The Spa of Horrors

January 31st, 2007

This week has been vacation week for David, which means it was vacation week for me, too, because it can be. So after the San Diego Zoo came a day of organizing David (complete with an IKEA trip), a picnic in Griffith Park with friends and a visit to the Griffith Observatory’s planetarium, and then yesterday, the grand finale: a morning at the spa. I had never been to a spa, so the protocol was all new and interesting to me. Since most of it was spent either facedown in the toilet-seat-like head rest of the massage table or with things laid over my eyes, I have to theorize about a lot of it. But here’s how it went:

1. First, they sent me to a Zenned out locker room to change into a karate uniform. It tied in the front, so it was more like a karate-peep-show outfit, I guess.

2. Next, I was led to the garden, where my therapist put my feet in a tepid soup with flowers floating on top. She added salt. Once my feet were sufficiently brothed, she put lotion all over them. Then she washed it off in the soup. I was directed to drink tea.

3. My therapist led me to the room where my massage would occur. She directed me to whisper. She instructed me to disrobe and put my head on the aforementioned toilet seat while she stepped out of the room.

4. She returned and laid something hot on my back. Judging by the weight of it, I debated whether it was a hot bag of flour or a freshly cooked whole piglet.

5. She did some crazy pinning-back of my hair, which I had to try not to fixate on, because I knew it must look BAD. Then she got to work kneading my shoulders and back. The determination in her hands made me think of army boot camp. This made me feel vulnerable. She told me I had nice skin and muscle tone. This made me feel even more vulnerable. I realized it was possible she could kill me with one snap of her crazy, determined hands.

6. She instructed me to turn over. For a brief second, I saw the dimly lit room with its candle shrine and soothing tones of adobe paint. She was quick, however, to snap some cottony stuff over my eyes with an elastic band. I suspect she didn’t want me to see what she kept in that toolbelt strapped to her waist.

7. At one point, I realized that the instrumental song that had just come on the new-age CD was actually a riff off “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”

8. After some more rubbing, the stretching began. She took my arm and walked all around the room with it. She did it to my other arm, and to my legs. She tied my arms in a knot. She tied my legs in a knot. She yanked on everything. At one point, I could tell she had climbed on the table. It wasn’t painful, but even if it had been, I doubt she would have heard my voice from inside the table’s dry swirlie.

8. Once the massaging was over, she got out the liquid sand-paper and scrubbed and scrubbed. Then she used hot towels to beat the scrub off my skin. Then she made my skin gross again with oil.

9. Finally, she laid two slimy cold jellyfish over my eyes and instructed me to relax. She sprayed something lavender-patchouli-like into the fan. My nasal passages responded by twitching uncontrollably.

10. Here she left the room. I was alone with the jellyfish. I had to pee SO BAD.

11. Finally, after a loooong time, she returned to remove the jellyfish. She was quick to slip them out of sight. She led me by the hand back to the garden.

This was the conclusion of my spa experience. It was interesting. I guess it was relaxing. I’d say it was fun. The place we went to was lovely, the staff, professional. I don’t recommend the eye treatment. Or at least, pee first before the massage starts.

The Happy House—Farewell?

January 27th, 2007

Across the street from the Villa Monica are a few small complexes like ours and a few little, unassuming houses, the Cali-bungalow type found throughout Santa Monica, to which owners add additions not on top (because such additions would not preserve the bungalow style) but instead out the back in a strange, sprawling manner that makes the most use of every square inch between house and alley. Then the owners either live in this now-livable-sized house with its (I imagine) weird dogleg hallways, or else rent out three or four little apartments on the property, which are connected by skinny dogleg walkways.

The little bungalow directly across from the Villa Monica houses a very special family. This family exudes a happiness that brightens any day. The family includes two teenage boys who play happy Mexican music while working out at the punching bags mounted on the front porch. Two sets of relations with tiny babies visit often in big SUVs full of strollers and gear, and everyone is always VERY happy to see each other. This family even has two tiny dogs who cavort SO HAPPILY around the tiny front yard it is hard not to watch. Tails wagging, faces smiling earnestly up at their masters, they zip from porch to fence and back again and again.

