07.16.23 [on the F and 7 trains]

[the good news is that i have a backlog of a few subway posts i never typed up; the bad news is that they're all achronological now. forgive me!]

a momentous peep at a friend's instagram story and a text thread on Stolen Ocean Moments with my sister have added up to a plan that we – my sister and i, that is – are going to swim across the english channel together. we don't have a timeline yet, but to keep things moving and maybe make it official i suggested we make it happen before i turn 50, which gives us five years and change. why the english channel? it's the golden oldie of open-water distance swims, a point of light in her and my mental landscapes for a long time (she suspects a science teacher we both had in high school disliked her in part because he began an anecdote by asking the class if anyone knew who gertrude ederle was and she did). a distance swim is a fitting feat of strength for us (versus, like, an ultramarathon or hanging by our nipples over the grand canyon or something) because we're both besotted with the ocean and feel like we return to ourselves there. the training would be tough and time-consuming, but a lot of it would be swimming, and that sounds wonderful to me. i am a strong and avid swimmer, but also a decidedly amateur one, and in adulthood i haven't made much of an effort to have a meaningful relationship with local open water, which i think is at least sort of relatable given the inconvenience of the commute to the good stuff and the nastiness of what's relatively close. so i figure that once we have a general timeline i'll start hooking up with local open-water swimming groups, join a gym with a proper pool, hire some kind of personal trainer or coach, and so on. there's automatically a time-buffer built into the swim, since you have to hire a pilot boat to hand you food, point you in the right direction, keep you from getting rolled beneath one of the channel's squillion commercial ships (i believe i read it's the busiest shipping channel in the world) and so on. having a pilot boat with an observer aboard it are also part of the requirements if you want your swim to count as official with the channel swimming association, which also stipulates that you have to wear a sleeveless and legless suit, a cap, and that's it (no thermal or buoyancy aids). you can coat yourself with "grease," which in the good old days meant actual goose fat and now means a concoction that prevents sunburn and alleviates irritation from jellyfish stings and prolonged salt water exposure. though i think sharks haven't messed with a channel swimmer since 1971, jellyfish stings are pretty common. i hope to hear more about all that when i talk to my friend's friend, the crosser she chronicled in the instagram feed that got this whole pelagic bird chase started. the night after jo and i agreed to do it i tossed and turned a bit, filling my already-customary insomnia hours with thoughts of giant squid (in my defense i was reading preparing the ghost, about the first photo of a giant squid), but after that weirdness i just keep getting more excited. i am not a sprinter in any medium and i am not graceful, but i am brave and stubborn and stoic, and i know i can do this. i don't know how it took me so long to realize i should.

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