“Once you have your
vision, don’t let hearsay
cloud the way.”
“And I’m, like, not sending one ounce of an emotional vibe—still, it went where it went anyway.”
“At that Sensual Touch cult of yours?”
“Cult, shmult—and thennn, the little bastard opened me up like a cultured oyster…”
“Real reiki, am I right?”
“Bye, bye dyspareunia. I’m lubing on up to my G spot…totally natural—no Flibanserin, no gingko balboa—it was incredible!”
Between flighty intolerance theories and three teetering porta-toities on a wooden plank platform—blue as the sea, creaking and leaning further in the wind—conditions were ripe for some bench jockeying, a little recuperative downtime. So Reese Paulen and I momentarily rode the pine, about the length of a bat handle leftward of this conversation, resting our cases and hammies, otherwise collecting our breathless selves, as the Gate fog dissolved and resolved to re-mound. But here was where whatever we may have been discussing on the Judeo-Palestine front was occluded by the diminishing bay view, not to mention these snippets of gal-talk straight out of The Feminine View.
“Better than your rape fantasy with Mario?”
“Pure unadulterated service with a smile—a real female sympathizer. The guy—Seth, I think it was, had all the mechanics down firm, down to a sweet science, yet nice and slow. Then it’s wham, bam, you’re welcome, maam…”
“Wow, orgasmic meditation—you go, girl…”
“Smooches, honey! A total money shot. I went going off like a nuclear reactor. You’ve just got to join in, Carlene—the naked yoga class is positively transformative.”
“Ewwww, I don’t know, Sherry, I’m just not that genitally focused. I’ll stick with Hypoblast and thinking myself off—or trolling Craigslist for the paraphilial chat rooms with my hard-core avatar. Even if it means having to background check them through Vali-Date. I’m serious, where have all the good men gone?”
“Tsk, when are you going to start trusting yourself? Being the woman you really want to be? Brrrr, anyhow—meeting you out here is so…out of context.”
These two women next bench over were laying bare their intimate secrets like so much down pillow talk, on a sand-basted bed of pine needles and wood chips. What could possibly be the context for OMing or naked yoga? Ewwph, oh, yeah—I remember now: her sun-bathed bedroom, holy schoolkids chanting uniformly in the Catholic church yard, a love supreme three floors up. Oh, terrifique—now we’re starting in again with the flashbacks: cold, rash withdrawals from my memory bank. Delinquent overdrafts, negatively amortized, positively splitsville, can feel it back there between my precuneus and posterior cingulated cortex…
Still, uneasy as that recollection could make me, Paulen seemed glued-in yet uncomfortable all the more. Once the twenty-thirtyish pair commenced hugging and stroking their Lululemon designer hoodies, we found ourselves amply rested and ready to move the sticks.
“Amazing the things women can talk about, huh,” I said, as we rose in unison and retreat. “But you were saying? Oh yeah—aren’t college campuses ground zero for all the Middle East debate and dissent nowadays?”
“Battlegrounds, to be sure,” Paulen remarked sharply, rearranging his slacks. “One flashpoint among many.”
“So then, you’re back out here instead of there at CU because…”
“Let’s just say I’ve fallen victim to circumstances quite beyond my control…”
Not that we were eavesdropping or anything. But who could not overhear something like that? Still, so as not to have appeared as having done precisely that, we smiled the gal pals’ oblivious way, then curved back down the plank-board path to the promenade. There we left our woodies and this insular tree-cropped rest area in the trail dust, merging like Iowa 80-sated truckers onto the interstate, road conditions taking another turn for the worse.
“You’re not getting off that easy after all this,” I pounced, finally sensing something scoop-worthy. “Now, what’s really up, doc?”
“Ah, let’s just say the academy is devolving into so much the genderal and First Amendment battleground these days. Who can say what anymore? Who can do to and what to or with whom? Those boundary lines are so permeable, so fluid—who can tell who or what is being crossed and double-crossed, and for what reasons, in and over the course of human affairs,” he said. “Nevertheless, I could of course polemically turn that question around, and ask what in heaven’s name might possess you to take up the Arab/Palestinian cause against Israel and the Jews?”
“I’m not taking up anything against anybody, all right? It’s just business—part of it, anyway,” I leveled, as we hit stride in line. “Truth is, I sidelight as a news clipper, kind of a cheapo freelance curator, for this political consultant who makes a killing writing attack ads. It’s just a little oppo research gig for some client he has who’s gunning for Dianne Feinstein’s senate seat. So I read all the rags and stuff, keep up on all kinds of local and global developments—you know, feed him the raw meat and votemeal—among other… clients. Guess that’s why I know a little about a lot.”
“A lot more than a little, it would appear. And what would be the other part?”
“The congenital after-hours OCD hoarding part on my part, what’s the dif…”
Some light-headed chardonnaysayers, who likely as not had strayed afar from a Fort Mason oenofest, were propping each other up around the very next EcoGlobe, plastic long-stems still in hand. They would have had a much warmer reception in Napa-Sonoma; but inexplicably, out here they happened to be.
