Saturday, November 14, 2009

Phyllis

Because she really wanted me to mention her. Recently, a number of people have asked me what they have to do to appear in the blog. It's simple, really: you buy me a really thoughtful gift, you tell me how fabulous I'm looking, or you ask to be mentioned. Choose your poison.

Phyllis and I were talking about my blog because we had a lot of time to talk this weekend. We were both part of a "spa crawl" (David's term--cute, huh?) for our friend Grace, who planned a birthday itinerary for her near and dear. Along the way, we assembled a list of words for inclusion in this post, beginning with "Phyllis." And away we go.

The word: Phyllis. Definition: Super-cute neighbor to Grace, mom to Sophie, and one who looks slammin' in black leggings and a white shirt that I SWEAR is not too short.

The first event was Glen Ivy Day Spa in Corona. I decided to drive up by myself so I could sleep in and work out first. That stretch of the 15 is so scenic, with giant boulders on the roadside that could probably crush you like a bug. But the boulders stayed put, my iPod was cranked, and I was howling and rolling along. Even at 90 minutes, the drive primed me for a good mood.

I felt a little timid driving through the elegant stucco gates, past the manicured hedges. I got over it quick when I saw the gang of distinctly un-supermodel-like women clad in brown towels (the reason for which became quickly apparent) lolling about on every ledge. I paid the all-inclusive day rate and headed to the lockers, hoping I'd find my friends, since I thought cell phones were strictly verboten. After a multiple loop tour of the lovely grounds, I gave in and called them, and though I had missed the spa lunch, I was just in time for Club Mud.

Club Mud isn't exactly a club, but there's certainly a camaraderie that develops when you and a crowd go wading into a warm, murky red lake with a mountain of slippery, shiny red clay rising out of the middle. You sink your hands into that mud, feeling it squish between your fingers, and then you suddenly have the urge to slap it on someone. Which is exactly what you're supposed to do. No sooner did I say to myself, "Ooooh, this really seems unsanitary" than I couldn't wait to slather myself with filthy goo. And slather I did--arms, chest, belly, neck and extra on my face for good measure. We did each others' backs, and after a bit of a splash in the warm pool, we waded out to a land-locked mud mountain to gather more for our legs and feet. The normal trajectory would be to bask in the sun on the very dirty lounges until the mud got dry and flaky, but the day was chilly so we congregated under the heat lamps, admiring each others' muddiness and snapping photos for later blackmail opportunities.

The word: Wafa. Definition: A sort of "warm cave" at Glen Ivy that was "burned out" and therefore closed. We were really needing the Wafa that day. Oh, well.

We giggled about how when someone asked, we could say "Oh, I spent the day massaging mud into womens' bare flesh--you?" Finally, a very, very long communal shower with lots of back-scrubbing and the rueful realization that there were just some areas that would have to remain muddy for modesty reasons.

Next, about eight of us crammed into a two-person mineral pool, which reeked of sulfur but felt very nice. I already felt relaxed from my mud detox. According to the other gals, something about this stinky mineral bath was going to make us extra-healthy, and I'm all for that, so I got used to the stink. Also, Grace was glowing and happy, surrounded by her loved ones on her birthday, and that made me happy, too. Plus, I was getting to catch up with my friend Beth, who had flown in from DC for the occasion. All in all, I was feeling pretty grateful Grace had been born.

After a long soak and lots of shrieking and laughing, we dried off a bit (a word on Glen Ivy, if I may: as a novice, I did not pack well. I did remember to bring a suit I didn't care about [the mud and minerals stain] but really could have used a robe, rubber flip-flops, and a headband. I was chilly in my wet towels and my hair was heavily caked with gunk all day) and then headed into The Grotto, which worried me because it's a "cave-like atmosphere" and you take an elevator to the center of the earth to access it. I am severely claustrophobic, but our escort, Misty, assured me that it's not even really underground, thus destroying the illusion for everyone else, too. It was still really cool.

Beneath, each of us had a personal attendant slap us down with an industrial paintbrush full of green stuff. Apparently, it's some kind of moisturizing treatment, but it looked a bit like Green Goddess salad dressing, very slick and oily and thick. Once covered, we moved into a dark, dank, steamy cave, where we were supposed to "perch on rocks and relax." I couldn't exactly do that, because steam increases my claustrophobia (I always feel like my sinuses are closing up) but I did take part in the "massage chain"--Grace and several of her friends are professional massage therapists, and I'm not an idiot. I tried not to think about the pools of standing water everywhere, because I could tell I was the only one skeeved out. The next room was a communal rock shower, where we scrubbed off the green goo (later that night, Beth and I laughingly tallied our showers for the day--I had FOUR) and finally, the last room, which was dry and filled with tea and bowls of green apples. More perching ensued, with lots of sipping and crunching forthwith.

