Monday, May 30, 2011

Missing Person!

Where the hell is DL?

PP’s been hanging out in the Berktopia Sauna chatting with Sandy about what else? All My Children. Who will discover that Erica Kane is in fact a crazed fan gone plastic surgery hog wild? Will it be her fiancĂ©, Jackson? Or her lesbian daughter, Bianca? Or her archrival, Greenlee?

Everyone acknowledges that Erica hasn’t been herself since the kidnapping, but.....
Will anyone ever figure it out?

Yet, as PP and Sandy speculate about the possibilities of discovery, PP has this nagging worry as their talk continues.

DL was supposed to meet her in the sauna at 9:30 and it must be 9:45 by now.

Where the hell is she?

She’s never late—unusual for an Italian-- but there you have it.

Something’s very wrong.

Of course, PP jumps to the worst possible scenarios:

She’s fallen off the treadmill and been carted off to the emergency room.

She’s had a psychic breakdown from the unfamiliarity of Berktopia being thrust upon her, so now, she’s out on the streets of Berkeley, wandering aimlessly up and down Addison, strange weirdos accosting her in the darkness.

She’s passed out behind the counter of the Y, hidden away in a room with concerned YMCA clerks waving smelling salts under her nose.

Okay, she’s not in a Victorian Novel, but you all get PP’s anxiety.

Where oh where is she?

It had been a strange night to begin with. The Oakland Y was closed due to ‘paint fumes’ from an outside source—mysterious and stupid, but they’d been forced to venture into Berktopia spontaneously. Spontaneity with PP and DL is sometimes ok and sometimes not. DL had seemed unnerved this eve by being at Berktopia, so now that she’s gone ‘missing’ PP unlike the citizens of Pine Valley, knows that something is WRONG!!!!!

PP interrupts Sandy’s monologue about Greenlee being the most likely to succeed, “Have you seen DL tonight?”
“That’s so weird. She was supposed to meet me at 9:30 here. What time is it now?”
Sandy leans out and over to glance at the clock, “It’s about 9: 43.” (PP always thinks it’s funny that she says ‘about’) but tonight, it doesn’t strike her as funny.

Only as Anguish! 9:43! DL is 13 minutes late! What can it mean?

“I better go look for her,” PP rises, pulling her damp suit back on and weaving through the crowd of Japanese beauties to exit the sauna.
“You could have her paged,” Sandy suggests.
PP nods, relieved to have a plan of action. “Yeah, that’s a good idea. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. Good luck.”

PP wanders out, wrapping her towel round her waist wondering if she should go to the bathroom before venturing on her mission.
Decides against it. Time is of the essence. The Y is gonna close soon and she must find DL before it’s too late.
Not to be melodramatic or anything.
But it felt this way.

PP hurries up the stairs. Decides to take a quick look around all the exercise rooms before going to the extreme of having DL paged. Maybe she just got caught up in Ameircan Idol and lost track of time?

The floor cold on her bare feet, PP thinks for a minute how she shoulda put some shoes on, but then she was in her swimsuit and so....

It didn’t matter.

Hurrying though the weight room and then the treadmill room PP glances around. No DL in the weight room. She’s not on the treadmills though it was hard to tell where the room ended what with all the goddamn mirrors. PP’s anxiety exacerbates the mirror distortion.

Where the hell is she?

PP rushes back down the stairs to ask for the Paging Element.

A Big Pasty Clerk is chatting amiably with a Big Pasty Berkeleyite.
“I told myself I wasn’t gonna make it tonight. And then here I am.”
”That’s the important thing, Doreen,” PBC guffaws.
“And then my car was towed and I had to call my ex husband to help....”

PP sighs loudly, glaring at them. Don’t they know that she’s in the middle of a crisis? That there’s a missing person at the Y and she needs answers pronto!?

