Late Summer in New York

In a hot and humid, hazy New York summer - I don't exactly recall which, since the summer is always same - I passed by my new friend Ramiz, who was flipping pizzas at the corner of 86th and 2nd, and his air-condition was down. The place looked like a giant steam room from the outside. He came from a still unknown and seldomly visited place called Gusinje that's near a still unknown relatively peaceful town called Plav (Blue, but also, more probable: Flood) in former Yugoslavian republic of Monte Negro. In New York city there is remarkable Plav-Gusinje community (of course, headquartered in Astoria), so sometimes I think that there is nobody actually there in Plav and Gusinje any more. Plav and Gusinje are close to Yugoslav-Albanian border, so there was a large Albanian population in Plav and Gusinje, the largest in Monte Negro. Certainly, that is not something Serbs would appreciate. So, it is presumably easy to come to the U.S. Ramiz told me that he paid $8000 for complete service: passport, American visa, plane ticket, smuggling him out of Yugoslavia, meals during the rather elaborate travel, job and appartment hunt in NYC.

I wouldn't even ever heard of Plav (I admit I never heard of Gusinje before I came to New York - you should not travel to learn about the world, you should simply live in New York, and the world will travel to you) if Plav was not one of the first places where Milosevic tested his war machine sending in military police against peaceful demonstration of Albanians.

Ramiz was really sweating. Have you ever been in pizzeria in New York in July while the air-condition is broken? He asked me if I had been lately to the beach. No, I said. Indeed, I didn't. Actually, we live on the island, yet we seldom see that sea. As Tantalus in his nightmarish torture stands in the water, but can't reach the water, we stand, sweat, swear on an island, but can't reach its shore, tho it is a rather small island. I live closer to the sea here in New York, than while I lived in La Jolla, and there I din't miss a day at a beach. Strange, dude, isn't it?

Meaningful Jobs

Life as a lifeguard has its little everyday pleasures like watching all those pumped-up women taking a nap on sundeck after workout, or looking at some aged witches puffing and struggling to survive the aquarobics class. Or talking with John the trainer about how many somersaults each of us suppose we are able to do before falling down (our sundeck is at 36th floor).

Then, there are always assholes. You know, people who complain about everything. For them water is either too cold, or too warm, too dirty, or too chlorinated. They don't take (mandatory) shower before entering the pool, but yell at somebody who entered the pool without a bathing cap, or they do not wear their bathing cap, but cry fault if somebody fails to take a shower. They hate kids unless they come with a 'Brady' bunch of their own. They actually encourage THEIR kids to splash water, jump, dive, scream, swim across the lanes and do other childish things.

But most of the time it is boring to be a pool-lifeguard. Despite 900 or so club-members the pool is usually empty. The air is staled with chlorine vapor, warm and humid. And your job is to sit your ass there for 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, sometimes even 15 hours. Of course you can read, write, draw and you get your breaks to work-out, eat, and you can always go swimming. However, you welcome any amount of fun that comes your way.

Like today: a lady in her preserved early forties, tanned to the skin-cancer break-point, marched in the pool area from the sundeck at noon, demanding from Enrique (morning lifeguard) and me to do something about the two (2) bees that are chasing her. Like, do we have a spray or something?

So, I went out (without the spray, of course, because the bug-killer sprays are probably obsolete on windy outdoors sundecks) and, indeed, at least one bee was caught trespassing the woman's chair-territory. She, nevertheless, instantly run away fearing the formidable lifeguard shirt.

The woman begun theorizing about why bees pick her up among other sunbathers. It was probably the sunscreen cream she used, she thought (aloud). But everybody else's using some sort of cream or oil or lotion to protect skin from sun. And "that guy there (she conveniently pointed at that guy there) uses some sort of oil that smells like coconut. Why don't bees go bother him?"

Who ever said that bees like coconut smell? I doubt that New York bees are familiar with coconuts at all. They are more familiar with the smell of Sprite, one may believe. And a can of freshly opened, still sparkling Sprite was to be found just near the lady's chair.

Once Sprite was exhausted and can trashed, bees went elsewhere, so, lady, prejudiced against ignorant bees that do not appreciate sweet and buttery smell of coconut, stopped hissing and continued to take sun for another four hours.

By the time this goes in print, I should check if she got skin-cancer.