Posts filed under 'Tales From the Gym'

Tales from the Gym – the Naked Sauna Faerie

You wouldn’t think it would be so easy to be oblivious in such close quarters. The sauna is the size of a small bedroom; there’s only one way in and one way out, and there’s really nowhere to hide.

When I closed my eyes and turned on my music, there were a few women lying about on the cedar shelves. I settled into my favorite position – lying on my back, with my feet propped up against a wall – and drifted happily into a post-workout trance as their muffled noises filtered through my headphones: a cough, a rustle, bare feet padding across the wooden floor. It seemed like just a few seconds later when I heard someone smile a nanosecond before I heard her voice:

“Aye my girl, it looks like you’ve got the place all to yourself. That’s a nice trick.”

I opened my eyes and popped one of my earphones out of my head.

“As you can see” I said, trying to smile and gesture in spite of being perpendicular to my interlocutor, “I’m saving plenty of room for you.”

“Oh no pretty, enjoy it for yourself” she responded with a chuckle. Then she stripped off all of her clothes, except for a shower cap, and said “well, that’s it for me. I’m done!”

And then she left.

And so, as well, had all the other sauna ladies. They’d disappeared, soundlessly, though I would swear the door had never once been opened.

Did the naked sauna faerie wave them away with a gesture from her swimsuit-wielding hand? Did she create an alternate reality just for me – one in which I suddenly had the entire sauna to myself on a busy Sunday afternoon? Regardless of which magical explanation obtains, the sauna is clearly an enchanted place.

Add comment February 4th, 2008

Tales from the Gym – a Prayer for Los Angeles

I celebrated the first day of the new year by lying in the sauna, sweating out the toxins of the past, staring dreamily at the future as I imagined it against the backdrop of dusky, heated cedar. There were a handful of other women in the sauna with me, all heavy-lidded and splayed out on the various shelves and benches. I noticed, barely, when a newcomer opened the door and shuffled into the room. My attention grew considerably more focused, however, when she sat down, arranged her limbs in a lotus-like position, and began chanting. Chanting? I turned off my ipod so I could find out what, and whom she was invoking.

“Holy father, I’m not a saint, I’m not a superhero, I’m just someone who goes to work everyday in this crazy city filled with lost angels; there’s dust on the ground, dust in the air, dust in my hair. The sidewalks have cracks and there’s trash on the ground. I can’t breathe at night.”

My fellow sauna-sitters looked restless; they whispered to themselves, cleared their throats, turned their heads towards the wall. One plugged her ears. Another sighed loudly. Bemused, I listened until the chanter seemed to run out of things to chant, then turned my music back on, wondering about her prayer. A few minutes later, she started again.

“Lord, you know there’s two kinds of people in this world. There are good folks, and then there are folks that are evil…”

At that precise moment, one of women in the sauna issued a rather loud and prolonged hiss. The chanter paused until the last sibilant echo of the hiss had dissolved into the murky stillness, then took up where she’d last left off.

“As far as the eeeeeevil ones go…”

The hisser let out an exasperated yelp; “for the love of god, shut up!!”

The chanter dropped her volume considerably but continued issuing short, staccato missives to herself. The sense of urgency increased, and she began rocking back and forth, waving her hands about, occasionally ululating in a whisper. A few minutes later she got up and left the sauna.

As a cloud of ominous, slightly giddy expectation settled over the rest of us – would the hisser be transformed into lizard? Would she disappear in a puff of smoke? Nothing had happened to her… yet… when I left a few minutes later. But I think that Los Angeles, the gym, and the sauna, are all in for an exciting 2008.

Add comment January 24th, 2008

Tales from the Gym – the Things People Wear

My gym posts regulations about appropriate gym attire all over the place, but they have yet to actually enumerate what counts as “appropriate” and what, exactly, would be its opposite.