“Excuse, me,” PP finally butts in, “but can you page someone for me?”
They both look at her likes she’s crackers.
“We don’t have a paging system,” BPC shakes his head.
“You don’t?” PP is staggered by this information. How could that be? What do they do when the need to announce closing time? To call a staff member to the Welcome Center
To find a MISSING PERSON????

PP is beside herself.

What the hell was she gonna do?

~to be continued~

Thursday, May 19, 2011


“How was your swim?”

Modest Vietnamese Woman tilts her pretty head, thinking. “It was so peaceful. ….I had my own lane. ……The water was warm.” She considers for a moment, “There was no one else in the pool.”

PP laughs.

Of course, it’s all Fantasy. There was NO One in the pool tonight. The pool was closed due to “Mechanical Failure.”

PP had arrived for her usual Wed eve Oakland Y “Girls Night” with DL. There had been a sign on the door—-big red letters explaining the pool closure. But all PP saw was Pool Closure.

She couldn't believe it. 2 Pool Closures in 3 days! Last Sunday at Hilltopia had been Mayhem Hell. First Hector's Swim Party jamming screaming kids into the pool with so many writhing little bodies that two lap lanes had been taken away. Then the 'Emergency' where everyone had been forced out of the pool with rude whistling and no explanation, "What's going on?" PP had asked. "Why do we hafta get outta the pool?" She'd only been swimming about 25 minutes; less than half of her swim completed. Swimus Interruptus was hella cranky!

"It's a Personal Space Issue" the lifeguard had said, waving his arms frantically to clear the pool of Hector's revelers.
"What does that mean?" PP had asked.

PP hadn't found out till later. Someone had almost passed out in the pool. She'd seen a shaky blobby man in the corner being supported by his blobby wife when she was getting out and had wondered if he was the culprit for her Swimus Interruptus.

And yes, it turned out that his blood sugar had been too low.

Shit. Eat a goddamn cookie before coming to the pool, why don'tcha? PP had thought. Don't kick us out before she's done with her swim for chrissakes!

And so now, tossing her fins on the counter, she couldn't believe that another pool closure was a part of her week.

Waiting for the busy clerk to finish ordering her Chinese Takeout, PP sighed loudly, shaking her head. “Excuse me, but I see the pool is closed and I didn’t get any notification about it. Aren’t you guys supposed to send out emails letting us know about this?”

Chinese Take Out Clerk was confused, casted about for help. Another clerk offered that it had just happened last night. PP glanced at the clock—7:35 pm. “So you had all day to email us though, right?”

The two clerks shrugged, glanced round nervously for more reinforcements. DL stood next to PP, shifting back and forth from one foot to the other, rolling her eyes.
To the rescue, Head Clerk, H, the Only Clerk Who Knows What's Going On, scurried up, “Do we have your email?”
“Yes,” PP tried not to scream.
“Is it Swimpurr at Yahoo?”
PP sighed, Damn. “No, actually that’s an old one. It’s on Gmail now, but Gmail imports all the yahoo email and I didn’t get anything today.”
“Are you sure?”
PP had to back down. Shit.

But somehow she knows they’re lying. The next day she did find out that, yes, in fact, no one had sent an email notification of the pool closure. She had been right, but at the time, she didn't know it for certain. No hard evidence. Only intuition. Which counts for nothing with the YMCA....

What can she do at the moment except follow H into the inner staff sanctum and type in her new Gmail account for future notifications.
Part of her is a bit excited about this back of the counter experience. But most of her is pissed off that she can’t swim.

She finished filling out the form, “Is that working for you?” H called out.
“Yup, done.” PP rose and followed DL down to the locker-room.

And so, when Modest Vietnamese Woman muses about her ‘swim’—PP has to grin. Maybe Pool Closures are good for something. Fantasy. Imagination. Community.

Of which there had been much in U.

“They’re gonna cancel All My Children. Oprah’s gone now. Gonna replace her with another hour of news. I ask you, how many ways can you hear about Arnie dickin around?" Sandy hurrmphs as she moseys out of the sauna.

