Monday, August 29, 2011

Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Irene

This is a crappy photo but you can feel Pat's rockin'ness if you look close enough.

My weekend was supposed to be wine and friend-filled in Boston. It was to be glorious.

Instead I was stuck in Cincinnati thanks to that bitch-troll Irene.

But when life gives you hurricanes, you just add rum, right? Or in this case, Pat Benatar!

I remembered at exactly 7:49 p.m. that one of my '80s idols was hitting the Taste of Blue Ash stage at 9 p.m., and I quickly texted everyone I know, "OMG Pat Benatar at Taste of Blue Ash, We Belong!"

I stared at my phone anticipating the vibrating explosion of excited texts from everyone canceling plans to roll with me and see this amazing female rocker.

Instead, crickets.

My friends are losers. (You all know who you are.)

So I went to see Pat, alone... because that's what Her Bad-Assery would have wanted.

I raced to Blue Ash praying, "Look, Jesus... please let Hurricane Irene skip the coasts, cause no deaths, inflict minimal property damage, and ummm, oh, by the way, for the love of God, don't let me miss a minute of Ms. Benatar!"

Ask and you shall receive, people.

All Fired Up was playing when I rolled in. Though not a mega-hit like her others, it's one of my personal favorites and if you don't have it on your iTunes then I feel sorry for you because it is a hard-rocking stadium smoker sang by one of rock's most iconic singers and it totally will rock your Arcade-Fire-listening ass off. (So here it is; right click and you too shall receive.)

I squeezed past the throngs of people who had been staking their claim for hours swilling Miller Lites, saw a narrow little opening atop a retaining wall and slid in with the help of some dude who helped pull me up the step.

And Pat. Well, damn. She lit-it-up.

Her voice, still fierce. Moves, she's got 'em. Her hits, she sang them all.

She was way bigger a force than Irene.

We will be invincible!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sunday's Forecast: Sunny With Lots of Snark

The Boss Man is having a pool party for the lab, and since I sit near the lab and sneak slices of their pizza before lab meeting, I was reluctantly enthusiastically invited. (Carolyn said she had to force the Boss Man's hand into typing my name on the invite, and he winced while doing so.)

I graciously accepted because I know it's not a pool party unless I'm there to retell my near-drowning story. (Get excited everyone!)

So, what is the protocol on wearing my barely-acceptable-as-dental-floss string bikini to this thing? (Ok, I don't really own a bikini like that.) I mean, I have huge assets I like to show off. You know what I'm sayin' - huge ASSeTs. (Actually, I'm built like a tween girl.) And I don't know if the people who sit near me are prepared to see me coming up outta the water all voluptuous and mermaid-y with water streaming down me. (I will look like a wet rat.) They're just gonna feel bad about their bodies after seeing how tan and fit I am. (I don't need the criticism of how pale and outta shape I look nearly naked.)

And wait 'til they see my swimming and cannonball prowess. (I'm only good at swimming underwater and in pools, clearly I'm no good in the ocean. Plus I'm afraid of smacking my legs, so I won't do cannonballs.) You should see the incredible splashes I can make! (Cause I'm actually kinda drowning... again.)

I'll probably hang out in the pool the entire time and teach other people's kids how to swim. (If I hang out in the pool very long I will certainly end up with a uti, which will force me to call in late the next day while I go pee in a cup at my doctor's office. What is the proper way to communicate to your Boss Man that his pool party gave you an infection and now it burns when you pee? Is "hoo-ha" an appropriate term you can use in this instance? That's scientific, right?)

Mna, I love swimming! (Which is to say, I like sitting by pools reading magazines.) So I am pretty excited about this par-tay! (I hope I don't fall down and break anything. But if I do, it won't be the Boss Man's record collection because I already swiped all the good vinyl from his house.)

And speaking of the Boss Man and my near drowning (hey, did you guys hear the story about how I nearly drowned in a ripcurrent?), the Boss Man was in China when it happened was only able to just this week insult me about it. Talk about waiting with bated breath!

It went down like this (and I'm not making up one single word of this, I swear to God he actually said this to me):

Boss Man: I would think someone like you, who's had true life changing experiences - death of a sibling, cancer - would be aware of their mortality, and not get into the ocean when the sign says DANGER Ripcurrents, No Swimming.