I submit here several work-out ensembles that have recently shown up in the gym for your evaluation…

A very focused-looking girl in her early twenties wearing a full-on figure-skating costume, in vivid teal green, with a mini-skirt flounce, complete with daring faux-décolletage enabled by “invisible” flesh-colored mesh sleeves. Thick flesh-colored pantyhose disappeared into scrunch socks circa 1985, and white high-tops. Only the skates were missing.

An adorably unself-conscious older lady wearing a black ballet leotard (i.e., the non-aquatic equivalent of a one-piece swim-suit) accessorized with a cropped t-shirt, sheer black pantyhose, scrunch socks, and white tennis shoes.

A determined gentleman stationary-cyclist wearing a Speedo and spaghetti-strapped tank top.

Add comment January 21st, 2008

Tales From the Gym - Alis is Back

Thank “Lou” and the FROBSS, Alis is back! They said she was gone on vacation but the last time I saw her she was standing near the sauna, and you know what can happen in there… Needless to say, I was delighted to see that she’d made it back from “vacation” or wherever.

Alis is the gatekeeper in the women’s locker room. She distributes citrus fruit and ginger to her charges, sings Deep Purple and Jimmy Hendrix songs to mask the soulless pop coming from the sound-system, tells the ladies who are trying to change clothes without ever being naked that they’re looking good today, and yells a mega-watt “I love you!” to anyone trying to maintain aural anonymity by wearing headphones.

Alis talks to everyone, but makes a special point, I think, to draw out the ones who would rather go stand in traffic than make public pronouncements about their emotional states.
But Alis has mastered the art of the verbal interrogatory boomerang. When she talks to you, you are compelled to respond – it’s as if her questions crawl down your throat, shop around for their desired response, then drag it back out into the world – much to the surprise of your unwitting vocal cords. Alis gets everyone talking whether they like it or not; and that is why we have her to thank for our locker room community. When she goes on “vacation” the locker room is a sad, sad place. When she comes back, we can’t stop saying “I love you too, Alis!!”

Add comment April 30th, 2007

Tales from the Gym – Why Fight Gravity?

Tonight a lovely woman in her ‘60’s or ‘70’s came into the sauna. She shook out her plastic bags, laid them down and reclined upon them. The only strange thing was… instead of choosing any of the five shelves placed at various heights, she went straight for the floor. Right in front of the door. Truth be told, if it wasn’t a Saturday night, she might have risked being trampled to death because the body of a prone woman is not what you expect to find under your feet as you enter the dimly lit and perpetually shadowy sauna.

I was immediately intrigued by her motives. It could be the case that she prefers a lesser degree of heat than that provided by any of the shelves. Since heat rises, the floor of the sauna would be the most temperate zone… if “temperate” can be applied to a climate that hovers around 200 degrees and 0% humidity.

Or it could be the case that she knows something about gravity that the rest of us have yet to figure out. She was in strikingly good shape, and I couldn’t help but think of all the anti-ageing propaganda circulating in the popular media. Maybe defying gravity is old news; maybe the ageing-savvy go with the forces of nature instead of fighting them. Maybe we’d all age more slowly if we stayed as close to the earth as possible, instead of increasing gravitational stress on our bodies by choosing the top shelf in the sauna.

Add comment April 27th, 2007

Tales from the Gym – the Politics of Space

A happy, giggling group of stark-naked ladies came into the sauna bearing fruit and reading materials, thus breaking three of the “Thou Shalt Nots” posted on the sauna door. Alarmingly, though I was the lone person in an otherwise empty sauna, one of the ladies eyed a spot right next to me on the top shelf, climbed up, and settled in – less than six inches away! Now, I’m not only American, I’m Midwestern by birth and West Coast by choice – I feel right at home when VAST EXPANSES OF LAND are given over to me and my need for personal space. Clearly I have a bias. Still… less than six inches in an otherwise empty room? But, here’s the thing… as she was picking her way up to the top shelf she caught my eye, smiled, and shrugged as if to say “look at what we have to put up with to get the good spots”. And so, to my surprise, I found that I didn’t mind sharing the best spot at all. I guess my personal space requirements depend largely on the attitudes of those with whom I share.

Add comment April 26th, 2007

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