DL and PP crack up.
How many ways indeed!

The problem with Arnie is that he got caught in his 'Fantasy'--Reality sucks, doesn't it Arnie?

Esp for Maria.

But Maria would survive. She'd go on Oprah. Divorce Arnie. Take a fabulous vacation. Swim in the sea where no emergencies would happen.

PP wants Maria's Fantasy, now.

But not before she has her cookie. That's the most important part of the fantasy.....Well, except for the beautiful, empty warm watered pool.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I Have A Story To Tell

“Excuse me Ladies….” Travel Story Woman inserts herself between PP and Sandy, who’s been narrating her own update to PP about who is kidnapping Erica Kane.

The other women between the rows of lockers are all standing, sitting, squatting in various stages of dressing before getting kicked out of the Downtown Oakland Y: DL sits on a stool next to PP playing with her lotion top; Susie tugs at peach colored tights between Death Hacks; Modest Vietnamese Woman struggles to put on her clothes under her towel without anyone glimpsing her private parts.

TSW stares at PP pointedly for a few moments, her seriousness exuding what? Daring? Frustration? Insanity?

PP’s not sure; her Imposition was so startling. And as DL commented later, TSW’s interruption of Sandy’s monologue violated some sort of unwritten locker room code of conduct. If women were talking, let them talk. Don’t interrupt.
Esp. if the conversation revolved around soap opera.

And so the abruptness of her ‘Imposition’ takes PP by surprise. Where had she come from? Earlier, PP, DL and Sandy had all been listening to TSW’s rambling cross country train travel saga in the Utopia Sauna, then DL had left, then Sandy, then PP. After all it was 9:45, and the place was closing up in its usual obnoxious way.

“Attention all members and guests: the Downtown Oakland Y will be closing in 30 minutes.... Attention all members and guests the Downtown Oakland Y will be closing in 20 minutes…. Attention all Members and Guests…..” The countdown had already commenced 15 minutes ago when PP had left Utopia.

So, now when TSW physically inserts herself between PP and Sandy, the effect is not exactly threatening, but it is intense.

PP has to wonder what was up with her lately? Why did she seem to be attracting intense situations at the Y? First the Some Attitude Sauna Woman. Next Killing Children Sauna Family. And now?

But then again, maybe it wasn’t her. Maybe TSW just had a story to tell.

Or maybe she was just ‘crackers’ as DL had commented later.

“I haven’t finished telling my story,” TSW continues, “so if you don’t mind?”
Sandy jumps in, the leader of the locker room women. “No, of course not. Please continue.”

PP breathes a sigh of relief. She’d been tempted to do what? Tell her no I don’t want to hear the end of your story. Cuz to be honest, PP thought that the story had already ended.

Or that it would never end. Meeting TSW in the showers after leaving Utopia, she’d cornered PP again, continuing the train travel ramble. PP had nodded and said something about the circularity of the story and TSW had nodded, given PP that crazed too long stare and said, “Yes, ma’am, 360 degrees.”

And that had been that.
Till now.

“I was stuck in Reno without money and I tried to buy me a ticket and you know they wouldn't sell me a ticket without a driver’s license.”
“You’re kidding!!” PP exclaims. ““They wouldn’t take your money for a ticket?”

She stares at PP intensely for a moment, then shakes her head. “I’m a black woman. If a white person wanted to buy a ticket then I’m sure it’d be no problem.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” PP agrees, “I’m blond. I’m sure they’d sell me a ticket no questions asked.”
TSW nods, “That’s right. My mommy keeps telling me to come back to France. She don’t get what I go through here in this country being black.”
PP nods, “No, I can’t imagine,” And she can’t. From all of the stories she’s heard over the years from her students, the women at the Y, various friends—it’s hell to be black in America.

“Go on,” Sandy interrupts, sensing the sensitivity of the situation? “What did you do?”

