Friday, August 8, 2014

Update of an Older Post: Yeast Infections, Brine Shrimp, Non Floaters, and Our Delightful Day in the Great Salt Lake

Has nature ever before displayed itself in such splendor? PLEASE don't ask what the object protruding from the "lake" ["cesspool" would be a more fitting description] is, because I haven't a clue and I'd rather not think about it.
Note: this is a slight adjustment of an older post that was lost. 

On one of my family's numerous and more  infamous  trips to Utah, my father decided that an experience every person should have at least once in his or her lifetime was to swim in the Great Salt Lake. This particular trip occurred, I believe, when my brother and I, twins,  were five. The Great Salt Lake's  water contents are  supposedly something like seven times saltier than that of  the Pacific.  Supposedly, according to my dad, the water is so incredibly salty that even a Carnival Cruise ship would not sink in it, which has yet to be proven.

On the afternoon of our journey to the Great Salt Lake, we were mostly in somewhat foul-tempered moods. My mother was  upset because  while we had been at my grandparents' home earlier in the day, my Uncle Mahonri, the known common thief or kleptomaniac of the family (which diagnosis was and is accurate is under debate to this day)  had invaded my mother's suitcase and had helped himself to her Soft and Dri Baby Powder antiperspirant and her cell phone charger. The theft of the antiperspirant angered her more as a matter of principle, but her phone needed a different charger than did my dad's, and we would need to make an unscheduled stop at the SLC Verizon store -- not known for its efficiency -- and would have to shell out whatever ridiculous price was demanded for a new charger. The obvious question may have been  how did we know Mahonri was the one who took the items.  That, however, would be similar to asking after a person decided to invade a hive of bees, then ended up with all sorts of painful red bumps with stingers poking out of them all over his body, if it really was the bees that stung him and not that he came down with chicken pox or a painful case of hives.  Mahonri's prior offences were sufficient to convict him even had there not been  witnesses, and my two-year-old cousin Clarice, very articulate for her age and probably too young to lie about anything so bizarre and specific,  said she saw Mahonri applying my mom's Soft and Dry Baby Powder antiperspirant to his underarms. The phone charger had been seen by another cousin being stuffed into Uncle Mahonri's pocket as he walked out to hi car, supposedly to check his tire pressure, though no one saw him anywhere near the tires.

There's an old proverb on a plaque in one of my relatives' homes that reads, "If Mama Ain't Happy, Ain't No One Happy."  Crudely worded though it might be, it contains an element of truth. When something is really bothering my mom, she tends to pick at all of us until we're all eventually  sniping at each other even though we really have no issue with anyone. It was one of those days. Somehow these unpleasantries seemed to bypass my dad.  He was as cheerful as the rest of us were crabby. As far as he saw it, we were going to have a fabulous day communing with nature by floating in the Great Salt Lake. He whistled as he drove along the freeway leading us there, and even a car cutting him off and nearly causing us to crash into an embankment, which normally would have elicited a string of four-letter-words,  did little to dampen his spirits. "It's just like swimming in bathwater, " my dad proclaimed for something like the hundredth time.

"Maybe like bathwater after ten million brine shrimp have urinated in it," my mom muttered..

"Do brine shrimp bite?" asked my brother, who was genuinely afraid of being bitten by butterflies.

"No," answered my dad.

"Do you know that for a fact?" my mom whispered to him.

"Have you ever heard of a person being bitten by  a brine shrimp?" my dad answered her question with his own question.

"No," my mom answered,, "but then, I don't know very many people who swim in brine shrimp-infested waters."

We drove around for a bit looking for the facility with restrooms where people changed into their swimsuits, and perhaps  food vendor facilities that would also be present. Either we were no the wrong side of the lake or no such facilities existed. We settled for changing into our swimsuits in the car.

"I have to go to the bathroom!" my brother declared immediately upon exiting the car.

"Go in the water," my mom and dad said to him simultaneously."Not much could pollute it beyond what the brine shrimp have already done," my mother added.

 I assume they intended that he would walk into the water until he was maybe waist-deep, then let it flow. My mother looked over to see Matthew standing by the water's edge, appendage pulled out, prepared to add to the fluid contents of the lake.

"Matthew!" my mother exclaimed.

"My father pointed at a small boulder. "Just go behind that rock," my dad told my brother.

As Matthew took care of business, my dad plunged into the salty  almost copper-colored water, leaning back into it.

"You're all paranoid," my dad declared, by this time floating on his back.

My mom stepped in a bit deeper. "If I get a yeast infection from this, " she hissed at my father, "you will pay for it in ways you've never  even imagined."

"What's a yeast infection?" my brother and I asked simultaneously.

"Never mind," my father said, glaring at my mom. He had introduced us to every one of the seven words George Carlin said you can't say on television, plus about a dozen more (we knew them, but we also knew that we dare not say them if we knew what was good for us)  yet he was perturbed that my mom had used the term yeast infection in our presence.

Dad uttered an irritated sigh. "Ocean or natural lake salt actually kills yeast organisms."

"That makes no sense," my mom argued..  "The PH of this lake is probably somewhere around 9."

"And when did you get your license to practice medicine?" my dad asked my mom. (My dad was and is an M.D. My mom holds two doctorates, but hers are  in educational psychology and music performance.) "Was it before we met, and  you just neglected to mention it, or did you somehow manage to sneak it in between everything else you've done since we've been together?"

"Erin," my dad said to my mom  in  a voice he uses when he wants someone to think he's being patient but isn't really feeling patient in the least, "It's a bit of a paradox. Yes, salt water is a base. When it's sea salt, or natural lake salt, it has entirely different properties in water. Sea salt mixed with water is actually a homeopathic cure for a vaginal yeast invention, and is recommended by the medical community as analgesic for yeast vaginitis symptoms."

