Exclusives: Raising Kate
PAW web exclusive column by Kate Swearengen '04 (email@example.com)
Intersession by the
Dolphins by day, lap dances by night
By Kate Swearengen '04
I SPENT intersession
in Florida with the crew team. We stayed at the Marriott Residence
Inn, where there was a swimming pool, two hot tubs, and a vending
machine that sold 60-cent bags of animal crackers. Our room was
on the third floor, and it smelled as though the hotel's employees
took smoking breaks in it while I was at crew practice, so I spent
most of my time reading by the pool reviewing Arabic grammar.
THE HANDSOME and
woefully inaccessible men of the heavyweight varsity team organized
an "ugly mustache competition," and awarded prizes at
the end of the week to those who had cultivated the most unattractive
"They don't look
as good as they normally do, Perri," I said to my friend as
I stared at a blond rower with a particularly atrocious mustache.
"In fact, they're almost average looking now. Think I'd have
a chance with that one?"
"No way in hell,
Swearengen," Perri said.
girls had a "tacky spandex day," which involved hideous
pairings of magenta shorts and turquoise tops. One rower sported
a black spandex shirt with a picture of Batman on the front; another
wore a black thong over a pair of yellow spandex shorts.
"Yeah, they look
tacky, but let's face it, they all weigh under 130 pounds,"
one of the girls on the openweight team commented morosely.
our coxswain said. Seeking to boost team morale, she shouted at
a cluster of the lightweight girls, "We could look a lot uglier
if we tried."
AFTER A grueling
day on the water, the men's lightweight squad went out for lap dances.
I asked two of the rowers who stayed behind why they hadn't joined
"Not all the guys
are going," one of them answered huffily. "And I'm not
going to go unless everyone else goes, too. There's a fine line
between having fun and being a pervert, you know."
"Yeah, and we're
not going to cross that line," the other one said. "It's
bad enough that we're sleeping four to a room, and that I have to
share a bed with another guy."
WE HAD our own
fun, though. Dressed in borrowed sandals and my coxswain's "MY
DRINKING TEAM HAS A ROWING PROBLEM" T-shirt, I hit Ybor City
with the other girls on the openweight novice team. Our first stop
was a tattoo parlor. After perusing the store's selection of mesh
shirts and leather pants, I headed over to watch as Lisa had a geometric
design etched into her lower back.
"Does it hurt?"
I asked, watching her expressionless face.
"Is it better or
worse than a five kilometer piece on the ergometer?" I asked.
WE KEPT our boats
in the University of FloridaTampa boathouse and rowed on the
Hillsborough River. Our coach followed in a launch and shouted abuse,
while a group of menacing seagulls circled above. On the first day,
two of the rowers in the stern spotted a group of dolphins frolicking,
but were unable to communicate this information to the rest of the
boat because they feared repercussions from the coach. Irate at
having missed the dolphins, our coxswain devised a plan.
"From now on,"
she said. "If you see dolphins, just shout '' I love rowing
at three o'clock', or at five o'clock, or wherever the dolphins
"But you're sitting
with your back to the stern," one pragmatic rower pointed out.
"Three o'clock for us would be nine o'clock for you."
"I can figure it
out," the coxswain snapped. "After all, my job is to think
for all eight of you Rhodes Scholars."
WE ROWED five
hours every day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
At some practices the coach seemed satisfied with our efforts; at
others, our inability to slip the blades into the water seamlessly
infuriated her. One day she sadistically ordered us to row at full
pressure with our eyes closed. I pictured the boat capsizing and
the novice crew team being devoured by hostile waterfowl, before
deciding a worse scenario would involve wrecking the $30,000 boat
and having to pay punitive damages. On another day, after stopping
her launch to criticize our form, she was unable to restart the
"Keep your elbow
high, Swearengen!" she shouted, as our boat sped away from
"I hope the sharks
get you!" I shouted back, but she was too far away to hear
MANY OTHER crew
teams also use the University of Florida-Tampa facilities to train
during the winter. They return with better rowing technique, but
leave behind graffiti on the numerous bridges overhanging the Hillsborough
River. Graffiti left by the 2003 women's team read "Andrea's
Big Girls: We're Hungry," while a cryptic message left by Rutgers
stated: "Rutgers 2001: Doin' Your Sister." After heated
discussion, we decided to write "Princeton 2004: Keepin' It
Horizontal," a double entendre and homage to an oft-repeated
order from our coach. We took turns painting the easily-accessible
portions, and Lisa volunteered to be suspended from the side of
the bridge in order to paint the others.
"I've done a lot
of graffiti, and I'm always the one who gets dangled over the side
of the bridge," Lisa said. "I've been detained by the
cops three times in the past. They usually just take your name and
tell you that the city might press charges. But at least if I fall
in the water, I won't get typhoid. For instance, when I was training
at junior development camp, the water was really dirty. One day
the police dragged the lake for a body. They ended up finding four."
WE ARRIVED back
on campus on Saturday, and as we drove by the boathouse we sang
"Old Nassau." Some cynics on the bus pointed out that
Carnegie Lake was still frozen and that we would be sweating away
on the ergometers until the end of February. For the most part,
though, morale was high as the bus backed into the parking lot next
to Dillon Gym. I pulled my luggage out from the compartment underneath
the bus and walked downhill to Butler College.
You can reach Kate Swearengen