Thursday, November 16, 2006

The problem with exercising, as my friend Phil said, is that it makes you tired. I taught three classes yesterday, went to an afternoon tea for women artists at Interplayce where there were two inspiring guests from India: a singer whose focus is on healing, who demonstrated for us how the sound touches down to the navel when she sings--a kind of vocal yoga. And a gorgeous young woman, Shirin--her parents didn't give her a surname on purpose, she is just "Shirin" which means sweet-- who does street theatre, political in nature, at marketplaces and community centers, and anywhere she can. She also has a theatre group in Washington, D.C., where it's actually illegal to do street theatre--you can be arrested for performing without a permit--so they crowd into any little space they can to bring relevant theatre to people.

Both women were very passionate about how their work is work for peace, healing, and social justice and not "just" art. The other women at the meeting were dancers and musicians, a visual artist, a filmmaker, and me...

Then I swam half a mile at the gym--there was enough chlorine in the water to choke a horse. When I went over G's house afterwards to watch The Sopranos, the fumes from my hair nearly knocked him over. I'm sure so much chlorine is unhealthy, but there's no exercise which quite feels like it gets every cell of my body like swimming does. I'm addicted to the immersion into another world.

Also, I like the steam room at my new gym, mostly because it is so diverse; often I'm the only white person in there, and very often the only native English-speaker. Last night I was heating up between laps with two women from Eritrea, who wore bathing suits with little skirts attached and chatted in their language; a young Asian couple, Korean or Chinese I think, but not sure, who were flirting in their language, and a few Latino men who were discussing politics in Spanish. At least I could understand some of what they were saying.

At my old gym, the jacuzzi and the sauna were in the women's locker room; you could go be naked, and there was the comfort of an all-woman atmosphere. I miss the luxurious sight of naked women...Here, the facilities are out by the pool area, and it's more social, more international and and more clothed.

I thought of the article I had just read in O Magazine (standing up, in Walgreen's) about Congolese women who have been systematically raped. After a rape, their husbands reject them, and the whole family--and then the whole country--falls apart. The courageous efforts of some women to change this, to at least remove the social stigma of rape from the traumatized victims.

I thought of sitting naked in hot tubs with men at Esalen and Harbin, how friendly and easy it is, how innocent we all can be with our soft vulnerable flesh. And how that softness and vulnerability is subject to so much cruelty. Why is sexuality such a gift, such a burden, such a matter of life and death in some parts of the world, and so casual in others?

Anyway, Phil is right, exercising does make you tired. It feels great to BE in shape, not so much getting there. And since I let myself fall out of shape, I'm now in the exhausting process of trying to get my 48-year-old body back where I like it...hence the half-mile work-out which ends up taking two hours because I have to warm up, and warm down and all that...

This morning I had to be out in Walnut Creek teaching 4th graders at 8:30 a.m., not my finest hour. The alarm went off at 6:30, I lay in bed, half-dozing, listening to Masankho in the bathroom. When I finally realized I HAD to get up, it was 7:45 on my watch, which I always set five minutes fast. Walnut Creek is 45 minutes away.

In all modesty, I think I could win a contest for fastest getting ready in the morning, if anyone ever wants to put one on. One minute for peeing, one minute to run hands through hair and decide it looks acceptable enough to get by without a dunk under the shower and the addition of more product. Either wear the velour sweatpants I sleep in, or strip them off fast and put on jeans, a bra, a gray sweater, a blue butterfly scarf that my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas three years ago.

One minute to fill up water bottle, grab a couple of string cheese sticks and a couple of carrots out of the fridge, run out to car, pull out and get going. On the way to work: eat cheese sticks, drink water (spilling some,) munch carrots, apply lipstick, pray for light traffic.

You can sit in meditation halls for a hundred years, getting to know the inner workings of your own mind; or you can be a chronically late commuter.

"Move out of my way, you CUNT!" I heard myself thinking viciously at a slow truck, which rumbled in front of me. Cunt? I NEVER ever ever use that word in real life. I hardly know that word. And yet there it was, spewing out of my mind in a self-righteous and completely unjustified fury.

I arrived at school with one whole big fat minute to spare which allowed me to pour a cup of teacher's-room coffee into a styrofoam cup, add some milk and gulp it down while racing to the first class. Phew!!

Now I'm home, it's 12:35, I'm bone-tired. I'll turn in for a nap before going out to perform with Wing It! tonight. Tomorrow night starts this playwriting boot camp which I signed up for--we got the instructions to write ten pages by tomorrow evening--I haven't written one, but I'm thinking I can use some of the stuff I scribbled when I taught a poetry class Tuesday night--or some of my free-writing from teaching Personal Essay class Sunday night, or from when I taught Memoir class Saturday morning.

I ordered two organic turkeys at the grocery store today, because there's going to be a horde of people for least five Wing-ers, and five or six friends from the rest of my life, and five or six of G's friends, (the harem,) plus a miscellaneous extra guest or two...usually my holidays are filled with lesbians, neighborhood kids, and ex-boyfriends or sort-of boyfriends. I miss the neighborhood kids, haven't had them since all the chaos and rip-offs of Ophelia.

Later: napped all afternoon. Now I feel MUCH better. G woke me at one point, calling from his car, in San Francisco:

"You have to write a poem about this. There are hundreds of people lined up outside this store where Playstation 3 will debut tomorrow. They want to be one of the first to shell out $600.00 for a video game. They have been sleeping on the pavement since yesterday and they'll sleep there tonight so as not to lose their place in line."

I said, "You should take a photograph of it."

"I would, but I don't have my camera with me."

I forgot to say that the really revolutionary thing about the kind of theatre we do--improv--is that it's so inexpensive. You don't need sets, or costumes, or even lights. You can do it anywhere. That's what Shirin, the Indian woman, was talking about. Making theatre an accessible mode of expression for everyone again. I love "real" theatre--I love to go to the Berkeley Rep, or the ACT and see a good show--I really love movies and even good TV. But the revolution comes when we realize we need nothing extra, nothing outside to entertain ourselve, just our bodies and voices and stories. That we alone are enough.

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