. This was a real dilemma, because the LP included a musical printing of the Prokoviev line that features in "Russians," so I copied that down on a little piece of paper while I stood in the music section of Roses, and then bought the cassette. It was not until later that I went back and discovered the Police: kind of like Billy Crystal's comment about his daughter saying, "You mean Paul McCartney was in another band before Wings?"

In high school, I discovered Talking Heads, Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, and U2, and those guys (along with Sting, of course) would be my musical touchstones for years to come. Sure, there was some well placed Smiths and Depeche Mode in there, along with a lot of Rush, some Kate Bush, and toward the end some Melissa Etheridge, but it really was David Byrne, Bono, and Roger Waters who shaped my young musical psyche.

Which explains quite a few things.

In college, thanks in part to David Byrne's and Peter Gabriel's explorations, I discovered world music. The Bulgarian Ladies rocked my world: where did that come from? And a friend introduced me to Lyle Lovett and k. d. lang, who would get a lot of play in my earhole. Not to mention Public Enemy--a revelation.

Big in my college years was WXYC, which admittedly I did not listen to as much as I could have, because they played a lot of, let us say, difficult listening. But what did matter was their library--holy mother of us all, there was a lot of music in there. And thanks to the miracle of piracy, a lot of it made it into my collection. Tom Waits, Billy Bragg, the Pogues.

In graduate school I learned the mysteries of funk. After I was out of school, I rediscovered Bob Dylan and Ani DiFranco really started listening to lyrics. And although I had heard a little jazz before, that world opened up.

More recently, I realized for the first time the amazing things people like Matthew Herbert, GoTan Project, and Truby Trio were doing with electronica. I even subscribed to Gramophone for a while to whip my classical collection into shape. Not to mention my current predicament of all gypsy music all the time--Gogol Bordello, Balkan Beat Box, Yuri Yunakov, Storsveit Nix Noltes, Taraf de Haidouks. Now that we have moved, I am on a bit of a budget, but there is still a line there for CDs and music.

It was claimed on NPR last night that when it comes to appreciating new music, a person's window is open from ages 14-21, then gradually closing until it slams shut at 35. If that is true, I have 3 months to take in some new stuff, and then that is all I will listen to and really love until I die. So folks, if there is something I am missing, send it to me fast.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Friday Random 10: They'll drive you crazy, they'll drive you insane Edition

I hope my reader will pardon my random absence the last several weeks. Last Friday I did not even know where my computer was. The week before that I was in the Commonwealth for a wedding. The week before that I was hanging with estaminet. And before that, even I don't know where I was.

But rest assured that the random feature on my player has been doing its duty over the last few weeks, even if I did not get a chance to report on it. Now, as you'll see, the player is having a good time at my expense, making it seem like all I own are greatest hits compilations, with segues only a surrealist would choose deliberately:

1. Verdi: "Ma dall'arido stelo divulsa," Katia Ricciarelli, Coro e orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, Claudio Abbado (cond.) (Un ballo in maschero)
2. "Cigarettes, Whiskey & Wild, Wild Women," Tex Ritter
3. Sarasate: Carmen Fantasy, Op. 25 - 5. Moderato, Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta, New York Philharmonic Orchestra
4. "Doctor! Doctor!" Thompson Twins (Greatest Hits)
5. "Keep It Comin' Love," K. C. and the Sunshine Band (The Best of)
6. "Ho visto un re," Enzo Jannacci (I miti musici)
7. "Crazy for You," Madonna (The Immaculate Collection)
8. "Freddie Freeloader," Miles Davis (Kind of Blue)
9. "True Faith," New Order (Substance, disc 1)
10. "Copacabana," Barry Manilow

I do own music that was released during decades other than the 1970s and 1980s. Really!

Have a great weekend, everybody.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It's my house and I live here.

Today is the one-week anniversary of our move, and (thanks be to God) the first trash and recycling pick-up since we have been here. Life will be so much better with less cardboard in it.

But meanwhile it is the second day in a row I have awakened with sore, stiff, swollen fingers. Mostly, we are moved in: the rooms all look like rooms now, instead of storehouses. The floors (save the kitchen) are clean. The windowsills and baseboards are clean. Today the cable will be hooked up, but the phone works and there is electricity and internet and water and all that. Our first newspaper was delivered today.

The cats have mostly forgotten that they ever lived anywhere else, though one of them walks through the house yowling in the deep dark of night.

We are getting used to the four separate switches in the bathroom, each of which controls a separate part of the lighting. All the bookcases are where they will stay--at least for a while.

