grey marble

July 5, 2006

Happy fourth of July weekend

This morning the skies are a dark grey getting lighter. Rain falls, a light mist growing stronger. Last night, the skies cleared long enough for the fourth of July fireworks and a breeze blew through Brooklyn.

I bookended the weekend with swimming. Friday afternoon, I left work at three to join a friend in Central Park. She had told me about the free city pools, about the one in Astoria with its olympic sized pool (where Olympic trials were held in , and the one in Central Park, and we decided to meet up in Harlem, by the meer, to swim in Lanser pool.

A short line had formed to enter. Y warned me that they would check to make sure our swim suits were lined, and that we had locks, but the check was cursory. Once inside, we parted ways to shower and change.

Only half the pool was open, but that half was packed. A lane was set aside in the middle to allow for lap swimming. We tested the water; it was cold, but after committing our bodies to it, we started to warm. Children screamed and splashed each other; lifeguards seemed constantly to be whistling at them. We swam until closing, just as clouds began to roll in. We paused at the Central Park conservatory gardens just as it was closing, and as we made our way through we saw a family of raccoons cross out paths.

On Monday, we met in Astoria, to swim a day before the 70th anniversary of the opening of the Astoria Pool. The pool was large and inviting, surrounded by trees and flanked on one side by showers, and the other by a fenced off diving area. The pool dwarfed Lasker pool; although there were many more people, it felt more open and well-behaved. The water was cool. Our backs were warmed by the sun and our bodies by our motion through the water. Y taught me the butterfly, but I could do no more than three strokes before I was exhausted, gasping for air.

At three, the pool closed for an hour, and we walked to Anna's corner for Greek food. Y's Greek friends had told her she was lucky to be living by such a great restaurant, but she had never tried it. We were greeted by hot toasted bread drizzled with olive oil and spices. We ordered whiting and porgy and vegetables, and after the meal were treated to rice pudding and another bready dessert on the house. The food was delicious.

Outside, the afternoon was hot and humid, and looking for something to do, we decided to bring books and magazines and return to the pool. We found a spot in the shade to lay out our blankets and put our books beside us. Before us, the closed fourth of the pool beckoned. Soon, the lifeguards blew their whistles and waved people over the barrier and into the now opened area before us. We put down our books and jumped back into the pool.

By six-fifteen, the pool had begun to clear. At six-thirty, an announcement was made, but we lingered. At six-forty-five, the lifeguards began to kick people out of the water. As we circumambulated the pool, we longed to dive back into the now empty waters. The lifeguards had begun to clear leaves from the pool.

On the fourth, we met up at M's annual tango party. He had cleared out his living room, and tango music played softly from an armoire in the corner. We were early, and the space was empty. A cat clung steadfastly to its position in the middle of the floor, even as people pulled it away. We changed into our shoes and danced.

The party filled and the room became hot. At nine o'clock an announcement was made and, people started climbing a rickety ladder to the roof. A fireworks display was already underway south of Manhattan, and someone said that it was the New Jersey fireworks. The Macy's fireworks had yet to begin. From the roof, there were views to the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, shining hazily in the distance. All of Manhattan lay before us. We checked the time, and waited. Small sets of fireworks went off here and there, shot off of Brooklyn rooftops.

At nine-twenty, the fireworks began. From our vantage point, we could see them in three directions, each echoing the other. Straight ahead of us, the fireworks were large. Off to either side, they seemed smaller, in support of the central display. Y said it was perspective, and then we fell silent to the oohs and ahhs as the explosions lit the sky.

After the display, we lingered on the roof. Outside, it was cool, and a breeze blew over the rooftops. I stood up with Y, and we embraced and danced to the sound of quiet conversations, the tilted roof putting us slightly off our balance.
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