Sometimes you need more than a monsoon to cool off.
It's probably politically incorrect to wish aloud for more swimming pools here, in our arid, on-the-precipice-of-disastrous-drought city, but what can I say? I hate to be hot.
Someday, if global warming continues unabated, perhaps there will be ocean beaches in Santa Fe-or at least several conveniently located lakes. Until then, I am all about the swimming pool.
But Santa Fe does not have many public pools, and only one, Bicentennial, is outdoors. Besides, several childhood experiences patronizing public pools have scarred me for life. I realize beggars can't be choosers, but sometimes they can be-what's the word I'm looking for? Ah yes, sneaky.
Indeed, I spent several years in Santa Fe sneaking into hotel pools. Note the past tense. I admit my transgressions now, freely, in the hopes that it's too late for any legal repercussions. And, though I am tempted, I am not going to share with you the hotels with the laxest security nor my tried-and-true methods for impersonating an overheated tourist. Fortunately, a few years back, a beloved friend of mine (we'll just call him D, to protect him from other chlorine addicts) bought a condo in a complex with a pool.
I wasn't always so mad for swimming pools, partly because I took them for granted when I was growing up. Some of my least favorite childhood memories involve swimming classes and swimming tests. Even algebra seems preferable to standing on the end of a diving board while everyone waits to see if you're going to belly flop. Then there were the ubiquitous games of Marco Polo, named after the famous traveler and confidant of Kublai Khan. How an explorer from the 1200s ended up having his name shouted by children in swimming pools for centuries to come is beyond me, but even typing the name Marco Polo makes my fingers feel pruny and gives me a tension headache.
Nonetheless, in high school, for reasons I can neither recall nor imagine, given a lifelong tendency to find any excuse possible to skip gym class and avoid organized sports, I decided to become a certified lifeguard. The final test for certification required swimming numerous laps fully dressed, then undressing in the water and blowing up all my clothes in order to use them as rafts (why don't they try that on Lost?). Though I passed the test (the upside of being short is that most of my clothes are small) I knew, right then and there, that anyone counting on me to inflate my clothing in water was probably a goner.
The summer after I received my lifeguard certification, I secured my first-and last-lifeguarding job at a pool just outside of Philadelphia. Any visions I had of myself as the sexy teen lifeguard were put to rest within a week. First there was the sunburn. Then there were the hourly chlorine tests. Finally, and most significantly, there were the children.
I realize that publicly badmouthing children is even more politically incorrect than wishing for more swimming pools, but what can I say? I hate having to blow a whistle. And blow I did. The favorite activity of the children at that particular pool was to run toward it in a large group (totally not allowed) jump in (also banned) and empty it significantly in the process. My only recourse in such cases was a scolding blow on my whistle and this happened again and again. Such events required yet more chlorine adjustments, as did the other popular thing children do in pools, which I'd just as soon not go into in great detail because, um, yuck. On the bright side, there were no required rescues during my stint, which was lucky for all involved given that I had a minor case of heatstroke most days and a major case of antipathy toward my wards.
Being a beach lifeguard would have been much more glamorous, but even pre-Baywatch I knew I wasn't cut out for it. For one thing, there are probably 10 human beings on the planet over the age of 5 who can run in a bathing suit without scaring people and I am not one of them.
As much as I love the ocean, perhaps my favorite swimming times, as a child, were in the cedar-infused creek at my summer camp, appropriately named Camp Dark Waters. Indeed, the water left a brown, stinky film on everyone (and was rumored to provide camouflage for snapping turtles). Still, it was a very low-pressure environment. No one expected you to inflate your clothing (you couldn't have seen them well enough to do so) and no one looked or smelled very good after coming out of that water.
I've tried to become a devotee of local lakes and, yeah, when there's time to take a drive, who doesn't love Abiquiu? On the other hand, my one experience at Cochiti Lake involved me literally putting one foot in the water and watching a hypodermic needle float by. There are few things that make a child peeing in a pool seem like an attractive alternative, but that was one of them.
Thus I will, in all likelihood, spend this summer cooling off by a pool while keeping an eye on the monsoon clouds (the one bizarre downside to my friend's pool is that if there is one cloud in the sky it is usually camped over his apartment complex). On the bright side, there's no diving board, no children playing Marco Polo and very few people there at all. They don't know what they're missing.
Ft. Marcy Complex Recreation Complex
490 Washington Ave.
Salvador Perez Swimming Pool and Fitness Center
601 Alta Vista St.
Genoveva Chavez Community Center
3221 Rodeo Road
1121 Alto St.