The Pools of Southern Florida and Mountaintop Monasteries

When my dad and I talk about holidays, it’s usually about the same talk. I mention a place that I will visit, if that place resides within the acceptable parameters of Western Europe and there has been no terrorist activity there in recent memory, he asks about my schedule and the food.

If it resides outside of those barriers, he mentally scans all of the terrible things he’s ever heard about the place and then magnifies it by 6,000. Then he goes like this:

“Oof, Dame, I don’t know…are you sure about that? Is [enter non-EU nation here] safe? Didn’t they have problems last year?”

“Yes. Last year it got pretty hot.”

“Oh man. I don’t know. That could be a problem.”

As with many people, his parental disapproval only strengthens my resolve and forces me to dig in on my intent. I then double down with a cavalier attitude regarding the safety quotient of the location. “Yes, that’s right. There’s a war there, so what? It’s in the north, I’ll be in the south. No problem.” Also, I take this tack because have learned that there is nothing I can say that will stem the tide of his anxiety.

Some of this might lead one [read: those who do not know me] to believe that I am a rather adventurous fellow. Yes and no. I do go on trips that involve adventure, but when on a trip I am more adventurous than in my normal life. Far more adventurous.

In my day to day life I can go weeks without veering from my beaten path. I wake up, write, go to work, work out or do aikido, on Fridays I swim and sauna, I go out and enjoy beers with the same friends. Going to the theater or the opera is noted for a month, playing hooky is a national event. The invitation to meet someone outside of my tiny circle or to visit a bar or restaurant in a different part of the city is initially unheard of and then its imminence causes stress. A weekend away is like preparing for a deep sea voyage. I adhere to my routine comfort zone so much so that it’s as though I explode out of it during my holidays. I use up a year’s worth of adventurism in one two week period, during which climbing ancient ropes into more ancient mountaintop monasteries and visiting seedy red light districts are done with gusto.

My dad should understand this, because he does the same sort of thing with pools. My dad’s entire U.S. travel goals could be summed up in the phrase: We go for the pools. It can be summed up as this because he says some variation of this every time he talks about his travel plans in the U.S. This means I have heard this phrase around 1600 times on roughly 200 Sunday afternoon talks. “We’re looking for a good pool.” “I like a pool. A good pool.” “We are really interested in the pools.”

As I avoid (mis)adventure or off-the-beaten-track activity in my day to day life, my dad has not been in a pool in Pennsylvania since he was eleven years old. And while I base a great deal of my travels around the adventure aspect, he bases a lot of his around the idea of a heated pool.

I have asked: “Say Dad, why not go swimming in one of the 40 pools within the two mile radius of our house?” But this was met with a degree of incredulity that was unable to be measured by traditional instruments. Probably the same amount of incredulity I would exhibit were someone to suggest that I get out of bed and visit a strip club on a Tuesday at midnight or go on a daytrip on a Thursday.

And so, in a decision made in a rare moment of self awareness, I have since dropped the pool question and will never revisit it. Not even as my dad points out the mayhem that went down in Japan in the early and mid-1940s.










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