“For 25 years Elizabeth Lennie has worked as an actress in theatre, film and television while developing a painting practice and raising 3 daughters in mid-town Toronto with husband performer/writer/teacher Mike Kirby. Her liquid landscapes are both abstract and figurative and explore the memory myth of summer. The medium is oil paint on canvas or board, with layered washes, thicker impasto, and the occasional graphite text. The archetypes surrounded by water explore notions of self within the resonance of shared memory. E. Lennie’s paintings are featured regularly in the media and are collected in Canada, the US, the UK and Japan.”
I don’t keep a diary or journal all that often–scrawled notes, here and there–of things I want to remember, but the majority of my life I’ve confined to the dark recesses of my increasingly lethargic memory. Occasionally, I take an exception and inflict the journaling on you, gentle readers.
At the end of last week my kids and their team-mates traveled to Trees Pool at the University of Pittsburgh for the WPIAL District Swimming Championships. It’s a love-hate thing–we love our swimmers, but this event is perennially noted for sub-zero temperatures and nearly impossible parking. The Pool is located at the top of a step hill, and the University parking lots are reserved for faculty and students, the hospital and business garages are posted “lease only”–some have even made special signs, just for us “NO SWIMMER PARKING.” Pittsburgh is a very friendly town, but UPMC –whose garages had those signs–is another matter. Their signs pretty much screamed “Fuck You.” Big surprise.
It seemed hellacious at the time–we parked about a mile away–and half a mile vertically–in the bitter cold. Afflicted with a nagging cold and what turned out to be bronchitis, my throat seized shut the moment I began exerting myself in those temperatures, which was scary but gave me new understanding of what it’s like to deal with asthma. It sucks, by the way.
Fortunately, I survived, as did my friend Skip who, wearing just a thin leather jacket, stuck with my slow progress up the hill, didn’t flinch at my frequent stops for binges of disconcerting hacking-coughing-gurgling-convulsing. The guy had to be freezing his ass off–and he also dealt with navigating his Suburban through all that city traffic. Kudos to Skip.
The meet went well–our girls finished high in both relays–200 Medley and 200 Freestyle, qualifying for the PIAA State Championships, with both of my daughters posting significant time drops. One of the girls did very well in an individual event, also, nailing another spot at States. On the boys side, the results were similar. On day two, the girls qualified a third relay and one of our other swimmers finished second overall in her premier event. All in all it was a spectacular pair of days in what was supposed to be a “down” year with a diminished roster–the boys finished fourth overall, the girls fifth, and the only that lack of depth kept us from contending for the District Championships, but we won our Section handily–as we usually do–something none of the marquee teams (football, basketball, etc) can boast.
We stopped for a celebratory visit at a TGI Fridays which was fun, but not awesome. They refused to take reservations for our party of 40 parents, coaches, and athletes, so the kids didn’t get to sit together or even get seated or served at the same time–but those of us who weren’t behind the wheel got to down a few cold Yeunglings while we waited for tables to open. The great thing about swimming is that the parents and athletes are all pretty great–not just on our team, but in general. I think it comes down to the fact that it’s all about quantifiable results. If your kid makes a relay over my kid, it’s generally because your kid is faster–it’s difficult, and counter-productive, for coaches to play favorites. We cheer for our kids as individuals, but the big accolades come from team success, which also helps. Finally, swimming is AWFUL–it’s grueling, mind-numbing, exhausting, repetitive, and somewhat lonely. Success requires great discipline and sacrifice, which more than anything else serves to weed out the assholes. Even the most naturally talented kids ultimately fall short if they don’t do the work. Those left are quality–though sometimes quirky!–individuals, an almost literal crucible.
Not much time to write while watching my kids and their teammates kick butt and qualify for the state swimming championships. Boo-yah. Here’s a picture to make up for my silence. It started with this band of ragamuffins right here, about 8 years ago.
One of the reasons I dove back into the blog business, besides the desire to bombard the populace with my literary genius and tomfoolery, was my friend Tony’s spirited attempt to post a blog entry every day for a year. He didn’t succeed, but he gave it one heck of a shot, and while I wasn’t foolishly optimistic enough to expect I could sustain such a pace (you see the kind of crap I’m posting–imagine if I had to scour my head and my hard drive for a year’s worth of daily posts! I can almost smell it from here.) I have my own goals: 260 posts by August 1, 2014–that’s five posts a week from when I began sporadically increasing my output.
And I care about this why? You wonder.
I had a busy weekend and didn’t come near the blog for 3 days, leaving me feeling strangely guilty. I’m not accustomed to that. I didn’t write all weekend, which is rare. It was a great weekend, though exhausting, so I shouldn’t be surprised that I didn’t write. The guilt surprises me a little. A lot, actually.
My kids are swimmers, and while swimming is pretty much a year-round thing, the meat of the season begins now. From the beginning of November into March we have exactly 2 open weekends, one of which is the weekend before Christmas. The kids compete for their highly successful high school team, for the YMCA league team they’ve been members of since they were eight, and for a USA Swimming club team that is an off-shoot of the YMCA–they’re pretty good, second tier athletes–they place more often than not–and watching them compete is pretty much my hobby.
A father could have worse preoccupations. Of course, this often means waking up at 5am, or earlier, on weekend mornings, dealing with a mini-van full of cranky sleep-deprived women, traveling a couple of hours to sit in a sweltering hot natatorium to watch 600 kids (580 of which I don’t know) swim, sitting on hard, crowded bleachers, while the athletes I know–including the ones I live with–underperfrom, adding 4, 6, 8 or more seconds to their seed times and finishing out of the running because right now they’re putting in 6500 yards a day in practice, six days a week, doing strength training, and still maintaining a semblance of a social life.
They’re physically gutted, but the core group of these kids are committed–to the sport, to each other, and to themselves. I know they don’t appreciate how impressive that is, and how inspiring, but it is, and that’s what I think about when it’s dark and cold and we’re headed across the state to yet another swimming pool to spend our weekend competes anyway, and it’s inspiring. I have many intellectual friends, most of them professional (habitual?) academics, who scoff about sports (until their kid decides to play one), and I’ve tried to explain this to them, but the effort is generally in vain unless they experience it for themselves.
I have learned so much from these kids. They may not be especially pleasant at 7 am, waiting for the call to hit the pool for warm-ups, but hey–if they can do that, I can keep hitting the blog pool and meet my own goals, right?
I love to tell stories with words and images, often with a darkly magical twist. While speculative fiction & dissecting pop culture are my primary passions, I also work with clients & brands by assisting with content creation, editing, marketing & design.