Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jean Quan




Jean Quan looked dynamite in her backless leotard/skirt gym wear. Surprisingly so. PP admired her smooth bare brown back with various communication devices tucked into the waistband of her Hawaiian print skirt.

She was busy directing. Naturally. What else would the mayor of Oakland being doing at the downtown Oakland YMCA? Here in the upstairs Torture Machine room, the floor was rapidly being emptied of all of the broken machines. “That one there. Out with it!” Quan bellowed as two Y clerks hurried to do her bidding.

Jean marched around the rapidly expanding space. Hands on hips, surveying the scene. PP wondered how she had time to come to the Y given all that the City of Oakland was dealing with at the moment. Occupy Oakland and all of its myriad headaches had not been kind to Jean.

But she was undaunted. She knew that she still had Some Authority, goddammit. And if it wasn’t with those stupid protesters or her stupid police chief, then hell, she could show who’s Boss at the Downtown Oakland YMCA!

“Mrs. Quan,” a Timid Helper ventured toward her, holding a mangled fan. “Where do you....”
“It’s Mayor Quan to you, young man,” Jean commanded, “and don’t you forget it!”
“Yes, Ma’am...”

Jean frowned mightily at the Offending Youth, “I mean, yes, Mrs. Mayor....”

Sighing heavily, Jean shook her head, Did no one get it that she was in Charge? That what she said was Law? Maybe she needed to show them all just how serious she was about this business of revamping the Downtown Oakland Y. Sure she had her sleek workout ensemble on, and maybe this detracted from her authority. Or was it something else?

Jean scratched her head as she directed the OY to recycle the fan in the appropriate pile of discarded equipment.

Okay, she had to admit, even to herself, that maybe leaving town for the Big Protest hadn't been the swiftest of moves, but hell, isn’t that why she had a Chief of Police? Shit. If a Mayor can’t even leave town for one teeny weenie little political soiree, what was the use of all her power of office? And, yeah, okay, maybe she had said the Protesters could camp and then she’d said they couldn’t or .....

Hell, who cares! The Protesters, the Chief of Police, the City of Oakland be damned.

She had a Y to revamp and then a workout to complete before she could bother with such mundancities.

PP watched as Jean headed across the room to confer with a Too Fit Blonde (in Oakland?) Zumba Instructor, before wandering into another side room off the main big room; riveting as Jean was, PP had to check out the rest of the remodel situation.





Entering the empty blue walled room PP gasped, stricken. To her horror all of the pool equipment was piled forlornly in the corner. The kickboards. Pull buoys. Hand paddles. All tossed in a heap on the floor.

What did it mean? Was Jean gonna close the pool?

PP wouldn’t put it past her. She didn’t trust Jean at all. Sure she was the first woman mayor and sure she was the first Asian mayor, but obviously, Jean was not a swimmer; otherwise, she wouldn’t have been so quick to divest the pool of all of its lap swimmer accouterments.



“What are you doing in here?”

Startled, PP glanced round to confront Mayor Quan, whose brow was furrowed in furious frustration. PP wondered if this was because of her own transgression into the pool equipment room or if it were some permanent face situation from being mayor.

“I...” PP began. But what could she say? She was here to snoop around and she’d been caught red-handed. By the Mayor herself.

“Don’t give me that drivel!” Jean interrupted, pulling a threatening sort of instrument from out of her waistband. It was long and silver and pointed, looking suspiciously like ....a gun?

No, PP hadn’t done anything that bad. Hell, she was just leaving anyway. “I just was looking for the exit is all, Jean,” PP smiled her biggest kiss ass grin.

Quan continued to glare at her pointing what was definitely a gun into PP’s too close mug. “Do you think I’m an Idiot?” she demanded.
“Well...actually,” PP began, but then thought better of an honest response. “Of course not. I just was wondering why all of the pool equipment is up here in this room so far away from the pool and....”

”I see,” Quan sneered, “a Swimmer, are you?”

“Yes," PP spoke quickly, hoping to talk her way out of an increasingly bizarre situation, "and while I get what you’re trying to do here by getting rid of all the old and broken machines, I can assure you that this pool equipment is perfectly fine and has many good years of use left...”

”Shut up!” Jean commanded, waving the gun closer. “I say what stays and what goes. You got that? I’m sick and tired of everyone questioning my Authority. You people elected me and....”
“Actually, I think you came in second or was it third...” PP began.

Jean raised her arm, taking aim; PP stared down the barrel of the weapon, stopping in mid thought.

BANG!!!!





With a start, PP cried out. She'd been shot by Jean Quan? For coming to the defense of some inconsequential pool equipment. What had she been thinking? Kickboards and hand paddles weren't dying for!

It couldn't be!

And, of course, it wasn't.
It had all been a horrible dream. Or a hilarious dream. Depending on your point of view.

PP opted for the hilarious angle.

Especially since she was pretty goddamn sure that Jean Quan had never stepped foot in the downtown Oakland Y.

At least not in That Slinky Workout Getup. Though she didn't doubt that Jean could clean up the Oakland Y's dilapidated third floor weight room.