Most special of all, this family is the most festive family in a neighborhood of mostly busy secular working couples in townhome condos, and renters who are phoning it in when it comes to being a community. Halloween is a SPECTACLE in the Happy House yard: Fake cobwebs, purple and black lights, jack o’ lanterns, howly music. It’s beautiful. And Christmas. Oh. Man. We’re talking not one, but TWO gigantic inflatable snowmen, lights galore, a light scuplture on the very tippy top of the roof, and “Feliz Navidad” many an evening. Let me mention again that this house and yard are TINY. The Happy House family crams them with holiday cheer. Pulling out of our basement garage after dark, one is greeted with a fantasy of sweet Christmas joy. Even my husband, aka man-who-sees-no-reason-to-celebrate-unless-it-is-get-in-line-for-iPhone-day, has had to admit it’s lovely.

And now there is a “For Rent” sign in front of the Happy House. This could mean one of two things. Either the Happy House family’s collection of industrial-grade holiday displays has outgrown their little bungalow, or there are apartments behind the Happy House. Oh, please let it be the latter. But if it is not, Stevel says we can rechannel our mental-health expenses into rent and try living in the Happy House in an experiment to see if it is not the family, but the HOUSE that makes one so cheerful. Like a Fountain of Youth. But a House of Happiness. But similar.

In any case, three cheers for the Happy House and for the festive and appreciative family who lives there. You people so often make my day.

Travelicious Treats

January 26th, 2007

This weekend Stevel and I went to Las Vegas to meet up with Kelly and her boyfriend, Blake. We stayed in the very cool MGM Grand West Wing. This was a surprise to us, as I didn’t even realize this was what I had reserved. Contemporary rooms. Neat! One highlight of the trip was a visit to see the dolphins and big cats at the Mirage—well worth the entrance fee. Kelly seems to be doing really well. How wonderful to see her and to meet Blake. Overall, I think this was the most enjoyable time I’ve had in Vegas. Here are photos from the trip.

Yesterday David and I took advantage of some vacation time he had and headed down to the San Diego Zoo. No matter how many times I visit this place, I am never tired of it. We saw lots of baby animals, had an encounter with a playful jaguar, and walked our legs off. Here are photos from that trip. And a very special treat, my debut on YouTube: SWAMP MONKEYS!

I Fats and the Third Circle of Hell

January 23rd, 2007

Last week was a week of coincidences, the kind that turn this big town into a small town for a minute. Check this out:

THURSDAY: So I’m driving into Culver City to meet Stevel for lunch. About 4-5 miles away, I’m approaching a red light. I notice that there are drivers waiting to exit a bank parking-lot to my right, so I stop a car-length behind the car in front of me. A sedan pulls out in front of me, and the driver waves a “thank-you” as I notice his vanity plate: “I FATS.” (Those of you who don’t live in Southern California may not realize the commonness of vanity plates here. They are common.) Anyway, shortly I am turning into the Target parking-lot (because it is too early for our lunch date) and leave maybe 45 minutes later. I travel the 4-5 miles through this POPULOUS area, among thousands of drivers, to downtown Culver City, and as I turn onto Washington Blvd., who do I find myself driving behind but “I FATS,” who now has dry-cleaning hanging in his back seat. “I FATS” again! How coincidental!

FRIDAY: I saw my plumber, about 10 miles from my house, turning at a traffic light.

SATURDAY: I went to a job fair at a GIANT hotel by LAX. My friend, Morgan, and I had plans to meet up via cell phone calls between 9 and 10 a.m. at the job fair. I pull into the parking garage for this hotel, and it is SEVEN LEVELS DEEP. Literally the largest underground parking garage I’ve ever known. Like descending into the third Circle of Hell. Anyway, hundreds of cars trapped crawling through this already full parking garage, and who do I end up behind but Morgan! Not just coincidental but CONVENIENT!

