Tuesday, November 28, 2006

An Encounter in the Desert, East of San Diego




From www.juddhandler.com:

I need to go for a road trip and escape the world and the blitzkrieg of advertising. Sometimes I think I have more issues than Time Magazine. One issue I have is with my dating life. I’m real picky, mostly because when I look at a woman, I immediately judge if she’s datable by her body composition and physical appearance. I want to be more like Jack Black in the movie Shallow Hal and be able to look at a woman who although might have a penchant for super-sizing her fries, I will nonetheless be attracted to her inner beauty. I want to be able to look at a somewhat beefy woman and see the Gwyneth Paltrow in her.

I also suffer sometimes from general, 21st century, Armageddon-is-near angst. I need to stop reading the newspaper with its barrage of reports on corporate greed, murderous child kidnappings, terrorism and ethnic conflict. Prozac anybody? Although I usually rely on my powers of positive perception and faith in the ultimate inherent goodness of man and woman, today is just one of those days when I can’t help but feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders.

So I hop in my car and decide to head east towards the desert on Interstate 8. Some 80 miles from the coast and two casinos later, I stop for gas at the Jacumba exit. While filling up I see a sign that says “DeAnza Springs Resort 2 Miles Ahead.” A resort right in the middle of the desert, that’s exactly what I need to escape from reality today.

I drive on the 5-mile-per-hour dirt road that leads to the resort. I pass tennis, volleyball, and basketball courts and the pool. If the price is right for a day pass, I’m going to hang out and chill out by the pool.

Little did I know that I would literally be hanging out. When I pull into the office parking lot, I see a smattering of people walking around naked. A woman appearing in her 40s is sitting in a beach chair, reading naked. Hilarious. I’m at a nudist resort. This is what Webster means by serendipity. Discovering something spontaneously can be the perfect cure for the energy-draining effects of living in the status quo. I take a deep breath and get out of my car.

Walking into the office, I’m actually not sure if I’m at a nudist resort. The three females behind the desk are all clothed. I use the journalistic force and ask if I can speak to the director. Out walks Dave Landman, owner of DeAnza springs resort. He assures me this is a nudist resort, as do the pictures on the wall of nudists engaged in water aerobics, volleyball, tennis, body painting and other recreational activities. Dave offers to sit down with me and waive the $18 day fee for virgin nudists. He is more than happy to share his philosophies on nude living and recreation, and how this lifestyle can better humanity as well as relieve stress.

We walk past the full-service kitchen and seat ourselves in the entertainment lounge. My first experience in the interior of a nudist resort is slightly disturbing to me: Nude NASCAR. Ten people (both men and women and all nude) are watching NASCAR on the big screen, sipping bottles of beer.

I still don’t really know why the sky is blue and I definitely don’t know how some people can spend hours watching cars go around in a circle on TV, much less while naked. The people are comfortable and mellow, however, and thankfully, they aren’t drinking case after case of Busch Light and vociferously voicing their disdain for Jeff Gordon like some other car racing fans.

I ask Dave why he isn’t naked. He tells me it’s a courtesy to the UPS rep or meter reader, who might soon stop by. Evidently, not everybody can handle the spectacle of nude NASCAR.

Dave, 55, sports a golden tan and amicable smile. He was once a vice president of a major mortgage company, overseeing 70 branches. He has been a nudist for several years and since 1997, he has made a better life for himself by taking over the DeAnza Springs resort, located 2600-feet up in the high desert of San Diego County. Surrounded on three sides by America’s largest desert state park (Anza Borrego) and massive boulders which once lied on the ocean floor millions of years before the arrival of Adam and Eve, the supposed original nudists, DeAnza Springs for hundreds of people who visit here each year is a Garden of Eden-variety nude oasis.

At this point, I still have my boardshorts on. I think my conscience is affected by the “Shrinkage” Seinfeld episode that I have seen at least five times. Dave wants to give me a tour of a good chunk of the resort’s 125 developed acres. The mode of transportation is a street-legal Dahmler-Chrysler souped-up golf cart. I hop in and listen to Dave’s philosophy on nude living.

“It’s hard to be an a****** when you’re naked,” says Dave, who is married and has non-nudist children (and a dog appropriately named Nudels). “Here, you have nothing to hide behind. There are no status symbols. Friendships are easier to make because people are genuinely friendly. People here don’t hide behind the logos on their shirts.”

Dave says as soon as you drive through the gates here, the stress goes away. I realize I’m relaxed and in better spirits. I ask Dave if he ever gets sunburn on his member. “Oh yeah,” he chuckles. “What do you do for that,” I ask? “Same as any other body part,” says Dave, “Use lots of aloe.”

Although I’m feeling comfortable, I imagine there are some men who can’t check their egos at the gate and therefore need to measure up to other men. For those people, Dave says the feeling goes away pretty quickly. And erections aren’t a problem either. Men are too nervous during their first nudist outing, and by the second time, they realize there’s no reason to sport one. For the first time in a long while, I realize that my flesh is a just a shell; my personality and essence is what counts.

Driving by the RVs and rental “park apartments”, which come fully furnished at $65 per night, Dave and I stop to chat with some of DeAnza’s guests. Some of DeAnza’s clientele stay year round (most are here just for the weekend). Several guests have high-stress occupations, such as policeman, fire marshal, truck driver, and the head of a rehab center.

We get out of the cart and chat to some of the nudists at the poolside bar. Bob Wilberscheid is a retired Navy veteran who served in World War II. His first experience with nudity occurred in 1944, when he was stationed in North Africa, where he stumbled upon a nude beach. He’s been hooked since then. He migrated to the west, a more hospitable location than his native Chicago, a city where shrinkage is taken into account along with frostbite.

Judy and Jim Gallagher, married and in their 40s, are two of the estimated 75,000 members of nudist organizations (the largest being the 50,000-strong American Association of Nude Recreation). They drove 400 miles from their homebase in Parump, Nevada, for a week’s stay. They met at a nudist resort in Sacramento nine years ago. Judy, a domestic engineer, says that she has a hard time going anywhere because she doesn’t feel like putting clothes on anymore.

Jim says that the psychological effects of living at a nudist resort are comparable to going to a school with a mandatory dress-code. People develop better self-esteem and barriers are broken down as a result of egalitarianism.

DeAnza maintenance man Ken Kratz helps me understand why some people have a problem with viewing the naked body. “Kids don’t want to wear clothes,” says Clyde. “Unfortunately, most parents make them feel ashamed of being nude.”

Now that I have had a crash course in nude living, I am finally ready to taste the freedom of having the desert wind and hot sun have its way with my albino ass. I have no fear of shrinkage. I drop my trunks and stride confidently over to the pool. Nobody makes a scene. Eventually, some of the nudists I’ve talked to join me in the pool. Everyone is excited to tell me the beauty of nude living. The Beavis and Butthead in me are immediately exorcised; breasts and vaginas don’t bring out the Neanderthal beast within. I am free of judgment. I am nude and relaxed without a care in the world.

For the next few hours I sunbath nude and enjoy the panoramic view of the desert landscape. I imagine myself playing basketball nude. My defense would be lackadaisical. I will come back here soon and participate in more nude recreation. I will lift weights naked, but I won’t squat and do any deadlifts. I need to be broken in some more.

The nudists of DeAnza Springs are true revolutionaries. They revolt against an advertising monster that bombards the public with images of blemish-free models with zero body fat. They revolt against corporate logos. They are able to kick the toxic habit of comparing themselves to others. They are stress-free and non-judgmental, and for one day, I am blessed to feel a little like them.

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