Archive | April, 2014

Easter Blues, Easter Dues

21 Apr

Me, Sad Bunny Close Up
Can’t explain it, just not feelin’ it (Easter). Or feeling it, but in all the wrong places…remembering dying eggs with my mom. Will never do that again–haven’t for 15 years. Hiding baskets with little plastic toys from CVS for Noah. That one year–he was four–when he confessed to looking out the window to see where I was hiding things in the yard. That’ll never happen again. Easter Past Writ Large. Which is stupid because all around me there are so many beautiful signs of life blooming.

palm fruit outside my apartment

Holidays do this to me…they highlight the past, the lost, ghosts.

skeleton on egg

So which came first–chicken or egg? Depression because I’m thinking about the past? Or already kind of depressed, and that chicken leads to the egg of the past? Wait. Should depression be represented by a chicken? The past by an egg? No! Egg=renewal. Chicken=”spring chicken,” something to grill, something that is a bird but doesn’t really fly. Now *that* works; depression is definitely the opposite of flying.

Well, here’s how my Easter went: I pulled myself out of the Slough of Spring Despond and went to pick up Noah. He was wearing a bunny shirt.

Noah in Playboy shirt

That tweaked my Easter Angst. Then he assembled the chair that Elizabeth so generously bought me some weeks ago, that I hadn’t been able to put together. (Ok, I didn’t even try.)
Me, New Chair

Then he filled my Scottster (bike) tires with air.

Noah fixes tire

Then we walked around Beverly Hills and looked at people in their “Sunday Best.” Everyone seemed ready for Ascension. Or Fire and Brimstone? Something. Noah practiced his new monologue. I felt the cobwebs in my brain become less gluey, the anvil in my heart lighten.
violin lady

Drove Noah back to his apartment and then went to Natasha’s. Her good cheer is infectious, and it’s not even annoying. Which can be annoying.
NIc on Easter
We made some LA eggs–pretty, happy, almost wearable, distinctly inedible.
EASTER EGGS

Then it was ok to come back to my little place; Easter was over. Gabby, the lovely 85-year old woman who lives down the hall, called out, “Happy Easter, Kirsten!” I waved to her. She wears lipstick every day.

I should have gone to church this weekend. Or, last week I could have held a Passover Seder. (Noah knows the prayers!) Neither ceremony was a tradition with which I was raised (vehemently secular family). But ritual frames the time of year, the history, the astronomical/spiritual moment with meaning. Just choose, Kirsten, one of the above! (Double entendre intended.)

Next year: an egg hunt? A face lift? A trip to Jerusalem?
At least some prayer. Oh. I can do that right now. Thank heavens.

Dove in tree

So here’s to honoring the egg of the now, and the next, Dear Reader!
Easter Egg of Life

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Back On The Road: Wilshire Boulevard, Scott Sportster, Biking Past And Present

12 Apr

Back On The Road: Wilshire Boulevard, Scott Sportster, Biking Past And Present.

Back On The Road: Wilshire Boulevard, Scott Sportster, Biking Past And Present

12 Apr

ciclavia me with bike I got a bike! (Never mind that Peggy and Carol and I were actually looking to rent a car. But low and behold, behind Enterprise Rentals there was  a hole in the wall  with used–possibly stolen?–bikes, and while Peggy and Carol got a car, I negotiated the hole-in-the-wall-bike-guy down sixty bucks!) My Scott Sportster is black and white, and I don’t have to squirm uncomfortably when I swing one of my hip replacements over the seat. It’s the first Girl Bike I’ve ever owned.