Still, with bubbling serendipity, the tasteful threesome—two shawl-wrapped women and a fading fancy man—reconnoited around a pea green, map pin-dotted sphere, waxing ironic on where their insouciant gadding had inadvertently led them, rather in need of a quick red-eye coffee and espresso shot.
“Look, first things first,” Paulen said, seemingly skirting, dancing around the subject, as if hesitant to step up. “Given everything we’ve fleshed out thus far, you don’t think I’d want to be taking these issues before the classroom, in graduate seminars? That I haven’t demonstrated the urgent need, when I’ve even struck up correspondence with the U.S. Anti-Semitism Czar herself for federal resources? Make no mistake, this all cries out for a comprehensive Differential Association or Bias Construct Validity study. And resulting classroom disquisition.”
“Aye, in spades, so…” CLICK. I closed in, determined to keep this exchange right on tracking.
“Indeed, and it’s not simply a matter of shoddy Middle East scholarship on campuses like CU today, or Walt and Mearsheimer’s ‘Israel Lobby’ smear, I’ll have you know. More troubling to me are the agitprop demonstrations flaring up around Norlin Library—the so-called teach-ins that are insidious disinformation of the worst kind. Why, when David Horowitz came to speak, he was actually shouted down…”
The globe’s color-coded pins represented population density worldwide, particularly clustered in urban centers, from Hong-Kong to Houston to Hamburg and Bombay. The viticultured trio was in a Malthusian tizzy over the plotted fossil fuel consumption. I momentarily focused on the pincushion around metropolitan Chicago.
“Horowitz? Isn’t he that radical right wing-nut claiming college campuses are socialist hotbeds indoctrinating everybody,” I said, incredulous, but wary of steering too far afield. “Hell, he’s the biggest academic nemesis since ‘Closed Mind’ Allan Bloom years ago.”
“Freedom of speech, my friend…amid a sea of political correctness run amok. Just look at the culture clashes on campuses coast to coast. Why, take into account demonstrations and counter protests throughout the University of California system, on issues such as newfangled frat policies, trigger warnings, speech codes and safe zones. Not to mention rape cases down on the Farm. The unrest extends to post-humanist discrimination debates at Dartmouth, identity and equity politics at Yale—hands off Title IX altogether. Yet into this maelstrom storms the Middle East and anti-SemIsraelism.”
Blowing by us all was a PowerAde-propelled runner in graphite jogbra, matching sports pants and compression socks clutching, flexing her Nomex gloves with 2 lb. hand weights. Her gasping inbound male partner pulled up, calves half-knotted, not far behind, sucking in a lung load of her waffle-soled dusty trail wash—as were stepped aside in unison.
Paulen and I then turned outward anew, taking in what was left to be seen of layer upon baffled ridge layer of Marin’s smoothly rounded, rambling hills. For a long tail of fog slowly began to re-snake through the Gate, obliterating the tiny cars hard charging up 101 North’s distant Waldo Grade. As for the trail running out here, I had long ago buried my heart on a twisted knee.
“Yeah, well what about counter witch hunts run amok? Political correctness cuts both ways, doesn’t it,” I took the bait, despite myself. “How’s about Ward Churchill’s freedom of speech? The Norman Finkelstein-Dershowitz tenure fiasco at DePaul, the Hitlerean heat at Columbia? And the UC Santa Barbara sosh professor getting flamed online…”
“Certainly not if it seeks to fraudulently demonize or delegitimize the State of Israel. Matter of fact, I met that UCSB scoundrel at a Chautauqua seminar. He was equating Gaza with some Warsaw ghetto concentration camp in his blog. That is as hatefully preposterous as John Strugnell slandering Judaism as a horrible heresy religion nearly two decades ago. And you see how dearly Strugnell paid for that nonsense—a Harvard professorship justifiably forfeited.”
“C’mon, we both know it’s just words, informed, open debate. Academic freedom and activisim, Constitutionally protected—as I recall, that’s what a university campus is for. Anyway, your so-called free speech and fee speech movement is getting you nothing but more campus boycotts, far as I can tell…”
“With academic freedom comes responsibility, my friend. Not in creating a hostile environment for Jewish students with vicious harassment or shouting down Israel’s supporters. Which is precisely the sort of bigotry I would tackle, top of mind. Take the Academia Boycott, Divest and Sanction Movement—rabidly anti-Israel, and spreading like Ebola—or that bunch of hard-line CU rabble rousers doing Arab oil’s devil bidding.”
“But BDSers say they just want the occupation and settlement activity to end, with full equality and right of return to their state, per U.N. 194 and 242,” I countered, figuring that having talked myself into coming this far, might as well go all in to the better end. “Intending to pressure Israel until that comes to pass.”
