The Johnston Letter, Volume 3, Number 1
Sleeping Giant -- Beware!
By Jill Johnston
Copyright 2007 Jill Johnston
On Magna Carta day, that's June 15, I heard a baseball commentator say that when the Mets played the Yankees that evening, there would be enough star power on the field to light up all of New York City. In that case, the place to be was at large in the city, not in the stadium, a place I could never get to anyway. I could just peer out my window, and see the city all lit up. I wait for unusual events like this -- especially if I don't have to go outside. Going across town a few months ago to see "The History Boys," waiting in a basement lobby of the theater while Ingrid stood in a ticket line outside, a new feeling overcame me: a fear of not being home. Once we got into our seats and saw the movie, which by the way we liked very much, I forgot my fear. Now the film, worth seeing more than once, is on order, and I can see it as a Video, lolling in bed. The Yankees barely light up your screen now, much less the city. They're all in the doldrums from losing game after game, proving out my theory that their star player Alex Rodriguez is bad news for the team. His history before the Yankees bought him for trillions was as a heavenly body on two losing teams, the Seattle Mariners and the Texas Rangers. Now at mid-season he has 28 home runs and soars in other stats above both team members and league competitors; and the commentators can't stop saying how great he is, or to put it in trash-speak, sucking him off. Why I care about this is a mystery to me. I have true concerns. There are places to go for instance that are much more fearsome than crosstown for a movie. Uptown is one of these places. Usually Ingrid drives me there to some appointment or other, and the city traffic makes me berzongers. The noise of course is apocalyptic, but people, vehicles and buildings are surreally colliding, while every fender is about to rubbish your own, especially fenders of taxis which pretty much own the streets. Then once we get there wherever there is, I feel desperate to be home. One day I entered a lobby on Madison near 60th familiar to me for 30 years. My dentist Stanley, upstairs on the 16th floor, knows from his records how many times I've been there and it's many more than the number of Rodriguez's career home runs. I used to climb the 16 flights. Now I call up on my cell, and Stanley's wife, assistant or hygienist very considerately comes down in an elevator to get me. I figure they go up and down these elevators every day, and they're still alive, so I'm bound to be safe in their company. Just in case however, I always have some food and water with me. On this particular day, I had no water, and when I called up I asked Gail who was coming down for me to please bring some in one of their paper dental cups. When she came down, holding the little cup of water, and saw me in the lobby, she said I looked very pale and should go home. Whadda relief! At home I could see "Glory" for the fifth time in a row. Now I understand at last why black men were enfranchised in America 50 years before women of any color. The "Negroes" of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, led by Matthew Broderick playing the role of his life as Colonel Shaw, heroically helped the Union win the war. I start crying as soon as the film begins. I remember seeing Denzel collect his Oscar for supporting role, and protesting the absence of an award for the film itself. I know there were other black regiments, but now I own the Massachusetts 54th. I love them. And I love Matthew for dying with them. I have unexpected sympathy for war. Or for men not feeling like men unless they fight, and fight to the death. The problem Hillary has of course in wanting to be president is that she was raised to skip rope, hula hoop, paddle ball and look good, not go to war, and for this reason it is conjectured that she voted with GW for the war in 2002. "Hillary Clinton Searches for her Inner Jock," the title of a Times Op Ed piece, made fun of her sports interests, the run-up for war in all male cultures. Her favorite fitness activity is speed walking. Her hobbies include crossword puzzles, Scrabble and gardening. I would have added that we can't have a president who "throws like a girl," as no doubt Hillary does, at the opening World Series baseball game, certainly not a Yankee game, where promises of lighting up the city exist, once Yankee management realizes that Alex Rodriguez should star on a different losing team, maybe returning to Texas or Seattle. In this Inner Jock article, it's reported that Hillary told Billie Jean King she once played softball and tennis. How about Billie Jean for president? Her "jock" is out there, and she would surely improve women's tennis by showing up on the courts to play in shorts. The women hit balls hard now, but they play virtually in tutus, the most outrageous oxymoron in all of sports. I'm sorry for them though, because if they play in shorts they'd be called you know what. It's a true concern. Recently a feminist from the old daze -- her name is Gloria Steinem -- aroused an interest of mine that was once quite strong, but has rested dormant in the manner of a sleeping giant wearing a big sign saying DO NOT EVER DISTURB. Gloria sent a polite letter to the Times about Obama and Hillary, equating them through coalition histories uniting men of color and women of all races, and at the end saying we should work for one of these candidates, but not against the other! She says she just says yes when reporters ask her if she's supporting Hillary or Obama. She's eager not to be or sound divisive. But as she meanders on in the same letter, she has perhaps forgotten the divisions between women, repeating a split that she once helped to create. Noting the incontestable, that "In the 1960s... the Civil Rights movement started a new wave of equality," she then gives great pause (to anyone paying attention) by listing three of the ensuing movements -- "Feminism, Native Americans, Gays and Lesbians" -- in one breath. Her third phrase, uniting L-people, i.e. women, with men, i.e. "Gay" men, was hardly Gloria's invention. It developed, and subsequently hardened, over shared issues of Civil Rights, mostly marital. At the same time, it has obscured a critical ideology known as "lesbian feminism." Who will (not) remember that the L-people, at least the ones who knew what gender they were, were not only feminists but the only feminists who were revolutionaries? The others, like Gloria, but excluding Ti-Grace, were strictly reformists. Now I lay me [back] down to sleep, as the prayer goes. In a kind of counter-revolutionary spirit, I have two enormous framed pictures on our walls featuring my father with 1) King George V and his consort Queen Mary and with 2) the biggest bell, at 20 tons, that he cast for America. The former is 50" by 38". The latter, at 39" by 32", a birthday gift from Ingrid, is our most recent "unusual event." My stock excuse for such displays, though I don't see why I need one, is that I never met the father character. Actually, and reluctantly rousing my sleeping giant again, though these pictures were not even in my possession back in the revolushunary times, I existed in the same contradiction then as now, exalting a father while being extremely vocal, or silently undoubting, on behalf of a movement to end fathers' powers. A father however such as mine, of the mythic divine order, is a father to end all fathers. If women could install one of these, enshrine one, a totem, the way nuns do Jesus, the direction forward should be clear. As clear as mud, no doubt. And I wouldn't want to be misunderstood as meaning a second coming. Another Jesus would make Christians even crazier than two millenniums have made them. And fathers' powers would stay until the sun goes out, in five billion years they say. As between Hillary and Obama, if you're a white woman who went to a college like Wellesley and you're from the Midwest and you loved your Dad -- all attributes of Gloria -- you will vote for Hillary, no matter how nice you talk about equality and all. If you're a white woman like me who didn't go to one of the sisters and you're not sure where you're from and you never had a Dad -- all attributes of Obama -- you'll vote for him. I dream stuff like this up at home. Today it looks really nice out, and I plan to say hello to Spiro, who keeps asking Ingrid where I am, at Ready-to-Eat. Then get to the gym two blocks away where I like playing catch with myself, hurling one of those big heavy body balls in the arm machine room against a wall. In June we drove to a hockey rink in Long Island surrounded by bleachers seating I think 40,000. We sat way up high and close to the stadium entrance. Somewhere down in the "rink" sat my granddaughter Amanda, amongst 2000 or more other students in boards and gowns ready to become college graduates. I went to a Yankee game once, only once, and found myself rising suddenly, not by my own volition, but propelled by the masses, roaring over a home run or a brilliant catch. I had no fear then. But I missed the re-runs at home.
©Jill Johnston. Previously published on www.jilljohnston.com.
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