Strange Radiation

Andrew Willett, unreliable narrator.

ggvii: epilogue

Well, I’m back.

My final race was the 400 IM, and it went okay. Not the best time I’ve ever done, but certainly far better than I thought I’d be capable of, given my erratic training schedule. Oh, and I got disqualified for a wonky turn at the 150-meter mark. That was a drag, but there wasn’t much to be done about it. It was a fair cop. Our team saw a number of IMers get the hook over that particular point of protocol (I’ll spare you the specifics, but they involve the timing of the rollover in a backstroke-to-backstroke flip-turn); that’s clearly we something need to reteach, because so many of us—including a couple of coaches—misunderstood the legalities. Whatever. It’s not like it cost me a medal. With a time of 5:55, I was a good 30 seconds out of contention. And from where I was, it felt like a great race: very strong, very controlled, exactly according to plan. I’ll take it.

Thursday was the Pink Flamingo. The overall theme was “underwater fantasy.” Our contribution avoided the obvious elements (mermaids, fish, and anybody who would normally be seen swimming) and references (the musical Chicago, e.g.), instead going for a series of ten quick vignettes: a Top Ten à la Letterman listing the “Ten People We Fantasize Are Underwater… Permanently.”

Who were they? Dick Cheney (avec hunter’s cap and gun); David Blaine Paris Hilton & Nicole Richie; Kristin Chenoweth1; Lindsay Lohan Cirque du Soleil; That Albino Dude from The DaVinci Code; Ann Coulter That Annoying James Blunt2; and Dubya. Lindsay was a five-and-a-half-foot rubber skeleton in a pink cowboy hat, which we’d rigged to projectile-vomit Gatorade. Ms. Coulter was a guy in a blonde wig and black minidress who did a hilarious, wild-eyed Nazi goose-step before being thrown into the pool by a pair of 9/11 widows. I was part of the two-man Cirque du Soleil act, running around wearing a black unitard and a manic expression as I waved a bunch of long rhythmic-gymnastics ribbons in the air. Dubya wore The Flight Suit and went into the water beneath a —MISSION ACCOMPLISHED— banner. The presentation moved at breakneck speed, with the shortest vignettes about four seconds long and the longest about thirty seconds. We got our costumes from 99¢ stores and thrift shops. We held our first real rehearsal about 2 hours before the event started. Frankly, it was pretty deranged. Here’s the only picture I’ve found so far, and though I know it shows Dubya’s apotheosis there’s no way anybody else could tell.

When we won the ‘Best Costumes’ award, we assumed the judges were on crack. And when we won the grand prize, we were utterly gobsmacked. The crazy continued from there: Matthew Cusick was in the hall and loved our Cirque parody—he climbed down out of the stands to get his picture with us. We got interviewed by two different TV crews.

And then we were done. Friday everybody had an entire day to wander around and eat and sleep and take pictures and drink and whatever on a more normal human schedule. Saturday was the closing ceremonies, which were mercifully shorter than the opener and included Cyndi Lauper dressed as the Rainbow-Striped Statue of Liberty and also a dance routine by the DC Cowboys that gave all the guys the vapors. (Whoo.) Saturday night we went out and danced until dawn. Sunday we caught flights back to NYC, or tried to, and took naps and did laundry and tried to put our heads back together.

It was good.

Just as happened after the last two Games, though, I now find myself in a weird little funk. You spend ten days getting to know your teammates and trashing your eating/sleeping schedule and making friends from other cities and flirting with strangers and generally pushing your body to its limits, and when it’s all over the return to ‘normality’ is jarring. I spent a lot of today questioning every decision I’ve made in my life. How did I get here? Is this what I want? Gimme a couple of days, and I’ll be fine; but on that note I should really get to bed.

1 Let the record show: I like KC. I think we put her on the list to be ‘edgy’ and make sure people were paying attention.

2 On the other hand, I had no idea who this Blunt guy was. I’m told that audience members under 28 thought our send-up of his latest video was genius.

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3 Comments

  1. djblue71

    Congrats on your medal-winning performance. I was there, too, played and danced, danced and played, cheered and competed, applauded (Cho, Lauper, Ant, Cowboys, Daley) and occasionally wretched (memo to the d.m. of Cologne: you’re no Dietrich, so keep it simple), smiled at a lot of strangers myself, including one who smiled back, and overall had a time of my life. Have a permanent crick-and crease in my neck from looking at all the glorious architecture. Loved the Pink Flamingo; DC boys got a raw deal, so to speak, but TNYA ruled.¹
    Native New Yorker here, and my hometown welcomed me back with open talons: within minutes of getting off the plane the last 20 had been sucked out of my wallet and also, somehow, had the strap off my suitcase, so I had to lug the damn thing all the way back to Manhattan. But here’s why I love New York: back in my apt. I discovered that I’d had the uncharacteristic foresight to leave a 20 from my vaca kitty in a drawer, and lo and behold, when I finished unpacking, there was my strap. Ah, New York. Other cities, you know, make me feel like a dork.²
    ¹One or two gayboys over 28 know who James Blunt is, too.
    ²Shameless Madonna reference.
    Welcome back.

  2. Why, thank you. I loved the DC entry as well–which, for those of you at home, was a Brokeback Mountain affair with a flock of sheep and The Tent and everything.
    And was I the only one who was stunned to discover that that drag queen on the field at the end–the one in the ridiculous green dress–was an actual woman? And that she was the Deputy Mayor of Cologne?

  3. djblue71

    Why, yes, I did compete. Not a personal record in the event, but the best I could do on race day, and a performance that left me feeling confident, victorious, sexy even. All good feelings to have when there are cute gay jocks coming at you around every corner.
    Are you back in the swing yet? I’m back at work, at the gym, at yoga, all laundered and caught up and dished out with friends and loved ones, and yet . . . there’s a parallel vortex that I find myself whirling in. Maybe it’s like your questioning every decision you’ve ever made. But since I’ve been back, Something. Is. Very. Different.

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