“Hah! Embracing Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists in their shameful, twisted cause, selectively employing the bigotry of double standards in their arguably illegal campaign. Omar Barghouti and colonialist narratives, for godsakes…calling Israelis dirty Zionist pigs. Is it any wonder Judge Posner recently ruled against IAP terrorism and its oily Arab cohorts?.”
“Yet I’ve read they believe boycotts follow a long, honorable tradition of nonviolent resistance for social justice and human rights. Fighting against discriminatory profiling and surveillance. You’re a professional sociologist, doc—isn’t that a healthy thing?”
Nearer by, a ‘Regrow Green Cities’ globe depicting in fabricated fiberglass ’Nawlins and a boulevard skyline curiously redolent of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. Beyond that, silky bush lupine and scraggly soap root rustled on salt windy shoreside dunes and permeable pavement, as if bracing for climate-modeled heat spikes on the horizon.
“I am a pro-Israel Jewish professional, above all, and do recognize injustice when I see it.”
“Then what about that part of the Jewish community that claims a boycott of Israeli goods and services is necessary to save Israel from its right-wing Zionist excesses?”
“You mean like J-Streeters, Jewish Voices for Peace? Those AZI Universalists and Open Hillelers, all those peace camp kapo sympathizers,” Paulen counted. “Utter despicable Jew washing self-loathers unworthy of the glorious Hebrew heritage.”
“Sooo, that makes them what—anti…”
“Makes them apostates, if you ask me. Apologist ingrates enabling the metastasization of an evil BDS spirit that threatens to eradicate Israel’s scientific, economic and academic ties internationally. It is every bit as diabolical as Palestinian skyjacking in the past. So I say, ‘Boycott the Boycotters!’. The Jewish State clearly must defend itself once again. Got to nip that BDS rubbish in the bud.”
“But does that actually make them anti-Zionist,” I asked warily, “or, god forbid, touch the third rail?”
“Look, if such activities further isolate Israel, if the likes of Students for Justice in Palestine divide and discriminate against the Jewish people, how could they not be?!’
“Doesn’t mean they send hate fliers or paint swastikas, does it?!’
“Small comfort to the Jewish students who feel they have to hide their Kipas and Star of David necklaces in the face of mock checkpoints and eviction orders. But yes, Israelis and their supporters are always prepared to mobilize for conflict.”
“Much less students fearful for their hijabs and kaffiyehs, huh?”
“Except that is the difference between devotion and defiance, peaceful coexistence and plain coercion.”
“Okay, I hear ya, I hear ya,” I yielded, stomach tightening, smelling another stall, trying to checkpoint any more dodges. “But again, why aren’t they hearing you at CU?”
“Nothing at all in terms of my motivation. There just happens to be a bit of hitch…”
“Meaning?” Now, maybe we’ll really get somewhere…
“Let’s just say I’ve been classtrated, in manner of speaking…”
Cutting between the globes, a sandy, s-curved path revealed another, harder-core daypacked birder scuffling toward our way, nose buried in an avian handbook. Minus his L. L. Bean wear and brown chukkas, the moke could have been a dead ringer for what I remembered of a long-haired Nate Grimaldi. Which reminded me, gotta read his letter, but can’t be caught dead reading that letter. Steady, mate—feeling that tension, getting more and more anxious and wary, Nathan’s letter burning a hole in my newspaper and pocket.
Then, on a somewhat elliptical orbit out toward the Golden Gate, that sightseeing zeppelin with the Disney imprimatur had cleared priority airspace for a second orange-white helicopter. This next wave of concussive blade thwapping was loud enough to fluster the seagulls, the cormorants and sandpipers already squabbling over mollusks and crustaceans in the shallows of a wind-rippled tidal marsh to the left of us—not to mention an unlikely couple of early adopters shuffling outbound against the tide, several edgy trail steps ahead.
“Classtrated? Is that as painful as it sounds?”
“Alas, yes—scholastically, professionally,” Paulen said, as though resigned and ready to relate. “There I was…preparing a proseminar on anti-Semitism for the CU Jewish Studies certificate program, building upon ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’ and the like, and endeavoring to further a righteous Mideast peace process in any way a humble academician could. Out of the blue, zappo—hit me like an errant 4×4.”
“Zappo, how’s that?”
“Let me ask you a question, Herbert. That women’s banter we were just party to—innocent enough?”
“Innocent? Dunno about that, but I suppose you could say…”
“No visible, tangible damage—rather playful on the face of it…”
“A bit graphic, maybe,” I tread lightly, closing in, determined to stay on trail, wondering if this had anything to do with that CU coed on Chestnut Street. “But yeah, otherwise—no harm, no foul.”
“Precisely,” Paulen cuffed my shoulder. “However, that very sort of innocuous repartee got me where I am today.”
Care for more?
Chapter 48 . Gender relations beget
irreconcilable actions and purges, as
nearby waters churn all the more…