Nothing and Everything

January 7th, 2007

It’s been an active two days. Yesterday I enjoyed an afternoon with Sarah, Russ, and Christina, who traveled to the West Side from their Pasadena-area neighborhoods to visit a very cool nursery called Rolling Greens and to check out some West Side neighborhoods they had heard about, specifically the Gregory Ain Mar Vista Tract. Today has been all about museum fun, with a visit with friends to LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits (Mom, you will love this place when we go in February).

I have nothing funny or exciting to report about any of these excursions. All were wholesomely fun. In other news, Linus scratched a bleeder under my left eye a few days ago while I was sleeping. The next night, he scratched one on my forearm. THEN yesterday he bit me in the side.

I got a “B” on the Dickinson paper. I pretty much want to burn it.


January 5th, 2007

I chatted for a long while with my oldest friend today. No, not oldest as in she’s geriatric, but oldest as in I remember her swinging on our swingset in third grade. And I think she hasn’t gained any weight since then. At all. Her name is Tracey, if you don’t know her, and she’s a nurse in our hometown. We have a lot of history together, including pet store history (we worked together at Pet Supplies Plus in college), Appalachia Service Project history, and, of course, Wildcat history. Since then she has become a wife, mom, and American Idol fan. Everything I could have predicted years ago. What I could never have predicted was the Tracey who is able to overcome her anxieties to go for her dreams, who can look at life with a laid-back approach, who can laugh in the face of an imperfect world. You see, our history together included a common interest in being good, serious people with good grades and good law-abiding, Bible-adhering behavior and good volunteer portfolios. People whose goodness would make us like ourselves. But that’s a tall order for a teenager.

Tracey’s kids are, predicatably, smart and funny. Her oldest, Nathan, is eight. He is also anxious and a bit dramatic. Tracey says he recently expressed his worry that he could die at any time, meaning he could die without getting to do a lot of the things she doesn’t LET him do, like snowboarding. This was news to his mother, to whom he had never once mentioned an interest in snow-sports. But Tracey also says “his ego is a bit inflated.” Later, during another conversation when she returned to this subject and told him he would have to LEARN to snowboard before he could actually hit the slopes, he replied, “And how do you know I’m not just gifted at it?”

Emily, her youngest, is more on the spunky side than the anxious. Emily has several times proposed in all seriousness that she and Tracey exchange roles so SHE can be in charge. She sees no reason why it has to be the mother who makes the rules.

Anyway, Tracey and her family are weathering the winter blahs and missing their recently departed cat, but it sounds like otherwise they’re doing great. They’re a family who seems to enjoy living together, to enjoy each other. I like those guys.

And here is Tracey being bad. (Sorry, Trace, but what are old friends for?)

This is the Day I was Called a “Fuckin’ Nut”

January 3rd, 2007

As I was cruising up Westwood Ave., I saw ahead that a man with crazy white hair and a shoulder-slung trash bag full of god-knows-what was jay-crossing the road in an erratic manner. Naturally, I slowed to allow him to cross in front of me. Instead, he waved his free arm as if spanking a moose and shouted to me, “Go! Go on! Ya’ fuckin’ nut!” I pretended this meant, “Thank you for slowing to let me cross. You go ahead, though, you kind woman, and I’ll cross behind.”

We had a week of mostly homeboundedness. My finals went fine, my grades look excellent. Stevel is STILL SICK after three-plus weeks. He has an ear infection and is on heavy duty antibiotics. Thus the homebound week. Even in sickness, though, Stevel was nice to have around all week. Now it’s just me and my resumes and my home improvement projects. Lovely new drawer-pulls in the guest bathroom. Re-potted plants on the back patio. The daily cleaning-up of the oceans of cat vomit the Puking Pair slosh around this house every day. And a life void of meaning! I don’t mean to complain. I’ve been looking forward to doing these things and to having this time, and I’m so lucky to have it. I just miss the clicky-clack of Stevel’s keyboard, the blippy-bleep of his video games, the snoodly-sneeze of his awful cold. Poor man.