A terrible pain. A dinner with friends. A shiatsu massage. An adoring poodle. Not to mention Cuban salsa dancing. Avoiding the political scandals for the moment – avoidance a temporary measure. And still the plot lines of White Supremacy leak into the narrative – a terrible commentary on our times.
The phrase “cut to the chase” has recently become a favourite of mine. Perhaps I’ve been watching too much Netflix or I’m just impatient with bullshit now that I’m retired and don’t have to put up with it much. Or maybe I just want to slash and burn the contemporary electoral landscape that looks like a clean sweep for the CONs. (Dust off your weeping divan.)
Editorial Note on Electoral Angst
Could I go on about the Liberal blackface scandal and Canadian racism and election polling data? Recent polls suggest the effect of this scandal was to bump up votes for the CONs run by a campaign manager known to associate with White Supremacists. Reputable rumour has it: the CONs leaked the photos of Trudeau to the press. This genealogy is neither here nor there since the damning photographs exist. Polls show a slight bump in the White Supremacist anti-immigration party as well. In 2006, the leak of a scandal in the federal election rattled the electorate who voted the deadly CON Harper into power. Will the same party trick work again?
What Jame Baldwin said about the legacy of White Supremacy
News Alert — while the scene of my dinner unfolded in time, an Indigenous ceremony at the Alberta Legislature was interrupted by a local neo-Nazi White Supremacist who shouted out “Make Canada Great Again.” Even the “childish” headline of this article was chilling. Why are racist outbursts “childish” when racism has to be taught to a child?]
Meanwhile in a diffferent time zone not long after this racist interruption in my city at latitude 43, Billy Porter delivered his magnificent truth-telling Emmy Award acceptance speech:
“James Baldwin said, ‘Took many years of vomiting up all the filth that I had been taught about myself and halfway believed, before I could walk around this earth like I had the right to be here.'”I have the right. You have the right. We all have the right.”Billy Porter, on accepting his Emmy Award for Best Actor “Pose”
A Prairie Feast
Indulge me with a quick pivot back to the comforting domestic scene. A very Canadian turn on the prairie. My plot line: silent pain. Earlier tonight I travelled with my companionable Simone de Bebe to have dinner with dear friends. Noriko and Jun cooked a marvelous meal.
Did I memorialize in photograph any of the dishes? – no of course not. I was too busy eating the delicious pork and egg marinated with the most delicate flavoured sauce. I had second helpings of the special dreamy tofu dish with spicy beef. And the sautéed Chinese greens. The braised crunchy broccoli. The fried rice with many delights. The brown rice that came all the way from Tokyo.
I have no documentation of the feast.
You will have to take my word for it.
Nancy Pelosi Won’t Listen
What can I say? A muscular knife-blade torsion comprises my very heavy present tense.
(I’m sure this weighs on your heart.)
To appreciate the pleasure of the cuisine was a challenge for me tonight. For I sat in my usual (of late) painful squinting harrumph – a week ago I pinched a nerve in my neck and upper arm. The agony is unending. Acupuncture helped for ten minutes and then not. I have had to spend a lot of time on my couch catching up on the comings and goings in the White House and Ukraine. “Impeach Him,” I say. But Nancy Pelosi won’t listen.
I’m sorry to report that this physical ailment has interrupted my retirement well-being. It has cramped my social life — banished in my everyday is the habitual post-retirement whirl of fabulous theatre, film, concerts, not to mention, talks, and outings with friends.
But tonight after dinner I complained to all at the table about my outcast state.
Orlando’s Salsa Transported
Earlier in the afternoon (if you are interested), I was desperate. In spite of the pain, I attended my fabulous Cuban salsa class taught by a wonderful man named Orlando.
His name makes my dancing spirit take off. I am trans-ported to those time-travelling lives of Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando, after the protagonist, a cross-dressing diva. (Later made into Sally Potter’s exceptional film starring that gorgeous ambiguous beauty Tilda Swinton. I don’t have time to tell you how, in 1971, I read this novel on the third and fourth class deck of a Pacquet ocean liner passing by Gibraltar en route to Casablanca, Lanzarote, and Dakar. I was 20 and on my way to meet my woman lover.
I could explore how all this came to be but that would be another story. So I will turn back to the novel and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. This consolidated my bisexuality originally nurtured in me by Simon de Beauvoir’s novels. The fact that Simone’s woman lover may or may not have been gassed to death was immaterial. I was a bookish girl eager for illicit disruption.
Now that I reflect on this Straits of Gibraltar ocean liner scene and my first encounter with Orlando, I recognize a Woolfian raising of my sexual and gender consciousness occurred while I was experiencing a lesson in Whiteness on that ocean liner.
Budgeting my slim funds in Marseille, I requested a fourth-class ticket. I was told I had to travel third class – not realizing til later I would require my own room. In the third and fourth-class cafeteria at mealtime, I was the only woman travelling below second class. One hundred and sixty-nine men travelled with me. An all-white seven-man French film crew was travelling to Dakar. (This detail would become relevant were my telling of this tale not abbreviated.)
Every evening we all repaired to the spacious fourth-class deck. One hundred and sixty-three African men returning to Africa chatted and played games and made the kind of extraordinary music that would become the famous players of world music. I couldn’t understand the words but I imagined the sounds of the music they played every night on the deck told stories of lost loves and returning home to Mali or Senegal or Cote d’Ivoire…. Or did they? Which of these men were students from Pittsburgh or Chicago travelling to discover their African roots before Roots?
