Tag Archives: Beauty

My Third Birthday in California Or, I Went to Chicago?!

7 Aug

My first birthday in California I spent in Malibu. It was kind of romantic. I was in love with California if not the person I spent it with.  I’m still in love with California.  Last year I celebrated my birthday in Santa Monica with Nicolle and her daughter Katrina:

birtHDAY 2014 N, K, ME AT WATER GRILL

And a few days  later with–of course,  my son Noah. And with–of course, Ben Affleck. Noah spotted Ben across the room at The Hungry Cat Restaurant. When I told Noah (aspiring actor) to  “go over there and strike up a conversation with Ben,” Noah said “That’s more your kind of move than mine, Mom.” So I made my move. Ben’s agent tolerated it. And Noah took a picture.

birthday 2014 Noah licking lips in Hungry Catbirthday 2014 Ben and me(Please understand, Dear Reader, that I didn’t realize when I coerced Ben into this photo that he was cheating on Jennifer with the nanny.)

ANYWAY, after last year’s celebration, this year looked like it might not stand a chance of being so interesting.  So, I booked a ticket to Chicago to see my dearest, oldest friends. Given how kind they have been to  me through thick and thin, I’d have say they are more family than friends.  (And there’s the fact that except for Noah, I have no family, so I gotta call somebody family!) After a day of teaching English as a Second Language, I got on a plane and landed in O’Hare late at night, and found the Blue Line:

birthday 2015 arrival blue line

Loving the culture shock of taking REAL public transportation, I called Susanna, whom I’ve known since I was 5–and whose birthday we were also celebrating–and told her I’d be at Logan Square in about 30 minutes.

birthday 2015 arrival at Suz's stop

I got off  the train, and the air was humid and there were guys playing chess and flirtatiously calling to women walking by. It was urban in a way that is only Chicago. I LOVE CHICAGO, I thought. I used to think about moving there.

birthday 2015 suz and rise and cocktailsSusanna, or “Suz” as I’ve always called her, and her husband Russ picked me up, took me to their house on Montana Street–where I’ve probably slept 15 times,  and Suz made a killer cocktail and we toasted and laughed at nothing and then all fell asleep within minutes. It so felt like family.  In the morning I was happy to see Max, one of their sons, who is just a year or two younger than Noah.  I’ve known Max since he was in diapers. He was reading Updike.

Birthday 2015 Max readingThen Max and Suz and I took a walk. Their street is pure Chicago.

birthday 2015 Montana streetI felt a strange homecoming.  Chicago is not my hometown, but I’ve spent so much time there, growing up in Champaign-Urbana (two and a half hours away.)  I grew up the daughter of Audrey–my single mother who loved the Art Institute and Oak Street Beach and the Chicago Symphony. We drove up often. And I’ve visited my friends there countless times. Suz and Max and I kept walking, and ended up at a Farmer’s Market, almost next to the Lake.

birthday 2015 me in front of old lamp postbirthday 2015 farmer's marketI realized I’d been missing the MidWest, where there is green grass,  people buying jam, and those big-shouldered buildings overseeing the lake.

birthday 2015 lake and skyline

And then I went paddle-boarding with Suz.

Birthday 2015 paddle board with suzI remembered being in camp with her in Wisconsin one summer. We both loved the lake. She was better with the cold. She was better with the horses. And better with the spiders. Maybe that’s why she’s a world- renowned  doctor?

And then it was time to meet Nicolle, and Howie and Sue, my other great Urbana friends! We met at a beautiful hotel restaurant, and the food was subtle, and it was like old times but better– because we’re older and more subtle.

Birthday 2015 suz and howie

That’s Suz and Howie.reunion me pointing finger at Sue

That’s Howie’s wife Sue and me. Howie’s like my brother. Sue is my sister.

Birthday 2015 girls in the dark

And there’s Nicolle–my California and Chicago sistah, me, Sue, and Suz.

The next morning I flew home. A few days later,  got to celebrate with Noah. And that was so so sweet.Birthday 2015 Noah and mom at Boiling Crab

And then I had dinner with another Urbana sister (once upon a time babysitter!) Peggy, and newer sister, Carol.

Birthday 2015 Carol and Peggy

Peggy and I used to eat Popcorn on Pennsylvania Avenue. And to celebrate my birthday we did again.

birthday 2015 Peggy and me popcorn better

Though there was no Ben Affleck, there was a mysterious stranger.

Birthday 2015 Kirsten and Rex

Well, actually  more like new friend.

My third birthday in and out of California. Still not quite here, Dear Reader. But Close. And I’m glad I went home for the day I was born.

birthday photo with momThank you, Audrey, for this life!

 

 

 

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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.