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.