Friday, September 30, 2005

Am I Missing Something?

I don’t know about you other Vals, but it was super creepy driving home last night. Unlike the night before, there was hardly anyone on the roads for my commute home, and by the time I got off at Burbank to head home, the smoke in the air was so thick, it was like a scene from a post-apocalyptic war movie. The sun, hanging low in the sky, was an unhappy shade of reddish-pink. When I got out of my car, ash was flying everywhere like snow and the smell was chokingly acrid.

Okay, here’s my thing. And forgive me if you’re sick of hearing about this issue in the media, but it is a question on my mind that keeps nagging me. We, as Southern Californians, and particularly San Fernando Valley peeps, anticipate the Santa Ana Winds and their ensuing fires every year, along with the accompanying floods that later result from the rains tearing a destructive path through the burned out brush plains. With this particular fire, as with others in the past, our firefighters and emergency workers have it down to a system. Evacuees have a place to go, evacuated neighborhoods are cordoned off and you must provide ID to re-enter them, presumably to prevent any looting or vandalism, and to protect the safety of the citizens. At press time, over 16,000 acres have burned, but only one house and five structures have actually burnt down, no lives have been lost, and the fire is 35% contained. When the floods happen later this year or the beginning of next year when we get our first major storms, people will have sandbagged known problem areas, evacuees will again have a pre-ordained place in which to gather to wait out the disaster. Here’s my thing: We don’t get a three-day warning when a fire is started – we just have to put the usual response into play of what we know is coming. Okay. They get hurricanes down south all the time, right? They usually have a warning ahead of time that they’re coming, right? Like at least three days or so? They knew they were going to get an especially colossally damaging hurricane in the near future, right? So what the eff happened there? Why was it still such a huge, unprepared for disaster? Of course I realize fires and hurricanes are completely different in their scope of damage and that this is a different ecosystem we are talking about. But you can’t help but note the similarities. Or at least I can’t. And this bothers me. It bothers me a lot.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Hello, Gorgeous!

I have to give a big huge shout-out to the fabulous, beautiful, chic, just-arrived-in-time-for-fall, my lovely goddaughter, Juliette. Behold, and gasp in awe:


Isn’t she gorgeous? Doesn’t she have magnificent bone structure? Isn’t she positively fraught with benevolence? The little towel/hoodie thingy was a gift from her Auntie Valley Girl.

Her expression seems to be saying, “Don’t you wish YOUR self-tanner made you this beautiful color?” or “Is that a boobie I see against the far wall over there? Is it? Dang, isn’t it time for my mid-morning snack yet? Don’t you know it takes nourishment to look this good?” or maybe “Bitch, get me OUT of this dumb frock and into a Galliano, dammit!”



In this photo, we see that she popped out of the womb a true patriot just like her mother, and is pledging allegiance to the flag. I know it’s the wrong hand, but cut her a slackburger with cheese bitches, she’s a newborn! This probably means she will be left-handed, and thus, a gifted genius like myself. And modest, too. Like mysel... never mind.

Welcome to the world, you precious little bundle. I can’t wait to meet you in November when I visit!

Love,
Auntie

The Hills Are Alive... With the Flames of Fall



I knew it when I woke up yesterday morning. I smelled it. The Santa Anas are here already. The hot air, the whiplash winds, that smell of fall and leaves, only without the cold. The combination means murder to people with allergies, or who live in brushy areas. I knew it was only a matter of time before shit would be on fire, and sure enough, by yesterday midday, the reports were coming in – 118 was closed, Moorpark was on fire, Chatsworth was on fire. Crap. My drive home is screwed. It took me an hour and a half to get from Santa Monica to Encino. From the cliffs of Mulholland overlooking the valley, it was a pretty horrifying sight. Thank God I had sushi with Mom to look forward to, or I probably would have done a nosedive into Depressedville, Population 1. We walked to Enshino (you know by now it is my fave) and had a rockin’ good meal, then stopped on the way home to stare in horror at the fires from the Louise overpass. They seem so much scarier at night when you can actually see the flames. They seem so much closer. When I arrived home, it felt like my house was 100 degrees. The dogs were anxious, pacing around. They can smell it and they don’t like it. I kept my calm demeanor so they wouldn’t feel scared. But leaving them today to go to work was hard. Their doggie-senses are telling them something is wrong and that it ain't that far away.

