ZUMBA!

From June 15th, 2013

The fallacy of Zumba in frigid, rural latitudes…The reality of Zumba in hot, sweaty latitudes… Zumba in the hips…Zumba in the mind…Zumba in the heart of darkness…Zumba, Zumba, Zumba and more Zumba. 

“There are two kinds of people in the world…”

Caution! When encountering this setup, the listener may very well brace for the self-satisfied laziness of the speaker’s grand, ill-conceived, binary categorization. The speaker’s tone may suggest that they are about to lay some crazy truth down, and you, listener, would do well to pay heed to this sweeping distillation of all the monstrous complexities of life before a lack of understanding it destroyed you. This bright beam of duality will sunshine through the fog of chaos for your own sake. You may say, please, tell me, please, wise one, I can’t wait a moment longer. Then you hear something like, “The world is divided into people who put ketchup directly on their french fries and people who put it on the side.” “People who drive on the highway and people who take the back roads.” “Men and women.”

Disappointment is only possible with expectation, and so some would say it is your own fault. There is something appealing about binary classification, though. The antithetical tug that makes life understandable, makes life easy, makes life expeditious, even if it is a fat pile of oversimplified shit.  That being said, here I go.

“There are two kinds of people in the world. There are people who Zumba and people who don’t.”

Upon further consideration of this statement, I’m finding it actually stands up to its putative absurdity. What I’m saying is, you can’t half-Zumba. You’re either in or you’re out, brothers and sisters.

Then again, maybe not.

It pains me to read about the woman from the state of Maine, Alexis Wright, who has pleaded guilty to running a brothel out of her Zumba studio. I am pained, not because she was running a one-woman house of prostitution, (she’s obviously ambitious and apparently a very meticulous bookkeeper), but she has committed that most atrocious of crimes… Zumba-fraud. Okay, so there are three kinds of people; people who Zumba, people who don’t, and people who use the guise of Zumba to get down to that more primitive of workouts, the Zumba precursor, the naked, prelapsarian Zumba. (I’ve been trying to use the word ‘prelapsarian’ for weeks now. I am relieved.)

Also, Zumba and Maine. Those two words just don’t go together. I’m a bit of a word addict, and somewhat sensitive to the chemical combination different words tend to result in. Maine. Zumba. It falls apart. Now, if Ms. Wright was fraudulently running a camp for survivalist exercises, a gun range, hunting expeditions, tutorials on backpacking or fly fishing, she’d probably still be humping half the town with impunity, and making a comfortable living in the process. She could have ostensibly taught lessons in the “Theremin,” which is that strange, radio-frequency based instrument that you wave your hands over to make that eerie warbling noise found in every old science-fiction movie. But Zumba? Zumba is reserved for hotter climates, practiced among the tanned and toned. They have spiced blood coursing through their elastic arteries, more hair than they know what to do with on top of their head, they are finely waxed everywhere else, and have the ability to do that roll-of-the-tongue catcall thing while dancing. You need timbales, conga drums, brassy horn sections, castanets, maybe a fucking guiro or something, but what you don’t need is a snowy expansive wilderness, a log cabin and a dog-eared copy of White Fang.

(Rant continued…) And, If you’re a stark white, paunchy, balding district attorney from Maine, a frail professor from Maine, or a rhythmless farmer from Maine and you tell your wife you are going to a Zumba class that is nothing more than a front for a prostitute, you should expect your checker-aproned spouse to call you an out-of-shape liar as your poorly crafted fiction comes apart like fresh baked apple pie before it has a chance to cool on the windowsill. Furthermore, if, over the course of these ‘classes’ the husband has insisted on taking there is little to no weight loss, little to no toning or firming, he still drags ass all the time, smoking and beering it up at will and still exhibits gross displays of sloth like falling asleep while eating, he’s going to get caught and he shouldn’t be surprised when he does.

Take this British fellow right here.

Five fingers of beer, please?

Although I’ve never met him I feel very confident that this man, this wonder of modern evolution, (he’s got six fingers) ,does NOT Zumba. So his wife would do well to be suspicious if one day she hears….

“Awwwright, mum, just poppin’ off to me Zooomba class.”

She may respond with…

“For fook’s sake, ya old bugger, yar in noo shep fer that.”