AND THEN I found out about CICLAVIE: April 6th, Wilshire Boulevard is closed to cars for several miles, and you can ride or walk from Beverly Hills to Downtown. Talk about an antidote to LA LA LAND AUTO CULTURE! And talk about my virgin ride. Well, let’s don’t talk about it. Let’s just enjoy the photos: The Gaylord–a classic line of text in the sky. ciclavie Gaylord Most people were riding together in groups–families, couples, friends. Lots of people had music blaring from small CD players. ciclavie girls in pink I was caught up in the fray and so happy to be on my new bike. I was also feeling alone. You have a date tonight, I reminded myself.  We made our way into KoreaTown. ciclavie Karoke And through some hybrid neighborhoods where the aromas in the air spell WEST COAST NORTH AMERICA. ciclavie Mexican chicken, Thai, Sushi That I was flying on my new (used) Scott Sportster as if we’d been together forever, charging into Downtown LA with thousands of other bike riders made my heart sing. I remembered riding my bike  in Champaign-Urbana in the 1970’s–to the swimming pool, to my job at Lincoln Square, to friends’ houses. Many of the streets were  made of thick, red bricks. Bumpy. There were also bike rides out to the farms, just blocks from my house. Cows, soybeans, the white square houses of farmers.  Decades later, riding my bike in LA, I am Midwestern Girl singing the song of the open road on Wilshire Boulevard. . .whodathunkit!?ciclavie riding through parkPedaling in the hot sun, I remembered my son Noah becoming a serious biker at 14, riding 40 miles a day on a regular basis. It scared me because of his Type 1 Diabetes. Of course he carried juice and a granola bar and a phone–but the phone didn’t work out there on those Finger Lakes roads. At first I watched the clock the whole time he was gone. He always came back. He entered races, and won first or second place.

He biked a hundred miles around Cayuga Lake in the local AIDS-Benefit ride. I drove around the lake, meeting him at pit stops. He was one of two of the youngest riders to finish. The next year he wanted to do it again, and  didn’t want me to follow him. I had one of those parent epiphanies: this is not your journey; it’s his. (I followed him anyway.)ciclavie Bradley This is Bradley. (His mom let me take the picture.) Bradley channels  Evil Knievel, Lance, and Superman. And he smiles a lot, though NOT for the camera. I also met Minerva (who smiles on and off camera.) cic la vie Asian girl At a certain point, I realized my front tire was a little flat, so I stopped to get it inflated. ciclavie bike repair   Wouldn’t you know, as the friendly pump guy filled the tire with air, the inner tube broke. He replaced it for free. I was on the open road again! I started to think about time. ciclavie stones in air Actually not as poetic as all that. Just remembering I was supposed to call my date at 5, and then we’d meet up at 6. I felt dread. I didn’t know why. ciclavie DEAD END I realized I would rather see a friend, talk to Noah on the phone, watch a movie alone, take a walk–than have this date. He is a kind, warm, attentive guy. What’s wrong with you? ciclavie tar pit On my way home, passing La Brea Tar Pits–the metaphors were piling up. I just don’t feel the urge to see him. IMG_1464 I decided to call him and suggest another night. Right, wrong, don’t know. How important is chemistry–at this age? I think I need it.

The whole trip–my virgin ride on the Scottster (my bike and I had become close so nicknames were in order)–was a mere ten miles. But it had carried me somewhere new, and memories of bike riding had emerged from the tar pits of my brain.

A decade ago, I followed Noah’s lead and bought a serious bike and rode it regularly. He and I did two triathlons together. He kicked ass.  I was just glad to finish.

ciclavie skateboard and push pole

Toward the end of CICLAVIE, I saw this guy, one of a group of young people on a skateboard, pushing themselves with poles. Talk about Hybrid Cultural Go!

Aim. Push Off. Don’t take yourself too seriously.  Short and long strides, feel the road and fly. Make sure someone knows where you are. On this journey.

Secrets Of The Olympic Spa: Mugwort Pool, Salt Sauna, Sisterhood, My Tattoo

4 Apr

Secrets Of The Olympic Spa: Mugwort Pool, Salt Sauna, Sisterhood, My Tattoo.

Secrets Of The Olympic Spa: Mugwort Pool, Salt Sauna, Sisterhood, My Tattoo

4 Apr

On the eve of my departure to L.A., Ithaca Elizabeth told me that I HAD to go to the Korean Olympic Spa in KoreaTown. “They scrub the bejeezus out of you. You come out like a new woman!” she extolled. The new woman part sounded good, but strangers in their underwear  scrubbing my entire naked body didn’t sound like one of the reasons I was going to L.A. Upon moving here, I met a second Elizabeth, and she ALSO told me that Olympic Spa was a Must Do. Two dear friends who don’t know each other with the same name telling me  to go to the Olympic Spa…it was a conspiracy, surely. Some secret Elizabeth society thing.

 

Olympia Spa

I do what I’m told, especially by the secret society folks. But I didn’t want to do it alone. So I had to wait for my former student Melissa to come to visit. She’s a few decades younger than I, took four of my classes, quite possibly admires and respects me. An easy mark. I pretended that I’d already been to the spa: “Oh it’s just heaven, they scrub the bejeezus out of you and you come out like a new woman.” Melissa was a bit worried about the hygiene  aspect. I reassured her, “It’s so clean. They bleach the bejeezus out of everything.” What did I know? One thing I did know: all clients are naked, all the time. No fuzzy bathrobes and slippers. Both Elizabeths had told me that. This had to be kept from Melissa; all that nudity might be just too weird for my fine young friend.

