And as much as we try to rebel against where we come from, I, too, am happier in the water than out of it. I prefer a lake, but when you're in New York City, where a fire hydrant sometimes is all you have, a pool shimmers like a mirage on the desert.
Soho House [left]. It was gorgeous, but like most hotel pools, also small and highly self-conscious making -- like swimming on stage for people whose main concerns are suntanning, immersion, or peacocking. I knew I was never going to pay a membership fee to swim laps that are shorter than a Mack Truck.
decided to beat the summer heat one day by swimming at Central Park's Lasker Pool (in winter it's a skating rink right).
We happily packed bags, lugged towels, made our way to the gated entrance. But then a guard blocked our path.
We were sent away to buy a padlock for a locker, and told we could only wear white t-shirts (apparently dark ones could conceal weapons -- or could signify gang colors). When we returned after properly rearranging ourselves, everyone was ordered out of the water: the pool closes daily between 3 and 4. When we finally got in the water, it was refreshing, but somewhat chaotic, and somehow we never made our way back there.
But this past winter we moved to lower Harlem, and Lasker is a brisk ten minute walk from our apartment. And this week, via Internet search, my girlfriend learned that Lasker, like several other city pools, offers lap-only swimming times in the mornings and at dusk. This was too good to be true.
Some of them had ridden bikes to get there, some of them had serious swimcaps and goggles. One middle-aged woman sort of half-paddled around, mostly chatting up the lifeguard. One young woman stopped me between laps to ask me how I did my breathing between strokes. Turns out she had been walking her dog past the pool the previous day and seen people in the water, and decided to just go for it, without any previous swimming training. I did the best I could to explain it, but I learned how to swim around age six and hardly can remember how to break it down -- it's just instinctive, like breathing on land.
After the 8:30am whistle cleared us out, I walked home refreshed. Today I went back and ran into a college classmate who was doing the same morning swim ritual. But as we entered, she was waved through and I was stopped by the guard.
I learned that -- being New York City -- my rookie experience was a little too bureaucracy-free to be true. I was supposed to have filled out a "membership card" with my info and an emergency contact, and flashed it on entrance and handed it over to the staff before I got in the water. This, unlike the white t-shirt rule, made sense -- if a swimmer, say, dies of a heart attack, the city needs to absolve itself of liability and find next of kin.
I filled out the form in my best handwriting -- unfortunately, I learned handwriting around the same age as swimming, and it never got any better. So when i got the card back and the end of the day, I discovered that I have been logged into the city's system as "David Hanahan."
If my girlfriend ever gets a call about this guy I hope she responds.