He may have to come clean with…

“Awwright, mum, ye got me. I’ve just been savin’ me coppers fer some ow’s-yer-jumblies.”

By the way, for those who don’t know, this is a still shot from the movie, “Get Carter” with Michael Caine, 1971. Shot on location in Newcastle, England, this guy has five fingers, not including the thumb. I plan on traveling to Newcastle soon. I’m sure that, although this footage was taken in 1971, that the man in the picture is still as young and healthy as he appears the day it was taken, and I plan on buying him a beer and having “a chat” about the evolution of the modern drinker. Someday I too may have an extra finger, and watch out world, because when that happens, I will have arrived.

Back to Zumba.

I’ve been obsessed with Zumba for a few months now. I should clarify that I’ve been obsessed with the word. I have no idea what Zumba is or how it’s done. Actually I have some idea. It’s a dance routine that helps lose weight. This is not a revolutionary breakthrough. Common sense, really.

“You mean if I dance, to music, instead of just sitting around on my big fat cushiony rump, I will burn calories and therefore lose weight?”

“Yes, good skeptic. Yes.”

For whatever cryptic reason I had been suffering from terrible, Zumba-based dreams as of late. They are hard to describe on paper, but I think I have found a way. If you can imagine being caught in this matrix for hours of restless sleep… up, down, across and sideways… you may get some idea.

ZUMBAZUMBAZUMBAZUMBAZUMBAZUMBA

UMBAZUMBAZUMBAZUMBAZUMBAZUMBAZ

MBAZUMBAZUMBAZUMBAZUMBAZUMBAZU

BAZUMBAZUMBAZUMBAZUMBAZUMBAZUM

AZUMBAZUMBAZUMBAZUMBAZUMBAZUMB

I had to do something, but I feared going to seek out the very thing causing my nightmares. Mostly I feared the disorientation of the word, like traveling to the Smurf Village and trying to disentangle the constant use of the word smurf–noun, adjective, transitive and intransitive verb, interjection and the all but impossible preposition. I assumed Zumba acolytes used the word Zumba for just about everything, and I believed this may have been the source of my terror.

I took things one step at a time. First I stole a Zumba video from Valerie, my neighbor, who had ordered it and promptly tossed it in the closet to be contended with when she finally got motivated to sell it at her next yard sale. I removed the plastic packaging, threw a disc in the old video player and quickly realized the simplicity of it all. I did not have to search out Zumba. If I was pure of heart, and eager to accept the tenets of this fascinating aerobics dance craze, Zumba would find me.

So it happened, one morning, as I was walking briskly down the street to the local bodega to get a sodey pop, that a shiny, vintage Cadillac convertible pulled up alongside of me. It was filled with about six young, nubile women, a handsome, olive-skinned male driver, and a clownish little man with a head the size of a medicine ball. They were all dressed like they had just driven out of the movie “Breakin”, or “Breakin 2, Electric Boogaloo,” for that matter.

“Hi,” said the driver. “My name is Ormlaw. Are you ready to encounter a hot new dance workout that will rock you to your core?” The rest of the crowd in the car cheered.

I said nothing, although when I glanced down at my own clothes I was surprised to be dressed exactly as my new Zumba pals. I was wrapped in blinding pastels, my neon cap was pulled sideways, my gloves had no fingers and my cut-off tank-top revealed a washboard stomach that seemed a little too long for my torso. I counted. I had fourteen abdominal muscles, which were more than was genetically possible. How did that happen?

Before I knew it a flash mob of Zumba practitioners descended; they ran out of store fronts, hopped over fences, popped out of garbage pails. A few came out of the manhole cover in the road. One woman, who had come prepared, wrenched the knob off a fire hydrant, producing a frothy cascade that soaked the midriff of every Zumba-ist, goose-pimpling our 1,000 plus abdominal muscles. The music kicked up, we fell into rank and file and started to Zumba in unison like we had been practicing together every day for the last six months. It was the most exciting thing to happen in my neighborhood in quite awhile, I had to admit. My favorite move is the one in which the hands are placed over the head, palm-to-palm so your arms make the silhouette of a hershey’s chocolate kiss and your head just bounces in the middle like Salome, Scheherazade or I Dream of Jeannie before she’s about to piss off her stiff, military husband.