From here, we ascended to the surface with our escort ("Where's Misty?" I asked, mock-suspiciously. "I'm funnier than Misty," she said. "Okay, give it your best shot," I replied, and she totally didn't.) We kept telling each other we looked 10 years younger ("which makes me 23!" I kept announcing.) A soak in the Roman bath-like whirlpool in the locker room, and we were ready to get pretty for our evening out. I was a little nervous because they actually officially closed before we did this, but they were strangely relaxed about us staying another hour to primp.

The word: Pashmina. Definition: a wrap that Phyllis had two of, so generously offered the second to anyone who was cold. I told her I had my own pashmina. She said "Then you won't be needing my pashmina, will you?" And then we laughed.

After a harrowing drive (five cars caravan-ing for nearly 30 miles in Friday rush hour traffic) we reached the twinkly-light loveliness of Old Town Temecula, and a restaurant called The Edge. Although Beth lives in DC and I live an hour away, we agreed we're going to have to charter a private jet regularly to return to The Edge, since it's our new favorite place in the whole world.

The decor is all sumptuous and harem-y, with comfy chairs and lots of draperies and lamps shaped like floating jellyfish. The menus are so heavy you can barely lift them. The booths are private and romantic (though we were at a big table.) And the food...oh, the food. I could tell we were in a FAWNCY place right away because the hostess brought us warm towels for our hands. Ooooh! The second clue was the prices. Gulp. But hey, it was a special occasion. I started with the list (a list, Readers!) of champagne cocktails, from whence I chose the Cherry Sugar Fizz. I don't know what was in there. I only know that I couldn't stop slurping until it was gone. And it was pink. And sugary. And really, what else is there to tell?

The word: Amuse Bouche. Definition: It's actually two words, and they're French. It's the little taste that the chef brings you before your meal so you can see how cool he or she is. Our Amuse Bouche was a shrimp toast, so I passed it to the birthday girl. Jacqueline thought it was hilarious that I said it meant "fun for the mouth." In consequence, we discussed lots of other things that are fun for the mouth. What was really fun for my mouth was the "intermezzo" after the soup. A square spoon with a perfect tiny scoop of house-made blueberry vanilla sorbet. Ooohhh.

Everything on the menu seemed extra special, but I decided to keep it light. While I was making this plan, a heaping basket of the "house bread" arrived, and in about 10 seconds, it was decimated. Turns out the house bread is baked every morning, and is called something like Roasted Pecan Raisin Pillow For Cherubs, or at least it should be. Puffy, soft, chewy, nutty and packed with three different color raisins. Between the bread and the champagne, I was a little swoony.

My next course was "deconstructed" French Onion soup. The waitress explained that they use chicken stock instead of beef, and caramelize the onions first. Say no more. It arrived on a rectangular platter with perfect little triangles of Gruyere and French bread grilled cheese, some of which I dropped into the soup, where they made a perfect cheesy, crunchy crouton. The soup was zesty with sherry and creamy-sweet from the onions. I sort of had to close my eyes with each spoonful. Also, I was a bit sleepy from a day spent soaking and slathering myself in mud.

Sadly, things started to go south with my salad. It was supposed to be a Caesar with chicken, which I know is not terribly gourmet, but I like to "test" new restaurants on their Caesar prowess. I was expecting something crunchy, savory, and garlicky, and instead I got a plate of extremely wilted spring greens (hello? Isn't a Caesar always Romaine?) that tasted of lemon, oil and some unidentified bitterness. On top, a giant chicken breast was unceremoniously perched. It made me tired to contemplate cutting it. Beth and I joked that we should put it in the middle and carve it up for the whole table. Down at the other end, Lorraine's daughter Ashley was also turning up her nose at the bitter salad. We both tried to send it back, with varying results. The waitress told her, "You probably just aren't used to organic ingredients." To this we giggled amongst ourselves, "Could you please bring me a side of hormones and pesticides?" When I expressed my disappointment, the waitress nodded, vanished, and never returned. I finally asked someone else to take it away because I was the only one who still had her plate. Just then, the sous chef, Chris, appeared smilingly at my side. I think he might have been trying to let me know that I'm just a rube, but he did it charmingly. I thought it was sweet that he came to chat.

