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January 24, 2011

Two San Francisco Heroes

One from Oakland, one from Stockton.

In 1975, I was twenty, coming back from Africa, on the last link, LA-SF, of a long trip, 25 flights in all, and I sat next to a small Asian woman who was friendly but tense. She told me that she was a professor of English at UC Berkeley. I responded that my parents had both gone there, that I had wanted to but was not accepted. Too white, too male, we both agreed. She grew up in Stockton where I was living, where my dad was from.

We drank our juice and rode out the short flight. When landing was announced, this nice woman leaned close and asked if she could please hold my hand during landing because she was terrified of flying. Of course. She gripped my hand and arm hard and pressed back in her seat until we were safely on the ground.

About a year later, I saw her picture in the newspaper. Her first book had just come out, The Woman Warrior. Her name is Maxine Hong Kingston, one of the most famous and best California writers. From Stockton like Dad.

This morning her picture was on the front page of the newspaper again. Her new book is called, I Love a Broad Margin to My Life.

When I was a kid we didn’t have a television until I was about five or six. (Thank you parents) When we did get a tiny box, my mother would watch and mimic Jack LaLanne, the exercise guy from right there in San Francisco. Later my dad would also change his schedule so he could lie on the floor and stretch with Jack. Later I also did the push-ups and sit-ups that President Kennedy suggested along with Jack. Everybody loved to exercise with Jack LaLanne.

His jumpsuit was a little weird, but his muscles and his exploits like swimming to Alcatraz and back in chains, convinced us that by following his method you could live better and longer. A bit of skepticism remained, however. I said, “what if he spent his whole life exercising and eating well and then dies anyway.” Jack LaLanne died yesterday at age 96.

He exercised till the end, two hours a day in the gym and one hour in the pool. He followed his natural diet all the way to its natural conclusion. Now, wouldn’t you like to live healthy and happy, with your brain fresh and body fully functional (his wife was always smiling) until almost 100 years of age? Never too late to start, Jack would say.

I’d like to go on and on about my hero, but I can’t be late for my Pilates lesson.

Happy trials, Martin

Mutt: Why is it that if someone tells you that there are a billion stars in the universe, you will believe them; but if they tell you a wall has wet paint, you will have to touch it to be sure?
Jeff: Snow White took photos of the Dwarfs and their surroundings. She took the film to be developed. After a week or so she went to get the finished photos. The clerk said the photos were not back from the processor. Needless to say, she was disappointed and started to cry. The clerk, trying to console her, said, "Don't worry. Someday your prints will come."
Mutt: If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled?
Jeff: Sometimes when I'm bored, I make spaghetti just to pasta time away.
Mutt: How do crazy people go through the forest?
Jeff: They take the psycho path.
Mutt: What do you get from a pampered cow?
Jeff: Don’t tell me.
Mutt: Spoiled milk.
Jeff: What do you call a boomerang that doesn't work?
Mutt: I dunno.
Jeff: A stick.

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