Monday, January 21, 2013

Good Person

“I am a Good Person! I give to Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. I give to AIDS research. I am a Good Person!”
“OK, OK, you Good Person. Now go! She want to relax. Close the door.”

Penelope has stumbled into a Situation. She’s not really in the mood. She’s cold and tired after her 52 minutes in the pool where it was more cold than not. She just wants to lie down in the Hilltopia Sauna and get warmed up. But there is an altercation.

And it’s not pretty.

Good Person continues to stand in the doorway of the sauna, the door wide open, allowing all the cold locker room air to come whooshing into the sauna.

Good Person is upset. Penelope has snuck in past her, crawling up onto the top shelf to try to get warm as the altercation rails on.

“I told you I was sorry!” Good Person edges into the sauna, continuing to leave the door open. “I was having a Bad Day.”

“Okay, Okay, you’re sorry. You having a Bad Day. I understand. Okay. You can go now. She trying to relax.”

Penelope’s not sure that she wants to be the impetuous for Good Person to leave. Good Person continues to block the open doorway, her wet tee shirt dripping on the floor, her square pale body shivering. From the cold? From anger? Frustration? What had she done?

“You go now!” Incensed Woman waves her away. “See?” She points to Penelope. “She want to relax. You leave now.”

Good Person backs out of the sauna. Shuts the door. Shuffles over to the sinks. From her vantage point inside the sauna, Penelope can see through the window to the solid white square form of her, leaning over the sinks, shaking her head. Then standing very still. It's a little eerie. Penelope wonders if she’s going to start screaming.

“She cuss at me!” Incensed Woman hollers over to Penelope, her voice booming loud. Emotion high. “She come into the locker room, she take her clothes and she.....” The words elude her. She makes a wringing motion, like squeezing water out of a swimsuit. “The water. It go all over the floor. Why she do that? Don’t she know that she not suppose to do that? I tell her she not suppose to do that. She get water all over the floor. And she start to CUSS at me.”

Incensed Woman shakes her head. “I no like that. I can not have her cuss at me. So I call upstair. They come down. They tell her she can not cuss at me. They apologize to me. But she still mad. You see?” She waves toward Good Person, who’s headed back toward the sauna. She’s heard the rant.


Flinging the door open, Good Person blocks the doorway once again, her breath coming hard and fast. “I told you I was having a Bad Day. I told you I was sorry. Why can’t you forgive me? Why can’t you be my friend? I am a good person. I give to the Jerry Lewis Muscular......”

Good Person repeats verbatim her good works. Incensed Woman shakes her head, glances over at Penelope before launching into her rebuttal.
“Okay, okay. You are Good Person. I forgive you. Why can’t you understand? You are my friend. Okay? You go away now. She want to relax.”

Good Person never glances at Penelope. It’s as if Penelope doesn’t exist, even though she’s a main sub point of argumentation for Incense Woman’s Tirade.

“I was having a Bad Day. I said I was sorry....” Good Person stares at IW for several seconds. IW doesn’t back down. “Okay, okay, go away now. I forgive you.”

Something finally clicks. Good Person nods, backs out of the sauna, and closes the door.

IW sighs, shaking her head, sidles closer to Penelope. “I think she have Mental Problem, you know? I think there is something wrong in her head.” IW knocks on her wet skull with a petite fist, demonstrating the point of Mental Instability with Good Person.

Penelope nods, “Yeah, maybe....” She’s not really sure what to say. IW seems to have a Mental Problem too. Two Mental Problem Women in the same Sauna---not a relaxing combination.

“I can not have someone Cuss at me, you know?” IW continues, settling back into her dark corner.
”Yes, well, that’s a bit distressing,” Penelope offers. Because it must have been, but what was the cussing exactly? “***&&&KKK you C****@@@ I will wring water all over the floor if I ^^^&&& please. So F***&&& off!”

Somehow, Penelope can’t imagine Good Person going off like this, having observed her in the pool, water walking, for a couple of years now. She always had seemed a bit off, but many members of the YMCA seemed this way. Good Person always wore the white tee shirt, chewed gum, and walked staunchly back and forth in the lane, not interacting with anyone that Penelope can recall, but then again, Penelope was always swimming and didn’t really pay that much attention to the water walkers.

“She got kicked out of Oakland YMCA,” IW continues.
“Really?” Penelope tries to remember if she’s ever seen Good Person at the Oakland Y, but can’t recall ever spying her there.
“Yes. So now she come here. Her daughter pay for her to come here. It’s expensive.”

Penelope nods. So Good Person has a daughter, one that believes in the YMCA’s aqua benefits for her mother. The plot thickens. Penelope wants to ask about the daughter, but doesn’t get a chance.

“I just got this swimsuit yesterday. It’s a one piece. I don’t like two-piece. Do you?”
Penelope laughs softly, “No, I prefer the one piece.”
“I don’t like the two piece. This is a one piece,” IW repeats.

