Monday, May 14, 2012

Hotel California

Lately, I'd say in the last 46 or so years, I've been feeling incredibly held, as if carried around in the palm of a mostly-loving King Kong. There are glaring voids but for the most part, I feel like my life is just one crowd surfing scenario after another. Case in point: Saturday evening.

At this time every year, I head to my home state, California, to celebrate Mother's Day with Mama Iva and celebrate Chick Cabin Weekend. Kirk, who is somehow managing to be even more amazing during all this change, gives me a no-muss, no-fuss ride to the airport. I make my way to the gate, where I am greeted by my pal, Gins, a friend from San Francisco who just so happens to be on the same flight. This we discovered earlier by a random, "How r u?" text session that morning. What are the odds?

Despite our fellow row mate being super hot, Gins and I mostly ignored him and chatted our heads off on the flight - sharing recent adventures, updating on mutual friends and family and tackling Big Life Questions while munching on snack size peanuts. (I took a photo of her at LAX but alas, it was not approved for publication.)

Less than a minute after hugging Gins' parental units at the curb, my longtime pal, Susie, whisks me away into the madness of LA. We reunite back at her place with Zen Lisa, who is waiting for us in her car, which doubles as a backstage changing room and urban tank. We head to WitzEnd in Venice, where we scarf down an embarrassing amount of food (hey, it was free with the Groupon) and enjoy three awesome musical acts - The Novelists, Bo The Girl and Tyler Conti - a man with a voice, a guitar and enough sex appeal to kill an elephant. (His mom was there too, so we thanked her for his existence.)

Susie had to get up early the next morning, so we left early-ish, and headed back to her place. There were more indulgences, conversation and laughter. Then, Lisa takes me to a 24-hour spa in Koreatown because...hey, it's a Groupon! Called WiSpa, as described by Racked LA, "Wi Spa is not for novices. It's for die-hard spa-goers that know their way around a traditional Korean bathhouse and aren't afraid of a little nudity. Okay, a lot of nudity." 

As far as I was concerned, there wasn't enough nudity but then again, I was born with a lack of modesty. In fact, I sometimes forget that nudity is still not accepted as normal behavior; it's the same as me constantly forgetting that pot it still illegal. (Ridiculous.)

Wiltern Theater, one my favorite old haunts.
Most of the signs are in Korean and English but we still needed additional explanations. There's a women-only floor (nudity, yay!), men-only floor (the same, I assume) a co-ed floor (spa-issued shorts and t-shirt only) and a rooftop lounge. Did I mention this spa is open 24-hours a day, seven days a week? I guess they also offer salt scrubs, massages and other services but we were there just to explore the general spa facilities.

Walking out to the general area with heated floor tiles, we see men, women and children relaxing all over the place in that beautiful unselfconscious way that only non-Midwesterners can. WiSpa has a series of special sauna rooms and the first we tried was the Salt Sauna Room, which is filled entirely with smooth, hot salt chunks, although I thought it was Rose Quartz. It is incredibly beautiful, like a wee pink church where everyone lays down to pray.

"The respiratory system is purified, circulation improves, the immune system is strengthened, and muscles are relaxed. In addition, halotherapy (salt therapy) is healing for skin conditions."  
Honestly, I didn't want to leave this room but your body can only handle so much heat. They recommend only 10-20 in each room. So, we took a break and next, we tried the Jade Room:  " The powerfully hot JADE ROOM eases muscle tension, helps with arthritis, and is known to lower the cerebral temperature. The sodium and minerals within the walls of Jade Spa also help in the balancing of hormones. In Asian culture, Jade has long been revered for its healing properties and in aiding stress relief."
This photo doesn't do the beauty of these rocks justice. I could have stared at them for hours.
Next, we jumped into the mysterious-looking Bulgama, "made mostly out of oak wood, sits at an impressive 231 degrees for intense thermotherapy. As guests lie on the floor, heat helps to loosen muscles, remove toxins and bacteria in the body, and reduce blood pressure -- for an overall cleansing effect."
Holy shit, this place was hot.
Seriously, I could only stay in there less than 5 minutes - I never even moved away from the door. It was scary hot. Lisa took to it more than I did. We took a break after this before heading in to the Clay Sauna, another favorite of mine:

"This natural mud stimulates the lymphatic system and assists in the heavy metal detoxification process."
This photo doesn't explain what this room really is, which is a super hot room filled with billions of tiny red clay balls. Since you can't walk on them very well, there are wooden planks so you can access different areas. Also, there are wooden curved neck supporters and helpfully, a flat screen TV on the wall showing (what else?) a Korean cooking show, which gave me a deep craving for noodles I have yet to address.

After all this, I need an antidote to all that heat, which is why they have the Ice Sauna:

Ahhhhhh! They could have hung sides of beef in here and I would have punched them out of sheer gratitude.

So, after all this, we (finally!) got nekked and explored the womens' floor - hot HOT jacuzzis, cold dip pools, dry saunas, steam room and long rows of grooming stations - showers hoses, bowls, little plastic chairs and shampoo/conditioner/shower gel dispensers. We watched the Korean women all line up and busily groom their feet, their heads and their privates. Applying the when-in-Rome philosophy, I sat down and did the same. Lisa joined me, with some hesitance.

Ultimately, we left the spa around 1:30 a.m., more cleansed, detoxed and purified than I've ever been. We get in to the organized madness of Lisa's car and she puts on the very slow, very live version of 'Hotel California' as we head through downtown LA and off toward Long Beach.

Listening to this classic Golden State anthem, I count the palm trees, note the many helicopters and screaming cop cars and ponder the personal bonds of my home state. Mr. Henley is correct - I can never really leave, no matter where I go.

And again, I feel held.

No comments: