Friday, May 9, 2014


Osento was at the heart of the wimmin's community that stretched along Valencia during the heydey of actual lesbian ascendency in SF -- our neighborhood rather than the boys' Castro. In the bottom floor of a beautiful old Victorian, owned by Summer (who lived on the top floor), was an entry room where you paid the two bucks fee, a general disrobing room with lockers, a toilet room which also had the shower you were asked to take first, a large tiled room with a very hot pool lined with wide rims on which you could sit or lie to cool off/chat, a small back room with pads to lie on, and a small outdoor patio with a cold plunge.

 It was most definitely not a sexual environment. It was dimly lighted, we were encouraged to keep our voices soft, no making out or fondling (it was very public), and I often fell asleep there after soaking my bones and spirit. I always went weekly, sometimes several times a week.

One of my favourite memories was when two friends from out of town came to visit from Dallas and Los Angeles respectively. We had all lived in Denton during the 1970s and this was a reunion weekend.

The Dallas friend, Mary, had been out to SF many times and was well-acquainted with Osento. She was also a talented prankster. The other friend, Jean, was shy, had never been to any sort of bathhouse, and was, to put it kindly, very gullible.

 As we walked up the steps to the front door, Jean stopped nervously and asked me to swear this was not going to be a den of hot throbbing lesbian sex. We both reassured her, and I said it was a perfectly discreet place, no one was going to ogle her. But Mary, seizing the opportunity to tease Jean, added with a straight face "We do have to give a password at the front door, to make sure it's just dykes coming in."

Jean looked startled, and after a couple of beats, Mary turned to me and said "Did you call to get this week's password?" I grokked what she was doing and said the first thing that came into my head: "Yep, it's 'beans and franks'". Mary nodded and repeated in a whisper "Beans and franks."

We contrived to position ourselves so that Jean reached the door first. Mary and I stood back a pace, watching the sidewalk behind us, as Jean knocked on the door, her face pale. When Summer answered, Jean leaned toward her and whispered "Beans and franks."

Summer said blankly "What?" Jean cleared her throat and repeated the nonexistent password. Summer gaped at her for several seconds, then looked beyond her, saw me, and said "Oh hey, it's you, come on in."

But Mary and I only barely made it in the door before we were convulsed with laughter. Jean realized she'd been had and went beet red with embarassment. We explained our joke to Summer, who also found it hilarious, and within a few minutes, the whole place was giggling and murmuring "beans and franks" to each other. It became a beloved joke between the three of us; sometimes we'd begin phone calls with "beans and franks" before sliding into giggles.


Thursday, May 8, 2014


In the summer of 1966, my family took the only just-for-pleasure vacation in my memory, in response to my request that we "go camping but not like moving somewhere". We spent a long weekend on the Frio River near Leakey, Texas, in a private waterfront campground called Camp River View.

My older brother announced he was not going with us at the last minute, and my father had to use physical violence to get him in the car. The two-hour drive there from Dilley was hellish, with Craig in the back seat venting his rage on me and Bill.

Once there, my father discovered the rental fee was $1.50 per day instead of the $1 he had been told, and he ranted at the woman attendant, saying he would not be cheated, we were turning around and going back home. I began crying and my mother intervened, insisting he pony up and drive us in. He went into a sulk that lasted the rest of the weekend, refusing to set up camp or participate in any way.

Despite him and the threat of Craig's proximity, Bill and I had a blast, getting to frolic for hours in the cold clear water which was shallow enough that we could safely wear styrofoam tubes and not worry about drowning. Mama fed us sandwiches and Shasta sodas from the cooler, and sat on the riverbank watching us, laughing with us. Craig disappeared for hours at a stretch and Daddy steamed at the concrete slab which was our site. At night, Bill and I slept on quilts in the back of the pickup, looking up at the stars, while the three adults and near-adults were on borrowed cots on the slab.

All of Mama's photos from that weekend are shot through with a light leak in her failing Brownie camera. But I don't need the photographs, really. It was a rare time of freedom from worry for me, us two young ones protected by Mama.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. There are some really creative folks out there.