Melissa on bday

But when we walked in, she read the policy sign: Women Only, No one under 14, Swimsuits are not permitted.

“No swimsuits? But there are robes, right?”

Our names written down, and the fee was paid.

“Not really.”

Into the locker room we went. Suddenly I was nervous. Melissa and I were friends now, but once upon a time I had graded her papers, and she took notes while I talked about cultural representations of self. How would she respect me after we walked around naked together, dipping in and out spa pools? I am not ashamed of my body (well, most bits) but then again when you’re naked, you are naked. You don’t need to be a literature professor to know that means that you are naked. No one is thinking about that brilliant point you made about Emerson’s transparent eyeball when you are hoisting yourself indelicately out of the mugwort pond. Melissa and I solved the problem by just not looking at each other below the neck.

Well there we were, trying out the various versions of whirlpools and ponds in a dark steamy room with about forty other women. Women who were large, small, dark, light, hairy, shaved, old, young, in between, naked all. And believe it or not, after a few minutes I stopped judging. She’d be gorgeous if she worked on her core; she has the best breasts I’ve ever seen. . .my stupid little mind just stopped that shit. I felt a sisterhood. It wasn’t sexy the way men might imagine it. No one was being sexy. We were soaking. We were quiet.   Spa sisterhood.

I thought about  the female communing going on. Some mother daughter pairs, some friend pairs, a lot of women on their own, sitting next to other women on their own. Comfortable. Peaceful. I haven’t seen a lot of that. Much of the bonding LA women do is  about manicures, talking about men, shopping, shopping for men.

By contrast, male bonding. . .is rarely about appearance,  or women. Guys play or watch a sport together, right? Then there are  those secret male societies. . .the Masons, Skull and Bones, Bohemian Grove. There are rituals, there is networking, there is money, and  there is power. And at the super exclusive club-for-the-filthy-rich Bohemian Grove they pee on trees.

I was at Bohemian Grove once, as a guest obviously–“Ladies Day.” The men refrained from al fresco relief, but the networking and power and money were in evidence. Every conversation under those big old (peed on) Redwood trees seemed to have a message encoded in it–an  old boy “I got your back, and I got your balls heh-heh” kind of thing. I wanted to laugh, I wanted to cry. I was told not to write about it.

For Melissa and me, the nakedness seemed to signal the end of the Teacher/Student relationship and to welcome in the Friends, Naked configuration (we were still looking at each other neck-up, only). It came time to have the bejeezus scrubbed out of us, so we went to our separate scrub bed cubicles and lay down for the Scrub Ladies to do their thing. Dear Reader, if you’ve never been, you can’t quite imagine how great it is. You’re being treated like a baby, handled and tossed about with care, like a little naked person who doesn’t know what’s good for her. Who can only lie there and be scrubbed and turned over and scrubbed again. And then there is the head massage. It’s about as close as I’ve come to serenity.

Forty minutes later, we met in the salt sauna, dazed and blissed out.

“THAT was FANTASTIC, Melissa breathed.

“Yeeeaaaaaaah,” I breathed back.

“I like your tattoo,” she said, something I never thought I’d have heard from the mouth of that sweet Freshman I met in Intro to American Literature several years back. Especially since I don’t have a tattoo.

“What?!” I squawked.

“Wait, weren’t you lying in the next cubicle? Wasn’t that you?”

“No. I was in cubicle at the very end.”

“So you don’t have a heart tattoo on your ass?”

I  looked at her with my You-Didn’t-Do-The-Reading Professor glare.

“Oh! Is that why you weren’t answering me while I talked to you! That woman looked like you from behind. She had a tattoo.”

“OK, I know we’re friends now, but Melissa, I am NOT  your friend with a heart tattoo  on her ass.”

“Right. Got it.”

“If I had a tattoo, it would be a quote from Dorothy Parker, for God’s sake.”

We crawled out of the sauna and drank some herbal tea and shared seaweed soup. Spa Sisterhood.

Nods to the Elizabeths and their secret society. I’ll bet they have matching tattoos.

Please share an unusual bonding story!?  That came out wrong–keep it clean, folks, this is family de-tox show.