Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I Spa Review

Always on the lookout for a cultural experience, it was with great enthusiasm that I said yes when my friend Marsha, from the yoga studio invited me to go to the Korean I Spa in Irvine.

I love a good spa experience as much as the next gal, but more than that, I'm always eager for new storytelling material.  This place is ripe with it.

When you arrive at the I Spa, don't be intimidated by the exterior, which looks more like a Costco than a spa.

I Spa in Irvine

.....but inside is nice and clean.  After what feels like a long walk down a long corridor to see the Wizard of Oz, past the ATM machine, past the anti-fat clinic, past the barber shop, you walk up to a counter where two lovely young Asian women are waiting to hustle you.

"First time here?  You like a spa package?  Maybe some coupons?  We have special today." said a likable young woman whose name tag informed me that her name was Cookie.

After Cookie briskly toured us through the warehouse sized facility, I finally decided to have a combination spa package which was to include a body scrub, a lavender oil massage, a collagen facial, cucumber slices to soothe my tired eyes, a shampoo and conditioner.  All this was to last a total of one hundred minutes for the low price of $100 including the Sauna and Jjimjilbang.

Simply put, one side (the sauna) is for same sex naked folk, the other side (Jjimjilbang) is for both sexes so long as your willing to sport this fashionable outfit.....

Designer Jjimjilbang Pinks

I'm not normally a modest person, but even I was a bit intimidated by all the nudity.  We stripped down to our birthday suits and off we went to soak in first hot tubs, then freezing cold.  Next hot steam rooms, then freezing cold showers.  Then a dry sauna, then back into the icy tub.  The women who were participating in these activities along with us ranged from amazingly attractive women, the kind you might see as a model advertising Hot Asian Babes Waiting To Talk To You Now! all the way to those who'd had an unfortunate date with gravity, leaving them looking like the elephant woman.

"Number 459?" a thirty-something Asian woman called while I was soothing my tired muscles in the hot tub.  It was time for my treatment.

The treatment area looks like a series of horse stalls except that it's tile instead of wood.  No dim lighting here.  Each stall is furnished with a massage table covered in pale pink vinyl.  Each stall is equipped with a drain in the center of the room which comes in handy with all the rinsing that was to occur.  My therapist was an attractive Asian woman whose black hair was scraped back into a bun.  The uniforms that all the therapists wear are black lace bra and panties like the kind you get at Target.

I was instructed to lie face up, while the therapist had her way with me.  She was treating me like a life size version of Spa Fun Barbie.  She put on a scrubbing mitt and went to work.  Vigorously.  "This too hard?" she asked while a Muzak version of Killing Me Softly played.  Scrub, scrub, scrub.  Rinse.  Scrub, scrub, scrub. Rinse.  She scrubbed almost every part of me.  If you have any pubic hair, yes, she will scrub that too.

She then abruptly jerked Spa Fun Barbie up into a sitting position, squirted some face cream from a tube into my hand and instructed me to hit the shower.  "Go wash you face, shower off and come back for massage."  The face wash was delightfully creamy and cleansing.

Once back on the pale pink vinyl massage table, the massage began.  Luckily, I enjoy an aggressive massage.  When you go to the I Spa, that's what you're going to get.  There's no nodding off as you're gently rubbed down.  This is an interactive massage.  The therapist's skilled hands went to work kneading, rubbing, karate chopping and working all the kinks out of this surfer girls shoulders and neck.  Halfway through the massage, she applied the collagen face mask.  It was nice and cool.  Cucumber slices to the eyes followed.

I just can't finish this post without wondering about the black lace bra and panties uniform the therapists were sporting.  I had heard the stories about what happens in some of the seedier Asian spas.  You know the kind.  They announce their presence to passersby with bright red neon signs that scream Massage!  Towards the end of the massage, I started to wonder if this was to be my fate.  If so, based on the aggression with which the massage was performed, I could pretty well guarantee that my child bearing years would be over.

But it was not to be.  The treatment concluded with a relaxing hair washing, conditioner, then the removal of the collagen mask.  The entire mask came off in one satisfying piece.

Next time you're in Irvine, check out the I Spa.  And bring your kids.  This is after all, a family place.  They even have an indoor kids playground.  I give it four enthusiastic stars.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Little Baby Junes

My daughter Angela can sell ice cubes to Eskimos.

