ORDINARY: summer issue


Even Two Wand Lighters Cannot Ignite Forever

How many candles, charcoal grills, firework fuses, campfires and mosquito repellent torches will be lit  in one summer? It would be difficult to determine an exact figure. But the presence of not one, but two lighter wands within the perimeter of the pool’s deck is a testament to the pervasive presence of fire in summer, despite the season’s inherent heat. For all the seeming contradictions on the face of the fact, it is true—summer requires fire. Wand lighters are particularly well-suited over their fellow flame throwers—matches and regulation lighters— because of their long, slender shape, designed to keep the potentially dangerous fire as far from the user’s hand as possible. There is undoubtedly company data to support the promise of numerous flames despite the non-refillable character of the wand lighter. But even this information cannot tell us exactly how much spark and glow each will provide. Two wand lighters are, certainly, better than one but eventually they will both run dry. They will be discarded and forgotten. These lighter wands do not exhibit a specific personality or engender qualities that would endear us to a particular lighter wand. Beyond color, each one resembles the next and we value them for their function, not their form or their character. While the wand form does offer a convenience, it is not one that cannot be easily replaced. Ultimately, however, it is these two lighter wands that will be responsible for romance, recreation and ribs­—bbq style. But we won’t express our gratitude, will not remark upon their accomplishments, celebrate their service in support of our seasonal memories nor mourn them when the plastic vessel is bled dry and empty. We know without saying so that our summer fires will always be lit even if these two lighter wands are not.


General Utility Item in a State of Rest

The bungee chord that is casually slung over the deck railing, hooked to nothing at all, is striking in its repose. Bungee chords are, by nature, utilitarian, something that exists in a state of nonobjective usefulness. It lends itself to any number of purposes to become, in the alchemy, functional. To regard it here is to see it as it is not meant to be seen.

However, if the vantage point is expanded to include the environs surrounding the inert bungee, something curious happens. One can’t help but notice the resemblance to the rather ornate, but still highly functional, wrought iron hook that hovers atop its own statue-still pole above the bungee. The two hooks are, in fact, practically identical and beg to be united so that the bungee is hanging from the pole like a slender flag.

These circumstances were not choreographed in order to associate these two objects. It was sheer serendipity that brought them together in close enough physical proximity to allow a potential relationship to be considered.  And considered is quite likely as far as this relationship will progress. The wrought iron hanger is more decorative and more suited as a plant holder. Were the bungee to take this position, it would more likely invite ridicule than compliments or genuine appreciation for the innovation of such a choice. Because the bungee will always be incomplete without a purpose, without an object to secure and roped knots to evade, the question of a coalescence of the two hooks must be dismissed. While undeniably cut from the same cloth, the wrought iron hanger is destined for a life of leisure while the bungee faces a more uncertain, but undoubtedly a more demanding, future making this respite by the pool a welcome one that the bungee will hang on to for as long as possible.


Unidentified Objects: What Do We Really Know?

It is inconceivable that one could enter into an discussion regarding the contents of one’s field of vision without acknowledging a deficiency of understanding on some aspect of what is physically occupying the space that is visible. We simply cannot know everything about everything. If we are particularly well informed, retain information heroically or have a lot of time on our hands, we might know, oh say, the name of every plant in our yard. But do we also know the Latin derivative? Can we hold forth on the root structure of each individual species? Speculate on how each would react to heat, cold, a daily serenade or a good dousing of champagne? Articulate the differences between the myriad shades of green represented in this yard scenario? Accurately predict how each plant would withstand being aged between two pages of the heaviest book on the book shelf? Of course not, this would be impossible, there are too many avenues of inquiry to travel them all in one lifetime. This conundrum extends to this poolside scenario. When considered from this angle, the sparkling, generous, hardworking little pool nestled in a charming neighborhood that many of us would recognize, is home to a number of life’s inconsequential mysteries. As a case in point, there are too many to investigate here in these pages. However, it is possible to present a few examples in order to investigate the complexity of deciding what is and what is not worth knowing. 

This pool is surrounded on all sides by a seasoned wooden deck that is held in place with a series of stout posts. Encircling one of these posts near to the bottom is a black rope, seemingly of some sort of stretchy elastic material, held in place with two bright-blue plastic balls, each about the size of an orange and each with a scalloped perforation at one end. It resembles a little girl’s elastic hair band, though of a larger scale. As we know that kindergarten aged giants do not frequent this pool, we must move on to consider alternative uses. Given it’s close proximity to water, it is quite possible that it is some sort of flotation device to rope off certain areas of the pool designating certain areas for different activities. While this seems the most likely explanation, it would be irresponsible not to note that it does not appear long enough to reach across even the shortest expanse of pool. And the pool seems to be of uniform depth, making any sort of delineation of real estate in the water unnecessary.