I hope these fires are out soon and this is the extent of our disaster for the year. The country has suffered so much already, and to be honest, I feel sort of numb from all the gut-wrenching trauma of watching the hurricanes happen. I want to feel for my peeps in the valley, but I feel like I have nothing left right now. Isn’t that terrible? It almost seems like it's not even happening. My thoughts and prayers are with you evacuees. I know this must be a heinously difficult time. Hang in there, folks.

I wish they could use some of my excess water retention from last night’s insane sodium intake to put out the fires.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Scarlet Tea Room

Have you ever actually done a tea? I never had either, until yesterday for Beth’s bridal shower. I have to admit, I had many preconceived notions. Bridal and baby showers are generally NOT my idea of a rockin’ good time. And the idea of doing a tea always conjured up images of stuffy, highfalutin’ people in uncomfortable, straight-backed chairs, sipping from dainty little china cups and nibbling from itty-bitty little tea biscuits or whatever those people eat, and talking about how Muffy and Bitsy will be attending Westpoint and how Thurston and Annabelle-Suzette will be summering in Nantucket, all whilst wishing you were either A) In a dingy bar by the beach somewhere with your new best friend Bubba, downing shots with beer chasers; or B) Dead. But the angelic and beautiful women who were throwing this shower right off the bat got up and announced first and foremost that there would be no goofy bridal shower games here today. I stood up and applauded. Probably a little too enthusiastically. I think I also high-fived my mom. And decided I could endure doing a stuffy “tea”.

But this was nothing of the sort. Yes, there are straight-backed chairs, but they are quite comfy. Yes, the surroundings are uber-over-the-top girly frou-frou, complete with the chandelier overhead that makes you feel underdressed even if you are wearing your best Donna-Karan-you-got-on-sale-at-Ross. But there is this very personable and sweet woman there, walking around offering you a choice of different teas, iced or hot. They all sounded fantastic, but I decided on the green tea infused with fruit, and was happy I did. They start you with a course of just-freshly-picked strawberry sorbet that is really yummy, and served in a cute, teensy little bowl with a cute, teensy little spoon. Yes, you could eat 16 times the amount they give you, but there are many courses to come, so you can live with just the little bit.

Next, they bring out a giant, 4-tiered platter with fresh scones, and every type of cute little sandwich you can think of – salmon and dill, mozzarella and tomato, red pepper and prosciutto, etc. There are probably ten different kinds. The scones are served with fresh preserves and fresh whipping cream. I’m not even normally a big scones fan, but this was my favorite part. Then comes the first of TWO dessert courses. Yeah, hearing this news was when I really started to dig this place. They bring a platter full of adorable little desserts, some chocolatey, some fruity, all different flavors, each decorated so cute that it is almost a shame to eat them, ALMOST. They refresh your tea constantly and then….just when you think they couldn’t possibly understand chicks any better, they whip out the CHOCOLATE COURSE. No, I ain’t kidding. I thought stuff like this only existed in my wildest, wettest dreams. Each of us was served with a bowl made entirely of chocolate. Did you allow that to sink in just now? A freakin’ bowl made entirely of chocolate. It is filled with some kind of strawberries, creamy, liquer-type goodness that you can either eat first, or just start eating the bowl and leaving the strawberry goodness on it as you eat said bowl. I swear the memory of it now is making me a little…. frisky.

And the thing I noticed about doing tea, socially speaking, is that it does induce a sort of contemplative, easygoing, sharing environment where you can just be yourself. You have nowhere to go mingle since you’re fixed at a table, nothing to do but drink tea and nibble things, and so conversation becomes relaxed and a bit uninhibited, even without the presence of alcohol. I felt like the women at my table had become old childhood chums by the time the event was over.

I officially LOVE doing tea now. What’s not to love?

The Scarlet Tea Room
18 W Green Street
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 577-0051

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Reunited And It Feels So Good

I'm posting this photo just because it kills me.



You've probably already seen this on the news, but in case you haven't, these are a husband and wife who had to leave their dogs behind during the hurricane because the husband has a liver problem, and had to be flown out for special care. Their dogs weren't allowed to come along and these poor people were forced to leave them behind. I couldn't imagine the agony of having to do something like that. I'm so thrilled there was a happy ending here when animal rescue workers reinuted them with their precious family members. Much love for animal rescuers!!!

