Thursday, November 16, 2006

What I did yesterday

On Wednesday afternoon I went over to the Dolphin Club with the intention of becoming a member. Outside the locker there is a blackboard. Here is what was written on it:

I went for a swim anyway. The TV news cameras were still there waiting for somebody to get bitten. I didn’t get bitten. I joined the Dolphin Club anyway.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Walking in San Francisco with Cynthia

I'm sitting at Cafe Express on Powell and Sutter Waiting for Cynthia who is shopping in Walgreen's. We spent the morning looking for the best price to Cynthia from Santa Cruz to Paris then Shanghai for Christmas and back. Eventually we found a pretty good deal, except the trip back will take 2 days with an overnight in Paris. Finally got out about 12:30. At BofA, We transferred $700 to her account so she can use her credit card to pay for her Lufthansa ticket CDG to PVG (Shanghai). We bumped into Laurie a friend from Pilates class and sell hello. Then to Bill, my barber, to see pictures of his enormous personal backhoe he keeps at his house up in Ukiah.

On to Lychee Garden for dim sum. As it was after 1:30 the place was nearly empty and we got what we wanted quickly. Ha Gau, Sui Mai, Cha Su Bai, flat white noodles with stuff inside, the hairy taro balls (mentioned the other day by Doug - see below). Even sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves. They really do a very job of preparation, I'd like to see the kitchen one day. Cynthia was very happy. Her first dim sum in YEARS.

Then to Imperial Tea Court. My first visit to the HQ. Roy the famous owner was not there, but I met Grace who manages the shop. I met somebody I knew but I cannot say who it is because they told me there being in San Francisco is a secret.

On to the Chinese Cultural Center to see a superb exhibit of ceramics by Dottie Low. Outstanding work: inventive yet respectful of tradition. Great range of thought from settings to sculptures. Humor, serious, satire, it was all there. We went to this exhibit at the suggestion of Doug, her brother, who is the frozen food shelf stocker at my Safeway. Siblings with two very different paths in life.

Then we remembered that I started out with a bag but currentlly it was not with us. Cynthia dashed back to Lychee Gardens. And somehow stole it away because the man who was there kept saying "nothing here".

Then she went to Walgreens and me to Cafe Express. Now I'm sitting in the ladies shoe department on the third floor of Macy's.

The more I walk through San Francisco with people I know the more fun it is. I frequently run into people I know. Odd coincedences occur. Always familiar, always new. Walks in Paris likewise.

We've walked right by H&M and now I'm sitting in ladies dresses at Urban Outfitters. At each new place, I add more detail and thoughts to this draft.  We then went on to the new Westfield Mall on Market Street passing through American Eagle, Banana Republic and Bloomingdales. After that we took a bus home.

We went to Olivier's for Dinner. Cynthia had a splendid and tasy porck chop and I had monkfish. Fo dessert we had their incomparable chocolate soufflĂ©.  All the time we were chatting with Yassim who had just returned from Paris. He gave us both a glass of Baume de Venise as digestifs.

A nice day.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Night Swimming at the Dolphin Club

The Dolphin Club is where I practiced for my Alcatraz swim. I went back today for another swim. I entered the water around 5:00 pm. By 5:30 after swimming half a mile it was quite dark so I got out because I though they might close the Club after it gets dark. As I walked up the beach, I saw a man getting ready for a swim. I asked him if the Club closed down He replied that her thought that maybe between 110:00 pm and 5:00 am the outside door was locked so people could not get in but that otherwise you could do what you wanted. So I turned around, went back into the water and swam another half mile.

Though the skyline was well lit - with the huge Ghiradelli sign illuminated just above - this time I could barely see the buoys. I could not see my hand when it reached the bottom of its stroke. So the swim was a bit eerie. If I drowned how long would it be before they found me and how well can sharks see in the dark. Of course, I bumped into somebody swimming the other way.

The water temperature was 58 degrees Fahrenheit or 14.5 Celsius which was quite OK. When I got back into the water for the second half mile the water felt warm.

The Dolphin Club has its membership committee meeting next Wednesday. I think I will attend.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Escape from Alcatraz: Photos, Results & Conclusions

Well, the final results are in. I really did “Escape from Alcatraz”. On the 15th of October I swam from “The Rock” to San Francisco in 57 minutes 16 seconds. I placed 97th out of 110 male swim-only participants. There were many hundreds of participants because the swim was part of a triathlon and, of course, there were female participants as well. Therefore in the total group of participants I certainly placed higher but the organizers do not provide the overall statistics. Nevertheless I am disappointed.

So the interesting thing is that my brain very quickly switched from “Can I do it?” to “Why didn’t I do it faster?” – from being afraid to being combative.

Attached are some photos:

What to do on a sunday morning
What to do on a Sunday morning.JPG

Kathy von Nagel took this picture of me, my daughter Cynthia and hundreds of rubbermen walking along Fisherman’s wharf to the ferry that took us to Alcatraz. I am one of the few dressed because I did the swim without a wet suit. The sight of so many people dressed in black rubber was an unusual sight and stopped the traffic.

IMG005 – IMG017.JPG

Pictures taken by Nick Reynolds. Nick did the swim and while we chatted afterwards I found out that he did the swim with a waterproof camera. These pictures are very real.


Picture by Norman Dole (member of my reception crew) showing swimmers arriving in Aquatic Park.


Picture by Norman of a very happy Theo being welcomed by his reception crew.

