Whenever some natural disaster happens in California, my relatives back east who watch a lot of TV always call to see if I’m okay. “Did you feel that big earthquake today? It’s been all over the news.” They’ll say, imagining that I’m answering the phone from a crack deep in the earth. The location of the disaster is never near me, so I usually have no idea what they’re talking about. “Do you mean the earthquake that happened in Las Vegas? No, actually, I didn’t feel that one.”
The drought has spurred a lot of phone calls from my east coast news watching team. One of my relatives called in a panic and said, “Have bandits come to steal your water yet?” Apparently, newscasters have been depicting California not as a Prius-loving modern state in the 21st century, but as a wild west full of lawless criminals. I think my relative would have loved it if I said, “Yes! Bandits did come to steal my water, but not before I pulled a shotgun out of my covered wagon and shot their heads plum off!”
My news watching relatives have called about every single natural disaster since I moved to California twenty years ago EXCEPT for the one that was actually close to our house this week.
The valley fire.
Middleton is about an hour away from us and has been devastated by fire. It happens to be home to a clothing optional hot springs that was very beloved around here. Conversations in town were peppered with sentences like “I’m going to Harbin today” “I just got back from Harbin” “There’s a retreat at Harbin this weekend”.
Sadly, it completely burned to the ground and I couldn’t help but reminisce about the one time I visited Harbin. I was pregnant with August at the time and my midwife suggested I go there to soak my bloated varicose-vein-elephant-woman-legs.
I took Buck and Emerson with me, who were five and three at the time. I brought our bathing suits because at seven months pregnant and tipping the scales at one hundred and eighty five pounds, I didn’t feel like nude was my best option. But as soon as we got there, I realized I had made a mistake bringing the kids. It’s like they felt it was their duty to point out every naked person they saw.
“Mommy, look at the woman with the long boobies!”
“Mommy, that man has a really big butt crack.”
“Mommy, that person is so big I can’t see their belly button.”
I was already completely tense when we got into one of the hot pools. Shortly after, a man got in and Emerson turned to him and said, “I’m going to call you Hairy!”
O-kay. So we headed to the cafe hoping to escape the nudity, but it turned out at Harbin you could eat naked too. The tables were very close together and as Buck, Emerson and I nibbled on a hummus plate and tried to make small non-naked talk, I saw a completely nude man holding a tray and looking in my direction. His friends were at a table behind me, but the tables were so squished together I could see the man was trying to figure out how to get past me without shoving his dick in my face. He finally decided to inch past our table facing away from us, his butt slowly moving past the staring eyes of my children. I tried to signal Buck and Emerson to not say anything, but it was too late….
“Mommy, that’s man’s butt is almost touching our food!”
“Mommy, I’m not eating that. It has butt germs!”
Frankly, I had lost my appetite too. So we left Harbin, but in my mind I always thought I’d return one day, without kids, and enjoy some time in a beautiful natural hot springs in Northern California.
I’m very sorry that it’s gone.