Willow Spa

I have to give a shout out about this beautiful, serene place. Terrie and I had an appointment for their 2-for-1 Japanese Enzyme Bath with half-hour Thai massage. Neither of us really knew what to expect, but we were very pleasantly surprised. The place itself is beautiful, calming, soothing, zen-like. A cute little converted beach bungalow. You wish you could live there, it’s so peaceful. Everyone speaks in hushed tones and everyone is nice. It’s quite an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

After changing into the “loungewear” the adorable Hugo provides you with, he gives you a little shot of this enzyme drink, then leads you to the bath area. The bath is a deep heating treatment that was originally developed in Japan for the athletes in the Olympics. It is a dry bath that consists of a combination of finely cut Juniper shavings, rice bran, and fruit and vegetable enzymes. Its purifying properties can assist the body up to five times its natural ability in detoxifying. And we all need to detox, right? Shoot, I know I do. You lie in this stuff and it ferments and heats up naturally. It has the consistency of potting soil, though not the smell, thankfully. It smells herby and woodsy. You are completely covered in it and it feels like being in the womb since every part of you (except your head) is covered and warm and soft. You lie there completely still for 20 minutes and sweat, but the adorable Hugo comes to you like an angel every 5 minutes or so to wipe down your face with a lavender-scented washcloth and give you a cup of water through a straw. I have to say here that I normally am not the type to tolerate a sauna or steam room since I just get too overheated and claustrophobic. It doesn’t feel good to me. But this was easy to tolerate and was actually very meditative and quite nice.

After rinsing off and donning the loungewear, Hugo led us to a separate room to lie on a mat with an eye mask on and earphones playing soft, Japanese type music in your ears. Then he starts the Thai massage. Now, being a massage therapist myself, I’m ashamed to admit I have never had Thai massage, but am a total believer now. He used his body weight to apply pressure to certain muscle groups in the thighs, while placing your legs in specific poses that offered a great stretch. Along with this comes an outrageous foot massage. I asked Terrie if it would be inappropriate for me to ask Hugo for his hand in marriage. But she reminded me that I am, of course, partnered with a perfectly good man. But can’t I have two? I asked. No, she replied. Well, a girl can dream.

We sat out in the garden sipping green tea afterward and reading smut mags. Like I said, you wish you lived there and don’t really want to leave. But we eventually did, with soft, smooth, glowing skin and a relaxed and serene disposition for the rest of the day. I highly recommend this place. It’s a little zen vacation, conveniently close in Santa Monica.

Willow Spa
3127 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Phone: (310) 453-9004
www.willowspa.com

Friday, September 02, 2005

It's All Going To Be Okay

Sometimes it’s just too much. You try and shield yourself as much as possible from reliving the catastrophe over and over in the media, but still you are drawn to it. I remember when 9/11 happened and we were told not to come into work. We sat glued to the TV screen, horrified by what was happening to our people, in our own country. At some point, I had to leave the house and just take the dogs for a walk. I was dazed. I felt like I had been amidst the wreckage myself. I walked up and down the streets, sobbing uncontrollably, not caring who was around that might see me. No one was around. It was like a ghost town. I realized everyone else was inside, glued to their TV sets, watching the planes crash into the buildings countless times.

Compassion is what makes us human and alive. We connect with the pain of our fellow human beings at times with such acuity that it feels like our own pain. First and foremost, we have to do what we can to help. While hearing about the violence, looting, rapes, and general chaos that has descended on the survivors of the disaster, I am particularly distraught over the plight of the animals that have been left behind, who likely have no one coming to rescue them, who don’t understand what is happening and therefore suffer all the more. We will be donating to both the Red Cross, and to the Louisiana Humane Society. You can access donation centers for both charities, and other legitimate charity organizations that you have a particular passion for, by going to the following website: http://www.networkforgood.org/ --- This website is also particularly helpful since you can donate to the Red Cross even if the Red Cross website is overloaded. Many donations are pouring in, but this tragedy is going to take years and much funding to recover from, so donating any way you can is best.

The next step is to do what you can to ease your pain. For me, that was having a good cry, hugging my dogs and taking them for a walk, writing a few weepy pages in my journal, then drinking a couple glasses of red wine while watching Honolulu Transvestite Hookers on HBO. Your thing may be something else. In fact, I’m guessing it probably will be. Try to limit your exposure to the media. If that means switching to specials on she-males, then why not? We know what the facts are in this tragedy, right? Do what you can to take yourself out of it all for a bit so you are able to go to bed and start fresh in the morning.

Yes, this is our Tsunami. But somehow, it’s all going to be okay. We'll get through it.