No News Is No News
Across the city and county of San Francisco, from the UC nurses in a Sunset coffee shop to the couples sitting in Buena Vista Park, from the cubicles of the Financial District to the warehouse offices of South Park, from the tents of the opera's opening night to the sex clubs South of Market, nobody -- absolutely nobody -- is talking about the goddamn alligator-in-the-Presidio news story. Never did.
Going for the Fat-Free Gold
The cheers drift down the street-size hallways of the Great Mall of the Bay Area, past the Garlic Shoppe and Salsas, Etc!, past Giftables and Great Nails, even echoing past Bugle Boy and the electric train store, clear down to the Food Court. These are not simple gosh-it's-great-to-be-in-a-Milpitas-mall cheers, either. This is the newest rage in team sports, soon to be an official Olympic event. This is the U.S. National Aerobic Championship Pacific Regional competition, the offspring of a 1970s housewife flab-fighter exercise regimen and oh, I don't know, a social Zeitgeist obsessed with its own abs?
Sponsored by fruit juices, heart rate monitors, and timing devices, the "three days of exciting events" race along at breakneck speed. Saturday afternoon is devoted to solo female competitors. The sole vendor booth bristles with packages of Fat-Free Quaker Caramel Corn Cakes; people walk around wearing jackets that say things like "Santa Barbara Sport Aerobics Team." Ambient smells shift from hair products to vanilla to bananas. Lots of sinew, lots of teeth. The noisy mood approximates a church revival meeting, where a booming "Be gone, flab of Satan, we denounce thee!" would not sound out of place.
As near as one can tell, the aerobic champion hopeful seems to dance/work out for one song, which is judged by a table of stone-faced people. Each routine begins identically, the woman addressing the crowd with a graceful sweeping bow, like a matador thanking everyone for showing up to the bullfights. The song kicks in, she hops around, blows kisses, shoots imaginary six-guns, does somersaults and splits, hits a few one-handed push-ups and G-rated crotch views, nails a few kicks above the head, whips out lots of cheerleader hand gestures, and tosses out a sassy wink, like something your frisky aunt would do after six or seven whiskey sours.
All the while, a muffled sound system pumps out tunes like a disco version of the theme from The X-Files. As dutiful husbands stand in the back videotaping the whole deal, the front row roils with aerobic team members, who holler like angry chimps whenever their teammate hits a certain move. One man in spandex shorts and a tiny beard is red-faced, screaming, "GOOOOOOOOO!" at the top of his smoke-free lungs. And throughout each routine, the entire room claps along.
Across the hallway in the train store, a potbellied man with a striped brakeman's cap sits behind the H-O scale track, watching his train dart around the plastic cows and trees. Maybe he's just taking a breather, before coming back to watch the finale, where all the women will be led through an energetic 10-minute precision routine by a clean-cut guy in a one-piece jumper. But who are we to judge this newfangled sportaerobics? For all we know, the Olympic Games of ancient Greece were rife with oil-slick athletes in form-fitting sashes, kicking up their sandals in sync for the pleasure of Zeus.
Address all correspondence to: Slap Shots, c/o SF Weekly, 425 Brannan, San Francisco, CA 94107; phone: (415) 536-8152; e-mail: email@example.com.
By Jack Boulware