TSW grins slowly, so pleased with herself now, “I stowed away!” she giggles.
“You’re kidding!” PP exclaims.
“Nope. What the hell else was I supposed to do?”
“I dunno. How’d you do it?”
“Well, when the conductor was going down the aisles asking for everyone’s tickets, I just made my way up to the restaurant car and when he was finished I just made my way back.”

“Wow,” PP shakes her head. “That’s astounding!”
“Yes, it was,” she agrees. “But like I said, what was I gonna do? I had no other way to get back home.”

Sandy nods now as does DL and PP. It was quite a story. “A story of Social Consciousness,” Sandy proclaims after TSW left. “For our day. The present day.”

PP is confused. Is Sandy referring to TSW’s story of Racist Travel Hell? Or was she back in Pine Valley, commenting upon Erica’s celebrity kidnapping?

It could be either, but PP chooses the former since it is the one most recently narrated. For this is the most astonishing part of the story. That this kind of story still happens today. In the 21st century.


It is alive and well in America.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Sauna Trauma

After her Sauna Trauma of the day before (see previous post), PP was in no mood. So when the mother ushered her two little girls into the sauna, PP let ‘em have it.

“You know the kids aren’t allowed in here,” she informed them.
Mom gave PP a blank stare, a shrug, and then the not so original response: “They just in here for few minutes.”

The two girls eyed PP widely, their chatter suddenly silenced.

“Well,” PP continued, “I did talk to one of the clerks upstairs about this issue and he told me that the sauna was a health hazard for kids.”

PP paused for effect: “….that it could kill them.”

Mom stared at PP for a moment. Trying to process the info? Trying to come up with a response? Trying to decide if she really wanted her kids or not?

For a moment, PP wondered if Mom was going to argue with her. Claim that how could only a few minutes harm her children? How could the sauna possibly kill them?

Yet, thankfully for her, she musta sensed that PP was having none of it when she ushered the girls out, “Come on, let’s not stay in here,” she murmured.

Lying back down in the dark heat, PP sighed. What was up with her Sauna Karma this weekend? Why couldn’t she just go for a swim, and then come in the sauna and relax?
Was that asking so much?


But with this small victory, PP had to smile. Maybe this was the last of her difficulties. From here on out, it would be back to Sauna Relaxation Situation.

Unless of course, this mom comes back for Revenge. Brings in a whole crowd of screaming little girls and lets them screech and jump and whine all over the sauna.

Here's where Some Attitude Woman might come in handy. With one Steely Stare, she'd be able to put the gang of unruly girls in their place: out of the sauna and into the pool. Preferably underwater.

See Some Attitude does have its purposes. Not the least of which puts PP in a much better mood!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Some Attitude

“She had Some Attitude.”

PP sighs, relieved. It hadn’t been anything she’d done. “You noticed too?” she asks Curvy Latina.
CL nods, “Yeah.”
“Oh,” PP exclaims, “that makes me feel better. I thought it was something I’d done, but now that you say she had Some Attitude, well..... I mean, I didn’t think I’d done anything’s just weird. Stuff like that doesn’t usually happen here.”

CL stretches one shapely brown arm out and over her head, “I know. And she was shaking her head when she left.”

Now PP shakes her head, trying to process the ‘situation.’ She’d had a nice swim, but hard. She’d been tired. The water had felt like Jell-O swimming through it. So when she’d finished, she was so looking forward to a nice relaxing sauna here at Hilltopia.

When she’d walked in, the sauna was not crowded exactly, but there was only one space on the top shelf, behind Gargantuan Towel Woman. PP likes the top shelf best since it’s the hottest. She’d glanced around and seen a spot on the bottom shelf in the opposite corner from GTW, but she didn’t see any reason why she couldn’t just sneak past GTW and sit above her. After all, that's what the two levels are for.

“Excuse me?” PP had asked GTW, softly, politely. “But do you mind if I just sneak past you and sit up there?” She’d pointed to the spot behind GTW, who just stared at PP like she was crazy. You wanna do what? Sit behind me? Like you think that there’s a bench there for other women to sit on? Oh, you are sadly mistaken. This entire section of the sauna is mine.

