LA Story

I was just closing the lid on my coffee cup at 4am when I got Sideboob’s text that she pulled up to my house. I kissed Chief goodbye, grabbed my bag, and got in her car. We both let out a collective sigh of relief; we needed this trip in the worst way.

Predictably, my life blew up the day before leaving town. I had a guest check out after a ten day stay which meant an epic turn-over. I don’t mind the work but given all I had going on I would have welcomed an easier flip.

Also creeping on me was the knowledge that once I was done with this, I had work-work to catch up on. Plus I had to neaten the house for guests coming in my absence and I was informed that demolition of the garage starts Thursday. It’s Wednesday.

I did a good job getting all the hard stuff done and mostly boxed up and mostly removed, but that didn’t change the fact that a lot of stuff was still in the garage. With all this on my mind and while cleaning, I felt the onslaught of a panic attack.

My panic attacks don’t feel panicky, they feel like a heart attack. A totally calm heart attack. The first time I felt one I went to the ER.

It’s sharp stabbing pain in the chest, pressure, and a painful ache that radiates up my neck and into my jaw.

Friends From College is a comedy about good friends going through all sorts of shit together. In one episode a guy thinks he’s having a heart attack after busting his wife with another man. He falls to the floor clutching his heart as his wife calls 911. Cut to the EMT explaining it’s just a panic attack but he shouldn’t feel bad because a lot of people think they are dying when they have one.

Yeah. Been there. Like right that moment.

Also what a panic attack feels like

I’ve had them enough times to not be scared, but I really did not have the time to deal with one, nothing could wait. The only way to get through them is to wait them out, preferably relaxing with my feet up and the volume on life turned way down.

Instead I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the bathroom, taking slow, deep breaths through the pain. I’m guessing that’s how 99 percent of the population handles panic attacks, they just suck it up. With the emphasis on suck.

Thankfully, Loony came through me. He took over the garage job and emptied it out while I worked. Thanks, babe. I could not have done it without you. I really appreciate you getting on board with my latest life destroying pet project.

Really. Thank you so much.

I know you are doing this under duress and it doesn’t make sense to you, but I promise it will be worth it and you will benefit from it as much as me.

Getting into the car with Sideboob, settling into my seat as she handed me a cup of coffee (oh my god, it feels so nice to be cared for) and then talking over our plans for the next few days, was the perfect beginning to our vacation.

Our initial plan was to get to LA, pick up the car, walk around some nice neighborhoods and gawk at houses, like we did last time. Cut to meeting up with friends, going out, lots of drinks, slow meals, reading for Nina, writing for me, a big night seeing Nadia and Brynn perform in Tarantina, and then going big that night with the other polestars in our group.

Finish up with a morning at the Korean spa and catch the plane home.

Sideboob must have been reading my mind because as nice as WiSpa is after a big night out, being constrained by the flight made it sound less than the ultimate relaxing experience.

“Maybe we should go straight to the Korean spa today,” she suggested.

I jumped all over that idea.

I was so tense and exhausted that unwinding first sounded like a wonderful idea rather than killing time until we could check into our hotel room. I decided to splurge on getting the exfoliation and massage. Follow that up with bi-bim-bap for lunch at the café and then some reading on the shaded roof … yes please.

Traveling with Sideboob is complete surrender. I never bother to ask any questions like what terminal are we in? What gate do we go to? What time is the flight? Where is the hotel? What’s the plan? Did you check on x,y,z? Because I don’t need to know and those questions would insult her abilities. She has it all figured out, all I need to do is stay next to her and everything will be fine.

Do you have any idea how deeply comforting that is? To know, really know, that everything is taken care of? That I can afford to check out completely?

My life is so much about keep track of things for other people, important people like my family and my employer and my guests who pay good money to have a perfect stay in Boulder.

I’m good at being on top of shit but sometimes I need a break from it. I am so grateful to have Sideboob to lean on in these times. It’s not like she has a ton of time to plan perfect trips for me, either. She’s growing a very successful business and is just as busy as I am.