When she excitedly called me with news of her fabulous new job offer, I was thrilled.  When she called me from her first day at work with news of the feral kittens that were living in the dumpster behind her office my first thought was: Uh oh, here we go again.

Angela has a way of talking you into things so you feel like its your idea.  She can tell you to take a hike with the sweetest smile on her face and makes you feel as though you've just won the lottery.  She also has a big heart with a penchant for the underdogs and cats of the world.  I knew it would be just a matter of time before those kittens were living in my home or hers.  Not a bad idea, right?  Not a great idea when you already have three grown cats.

So it was, a few weeks later that I ran into Angela and her boyfriend Kole one warm Sunday, relaxing on the beach.

"We're bringing the kitties home tomorrow.  But it's just for a few days." Angela advised me calmly.

I looked at Kole, my eyebrows shot upwards, and asked him for the details.

"She's got it all figured out.  She'll explain it to you"

Bracing myself for the close, I listened.  "One of my co-workers has vouchers for getting the cats fixed at a local veterinarian.  We only have to pay ten dollars for a pill that gets rid of the fleas.  We're getting up an hour early to drive to work and catch the kittens.  The surgery is at eight in the morning, then they come home with us that night.  I'm looking for a good home for them.  Will you take them?"

I was completely mesmerized by her sales pitch.  She makes it sound so easy.

"I would love to but Ruby would kill them." was my default reply

Ruby is my black cat who looks really sweet, all purring and stuff, until another cat enters the picture.  Then its flying fur, claws, spitting (yes, cat's really do spit) and hissing.  Oh, and blood.

Monday morning, Angela and Kole got to work early, cat cage in tow.  Baiting one of the kittens with a piece of food was easy.  The other one, not so easy.  It hissed and clawed and finally had its way with Angela's hand.

Not to be defeated, Angela called the veterinary hospital.  "Would it be okay if I brought the kittens in after eight?" she asked while the other kitten mewled its protest from the cage next to her desk.

"As long as you have them here before ten." came the reply.

By that evening, the kittens were successfully neutered, flea free and fed more food than Richard Simmons coming off of a diet.

When my phone rang the next day, the angelic voice of my daughter asked "Can you stop by my house to check on the babies?  I left the key for you."  As if I have nothing else to do with my day, which is in fact the truth.

When I walked into her bedroom, I hunted and searched.  I turned over mattresses and opened drawers. I peered inside closets.  I shredded pillows.  I overturned furniture.  (well not really, my darling daughter, but it makes a better story) and I finally found four little eyes peering out at me from underneath the nightstand.

I reached underneath to pet the little darlings.  Their fur was delightfully coarse to the touch.

Being a concerned grandparent, I contacted Angela that night with the offer to post a plea for adoption to my Facebook friends.  "It's okay Mom, I already found them a home.  And the best part is, they'll be going together."

That was fast.  What?  I don't even get a chance to take them for ice cream or to the park or the library or to a Disney movie?

By the end of the week I was advised by Mother Angela that the kittens needed one more week to adjust to humans.

The next day I received a photo of "Little Baby Junes"  Isn't that a girls name?  They're both males, right?

"No Mom, he looks just like my cat 'Baby'. Baby Junes is short for Baby Junior."
Little Baby Junes and his brother

Okay, so we're creepy cat ladies.  Guilty as charged.  Can you blame us?

The following week, the kittens finally went to live in their new, permanent home.

Yesterday I picked up the phone and heard my daughters angelic voice again.  "Mom, we found more kittens behind our office."

Uh oh.  Here we go again.

Published Without Permission.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Haunted River Boat

It started out innocently enough.  Two sisters meeting a friend in Chattanooga for a girls weekend.

It ended with a night spent on a haunted river boat and a near miss on a motorcycle with an avalanche.

It's tough being in your forties.  That's around the time when bodies start falling apart, surgeries are performed and you start getting calls from family and friends who tell you that life is too short.  You need to come to Chattanooga to visit before we all expire.

That's what prompted my sister Monica and I to fly out to Tennessee to visit our dear friend, Michelle.