Jumping at the opportunity of actually finding someplace that sells swimsuits in January, Penelope decides to take a chance, “Where did you get it?”
“At Ross.”
“In El Cerrito?”
”No, in San Pablo. You know by the Casino.”

“Oh, yes....I think I know where you mean....” Penelope murmurs, wondering if she should really trust IW to direct her to swimsuit shopping destinations. But she did have a suit on and it did look fairly new, not the usual drooping ones that prevail in January.

“I am a Good Person,” the door has popped open again. Good Person pants heavily.
IW sighs, loudly. “I know I know. You Good Person. Now go away.”
“I was having a Bad Day.”
Penelope thinks it’s time to take a shower. She can’t handle another Exchange Repetition Situation.
“I know I know.”
“You forgive me? I said I was sorry.”
“Yes, yes, I forgive. Now go.”

And she did.

Penelope has no idea. But she's gonna check out the San Pablo Ross tomorrow. She may not be a Good Person, having never given money to the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, but she does know when to take advantage of a situation. Esp. when it involves a new swimsuit.

One piece that is.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Truth About Fruitcake

“Oh! That is you!” Night Nurse Water Walker plops down, breathless, on the lower bench of the Hilltopia Utopia. “I did not know!” she giggles, embarrassed? Penelope wonders why, but is feeling too relaxed to bother asking after her strenuous Friday afternoon swim with the Rusty Hinges.

Usually she tries to make it into the pool with plenty of time to spare before the Rusty Hinges invade the premises. They take up all the lanes. The blaring 40's musical music and bellowing Hinges Leader exhaust her. They're a cute group, what with their colorful Mervyn's suits and flowered shower caps. Yet she'd rather have the pool to herself, of course. Today when she'd had to share the pool with them for the first 20 minutes of their class, she'd been miffed with herself for running late. For no particular reason. Other than it was Friday. And she was cold.

So now, after lying in the sauna for the last 15 minutes, and Night Nurse appears, Penelope is too spaced out to ask why she seems confused about Penelope’s identity. If in fact this is what was going on. Again, Penelope doesn’t care. She's survived the Rusty Hinges Mayhem. She’s finally warm. And she enjoys chatting with Night Nurse.

There’s always a story.

“Ohhhh! My back. It is aching!” NN exclaims, groaning softly as she adjusts her hearty girth round on the bench. “I go upstairs. Do the cardio. It always hurt my back!”
“That’s why you swim!”
“Oh!” She waves Penelope away. “I don’t swim. You swim. You are the swimmer. If I could swim like you.....” Her voice trails off. Wistful?

“You just need to get in the water,” Penelope offers. “It’s healing.”

NN nods. “That is very true, very true.” She sighs. “Today I have to finally go back to work. I have been on vacation for the holidays.”
Penelope thinks how the holidays have been over for weeks---NN must get a lot of vacation! Not that she doesn’t deserve it. Hell, anyone that works the nightshift at SF General or wherever the hell she works, deserves a LOT of vacation!

“Did you have a good New Years?” NN continues.
“Sure, it was fine,” Penelope purposely avoids her own story, wanting to listen to NN’s instead. “How was yours?”
”It was very good!” she pronounces, grinning. Penelope can’t really see the grin in the shadowy dark of Hilltopia, but she can hear it. “We had a big party. My husband he is back from India.”
“That’s nice,” Penelope nods, knowing that her husband has long stints in India away from NN.

“Yes, I was supposed to go to India but the trip is cancelled.” NN pauses. Penelope almost asks why her trip was cancelled but senses that maybe it’s not a good idea. Her intuition tells her that something wrong happened and this is why she didn’t go to India. Like someone died. Or was sick. Or..... who knows?

Today she decides to take a safer tack. “How many people were at your party?”
“45!” NN exclaims, pleased.
“Wow! 45! That’s a lot of people!”

“Yes, but I like it. I cook and people they bring dishes and it is so much fun. I even made Fruitcake but know that the American Friends, they will not like it. British people, Indian people, they like it. But Americans. They do not like fruitcake.”

“Yes, I think that’s true,” Penelope agrees. “I know I don’t like it, but my boyfriend, he’s from Scotland, he likes it.”

”There! You see? British people they like it. But not Americans. I used to take it to work to share with the other nurses, but no one would eat it. They wouldn’t tell me. I just saw that it sat there and no one touched it. They could tell me they don’t like it. I don’t care,” she shrugs, “I would rather that people they tell me what they think. They can be open, tell their opinion. This is so much better. Everyone is more comfortability.”

Penelope smiles to herself, loving the word, ‘comfortabilitly’. Both the misuse of the word form and the strange context of definition. Of course, she knew exactly what NN meant. That we’d all be so much more comfortable if we just said what we think; but is this really true? Penelope thinks that for matters such as Fruitcake Dislike, the truth makes sense. But for other deeper matters, such as things that she can’t even type, (You, dear readers, can fill in the keystrokes) perhaps the truth is better left unsaid.

