It was a slightly blustery weekday at Lake Merritt and few people were around. In an effort to begin toning down some of the blinding whiteness beneath my shirt, in contrast to the healthy tan on my arms and face, I had lain in the grass topless. As I read on a t-shirt, "sun's out/guns out"-- a t-shirt worn I might mention by young Channing Tatum.
In recent years I have been very pious in my daily exercise with includes a dozen push-ups and lots of arms over the head movement. I do this not to look like a body-builder but to keep my chest strong enough to maintain a heartbeat.
Nevertheless the guns and related artillery have increased in size. This coupled with a virtually vegan diet leaves me for the first time in decades with what might be termed a physique.
I bring all this up to provide the context for a moment of affirmation that occurred there at the so-called lake.
The wind picked up and it became chilly for shirtless sunbathing. As I was donning my shirt I threw up my arms and when I looked again a an adorable little Chinese four-year-old boy was enthusiastically observing me. His father and brother had walked on slightly, when he called:
"Daddy, look, muscles!" He copped that constipated muscle man pose with his arms horse-shoed in front of him. He stayed near me to bust his move so I'd see him too. Appropriately was wearing he was wearing a sleeveless muscle shirt himself. He was perfectly of the age when a little boy is rhapsodic over super-heroes and muscle-bound characters of all types. His straight-laced older brother looked back disapprovingly, while the dad and I had were quite amused. I encouraged the kid by flexing like him one time. Health and strengthy.
A few months ago I was at the Trader Joe's store near the Rockridge BART station on College Avenue. My mission which I had hoped to accomplish forthwith was to purchase some licorice chews, some curiously strong mints and a can of steel-cut oats. In and out no need to browse, was what I anticipated.
But Fate had it otherwise. I joined the first 12-items-or-less express-line but I was instantly discouraged by noticing that a lady in line ahead of me had around 48-items-or-more in her trolly. So I switched to the alternate express-line only to discover that there was a basket near the feet of a tall east Indian fellow that also had a large quantity of small items in it.
In my endgame strategy of life I do have what may be for some a tendancy to be rather out-spoken.
Addressing no one in particular,I announced "Twelve items or less...you have more than that you are cheating others."
The tall Indian fellow immediate turned to see who had said this. I showed no perturbation but kept a somewhat serious face I suppose. He asked me, "Does it taste different?"
"Excuse me," I replied. Maybe some others detected a don't-trifle-with-me undertone in my voice; he apparently did not.
I suspect his thinking went along the lines of this: (Deepak Chopra voice) "Sometimes when poepl are uptight if you talk to them in a friendly voice then they get over themselves."
"Does your oatmeal taste different?" he asked.
"What the hell are you talking about?....Does your oxygen taste different?!"
Sudddenly it seemed the whole place customers and employees were all laughing. I thought it was funny but usually I don't get such unanimous agreement for my public commentary. Even the two people who made an attempt to come to his aid--"it does taste different" were laughing.
When I got the cashier he was smiling and scrutinizing me to see if I was being funny or was actually angry.
I expected to see it in the SF Chronicle, Leah garchik's column with its overheard quotes feature.
"Does your oxygen taste different?!"
Man in Rockridge Trader Joe's
asked by a stranger if his oatmeal tasted different.
(I admit that this affirmation was sort of grouchy. He did assume I was Irish I think and happened to be right. My Irish was up a little when I thought he was condescending as well as rude. At this point I am concerned about my temper and about what's been called "Irish Alzheimer's."
That's when all you can remember are the grudges.)
That's when all you can remember are the grudges.)
It was a hot night on Wednesday last week. I spent an hour down at Jack London square waiting for a cooling breeze. Heading home I walked to the Embarcadero bus stop at the foot of Broadway to await my coach. The stop is at the corner where the Home of Chicken and Waffles restaurant is located.
There was steady foot traffic and the light was just dimming. A figure appeared on the opposite corner, a slight African American woman with her hoodie up. She looked rather alone, aleatory, low income, perhaps homeless... to continue the profiling. She seemed to lay her eyes on me and never looked away again. I looked back in her direction with indifference, not looking away in typical nervous avoidance reaction. She just kept looking my way. The situation appeared to bode for a very common experience, one in which a street person sees someone relatively immobilized at a bus stop and uses the advantage to cage donations or even just to spend time in someone's company. Who could blame them.
But this girl's intent seem a little more intense than the average encounter of this sort. But hell, one handles whatever one stumbles upon. Music plays out of speakers on the outside of the Home of Chicken and Waffles, Soul or R and B classics, tunes that I generally enjoy. The girl seemed to pick up on the music as he approached on a beeline to climb onto the curbing of a safety island in the middle of Broadway. There she kept the steady gaze and began a desultory dance, a mild jerk to one side followed by a mild jerk to the other side like a banal metronome. Slyly I had to not let it show that I found it amusing so as not to encourage her.
She gain to in love her arms in her dance, an absurd cobra dance of seduction directed unmistakable at me. Just then a young guy crossing the street passed me and said something with a smile. I removed my earplug for a repeat.
"You've got your own personal entertainment, lucky you," he repeated. I had to laugh and the joviality seemed to attract the go-go dancer who continued on her straight path toward me and resumed her skanking on the curbstone in front of the metal bench on which I sat.
After a few seconds I stood up to go.
"That's alright," I said to her, "my ass hurts anyway."
As I went around the corner toward the previous bus stop, I heard her say,
"I think you look beautiful!"
Home of Chicken and Waffles
photos July 2013