Michelle is one of those people who can make a trip to the laundromat a memorable experience.  Her home, Chattanooga, has a lot more to offer than laundromats for entertainment.  Our four day weekend was filled with drives to scenic outlooks, the best darn fried okra in the country, singing and dancing to the game Guitar Hero, hikes, motorcycle rides, and oh yes, just a quick little trip to the Delta Queen Riverboat to "have our picture made".

The legendary Delta Queen orignally traveled through San Francisco, Sacramento and Stockton.  Today, she is docked in Chattanooga, Tennessee and serves as a floating hotel, restaurant and bar.

As we were sitting on the deck, relaxing with a cocktail, Michelle said "Y'all want to do something crazy?"

I could feel my stomach knot up in that familiar way when Michelle is about to propose one of her schemes.  By this time, Michelle had already made friends with the General Manager of the Delta Queen, gotten his business card, secured us a tour through the engine room, made sure we all had a turn at blowing the loud horn that announces the ships arrival and gotten us free drinks.  What was next on her agenda, I thought as I took another long swig of my drink.

"Let's spend the night." said Michelle with a devilish glint in her eye.

Monica and I just stared at her and finally, slowly nodded our assent.  You see, it just doesn't do to say no to Michelle.  She'll find some way to talk you into it.  And besides, her schemes are always so darn fun.

Michelle hopped up from her seat and ran to speak to the General Manager about getting us a "deal".

By the time she was through with him, the GM was practically paying us to spend the night.  Michelle must have used her double coupon, her Buy-One-Get-One-Free from Taco Bell, the interest she earned on her Staples stock and of course, her trillion watt smile, to get each one of us our own private stateroom for the night.

As we sat in the oak paneled, dimly lit cocktail lounge that evening, having a nightcap with the GM and his right hand man, we were treated to stories about Captain Mary, who haunts the Delta Queen.  Yikes!  Captain Mary is a benevolent ghost.  She passed away on the Delta Queen, in her stateroom one dark night and has been watching over the guests of the Delta Queen ever since.  She is not to be feared, they assured us.  She likes to come into your room at night and gently pull the covers up over your shoulders and tuck you in.

Captain Mary

As the clock struck midnight, the three of us slowly made our way to our staterooms.  Michelle, who never fears anything sashayed to her room, while Monica and I stood in the hallway amidst all these creepy portraits.  The subjects in the portraits had this weird way of following you with their eyes.

"Are you going to bed yet?" I squeaked.

This question came from Yours Truly who is well known for her nine-thirty bedtime.

"Well what else is there to do?"

Her response sounded fair enough, so off I went to try to relax myself for bed with a nice warm shower.  I stripped off my clothes and stepped into the claw foot bathtub that looked like it was from the 1700's.  I turned on the faucet and heard a loud clang, clang, clang as the hot water laboriously made its way from somewhere deep in the engine room to my naked skin.

"It's Captain Mary, dragging her chains down the hallway with her lifeless body in the lead.  Oh no!"

I took a few deep steadying breathes and finally made my way to bed.  Tucked underneath the covers with the creaky brass bed shifting under my weight, I thought about the other fact we had learned over drinks tonight.  There were only three other people spending the night on the boat.  That makes me, Michelle, Monica, the GM, his right hand man, and the other three guests.  Would I be the last one to fall asleep?

I counted the minutes, glancing at the clock every so often to see if it was close to daylight.  If Captain Mary doesn't get me, the GM and Mr. Right Hand Man will.  They have skeleton keys to all the rooms.  Just another one of those little thoughts that kept me awake all night.

Monica awakened me the next morning with a hot steaming mug of coffee.  She looked a lot more refreshed than I.

We made it through our night on the Delta Queen.

When I arrived back home in California, I received a call from the lovely Michelle.

"Remember that winding road we were on riding motorcycles while you guys were here?  Well, it collapsed under an avalanche."

Life is never dull with Michelle.  Bless her heart.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Adventures in Toe Rings

All good vacations require at least one shopping trip.

Amidst our surfing extravaganza here in Maui, we decided to take one day off to recirculate our money through the economy.

Looking through one of the numerous vacation guides, maps and things to do in Maui brochures, I was drawn to the toe ring advertisement.

