18 may 1999



the deep end

I went up to the YMCA yesterday to get Amy signed up for another round of swimming lessons. The girl behind the desk near the entrance to the pool was in her teens, a brow-pierced lass with a swimmer's build.

"That'll be fifty bucks." she said, snapping her gum.

"Okay." I said, showing no outward signs of leaving 1999 and rolling my eyes back in their sockets to look at 19XX when...

... I was a kid and there was something called service attitude that seemed to be a part of every sales transaction. Those were the days when you pulled into a service station for gasoline, rolled over the little rubber hoses that made the bell inside ding a couple of times, and a few seconds later a guy would come bouncing out from the garage, wiping his hands with a blue paper towel. Dad would say "Gimme ten of the ethyl", and while the gas was going in the man in uniform would squirt the windshield and wipe it clean, first from one side and then the other, and as he did you'd feel the car rock gently side to side as he reached for the centermost part. His torso would press flat two feet in front of your nose and you could see what was in his shirt pocket or if he had a button missing. You could almost feel his body heat through the glass. After that, the hood would go up. The older guys all knew where the latch was, no matter what the make. He'd pull the dipstick and wipe, re-insert then pull it again and come around to present the driver with his findings, the dipstick held just so, like a bottle of champagne. It was your call. "We'll get the oil next time." Dad would say.

While all this was rerunning in my head, I was pulling out my checkbook. As I filled in the date, May 17, I said to myself "Ah, SLA Day."

Again the eyes roll back.

It's May 17th, 1974. I come home from school that afternoon to find a live shootout on TV. The LAPD is in a gunfight with the "Symbionese Liberation Army" and there is speculation that Patty Hearst is holed up inside this little house the cops have surrounded. A fire starts, the house burns down, Patty's body is not among the charred remains. The search goes on.

I have one of those memories. It sticks to the oddest things.

I ask the pierced swimmer girl if she knows what the Symbionese Liberation Army was. I think I might be frightening her because I'm wearing olive drab cargo pants with full pockets (case for eyeglasses, wallet, cell phone, keys, pen, notebook), aviator Ray-Bans (they're prescription and it's pretty bright near the windows here), and carrying a black backpack. Maybe her eyes are about to roll back to Columbine High School or a movie her mom wouldn't let her see but she saw anyway. I take her blank stare as a cue to please explain, so I do. And as I tell her about Cinque and Tania and the Hibernia Bank I become the subject of a story of her own, an anecdote for lunch with her swim buddies about this old guy dressed like a terrorist whose eyes kept rolling back.


Yesterday I began the second year of Evaporation.

It's time for a redesign and a few other tweaks, but don't hold your breath, as time for such things is at a premium lately. Just please keep reading, and breathe normally. An attendant will be out soon to check your fluids.

Happy motoring.



today's music:

"I.G.Y." -- Donald Fagen -- THE NIGHTFLY


today's wisdom:

"To serve is beautiful, but only if it is done with joy and a whole heart and a free mind."

- Pearl S. Buck


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