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Swimming Pools and Rocket Scientists

Deadlines and commitments,
What to leave in; what to leave out – Bob Seger “Against The Wind”

The Detroit Everyman really had something there, and he put it in non rocket scientist terms, which is central to this leaving stuff out theme. What good is art (music, writing, talking, loving, moving) if nobody gets it? Subtraction or an initially light touch are ultimately more important than delivering the goods with a knockout blow. Take Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.” How many potential chords had to be eliminated before arriving at that plodding intro? Jeff Tweedy, the AntiSeger, put it well in his own mopey, depressive way: “The best song will never get sung / the best life never leaves your lungs.” Kind of a killjoy, no doubt, but even Senor Sunshine had to sing those words to make his point. What am I driving at? I think it’s best I don’t say. It only becomes apparent after years of playing guitar or putting brush to canvas (and I suck at both, relatively speaking.) Those who do it best know what to leave in, what to leave out. And lest you think these rules only apply to whispy, artistic types, the same can be applied to world class athletes. Watch some of those early Tyson fights (speaking of knockout blows) and observe what comes just before that beautiful moment of violent devastation (punching the ‘nose bone through the brain’ as Mike put it, just before getting dropped by Coca Cola.) There’s always a slight move left or right, a graceful shoulder dip, a slight repositioning of the body. The part he’s leaving out is any exaggerated move or demonstrative display. Any showing off or excessive effort. That’s the magic in those bouts .. the part that leaves you thinking “what did I just witness here?”

I could’ve left half of the above out, but there’s something to be said about moving on, too. Going back to the non rocket scientist terms, it reminds me of an incident with my pool man. Sounds kind of gay, no doubt, (and please, hold your cards and letters until after I’m gone .. there’s nothing homophobic about that quip if you think on it for a minute.) The fact that I have a pool man is kind of gay, though, and that remark would qualify. It was either this or learn how to add chlorine and remove leaves myself, which was clearly out of the question. Anyway, the original guy stopped doing the job himself and hired a crew as his business grew, and things got sloppy. More than once the water was left on while filling the pool and excess poured down my street. Wasting water in Marin County is akin to being the last guy on the block with a Ukrainian flag or BLM sign. People start to stare as you back out of the driveway. So I had to find a new guy. My neighbor, who used the same pool guy as me, found herself in a similar situation.

We thought we’d found our man with the second guy we interviewed (let’s call him “Bob.”) Bob was a tallish white guy with a new truck who seemed to know what he was doing. His delivery was a bit laconic, but again, sometimes it’s the words you leave out. My remark to the neighbor (which I later forgot) was “well, you probably don’t want a rocket scientist for a pool man.” Bob worked out well at first. He showed me how I could reduce my pump speed to conserve energy and kept things clean and neat. (Please note the lack of homophobic follow-up on that one.) But as the weeks passed, he started missing days. I was OK with that, actually. The truth is you don’t need a pool man to come every week; it’s just one of those scams they pull on rich people to make up for the bigger ones they lay on everybody else. But then Bob dropped out entirely and the neighbor and I were back to square one, as the people dealing in squares often say. It all led to this remarkable bit of conversation:

Me: “Well, looks like it’s back to the drawing board.”
Neighbor: “Like you said, you don’t want a rocket scientist doing your pool.”
Me: “I said that? I mean, it sounds like the kind of wiseass thing I’d say, but I don’t remember.”
Neighbor: “I still don’t know how you could have guessed ..

She went on to explain that he was, in fact, a rocket scientist. He was an engineer who worked in jet propulsion at Lockheed-Martin before his young wife died and everything fell apart. He turned to booze and took the gig cleaning pools to make ends meet. It was a longer story than that, and by the time she finished I was curious how she’d grown so close to the pool man in such short order. But I was tapped-out and we moved on to finding yet another candidate. I did explain how the “rocket scientist” quip was a standard refrain, but I don’t think it sunk in and she remained convinced I was some kind of obscure career clairvoyant. There’s a sentence better left out, but who has the time? The comeuppance, as they say, is that we got a new pool man named Lowell and he’s worked out swimmingly. (Insert Mike Tyson punching my nose bone through my brain.) Lowell has a few life stories, too, but I’ll leave those out in deference to today’s theme.

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  1. paulypaulypaulypauly wrote:

    Goddamn it’s good to have you back, broheem.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2022 at 3:22 pm | Permalink
  2. admin wrote:

    Thank you, Pauly.

    Friday, August 19, 2022 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

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