Incident at Rite-Aid

This house can be hot and stuffy, so on sunny days the back door is left open, along with most of the windows and interior doors. Even overnight last night, it never much cooled down, and everyone except Joe slept with their doors open wide, to let the evening breeze blow through.

Why was Joe's door closed? He has an air conditioner. Only one in the house. The rest of us melt.

I do not like sleeping with my door open. The door to my bedroom should always be closed unless I'm walking through it. Privacy is a big deal. Gotta be able to walk around with or without pants, to pick my nose if it needs harvesting, and of course masturbate whenever I feel like it, and without an audience, thanks. Last night, it was too friggin' hot to close the door, even at 3:00 in the morning.

At Pike's place, I have an electric fan the size and strength of a 747 engine. It'll solve the problem, when I bring it under the bay and plug it in here in Berkeley.

Meanwhile, another problem with having the door open is that Peculiar, the cat that shits wherever it wants, shat next to my shoes last night. Maybe tonight she'll shit inside the shoe.

♦ ♦ ♦

I am not much of a sports fan, and even less of a football fan. The sport sort of nauseates me.

Strangers are smiling, though, and everyone's giddy at the news that the Oakland Raiders are returning from the longest road trip in sports history. They're moving back from Los Angeles. Even as someone who emphatically doesn't give a damn, the Raiders belong in Oakland, I think, same as cable cars belong in San Francisco and imbeciles in Orange County.

Of course, as with every time a team moves or a stadium is built, it's the local government's money that makes it happen. How many millions of dollars will the city of Oakland and county of Alameda be paying? Lots. Fortunately, there's no unemployment or hunger in the east bay, so the money doesn't matter.

♦ ♦ ♦

Two of my favorite films placed at the UC Theater, so I was there for the discount matinee of Blue Velvet (1986) and Santa Sangre (1989). I've paid to see those movies before, and probably will again, but they weren't nearly as good today as they've been in the past. Guess my mood was wrong, for blood, gore, and misogyny.

Blue Velvet has Kyle MacLachlen and Laura Dern as Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, except instead of putting on a show in the barn they're snooping into a very 1990s maiming and/or abduction and/or murder. It works as a mystery or as campy noir, but much of it revels in brutal sex, and I was just, Not tonight, dear.

Santa Sangre is no less perverted, but without even the veneer of normalcy. Here's religious insanity, bloody murder, suicide, child torture, and cocaine for Mongoloids, and I've seen it all before and loved it all before. It's a great movie, I know.

So's Blue Velvet. Both movies deserve rave reviews.

The problem was me. I was feeling way too good, too wholesome and happy for tonight's double feature. I walked out of the theater whistling "Singing in the Rain," and then walked all the way to my new home, which felt like two miles, but what the heck, I could've walked three.

♦ ♦ ♦

By then it was almost 6:00, which is not bedtime for me, but it's "start to unwind" time, especially since I didn't sleep well last night, in the new house. When Judith invited me to go with her to get a prescription filled at the drug store, I almost said no, but I needed wet-wipes and macaroni and cheese, so away we went, for an errand that became an incident.

At the drug store, the estimated wait time was half an hour for someone to count 36 pills, and Judith said she needed to replace a loose Band-Aid on her foot. Having no interest in her Band-Aid or foot, I stayed in the store, wandered the aisles while she went out to the car and tended whatever pained her paw.

When she came back into the store and found me, she pointed to her foot and said, "The Band-Aid is almost exactly the same color as my skin. 'Flesh tone', they call it, but it must look awful on anyone who isn't white."

Another shopper in the store, a black woman, found this offensive. She started with, "Excuse me, but" and then berated Judith for her "lack of sensitivity." Judith listened, waited for it to end, and when it didn't she interrupted.

"Can we talk about it? I think you misunder—"

"No, this isn't Ricki Lake, and we're not going to 'talk' about it," and she whirled and walked away.

And, scene.

Judith was flustered. I was bewildered. That had been a very strange moment at the Rite-Aid. 

Always when there's a confrontation or argument, I try to see the other person's perspective, so I tried. I'd probably be super-sensitive if I'd gone through my whole life being treated like less because of the shade of my skin.

That said, whatever that woman perceived was all in her head. Judith's comment about the Band-Aid had no offensive subtext. I haven't known Judith long, and maybe I don't know her well, but she's never said anything even slightly racist while I've been around.

Band-Aids are Caucasian. That's just a fact. I've never seen Ricki Lake's show, but that black lady belongs on Morton Downey. It was a sit-com-worthy misunderstanding, but what happened next was more like Russian Roulette.

Judith's prescription was ready, her name was called, and the pharmacist was another black woman. Maybe Judith was still flustered, and wanted a second opinion, or maybe she's a high-wire act without a net. She asked the pharmacist what she thought of what had happened, but the pharmacist hadn't seen it, so Judith recited it all: the Band-Aid, the comment, the confrontation.

I don't know why — I sure wouldn't have — but the pharmacist listened patiently. When the story was over she said the color of Band-Aids bothered her too, and that nothing Judith had said sounded offensive to her. Then she excused herself and went into the back to do whatever pharmacists do. Probably laugh at the customers.

What to make of what happened, I do not know. The first act was an innocent comment misconstrued, awkward as hell, but it could happen to anyone. An instant replay, though, asking a stranger's opinion afterward? Fuck no. Race is a touchy topic in America, where some people owned others people for centuries, and no reparations have ever been paid. You tread tender, not full speed ahead.

If one black lady screamed at me, I would not turn to the next black lady and ask what she thought. I was silently screaming no-no-no during the entire second act.

From Pathetic Life #13
Friday, June 23, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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