Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Fantasy Swimming Report Part 2: The Background

When the topic of my quest to swim across the Chesapeake Bay comes-up in conversation (hey, who wants to talk about me?), the first question is always, "how far is that?" and the second question is always, "why?" The answer to the first question is easy - 4.4 miles. The answer to the second question is, however, a little more complicated as it starts sometime back in the late 1970's when television was being dominated by Happy Days and its multiple spin-offs, the music scene was at a crossroads* and we were in the midst of the greatest run of movie comedies ever (Animal House, Caddyahsck, The Blues Brothers, etc.). Oh I remember it like it was 35 years ago (picture a blurring TV screen to indicate travel back in time).

When I was two years old my parents came into the ownership of a house on a river in Maryland (I'm not going to use the word "fleece" but there was an old lady involved) so, from the time I can remember, I could see the Chesapeake Bay from my front door. (Note: People who live on the water like to call the side of their house that faces the water the "front" and the side that faces the road the "back." It seemed perfectly normal to me until the day I realized how douchy it is).

Yep . . . that pretty much sums-
up the Thanksgiving of '93. 
Living on the water meant a lot of time spent on boats but I always enjoyed jumping-off them more than being on them. This probably had something to do with my constant desire to escape a tumultuous family situation which was analogous to David Spade's car in Tommy Boy. I used to throw things overboard so I could volunteer to go in after them. The key was to throw something that floated and was worth retrieving by your parents' standards but that you could also afford to lose if the mission failed - like a half a bottle of Mount Gay rum or a pack of cigarettes.  

Before I move on, here's some relationship advice. If you find yourself in one that is not on solid ground, avoid spending a lot of time on boats with your kids. The ingredients of (a) constant motion, (b) alcohol, (c) being surrounded by water and (d) the ever present fear of someone drowning from the combination of (a), (b) and (c) does not make for a marriage healing recipe. And neither does confinement. No one ever said, "I just need some space . . . let's go sailing." Case in point (and a true story): the dysfunctional family that lived next door to us thought it would be a good idea to sail around the world with their three kids, two of whom were teenage girls. (I know, what could go wrong?) They made it about halfway at which point the mom flew home with the kids and the dad kept going in what me and the other neighborhood smart asses would later describe as a Fletcher Christian and the native island girl type situation. A few months later we had new next door neighbors.**

But I digress (which, along with a lot of parentheticals, is what happens when you're trying to cut-back on the footnotes). So as a kid I was spending a lot of time swimming in the river and jumping off of boats in the middle of the bay. By the time I was fourteen, I had access to a motor boat that was fast enough to do serious bodily harm when used improperly and we would get it going full speed and then leap off the side while striking a long jumper pose in midair before crashing into the water. Two years later we were doing that and even more simple minded stunts under the influence of Milwaukee's Best, Schaeffer and Natty Boh. So the fact that I'm not already dead makes the prospect of swimming across the bay under the watchful eye of trained rescue personnel seem a little less intimidating (famous last words).

As to why I want to do it . . . I'm not really sure. I'm not an especially strong swimmer as we will discover when I write about the training aspect of this. It's certainly not the inherently anti-social nature of the sport that draws me to it - it's not easy to hold a conversation with someone swimming next to you and it's damn near impossible to enjoy a Bud Light or seven when you're alternating between submerging your face in water and gasping for air. Ultimately, the real reason I want to do it is the same reason people want to climb or cross anything . . . because it's there and, in my case, because it's always been there.


I'm not sure we can honestly
call forty million records a "fad."
* Take a look at the top selling albums of 1978. The soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever was the runaway winner but you also had Darkness on the Edge of Town (Bruce Springsteen), Some Girls (The Rolling Stones), Who Are You (The Who) along with significant releases by Billy Joel, Talking Heads, Foreigner, Bob Seger and The Village People. Not to mention, we had debut albums by two of the bands that would dominate the 80's in Van Halen and The Police. So disco was still hanging-on while rock luminaries were churning-out some solid stuff and we were just getting introduced to the transcendent talents of Sting and Eddie Van Halen. (Obviously this is all a matter of personal taste so if you don't revere Sting's singing ability and Eddie Van Halen's guitar playing excellence, that's your problem).

** Feel free to use that story for one of your commercials DIRECTV because it's clear that you've run out of original ideas.

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