Richard Riehl 7 a.m., Feb. 10
- Community Blog
Salome and John the Baptist Could Find Common Ground (and Water) in La Mesa
It was the final Tuesday of February. The Tuesday just before a serial killer whale in Orlando lived up to his name for the third time. The Tuesday big Dick Cheney's heart tried to emulate the orca. The Tuesday before the 8.8 crust thrust under Chile kicked loose a tsunami at 500 miles per. And it was the Tuesday I ended up at "The Tubs" in La Mesa with a woman 15 years my junior whom my wife had never met.
Looking back, I blame all of the above on the piezo-electric radiation generated by millions of Hummer-sized quartz crystals being ground together within Chile's tectonic plates . But even more than the piezo-electric effect, I hold Sigmund Freud responsible for the events I experienced that day in the City of La Mesa.
Had Freud given his protege, Wilhelm Reich, a little more fatherly praise when he came out with his "Orgone/Deadly Orgone sexual energy theory of life and health, I would have been traveling a different time-line than the one in which I pulled up to the curb in La Mesa's West End. If Freud could have swallowed his Oedipal paternal pride just once and said, "Willie, mein sohn, your theory that healthy und vigorous sexual activity can prevent all psychoses und physical illness is truly wunderbar! Let's go down to the Biergarten and discuss it over schnapps and schnitzel," I would have been in some other parallel universe that afternoon, far from the alluring distractions of La Mesa's borderlands.
Instead, the Father of Psychoanalysis had to say something alienating. Something that sent Reich off on his own--touting, and eventually proving, his theory of Health and Sanity through Sex. He even discovered ways to detect and photograph the blue light that glowed from healthy "bions" as they drew down the life force of the cosmos.
Just about the time Reich began demonstrating the healing power of Orgone therapy with thousands of (presumably smiling) patients in Germany, those prudish goose-steppers came to power and Reich was forced to relocate to Norway. The psychiatrists of Norway proved about as open to Reich's work as the nazis, and so, on the eve of World War II, he caught the last ship out of Norway bound for New York. After a couple of years of teaching his healing techniques to physicians, Reich made the fateful decision(for me as well as him) to buy some land and set up his lab in rural Maine. There he built his "Cloudbuster" with which he was able to both attract and dissipate storms. (He was even given credit in newspapers for saving the Maine blueberry crop by ending a drought in a single afternoon at the request of local farmers.) However, when he began to build Orgone Accumulators--inexpensive plywood and metal boxes lined with alternating layers of organic and inorganic materials--and started to cure cancer, that was the beginning of the end for old Wilhelm. He quickly learned that by comparison the FDA and the AMA make the most ardent nazi seem more like Mr. Rogers. Needless to say, in their zeal to protect the American public from the horrors of non-pharmaceutical health care, the FDA dutifully destroyed all Reich's equipment, burned his books and research papers, and imprisoned him until he died. Now, for those of you still reading, you're probably asking yourself what the heck all this has to do with my ending up at The Tubs at 72nd and El Cajon in La Mesa. Well, an inventor in Idaho named Don Croft came up with a variation of Reich's Orgone Accumulators that are much easier to make, and also protect against harmful radiation from cell phones, computers, cell towers, etc. I followed his directions (available for free online) and started making my own and giving them away. Over the course of the last couple of years, I began making my own variations that became more like sculptures. Crystal and Metaphysical shops began carrying them and my friend Sonia showed one to the people at La Mesa's Myztic Isle, who asked me to bring some more by.
That's how I ended up in La Mesa that Tuesday. And after a great (and cheaper than Tin Fork) lunch at Himilayan Cuisine (next to the Burlingtion Coat Factory on Baltimore) we headed down to the SpaceBar for some coffee and dessert. On the way down El Cajon Blvd. we passed The Tubs and Sonia said to me, "I always wondered what's inside but I've always been afraid to go in on my own."