“That’s so true,” Penelope agrees, not divulging her ‘comfortability’ analysis. For this might be just one of those instances where the truth is better left unsaid. Not that she’d hurt NN’s feelings, or create any sort of uneasiness or tension, but such analysis just didn’t flow with the present narrative of Comfortability Fruitcake.

“Like I said. I don’t care what people think. They don’t like Fruitcake?” she shrugs, laughing softly. “They don’t like Fruitcake. I just don’t bring it for them anymore.”

”Their Fruitcake Loss!”
“Well, you don’t have to bring me any Fruitcake!” Penelope teases.
The belly laugh erupts in gales of mirth. NN doubles over, holding her sides. “OH, you are too funny! Okay, I will remember that. Not to bring you any Fruitcake.” She continues to chuckle, her delight filling the dark heated little room.

“Happy New Year,” Penelope rises, gathering up her stuff and heading toward the door.
“Yes, Happy New Year to you, too!” NN calls after her.

Penelope closes the door behind her; the Fruitcake Mirth Giggles filter out into the locker room.

And so this was one instance where the Truth, in the form of a Tease, was the right choice.

Sometimes, Penelope gets it right.

Sunday, January 06, 2013


“Snart!” (Nickname the sisters gave each other from 40 years ago when snot and fart were combined because these were ‘bad’ words)

“Yes, Snart?” Penelope answered, happy and relaxed after her too warm swim in the Encinitas YMCA Magdalena Eckee pool. Actually, can it ever be too warm for her? No—even 88 degrees, which is what the kids’ pool with the one designated lap lane that Penelope had nabbed, felt heavenly if a bit lethargy. Penelope had relished every moment of this steamy swim. Sure, she didn’t get much of a workout, but she did still do her 2500 yards, albeit very slowly.

So now, back at her sister’s house, watching her check her Facebook page for any new horse updates, Penelope was feeling more relaxed than she had in weeks.
“Lemme do you hair!” Sister Snart exclaimed. “I saw this on the Internet. It’s called an Army Bun.”

“I don’t know....” Penelope hesitated. Did she really want a military hairdo? Not that she was anti-military but she was antiwar, and the idea of sporting a bun with such a militaristic name was decidedly off putting.

“Why do you have long hair if you don’t let me play with in?” Snart Sister whined.
Penelope had to smile. For wasn’t this just what she’d written about before her trip down south? How she was hoping to style her sisters’ hair like the kids she saw at Hilltopia with the Hello Kitty Product? And now, here she was, at her sister’s, with an offer to have her hair done.

Synchronicity as Jung would say.

“Okay,” Penelope relented.

Delighted, SS grabbed the chunk of Penelope’s’ hair and made a ponytail fist with it.

“Why is it called an Army Bun?” Penelope had to ask.
“Because Snart! They have to wear their hair like this in the Army! Now, it’s not that hard to do and it’ll look so pretty. Lemme show you, okay, Snart?”
Penelope grinned, “Okay.”

And the Procedure began. The ponytail first, gathered up on top of Penelope’s head. “It’s high, Snart. You like it high.”
Nodding, Penelope giggled softly. “Yeah, that’s right, I do.”
“Now, you just need to get another rubber band and then you fold the hair over like this Snart....”

Penelope waited as her sister worked her Army Bun Magic. It only took a few minutes and then Voila!

“Snart! See how pretty?”

Penelope twirled around to face the closet mirrors. And yes, it was quite stylish. Her hair looked like a little round haircushion on top of her head.

“That is very pretty, Snart!” Penelope thanked her, wondering how long it’d be before a headache set in from the ponytail.

Yet, it felt fine for several hours. Through dinner and most of the Jennifer Lopez movie on Lifetime. Penelope finally took it down after several hours and lo and behold, she now sported lovely wavy big curls.

“Snart!” her sister marveled. “Look how pretty! Your hair has such nice big curls now!”
“Wow!” Penelope exclaimed, wondering if this is how the Army Women set the stage for romance in the barracks.

Later that night, Penelope had a dream. She was at a large fancy dinner and had to impress a Cranky Dowager. Her hair was a fright. But the woman she was with (not her sister) had the perfect solution. An Army Bun. She quickly styled a perfect one for Penelope’s Dream Self, and when Penelope went back out into the crowd, the Cranky Dowager nodded with approval at her Army Bun.

Of course there was a pool in the dream too, but Penelope didn’t swim in it as it was only ornamental, blue shallowness like Hearst Castle.

Plus a swim would most certainly have ruined her Army Bun.

Or not.
Those Army Women must put their buns through the paces when in the hell of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Penelope, in her dream, had no such test for her Army Bun. It simply saved the day for her with the Cranky Dowager.

And in her waking life?
Penelope knows that the Army Bun was Sister Bonding at its best.
Thanks, Snart!

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