Off we went, to Whalers Village in Ka’anapali.  Ka’anapali is a stunning location right on the ocean that was cleared away some thirty years ago to make room for all the Marriott’s, Hilton’s, condominiums, your choice of infinity pools and hotel inspired Luaus.

Kerry and I walked hand in hand through this lovely open-air mall that has every shop your heart could desire, and some, like the Louis Vuitton store that your heart may desire, but your bank account might have other ideas.

Finally, there it was, like a mirage in a desert, the toe ring kiosk!

I eagerly surveyed the toe rings on display.  Beautiful rings, some in silver, some in gold, some with rubies, some with emeralds.  I finally settled on three rings that the attendant advised me was their best seller.

“Sit right here in the throne” commanded the attendant in a husky voice.

“Where are you guys from?  Oh, Laguna Beach!  I’m from there but haven’t lived there in thirty two years”

My feet where resting on a wooden bench, similar to the type where you get your shoes shined.  A bottle containing Windex appeared and was sprayed on my toe in order to facilitate the fitting of the ring.

“Ouch”  That really hurt as the ring had to make it over the beginning of my interestingly shaped toe.

Polite conversation was made about the various landmarks in Laguna Beach.

“So, is the Taco Bell still there?  That’s where I used to go to score my acid.”

I’ve never been able to figure out why complete strangers love filling me in on all the details of their life.  I don’t make this stuff up folks, I just report it.

“Ouch”  As the remaining two rings went on with the help of the Windex.

“Sold!”  was my reply as I was not eager to experience further pain.

I am thrilled with my lovely new jewelry.  Next time you’re anywhere near a toe ring kiosk, check it out.  And next time you’re in Laguna Beach, in the mood for some hallucinogenics, check out the Taco Bell connection.  Just don’t tell them I sent you.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Lomi Lomi Massage

Ninth straight day of surfing in Maui calls for a massage.

There’s a place within walking distance of our condo in Kahana that I’ve been eyeing.  It’s called the Smiles Nails Salon Spa/Massage.

The first thing you notice about the place is the blinking neon sign that advertises Massage.  The second thing you notice is the handmade sign that offers to buy your used Gold or used iPhone for cash.

I walked in this afternoon, feeling sore and tired, in desperate need of someone, anyone, to work me over.  If it was a male massage therapist who made me feel slightly uncomfortable, all the better.

The Smiles Nails Salon Spa/Massage is a nice facility, run by a likeable couple of women who look like they’re of Japanese descent.

“Do you have someone who can give an hour massage?”  asked I, hopefully.

“You like a seventy five minurte massage”?  replied the nice woman as she hopped up from her manicure table.

She then got on the phone and called someone who, as I overheard, was to appear in five minutes.

The salon provides mani pedi’s, massage, facials, jewelry, sandals and iPhone covers in designer knock off motifs.

“Oh you sell iPhone covers”  I said, trying to be polite.

“I give it to you for ten dolla’ off”

“Ummmm, I’m going to be getting the brand new iPhone that’s coming out this week, so no thank you”

Out of the hot Maui sun, an angel arrived; my massage therapist.

She had black hair that was long and glossy, flawless porcelain skin, a pair of colorful flowing pants, a halter top and painted blue toenails with flowers stenciled on.

She led me into the sparsely decorated massage room that was blissfully air conditioned, and was playing soothing music featuring violins.

“This your time.  Take off all your clothes and start face down.  I be right back”

I did as instructed and waited for the polite knock on the door.

After she adjusted the face cradle, she said, “Take a deep breath fo me pleez”

And she went to work.  Craaaaack.  Was the first sound I heard.  Ah, that feels good.

Seventy five minutes later, M, as she advised me her name was, completed my rejuvenating Lomi Lomi massage.

I walked the five minutes back to our condo on a cloud.  Next time you’re in Maui, check out M in the Smiles Nails Salon Spa/Massage in Kahana.  Five stars!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tales From The 'hood

My Husband Kerry aka Surfer Boy and Me. If you see us around town, say hi!
We live in the HIP District in Laguna Beach.  It's a seven block area, right on the beach which few know, was the original downtown of Laguna Beach.
The View from our home in the HIP district.
It's been dubbed the HIP District as an acronym for Historical and Interesting Places and also because it's Hip!  This is what the promoters will tell you and it's true enough.  But I'm going to tell you the real stories about the people who live here.  The stuff you won't read about in the paper.  Unless it's the police blotter, that is.

