Monday, November 22, 2010

Was Mark Twain A Racist?




“Not to change the subject, but….” Sandy interrupts PP’s gushing rhapsody of her perfect swim: warm water (82), own lane, (rarity) and no air conditioning until the end of her swim. (Sorry to break that parallel structure, but in reality there was no parallel structure, just free form gushing.)

Sandy had been her usual listening self, nodding and agreeing with appropriate "uh huh’s” but she’d had enough. She needed an answer.

“Let me ask you this, Was Mark Twain a Racist?”
PP can’t change gears fast enough, from swimming euphoria to race relations. So she’s glad DL is there, and after a LONG pause, asks, “What do you think, DL?”

DL has the perfect answer, of course. Something about Twain writing about a certain period of history and thus documenting a certain truth of the times; however, on the other hand, in our time, today some might very well perceive his writings as racist.

She said it more eloquently than this, but you get the gist.
Sandy nods.
“Why do you ask?” PP wants to know. After all it is 9:45 at night in Utopia and everyone’s tired and spaced out from their workouts.
“Well, you know Iris?”
“Yeah, sure,” PP nods.
"Well, she was reading White Oleander....."
”That’s a good book,” PP interrupts wondering how racism fits in to this read. She can’t remember any race relations in it, but her memory is abdominally abysmal.

“Yes, well, it’s okay, but the point is that when I asked her if she’d read Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer and she’d said no, and then when I said oh you must read them another woman butted in and said that oh yeah they made her read those books in school and they were racist and so I was just wondering what you thought. After all N_____ Jim was one of the sweetest, kindest most beloved characters of all time. (PP can’t write the N word out, but bear in mind that Sandy said it, no qualms at all even though African American Princess was sitting in the corner wide eyed listening to the entire discussion.)







PP on the one hand admires Sandy’s nonchalant usage in the context of the discussion, yet on the other side, well…in the context of our times and Utopia it seemed a bit brazen or inappropriate or in any case PP was a bit uncomfortable to say the least and so she blathers in something about Jim being the moral center of the novels (Like she remembers! See note above)

Sandy likes this assessment though and agrees. Then goes on to talk about Thanksgiving and going down to her uncle’s and how he sets a table like Martha Stewart with the turkey centerpieces and fancy flower arrangements and matching china etc. and how everyone asks if he’s gay, and she always laughs and says, “Nah, he’s been married for 26 years and is one of the straightest guys I know.”





AAP is nodding this whole time, taking it all in? She never commented upon Twain, so PP doesn’t know if she was offended or not. But after Sandy’s ‘Gay Story’ PP just comments on how those ‘stereotypes’ are everywhere.
"That they are," AAP pipes in.
And they all laugh, nodding and agreeing.
“What time is it?” Sandy asks.
“9:45,” PP says. “I better get going. I’m so slow.”
Chuckling, Sandy rises and gathers up her towel and water spray bottle and saunters out.

PP follows AAP out who turns and grins at her, “We really got goin in there, didn’t we?” she laughs.

And PP agrees, that yes, they did.

But did they answer Sandy's question, she wonders? Hell, wonder what would Martha say?



Shut up, sit down, and eat the goddamn turkey!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Utopia in 3 Parts



I.
Something to Hold On To



“Oh…what a day!” African Princess sighs, lounges longer on the side of Aquatopia. DL and PP smile and nod. Every day is a long day if you ask PP. “All day I was directing traffic. And all the people. Picking up trash. We’d clear one street, then the trash was covering it…” She sighs deeply. “It was such a mess.”
“You were in the City today for the Giants’ parade?” DL asks.
“That’s right.” She shakes her head. “It was a mess. We didn’t write no tickets today at all. It was a free for all. Everyone got away with murder. People were crazy. There were so many of them. It was insane.”
“I wonder why the Giants winning the World Series is such a big deal,” PP muses aloud the unspeakable.

But there’s careful thought going on in Aquatoipa: “People have nothing else to hold on to,” In the Corner of the Hot Tub Woman nods. Serious.
And all the women nod. Serious. Knowing that it’s true.

II.
Kissing Make You Sick





“You make the ginger, the lemon. You put in a cup of red wine. You drink it and you not sick. No more!” Diabetes Woman nods her dark head, waves her arm dramatically to any and all in the Utopia Sauna.
Does this really work? PP wonders. She’s not gonna try it since she can’t drink red wine.
“You’ll just pass out asleep then,” Sandy laughs.
“No. You try it. If you get the sickness. Then this will stop it. I always take it. When I take care of babies, they always kiss me. They try to kiss me on the mouth.” She demonstrates, puckering her lips, “ but then I turn away, give them my cheek. They kiss me there. Not on mouth. Babies want to kiss on lips. But then you catch their sickness.”

“Now I know why I don’t kiss babies!” PP exclaims. Everyone laughs except DW who just plows on. “It is how babies are. My own babies. They were this way too. Always kiss on the mouth. But no no no. I say, here.” She points to her cheek. “Then you make the red wine one cup with ginger and lemon and you not sick. No more.”

