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 (and presumably sexually satisfied) "bions" as they drew down the life force of the cosmos.   After an escape from the (presumably sexually repressed) Hitler regime, Reich eventually made his way to rural Maine.  There he developed simple containers he called Orgone Accumulators that apparently cured cancer and in its "Cloudbuster" form could actually alter the weather.  (Newspapers in Maine reported on Reich saving the blueberry crop by ending a drought within a single afternoon at the request of desperate local farmers.) It was these Orgone Accumulators that led me to a rendezvous at La Mesa's Myztic Isle.  Cheryl, a gracious and statuesque psychic who gives readings there, had requested some of my own versions of Reich's (Don Croft-modified) accumulators, after my friend Sonia had shown her the one I'd given her. After leaving some Orgone sculptures with Myztic Isle on consignment, Sonia and I had a great  (and cheaper than Tin Fork) Nepalese lunch at Himilayan Cuisine (next to the Burlingtion Coat Factory on Baltimore).   On our way down we to the SpaceBar for some coffee and dessert, we passed The Tubs and Sonia said, "I've always wondered what's inside but I've been afraid to go in on my own."  I replied that they probably just sold hot tubs and spas, I looped around the next block and headed back to 72nd Street to prove it.  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 heavy with a rainbow of different beverages, all of which appeared to be non-alcoholic.  Even before noticing the photos of each of the rooms with their hourly prices, the slight sinking feeling in my stomach confirmed that I was at least partially right about this place selling hot tubs.  They did sell them--but only by the hour.     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 extra cleaning 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 locked on the Health Department certificate. 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? I like to think even Salome would have been happy getting baptized there. And old Wilhelm would have definitely given two thumbs up to The Tubs and its owner for all the health-giving Orgone its clients must have been drawn down over the last 28 years. Now, all I have to do is figure out how to explain this little field trip to my better half.      


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