Dropping Yin
By Jon Carroll
Village Voice, July 27, 1982

One lives in California. Two also lives in California, but she is unable to come to the phone at this time. Three got so embarrassed about living in California that he set up an elaborate postal rerouting system, using a mail drop in Key West, and is forced to stud his conversation with references to blue marlin and lime pie. Four by God just moved, out of the country entirely, a semi-detached near Florence, piece work in the jute mills, something about an automobile. It has its advantages.

Leaving one. One could tell you stories. One could tell you of Bolinas, a small town northwest of San Francisco, which is to the ineffable what Hershey, Pennsylvania, is to chocolate. (Which is to say, they make a lot of it, but it isn't very good.) These people have eaten nothing but vibes since the turn of the century, any century. A haze of hip hangs over the city; the energy expended in refraining from judging could light Des Moines.

So here one is at this Bolinas gathering. An everyday Mendocino County French Columbard is served, suffering from hypothermia. One surrounds it with one's body, but it is too late. It is unclear what any person at this gathering does for a living, except that the house is so large, the wood so exposed, that someone must be doing something. Perhaps they are doing drugs. One knows they do not eat dairy products, but it is hard to build a career around an aversion to cheese.

One's anecdote would then continue with the introduction of the stuffed nasturtiums. Nasturtiums are little orange flowers of no distinction, except they are not poisonous. In this case they are stuffed with soy paste and avocado. One is therefore offered a gray-green wad the consistency of cookie dough sitting unhappily on a gaudy vermilion pillow. The gentleman sitting next to one is offered a third helping of this floral canapé.

He declines.

He says: "Thanks, but I don't want to get yinned out." Yinned out. One knows the feeling well. The surfeit of nothingness - the feeling that all the passive elements in the universe are holding a convention in one's medulla oblongata. Sprouted grains, shin splints, J.J. Cale, the sudden appearance on one's nightstand of Linda Goodman's Sun Signs - the world is a perilous place for those with genetically linked high yin pressure, Chewing some wholesome animal fat tablets; making sure to have that extra cigarette just before retiring; these things can help. But yin lurks, squirrels its possessions in basements, haunts spas, dials telephone numbers at random. One must seek it where it appears not to be; that is the nature of yin. On the playing fields of Eton, for instance. That is where we have found our yin for today.

One in his childhood developed an affection for the American sports. There was baseball and there was football, young and easy under the apple boughs. This affection continued into one's afternoon years. Yang, sure, but harmless yang; yang you could live with.

But come the yinistas. They wear shoes of Scandinavian design. They begin to chat up - soccer. Everyone plays soccer except certain benighted citizens, eaters of pork chops, yang sluts. They don't read Goethe, we rejected Simone Signoret, we refuse to screw before supper, and we don't play soccer. The conversation turns darkly psychological. In soccer, the movement is continuous, free-flowing, improvisational, the athletic paradigm of the sophisticated mind. American football (note now American football, as though it were some off-brand, like Yugoslavian radios) is structured, halting, limited; the provincial intelligence requires these constraints.

Already, we're half a step away from Why We Are in Vietnam, and it's only 10 in the morning.

Recently, an athletic encounter called the World Cup took place; a quadrennial international soccer extravaganza, described as the second most important sporting event in the world. (It is my guess that the average yang in the street would be hard pressed to name the first most important; the yin candidate is, of course, the Olympics.) In the spirit of inquiry which only an imminent column deadline can inspire, one sat down to watch this pageant of spontaneity, this fiesta of manly grace.

One should better have watched a nasturtium being stuffed. Men run up and down the playing surface to no effect. Often the team with the ball will kick it backward, toward its own goal. This exciting bit of defensive play is matched only by kicking the ball out of bounds, another frequently employed tactic.

Given the somnambulant nature of the contest, the players seem unnaturally excitable. Events of uncertain significance will anger them, and they will kick an opponent very viciously in an unprotected area of his body. Then they will whine and wave their arms while being chastised by a gentleman in black who does not speak their language.

After a very long time, a goal is kicked. The game is then effectively over. The team with the lead will surround its own goal and fall to talking about Simone Signoret, while the losing side will immediately discard all strategy and give way to petulance and despair. A very long time later, the final whistle will sound, and players who have spent the previous 45 minutes wandering about the field in a state near catalepsy will suddenly become galvanized with energy, leap up and down, race into each other's arms.

Thus, soccer. Feh. One was not surprised to learn, several days later, that soccer is the preferred sport in Bolinas. "It's bigger than ... baseball," one's informant said. An entire town has become yinned out and turned its back on baseball. Shipments of hamburgers and coffee are on their way. One lives in California, but one understands of that there are certain jobs only yang can do.

Back to Roger Lippman's Home Page

Back to Classics index