Unfortunately, the beach—theoretical perfection—is unlikely to attain the conditions necessary to nurture that situation in reality. On the other hand: Pools deliver.
I grew up lost in the blue sky above the Edgewood Valley Country Club pool in Willow Springs, Illinois…by no means “Down The Shore” Country. Initiated at an early age by seasoned swimmers at the Club pool, I respected the faint teeth marks still visible “if you look hard enough” in the re-painted concrete rim of the pool alongside the diving board. The marks were testament never to dive into the pool after lifeguard hours. I harbored that unlikely fear until I substituted another unwarranted nocturnal swimming scenario.
Lots of lazy pool days since that daily routine at Edgewood Valley.
Taylor and Burton…Art Deco…La Serenissima…Baron Samedi...The Comedians....Leon’s Inspector Brunetti...Capra’s Hole in the Head…James Bond and, of course, the Million Dollar Mermaid…below are My Top Three Pools of the World.
III. Grand Hotel Oloffson, Port au Prince, Haiti
Is the Oloffson still there?
There were voodoo drums into the night. Miraculously, the delicate gingerbread building again withstood the nocturnal assault of the jungle. I swim in the pool—no other swimmers yet awake—as under a poolside umbrella my wife waits for the delivery of the pink painting we bought yesterday in a gallery just outside the hotel gates and down the hill in the cool of twilight. She reads near the pool, wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat, trying unsuccessfully to avoid the morning sun—already too intense. At the top of the broken staircase I see the Tontons Macoutes…early today…the pair descend the steps–mirrored sun glasses, shotguns drawn. The tag team surveys the pool. My wife looks up at them; I continue swimming. They smile at her, turn, and mount the staircase in tandem to disappear.
Was the Oloffson ever there?
II. Hotel Ciprinai, Venice, Italy
The Hotel Cipriani sits in San Marco’s secret garden on Giudecca across the Basino from the Piazzetta in Venice. Off-the-cuff, absolute luxury. I swim to the center of the massive pool and stand arms akimbo. Just a hotel motor-boat ride away from the Cipriani pool, Venice flashes dramatic beauty, while the Cipriani quietly responds with serene beauty of its own, a world away (4 minutes by continuous hotel launch). From the oversized pool, I catalog the Vilbrequins and count the waiters serving Bellinis. I take in the singing birds, goldfinch, rock doves and gulls. I admire the green lawn, potted white flowering trees, white tents, white umbrellas, and white lounge chairs and signal one of the pool boys in white for a fresh white towel. Noon. Bells chime from all the church towers of Venice to blend with the distant sounds of a vaporetto purring then breaking the spell, suddenly clanging, on the Giudecca Canal. I stand in the bold sun in soothing salt water up to my shoulders under the bluest sky in a garden in the world’s most beautiful city.
I. Raleigh Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida
Since the Raleigh is among the jewels in the crown of Art Deco South Beach, this hotel pool is surely the Koh-i-Noor diamond. The King, Clark Gable, swam here. And Esther Williams. A crenate shallow borders the cool water all around shimmering turquoise. I move from the lounge to this shallow rim of the pool gradually, it takes all afternoon, and finally exert myself to launch the gigantic inner tube. I board the black 16-wheeler tube that somehow matches the delicate scalloped black trim of the pool and head off for the deep. Falling into the water and eventually swimming to find and half-heartedly remount the inner-tube becomes my only occupation. Suddenly—magically—the pool is deserted—I am alone at twilight—and I am afloat. Dimming blue sky fading above and too many Mojitos to give a damn.