Sunday, April 03, 2005

swimming pools and video games

Life is very nice, if not always spectacular, still we live for times of adventure, vacation, and travel… And, well, adventure, vacation, and travel are very nice— but it’s really all about the stopping points… So I can definitively say that stopping points are very nice, but then when it comes down to it, the beauty of a stopping point has an awful lot to do with the hotel… And even though hotels are very nice, I would be drawing short of the truth if I did not confess that it’s really all about the swimming pools…

As a child, vacation meant piling into the family’s old Subaru station wagon in the early hours of the morning—snacks stashed strategically—and forcing our parents to endure hours of kids’ music cassettes as we covered the interstates of middle America. North Dakota, Missouri, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois… we measured the distance in hours, not in miles, and on a good day we could cover anywhere from 8 to 12 hours of the country. We got to see and experience lots of special places as we were growing up: the towering skyscrapers of windy Chicago, the herds of Bison peppering the vast and endless emptiness of the Great Plains, the world’s largest “M” (in Platteville, Wisconsin, for the record), the Dakota Badlands… you know, the Great American Road Trip. These trips are cherished memories, like old reels of 8mm film from tin canisters. Yet on every trip—wherever we’d go, whoever we’d meet, whatever historic site we’d see—the real highlight of the trip, the real mark of a good day on the road, was the hotel at which we’d crash for the night. Invariably, if the hotel had a swimming pool and jacuzzi, the road trip (or at least that portion of the road trip) instantly became classic.

Saint Louis, Saint Paul, Saint Elsewhere—we lived for the hotel swimming pool. We could see famous monuments, soak in breathtaking natural beauty, talk with interesting strangers or life-long friends and relatives… but it wasn’t until we pulled into the parking lot beneath a green Holiday Inn sign that we really perked up and took notice. The chemical smell of the pool area, the echoing sound of water splashing and voices bouncing from the cavernous ceilings, the ethereal glow of a nighttime poolscape with accompanying arcade… these were the defining moments of childhood vacations. Leaping catches from the side of the pool into the deep end. Who could hold their breath the longest? Spending a year’s worth of savings in quarters for the “Rampage” arcade game. Posing as grown-ups chatting in the hot tub, slowly growing flushed and tired. My concept of vacation and relaxation is forever tied up in these experiences.

Now in my adult life, I can pretend that these experiences are lived out vicariously. My little boy loves the pool. His perspective on a traveling experience is shaped by the chlorine and camaraderie of the swimming facilities. We splash in the jacuzzi tornadoes for hours… or at least what feels like hours in spite of the fact our time might actually be limited to one hour and fifty-five minutes, and in truth the tornadoes sometime stop, and sometimes we stop too. We make our way over to the “Big Pool” every now and then, do a couple of jumps, practice our kick-paddling, bop around a beach ball… He thrills in the experience, and I’m glad for the opportunity to let him have his fun.

But the truth of the matter is that “his fun” is “my fun” too. The world has grown bigger, and my understanding of it has deepened over the years. Indeed we live for times of adventure, vacation, and travel, but the stopping points bring definition. And when it comes down to it—Holland, Hungary, or Holiday Inn—I’ll take the hotel swimming pool any day.


At 4:33 PM, Blogger Noel Heikkinen said...

Your post inspired me.

At 4:45 AM, Anonymous naomi said...

ahhh...those were the days. your entry brought back memories of my own family vacations! i would have to agree with you, the swimming pool was always the highlight of any trip we took together.

your writing is so candid and full of images! i can picture things so clearly reading your work. keep it up!

At 11:36 AM, Anonymous aquabot said...

I am really amazed the way you disclosed it with such images..for my sweet 16 i want to do somthinG special. I like swimming, and im think of having a party at the ten center at ymca they provide pizza, chips drinks.decorations ect. You can use the party room, pool and gym..they also hav inflatables . In teh party room I'm gonna bring my lap top [we can watch dvds} and my friend is bringing a game cube. not that ALL of my friends that will be there LOVE computers and video games. we will also bring other girl stuff. I am gonna have lip gloss and chocolates for party favors.and something personalized.


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