ME: The sign posted at the beach didn't say that. The sign at the beach basically said, 'Welcome to Rehoboth Beach, there might be ripcurrents.' The sign you saw me jokingly posed by was at the lifeguard house in case of severe danger; it was not posted that day at the beach. There were hundreds of people in the water. And I am fully aware of my mortality, thank you very much.

Boss Man: Oh, I thought the sign was posted right at the entrance, 'don't swim here,' and you just walked past and laughed and hopped in the ocean anyway.

ME: What kind of an idiot do you take me for? You think if it really said 'Don't Swim Here, Ripcurrents,' I'd have Baywatched my lily white ass out there anyway?

Boss Man: Actually, yes! I thought that's what you did!

ME: This conversation is over. *turns to walk away

Boss Man: Sit down right there, missy, this is your fault. Your writing lacks clarity. This is a learning experience for you, and I am your mentor. Let's talk about how we can make your writing more clear.

ME: I wish I had drowned, then I wouldn't have to have this conversation.

Boss Man: Well, I am really glad you didn't. Life would have been far less entertaining... and I wouldn't have anyone to steal lunch from.

Then he left me standing in the lab while he waltzed off to probably go steal half-eaten food from my trash can.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thanks A Lot, Jerks

Turns out, everyone has nearly drowned in a rip current.

Ok, not really. But I've heard several similar stories from friends and colleagues, but none them were saved by super buff lifeguards like I was. So theirs doesn't count.

As I was writing my mostly serious but sometimes joking blogpost about all this last week, Ray was writing a thank you email to the Rehoboth Beach Patrol.

Which is surprising really because all he talks about now is how much he hates lifeguards, and I'm like, 'But wait, they totally saved me, and you by extension since your ass was probably gonna drown too trying to pull me in.' And he's like, 'Yeah, but why did it have to be super-buff lifeguards who my girl wants mouth-to-mouth from, why did it have to be ol' buff blue eyes who came for you... Why not a lifeguard with a cleft lip, or one of those hot buff chick lifeguards?!'

Ray is really selfish.

Except he really isn't. He's been a firefighter/EMT for like, 20 years, so he takes rescuing people kinda seriously, and therefore, not surprisingly, he spent a good deal of time beating himself up for us needing a lifeguard.

And to that I was all, "Ray, you're a firefighter, not a flotation device. Had I been ON FIRE you'd have been really handy, but I wasn't. ...And you don't float well, by the way."

And speaking of helpful things to say, here are a few gems people have said to me when hearing about my adventures at sea.

• Those are rough waters there! Why can't you vacation at the Gulf?! Or the Caribbean where the water is smooth as glass, hmmm?!

• If you vomit up sea water I'm gonna freak out.

• Not sure whether you owe Ray for risking his life for you or if he owes you for the entertainment. Probably a push.

• Gina, were you drinking?
(the answer is no, not a drop.)

• Why would Ray feel responsible, it's not like he's a Navy Seal.

• Ooh, beach wedding! You can get married in the surf. But I'll stand on the shore and watch because I don't get in past my ankles. The ocean is scary; and I don't like strange things brushing up against my legs.

• Jared makes fun of me for not getting in the ocean past my waist. I'm gonna tell him to suck it, I have good reason for this now. Plus, I like to be able to see my lower half.

And the best quote of all - Why didn't she just swim parallel to the shore?

Thanks a lot, Poseidon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Midwestern Girl and The Sea

This was supposed to be a post about blinding the beach-goers of Delaware with my lily white ass because the waves of the Atlantic pulled my bikini bottoms off a half dozen times.

But as we know, life changes quickly, and instead it's a post about how my lily white ass, and the rest of me, had to be dragged to shore by a lifeguard after I liked to drown this weekend.

My love of hyperbole is well documented.

It was the best/craziest/weirdest thing that happened to me EVER, and I'll be talking about extra fruit at Yagoot. But believe me when I say this is one of the best/scariest stories ever, and I have a few.

Friday afternoon Ray and I were splashing around in the surf at Reboboth Beach. Everything seemed cool, but before I knew it I couldn't touch anymore. One minute I'm bobbing up and down, splashing in the waves, the next minute I can't touch and I'm treading water.

And treading, and treading, and treading... and starting to get tired.

I attempted to work my way back to the shore.

Kick, kick, kick. Swim, swim, swim. Nothing.
Push, push, push. Kick, kick, kick. Swim some more.

