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Not drowning, facing down a fear & learning to live

30 Aug

I don’t know how to swim.  Put me in water over my head and there’s a pretty good chance I’ll drown.

Don’t ask my why because I don’t have an answer. The closest thing to a swimming lesson I ever had came at the age of 12 when my mother enrolled me in a beginner’s swimming class filled with 6 to 8 year olds. I was embarrassed and angry and frustrated that the pool officials wouldn’t put me in the teen swimming class even if I was a year too young and I was even more angry that my mother thought a swimming class with 6 to 8 year olds was what I meant when I said I wanted to learn how to swim. The class served only to solidify my hatred for putting my head under water and fueled my passion for writing angry teen poetry.

Prior to age 12, various stepfathers and a stepbrother spent time threatening to throw me into a body of water where I would surely figure it out. They were convinced my survival instincts would kick in and just like that I’d be a swimming machine. It’s a small miracle that I survived.

At 16 I got my first set of contact lenses.  I became convinced that, if I let water splash my face, I would lose a contact lens, get turned around while out in the ocean and mistake the horizon for the shore. The ocean would pull be out to sea and I’d either drown or get eaten by whales.

So here I am: 26, unable to swim and pretty much terrified of any water that’s more than 5 feet deep.  

Every time I go to the beach it’s the same thing. My friends go out in the ocean and show off their stupid swimming skills while I splash around on the shore acting like I’m totally content to take pictures and hunt for sea shells. They yell for me to get in the fucking ocean already and every time I squawk back about how I’m busy and fine and don’t want to get in the water because it’s cold and wet and oceany so leave me the fuck alone you swimming assholes.

This time I wanted it to be different. I was determined. With my laser-corrected eyes I knew I wasn’t going to end up losing a lens and swimming out to sea to be eaten by whales. I still couldn’t swim, but I desperately wanted to get in the water. And I did. Someone brought a boogie board and I took it out to sea with me. Instead of freaking out and yelling at everyone to leave me alone, I listened. I went.

The ocean floor dropped out from beneath me and I kept going. Andrew and the boys were there. My breath kept getting caught in my throat and I screamed every single time the board shifted and I felt like I would sink to the bottom, but I was okay. I didn’t drown.

The boys kept asking if I was joking with my pathetic feet kicking and terrified screams. I assured them that no, I wasn’t. At 26, I’d never been out that far before. I’d never not been able to touch the ocean floor. I’d never been that brave.

There’s some sort of hidden meaning here, I’m sure. Some sort of message from the Universe. Something to do with my need for control and firm footing and how sometimes it’s okay to let go and let the world hold you up. I’m taking it as what I know it to be: a fist in the face of fear.

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The Atlantic Ocean, some teenage shenanigans and a much needed trip.

26 Aug

In May I saw the Pacific Ocean. I haven’t seen the Atlantic Ocean, the one that’s closest to me and the one I’ve spent the most time in, since last October. I’ve been close. Less than a mile close, but there were trees in the way and things to do and a drive back home to get to and anyway, I was wearing combat boots and a uniform and couldn’t have enjoyed it had I been able to see it. I miss it. Enormously.

Tomorrow, Andrew and I, together with a group of our friends, are going to Ocean City, MD. I went, years ago, with a friend. We were in high school. We were all about the debauchery and the ridiculousness.

Stupid shit I did the last time I went to Ocean City, Maryland back when I was 15:

// Played spin the bottle with a group of college students.
// Told everyone I was 17 when I was actually 15.
// Stole beer from my friend’s mom.
// Told everyone my friend and I were sisters.
// Almost lost my bikini top to the ocean.
// Had fun. Stupid fun. Underage, teenager fun.

To say I’m looking forward to going back again is an understatement. I desperately need some ocean time. I need to get in the water, to try out playing in the waves now that I don’t have to worry about losing a contact lens. I want to come back with sand still stuck to my toes and with my hair smelling like the ocean. I want to spend some time reading a book on the beach. I want to laugh with my friends. I want to go out for drinks and celebrate life in a city that’s not my own. I want to drink white wine spritzers on the beach. I want to have fun.

Seattle: Possibly inhabited by zombies, fabulously photogenic & some quirk for good measure

12 Jul

After our Alaskan cruise, we hung around Seattle for a few days. We’d both wanted to visit for as long as we could remember.