But I digress –
Today I danced the Cuban salsa in spite of the pain. I’m eager to learn. Ever perceptive I managed to tell one of my partners, a visiting dance instructor, that he was “a good dancer” before I learned he was indeed an instructor. A lesson in litotes. This man mentioned to me (as I tried not to look at his feet) that he danced a different salsa, an Angolan dance that was “slower.” My curiosity was piqued — but, at that very moment, Orlando called to us to rotate onto another partner. (Perhaps it wasn’t Angolan – was my hearing aid acting up?)
In the end, while salsa is always uproariously fun, I found that my flight of fancy feet could not compensate for the agonizing arm. I tripped the light fantastic but plummeted to earth.
A Brief Lesson in Karate
Meanwhile back at dinner tonight, Jun volunteered to help develop more circulation in my upper arms. Perhaps that might fix what ails me.
This is how I found myself standing beside the balcony door as Jun taught me how to punch.
It was a short lesson in karate. Jun is very good at whatever he does. And even this brief lesson was precise and productive.
Jun taught me the finger positions. the thumb, the driving torque and thrust of the karate punch. He mentioned that he once did 1000 karate punches a day. I don’t know how many I performed tonight. Let’s pretend I punched 100 times. Perhaps. In any case, no matter the particulars, the punches did something productive to my shoulder. Blood rushed to the crisis centre. Something was sloshing through the agonizing corporeal region of my being – an energetic sigh blew round what had been a rigid taut tendons that rivalled Trump’s southern border wall horror. (In my mind, is my pain a somatized manifestation of my horror at the public intensification of White Supremacy.)
I digress encore to sing the praises of my friend Jun – a remarkable man, very amusing, and exceptionally likeable. Though he might be embarrassed to hear me say this perhaps. But how does one underplay this lovely man. He once trained as a boxer before he authored books, taught at a Tokyo university, did a PhD at Berkeley, produced spectacular photographs, became an excellent cook, grew an organic garden, studied Cree, beading, and tufting. Not in that order. & Not to mention how he has managed to entertain for years his most wonderful partner Noriko. He is a man of many talents.
Meanwhile back in my body mind eye – my pinched nerve survived. Karate had not done the trick tonight. My shoulder and neck agony rebounded. Would the pain move beyond unremitting? I retired in silence to a chair to nurse my muscular suffering.
Crucifiction is Coined
If I tried to explain to you how I felt, I would have to confess that my shoulder manifested the sensation of having been crucified.
Perhaps this is what happens to atheists when Jason Kenney and Andrew Scheer and Doug Ford and all manner of rich white men’s corporate Koch-brother fuelled governments rule my universe?
My body tells me I’m having some kind of torturous premonition. Crucifixion complex.
Or perhaps – hopefully – it is more a question of genre: “Crucifiction” And something more positive will come to pass Election Day 2019.
My blog at the moment is an escape from the politics that fail us. I will save writing this up at length for a day when the temperature plummets.
And here the author puts a bag over her head and digresses encore to a domestic scene…
At dinner tonight, my whining had an effect and Jun took pity on my outcast state and offered to give me a shiatsu massage. Kim and Nathalie and Noriko chatted at the table eating ice cream while I sat upright and in pain in a comfortable chair nearby.
Jun’s shiatsu massage started off very softly and built to an excruciating crescendo of finger pointing at the precise spots where some muscular conflict manifested. I might summarize the experience: Muscle Armageddon. Corporeal Apocalypse.
Soon enough in the middle of the shiatsu pressure points, I found myself hanging suspended from Jun’s fingertips. In my mind’s eye, I thought my head might drop off.
Eventually the massage stopped. I remained very still – still sitting in the chair. But something profound had happened. All of the tormented energy had left my body – floated out the balcony door. Gathered into a purple haze on the horizon, the pain coalesced around a memory of the exceptional psychedelic September sunset that earlier seared the night sky.
Post Shiatsu Massage
I was asked how I felt. My friends were still at the table. Jun was curious too.
My thoughts were jumbled. My body quite numb. What was there to say? What indeed… I blurted out:
I feel like I’ve just had 12,000 orgasms.
Not a bad review for a fully clothed sitting in a chair shiatsu massage. Perhaps a factor in this hyperbolic but accurate assessment was that the shiatsu massage had been preceded by a) my 200 karate training punches. And b) a delicious Noriko/Jun dinner.
Or maybe it is the case that Jun does have “magic” fingers as we all suspect.
My outburst about orgasm is not unprecedented.
Decades ago I experienced my first hot flash in the middle of an upper level undergraduate class. As I stood in front of the students, furnace flames licked my flesh from toe to head. And I blurted out — (certainly the most appropriate onomoetapeic verb for this occasion) — Oh I think I am having my first hot flash.
What is it like? asked a young woman.
An orgasm without the pleasure, I confessed, astonishing myself.
If you meet me on the street, I don’t think i want to demonstrate my karate punch anytime soon in case my now generalized federal election anxiety accidentally propels me to land a lethal throat knuckle sandwich.
And how do I feel? I think my shoulder has broken open. As I write the throbbing has dissipated. Hurrah. I will update Jun tomorrow.