Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Agony And The Ecstasy. Sort Of.

We aren't getting together with my mom and the rest of my family until next weekend, so this Mother's Day was all mine. I woke up to breakfast and gifts on the dining room table: a shiny new iPod from Rigel, a beautiful flower holder (made from a toilet paper roll) from Kiyomi, and an essay Kira wrote titled, "Why My Mom Is The Best." which, interestingly enough, contained the sentence, "Aliens rock!"

They all dropped me off for a Shiatsu massage on Saturday at a small spa that we've been going to for over fifteen years. I'm not a big fan of the big-name spas we have around here. Most of them tend to be gaudy and overdone, and populated by uncommonly beautiful people who, if anything, look like they've been over-pampered their entire lives. I believe they're planted there by the owners to make the rest of us feel inferior, so that one look at our own limp hair and uneven skin and we'll be ready to spend big bucks for that deluxe hair treatment and face transplant.

I've been here a handful of times. Upon entering their impressive lobby you're whisked by a supermodel to your locker which appears to be made out of platinum or chocolate or some other highly desirable material. The jacuzzi area is huge and looks like something out of a porno movie - stone walls, cascading waterfalls, mist swirling about. You expect the three busty blondes at the far end of the pool to start making out at any moment and then joined by a staffer who happens to be hung like a horse. There are attendants standing by with towels and bottles of cold water or a complimentary Botox injection. Your name is called and you're escorted to a private room where you are massaged by a movie star. Depending on what package you signed up for, you are then offered a new Rolex or a hard candy upon your departure. Mine was butterscotch.

Then there's my spa, hidden away in a generic hotel in the middle of downtown, The facilities are clean and minimal and the clientele unglamorous - Japanese tourists, a few locals, and on one occasion a homeless woman who paid her fee, plunked her belongings down and fell asleep on the only bench in the dressing room. She looked so peaceful lying there I didn't have the heart to disturb her, and I was grateful that her Blackberry wasn't going off every five seconds.

An attendant at the front desk greets you cheerily in Japanese. You're handed a locker key, a t-shirt and a pair of disposable shorts that look like a craft project from the local pre-school. You escort yourself to the tiny dressing room, where you change, grab a paper cup of barley tea and head for the jacuzzi or saunas. Maybe you'll stop in the lounge where you'll find three patio recliners and an impressive selection of magazines so you can catch up on your reading in Newsweek and Vanity Fair. Or in my case, People and Us.

Next you enter a large room neatly arranged with fifteen massage tables. The masseuse who greets you is neither supermodel nor movie star, but a sturdy 50-ish Japanese woman from the old country and you're equally amazed and fearful of her large hands. These are the women who invented Shiatsu and who'll kill anyone who says otherwise. Any mention of a Swedish massage or a seaweed wrap will likely get you gales of laughter followed by a thorough ass-pummeling.

And then, in my opinion, the best massage you'll ever have. Rigel and I, being massage fanatics, have searched unsuccessfully for a better spa, maybe one closer to home or one with more impressive facilities. This is the real deal, and they've got the stark ambiance to prove it. There's no music playing and no chatty inquires about your latest screenplay - the only sounds you'll hear are screams as someone receives an elbow kneading unrelentingly into their clavicle. Their techniques are precise and at times freakishly acrobatic. At one point my masseuse was working on my shoulders with her elbows while her knees were hammering the bottoms of my feet. Obviously there was a hidden camera somewhere and our picture will soon be appearing on the internet with the caption, "Asian Ladies Dance Nasty!"

The massage ends with a polite "thank you" and a respectful bow from the masseuse. You stumble out, your body feeling as if it has been trampled by the hooves of a thousand angry bison. In other words, in a state of utter and complete bliss. I leave thinking that the supermodels and the movie stars can have their fancy spa. I have my little corner of heaven waiting for me downtown, and a burly broad from Tokyo just waiting to make me regret it.

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51 comments:

  1. I love this. I hate the big spas, too. Except I would love a locker made out of chocolate...

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  2. Ooh, a butterscotch Rolex -- tasty!

    I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry at your description of the massage, since it sounded alternately wonderful and painful. But I guess that's kinda what a good massage is all about.

    I'll be checking for you on those Asian dancing ladies sites... ;-)

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  3. Now I so want a massage. Sounds great. Happy belated mothers day.

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  4. your spa sounds perfect in every way!
    so what did you load on your new ipod?

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  5. I want to go! Here in Atlanta, I go to she who shall be called "Massage Over-Achiever." It's hard to replace a masseuse who, when asked if you owe extra because she went for an hour an a half says, "Well, you asked me to focus on X, but I found this other stuff that I just had to work out -so no, no extra charge." This happens every single time I go to her. Love a Type A massage therapist!

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  6. I've never seen disposable shorts. I wish you had taken a picture before you disposed of them.

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  7. That sounds fabulous and awful all at the same time. I'd totally be up for that.

