The day I swam with the Cute One himself
By Marianne Murciano, Special to the Tribune. Marianne Murciano is a television personality and freelance writer
Published October 16, 2005 http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/lifestyle/q/chi-0510160374oct16,1,3909172.story?ctrack=1&cset=true
"Just think how you'd feel if you got back on that plane knowing you missed an opportunity to see your idol, Paul McCartney, in person," my husband said.
And as he urged me to be assertive on our weekend getaway to Miami, I knew what I had to do. I strolled into the poolside terrace of our Key Biscayne hotel--the same hotel where Sir Paul and his entourage had been staying before kicking off his U.S. tour, which lands in Chicago this week.
I made the clandestine journey with my decoy, my 5-year-old daughter--on a mission to swim with Paul McCartney.
"Where are we going, Mommy?" my daughter asked, as if we had rehearsed, when we passed the bodyguard with the menacing glare.
"To the pool, baby," I said, clutching her hand naturally.
Alone (almost) with Paul
We soon arrived at the simple adult pool--no waterfalls, graded entrances or cool shapes, and empty save for an adult playing with a band of kids. The adult sported a young-looking, slim body and the same longish hair he made famous 40 years ago.
Paul McCartney came into my life in 1963 when I was my daughter's age. I was a Cuban refugee who had landed in Miami two years earlier and was terrified of school because I couldn't understand a word uttered by Mrs. Nash, my kindergarten teacher. I spoke no English. But I could sing in English even if I had no clue what the words meant.
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand.
It didn't take long for me to understand the lyrics and fall in love with the longhaired Beatles. I especially liked the "cute one," Paul. It was his boyish looks that beckoned me to learn a whole new language and to try to speak it perfectly. And that accent--could I ever sound like that? I learned a lot about happiness and angst in my new country through the lyrics of "If I Fell in Love With You," "Do You Want to Know a Secret" and other silly love songs.
Two Kennedys died, the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis took place while bomb-warning drill sirens blasted at 1 p.m. every Saturday in Miami . . . and the Beatles were a constant. I couldn't watch an episode of "Where the Action Is" without hearing a local television station ID using the instrumental portions of "And I Love Her."
I jumped into the pool with these memories flying through my head and I realized I was now swimming in the same water as Paul McCartney. On cue again my daughter yelled, "Mommy, let's go to the shallow side." (Where he was!)
"We can go there later, honey," I said, knowing her like the back of my hand.
"No! I wanna go over there now!" she pointed to where he was playing with five or six children surrounded by brightly colored floats. She swam in their direction and I slowly followed her. I saw he didn't notice anything around him because he was playing with the kids--alone. No nannies or other parents were there to help, and his attention was fixed on them.
And then it happened--the moment I never expected.
"Keep an eye on this one," he said to a nearby bodyguard, pointing to the one who is obviously his child, the youngest one there. "I'm going to swim."
Paul McCartney waded in the water right toward me. He stopped four feet away and looked directly into my eyes.
"How are you doing?" he asked.
My ear-to-ear smile gave me away. I couldn't string a thought together and everything I could have said was gone now. No "I've loved you all my life." No "Your Chicago concert was the best." No "I'll see you again in Chicago . . . and anywhere else you perform even if you're 80 years old."
Just "Fine, thanks. How are you?"
"OK," he smiled back, gave me thumbs up, sank his head in the water and swam across the pool.
For the next few minutes I watched him do a few laps. I marveled at his youthfulness. He did not look or act 63. I wondered what it must be like to be recognized by everyone in the world. I became nostalgic and remembered what he meant to me when I was 5 years old. I had a fantasy that my husband would walk in and find Paul McCartney rubbing suntan lotion on me. I prayed that I'd get one more chance to say something smart. But reality called.
"Mommy, I wanna go back to the other pool," my little girl yelled. Everyone heard her, but Paul's head was underwater so I whispered in her ear, "Let's stay here a little longer."
"No!" She yelled even louder. "I want to go right now!"
There was no choice. I followed her out of the pool. As we towel dried and found our shoes, I took one last look at what I was about to leave behind. He was back with the kids and very much enjoying them. I slowly walked away from the terrace, clutching my daughter's hand--this time, feeling lucky and wondering . . . how many people who were flying home to Chicago tonight would be able to say that earlier that day they swam with Paul McCartney?