"It sounds like something you're making up off the top of your head," my mom countered. My mom either thought my brother and I were not looking or didn't care as she gave my dad a prominent display of  her middle finger. He ignored it in his floating bliss.

Mathew slowly waded in until he was maybe thigh-deep, at which time he began to shriek, "I have a leech and it's almost  on my balls!" Matthew had been obsessed with leeches, and particularly about them  attaching themselves to scrotums, ever since having watched a video of Stand by Me when spending the night with older cousins. I don't know what Stand By Me was rated, but I seriously doubt it was G. 

My mother plodded over to Matthew and helped him out of the water. He threw himself onto the beach -- basically hard rock with a half-inch layer of sand covering it -- and flailed around almost like he was pretending to have a tonic/clonic seizure.  (Note: if that pitiful parcel of land was considered a beach, my Little Tykes sandbox at home was the freaking Waikiki.) My mother looked down at her wildly gyrating son, finally locating a thin, roughly inch-long creature just beneath the hem of his swim trunks. She plucked it off, stared at it for a moment,and dismissed it with, "It's a brine shrimp," flinging it as far as she could in the opposite direction of the lake, displaying her true environmental tendencies. (Have you heard that story about the man who saved starfish one at  time by throwing them back into the water? My mother might have been on the beach tossing the poor starfish in the opposite direction in attempt to put them out of their misery more quickly.) "And it's nowhere near your testicles," she said to my brother, who was by this time sitting up and whimpering on the rocky beach.

My mom grabbed towels for herself and my brother, and they began to dry themselves and to rid their bodies of brine shrimp. I saw this as my opportunity to curry favor with my father and to become the shining star of his two children. I can't speak for other twins, but for my brother and myself, when we were children, competition was fierce, as we constantly vied for parental attention and favor. I would be the braver of the two children, who was not deterred by a few, or more accurately a lot of, spiny creatures swimming around in the water. I slogged through the water one low step at a time until I was in almost neck-deep. I leaned back to float, and . . . promptly sank to the bottom of the lake.

Fortunately, we'd been taught to swim an an early age,because no one would ever have located me under that mucky water.  I propelled my arms until I could find my footing, then came up sputtering, with brine shrimp in every cavity in my head. 

"John, you know she doesn't float!" my mother screeched at my father. "I thought you were halfway keeping an eye on her."

"But everyone floats in the Great Salt Lake," my father bemoaned as he helped me remove brine shrimp from my  ears and nose.

"Not Alexis, obviously," my mom contradicted. "You could fill a bathtub half full with salt, fill it the rest of the way with water, and drop her in, and she'd sink.. She has all  the body fat of an El Salvadorian refugee."

My dad walked me out on the water, if you could even call it water. We all de-brine shrimped ourselves the best we could, and climbed into our rental car,which, incidentally, required an additional cleaning fee when it was returned because of all the brine shrimp in the seats and on the floor. 

Our plan had been to spend the night with relatives, but my mom decided she didn't want to risk another encounter with the family kleptomaniac/thief since she'd barely recovered from her last encounter. We checked into a Best Western somewhere in the vicinity of  Springville, Utah. We did a lot of hiking in Provo Canyon wearing our matching San Francisco Giants  jerseys, lessening the chances of disaster were Matthew or I to wander away. 

Even as five-year-olds, my brother and I had the fashion sense to know that siblings or -- even worse -- parents dressing alike was so gauche that it would be less humiliating to be seen in clown costumes or in pocket protectors and glasses with the bridge of the nose wrapped in adhesive tape. We promised to stick with our parents as closely as leeches stick to naughty bulbous parts, but my parents wouldn't relent on the issue. Another time my parents wore matching Giants jerseys to  a San Francisco Giants game. My brother and I walked about twenty paces behind them. We had to sit by them during the game because that's where our seats were, but we spent the entire game pretending not to know them.

My uncle found himself richer by one partially-used can of Soft and Dri spray-on antiperspirant on that fateful day. He also ended up  temporarily with a phone charger, but my grandmother caught him  trying to charge his own cell phone with it when it wouldn't even fit. She'd heard that my mom was missing a charger, so she took it away from him and mailed it to my mom.. My mom still had to buy another one in the meantime, but she did get the original back, so she had one for work and one for home.


  1. This is so funny that I had to stop reading and belly laugh and then go back to where I left off. Your mom, your dad are the new and improved "Lucy and Desi." I can only imagine this trip. I do agree with your dad that salt water, especially the Great One will never give anyone an infection, and cure anything, given enough time. As to the Carnival ship... that thing has bad "juju" and would sink anywhere, especially there, no matter what science has to say about buoyancy. LOL

  2. OMG, hilarious. I remember sitting in a church lesson at BYU when the teacher said, "If you haven't been to the Great Salt Lake, you're really missing out. It's just like being on a CA beach." As native Californians, Mark and I certainly wanted to check that out! The following weekend we drove there, parked, got out of the car, and within 5 minutes we were speeding away to avoid the stench.

  3. I have never been to Utah, but your description of the Great Salt Lake is not all that appealing... On the other hand, I read about Lake Wapapello in Missouri in a book about a guy who made it his mission to visit all 50 states. He said it was full of snakes. Bill confirms this, since he used to go there too. I'd rather deal with shrimp than snakes!

  4. That is so funny about your brother urinating. Your parents must have favored you and thought that you got more than your fair share of the intelligence that was supposed to be shared between the two of you. It is a good thing your brother was not a female otherwise he would be there squatting.

    1. My parents admit that I'm more intelligent than Matthew. they really had no choice other than to admit that. Matthew has a better personality, however, and he was a much easier child to raise.