III
Our Person






PP comes back from her shower to hurry into her clothes before getting kicked out of the locker room. DL is in deep conference with Liver Transplant Woman, Sally. They’re head to head, whispering. DL is mostly nodding while Sally is almost crying. PP can tell she’s close. She does cry easily. But this can happen when you’ve had a liver transplant, you’re off your meds, and your grandfather is dying.

Hell, anyone would cry.

But yet, DL holds her own. Says something soft and soothing every few words, placing a gentle hand on Sally’s shoulder. PP marvels at DL’s therapist abilities so late in the day at the end of Utopia. How does she do it? PP wonders.

Later, trudging up the stairs, PP asks DL what it was all about. But DL can’t really articulate it. Too overwhelming. Something about Death of her Person.

Cause we all have Our Person/s. For PP it’s her Gram and her Niece. For DL it was her dad and her aunt. For Sally it is her grandfather.

It has been a long day, PP thinks, as they walk out into the dark breezy night. But thinking about her Persons, now, at this moment, she has something to hold on to.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Richmond Plunge: 2 Perspectives



“You do Pilates?”
She eyes PP up and down, focusing in on her belly, then patting her own round soft melon of one, her wet turquoise flowers ballooning out.
“No,” PP laughs.
“Just swimming?”
“Yeah, just swimming,” PP answers.
“Bet she always been small,” Pilates Asking Woman’s Friend snorted.
Laughing, PP nods, “Yeah, that’s true. I’m small.”

And she is, esp. when confronted with the Richmond Plunge Swimming Crowd. No one did Pilates is one way of putting it, making PP and her partner today, CC (who’s really really small!) stand out even more.

The two Pilates Snorting Women give PP one more up and down before heading into the lovely lockerroom. Does PP need to describe how deluxe the Richmond Plunge is now? Maybe a little.




The women’s bathroom’s showers are white pristine tiles with little orange, red and green star fish mosaics in the floor. A sparkling mermaid graces the wall on the way out to the amazingly stupendous pool. A gigantic mural fills the far wall: a scene of a pond with white egrets, a little island and a woman wading into it. It’s all bright greens, and blues, and browns.





The pool itself (PP had to ask the lounging about lifeguards) is 60 meters long!!! And 20 across. The kids are relegated to half, leaving tons of room for lap swimmers.

It’s a swimmer’s dream pool. At least it is for PP. Swimming in her lane, a pasty middle aged guy shares her lane intermittently. Yet the lanes were so wide that PP barely noticed him. Well, she did notice him, but still, the width of the lap lanes easily held two side by side swimmers.





CC, on the other hand, as PP found out later, had a less welcoming experience than PP’s Pilates Curious Women.

Evidently, when CC had gotten in the lane, there’d been a boy swimming in her lane. CC asked if she could share. The kid just nodded and swam away. Then the father jumped in, nearly on top of CC, so she decided to move to the next lane.






Well.

The woman who was hogging the wide lane next to the boy and dad was having none of this ‘sharing a lane.”
“Excuse me,” CC had asked. “Can I share your lane?”
The woman had glared at her, harrumphed, and then pointed to the kid/dad lane, “Why can’t you swim over there?”
Disbelief enveloping her, CC explained, “There’s a kid and his dad swimming over there (duh!) So there’s no room for me.”
No Share Woman shook her head, and repeated her query, “I don’t see why you can’t swim over there.”
“Is that a NO?” CC asked. “I just want to swim my mile.”
NSW grudgingly moved over, allowing CC to share, but it musta been a tense swim. Which was so too bad since this was their first time swimming at the Plunge and CC had wanted to come here for months.

When CC had told PP this story later, PP couldn’t believe it. “They can’t say no!”
“Yeah,” CC nodded. “It’s a public pool. Not some country club. I remember when I swam at 21 Hour Fitness in the City, you’d have to call up ahead of time and reserve your lane; you could only reserve 30 minutes at a time. But the regulars knew how to manipulate the system, get in good with the staff, so they’d reserve their time back to back even though technically this was against the 'rules'.”

PP nodded, told CC of the Hayward Plunge’s Reservation system. Of the Claremont Pool’s One per lane waiting ritual. Of KW getting shut out of 3 lanes at some pool in Marin till a smarmy gold chain guy let her in his lane. Of course.

Where did NSW think she was? The Richmond Plunge was in Richmond for Chrissakes! Not some hoity toity tony city!





Maybe NSW wished she were in Marin, or Claremont, or Monte Carlo. Maybe she thought she was special cuz she had been there first and she was a regular and who was CC horning in on her territory?

Whatever.

PP declared that they needed to revisit the Richmond Plunge. Seek out this Odiously Selfish Lane Woman. Find some kids and get them to jump in her lane. Then get some parents to jump in the lane too.

But before this, make sure that CC had her own lane next to hers. So when OSLW had to escape the family pandemonium, CC could smile sweetly and say, “Why can’t you swim over there?”

That’d show her, eh?