Tales from the Gym – a Prayer for Los Angeles

January 24th, 2008

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.

Entry Filed under: Tales From the Gym

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