16 August 2015

And Now for Something Completely Different

Saturday – as book research – I got a taste of the mermaid life with Mermaid Island Tours. Two young mergirls were already by the pool when I arrived at Bryn's house.

While Bryn helped a couple of other women get dolled up, I merely brushed a little blush on my cheeks. Makeup's not my style. Then Bryn coached me into a mermaid costume – sort of a stretchy tube, in blue green with "scales" that nicely matched my bikini top – and a Finis Aquarius monofin tail. Swimming with, in effect, only one big leg took a bit of getting used to, but once I'd mastered using my abs to propel the tail, I was swimming the length of the pool underwater in one breath. Bryn instructed me through mermaid maneuvers like a handstand into a tail slap, which knocked the fin strap off of my left ankle and left me floundering like a mermaid with a broken tail.

When they'd finished their makeup, the other two women joined us in the pool and Bryn staged a bunch of photo ops. (Stayed tuned for photos which will be added when she uploads them.) We pearl-dived (the good kind, not the surfing kind), swam sideways and spun and did summersaults. It was more fun than I expected. I tried swimming with a monofin years ago but it strained my bad lower back – this time, though, I engaged my abs enough to avoid hurting myself. Bryn's assistant told me my movements were fluid and thoughtful – and that was despite the fact that I was swimming blind with my eyes closed because I wear contact lenses.
Two latecomers become mermaids with Bryn's help
At the end, I peeled off my costume and tried swimming with a Mahina monofin. In addition to staying on, it had the advantage of being more powerful than the Finis. Plus it's made from recycled rubber by an environmentally-conscious company, which is why I'm buying one. For lap swimming. And maybe to excite the tourists a La Jolla Cove. (If you can't beat 'em, entertain 'em?)
That's a Mahina monofin
From The Princess Bride
Sunday it was on to swordplay – which possibly could be book research too but just seemed interesting. The Scholars of Acala put on a course for the Geek Girls of San Diego based on fencing from The Princess Bride, which I re-watched ahead of time.
"You seem a decent fellow," Inigo said. "I hate to kill you."
You seem a decent fellow," answered the man in black. "I hate to die.”
― William Goldman, The Princess Bride
The Scholars brought an assortment of swords, daggers, shields and other defensive gear, and explained their histories and features along with the methods of Renaissance sword-fighting in several European countries according to various masters. One thing I found intriguing was that a sword was considered a fashion accessory as well as a weapon, and therefore a well-dressed man was expected to hew to the style of the time even if it wasn't the best functional design. Kind of like women's shoes, but with potential consequences including death instead of bunions.
Scholars vs. Geek Girls, thrust and parry
We were armed with blunted swords and led through a series of exercises called by archaic names that I've already forgotten. Supposedly the swords weighed only 2-3 lbs but mine got so heavy by the end of the three-hour class that I couldn't hold it up anymore. My arms are strong from swimming and surfing but this uses a different set of muscles. One exercise involved only gloves, used to slap the opponent before taking only one step away – a step that was supposed to put you out of the reach of her slap, but let you move back with one step to hit her. Bit tricky.

I plan to join the Scholars to learn more of this ancient art. Next month jumps up to the time of Sherlock Holmes for defensive tactics, such as proper use of a ladies' parasol. Now that could come in handy one day.

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