When I think of August, I think of swimming, and when I think of swimming I think of diving. When I was young, both municipal pools that I went to regularly had diving boards – low, middle and high. Low boards were great for jackknives and flips, middle boards were more for cannonballs and straight dives, and high boards (10 ft. to 20 ft.) were for either a jump, feet first, or a dive for depth. I’m not sure that there are any diving boards left. Maybe the owners or managers are afraid that someone will get hurt and sue – (the biggest deterrent to everything that used to be fun). At any rate, diving for fun seems to be a sport that has passed away.
My second most favorite pastime in a swimming pool was just sitting at the bottom of the pool and observing the surface activity and odd swimming and diving techniques. Sitting at the bottom of the deep end (10 ft.) was easiest. As the water got more shallow, it was harder to stay down. Way too much work. But also, the deep end was more mysterious, and quiet. I could usually hold my breath for a minute to a minute and a half, long enough to swim the length of the pool under water. This made possible my real fun in the deep end – messing with the lifeguards, or even “freaking them out.” One game was to get a lot of height in a dive to go deep into the water, even touch the bottom, then stay there or curve around to an unlikely spot and wait, and wait until I saw motion above – the guard trying to figure out why I didn’t surface. This usually drove them nuts. And if they decided to come in and look for me, I would race to a more crowded, shallower depth then carefully surface. Great fun! But, as with most pranks, eventually you get caught and let off with a warning: “I’ve got my eye on you, kid.” It was still fun though, because there were a lot of different lifeguards who weren’t on to me yet.
All of this really had a side benefit. My breath control through high school improved immensely, and this was a great help to my trombone playing. Good breath control helps your tone and is the best support for playing long phrases and extreme dynamics. Both loud and soft. Smoking on the other hand was always stupid for any player of wind instruments, especially brass players. But a lot of us went through that dumb stage of our lives.
I just found out that the pools we used to frequent have all been torn down and covered up so the land could be used for other purposes. This was a very depressing thing for me to find out. How do all of the young brass players train? And how do you stay cool all summer? We didn’t have air conditioning, so we hung out in a pool. We learned to love the smell (and, I guess, the taste) of chlorine, and by the end of the summer my bleached blond hair was almost green. Swimming and diving served a purpose, and we all survived. But a really great “fun factor” is missing now in the teenage repertoire.
When we look around at the places where we grew up, there is an awful lot that is now gone and become both history and memories. On the surface at least. Some of us don’t want to dig too deep. Someone like “Pennywise” or “It” may be waiting. Or even worse…, what could possibly be worse? Why reality, of course, now come to life again as our long-term memories surface. So what can we possibly pass on to our children and grandchildren? These memories? A sense of our own history? Reality? What good would these serve? So what if we dress it up a bit and smooth over some of the rough spots? Would the young even listen? Should they? Aren’t we trying to guide them to a better way to think and live, or is this a fool’s errand, since our best learning is through our own experiences. When we reach the time in our lives that we really want to learn from our grandparents they are usually gone or unavailable.
As usual, there are many more questions than answers. And, since we live with a sense of hope (or should), hopefully we will have the right, or at least some acceptable, answers when the deep questions come up. I hope so. Until then, I have the cold, metallic feel of a trombone to bring back reality – and music to my soul.