So other than flopping around at the spa and hanging out with friends, we had a very loose schedule.

Seeing AnneMarie Davies was on our list of things to do. Even before she had her accident (she was hit by a car while on her scooter and lost all the toes on one foot) we wanted to see her. Now it is even more important.

She is handling her new circumstances with such strength and entirely in her own way. Who else would unveil their injury while completely naked? I love that woman.

I hoped she would feel well enough to put on the Virgin Killer sweater Sideboob’s husband bought a couple years ago. It’s been worn by some of the best but it’s truly made for AnneMarie.

Chris rocked it
Nadia put her own spin on it
I don’t have the assets for it

But I had a feeling that AnneMarie was going to do it justice so I packed it in my suitcase for later.

Sideboob and I rolled up to the Korean spa, checked in ($15 for a day pass!) and decided to get the scrub/massage combo. Last time I got the scrub and then a massage an hour later, which turns out to be a completely different animal than the combo. Like if the stand alone massage is a fuzzy kitten, the combo is a snarling badger.

We got undressed and did the rounds of hot tubs, saunas, and steam rooms for an hour or so. In the past I never got in the cold plunging pool but this time I was in full surrender mode. If Sideboob said it was a good thing to do, who was I to argue?

I usually watched her get in the cold water with a mixture of awe and terror; I chalked it up to her harkening from cold climes. But this time I saw an older Asian woman in the cold pool and she was hanging out in there forever!

Like, I would turn around and she would still be in there doing water aerobics in the freezing water!

Like this

I decided to go for the plunge and then jumped in the hot tub which felt horrible, just painful pins and needles. Sideboob encouraged me the second time to try it her way.

I got all the way in the water and hung out as she gave me Lamaze-style coaching to keep me in there as long as possible. It wasn’t so bad after the first minute or so, then we went into the sauna, which I’ve never enjoyed in the past. But this time I was all in because I got to warm up gently and comfortably. I now see the wisdom in the Norwegian tradition.

Weirdly enough the sauna had a television in it tuned to Korean talk shows and informercials. Since it was in a foreign language, it was easy to get a kick out of for its cultural differences, plus it was very quiet. I dug it. I would have been the fuck out of there if it was Fox on high.

Now I am the kind of person who does the cold/hot thing. Literally, a transformation. We must have done the rounds three times before drying off.

I think it means co-ed area

We donned our yellow t-shirts and elastic waited khaki shorts and went upstairs to the jimjilbang for lunch and clothed relaxing.

We grabbed a couple Magnum bars on our way out and serendipitously two men vacated a couple shaded lounge chairs just as we entered the roof area.

I full-on passed out, but not before setting my alarm for our scrub/massages, which I also expected to be relaxing. In my limited experience, the massages at WiSpa aren’t that great. They are very gentle, more like a relaxing oil wipe.

I fell asleep during my last one, which is wonderful in its own way. At least that’s what I expected.

The first part went as planned. It takes place in a large, brightly lit, tiled room with vinyl upholstered tables set up in two rows and drains in the floor. The Korean women giving the scrubs wore identical bra and panty sets like an uniform. They are all business about scrubbing every inch of you with rough, yellow mitts and dousing you with buckets of warm water. My dead skin rolled off me like gray eraser tailings, leaving behind glowing baby skin.

And while I can’t speak for any of the other ladies, my scrubber didn’t speak one word of English which made following instructions a little tricky. It was just this awkward naked pantomime of me being like, “Do you want me to sit up like this? Or roll over? Or on my side?”

Once she had stripped 10 layers of skin off me and doused me with water she had me sit up and hold out my hands into which she squirted … soap? shampoo? I don’t know.

I put it in my hair and she was like, “NONONONO!” and pantomimed washing her face.

Ohhh! Okay, wash my face. 

