Thursday, August 5, 2010

84. Massage In Sketchy-ville

So my sister Oakley does a very kind thing and gets me a massage for my birthday. She is a big proponent of "experience" gifts, as opposed to tchotchkes and other items that ultimately collect dust or end up in a landfill. Oakley is very "green". She is extremely secretive about the whole endeavor. She phones my husband when she knows I'll be at work, and (later I find out) they held several Detailed Discussions about my gift. Since Oakley used to live near Crazy Town, and went to school at a well-known university that is Crazy Town-adjacent, she is fairly confident she can pick a good spa for me to go to. Ohhhhhh, Oakley. No. Things have changed here in the last ten years. Oakley picks not a spa, but a one-woman operation entitled "Back 2 Basics by Krsytal". On the surface, it does not sound bad. In fact, I do like the idea that it is supposed to be more like a "sports massage" or "deep tissue massage" as opposed to anything, uhh, sleazy. I should not be worried about the sleaze factor. I should be worried about my car. As I drive into Sketchy-ville, I realize that EVERY SINGLE HOUSE HAS BARS ON THE WINDOWS. The people who are not smart enough to have bars on their windows have opted for the default decorating choice: piles of broken glass all around. The cars are old and rusty, and I notice many are up on blocks. I feel like I am on the set of some Michelle Pfeiffer horror movie where she plays the Pretty Detective and ultimately gets shot. The houses and apartments themselves look, uhh, unloved. There are broken shutters and dead plants and holes in fences and peeling paint and barking pit bulls. For whatever reason, a plethora of stained couches inhabit front porches. The few people that are out and about (many clutching small tell-tale brown bags) stare at me in wonder. Thank God my massage is scheduled for the nice and brightly-lit hour of 2 PM. At this point, I am really wondering about Oakley. Is this intentional? Is she mad at me? Wait, am I being "punk'd"? am I on that TV show right now? Okay, my mind is grasping at anything, maybe Oak knows Krsytal. Maybe they went to college together. Oak doesn't always tell me everything, so who knows-- they could have been room-mates. No, no, that's not it. I AM OBVIOUSLY LOST. Ah, yes! Of course. Oakley would never do this to me, send me to this dilapidated and dangerous Sketchy-ville Southeast. I must have written down the address wrong. I know-- I am sure I reversed it! Dyslexia! It must be Northwest. That's it. I'm watching the clock, but not to worry. Virgo that I am, I left really early and am in good shape time-wise. Sure enough, when I get to the correct address in the Northwest area, I immediately feel at ease. Expansive mansions abut well-tended gardens, homes of movie stars nestle next to those of diplomats and foreign dignitaries. This is the right neighborhood. Boy, are Oakley and I going to have a good laugh about my driving fiasco later! Yep, sure enough: Westin Hotel. Doesn't get much better than that. I smile. The hotel winks at me, and says, "Come on in! Park in our complimentary valet area! And Back 2 Basics is the name of our in-house spa!" I sigh a huge sigh of relief. I pull up to the front and motion for the valet. He is a young and good-looking burly African-American gentleman, even taller than The Husband, about 6'6". His name tag says "Ken" and he looks slick in the sharply tailored Westin uniform. I just want to confirm the address, so before I hop out of the car, I show him my scraps of paper and my scribbled notes. He frowns. He calls over his fellow-valet, and they exchange words. They are both frowning. The first one comes back to my car and says, "I don't think it is best if you drive over there. What is your main purpose for going to that, uh, address? Are you a courier? are you retrieving, uh, medications, or uh, legal documents?" Huh? Do I look like a courier? He continues. "I personally would not feel comfortable driving to Sketchy-ville Southeast." He emphasizes every word. "IT IS DANGEROUS. Unless it is your job, and you are required to go there quickly and pick something up quickly and then leave again quickly, I would certainly caution you against going to that particular location. Good day." He slams my door shut and motions for the next driver behind me (in a Mercedes) to move forward. I look at the clock. Now I am late. How bad can it be how bad can it be how bad can in be? and why the HELL is this African-American football player the size of a small house scared to go to Sketchy-ville Southeast? It is occurring to me that I should be scared. OK, now I am scared. I decide to go there. People live there, why am I so snobby? What is my problem? I find a parking spot. I say a little prayer for my hubcaps (in retrospect, it would have been more prudent to say a prayer for the entire vehicle). Back 2 Basics is not in an office building. It is a basement apartment. Figures. I knock on the door. A petite African-American woman (Krsytal?) greets me warmly. She has some sort of accent that I can't place: Jamaican? British? Southern? South British? "You must be MOV! It is so nice to meet you, please come in." She has me fill out a very official-looking health questionnaire, and then lie down on the massage table. Under normal circumstances (as opposed to life-threatening/ wallet-threatening/ car-threatening), I would attempt to make small talk and actually show an interest in where she is from. Today, I know that time is of the essence and I think that if I am quiet, we will be done sooner and I can escape back to my Haven Of Safety in Crazy Town. For such a tiny person, she has surprisingly strong hands, and my back feels better momentarily. I am trying to let myself float away to some sort of "Zen" place: Jamaica? Britain? However, my brain is still in my car-- is my car being stolen at this moment? if that happens, will the husband drive over here to pick me up? will I have to get a cab or take a bus? will the police even bother to help me, or will they be like that valet Ken from Westin and shake their heads: look, if you are so stupid to even park your car in Sketchy-ville Southeast, then you clearly deserve to have your car stolen. For the next 40 minutes, she works my muscles as best she can while interjecting such unhelpful comments as "WOW--are you tense!" Yeah, duh, Krsytal, I guess I am a tad bit tense. The irony is not lost on me that a massage is supposed to relaxing. Finally, Krsytal is finished. Sadly, I will need a The Husband to give me a neck massage when (if?) I get home to relieve the stress that this endeavor has caused. I give her the gift certificate (which included tip-- thank you for that, Oakley!) and practically sprint out to where my car was last time I saw it. My heart stops. My car is still there. Ahhhh. Miraculously, the hubcaps are there too. Wait, is a Toyota Highlander not desirable enough to warrant stealing it? Am I not driving a trendy enough car? I think my car is steal-able, I would steal it, you know, if I were a car thief. I get in my (rejected even by hardened criminals) car. I do love my car. Thank you Nice Reliable Mom-Car, for sticking by me and not being stolen. Thank you for scaring away any Bad Guys! I drive home and tell The Husband my ordeal. He shakes his head and laughs (I knew it! It was a conspiracy to see if I am "tough"!). "I am not laughing about you going to Sketchy-ville, I am laughing because Oakley tried so hard to do a nice thing for you, and it is just like that time you got her the restaurant gift certificate to that new place you thought she had mentioned and..." I cut him off. I already know the rest of the story. Yes, I am quite embarrassed that I bought Oakley, my VEGAN vegetarian sister, a gift certificate to a well-known steak-house. Sigh. How was I supposed to know that "Niku" means meat in Japanese? oh, well, I am sure she ate some sort of rice dish. So then the dilemma was: do I tell Oakley? The answer: an emphatic NO. (Oakley, if you are reading my blog, uhh, Ken said The Westin has a really nice spa. I just happen to have the 1-800 number.) MOV ("Millions Of Vagrants")

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