Wednesday, September 26, 2018


“I see you skipped the pool tonight,” Sandy observes as she saunters naked across the squalid Jacuzzi room to grab a paper towel.
“Yeah,” I shake my head, “I had to get a stupid TB test and so can’t go in the pool or Jacuzzi for 48 hours.” Sandy has noted my lack of wet hair and wet suit and discombobulation from being out of my swim routine mug?

“I understand,” she says now, as she strolls past me on her way back into Utopia. I follow her in, DL behind me. We all settle down to get the heat. There’s only one other woman in the sauna. An Amazonian Blonde lying prone on the bottom shelf. I’ve not seen her before, but I’ve been gone for weeks because of the pool closure. So, she could be a New Regular.
DL wrinkles her nose. “The smell….” she murmurs. “I can’t take it,” and she bolts out of the sauna.

She’s right. There is a VERY strong smell of that eucalyptus potion that some of the women in Utopia employ. I usually don’t mind it, but DL’s exit is entirely appropriate. I don’t follow her cuz I need the heat. Plus, I want some Sandy Story Time.
“I don’t mean to be presumptuous,” Amazon Blonde says, “but why did you have to get a TB test?”

I guess I was announcing this to all of Utopia when Sandy asked me. Sometimes I forget how loud I can be. Esp. when I’m at the Y. There’s always such a din and I’m often unable to understand anyone. I remember one time when BLN was telling some fabulously intense story in Utopia, but she talks softly with a big vocabulary and I couldn’t really understand most of what she said, which is a shame.

So, maybe I shout cuz of this? Or I just forget sometimes how we’re all in such close quarters and everyone can hear everything if you’re making some sort of TB Test Proclamation?

In any case, I was a bit embarrassed that Amazon Blonde was asking me, but then again, not really and told her it was cuz I was hired to teach in the Contra Costa School district and had to go through this formality.
“What are you teaching?” she asks.
“Cool,” she says, then proceeds to tell me how she is taking some sort of music theory class at Laney College and playing some groovy instrument that I’ve never heard of and then how she taught ESL in the City (has everyone under the age of 30 taught ESL in the City?!) and then sheepishly, she admits that she was the culprit with the Eucalyptus Stench. “I’m sorry,” she apologizes, “I saw some other women putting it on and I thought it was okay….”

“Ummmm….” I murmur. I’m sure she did see other women slathering the shit on, but honestly, wouldn't common sense dictate that you don't stink up small heated public spaces with stinky health potions? Plus, there are signs all over the place saying not to apply lotions in the sauna.

“I didn’t realize it was so strong,” she continues, abashed. “I just put a little on my chest.”
I glance at her young vital brisket, shiny and hard. Oh, to be young and clueless!

“It is pretty strong,” Sandy pipes up.

Amazon Blonde nods. Continues to lie prone for about 30 seconds and then gets up and leaves. Without a word.
Sandy sighs. Very loudly.
“Aren’t there signs here prohibiting lotions in the sauna?” I ask her.
“You bet your sweet ass there are!” she snorts. “Signs for no lotions. Signs for no glass. Signs for no food. Etc. etc. etc.!”
“Yeah, but no one reads the signs, right?” I say.
“That’s right,” she agrees. “People just do what they want to do and to hell with everyone else.”
I nod, settle back into the heated wall.

“Congratulations on your teaching job by the way,” she says, more mellow suddenly. “I didn’t know you played the piano.”
“Thanks—it’s very part-time, but yes, I’ve played and taught piano all my life. It’s my first love.”
“Do you play an instrument?” I ask her.
She smiles, wistful. “I used to play the Ukulele with my brother when we were growing up in the Islands. I couldn’t read music, mind you, just chords, but I remember hanging out on the lanai, the trade winds blowing and my brother and I would just be strumming along.”
“That sounds lovely,” I grin.
“It was.”
Later, as DL and I stagger around the parking garage looking for our cars, I tell her about Sandy’s Ukulele story and she nods, “I want to hear more stories from her about growing up on the Islands.”

“Yes, me too,” I agree, thinking that growing up in Hawaii in the 60s and 70s must be chalked full of paradise narrative and family lore. Esp if such lore is coming from Sandy!

Stay tuned. I’m hoping to gather more Island Sandy Stories in the next few weeks..... Coming to a blog post soon…..

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Legs Up

“Cj…” DL whispers, nodding toward the dank dark floor of Utopia, its ickee cement a situation I usually avoid looking at. But now, I follow her gaze. EEEEEWWWWW!

“Is that a Cockroach?” I ask, aghast and queasy.
She nods. Sandy sits up from the top bench of Utopia, shakes her head. “They just fumigated the place.”

“Looks like it worked?” I venture.

“Nope, if it had, we wouldn’t be looking at what we’re looking at. Would you mind calling the front desk, Denise?” Sandy asks. “Let them know we saw a dead cockroach in the sauna. Legs up.”

DL nods. Sandy continues, “This is what happens when people bring food in here. Why last week, someone brought glass into the hot tub and it broke and they had to close the joint for two days.” She harrumphs, shaking her head. “I mean, c’mon, People! Get a clue! You can’t bring glass in here. It’s a hazard. You can’t bring food in here. It results in….” She wrinkles her nose, nodding toward Legs Up.
DL scurries out of the sauna. I’m right behind her. Disgusting! It was so large and brown and plastic looking. Like a cockroach facsimile. Yet it was real. Or had been.

The Downtown Oakland Y’s pool has been closed for weeks. Some sort of project with the sound abatement. Like any kind of sound abatement would keep the screaming kids from making me want to drown them? In any case, I haven’t been to the Oakland Y cuz of this pool closure and tonight, my first night back in weeks, had been okay pool wise. But now, Cockroaches in Utopia?
I didn’t need that.

As I head over to the lockers to change, I almost run smack into Doreen. She’s standing in the middle of the locker room, staring into space, shower cap on, towel wrapped around her, shaking her head slowly. “I don’t know what I’m doing,” she chuckles softly to me. “I guess I’m imprinting an entomological image in my mind.”

She could only be talking about The Cockroach! I grin, “Yeah, it’s imprinted on my mind too. Wish it weren’t!”

She laughs. “You know, with my health (she has some sort of intense stage 4 cancer), I can’t be around vermin like that. It’s a danger to me.”

I nod, “Yeah, I bet. Sandy said that they had fumigated the Sauna.”

Doreen snorts, “When? In the last election!?”

We both crack up as I leave her to her entomological musings. I wonder about Doreen. She surprises me. Did she want to be an entomologist too when she was a kid? I remember when I was very young, maybe 6 or 7 or 9? I dunno, but young, and grown-ups would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I’d say, “An Entomologist.” Cute, right? But I really liked bugs. I remember being fascinated with spiders and their webs, capturing bees and flies with Paul Watson from across the street. Tossing the victims into the spider’s web. Watching in rapt fascination as the spider sped across the web, grabbing the stuck fly, and wrapping it up into a paralyzed cocoon.
Maybe I missed my calling? Now that I’m laid off, there are all sorts of opportunities, right? Maybe I could go back to school and become an entomologist at long last.

Or a fumigator.
There might be more need for that.
At least at the downtown Oakland Y!

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...