Then she motioned for me to go out to the shower area and rinse off. So I rinsed my face (and hair) and came back. She took one look at me and sent be back out to do a better job.

Jeez. I have literally never been cleaner in my entire life, what more did she want from me? But I did it and came back and laid face down on the towels she put on the table. She did this towel, pouncy massage thing and then HOSED ME DOWN WITH OIL.

I swear, I was swimming in it. I was afraid when she asked me to roll over I’d squirt off the table like a watermelon seed.

Then she proceeded to give me the most brutal massage ever. It wasn’t deep tissue so to speak, it felt like knuckles and elbows against bone. I was actually hallucinating from the pain! I imagined my body was a metal shell that held all the “me” inside, with the thinnest layer of muscle and skin stretched over it, which she was pulverizing with a meat tenderizer.

Like this but harder and meaner

Oh my god. I especially got a kick out of how she signaled she was done with an area by giving me a little punch or slap. Think of it as one of those “massages” you get with a pedicure. Curt. Perfunctory. A little hateful.

Then I heard a rasping noise and was suffused with the smell of cucumber. She grated a fresh cucumber and then she packed it onto my face, grabbed me by the head and hauled my body – BY THE HEAD! – so it was hanging off the side of the table and then washed my hair. That part was was nice because unlike everything else it wasn’t violent at all.

It was fucking crazy.

Was it relaxing? No. Would I do it again? You betcha. But I probably would  prefer to get the super relaxing massage version if I had the choice.

I kind of get a kick out of the way Sideboob gets thrown by these things, like when we visited the Hammam at the Grand Mosque in Paris and she got the most awkward scrub ever. Because I described the massage as relaxing and very gentle, she wondered the whole time if this was my idea of relaxing or if I was just fucking with her. It’s not often I get the upper hand so I take it where I can get it.

The rest of the day we cycled between steam rooms and saunas, the roof and public areas. We checked out the salt sauna (you lie in heated chunks of salt the size of marbles) and the clay sauna (little marble sized balls of clay), the ice sauna (not cold enough IMO, since now I’m a cold/hot kinda person), and we looked at the 200 degree room but didn’t dare go in.

I put down a mat on the heated bamboo floor and took a nap while Sideboob read and marveled how we strangers were sleeping amongst each other. 

Strangers sleeping next to each other.

I get a little weird and manic when I talk about WiSpa because it’s one of those things you simply have to experience. It will change your life and you should do it. If we had anything similar in Boulder, I would be there twice a month.

After seven hours of this we reluctantly left, checked into a nondescript hotel and asked the receptionist for a food recommendation. We ended up a half block away at Rodeo, a Mexican joint where you order at the counter and help yourself to tiny cups of salsa at the bar.

I was amused to see that she ordered exactly what I did even though she didn’t know what I got until it arrived. She chose refried over whole beans, flour over corn tortillas. It’s not the first time we’ve ordered the same meal unbeknownst.

We had a drink, hit the 7-11 on the way back for some Ben and Jerry’s, ate it in bed and passed out by 9pm. It was perfect.

We woke up the next morning at 5am, read, wrote, and took it slow. We were starving by the time we got out of our room and decided to go to The Alcove for breakfast, a place Cushy introduced me to years ago.

We’ve done a lot of the basic LA sightseeing things so I suggested we (meaning Sideboob) find a botanic garden to check out. She turned up The Huntington Gardens, got a reservation for high tea for lunch, and we were off.

Oh. My. God. What an amazing place. The Huntingtons must have been west coast Rockefellers or something because their estate was immense. Their 1300 acre garden had themes: Australian, Japanese, Chinese, Shakespeare, Rose, Camellia, Bamboo, Jungle, Dessert, etc.

And there were several museums on-site to show their vast art collection including being able to watch a conservator restore a painting. And there was a giant greenhouse for tropical plants.

I was captivated by this film that was shot on-site and looped in their American art collection.

But it started with The Orbit, a sonic installation right at the front where we listened to satellite and space sounds in real time. I felt like I was on another planet.

