Sunday, November 26, 2006


November in Paris

Knowing that the R was going to be sporadic this weekend, I ambitiously packed three books for Saturday's commute to practice. I pored over Gabrielle Bell's wry, angst-ridden Lucky, a graphic novel chronicling her life as a young artist in Brooklyn. In one scene, she writes about her work in jewelry production: "It's an easy, painless, even pleasant job. But because I have to go to it everyday it is still a kind of jail to me, albeit a comfortable one. The wardens are thoughtful and trusting." Bell humorously continues, "In order to sustain us through mind-numbing jobs, it is necessary to tell ourselves lies, and mine is that if only I was surrounded by France, I would no longer feel perpetually ill at ease. Of course my knowledge of the country comes only from novels, music and movies, but worst of all, Proust. As far as I know, everyone in Paris spends their time gazing at flowers and searching their memories."

On the trip home, I read Joe Sacco's War's End: Profiles From Bosnia 1995-1996, a potent graphic novel about the Yugoslav War, and dipped into Kirsten Smith's young adult novel in verse, The Geography of Girlhood.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


The Boyz from Ipanema

You can tell our team is gearing up for the December meet because lately the workouts have been taken up a notch. This week's focus was: distance, strength and speed.

On Wednesday, we were assigned a series of stroke sets including:
4 x 25 FL, descending
50 K, no board
4 x 50 BK, descending
50 K, no board
4 x 75 BR, descending
50 K, no board
4 x 100 FR, descending
50 K, no board

Needless to say, this particular IM set was demanding, but I found a good song to help keep me focussed. (Did you know that Gertrude Ederle maintained a breakneck pace during her record Channel crossing by singing "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" while Michael Phelps gravitated toward hip hop at the Athens Olympics?). Inspired by the "tall and tan and young and lovely" swimmers around me, I contentedly hummed Antonio Carlos Jobim's well known bossa nova song until the clock struck eight.

Friday's practice was a different story altogether. When Coach hollered, "Love that lactic acid!," my internal DJ put on some good ol' fashioned punk.

Friday, November 10, 2006


IM heaven

Although a morning person, I always make an effort to show up for Wednesday night's practice at John Jay. The workouts are challenging and full of splendor and surprise. One evening, our coach stood on deck donning a tinsel tiara. The following week, he decided to have a show-and-tell, pointing proudly to one of his prized possessions: a framed, autographed 8x10 color glossy of Charo.

Disappointments are rare in the pool. The only time I experience letdowns is when a lanemate complains about the set. Like this past Wednesday, when Coach topped off our stroke set with a 200 individual medley (IM). Within a millisecond, one of the swimmers stared incredulously at him and whined, "200 IM?!!"

In The Rules of Work: The Unspoken Truth about Getting Ahead in Business, Richard Templar writes, "Moaning is pointless. It is unproductive and achieves nothing." It only:
I might add, moaning (in the pool) is the ultimate psych-out.

In order to be effective, Templar suggests folks follow Rules 8 ("Enjoy What You Are Doing") and 12 ("Cultivate a Smile"). He adds, "Work is fun--engrave it on your heart."

Monday, November 06, 2006



When you travel up and down the first lane of Baruch's pool, underwater spotlights shine on you so brightly, you feel like an understudy in an Esther Williams dance production. Guessing that Coach Jim was going to give us another one of his perfectly choreographed workouts, I was tempted to send a spirited "It's showtime!" shout out across the lane this morning--but resisted, knowing that too much pep on a Monday would surely invite some glares.

We started with what I have termed Coach's signature "Rockette" set. After swimming to the deep end of the pool, we lined up for a series of vertical kicks (i.e. alternating between breaststroke and freestyle kicks while raising our elbows up in the air for a period of 20 seconds). Like dancers, we were mindful of our posture and position in the water. And although we lacked marabou hats, sparkling sequins and ostrich plumes, Lisa, Anne and I kicked, kicked, kicked with the razzle-dazzle enthusiasm of Radio City's stars.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


On Fearlessness

The first three lines of Ted Kooser's "Surviving" read:
There are days when the fear of death
is as ubiquitous as light. It illuminates
Halloween marks the anniversary of my mother's untimely death. As a result, this time of year, I find myself (as the voice in Kooser's poem suggests) "attentive/to everything living," reflecting on my raisons d'etre. This evening, I decided to sign up for the New York Road Runners' next 4 miler; and I plan to run this event with purpose, dedication and love.

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