Back from Las Vegas

Friday 10/30/09

I returned from Las Vegas yesterday having swum zero strokes. The Mandalay Bay, where I stayed, boasts an eleven-acre beach and pool area, but it’s only open from 9a until 6p. It simply wasn’t possible to slip away from the conference and snatch a swim. A fifty mile-per-hour windstorm crashing down from Alaska shut down the swimming complex for two days anyway.

The worldwide recession is hitting Las Vegas hard. The cabbie who picked me up at the airport immediately asked if the terminal was busy. Not visiting Vegas that often, I couldn’t offer any real comparison other than to say, “It seemed pretty busy to me.” All of the taxi drivers were quite eager to discuss the local economy. “Unemployment is already 13.9% and, with City Center due for completion soon, another 10,000 construction workers will be coming off payroll.” "We had 500,000 fewer vistors than last month." "See that unfinished skyscraper over there? It’s was supposed to be the Fontainebleau casino. A guy blew through 2.9 billion dollars of his dad’s inheritance and went bankrupt when he couldn’t get a loan to finish it. Now they’re going to use it for international firefighting training.” “I was the banquet finance manager for MGM Grand for sixteen years. Now I’m driving this cab and feel lucky to have a job at all.”

I finally got back in the water at 7a on Friday morning. Apparently, the windstorm that hit Las Vegas came tearing through San Francisco earlier in the week and churned the waters. Today was another picture postcard day, though. I did a single large clockwise tour of all the permanent landmarks, my favorite route. It wasn’t a strenuous distance or pace, but my elbow began to express a sharp, intermittent pain. Yet again, I began wondering if the Channel was a realistic goal. I slept fitfully, wondering whether this was something debilitating or something to disregard. I’m planning to swim three miles tomorrow. That should give a good indication.

Saturday 10/31/09

Duke D is in the Staib Room of the Dolphin Club. He’s another English Channel swimmer and renowned for his monstrous training regimens. I asked him about the elbow pain and he immediately and sagely intoned, “bad stroke mechanics.” He suggested a coaching session and interval training. He’s not been the first to mention both.

At the beach, I met Suzie and Melissa K for a group swim. Suzie agreed that stroke mechanics were the probable culprit of the elbow pain and also suggested that someone take a look at my form in the pool. We made the familiar clockwise loop and I focused on finding a groove for my left arm that avoided the pain. After the loop, I continued to the Opening, the Flag, the Bad Becky, and the Clubs’ Beach. Not seeing anyone there to swim with, I went on to the Flag, the Opening, the Goal Posts and back.

I was a little spent, but concentrating on stroke kept the pain to a twinge. The dream is still alive! I’ll make an appointment to get my form analyzed.

Lindsay and I went to Rose Pistola for brunch. It is one of our three favorite places to eat in San Francisco other than home and it’s a short ride from the Club down Columbus Avenue to the heart of North Beach. It’s actually brunch and theater. We sit at the counter and watch the line cooks work their culinary sorcery. At one end of the line is a huge mesquite-fired grill where they flame savory octopus and hand-toast house-made bread. The crackling, blazing mesquite coals proffer a toasty welcome to chilled swimmers, especially in the winter. The chefs are continually chopping, slicing, or peeling something and it’s quite an education to have the opportunity to observe their technique closely. Persimmon, orange, radish, jalapeƱo, beets, as well as the perfectly minced onion, are among the delights that succumb to their master cutlery.

We started with a glass of Billecart-Salmon champagne and shared the bruschetta with grilled pear, crescenza, prosciutto, and truffle oil. Lindsay had the wild mushroom scramble with arugula & stracchino. I had the egg pizza from the wood-fired oven with wild mushrooms, pancetta, thyme, and truffle oil. The egg is served sunny-side up in the middle of the pizza and spreads over the hot center, cooking to perfection as it disperses. The best ham and eggs breakfast in the City! I think I'll put a couple in the food processor and use it as a Channel food instead of Maxim.

This meal will last us until dinner and the third game of the World Series. In the last eighteen years, the volume of Halloween urchins has dwindled from torrent to trickle. We will answer the door if an errant trick-or-treater cares to climb the stairs, but we won’t be mounting our annual costumed production and sitting on the front landing. Between brunch and World Series, though, I may need a nap.

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