Tiger wins again!
The black dude turns to me, headset on his neck. ‘What’cha wanna watch, pops? Faggots cookin’ fo’ bitches? Or Tiger?’
‘This ain’t no country club for white bitches. This here a gym!’
By Talmadge Jarrattee
I’ve just paid $10 to work out in a gym in an exclusive area of Marin County after a night of boozing in the city with my pal Rocco, and I want my money’s worth. My gym down in Santa Cruz costs only $25 a month, and that’s because I know the owner and get a deal. This gym is a high-end compound, impersonal, its members head-phoned zombies, eyes averted or preoccupied, as if suffering under a malaise and belonging in some rehab facility for the guilty rich. At my gym, people are familiar with one another, stop to chat or at least nod hellos upon passing, creating an intimate, healthy vibe.
I have a problem. At my gym there is one remaining bike that is simply operated by hitting two buttons and arriving at a level and pace which I ride nonstop for 40 minutes. The other bikes are new high-tech machines with complicated computer systems that I am unable to conquer and which frustrate and enrage me if I try. This gym only has bikes even more intricate, baffling and intimidating than those in my gym.
Still, I find a bike beside a 30ish clean-cut looking black dude in a swank Nike sweat suit. His head is smothered in huge earphones as he bobs to music and keeps his eye on one of three large plasma TVs, where the great golfer Tiger Woods is close to another victory. There is a row of eight bikes in front, and behind us are stair-climbers, cross--country snow-walkers, treadmills, mountain climbers. Before us is a sprawling hive of lifters and heavers and stretchers.
Somehow I get the black dude to lower his earphones.
“Sorry to bother you,” I tell him. “But I can’t get this bike started. I’m computer ignorant and need somebody with skills to push a few buttons. I want to ride at one level only.”
“What level you want, pops? Uphill? Flat? Random? Manual? Stops an’ starts….”
“I’d like one speed, nonstop, no interruptions, no changes, brisk, but not too hard, use about a hundred calories every ten minutes and sweat out some booze.”
“Right on, dude.” He reaches across with his long arm and fingers and hits four or five buttons and tells me to start pedaling, and when I do it’s exactly the way I want it and I thank him and commence to work my crossword puzzle. The black dude replaces his headphones and re-sumes his pedaling, bobbing and eyeing Tiger Woods destroying a bunch of rich white guys at their sport.
Two rather attractive 30ish white women take the two bikes left on the other side of the black dude. Both wear ballcaps with pony tails jutting out from behind. Both are lean and trim and pretty, though they are marred by pinched stress lines at the sides of their mouths and creases at the foreheads. They are gabbing as they arrive, and continue gabbing as they climb onto their bikes. The gal with the pink cap, closest to the black dude, switches the golf channel on the TV to a food channel. The black dude instantly whips off his headset and turns to her. “What y’all doin’, turnin’ off Tiger?” he says.
Pink cap removes her headset. “We hate golf. I am not watchin’ that golf match. That’s why we’re here, my husband’s home watching it.” The other gal nods in accordance.
“Then move. I here first. I watchin’ the golf. Tiger my man.” He uses his channel selector to turn on the golf. Pink cap immediately changes it back to food. “Hey, what you doin’?”
“You can just move to another bike!” she says.
“Bullshit! I here first. YOU move to another bike!”
“There’s only one bike, and it’s on the end, and Judy’s ever there, and she watches FOX News.”
“Fox News? Shee-it!” he says.
The woman beside pink-cap, who wears a beige cap with a yacht club insignia on it, takes off her headset and addresses the black dude in a wheedling voice. “I prefer the cooking channel, too. Nobody here wants to watch golf.”
The black dude turns to me, headset on his neck. “What’cha wanna watch, pops? Faggots cookin’ fo’ bitches? Or Tiger?”
From my end bike, I have a poor view of the TV, never watch it. “Tiger,” I say. “I’m a big Tiger fan.”
“This dude here, he want Tiger, too,” he says, and switches on the golf match.
Pink cap jumps off her bike and marches to the front desk like a military general on the warpath. Nearby, folks on their machines are trying to ignore the dissension. I nod at the black dude as we both await the looming maelstrom. Yacht cap is already on her cellphone, reporting the situation to somebody that sounds like her husband.
Pink cap returns with a girl running the front desk. She is a sweet little thing of around 20 who is basically alone on what should be a slow Sunday, mostly checking people in and playing with her computer. She wears the cap and T-shirt of the establishment and has a fetching little ass and perfect breasts and a snub nose. As she stands here, Pink cap and Yacht cap commence carrying on about the unfairness of the black dude and his golf match, and before they can really get going he rips off his headset.
