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Sunday, June 20, 2010


Back on Memorial Day weekend, in between my trips to Irvine and NYC (in May) and my crazed Philly-DC-home-DC-Providence trip (in June), I actually got to spend some time with my family.  Nick and his crew (Rachel, Shachar) drove from New Haven, and we all hung out and actually used our backyard—just as we’d hoped to do last summer when we were doing all that neck-straining painting and landscaping and stuff.  There was much ladderball and badminton and beer, with various young guests coming in and out all weekend; the fun was interrupted only by my attempt to trim the Boundary Hedge from Hell, which had grown from its ordinary six feet to something like nine, exploding in all directions and now containing two or three young trees.  Many thanks to Nick and Shachar for helping out!  It is a hideous job, especially for someone like me who was raised in a parking lot and cannot tell a hoe from a pruning saw, and each year when I undertake the task with the electric clippers I rarely fail to cut through the 100-ft. extension cord in the course of the two-hour struggle.  And there is a ladder involved.  Ladders and power cutting-tools—a winning combination any time of year!  But this time Shash held the extension cord so it didn’t get tangled in the hedge (taking care to avoid the sentient parts of the hedge that are capable of reaching out and grabbing the cord), and Nick used ye olde nonelectric hedge clippers to do the edging.  Best of all, these doughty young men hauled out the wheelbarrow and carted away heaps upon heaps of hedge trimmings, until we almost had enough trimmings to make a second hedge. 

And then we decided to go to the pool!  Well, almost.  Nick prevailed upon Shash to stay with him and play Zero Wing World of Zelda Call of Duty Warfare 4, the better to cultivate their pallid complexions, while Janet, Jamie, Rachel and I went to the Penn State Natatorium, where they have those diving platforms that were mentioned in this aquatic-themed thread back in aught-six, when Jamie first worked up the courage to jump off a diving board (check out comment 22, and no, I still haven’t gone off the 7.5m platform and probably never will).

On most days the Nat is pretty empty.  One August day last year it was so empty that the lifeguard allowed Jamie to jump off the 1m platform, even though the 1 and 3 are usually closed—probably because they’re positioned just below the 5 and the 7.5, respectively, and Penn State didn’t want people jumping onto each other or something.  Well, this year was different.  For one thing, all five platforms were open (though no one goes off the 10), and there was a new policy in place: no one goes up the ladder until the previous person has dived.  (In years past, you would have one diver on the 5 and one on the 7.5, and the lifeguard would indicate—by holding up a 5 card or a 7 card—who was cleared to jump.) For another thing, there was a high school girls’ volleyball tournament in town ... except that all the volleyball games must have been over for the day, because holy mother of Moloch with a libero, the Natatorium was packed almost to capacity with teenage girls.  And apparently there’s nothing high school volleyball players want to do more, when they’re not playing volleyball, than to plunge 24.6 feet into a pool.  Dozens of these folk were lined up to jump off the platforms; almost all of them went off the 7.5, half of them running and shrieking and half of them inching to the edge and back in an agony of indecision.

Well, we thought, so much for the platform diving.  Janet and I did the Sunday crossword puzzle while Jamie went his way and Rachel went hers.  Then I swam a few laps, Jamie and Rachel went off the springboard, and we figured that would be it for the day. Time to get back and use that new grill in that redesigned backyard! 

But then Rachel said, “we really have to jump just once.” She was right, of course, but, as I pointed out, the line was almost half an hour long.  “We’ll jump once and then we’ll go,” she persisted, and she was right again.  So we got in line behind 25 or 30 shriekers-and-inchers ... and much to my surprise, after ten minutes, Jamie joined us.  “Jamie,” I asked, “do you really want to jump off the platforms?” “Michael!  I can do it,” he replied.

“OK, then, are you going to jump off the one-meter like you did last year?”

“No way!  I can go off the three.”

I had my doubts.  One of the funny things about those platforms is that they look twice as high once you’re actually on them, so that, for example, when you’re up on the 5 (which doesn’t look very high from the ground) you think you’re jumping off a three-story building; and Jamie, as you well know, has a fear of heights.  Since he’d only gotten over his fear of diving boards four years ago, I figured he would climb up to the three, flip out, and either (a) retreat to the one or (b) get stuck up there so that I’d have to retrieve him.

“Are you absolutely sure?”

“No problem!” he insisted, somewhat dismissively.  Fine, I thought, we have 15-20 minutes to talk this over.  So I told him that he must, must, must hit the water with his feet first.  He must not, must not, must not jump forward the way he does on the spring board, landing knees-and-chest in the water.  He must, must, must jump straight down.  And so forth.  “Michael!” he said, “I got it.”

Indeed he did.  So here he is contemplating his ten-foot jump into the deep end (photo courtesy of the Blackberry of the elusive Janet Lyon):

And he didn’t hesitate for a second.  He sized it up, took a few steps, and wooosh!  Our Jamie went flying into fifteen feet of water from the three-meter platform.  Rachel followed from the 5, and I went last.  Somehow, Janet managed to catch me in mid-flight looking as if I am about to do the Mexican cliff-diving thing from the height of one meter:

Yesterday, on our second trip to the Nat (thankfully it was back to nearly-empty), Jamie not only went off the three again (while I stayed with the five); he also doodled around the far end of the diving well and then decided to take off from the surface (that is, without jumping in) and touch the bottom.  For this he got a warning from the lifeguard (no playing around in the diving well!), but he was so pleased with the feat (and even the lifeguard was secretly impressed) that he swam over to me bursting with glee. “I did it!”

“You did what?” I asked.

“I touched the bottom!  By myself!”

“Wait, you just touched the bottom?  In the deep end?  Just now?”

“Uh huh!”

“With your hand?”

“Yes!  And I pushed myself back up!”

“Wow.” That really is impressive.  “And you had enough air?  Do you feel all right?”

“Michael!  I’m fine!”

“Well, OK then.  But you are a crazy child.  You know that.”

He does, too.  We’ve spent the past two nights camping in the backyard wilderness, braving the elements (the deer, the bears, the wolves, and the lawn furniture), and later today we pack him off for another week’s stay in the LifeLink apartment.  Oh, and one other thing.  Jamie is mindful of the fact that when Nick was about his age, he (Nick) bleached his hair blond with Clorox.  So when I finally prevailed upon him to get his (Jamie’s) hair cut on Friday, he insisted on getting highlights.  Though he didn’t put it quite that way: when the young woman at Supercuts asked him how short he would like his hair, he replied, “blond.” We eventually worked out a deal (he kept picking extremely dark colors from the highlight color samples, which would kind of defeat the purpose), and now he is the proud bearer of some very attractive highlights.  Or, as he prefers to call them, “headlights.”

Nick finds this very hard to believe.  But it’s true!  See?

Posted by Michael on 06/20 at 10:33 AM
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