Just walking out the front door is an instant adventure.  We live on the corner of Brooks and Gaviota.  Brooks street is a world famous surf spot.  It's also tough to gain acceptance in the lineup.  The testosterone is raging out there.  But my husband Kerry, Surfer Boy that he is, has gained respect in our three years here.

Last night Kerry and I ran into one of the local surfers who is affectionately known as "Instabro".  Instabro is a kick ass surfer, blonde, always ready with numerous ex-wife jokes, energy and laughter.  His ex wife has provided him with lots of insult comic material and made sure he's remained single for numerous years.  However, he met a really nice girl a couple of years back who changed some of that.

"My girlfriends havin' a baby end of June" Insabro said, as we walked together down to Brooks street to check out the waves.

"Does she know who the Dad is"?  said I.

"Well, we actually broke up for thirty days"

He then related stories of being single for thirty days and having his Iphone rapidly filling with names and phone numbers of the hottest chicks in town.  He missed his girlfriend so much, that he called her.

So I guess his FaceBook page will soon be filled with pictures of "The Baby".  That's usually the time that I take advantage of the "hide friend" feature on FaceBook.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Next, we walked another half block and ran into one of my favorite people on the block.  Bob is a tall, lanky guy who loves to talk, smile, pet your dogs and work on his Sweet Ferrari 355.  His open garage usually features him with his mechanic jumpsuit, covered in grease, happily changing the transmission in said car.

The way I understand it, Bob and his family are inspired, innovative, successful folks.  Let's just say that his family was involved in a little invention called "the laugh track" which you hear to this day on every sitcom.  Last night Bob was working on not The Ferrari, but fixing some broken wicker chairs.

"Are you rebuilding those chairs"? asked Kerry.

"Yeah.  Marty, across the street threw 'em away and they're perfectly good.  This one just needs a little bondo, this one just needs some sanding, a little Rustoleum and paint.  We're gonna have a barbecue with the neighbors when the chairs are done.  Put 'em right out back next to the gas barbecue and have us some good barbecue."

"Am I invited to the barbecue"? I asked. "I'd better be."

You see, my daughter and her boyfriend live downstairs from Bob.  The barbecue grill they love so much came from Yours Truly.  We never used it and they love it!  I only had to ask them once if they wanted it, and five minutes later they were at our front door.

One of my lovely daughters and her boyfriend. I love them!

Next, we ran into Bruce and Sholo.  Bruce is an eighty five year old,  world renowned plastic surgeon. Most folks would think: yeah right, fancy Newport Beach plastic surgeon with the big oceanfront home.  But no!  Bruce is some of those things, but he's also the most down to earth, Southern Boy you'd ever want to meet.  His real claim to fame in the HIP district is his Mexican Hairless dog, Sholo.

Bruce was used to living in the South.  Georgia, namely.  He's got the Georgia peaches to prove it.  He grows them on another property he owns.  I tasted them today and yes, you need to lean forward over the sink to eat them.  Juicy, tasty and made my day!

Back to Sholo.  Bruce rigged up this nifty contraption that he uses to run Sholo.  That is, until Bruce tore his rotater cuff in an unfortunate accident whilst running Sholo.  What he does is he hooks Sholo up to his bicycle with a harness and a leash.  Bruce dons a helmet and off they speed, down Gaviota Street, which is really not much more than an alley, and attempt to dodge all the cars and delivery trucks.

Suffice it to say that on one fine summer day, Bruce flew over the handlebars.

Another time, Sholo got loose.  Laguna Beach is a town that backs up to a vast wilderness area.  There are numerous stunning hiking trails.
My Husband aka "Surfer Boy" on one of our local trails
Sholo a is a sweet, innocent dog, for all the testosterone that he displays.  He ended up spending several days out in the wilderness with the coyotes.  To quote Bruce: "Sholo didn't quite understand the eating arrangement out there."

He finally got rescued by concerned neighbors who noticed a frightened, Pure Bred dog that didn't fit in amongst the coyotes.