“I the min-ORRRITY!” he tells desk girl. “I always the minority. I here first, young lady. I got Tiger on and the golf. This woman, she turn it off, don’t ask me can she, just turn it off ‘cuz she don’t like Tiger. Well, I ain’t watchin’ faggots cookin’ fo’ bitches!”
Desk girl shrinks up, eyes rolling to the side. Her smooth, seamless face is thus far untouched by urban disputation and discord. The black dude, he’s fired up. At first, he seemed like an ex-college jock, mellow, loose, well-mannered, but now he’s taken on the ghetto visage and persona. Still, the two shrews beside him are undaunted. They’re bombarding the desk girl with a slew of paranoid bullshit, and she continues to shrink and cower.
“I ain’t liss’nin’ to this jive,” announces black dude. “And I ain’t movin’ off this bike.” He nods toward me. “My man an’ me, we watchin’ Tiger, ain’t we pops?”
I nod toward desk girl, issuing her a sickly smile. “One of the reasons I came in here today was so I could got my workout and watch Tiger on TV, too. It was that or watch Tiger in a bar and get drunk again like I did last night.”
“Right on, brothah,” says black dude and shows me five, and I have no choice but slap hands with him. “Pops want Tiger big time.”
The Fox News woman is now off her bike and joins the fray. Her hair is short, and she wears a ball cap with the logo of this establishment on it. “I’ve never seen you in here before,” she says to the black dude, issuing him a reptilian smile. “Are you a member?”
“I a guest!” he says resoundingly. “I got me a guest card from my bro’. He play fo’ the 49ers.”
“We’re all members here,” maintains Pink cap. “We are all long-time members of this health club, and members come first, I believe, is not that right, Brittany?” she asks desk girl.
“That bullshit!” black dude fumes, before desk girl can answer, “y’all prejudice against me ‘cuz I black, and you prejudice against Tiger ‘cuz he black. Y’all hate niggers.”
Suddenly the three women erupt and converge on the black dude in a ferocious squabble, defending themselves against his accusation, maintaining they are NOT prejudiced. They are furious, frothing, wild--eyed, paranoid, mouths serrated, irrational. Desk girl’s trapped and desperate, continues shrinking and cowering. Meanwhile, black dude has Tiger on again. “This ain’t no country club for white bitches,” black dude tells her. “This here a gym!”
When the three-woman squabble intensifies, he shouts them down.
“Y’all hate us niggers! That OK. I seen it all my life. Y’all hate Tiger ‘cuz he a black dude spank them white bloods. I ain’t movin’, I stayin’ an’ watchin’ Tiger. Y’all don’t like it, call the pigs. I call the ACLU.”
The ladies appear stymied by this threat. There might be a crack in their armor. Tough, determined, willful and entitled as they are, turf is turf, and black dudes do not back down and lose face, whether from the ghetto or not.
Meanwhile, my bike suddenly stops. I cannot get it started. Evidently it was only wired to run for 10 minutes, not 40. I don’t want to bother the black dude, though, because he’s got his hands full with the white women. Pink cap is now on her cellphone, getting in touch with her husband, perhaps a lawyer who can advise her on black dude’s threat of calling the ACLU and sticking her with a lawsuit for racial bias. She lowers the phone, and the three women confer, whispering, possibly attempting to come up with some new strategy with which to confront black dude, who has his eye on the TV.
They break apart and inform desk girl they are going to do some stretching in another room, but that tomorrow they will have a talk with the owner of the gym, a personal friend of theirs. Black dude and I watch them advance to another area of the gym, where they continue their confabulation, not stretching at all, occasionally glancing in our direction with baleful eyes.
Tiger sinks a long, crucial putt that more or less seals the deal. He, too, never gives up turf once he gets the upper hand. Bravo!
The black dude raises a fist in triumph as Tiger strides toward the next hole, as a massive, polite crowd gives him a huge ovation. The black dude lowers his open hand for me to slap, and I slap it resoundingly and say, “Hey, bro’, my bike fucked up. It just stopped. I need another 30 minutes on this motherfucker.”
He reaches over and hits a few buttons and I’m set again. §
Talmadge Jarrattee lives in Santa Cruz where he manages a homeless shelter and moonlights as a bartender. He can be reached through the editor at email@example.com.