I've been out much farther in the ocean before with no problem, but suddenly I was out there and for all my I kicking, swimming and struggling, I wasn't going anywhere. In fact, I seemed to be getting only further away and I couldn't stand up to rest and catch my breath. By then I was already extremely fatigued from fighting.

I didn't know then I was in a rip current.

I thought if I could get back to Ray and he could stand then I could rest for a little while. But when he told me he couldn't stand either, I knew I was in trouble. My distress and fatigue at that point was obvious though I was trying to mask it, and Ray came over to me. When he did I grabbed onto him in the hopes that I could lean on him and rest, but he couldn't stand either, and we both went under.

I had the distinct feeling when we came up that if grabbed onto him again we'd both drown. I remember that from swim lessons as a kid - a drowning person will drown you with them.

Ray wasn't panicking but he was fearful. What he didn't know was that I had been struggling to get myself back closer to the shore for some time and was already exhausted.

I continued to struggle to get back to where I could stand but I was getting exponentially more fatigued by the second. Even staying afloat was work, and every time I went under a wave it was a little harder to push myself back up.

At that point I knew I had to get to shore quickly and I didn't have the strength to do it on my own.

I knew I was going to drown unless someone came for me.
I looked Ray in the eye and said, "I'm not going to make it."

His face went slack with distress and he grabbed my arm to try and pull me, but when he did I went under again. I could barely keep my head above water on my own, and it was impossible to keep my head above water while struggling with him. I actually thought we were both going to drown by him trying to save me.

"Stay away from me," I told him. "Don't come near me."

It probably sounded harsh, but I was attempting to save us both. I had enough energy left to tread water for a little while if nothing was impeding me, and I figured if I went under again I at least had enough energy left to push myself back up to the surface a few more times.

And then, without saying a word to Ray, and it must have been somewhat startling, I yelled to the shore for help. Screaming, as loud as I could, HELP! 

Even though I fleetingly thought 'This is going to make quite a scene at this very crowded beach,' I was acutely aware my time and energy was quickly fading.

When I started yelling for help, so did Ray. I could see the lifeguard stand but I wasn't sure if they could hear us. But I figured someone on the shore would be able to hear us and would pass it along to the lifeguards.

Within seconds I saw the fuzzy outline of a lifeguard leave the stand and told myself, "Just relax, keeping treading, they're coming..." I knew I could tread water at least until he got there.

I don't know what happened in the interim, it seemed like mere seconds passed, but suddenly the lifeguard was there, right in front of me, like he just appeared out of the ocean.

He pushed his orange flotation thing to me and grabbed me from behind. I heard him tell Ray to grab on too. We were both exhausted and scared. Then another lifeguard appeared and gave Ray his own floaty, and Ray told him that he was sorry, that he just couldn't figure out a way to get me to shore and he said, "I thought, 'I'm going to watch my girlfriend drown, or drown myself trying to help her.'"

I felt secure at that point, like everything was scary but ok, and scoffed and told Ray, 'This is their job. They are probably having fun right now.'

Behind me I heard my lifeguard say, 'Beats sitting in a chair.'

While I was more secure and somewhat joking, I also think I was trying to pretend that this was no big deal - 'This is their job' - because that is my MO. But meanwhile, Ray was well-aware this was a big freakin' deal, and he was sorry we were all in this situation.

When we got closer to the shore the lifeguards told us a big wave was coming and then suddenly, I felt the concussion of my lifeguard's forehead against the back of my head. The force knocked me face first into the water, and the wave overtook us. The blow to my head hurt so badly I wondered briefly if I would come back up or if I had a concussion and would drown that way.

About then the guard pulled me up out of the water and basically dragged my ass the rest of the way to shore, standing behind me. When we got there he asked if I could stand and walk, and I did, but my legs were like Jell-O and I was super unstable. What I wanted to do was fall into the sand. But the beach was shoulder-to-shoulder when we got there, and now everyone was shoulder-to-shoulder on the shoreline watching me be dragged in.

I waved to everyone standing and staring and said something like, 'Hey everyone, very exciting, I nearly drowned.'

I was trying to make light of it but internally I was just about to freak the hell out.

A little girl who was holding her dad's hand said to me, 'The waves are really big. Was it rough? It was rough wasn't it?' She was so cute and sweet and I was afraid she'd be scared, so I told her it was really rough but that I was ok and she had to be very careful.