I replied that they probably just sold hot tubs and spas, then decided to loop around the next block to head back and find out once and for all. A couple pushing their 50s, casually but neatly dressed, both wearing dark sunglasses, walked in the door a few steps ahead of us. As we entered, I noticed that, even in the relative darkness, the woman still wore her shades as she and the man quietly signed in at the front counter, neither of them ever glancing at us. The woman behind the formica counter was a sturdy blue-eyed blonde of about 60, who looked Sonia and I over before stating she would be back in a moment. She bent over, grabbed a couple of towels from behind the counter, and headed down the long, even dimmer hall, the couple following smoothly in step as if this was far from their first visit. Sonia and I immediately began scanning the place like two teen shoplifters. The first thing I noticed was a mostly blue plastic mounted fish from no species I'd ever seen on this planet suspended behind the counter. On either side of this imaginary game fish were shallow shelves with a bevy of different beverages, all of which appeared to be non-alcoholic. Even before looking at the photos of each of the rooms with their hourly prices, the slight sinking feeling in my stomach confirmed we were in a straight version of the gay bathhouses that dotted my hometown of Frisco and most other big cities. Each of the glossy photos showed a different version of the basic layout. A hot tub and a ledge above and to the side of it, roughly the size of a double bed, topped with a presumably waterproof and easily cleaned mattress.
As the receptionist returned down the hall, I checked out the signs that quoted the charges for getting oil or soap into the hot tubs or saunas. "How can I help you?" "We'd just like a tour," said Sonia. As I visualized with a wince my wife's reactions when I tried to answer her usual query on how my day went, my eyes caught the Health Department certificate in its frame.
A giant plastic axe suspended from the ceiling guarded the hall entrance. The blonde, as if she could read my thoughts, said, "We have quite an eclectic selection of decor."
Before either of us could respond, she checked her clipboard, then pushed open the door to a room. It had a small, circular hot tub, a shower and a closet-sized sauna. It was clean, neat, and efficient-looking. It had hand painted renditions of the solar system covering walls and ceiling, with a few of the same plastic phosphorescent stars I'd once stuck to the ceiling of my daughter's bedroom when she was a toddler. This room reminded me more of a hybrid between a 1950s-era public pool locker room and a pediatric waiting room than anyone's possible idea of a "love grotto." Someone would have to be very horny and very drunk or loaded to brave the waters of this room. Then I remembered we were within a couple of miles of San Diego State. As we moved on to the V.I.P. room, the blonde shared that nobody's allowed to wander out of their rooms and that only 2 people were allowed to a room. "Except this one," she said as she swung open the door. It had at least twice the floor space of the other rooms, and a hot tub comparable in size to one in your average apartment complex.
I bit. "How many does this hold?"
"Twelve." I thought again of SDSU and the frat houses, suddenly pitying whoever manned the front desk on weekend nights after a big game. "It's got a Turkish bath, but it's broken and we haven't had the money to fix it." I nodded with as much sympathy as I could muster. As we headed back to the front, Sonia got a call and stepped outside to answer it. "So," I asked, "You a native San Diegan?" "Military brat. My old man was commandant of the Presidio in the late 60s." "Really? I grew up in Frisco. You go to high school there?" She shared her sister did, but she'd already graduated by 1969, when her father retired out as a one-star. She'd opened "The Tubs" in 1982, and spent most of her time away either in San Francisco or Paris. Confessed the economic downturn had hurt business. "Should have sold out three years ago. Nobody's interested right now, but I'm ready to retire. I'm thinking about leasing it out." I didn't want to ask how that would work. But later, as Sonia and I headed toward the SpaceBar, I thought about "The Tubs" more realistically. It was providing a service for people who don't have the time, space or money, and perhaps the delusions and pretense of someone taking their date or wife to the Hotel Del. Why pay $500 or more and two days of your life for something you can take care of for $40 in less than an hour?
Old Wilhelm would have definitely given two thumbs up to The Tubs and its owner for accumulating Orgone and improving the physical and psychological health of all La Mesa and San Diego. Now, all I have to do is figure out how to explain this little field trip to my better half.
addendum: For those of you interested in learning a bit more about Dr. Reich and Orgone go to: http://www.wilhelmreichmuseum.org/biography.html