There are still no pictures on the walls, we need to solve the storage situation in the laundry room, there is a significant dearth of towelbars, and we need rugs in the dining room and stairwell and bedrooms. We still do not understand how the automatic sprinkler system works.

But we were able to take a rest from the chaos last night to celebrate the PP's birthday. He decided he would rather eat in than out, so I picked up a beautiful T-bone from the store, and we grilled that together with some asparagus and ate it with couscous. Because I had to stop at the old house over the weekend, I managed to pick 18 figs from the tree there--I had feared they might not be ripe before the close. So I got a little prosciutto di parma yesterday, too, and we had prosciutto e fighi for an antipasto. Summer! Oh yeah, and strawberry rhubarb pie, in honor of the PP's plans to dominate world rhubarb supply.

Unfortunately, today's trash pick-up meant we had to haul all the boxes to the street last night before dinner, insuring that we were both completely sweaty and exhausted on what was supposed to be the night off. Happy birthday, PP!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Moving report.

As Tim would say, OMGWTFBBQ we have so much stuff!

Short version: the move took 14 hour, on a day with a heat index of 105 F, but everything is in the new house.

Medium version: the cats had about six cows each during the course of the day, first concerning the removal of all their things from the old house, then concerning the car ride to the new place, then concerning their being imprisoned in a room together while we unloaded the trucks, and then concerning the general chaos of the new house.

Medium-long version: yes, I did say trucks. The PP came up with the ultimately efficient plan of one truck that could be unloaded through the front door of the new house, adn one through the back. This plan went awry when one truck had a very short and so steep ramp, and so the piano and other things had to be loaded onto the wrong truck. Plus we ran out of furniture pads. Plus we ran out of space in the trucks. Conclusion? No one has as many bookcases as we do--or at least no one who tries to move them without taking them apart.

Even longer version: this morning the PP found a CD to entertain us with while we ate our breakfast before returning the second truck. He found one I made for him for our anniversary, that compiled the important tunes from our wedding together with some other mushy stuff. The nice thing about this was that it reminded me how happy I was to be moving into this house with him, even amidst all the chaso. The other nice thing was that it was very relaxing music, and relaxed is one thing that neither of us was. The not so nice thing was that many of the lyrics did not apply. When Diana Krall said, "you make me feel so glamorous," all I could see was boxes and peeled wallpaper from teh kitchen project in process. Ah well. I went to pour more coffee to find the carafe empty, and when I opened it to rinse it out, I discovered the wads of papertowel I had put in there yesterday before packing it, since it was damp. Now they were saturated. I apologized to the PP, and as he fished them out with a dessert fork and then we wrung them out in the sink, Nick Lowe decided to start singing, "You ... in ... spire me...." Yeah, right.

But we are getting settled and the cats are settling. These are both good things. Soemtime soon I may dig out my study and get my computer attached. Until then, this is Blue Hawaii, signing off.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

August Perspective.

Today is the big day. Here is a little something for you from Erica Jong:

Autumn Perspective
Now, moving in, cartons on the floor,
the radio playing to bare walls,
picture hooks left stranded
in the unsoiled squares where paintings were,
and something reminding us
this is like all other moving days;
finding the dirty ends of someone else's life,
hair fallen in the sink, a peach pit,
and burned-out matches in the corner;
things not preserved, yet never swept away
like fragments of disturbing dreams
we stumble on all day. . .
in ordering our lives, we will discard them,
scrub clean the floorboards of this our home
lest refuse from the lives we did not lead
become, in some strange, frightening way, our own.
And we have plans that will not tolerate
our fears-- a year laid out like rooms
in a new house--the dusty wine glasses
rinsed off, the vases filled, and bookshelves
sagging with heavy winter books.
Seeing the room always as it will be,
we are content to dust and wait.
We will return here from the dark and silent
streets, arms full of books and food,
anxious as we always are in winter,
and looking for the Good Life we have made.

I see myself then: tense, solemn,
in high-heeled shoes that pinch,
not basking in the light of goals fulfilled,
but looking back to now and seeing
a lazy, sunburned, sandaled girl
in a bare room, full of promise
and feeling envious.

Now we plan, postponing, pushing our lives forward
into the future--as if, when the room
contains us and all our treasured junk
we will have filled whatever gap it is
that makes us wander, discontented
from ourselves.

The room will not change:
a rug, or armchair, or new coat of paint
won't make much difference;
our eyes are fickle
but we remain the same beneath our suntans,
pale, frightened,
dreaming ourselves backward and forward in time,
dreaming our dreaming selves.

I look forward and see myself looking back.