If only someone, anyone, would give her a chance.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Occupy the Swimming Pool




“I was trying to avoid talking to a certain someone who shall remain nameless, but earlier today, she asked me ‘What was going on up there’ in reference to the helicopters overhead.”

Sandy shakes her head, amused? Bemused? Disgusted?

“What did you tell her?” PP asks, not being able to help herself from questions even though she knows the possible consequences.
“I try not to have much truck with her, like I said, so I didn’t say anything, just beat a hasty retreat. You remember, Dexter?”
“I think so.” PP nods, pretending she knows who she’s talking about.
“Big handsome African American kid who worked the front desk?”
“Oh, yes,” PP lies.

“Well, one day, This Woman Who Shall Remain Nameless, she wants to go workout, and she has this kid too, 'bout 7 or 8, and she brings said kid up to the machines and puts him on a treadmill and Dexter sees this and says, 'Whoa Nelly, no way Jose. You can’t have the kid up here on the machines!' And so she just nods and starts fishing around in her bag and digs out some crayons and paper and starts to hand them to Dexter saying how he can just take her kid down to the front desk and watch him for her and Dexter says, ‘No way, Lady. Not in my job description'.”






Sandy chuckles at the memory. PP nods thinking of how Dexter was coming back to her now. Wasn’t he the one that came running into the women’s locker-room without warning when someone fainted in the hot tub? Hollering at the women to ‘Cover up! I’m coming in’ and then all the women were up in arms about his invading their sacred naked space even though he had good reason. Someone’s life was maybe in peril.

PP could ask Sandy if this was the same person. Sandy would remember. But PP decides against it this time.

“You know how at the end of the pool,” PP starts instead, “there’s a board with the Master’s Team work out?”
Sandy nods.
“It just lists the workout: 200 warm up. 200 kick. 200 free, etc.”
“Sure, of course.”
“Well at the bottom of the board today it said, “Occupy the Swimming Pool.”

DL cracks up, her brown belly happy in giggle. Sandy continues to sit for a moment, seemingly confused.
DL offers, “You know, Occupy Oakland, Occupy the Swimming Pool.”
Sandy grins, and then laughs slowly. “Ah, I see. Very clever.”
“Yes, I thought it was funny,” PP adds. “'Bout all I can handle. I know I wouldn’t be able to Occupy Oakland.”
“But the pool,” Sandy nods, “you can Occupy That.”




PP grins, suddenly tired, remembering how she'd had another conversation with Hilltopia Nurse the night before. Her accent inhibiting the content of the dialogue. “I listen radio tonight on way here and did you hear in Oakland they throw cannis….I’m not understand. What they throw. But the people their eyes were burning and their throats were sore and do you know why they do this?”

PP had been confused. What the hell was she talking about? Something 'bout the protestors in Oakland? Were the police throwing tear gas into the crowd? That’s what it sounded like. Could this be?

PP didn’t doubt it; and sure enough, when she got home and turned on the news this is what had happened.

What the hell was the City of Oakland thinking? Gassing the crowd? Shit.Though on the other hand, why were all these people camping out in front of Oakland’s city hall?

“It’s symbolic,” DL had explained. “They have a right to free assembly to protest.”
And of course, PP understands this, but….

You won’t catch her camping out anywhere, especially in downtown Oakland. In the middle of a huge crowd.

No showers. No TV. No pool.

Nope, she’s gonna stick to Occupying the Pool. She's all for the Symbolic, but when it comes to Occupations, it's the Pool and not the City for her.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stop Asking So Many Questions!




“Do you have plans for the weekend?”

Serene Latina sighs, deeply, sadly, palpably.

Damn, PP thinks, what the hell have I done? Something bad is gonna come out of her mouth and it’s my own damn fault. If I wasn’t always digging for stories, then whatever she’s gonna tell me, well…..I wouldn’t know.

Up till this moment the conversation had been Sauna Banal. SL and answered PP’s questions about tennis and its myriad intricacies. Did she play singles or doubles? (Singles) How long has she been playing? (Off and on for over 20 years) Where did she play? (Some league in Contra Costa County that PP had never heard of and so it went immediately out of her brain.)

Yet, underlying all of the banality, there had been an undercurrent of Something. PP had felt it the moment SL had entered the Sauna. She’d thought, well, maybe she’s been ill or maybe she’s been working too much or maybe one of her kids went off to college or…..

Who knows? PP had ignored her first intuition and gone ahead and continued to probe with question after question and then with the ‘weekend plans’ question, the most banal of all, well, she’d stepped into it, hadn’t she?

“I actually have sad plans….” SL sighs again, softly, heavily. “…very very sad plans….”

Shit, PP thinks, this is worse than she’d anticipated. What the hell could it be other than a Tragic Death? Damn. PP does NOT want to hear about a Tragic Death, but now it was too late. She can’t take the question back. She has to listen and not start crying.

Or hope that SL doesn’t start crying.
Which she seems on the Verge of.