    Happy Belated Mother's Day....

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  8. Oh...you lucky bitch. And I mean that in the nicest way, really. I hate and have hated Mothers Day forever. I hate the way it makes me feel towards my Mother and how I feel about being a MOther. I soaked in a hot bath for 15 minutes trying to work out the aches in my legs and hips from 5 hours of crouching in the garden.
    AN iPOD...Oh my god... A spa treatment. I really envy you but I suspect you deserve every minute of it.

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  9. Sounds like your day was fabulous. I'm glad of it.

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  10. Where is this burly broad and what is her fee and does she travel? Because, my god, that sounds divine.

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  11. I go to a similar place here in NYC. After every massage, I feel like I got hit by a truck or had an industrial accident. The sadistic masseuse has the unique ability to find every strain or injury that you've ever had and then dig her toes into the area with all her weight. But after some hot green tea and a little nap? You feel like a million bucks.

    Glad you had a great day! (Any chance we'll see Kira's essay in the next issue of AnimeKat Weekly?)

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  12. Excellent post. You just dredged up a memory of when I was in Bali years ago and got the best massage of my life on a wooden floor of a shop. I was covered in dirt, but didn't really care. I had never been so relaxed. Although, I wish that they hadn't used the baseball bats.

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  13. Man, I live in the wrong city. I've had one pay-by-the-hour massage in my life that left me sore for days upon days. I blame myself, though... I didn't know how to politely ask the masseuse to FOCUS! And QUIT TALKING! I suppose it didn't help that I kept asking her questions about her children and job and the horrible weather we'd been having.

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  14. Did I ever tell you that the one insane massage was done at BostonBackworks...not a spa - but a chiropratic whatever you call them and they also did massage.

    I got a "sport massage".

    By a small Asian lady.

    Suffice it to say, to this day, when I see a small, middle aged asian lady in a white lab coat walking down the street, I run the other way. My God, the pain. The pain! Days later even. She must've found every pocket of lactic acid and injury and tension I had in my then entire 31 years of life.

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  15. Kinky. Sounds like the Friday night I just had with J, and neither of us paid for a massage. *wink*

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  16. Happy Mom's Day SPMama! Your massage sounds wonderful. My husband presented me with guide for our oh-so-tony Uber Spa for Mother's Day. I am completely intimidated, honestly. The place scares me. I would love nothing more than to get a massage, but I am completely overwhelmed at the idea of going there...makes it feel like jr. high all over again...and those girls hate me!

    I would rather have a new Kitchen Aid mixer, to tell the truth. Now, that's pathetic. He wants to take care of me and pamper me, and I just want to make bread dough. Guess it is good that I homeschool, because I seem to want to homestead. (NOT)

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  17. LMFAO!!!! omg, everytime i go to burke williams i swear i think the same thing! i always think the girls in the steam room or in the spa the size of a swimming pool are gonna start going at it at any second and then beg me to join! AHHHHHH

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  18. If you DO end up on Asian Ladies Dance Nasty, make sure you get free massages for a year. Hey, might be worth it...

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  19. That sounds heavenly, especially the bit about her not blabbing her head off the whole time. Is that so much to ask?

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  20. Sounds perfect. Lucky you!!!

    Glad I found your blog: real, smart and hilarious!! Thanks!!

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  21. OH yeah? Well, I got a spa treatment too! I got starbucks and my 5 year old painted my toenails.

    Talk about minimal and unglamorous.

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  22. You so suck!!! I'm dying for a massage, but keep letting it settle to the bottom of the list. My husband gets a weekly massage. We go to a granola girl named Amy who is wonderful.

    Hey, since you're in LA (and I know what a small town it is)could you check up on my little brother?

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  23. What the hell is a spa and an Ipod? Those things don't exist in my world. ~sighs~

    I second the 'lucky bitch' comment. Glad you enjoyed. ;)

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  24. "Asian Ladies Dance Nasty"--where the hell do you dream up this shit? That quite made my day.

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  25. you just reminded me of a gift cert. I have for a massage that my sister gave me when I was preggo...i hope it's still good, because I need it.
    And I don't know if you noticed, but I think Kira might have been calling you an alien, maybe you should share at least that paragraph for further investigation.

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  26. I got a gift certificate to my little spa this weekend as well. And it's almost exactly what your describing. AND I LOVE IT. It puts the big expensive ones to shame. Only differance is they do play a little music. Otherwise DEAD ON!

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  27. Well, I got the flu and an ecard from Iraq for Mother's day. I know you're jealous. :)

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  28. That sounds amazing. I've been to the bigger spas for a massage and they never do enough. You pay an arm and a leg and then they cheat you on the actual massage. It feels like someone is just rubbing your shoulders, which is all fine and dandy, but I want a massage like you had where are the kinks are straightened out. Glad you had a good mother's day!

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  29. Happy Mother's Day!

