Friday, January 05, 2007

Maybe I'm Not Too Bright...

...but I AM a Brownie.

This year's plunge into the Atlantic on New Year's Day was a tad warmer than my pal Boudy and I usually like, but it was raining- which kept the yahoos away to a degree. It seems every time the thermometer creeps over 40 degrees, every one and their brother shows up in Southie for the annual L Street Brownie New Year's Day swim.

I used to think my friend Steve "Boudy" Boudrot was crazy when he would be excited upon hearing a "bad" weather report, one including temperatures below freezing or even in the teens, or better yet- involving snow. Something about snow and bare feet doesn't seem to mesh.

After a few years of taking the plunge myself, I began to see his genius.

When it gets warm, or they have some sort of anniversary (which seems ot be almost every year nowadays) throngs of people show up, wantng to be part of all the madness. One problem is, that even on "warm" days, days in the 50s.. the water is usually between 37-40 degrees. When the rookies hit that water, they tend to panic and freeze (pun intended) because they have never felt anyything so shockingly cold in all their lives.

One thing about 37 degree water- you don't tip -toe into it. Ya gotta LEAP baby, ya gotta dive right in.

The crowds were trimmed by the rain this year, and there wasn't much fear of getting trapped behind a line of toe-dippers. I got about up to my waist on a dead run before getting blocked by some guy slipping into hypothermia. Fortunately, he buckled a bit at the knees and I was able to dive over him.

The most common question is... WHY???

Why do you do it, Korte? What are you thinking? You can't even blame this inane activity on drunkeness anymore.

There are a few reasons. For one, it's on of the few times set aside to hang with my best friend in the world. There is a camaraderie there that seems to blossom when we engage in mutually foolish escapades.

Secondly, and I can't explain this, it just feels good. The initial shock of the water is just that, but coming out feels amazing to me. I think it is different for different people. I remember the first year I did it it was very cold and I didn't much like it. The second time I recall feeling a wave of euphoria washing over me about 30 minutes after the swim. I have had that a numbers of times, but not every year, it is sort of a surprise.

The most common result is a feeling of deep relaxation which seems to last throughout the day, acompanied by sleepiness (unrelated to staying up half the night, that's not my gig.) One of the affects I don't quite understand, as it appears to be unique to me, is the seeming bubble of warmth around after getting out of the water.

I look around and people are shivering, freezing cold and shaking, but I feel great and can't feel any cold whatsoever. Someone suggested it is psychosomatic, that they perhaps haven't done the swim as many times, or at all before and "think" they are cold. I would guess that they "are" cold, but I always get a kick out this nonetheless.

This year was strange, as they were remodeling the men's locker room and half the showers were gone and replaced by a construction site. Boudy, myself and rookie L Streeter and old college chum Barry set up camp on some bags of cement. Generally, there is always some woman who has gotten lost and ambles through the men's locker room, but this year it was an epidemic. The worst was some guy bringing a 4 year old daughter through there. I can't imagine anything that would scar a little kid more than seeing some 60 year old guy in the buff immediately after diving into the Atlantic in January.


The kid seemed unscathed, but I may never get over it.

The bonus this year was that we just happened to be the primary photograph displayed on and were splayed across og. B4 of the Boston Globe.

Never figured the Brownies would be my avenue to fame.

(Barry far right, then me, then Boudy.)


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