“My co-worker, I know her not that well, but I know her pretty well, and I have been working with her for 10 years only but this last week, her 21 year old son, he was killed in a car accident...."
“Oh, no!” PP exclaims softly. “How horrible. I’m so sorry.”





SL nods. “Yes, thank you. It is very sad. He was so young. And I feel like I knew him because I saw him grow up. At company gatherings he would be there when he was little and then over the years I saw him turn into a very nice young man and now…this weekend... I must attend his funeral on Sunday at 4....”

She pauses, sighs again. PP doesn’t respond. How can she? What can she say? It is horrible. 21 is so goddamn young. And then it all goes back to, strangely, what PP was thinking of earlier as she left work, walking out to her car through the darkening parking lot. “I could get into my car right now and get in an accident and that would be that.”

She had actually thought this this specifically only a couple of hours before.
What did such serendipity mean? It was strange. Not like PP had gotten into an accident. And not like she’d thought this before SL’s 21 year old Tragic Death accident, but still…..it was a little eerie.

PP believes in superstition. Not in any concrete way, but when Something happens that she had a feeling would happen, she’s not surprised.




So tonight, as she listens to SL tell her story about a life cut short, as cliché as that sounds, it doesn’t surprise her that she had known Something was wrong. PP barely knows SL; they’ve exchanged banalities a half a dozen times in the last few years, but yet, when someone feels this sad, you know it. It’s there and can’t be hidden.

Perhaps it would have come out even if PP hadn’t been asking all the questions?

Perhaps.

Yet, PP thinks that she just better stop asking so many questions. It’s not healthy. For her.

Yet, maybe for SL, it was good to talk a little bit about the Tragedy to a stranger? Maybe.

Though PP doubts this. When tragedy strikes, it’s better to just stay home, cry a lot, and then go to the pool and swim and swim and swim and swim.....

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Oh Those Sisters!



“I don’t know why I’m telling you all this.”

And PP wonders this too. Why is it that many of the women in Utopia (or in this case, Hilltopia’s sauna) feel like they can tell her everything? If they only knew how she was writing it all down in her blog! Maybe they do know and they want to be part of a ‘story’?

PP doubts this. For whatever reason, she must be a sympathetic listener. Or at least sometimes, usually when she’s just finished swimming and she’s too tired and relaxed to interrupt. Though she’d be the first to admit that she encourages the ‘stories’. Which is exactly what she’s done today.

Chevron Woman has been on a Sister Rant for a good 15 minutes:

“I just got back from vacation. Well actually it wasn’t much of a vacation. I mean it was in a way, but well I just went to visit my sister. In Modesto. I’ve never been to Modesto. And she just really got on my nerves….”

“Why was that?” PP asks. “Just Sister Stuff?”

CW nods, “Yeah, just Sister Stuff. You know she’s just on my case about this Black Mold in my bathroom and I try to tell her that I don’t have time to deal with it. I work full time and so it’s hard to wait around for the contractor and then once the contractor’s there then you have to supervise them and then so I just don’t have the time.”






“Does she work?”

“No, no she used to. So she should get it. In fact there was this one time when we were all gonna drive to Disneyland and we all had to wait until she got off work at 5:30 even though that was right at rush hour but no she couldn’t get off early and so we all had to wait and so she should get it that I can’t just take the time off and deal with some contractor and I don’t even know if it is Black Mold I mean I would have to call someone and have him come out and investigate and then once he did I’d have to have him come back and do the work and well….”





Her voice trails off for a moment as she takes a breath. PP intercedes, “Well, she’s probably just concerned about you.”

“Yeah, she’s probably just concerned about me. You’re probably right, but still, I don’t have the money either it takes 1000’s of dollars to fix something like that, right?”
“I would imagine. I don’t know.”
“I would imagine too even though I don’t really know.”

PP observes how CW immediately clings to her rejoinders, repeating them verbatim. It’s like PP is leading a very receptive one-on-one tutorial with a student from China who is proving she knows the material by regurgitating it word for word.

“Anyway, I didn’t really want to talk about this when I was down there visiting it was my vacation after all and her husband didn’t seem to mind even though I thought he’d be bored with it and when she said that I could stay an extra day but then she said maybe her husband wouldn’t like me to stay an extra day and so I said okay, I can go but then she went out I don’t know where to the store or something and her husband came in and I asked him if he would mind if I stayed an extra day and he said sure no problem. So you see it was all her.”

“Oh those Sisters!” PP exclaims.

“Yes, Those Sisters!” CW repeats.

"And then I had to apply for vacation from my job way in advance and Management said that it was okay back in January but now that I’ve left they didn’t have anyone to fill in for me so we’ll see what’s piled up since I’ve been gone. It’s not my fault it’s Management’s Fault.”




“It usually is.”
“It usually is,” she repeats, nodding and then stops and stares at PP for a moment, “I don’t know why I’m telling you all this.”

Laughing, PP shrugs, “That’s okay. I don’t mind. Just go for a swim. That will help.”
“That will help!” She grins before shuffling down the slick hall past the showers to the pool.