    I've had two massages. One was at the Dover Air Force Base gym. The other was at Elizabeth Arden on Fifth Avenue. Neither one made me want to get another. Am I just going to the wrong places?

    I'm glad you got what you wanted for Mother's Day. I might turn down a massage, but I'd keep the iPod.

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  30. Did this place coin the expression "Eat my shorts" ?

    Only askin'!

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  31. *Sigh* I could really go for one of those. I've had a few massages in my life. I can't seem to relax as much as I should to enjoy it. Glad yours was relaxing! :)

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  32. Oh my, that sounds lovely. I've never had a massage. Now *I* want to feel trampled by bison too.

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  33. I've always heard the shi shi fru fru spas suck. My fiance used to date a shatsu therapist (though I don't think she was a 50 year old Japanese woman) and I'm so glad he has retained the skills she imparted. It makes coming home all the better. Glad you had such an enjoyable day.

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  34. Mmmmmmmm...a spa junkie. Everytime I come here I like you more.

    Whenever I get a massage, I become an absolute horndogess. My husband loves it!

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  35. I love my little po-dunk spa too. And I second you on the "Let's not bother with the scented oil, beat the hell out of my muscles" sentiment.

    I mean if I wanted a half assed massage, I would get my husband to do it,

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  36. Hehehe. A friend of mine worked at Burke Williams. She hated it. and btw-sometimes they DO go at it. Can we say unsanitary??

    But Glen Ivy is really lovely. At least the one in Corona is. Natural hot springs, mud baths...hmmm, I may have to give them a visit soon!

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  37. this past weekend i was introduced to the bliss known as "thai massage"... AHHHHHH!

    the weird little places are often the best!

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  38. Oh, that sounds heavenly. Awesome. i want to go there. Where do you live again???

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  39. Pssst: guess what? My best friend is a massage therapist. Guess what else? She never gives me a massage.
    And aliens do indeed rock! :)

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  40. That does it. I'm getting a massage this week. I went to Beverly Hot Springs once and it was awesome. I'm all about substance over style in this department.

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  41. Aren't all shorts disposable? I need that sort of massage. The last one I had involved scented candles, plinky plonky new age music and some vague stroking of body parts that left me rigid with embarrassment.

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  42. I have only had one massage in my life. it was a back massage on a cruise ship (I was a staff member at the time.) I needed it, but I hurt for days after.

    Spa's. I'm not a high maintainance girl. I actually haven't put on make-up in over 8 months because it's all been discovered and destroyed by my toddler. Really, mascara looks lovely on 2 year old thighs, though.

    Back to spas- I've been gifted with a few day's of beauty by well meaning family members in the past. I left feeling completely inadequate but knowing all the latest celebrity gossip- so that was a plus.

    My mom recently sent me for a deep conditioning treatment on my completely untouched hair. I cut it all off three years ago (I mean ALL OF IT) and have been growing it since. I've barely trimmed it since. This was pleasant. I went to a local spa in an old victorian house that was very peaceful and sweet. I liked that. I'll go back... which is nice because I was just gifted with another day of beauty there.

    I wonder if my mother is trying to tell me something????

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  43. Am going to spa (Stillwater at the Hyatt in Toronto) on Sunday, for my birthday, and am over the moon and all a-tingle with anticipation. You've just made the sweet sweet agony of waiting all the sweeter. And more agonizing.

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  44. Because they insisted, I'm getting a massage twice a week right after my acupuncture treatment. I love the phrase, medical necessity. And it's all to treat my allergies. By the way, if Aliens do rock, I'll let you know. I keep floating out to the nether regions during my massages.

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  45. Ahhh. Sounds great. I go for a therapeutic massage myself once a month

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  46. That sounds awesome. Glad you had a great Mother's Day!

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  47. Oh how I heart massages. I have to say ... never again will I be conned into "couple's massage." Hearing my husband squeal like a girl was so distracting. He swears the woman was digging into him so deep her feet left the ground. Sissy. Thank God the scented candles were there to buffer his "relaxed state." ;)

    Definitely need a person with some big paws or some bulk behind them so they can really dig in. "Grunters" (masseuses with little to no desire to make conversation with you) are always the best. I didn't come here to make convo ... stop the yacking ... get to cracking!

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  48. So was it good for you? Seriously, what a nice Mother's Day...I'd love to have one that was "all mine!" And you need to post a picture of the toilet paper flower holder. I am trying to envision that!

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  49. I think I need the complimentary botox. ;D I'm too eskeert to go in for a "real" massage. I'm afraid something would shatter.

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  50. Duuude...I'm so with you. Swedish massage is for sissies. Give me a Shiatsu any day!

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  51. I think I definitely need to experience this whole massage thing. I love facials and basically any type of pampering, but in my 32 years have never had a massage! Damn modesty! Ironically enought my husband had a similar experience in Thailand. He told me about a massage he had where a tiny little woman basically beat the shit out of him and swears it is still the best massage he has ever had. He definitely needs to try your place!

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