The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Sunday, July 30, 2006

There Will Be No Pictures Associated With This Topic

In the mid-sixties, Lyon made a number of civic improvements and built a number of athletic facilities in a bid to land the Olympic Summer Games. The ‘68 Olympics of course went to Mexico City, and Lyon was stuck with, among other things, a velodrome (a highly banked oval cycling track) and an aquatic center with three open-air Olympic-sized (duh) pools right slam on the left bank of the Rhone.

V’s “English-speaking Mums” playgroup planned an outing to the Rhone Natatorium, and with V forbidden from going swimming due to her recent accouchment, it fell to me to take Boog. Great, I thought, just the thing on a hot day. So we went to check it out, and that’s when I discovered the catch:

Men are required to wear Speedos at public pools in France.

The banana hammock. The grape smuggler. Call it what you will, unless you’re an actual Olympic swimmer yourself, you will look ridiculous and possibly obscene in one.

It seems that once upon a time there was no such regulation, and public pools had a problem with people coming in and swimming in their street clothes, which in the muggy heat of a French summer turned even the cleanest pools into bacterial smorgasbords. So now there’s a big sign out front, and a guy standing there when you come out of the locker room to ensure that what you’re wearing into the pool could not possibly have been worn on the street.

That’s why you see Europeans wearing Speedos at the beach: They have to wear one to the public pools, and who wants to buy two different bathing suits?

So Boog and I went out speedo-shopping. He found one with a snorkeling-turtle design on the front, and it looks perfectly cute on him. I found one that fit OK and wasn’t toooo embarrassing, but let’s just say that a snorkeling turtle might have been redundant.

Anyway, the pools were first-rate and the water was fine. With the pools situated right on the water’s edge, there’s a nice view of the river, the bridges, and the edifice of the 18th-century Hotel-Dieu right across the way. I would have taken some pictures, but:

Women are not required to wear swimsuit tops at public pools in France.

While nice, this is not the unmitigated blessing it might seem, as some of the women exercising their rights had clearly been exercising them for decades (For some reason I’m reminded of the well-broken-in baseball glove I had as a kid, its orangey leather wrinkled by years of hard use). Regardless, there was enough acreage of exposed boobflesh that I would have felt like a real heel waving a camera around, and I was uncomfortable enough having the girl on the towel next to mine peel her bikini top off without my having bought her dinner or met her parents or anything. “Hey, Boog, let’s go back in the pool where the water’s nice and cold.”

So no pictures today.


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