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You should read "Dandelion Wine"

“I mustn’t forget, I’m alive, I know I’m alive, I mustn’t forget it tonight or tomorrow or the day after that."

Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine is the perfect book to read at summer’s end. It’s perfect at the beginning of summer, as well. Really, it’s a perfect book.

Not dandelions.

Not dandelions.

Dandelion Wine is Bradbury’s semi-autobiographical story of the summer of 1928 in Green Town, Illinois (Waukegan). We see the town through the eyes of twelve-year-old Douglas Spaulding and his younger brother Tom as they crash through the summer, tallying traditions and new discoveries.

If that description makes you think, “I don’t care about a story about two little boys,” stop thinking that. It doesn’t matter what Douglas Spaulding looks like or how old he is, because he is you, and Dandelion Wine is about childhood and summer and boogeymen and death and goodbyes. It’s beautiful and sad, and it’s maddening because I can only dream of achieving such excellent writing. Each sentence is alive and sensual. You see, feel, smell, or taste what Bradbury describes. Every sentence hums, electric and alive with verbs and clear language. It’s sentimental, but so am I. I cried three or four times throughout the book. Once during the introduction, probably because of this: 

“I see my grandfather there looking up at that strange drifting light, thinking his own still thoughts. I see me, my eyes filled with tears, because it was all over, the night was done, I knew there would never be another night like this.” 

I’ve seen brown leaves on D.C. sidewalks in the last few days. Maybe the leaves are already turning wherever you are. Prolong your summer a little longer with Dandelion Wine. Save it for winter to brighten those cold, short days. Just read it.  

A Summer Swimming Wish

I think it’s safe to say summer has arrived in Louisville. Despite the fall-like temperatures last week, I’m looking at temperatures in the high 80s and 90s for the next few days. I don’t mind the heat if I don’t have to be anywhere looking presentable, and I usually don’t. But if I’m walking around in it, I start craving oceans, lakes, rivers — any body of water. Given the geographical location of my current home (and the drugs and sewage in the Ohio River), a pool is really the best I can hope for without driving too far. And while I have at least one pool connection, I am after one particular pool — the Lakeside Swim Club.

Melissa at voiced this desire last year: “Lakeside has become my Xanadu. My Dulcinea. My Holy Grail…I want to be invited to Lakeside just to see it.”

She’s right — Lakeside IS the Holy Grail of pools. When I first moved to Louisville, I was in good swimming shape. My Peace Corps roommate was once a swim instructor, so he helped me with my form and taught me a few tricks. I love the water, and I wanted to figure out where in Louisville I could practice my recently acquired flip-turn skills. So I turned to Google and learned about Mary T. Meagher and some Y pools. At the time, I was jobless and carless, so getting to these places often seemed like too much of a commitment. If I had the money to buy a membership, I didn’t have the time, and vice versa. I briefly read about Lakeside, but wrote it off quickly after taking in their membership requirements.

Later that year, I was in the Highlands Kroger when I saw this aerial photo of a pool surrounded by high rock walls. It looked beautiful, and unlike any pool I’d seen. I determined this had to be Lakeside and that I had to go. I mean, the club is built out of an old rock quarry. There’s a pool, a “lake” with swimming lanes, and a float area. Last year, Melissa and I visited the quarry in La Grange. No memberships required there, just $8 (maybe $9?) and a float. But it has creepy fish (minnows but also monsters) and pond scum (quarry scum?). Lakeside has chlorine. I don’t just want to see it. I want to swim in it.

But again with the membership. You have to be a member to get in, and to become a member, you either have to live in the neighborhood surrounding the pool (certificate membership) or be sponsored by a certificate member (associate membership). Members can bring guests, and that’s where my ticket is. But as far as I know, none of my acquaintances are members. But this is a small town, right? Who do I have to buy drinks for in exchange for a guest ticket to swim in that “lake”? I only want to go once. I promise I won’t abuse your connections. We can swap stories about fabulous places we’ve been swimming.

If you don’t know anyone with a sweet connection, at least leave me some other suggestions about fantastic swimming holes — anywhere in the world.

This one's nice, but it's in Ghana

This one's nice, but it's in Ghana