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OHLONE AT THE MALL

Dreamed 1994/2/1 by Chris Wayan

Earlier dreams, magical, mystical, fade slowly into a dull shopping dream. I'm at a crowded sale of kitchenware. I stashed a few items up at the cashier, so at least I'm not holding a lot as I stand in line.

I watch a videotape showing the cooking techniques of the local natives, the Ohlone--black and white footage before the 1906 quake in San Francisco, at a slummy settlement near Cow Hollow I think, by the shore of the laundry lagoon, where the city's clothes were washed. Today it's the swan lake below the Exploratorium dome.

Two Ohlone women are in the doorways of wood-and-brush huts, preparing food and joking together. They're very dark, thin, and naked. I remember how cruelly the Gold Rush settlers treated the Ohlone: as little more than animals.

By 19th Century standards of beauty, all plump white women, these Ohlone were probably seen as ugly. How standards change! Today they're beautiful--not just that their bodies are sexy, and in superb shape, but also how expressive their bodies are--even without a sound track, you can follow their conversation through all its moods. I suspect that's one result of not being muffled in restrictive clothes as Gold Rush whites were. You accept your whole body, so you talk with your whole body.

And how happy they look! Poor, exploited, looked down on, but still there, laughing it off. I recall an old woman of the tribe that used to live where Silicon Valley is now, saying their language was built so humor and happiness bubbled up naturally. You had to work to be gloomy in Costanoan.

Wish I were there with those two women... I look up from the video, and see the modern crowd again. A huge line. I don't want to wait around for some thermometer or a timer. They're just white people's toys. I prefer free time.

A very Ohlone attitude. Suddenly I picture those two hungry, poor, naked, despised women looking at this mob desperately waiting to buy... lettuce spinners. And in my soul I hear faint laughter.

MORNING-AFTER NOTE

Yesterday I went to Rainbow Food Co-op and found I was agonizing over the price of a few vegetables, wanting the very best deal. Lines were long, so I also agonized over which ten things to limit myself to, so I could go in the express line. Suddenly I saw this as silly--the real cost for me is the trip to the store as a whole. So I shopped for a lot of stuff I was putting off, and when I went up to the cashier, the long line had melted away like magic--no wait at all!

ACTION: Quit nickel-and-diming yourself to death. American efficiency is boring, boring, boring.



LISTS AND LINKS: time travel - Native Americans (Ohlone/Costanoan) - body image and body language - cute girls - capitalism - community and belonging

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