Just as I was getting the hang of it, though, the cops showed up and showered us with teargas and rubber bullets. Our festive workout had completely disrupted traffic in all directions, and the coppers responded in force. The hundred or so dancers fled, as did I, figuring what the hell, fleeing from the police was kinda like a workout in itself, so I just followed Ormlaw, the fellow who had addressed me initially, and his wee man friend as they ran through an abandoned building, down into a grassy marshland and to a little dock on a quiet river, where a small boat with a thatched roof and an outboard motor on the back sat waiting.

“I don’t remember any of this being here,” I said.

“We must go,” said Ormlaw. His little friend, his first mate, untethered the ropes, fired up the engine and we three set off up the river on the small boat. Ormlaw pulled out a bottle of oil, which I thought he was going to somehow apply to the boat motor. Instead he applied it to his taut biceps.

“Where are we going?” I said.

“There is no time to lose,” said Ormlaw, oiling himself as he spoke.

“We will journey to see HIM,” said the wee man.

“Who?”

“The Original Zumba Instructor. The Zumba God.”

“That sounds good,” I said. “I’d like to talk to the Zumba God.”

“You don’t talk to him,” said the wee man, “you listen. The man has enlarged my mind. He’s a poet-warrior in the classic sense. I should’ve been a set of claws scuttling across the bottom of silent seas…”

“I think we’re dangerously close to ripping off Apocalypse Now,” I said, cutting him off.

Ormlaw greased himself to a fine sheen with no signs of slowing down. He studied the sky, the murky water, the untouched jungle on either side of us and asked me if I knew where Zumba is most important? I said in the hips, probably. He shook his head with that smirking audacity given to those who know they are naturally wiser than everyone else, and pointed to the top of my head. Zumba was most important in the mind. He told me I had to train my brain before I trained my feet, hips and shoulders. At that point his little skipper, the wee man, pulled out a pair of calipers and asked if he could measure the dimensions of my head. He recorded all the numbers into a little book, speaking them aloud to Ormlaw, the Capitan-Zumba instructor, who nodded as if he had known them all along.

I grew sun-drenched and weary after awhile. There was something ominous to the surrounding desolation, a creeping dread sifting through the trees, the merciless savagery of the dawn of first ages ready to swallow us whole. Ormlaw took advantage of my compromised state and began to indoctrinate me with a series of Zumba riddles.

“If Zumba’s power is absolute, why does Zumba feel the need to Zumba?”

“When Zumba-ing at the speed of light, is it possible to finish a Zumba before you begin it?”

“How many cores must a man rock down, before he can call himself a man?”

“If a man rocks himself to his core and there’s no one there to see it, can you consider the core properly rocked?”

Ormlaw oiled himself as he lectured.

“He Zumba like thirsty men drink,” said the little man, nudging me at my side, half-quoting Joseph Conrad.

I would like to say that we made it safely to our destination, but quite suddenly we were besieged. The forest all around us came alive. Cannon fire, slingshot projectiles, arrows, savage language, rose up all around us. We tried to take cover, but the small boat proved of little help. Ormlaw, after his slick body had succeeded in skidding most of the projectiles from his skin, was impaled by a dead-on arrow. The little man took a cannonball to the chest and promptly exploded. The world turned gray and I felt myself fall back into the water, pulling me down into the calm void, and I resigned myself to my watery fate.

I awoke some time later in an attitude of confused non-being, albeit with the clownish thump of my frantic heart, as if the sadistic organ was keeping me alive only to show me the magnitude of my dismal situation. I was laying in a mud pile, at the river’s edge. The was a tribal thump somewhere in the distance. I got up and walked in no particular direction, stopping only when I reached the yellow light of a double-wide house that had been converted to a shoddy bar. Beyond it was a full parking lot.  There was an illuminated, outdoor reader-board that said:

“The Original Zumba Guru. One Night Only. Shama-Lama-Ding-Dong.” I walked inside and was struck with a wild familiarity, catching sight of the banner over the bandstand that proclaimed, “Otis Day and the Knights.” I had arrived. All had become clear. It was all so simple. There wasn’t even a need for split definitions. Everything had merged into a single, unifying oneness. I ordered a beer and took to the dance floor. Long Live Zumba.

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