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Swimming with Paul Giamatti by Sheila Dolan

From the archives by Sheila Dolan: 

I spent most of my afternoon swimming with Paul Giamatti. No, he did not invite me to Malibu to an industry party at some fab pad 100 feet from the ocean. Nor was I stalking, I mean sunning, at the posh Beverly Hills hotel, the only other place I have seen Paul from afar. No, I was up close and personal with the “Sideways” man at my public pool. Yep. And it was not some typical Sheila-staring-at-another-movie star-pretending-to-be-taking-a-rest-at-the-end-of-the-wall kind of viewing. I busted Paul G. at the pool.

Let me explain, as Liz would say.

I was thrashing about in a lane 5 deep at the height of the swim day. Hardly recognizable in my full coat of zinc oxide and multiple swim layers including a rash guard, it was not what you would call a “mellow swim.” Between swallowing water, adjusting my two (count ’em) caps, clearing my goggles that were totally fogged and watching out for slower swimmers in my lane, I came upon Paul at the wall, standing and surveying the lane next to mine. At the time, I just thought he was a lost soul entering the busy lap lane from the wrong end. Clearly without any sunscreen or cap, I thought it was my chance to play Pool Police!!

I looked up at this stranger and said, “Excuse me, can I tell you something?” Paul indulged me just enough to look my way, surely expecting this LA woman to say something like, “I just loved you in “Sideways” even though my girlfriends all thought your character was despicable.” Instead he heard me say, “Um, that actually (why do I always include actually to every sentence?)..that is the wrong end to enter the pool and…”

“Yeah. Got it,” Paul said to me and then gave me the fake “thumbs up” to stop any more sound from uttering out of my big mouth. It was at the first word: ‘yeah’ that I got that this newcomer to the pool (not to swimming!) was Paul Giamatti. Gulp. Darn.

He was giving me a nervous smirk as he was trying to figure out how he could ignore me and get into that lane no matter what. He did. I swam off feeling like a complete dork.

And he swam, and swam, and swam…(beautifully I might add)without stopping for about 45 minutes. I know, because I was trying me stop-at-the-wall-waiting-for-Paul G.-to-stop-so-I-could-apologize kind of swimming. That would of made things so much worse but that’s my m.o.

It never happened. My zinc oxide was melting. I had to leave with just the memory of looking up at Paul Giamatti and giving him a lesson in pool etiquette.

I need a life, clearly.

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