At least that’s what it felt like when GTW, after staring at her for a moment said, “What did you say?”

PP repeated her intention, knowing that GTW had heard her perfectly well the first time. Some sort of Power Thing was going on here.

“I need to keep my towel here," GTW motioned to a bright striped towel wrapped around her neck that fell onto a small portion of the top shelf. “I need it to keep warm.”

PP wanted to say that hell, weren’t you already warm in here, but refrained. She just wanted to lie down for chrrissakes! What was the problem? Was GTW afraid that PP, just out of the pool, was going to drip on her towel? Or was she feeling like her Personal Space was being invaded?

PP had no idea. It was too weird how GTW did NOT want to let PP slip in the spot above her. Hell, that’s what the sauna was built for. Two long benches. One below and one above, so that two layers of women can SHARE the sauna.

Yet, for some inexplicable reason, GTW seemed to think she was entitled to an entire quarter of the sauna, both bottom and top shelf.

PP made to step around her in spite of GTW’s Hostility Wall Of Keep Away From Me, forcing her to move her towel that had been touching the top shelf so that PP wouldn’t touch it. Not that PP had any intention of touching her or her towel! If that was even the issue.

PP could feel the wrath of the high level sour face on GTW and it was weird. Why did she care? It was a public sauna; not GTW’s private one. What was the problem anyway?
PP never liked to attribute subtle or not so subtle hostilities to Size or Race Biases, but could this be it?

Was GTW anti-small woman? Or was she just a stupid bitch?

PP crawled above GTW in stubborn but nervous refusal to let herself be intimidated. Sat down scrunched as small as she could make herself in the corner. The tension in the sauna was palpable.

What the hell? PP sat for a few moments, breathing slowly and quietly. Shit, she thought, then sighing, she lay down, keeping herself as small as possible by crossing her arms over her belly instead of her usual one over the top of her head stretch.

For she was small. It was no problem for her to fit up on the top bench even if GTW was 3 times her size.

PP tried to relax but it was impossible. She could feel GTW’s Hostile I HATE YOU FOR SITTING ABOVE ME VIBES.

Fortunately, after about 5 minutes, she rumbled up slowly, then hobbled out.

This is when CL noted her Bad Attitude. “And did you see? She was shaking her head at us when she was walking out?” CL observes.

PP tries to laugh, but it wasn’t funny. It was just weird, “You’re kidding?”
“Nope. ”
“Did something happen with you too?” PP asks.
Sighing, Curvy Latina shakes her head, “Yeah, when I came in she was sitting there, taking all that space" –she had no qualms about calling it as she saw it---"and when I wanted to sit down, she made some comment about someone’s bra being there and when I said that I thought it was hers she just gave me this Look and so I climbed up here and let it go.”

Nodding, PP sighs again; well at least it wasn’t just her. It wasn’t like GTW was targeting insolent blonde petite swimmers.

But now, since Curly Latina wasn’t blonde or petite, PP had to just chalk it up to GTW’s sour mood. It seemed she had it in for everyone that dared to enter Her Sauna!

“Maybe she’s just havin a bad day,” CL offers, eyeing PP sideways and smiling.
“Yeah, maybe.”
“Maybe it’s Mother’s Day.”
“Mother’s Day puts people in bad moods?”
CL shrugs, “Maybe. I dunno. All's I know is that with That Attitude, she’s not gonna make any friends."
“And you know what?” PP giggles now, “I saw her pick up her gym bag and it said, ‘Live, Laugh, Love.’”

“Well, she ain’t doing any loving today!” CL scoffs. “I gotta go pick up my kid. He’s still in the pool.”

“Ah, okay. Well, have a great Mother’s Day,” PP called after her.
CL shrugs, then smiled. “Thanks. See you.”