Seattle wasn’t what I expected, really. It’s only the 2nd West Coast city I’ve visited and I was hoping it would feel similar to San Francisco, but it didn’t. It was a decidedly neat place, but the energy of Seattle felt strange to me. I went expecting to love it, and while I really liked a lot of Seattle, I didn’t love it. People seemed a bit zombie-esque to me, and I felt unsafe there, which is weird since I’m from one of the most dangerous cities in America. That said, I love how Earth-conscious the entire West Coast seems to be. It’s a nice change to see recycling bins and bike paths and healthy food options all over the place.

After a slightly delayed disembarkation from our cruise ship, we hailed a cab (with the best cab driver ever who seemed dedicated and in love with his city) and headed to our hotel, Hotel Max. It was early yet and our room wasn’t ready (and we didn’t expect it to be) so we checked our bags, grabbed a map and headed out.

When we explore cities, we like to explore on foot. It gives us a chance to feel more and see more of the city and allows me endless opportunities to stop and take a thousand or so photographs.

On our 1st day we…

. Visited the Seattle Aquarium where we saw seals and sea otters and river otters and a crazy big octopus and touched all sorts of neat critters in the massive touch pool and yelled at the river otters for sleeping through my visit.

. Hit Pike Place Market, where we marveled at the massive crowds, piles of fresh seafood and beautiful flowers. It was a lot for two slightly crowd-phobic crazies to take in, but it was amazing. All the hustle and bustle and rushed feeling of the place was exactly as I had imagined it would be.

. Ate dinner at Serious Pie. The food was neat and the atmosphere was cozy. It felt like a popular place to be and was close enough to our hotel that we didn’t get soaked by the evening rainfall that hit just before we set out.

. Felt like the Earth was moving. After 7 days on and off a cruise ship it took us entirely too much time to get used to being on land again.

Day 2 felt very Seattle-y. Most of things we saw fit nicely with all the iconic images of Seattle I’ve seen over the years.

On our 2nd Day we…

. Walked down to Pike Place Market for breakfast. We got bagel sandwiches (from Market Bagel) and coffee & hot cocoa from Seattle’s Best.

. Walked to the Seattle Center, home to the Space Needle and all sorts of neat and fascinating things. The Space Needle was very, very cool to see and gave me all sorts of thrills. We’d caught little glimpses of it walking around the city but seeing it up close and personal was 10 times better.

. Visited the  Experience Music Project|Science Fiction Museum which I HIGHLY recommend for anyone planning a trip to Seattle. It was full of amazing tidbits about Seattle’s music history and you can go in a sound booth and play music and sing songs and there’s this GIANT guitar sculpture thing in the lobby and really it’s probably just the most amazing museum I’ve ever visited.

. Saw Shrek Forever After at the IMAX at Seattle Center in 3-D. We saw one of the Shrek movies in Kosovo way back in the beginning of our romantical phase and sitting in the theater next to Andrew laughing at Shrek’s antics again brought back all sorts of warm and fuzzy memories.

. Became a little more convinced that Seattle in full of zombies.

. Checked out some massive and very cool sculptures in Olympic Park, walked along the water and then back to our hotel by way of the waterfront.

. Had dinner at the Pink Door. It was Italian-American and totally delicious and beautiful and dark and cozy and full of beautiful chandeliers. I highly recommend it.

The last day might have been our best day. We spent it in the Pioneer Square section of the city. It’s the oldest bit and felt different from the other parts we’d visited. Oddly, it seemed more young, and much less zombie-fied.

On our 3rd Day we…

. Went on Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour. If you like history and bad jokes, and don’t mind the smell of musty basement, this is absolutely one of the most fascinating things to do in Seattle.

. Lunched at Salumi, a cured meat place owned by Iron Chef Mario Batali’s father. We had the meat and cheese plate and gorged ourselves on delicious salami and olives and bread and assorted cheeses. It was heavenly.

. Took a very old, and original, Otis elevator up to the 35th floor of Smith Tower. There’s a 365 degree observation deck up there and we could see damn near everything. While I’m sure riding to the top of Space Needle is neat, the great thing about Smith Tower is that we could see the Space Needle from up there and it cost just $5 per person instead of the $15+ the Space Needle charges.

. Spent the afternoon wandering around, drinking espresso, and enjoying our very last day of vacation.

. Saw the Detroit Tigers play the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. While we were waiting for the game to start my eyes started burning. I was freaking out thinking I was allergic to something in the air. Then, we went to get beer and I realized that garlic fries are the thing to get at Safeco. And all the garlic in the air? It was making me cry. After eating some of the fries though, I seemed to develop a tolerance to the garlic-filled air and stopped my crying.

All in all? It was amazing. Even if I didn’t immediately decide I wanted to move there like I did upon first setting foot in San Francisco, it was still a very cool, very different sort of city.