"He came home with lots of cuts on 'im that needed to be sutured" said Bruce.

Who better to perform the necessary plastic surgery than Bruce himself!  Today, Sholo continues to be athletic, shy and sports the cleanest darn incisions you ever did see.

I love life in the 'hood.  Watching the sunset with Surfer Boy tonight, sipping a glass of fine red wine, I sometimes just can't believe my luck.

Next time, I'll tell you all about the skateboard gang that cruises up and down Gaviota Street.  They're a kick in the pants!  You'll want to stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with this painting that a famous plein air artist by the name of Pat Tobin painted prior to his untimely demise.  He must've set up his easel four doors down from our house.  You can see our home in the painting; the blue house with the weather vane.  Did I mention that  Laguna Beach is also an artist community?  I think that's what makes the HIP district so special.  The art, the creativity, the waves, the Lagunatics!

We found this painting hanging in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton in Dana Point. Famous place! Gaviota St. that is.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Miss My Best Friend

My Best Friends Sacred Symbol

I sit here overlooking the sparkling Pacific Ocean with everything I've ever wanted to create - but there's more.

I miss my best friend.

She was a daughter, a soul mate, an artist, a saint.  She could make me laugh like a hyena.  What are hyena's laughing about anyway?

This blog is not really intended to be read by the general public, but what the heck?  Dominique told me that writers live for readers to read their words.  So be it.  If you happen to read this, dear reader, I hope you enjoy my words.  I have to get them out.  I must.  Let's see what happens.

I hope I never see another dead body as long as I live.  I don't mean that in a hurtful way.  Oh no.  A "sack of flesh" as My Best Friend would call it.  Or a "Muneca de Coucho" (rubber doll) as my Ecuadorian mother would call it.  When I saw her lying in that crappy hospital bed for the last time - well, I forgot to open the window as one of the nursing home workers told me to do.  Her name was Lydia.  She loved My Best Friend.  She advised me that when a spirit passes, to open the window so that it can escape through the window and not be stuck in the room.

 I suppose I could be writing all of this stuff, which just seems way too personal, in a spiral notebook and hide it under my mattress, the way I used to with all my journals until my daughters read them.  But what the heck (as you can tell, I don't like to curse)  I like the blog format, so here I am.

I'm reading a book on writing which was written by Stephen King.  The first part of the book is a bit of a memoir.  He talks about things that an international superstar, best selling novelist knows will go out to the world.  And he does it without a bit of r egret.  I, for one, would be quite embarrassed to admit to the fact that I was so hard up to get high that I drank Scope mouthwash.  Luckily, I've never gone to those lengths.  He dealt with, and overcame, a severe drug addiction and he doesn't care who knows.  Gotta hand it to him for honesty and realism in writing.

The best writing is authentic.

I'm a writer.  I may be a competent writer.  Let's see if I can create a great writer.  That's part of what this writing space is about.  Secondly, I've got to get some of this stuff off my chest.

So what killed her?  Was it the cancer?  Was it the high levels of drugs?  Was it the idea that she just didn't want to be here anymore?  My Best Friend had two sides.  She was an amazingly creative person who had a crazy, fun, outrageous sense of humor.  I've never laughed so hard in my life.  She also had a dark side.  She freely states in her writing that she admitted herself to psychiatric hospitals for clinical depression a couple of times.  I remember one story she told me from the "nervous hospital".  The staff had all these activities that were meant to be fun and distracting.  One day they played Pictionary.  My Best Friend drew a card in which she was to draw a guillotine.  Well, give that card to a professional artist who also happens to be mentally ill and what have you got?  A handful of other mentally ill patients who need just one more thing to push them over the edge.  Her artistic rendition sent several of the patients running out of the room screaming.

Speaking of death - there is no such thing.  My best friend lives on.  I can feel her in my writing.  My biggest wish and prayer is that I will someday (why not today) make her proud.

I sure do miss the heck out of picking up the phone and calling her though.  Guess I'm going to have to go to the psychic hot line for that.

Meanwhile, I'm getting up from the computer, getting out of my sweats, putting on a pretty dress, and going to dinner with my handsome husband.

Live your life, my dear readers.  Who knows?  I may even have dessert!