The mornings are quiet here. The clean up crews have been out and everything is looking pristine. I’ve arranged to ride out with Donna and Anna this morning and walk the seven blocks to where their car is parked. As I go a young black guy asks where I got the Out Games T-shirt. He’s a Baskekball player, one of the casualties of the cancellations. I explain that the guys at the swimming pool were giving them away free. I also learn that the Basketball teams have managed to organise themselves into a tournament. Human resourcefulness is great isn’t it?
At the pool, competition is underway, and I’m in time for my 100m backstroke. This time I have three others to beat and so feel a bit more legitimate. It’s great to meet up with familiar faces from IGLA last year in Edmonton and even some from The Out Games in Antwerp four years ago. There’s a contingent from Australia (Wet Ones & Glamourheads) who I recognise from Proud To Play in Auckland in 2016 and in 2015 they also came to Wellington for the annual TAMS/Different Strokes challenge. Somehow I’m feeling part of a global community. Marcel, who briefly trained with TAMS in
Auckland is here doing all the hard events. Donna and Anna get to swim in the same heat and have to be cheered on for Out to Swim. They drop me at the nearby metro station as, I’ve discovered that there is a public transport system here and I’m keen to check it out. There’s no one around but up on the platform, I can see a few passengers waiting. As I’m looking for a place to buy tickets, a security guard comes over and asks what sort of ticket I want. ‘Just a single into the city’. He swipes his card and lets me in. I’m a bit surprised and briefly wonder if I have to swipe out at the other end. I’ve just missed a train, but the wait for another is not long and the journey takes only ten minutes. There is a problem at the City Centre end as I do have to swipe out and end up following a family with a push chair through one of those wide gates. The wait for a 120 but to Miami Beach is long but only costs $2.25. There’s no change given so fortunately I have the right money to drop into the slots. After another salad for lunch and a snooze, it’s time to try the
beach, which looked lovely on Friday. Even in the late afternoon, it’s packed, mostly with African Americans sun bathing and standing in the sea. I’ve come out with the bare minimum and leave a small pile on the white sand; Jandals, tee shirt, mini towel, hotel room key and hat. The water is warm and choppy – it’s shallow and I have to go beyond the waders to swim. Palm Beach on Waiheke Island at 22 degrees C, still gets my vote. There is, however, no need to dry off in this heat; it’s just strange wearing a bathing
costume/togs on a beach. It’s back to the hotel to shower before setting out on foot to check out The Gaythering, a gay hotel/bar here. It’s a long trudge in the late afternoon heat, so the air conditioned bar is a relief. I’m startled to find it full of Australians in their distinctive green sports shirts. I sidle around to the other side of the bar, put my dollar down and order a beer. There are a few locals next to me, but on one is talking, so I move to on of the older Australians who turns out to be the referee for the Field Hockey team. They are also casualties of the cancellation but along with the Netherlanders (2 teams) and the British, have organised their own competition with the help of a local sports ground. He’s from Sydney and quickly introduces me to a much younger guy, Tim, who turns out to be his partner and a swimmer. I suggest he joins Wet Ones the Sydney swimming club. Tim seems semi interested in that. So here is another example of teams organising themselves, with the help of the City of Miami. Who needs the World Out Games? When I try to pay my bar bill, this turns out to be on the house as it is a reception for the Hockey guys – time to leave and make my way South. A free
trolley bus appears and is going my way. A quick google of Miami Beach trolley busses reveals the route. Conflicted between checking facebook likes and comments and looking at the suburban scene, I miss my stop and end up on 6th Street and have to walk back to 10th. A Tagliatelli Carbonara leaves me feeling heavy and I wake at 2 am to silence – it’s Sunday night – and now I can’t sleep.
It’s still a holiday so traffic should be OK. I’ve arranged to share an Uber with Tristan and another guy from Wet Ones, Sydney. It’s my big day with three races, starting with the 800m freestyle The Carbonara lingers until after the warm up but it’s OK. We all have to arrange our own flip board operators to count up or down the lengths. At this pool it’s 32 lengths so there’s enough to think about without counting them. One of the Australians is doing the first heat and is able to turn around to pool one and count for me. I then have to count for Tristan, who likes to be counted down from 32. All goes well until we get to 9 and I can’t work out how to get a blank slate. I miss 9 and offer 17 with my hand over the 1 until I work it out. Luckily I’ve not miscounted. An hour later I’m doing the 200 Back and have to report that the new jammers made the race very comfortable. Perhaps I could have gone faster, but the guy with no times in the next lane shakes my hand – I’ve still no idea who won.
Later, I find out I have won and can now rest up for a while and watch Daniel do his Medley and support Anna and Donna in their 100m Freestyle. The guy with not times is in the next lane again for the 100m freestyle and I have a feeling that he’s going to be faster, and he is, leaving me in second place. I warm down, change and walk down to Coconut Grove for a decent lunch. Rob Wintermute texts and joins me. We both agree that this might be the end of the Out Games, although apparently the board are talking about Rio in four years time. ‘Rio?’ I say, ’that’s madness. They only just got through the Olympics.’
The London Orcas are playing their final against Boston in the recreational league of Water Polo. Boston is very good and the Orcas end up with Silver. Now it’s a bit of a wait for the Pink Flamingo. This is an opportunity for teams to put in a devised piece of entertainment around and in the pool. While we wait, I chat to Mark who does Gay Rodeo and was at Edmonton. He was planning to come to the World Masters in Auckland, but did his knee in at the Rodeo. At 54, I tell him, it’s time he retired from that.
The 6 Pink Flamingo acts are presented by an outrageous, but elegant drag queen and range from embarrassing to slick. Paris Aquatique win first prize and the whole proceedings
I get a lift to the dinner with Mark. We lose our way there and are still early at the Scottish Rites Temple. We walk along the riverside with some of the old guys from the competition. This is the 30th anniversary if IGLA and there are photographs flashing up on the screen while we have our starters. It’s downstairs for a sit down main course of Paella and speeches. Some of the original guys from the very first IGLA meet are there and those that attended the first four make up a tidy group. It’s very moving to think that this organisation has spread from California to global in that time. There aren’t that many from Europe this year, but there’s no excuse next year with IGLA supporting the Gay Games in Paris.