SF beautiful view
SF Beautiful view.JPG

Picture by Kathy taken on the Golden Gate Bridge during the swim showing Alcatraz on the left and the dark area in San Francisco on the right where I landed.


I now support the little conceit that I (a one-handed cripple after all) accomplished something that in theory would kill 99% of the population and has actually killed more than a few in the past. I have assuaged somewhat the memory of almost but not completely swimming the English Channel. And I have proved once and for all that I can be insanely happy.

And so I leave you with a final picture:


This picture shows a rather tubby, nearly-naked man and a slim, athletic-looking rubberman. Now notice who is the one behind.

Thursday, October 26, 2006





Saturday, October 14, 2006

Shh! I’ve Escaped…

I'm still alive.

Just before 8:30 this morning I jumped off a ferry boat and swam to shore on Alcatraz Island and then on to the start line. At 8:30 about 1,200 certainly partially insane people started swimming to the mainland. I was one of perhaps fifty of those swimming without a wet suit.

During the swim I had no trouble with the cold. My little red bonnet insulated me perfectly. Several hours after, I'm still cold which is longer than normal but I think that's because I kept my wet bathing suit on through breakfast, because there was no place to change at the beach.

The other thing is that I was not particularly tired after the swim. Ok I could hardly stand but that's because my legs were stiff because I don't kick and so they just mostly sit there. If you had said "OK, You can go back now", I probably would have and could have. Once you get good at some things you can do it in ways that would surely kill normal people.

It is a long swim. There are no markers. There's no way of knowing where you are. During my English Channel swim, my boat blew its fog horn every fifteen minutes. In the Alcatraz swim, it could be half way or maybe just a quarter of the way or maybe it's really still near the start. More than once I thought the thought of the thought of quitting. I was nowhere taking the action but it's rare for such thoughts to even come up.

Lessons learned: It's not the thing to do if you are on a low sodium diet. Swimming bonnets can give you a bright red hickey on your throat. The view is breathtaking during the microseconds you take your breath.

I'm writing this while sitting in Zara and H&M and daughter Cynthia is shopping. So it's back to a normal life. Well, sort of. Tomorrow I fly to Europe for my next Peggy Guggenheim Collection Advisory Board meeting.

Many thanks the Cynthia, Kathy and Monique send-off team and to my incredible reception team (in ABC order) Cynthia, Diana, Fran, Liz, Norman and Renee. Was it the best glass of Champagne ever? In the top ten certainly. Thanks to Becky for introducing me to Coach Laura who sped up my swimming a good 20%. Ditto Dolphin Club. Also thanks for all the messages of encouragement. Once I told you, there was no looking back.

There will be one more message in this thread with photos and results.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Escape From Alcatraz 3

My little swimming adventure starts at 8:30 am on Sunday.

Today I did my final practice swim. 1.5 miles in Aquatic Park (a protected cove in San Francisco Bay) in 56 minutes 10 seconds. The swim was not without incidents. The wind was in my face so the waves breaking in my face made it hard to see. Also half the time I was swimming directly into the setting sun. I crashed into a man swimming the other way. We stopped briefly to confirm that no eyes were lost and continued. Then I swam straight into one of the buoys. My left arm, shoulder and cheek came down hard on the barnacles. A lot of scratches but, thankfully, no blood. While swimming in the bay, we don’t like blood. The swim is about the same distance as Alcatraz to the mainland, so I can feel fairly confident about Sunday.

Here’s what is interesting: I’m in the middle of a complicated life. Many commitments to many things. Clever boy here adds to all these commitments a heavy physical challenge. So yesterday I went to the barber. He asks “How are you?” And I blurted out something like “I’m so happy, it seems unfair…”

Monday, September 25, 2006


First post from my blackberry. Quite easy and fast.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

hello again

Just trying the admin interface...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Escape from Alcatraz 2

My plan to swim the 1.5 miles from Alcatraz to San Francisco on the 15th of October is just a little over a month away.

I have been changing my usual swimming pattern of short bursts to long swims. Although I prefer long-distance swimming, I had to stop because my right hand would start tingling if I swam too long. In order to stop this, I have started taking lessons from experienced coach who is working to help me improve my stroke so that the nerves in my shoulder are not pinched.

The results have been quite good. On Tuesday I swam 43 minutes (a bit over a mile) with only the occasional tingle. I came out its quite refreshed and felt I could have done twice the distance. So my endurance is progressing well. But here's the really good news: Today I went down to the Dolphin Club. This is a club in the Marina for people who like to swim in the Bay. I did my first swim in the actual waters of the Bay. There were at least two things in my favor. The water was 62° - It was so warm it was like being in Florida (well, sort of). The other thing was that I had an insulated bathing cap. I have never used one before. I always had thin Lycra caps. An insulated cap changes everything. You lose most of your heat through your head. Diving into cold water is like when you eat ice cream too fast. With an insulated cap nothing like this happens. The result: a piece of cake! I did half a mile and could have done three times the distance.

So this week I'm feeling quite positive about my prospects -- but you never know...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Escape from Alcatraz 1

I have just started training for the "Escape from Alcatraz" swim from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco on Sunday, October 15 at nine in the morning.

The distance is about 1 1/2 miles and the water temperature will be in the low 60s. I estimate that it will take me a little bit over an hour to complete the course.

There will be at least 200 people doing the swim and it will be well supervised, so I do not envisage any problems. I will keep you informed of my progress when anything interesting happens.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Hello world!

Welcome to This is my first post. But I have so many blogs I don't know what to do!