Then there is the question of placement. The object encircling the post at a point near to the ground did not emerge there fully formed. Someone made a considerable effort to kneel down in order to secure the two plastic balls holding the elastic rope. If it was just a matter of keeping it from wandering away with the aid of wind on a wing or a prayer, it would have required far less energy, and time for that matter, to wrap the rope round the post while standing up, leaving it higher up on the post.

Taking a more purposely placed example from the opposite side of the pool, there is the rectangular white and black apparatus that rests in it’s own custom nook cut out of the deck. It’s position adjacent to the pool’s edge tells us that this is most likely a pump or some other piece of machinery necessary for keeping the pool in working order. But is it a pump? What does a pool pump look like? What other widgets are necessary to keep a pool clean, cool and refreshing? Does it require electricity? Is it a highly specialized piece of equipment or can it be understood along the lines of any general motor? It appears to be impervious to the elements. What is encased in the box beneath the deck? If the lid were to be pried off, would we find dials and movements and wheels and pendulums? Would we find musty piles of dead leaves and pine needles? Perhaps there is a colony of tiny pool pump operators who’s singular destiny is to process this plant material into fuel for the mechanisms driving the movements within.

Admittedly, the last speculation put forth is rather far fetched. We can, in all likely hood, assume that this is some sort of rather common pool part that is easily obtained and found by the side of every pool on the planet. What we still don’t know, however, is the genealogy of this piece of machinery. How many people have handled this object in its journey to our pool? Do they remember it fondly? Who invented the mechanism and when? Did it revolutionize the home swimming and cooling industry? Has the device evolved technically since it was first introduced? Has it become more streamlined, energy efficient, longer lasting, cheaper, faster, easier to obtain?

On some level we recognize these objects (round, plastic, elastic, mechanical); they are not incongruous to this scene. We inherently know that they belong here by the pool. What is simultaneously  comforting and unnerving about the world in general is the extent to which it continues to rotate on it’s axis despite the vagary indeterminacies, unanswered questions and immeasurable content. It is the very notion of infinite, unending, boundless relationships that keep us coming back to the pool every summer.


Behind the Deck Chair

Set against a backdrop of sundappled trees, which provide a quiet, subtle shade from the penetrating summer sun, there are two deck chairs, the kind with the extended seat for lounging, placed next to the pool with a convenient table between them to keep such necessities as drinks, books, and sunscreen close at hand. While there are many cozy seating areas conveniently situated around this glittering pool, it is obvious that these two red-framed lounge chairs enjoy a coveted area of the deck. In terms of the number of steps it takes to travel to them, they are farthest away from the house, divorcing their
occupants from the architecture of the everyday and providing the clearest opportunity for the imagination to transport one to a tropical place far, far away from the ins and outs, ups and downs, topsy-turvy tick-tock of the quotidian.

At first glance the pink plastic ball that is lodged beneath the adjustment bar behind the chair on the (stage) left appears to be a beach ball. Though perhaps on the smaller side of the beach ball size spectrum, it is within the proper range and, being poolside, the context is certainly believable. There is a feature, however, that is disconcertingly inconsistent with a true beach ball: it is smooth. A proper beach ball is constructed of two circular panels of plastic at opposite ends of the spherical axis. These two circles are connected by a series of rectangular shaped panels, which bulge out in the center as the ball is inflated. Typically, the panels are different colors, often reflecting bright, radiant hues reminiscent of summer.  The ball in question is clearly one piece of plastic and is not segmented in any way. However, we are poolside so we might surmise that it is considered an approximation of a beach ball and serves a similar function in regards to water sports.

We can build on this assertion to ascertain how the object came to take up occupancy behind the deck chair. Beach balls tend to be exuberantly tossed and are often handled by those who are unaccustomed to dedicating strategic thinking to their occasional forays into athleticism. This could quite easily result in missing an intended target. From here, it is not a leap to imagine that the ball was momentarily forgotten and the deck chair readjusted with little regard for the plastic object out of sight. And there it sits, testimony to a chain of events of little significance that contribute, nonetheless, to the totality of actions that unfold poolside.

Sidebar: Beach balls are available in a variety of sizes. However, the most popular is approximately twice the size of a basketball. Jonathan DeLonge is credited with inventing the beach ball in California in 1938. They are lightweight and therefore easy to propel. The beach ball is popular for water sports and it not uncommon for circus seals to be seen balancing one on their nose to the delight of many.