All was forgiven by dessert, which was a combo of chocolate souffle cake for Grace to make a wish over, and a platter of donut holes that I ordered. Oh, be still my heart! They arrived hot, coated in melting glaze, and light as French lace inside. On one side of the platter was an assembly line of hot, drippy chocolate, cinnamon sugar, and rainbow sprinkles for rolling. I ate one, then passed it around, and it amused me how everyone put up a hand to say "No, no, I couldn't possibly," but the plate was empty when it returned to me.

Overall, the dinner was one of the most delicious and luxurious I've had in a very, very long time. But the place has contradictions. The wait staff was hot and cold. The bathroom, which appeared very grand with a special immersion hand dryer, had no toilet paper. And our table abutted a door that was opened every 30 seconds, to the point where I was shaking with cold from the nonstop gusts of wind. Later, a band started up in the next room, with bass so loud that we could barely hear each other. When I'm paying a lot to eat dinner, I don't want to shout while I'm doing it. If and when (probably when) I go back, I'll be very particular about seating when I make my reservation. And I'll avoid the Caesar.

By 10:00, I could barely keep my eyes open. Since I had my own room at the hotel, I asked for directions and sprinted to my car to keep warm. No sooner had I pulled out of the parking lot than I was lost. I drove around and around a bit, and finally called David to have him figure out where I was. He came through, thank goodness, and in 10 minutes I was checking into the Springhill Suites.

It was really nice. Just opened. Everything accented in orange and lime green, very cheery. I was a little nervous when the front desk gal said "Are you with the soccer players?" She said the whole second floor was soccer players. I was on the third, "so it shouldn't be too bad." But I never heard anything. Even my partners in crime sailing up and down the hallway on a luggage cart after I was in bed. Damn, I missed that?

The room had a lime green couch and a separate little office. I lost no time getting into my leopard jammies and curling up in bed with my Kindle. Ahhhh. I usually can't sleep in hotels, but I had remembered my "white noise" machine, and with the setting on "Babbling Brook" (or somesuch) I was quickly in dreamland.

I awoke to a text from Beth that they were on their way to breakfast (included!) The food surprisingly generous and fresh. I remarked that it was a lot more fun eating breakfast with the four of them than doing it all alone after the reunion last month. Also, I was relieved to see that I was clearly not the only one who had simply stepped into sweats and thrown my hair in a ponytail before leaving the room.

They were on their way to Pala for spa treatments, and I told them I'd meet them by the pool in a couple hours. I really liked the sound of that. When do I have a weekend where I'm going to meet people by the pool? Nice. I could have done without a very long walk through the smoky casino at Pala (I guess I used the wrong garage) but then the pool emerged like an aquamarine in a setting of orange buildings and green lawns, and there was no one there but us chickens. I lounged in the sun and chatted with Jacqueline, who had also opted out of treatments, and eventually we were joined by the other three blinky gals in robes. I couldn't get over how cool it was to raise a little flag on my lounge chair and have a waiter instantly appear--we ate and drank poolside, followed by a dip in the jacuzzi.

Alas, the sun began to dip, signaling the end of the "it's all about me" bliss. If it weren't for Joy's birthday party back in the real world, I might be poolside still, sipping mai tais. I think this girlie spa weekend thing should be a yearly event. Or maybe monthly.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Samantha - you are an excellent writer - and very fun gal with whom to spend the day slathering mud sludge and green goddess paint. I have quite enjoyed reading through your blog entries. For some reason this latest one is my favorite :-) And it's a nice "keepsake" for Grace to remember her special day. Oh did I mention how incredibly beautiful you are - and your very expensive gift is in the mail.................. guess who?

Myrnie said...

Sounds like a fabulous birthday! Lucky gal(s) :)

Anonymous said...

Sam, You made an extremely "FAB" B'day even more "FAB"-, by writing so eloquently about it!
I am extremely grateful for you in my life and my heart.
Thanks for celebrating w/me... I agree about doing it often....
Guess who??

P.S.- I know you made Phyllis very happy!!!

Aunt LoLo said...

Oooh...jealous! Sounds like a blast!

MelADramatic Mommy said...

I've lived in San Diego a long time and have yet to make it to Glen Ivy. I must change that, soon!

Mary said...

Hi,

Okay, I HAVE got to go there! I have heard it is fabulous and now I have a "packing list!"

Sounds like a wonderful weekend!

oxox

Mary

Anonymous said...

Hi, Sam! I had a great time at Grace's b-day celebration with you! You're a cool woman and I'm glad to have you as a new friend! It's great to have this blog as a fun memory of that day! Hmmm...maybe I'll write about it, too!
Jacqueline
P.S. You are a very natural actor. I had alot of fun watching you and giggling at your play tonight.