Secret Pop

Apr 22, 2005

Blondes Have More Fun with Decrepit Old Men

Last Thursday, I was having lunch with my friend Mark at The Farmer's Market before we went to see Kung Fu Hustle. We ate at the Mexican place with the loteria cards motif. But I went over to Bennett's to buy a soda, because I prefer a fountain drink to a can. So I was buying myself a big cola, and as I turned to leave, an old fellow in a wool cap gestured and called me over to his table, where he was seated with another old fellow and two Hispanic women who were either their wives or their assistants. I was going that way anyway, so I walked over. He said something I didn't quite understand, so I asked, "What?" And he said, "Don't go away." And I asked, "Why?" And he said, "Because I want to look at you." And I said, "Oh, you're very nice." And he said, "Not nice --" and then sort of wise and on the inside "-- selfish." And I laughed. "You flatter me." He invited me to sit down and stay a while, and I thanked him but said that I was having lunch with a friend. He invited me to forget my friend and extended his hand and told me his name was Louie. I took his hand and told him my name is Mary. "Mary? That's a whore-y name, isn't it?" Now, I know "whore-y" isn't actually a word, and at first I thought perhaps he meant "hoary," but here's what happened after that. He said, "Like in the Bible, right?" And the two ladies at the table nodded in agreement. And I said, "I guess so." And he was still holding my hand in his slightly palsied grasp when he smiled and said, "So? How about it?" I laughed and snatched my hand back as if suddenly grasping something very hot. And then I excused myself and went to have lunch with Mark. I always walk away from an experience like that with a mixture of horror and whimsy. Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, right? So that's what he meant -- are you up for it? What must that dude have been like as a young man? I guess I take for granted that old men were once young men, and that certain young men are polite and charming and certain of them moan at you from out of their car windows as they drive past your décolletage. It takes all sorts.

I have always been received well at The Farmer's Market. If it isn't some guy telling me I've made his day, it's some guy telling my boobs I've made his day. Maybe it's something about the light there. Apparently it makes me a sight for old, sore eyes. And I don't knock it. No one has actually harmed me so far. It's all just something to write down and retell. When I reached Mark, I told him the story, and it occurred to me that maybe nothing that happens to me is really all that interesting. I just bother to make sentences out of it all, thereby pulling ahead of the rest of the pack who politely and humbly keep everything to themselves.

Kung Fu Hustle had its moments. For one thing, they actually do the hustle in it. Which was a surprise to me. They do it with axes and extraordinary cases of gum disease, but it's still the hustle, a dance I've not yet mastered as I did not begin going to a lot of weddings until the mid-'90s. There are some funny things in it. "Who threw this handle?" was my favorite line of the film. And some of the fight action was brilliant and beautiful and fun to watch. But there was a great lot of not being able to figure out who was the white hat and who was the villain. And there was a bit of inexplicable metemorphosis that left me with what Jessie calls my squishy face. And I was amused -- in the sort of sympathetic way that one is amused by a child who doesn't know any better -- by the movie's idea of what behavior typifies a fairy. I'm not saying it was horrible. But it really wasn't spectacularly better than any other Hong Kong fight movie. And I thought it should have ended about four times before it did. Maybe it's because I don't really go in for the mystical shit where kung fu movies are concerned. When I say I am faithless, I check all the columns. I know lots of people who were looking forward to this movie, so I'm not going to call them all fools. But I sure am glad I got to see it for the bargain matinee price of nine dollars. What a waste it might have been otherwise.

When the credits were rolling, I said to Mark, "Why do they even bother with these? All the names look the same." And he said, "I guess you're allowed to say that. Half-allowed anyway." I like to think I'm allowed to say a lot of things. I have noted that I belong to enough minority categories that I am probably allowed to say the word "nigger" and not raise any eyebrows. But it doesn't come in handy as often as you might think. Most of my jokes prey on the unfortunate and the infirm moreso than on racial distinctions alone. I've only got a handful of racist zingers in my bag, but show me a fatso or a baldy or someone with visible body acne and watch me go to town. And my years of friendship with Martín have spawned a wealth of diabetic, IT, and homebody jokes. If there was any market for a published treasury of those, I'd be in business.

Martín did not have any desire to see Kung Fu Hustle. In fact, when I left him a phone message that I was going and that he could come along if he wanted to, he thought I must be pulling his leg. He's right to think that. I guess it didn't seem like the sort of movie I would rush out to see. But I figure I might take my mom to see it, because she would delight in leaning over to tell me what was being said, never mind the fact that I can read the subtitles for myself. I just like to show her films that she is likely to stay awake for. And that is a short list. She likes Italian slapstick, Baby's Day Out, Da Ali G Show, and American Idol. Everything else is a lullaby. At least this one promises violence that will provoke a cry of "ai ya!" from her and a few opportunities for her to say that a girl on screen looks like a maid. Those are the gems I live for.

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