Suddenly Ray was there again. It was like I didn't see him for a long time once the lifeguards got there, even though it was probably less than a minute. He stood there holding me up on the beach and was talking to me, but I couldn't really hear him. All I kept saying was, "I'm ok. I'm ok."

I don't know if I was trying to convince him, or me.

We went back to our chairs and spent the next hour alternately feeling traumatized and making jokes.

The lifeguards at Rehoboth are not like the Midwestern, pool-grade lifeguards we see, they're super buff hotties who are trained and skilled at saving people from the ocean (check out their required skills test, and then their photos - hotties galore), so if you're going to nearly drown I'd highly recommend doing so at Rehoboth Beach.

I joked to Ray from the safety of my beach chair that, 'Hey, wait, didn't I need mouth-to-mouth from the really hot one?!' To which Ray replied, 'I'm glad you didn't, I'd have never seen you again.'

One minute I'd be demanding that the lifeguards come back so I could get their phone numbers, you know, to call and make out with them and thank them, the next my eyes would well with tears at how terrifying it all was.

I mean, I've been through a lot, I had cancer, but never have I felt so singularly aware that my life was in immediate peril... that's because I've never felt like I was going to drown before.

I kept apologizing to Ray for how scary it was and for putting us at risk, and Ray kept saying, 'I'm just glad you're ok. Jesus, Gina. Damn it. Never a dull moment with you.' Then he'd shake his head. And then again, 'Jesus, Gina... Damn it, I'd like to marry you... before you drown.'

While I repeated over and over, 'Holy shit. I'm glad I didn't drown. But what a great story!'

There was a lot of swearing afterwards.

After about an hour we went to thank the lifeguards and that's when they said we got caught in a rip current, which I didn't really know what that was. But after looking it up it made me feel better. Before that I thought I'd inadvertently caused it myself by going out too far, even though I've certainly been out further in the ocean before without problems, so I couldn't understand what happened or how I'd failed so spectacularly.

The guard said they have to pull people out all the time because they fight and get exhausted and panic, adding, 'You probably won't be the last one today.'

Before Friday I thought of rip currents as being these violent washes of water that pull you out suddenly. It wasn't like that. Instead it just steadily carried me away from Ray and further from the shore without me even realizing it. By the time I needed to fight to get back, I was ill-informed to help myself.

Getting out of a rip current is counter-intuitive - you have to first go parallel to the shore before you can get back in. It doesn't matter how good of a swimmer you are if you don't know this. And in my case, even knowing this would have been unhelpful because I couldn't identify that I was even in a rip current. My Hollywood idea of them was that they are these fast moving tides of water. Not the case. 

Every once in a while I have that, 'Oh my god, I am so glad I didn't drown' moment, but mostly I recount the story all Baywatch-esque, with the lifeguards running through the surf all tan and buff in slow motion while Chariots of Fire plays.

And I figure I got maybe another week of milking parlaying this trauma into iced lattés and flowers from Ray.

'It was so scary when I nearly drowned, woooo... I sure could go for a little treat, like an iced-vanilla soy latté.' *blink, blink, blink

And every time Ray says anything nice I ascribe it to my near-drowning, so he remembers how scary it was an is even nicer. 'Aww, I love you too. I'm so glad we didn't drown. Oh, are these flowers for me, because I almost died?'

I joke, but truly, it was scary stuff. I shudder when I think about it too much.

Hours after this happened I saw the "Danger, Rip Currents" sign and also the "Welcome to Rehoboth Beach" sign that included another rip current warning and took some photos beside it. (Too soon?)

But because you're now better informed, you should absolutely watch this video about rip currents from the University of New South Wales in Australia. It's informative and shows several kinds of rip currents, which basically look like nothing if you don't know about them, and also looks like the safest, calmest place in the water. But as this guy says, it takes only a minute to drown, and they can come in and out quickly.

"That's a common thing about these flash rips, is that they can suddenly occur where a large number of waves are breaking, and it pushes the rip out, and then it disappears."

And also read up and see pictures from the University of Delaware Sea Grant College Program. "...The inherent variability of rip currents makes them especially dangerous to unwary or uninformed beachgoers."

That'd be me, folks, unwary and uninformed.

So anyway, you're welcome, you guys, I didn't drown. Send your checks/deep gratitude/anger to Rehoboth Beach Patrol.