Small Wonders: Pummeled into bliss

Glendale News Press

I've been a little tense lately. Could you tell?

Maybe it's being home with the kids too much. Maybe it's finances or wondering when I'm going to figure out who I really am. "The Office," "30 Rock" and "Modern Family" are all in reruns, and everything else on TV gives me agita.

I don't care why, how or when Lindsay Lohan is in court and wonder what ever happened to real news reporting. I'm sick of hearing people argue and blame each other, right, left and ambidextrous. The economy is still in the toilet, and that oil leak has the Gulf of Mexico looking like one.

Maybe this is why the wife has been gently nudging me to use that spa gift certificate she gave me for Christmas.

I used to frown upon men who embraced the spa experience. I thought of them like I think about vegans or people who can't wait for Sarah Jessica Parker's next movie. There's just something off about them.

But when I had my first spa day a few years ago, it changed my life. I now look forward to cucumber water and slippers that don't fit.

Sure there have been awkward moments at the spa: the smiling, hirsute gentleman in the sauna; the guy who was just a little too comfortable walking around without his robe on. There have been overly chatty masseuses, and the one who slapped the soles of my feet sharply and repeatedly like a boxer hitting a speed bag. When she did that, a small, girly, chirp came out of me, which I fear she took as a compliment.

But there have been the memorable ones too. Like the time I was in Bangkok and got a traditional Thai massage. No, not that one. Get your mind out of the gutter. A real massage. A short, stout and respectable lady walked on my back and drove her stubby fingers deep into every muscle of my body for two relentless hours for the equivalent of $10.

So, since I've had all this pent-up frustration and malaise lately, I went to Organic Spa in Burbank last week in hopes that they may be able to squeeze the sludge out of my system.

A calm and peaceful gentleman, sensing my negative energy, ushered me immediately to the quiet zone. There, my mind and body atwitter with restless nerves, I noticed that the quiet zone isn't exactly quiet. The lulling tones of some Ravi Shankar Muzak wafted down upon me from unseen speakers. The dim lights began to seduce my weathered soul into tranquillity. I closed my eyes and began to relax ever so slightly.

But I jumped when a petite lady gently touched my shoulder. Speaking in a hushed sotto voice telling me things I couldn't hear due to the ringing in my ears, she took me to the changing area where I put on a robe two sizes too small for a man my height.

A shower to start, then I waited in another quiet room, drinking fruit- and vegetable-infused water until my masseuse came for me. She led me to another room with a pillowy, heated massage table. And, as a solitary tear rolled down my cheek, I gave myself over to her for the next hour.

While she worked her magic, I floated to another world upon the gentle sounds of sitar, flute and cascading water. At one point she placed hot stones upon my back, and a trickle of drool escaped my mouth. I didn't care. There's something so guilt-free about a professional massage; you don't have to pay back after you get yours.

When she finished, I donned the apron that was my so-called robe and was dollied to the sauna. There I sat in a wooden chamber with walls too hot to touch and slow cooked at 250 for the next 20 minutes. I poured water over the hot coals, and invisible heat waves attacked me, forcing every pore on my body to open and leak all my pressures away.

Shower No. 2 was a cold water deluge, and I fulfilled my monthly quota of bathing products. I mummified myself in 36 yards of virgin pima cotton, wrapped my head in a turban, and floated back to the quiet room.

There I sat on the floor in silent meditation — Buddha with bad posture. Other robe-clad, quivering people joined me after their treatments and we silently roamed an ethereal galaxy of bliss in wordless détente with the world around us.

I found a third shower, this one large and open with a double-barreled shower head and proceeded to empty the shampoo, conditioner and soap dispensers. No matter how many I used, the monoliths of fluffy, warm, just-out-of-the-dryer towels never seemed to decrease.

As I changed back into my civilian clothes, I thought about hiding in the hamper. After hours I'd come out and have my reign of the place, taking showers and sleeping on clouds of warm towels. But alas, the hamper was too small.

Lacking the capacity to speak, I slurred my thanks to the gentleman at the front desk. He handed me a coconut with a straw in it.

"It's better than Gatorade," he professed.

No. It's not. But I drank it anyway.

The spa has a way of making everything taste just a little bit better.

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