If I were back in the States, I suspect that I’d be doing what most of my friends are doing now–wringing their hands, yelling or throwing things at the television or just staring wide eyed and slack jawed at the inanities and sorrowful state of our politics.
I didn’t watch the first presidential debate. It’s Tuesday morning here in Osaka, and watching television during the day depresses me. I don’t feel much of a duty to watch and I expect that it will be talked about until the end of the Republic (which seems like it’s looming), so I’ll have many chances to hear/read about it.
Sujata took the kids to Universal Studios (thank you, Sujata!), which left me a full, wide open day to do as I please and the best part (so far–it’s still afternoon) was a swim at the Osaka Pool.
I haven’t been able to swim since we were in Phnom Penh and that was nearly a month ago. I couldn’t find a decent pool in Vietnam and up until today that was the case in Japan as well. It’s not like there aren’t good pools here, it’s just that they can be difficult to get to, especially when you rely on walking (Sapana calls it Bus #11) or public transportation. Deciphering pool schedules in Japan is also challenging. Yesterday morning I checked the Osaka Pool schedule and it said they were open so I walked the one mile to the site, only to find they were closed. I’m here to spend time with my family and sightsee but I have to say that one of my dreams is to travel around the world visiting and writing about different swimming pools. I generally talk to the folks who work at the pools and I’ve been amazed by the kind of information you can get–for instance in Darwin, I had a long conversation with the pool manager about the history of that particular pool, how it fits in with the larger neighborhood and the fact they the City was getting ready to rip out the existing pool and put in a much larger and competition-friendly pool. This is harder to do, of course, in Japan where all I can say (with hand gestures) is “How much swim?” or “Locker room this way?” I look and sound like such a fool.
The Osaka Pool was, by far, the best pool I’ve found–not just in Japan, but all the places I’ve swam on this trip. First of all, the structure is enormous and it looks like a giant space ship.
Most of the pools I swim at home are housed in ugly, hopelessly square brick buildings that look like some tight-wad public administrator held a gun to the head of the architect who designed them and promised to shoot if the architect went 1 cent over the already-paltry budget. Not the Osaka Pool–the thing looks like it’s ready to lift off.
It’s lovely inside as well. Not private-pool-you-can’t-come-in-here-unless-you-pay-$30 kind of lovely. I never go to those pools anyway–I always look for public pools mostly because they are less expensive–I paid 700 yen which equals 7 US dollars to swim at the Osaka Pool–but also because I don’t like going to those toney places anyway.
Like so many other things in Japan, you purchase your entry ticket at a vending machine, even though there is a lovely person sitting behind the counter just a few paces from the machine.
The locker room was spacious and clean and it even had lockers with free locks. This is a big plus–most of the places I swim at don’t even have lockers, let alone free locks. On more than a number of occasions, I’ve had to tote my shoes, my bag and whatever else I was carrying with me to the pool side and kind of keep an eye on it between strokes.
The very best thing about the Osaka Pool, though, was that it was 50 meters. I love 50 meter pools because I feel like I can really get my strokes going and I just love the freedom and beauty of that long line ahead of me.
I was lucky, too, in that the pool was virtually empty today. I had an entire lane all to myself. This, too, is a big deal. One of the reasons I love to swim is because I don’t have to think about anything outside of what I’m doing but if I’m sharing a lane I have to keep an eye on the other person and wonder if they are overtaking me or vice versa. When I’m running or cycling, for instance, I always have to be thinking “Is that dude in the car going to hit me?” or “Can I pass this other cyclist without getting hit by the oncoming car?” I don’t mind sharing lanes at the pool and, in fact, when it’s crowded and I have my own lane I always make way for another swimmer (a lot of swimmers don’t do this and it’s really annoying).
I listened to Charles Mingus’ Ah Um on the walk to the pool and Nick Cave’s The Good Son on the way back. Then I stopped and picked up some fresh onigiri (I am going to miss Japanese onigiri!) and ate it back at our apartment. I thought about the debate and the upcoming election a little bit, but it felt more like a pesky insect that buzzes your head everyonce in awhile.
Now, I’m off for another adventure.