We spent hours walking around, perusing the galleries and eating as much of the high tea as was possible (AKA all of it).

The whole thing was a complete surprise to me and I would love to come back when the flowers are blooming.

Thank you SB for taking the lovely pictures!

After tea we left to see AnneMarie in her West Hollywood pad. We arrived early and before she let us in, she said she hadn’t wrapped her foot yet, and was that okay?

Of course it was okay.

I sat down on the floor and asked if I could massage her hurt leg, and if it was okay to touch her foot, to bring some blood and circulation to it.

I spent time massaging her leg and foot, her shoulders and arms. Her body has been through so much and I felt the overwhelming need to put my hands on her. She hadn’t gotten any bodywork since the accident and even though I’m no massage therapist, I knew that gently massage would help.

We talked and laughed, her spirits are amazingly high, she’s already showing her “tiny foot” love, framing it as something special and unusual about her. I love her spirit, she’s a fighter.

I busted out the Virgin Killer sweater and she was completely game to put it on and be as sexy, funny, and playful as she always is. I admire her so much.

We left around four when the ladies from X-Pole showed up with champagne and cake, went back to the hotel to try to get a little rest, then headed to the Bellasco Theater for Brynn’s show after a quick bite at a kabob place next door.

We met up with Tilly and her fiancee, Jordan, Veronica, Mina, and a bunch of other poler/performers showing up to support their friends.

The show? It was amazing. The theme was Quentin Tarantino heroines and started with a dead ringer for Salma Hayek in From Dusk Til Dawn minus the snake.

She undulated on the stage, walked into the audience and stood on a table and poured beer down her leg that flowed down her foot and into the mouth of a man in the audience. Bravo, dude. Well done.

Then Brynn came out and did a pole routine as Nancy Callahan from Sin City that was sexier than Jessica Alba. No offense to Jessica. 

The rest of the show was a sexy and entertaining variety of singing, stripping, swords, bo-staffs, contortion, and cyr wheel, all with the unifying theme. I would be surprised if this show doesn’t turn into something much larger. 

After the show we walked to a brewery for some food and conversation. And by conversation, I mean watching Nadia blow up repeatedly at her bestie, Mina. Those two are like an old couple and are so entertaining to watch.

Watching Nadia do anything has to rank among my top 10 favorite ways to pass the time, even if it is just bickering with her friend.

I noticed that Sideboob kept picking up the tab for food and drink. At one point I was like, “Why won’t you let me pay for anything?” and she said, “I’m finally making good enough money where I can afford to pick up the tab for a change.”

It was really kind of her. I’m happy to buy drinks and such because of all the hard work she does putting together our trips, not to mention she always drives. I truly appreciate being treated.

Thank you Nina, I am thankful for you

We were completely exhausted from getting up at 5am, following getting up at 3am the day before, and being on our feet all day. We gratefully collapsed into bed and slept until 8:30, new record for us.

The next morning we packed up, headed to La Brea for breakfast, got a text from Brynn that she wanted to meet so we walked around and looked into stores while we waited.

Our trip felt downright European with all the French pastries we ate

I wouldn’t call it shopping because we didn’t have any intention or desire to buy anything, but we found this incredible store that sold salvage hardware. It was like being in a Harry Potter universe.

Brynn showed up and we enjoyed a second breakfast of pastries

Something I really appreciated on this trip was all the street art and vintage signs. I love Boulder and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else, but LA is truly an interesting and diverse city.

Then we headed to the airport where Sideboob read and I blogged.

Shaina and her husband were at the house when I got home. I got to spend time with them talking babies, one of my favorite things.

It was the perfect two-day getaway. I love having a friend that is game to drop everything and take off at the drop of a hat, other friends that invite me to come visit, that tell me I’m wanted, and most of all a great family to come home to.

I’ll admit to being down on everything every now and then, but there’s nothing like some time apart to make me really appreciate my home, my life, and my family.

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