Lying back down, PP sighs, relieved to be alone for a last moment in the sauna.
She was all for Some Attitude.
As long as it wasn’t directed at her!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Blood & blood & more blood....

"We see blood. We see it. We have to see the blood. We do not know if no blood….”
Diabetes Woman is on a Blood Rant when PP and DL enter Utopia. PP knows what it’s probably about, but has to ask anyway.

“What are you talking about?”

Sandy shakes her head, a smirk on her face, “You know what she’s talking about.”
Osama Bin Laden. Who else?

Such Blood Talk scares PP mightily. She gets, on an abstract intellectual level, the emotional righteous passion surrounding his killing. But her own gut reaction is: the whole thing is eerily weird. All the Patriotic Fervor in front of the White House that smacks of college kids out for any excuse to drink and wave the flag. Sure, The Guy was a Demon, but still…

The Celebratory Party Atmosphere of it all just creeps her out.

So, now in Utopia with DW ranting on about the Blood, she just feels confused and grossed out.

Sandy, on the other hand, seems to be enjoying the show.
“You think I am crazy?” DW demands of Sandy.
“No, no, you’ve got a right to your opinion," Sandy says, grinning.

“That Osama Bin Laden, you understand, he is the Devil. And his children, they are the Devil. It is in the blood, you know?” DW glares at PP demanding a response.

On the spot, PP nods grasping for something to say, “Like it’s passed on from generation to generation?” she ventures.

DW waves her hands around before letting them continue their under the breast rubbing ritual, “That is right! It is the generation. Like you say!”

Another Ethiopian Woman, or at least PP assumes she is since DW rattles off quick asides in her language to her, starts to giggle. “You are so funny,” she says.

“What so funny!” DW demands. “He was Evil man. He deserve to die. He killed thousands and thousands of people. Innocent people women children babies. What funny about that?”

“Nothing,” AEW continues to grin, “It’s just you’re funny is all. When you said about it’s like Africa. How they get into power and stay in power for 30, 40 years.”

“Africa!” DW stands up, waves her hands dramatically toward all of them, “Africa Stupid!”

Now everyone laughs. PP can see DL’s glasses jiggling on her belly from the giggles. PP has no clue what the Africa Stupid proclamation has to do with Osama Bin Laden. Maybe he aspired to a dictatorship of Ethiopia and it's only just being revealed now in the Sauna at the Oakland YMCA?

“WHAT WHAT WHAT so funny?” DW proclaims, but then she too dissolves into a broad grin. “Okay, okay, you all think I’m crazy. That ok. I don’t mind. I go now.”

Grabbing her soaked towel from the soggy bench, she heads out of the sauna, letting the door close behind her, a sudden quiet calm filling the room.

“On a totally different note, did you see Susan Lucci on Jay Leno the other night?” Sandy asks PP.

"Wow, no. Wonder how I missed that?"
"I have no idea. Seems like something you woulda caught. Anyway, she was saying how....."

PP tries to listen, but the images of a bloody terrorist keeps crowding out the All My Children gossip.

"....and she said that she had had no idea they were canceling the show till the week before we, the public, found out. Can you believe that?" Sandy asks PP, eyeing her intently.

Shaking her head, PP smiles, "No, that's hard to believe. And how long has she been on that show? 47 years?"
"Over 40."
"It's criminal," PP comments.
Sandy nods, gathering up her towel, water bottle, foot scraper, etc. "That's one way of putting it," she agrees as she exits the sauna.

PP sighs, gathering up her stuffs. It's been a long day. The Osama Bin Laden Blood Rant took a lot out of her.

And now the news of Susan Lucci's Kept in the Dark Layoff.

Well, it was all just too much.
There was just way too much carnage in the world. And sure how can you compare the killing of Osama Bin Laden to the Layoff of a Soap Opera Diva?

You can't really.
Or can you?

Mad as Hell!

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” Remember that line? Remember that movie? Network , right? What was everyone so ma...