Sunday, April 6, 2014

A hot and muddy last day.

Part 5 of a 5 part travelogue.
Almost 5000 words and only now am I to the part where I am actually vacationing. I have gotten to be a wordy mother fucker in my old age. To be honest, as stressful and weird as all the low fuel and wrong turns were, it was also somehow exhilarating. Somehow all part of blowing out the pipes and kicking off the new chapter of my life. 

Once I was settled in my room I thought; the gluten free pizza was ok but perhaps something more to hold me over till the free breakfast they serve at the El Bonita Motel would be a good thing.
[As you can tell I have little respect for the details of english language usage. Even famous english guys agree with me that “Whatever works, works”. But what the hell? “El” is masculine and “Bonita” is feminine in Spanish. “The pretty motel” would be “El motel bonito”. Doesn't matter but it gave me OCD every time I thought about it.]

Like I was saying, the desk clerk pointed me to the nearest market. I got back in the car and went forth into the night. This little local market had more cool specialty food than Trader Joes ever thought about. I brought GF bread from home but wanted something to put on it. There was ham & cheese in the cooler but I’m on vacation damnit. The deli case had the exotic Italian salami and prosciutto you’d expect. Except the cheapest one was $17 a pound. Up to $65 a pound. It looked expensive too. I didn't go crazy but I did get half a pound of this one that was the color of pepperoni but instead of round it was rectangular. The slices were the shape of dollar bills ironically enough. It was very spicy and delicious. I combined it with the ham & cheese to make 3 or 4 sandwiches. One delightful thing was the counter lady. Middle aged blond with kindly blue eyes. She was so friendly. Lots of eye contact and lots of “is there anything else I can do for you”s. At first I thought “nice people here in the northern countryside”. And it’s true, but then I remembered, I’m a regular looking guy here. The prices tell me they have lots of high rollers but most everyone else are old hippies like me. Ladies over 40 don’t look at me with suspicion like back home. Here I’m catnip. Crap. I was never good at picking up women at 26, Thirty years later. Most of that time out of the loop. sigh. Something else to work on. Still, very cool to be admired.

Before going to sleep I updated my facebook and checked my email. One email was from my pal that I hear from every few months from the band of misfit partiers. My old friend sent me a couple of youtube links as people do. The last time I heard, my old friend was living in the mountains of North Dakota, Or was it Maine? I eMailed back mentioning that I had stopped by the S.F. place and was going to Calistoga in the morning. I got this back “Where are you?  Call me now goof.  I can meet you...I'm not far!!! Call me...”

I called back and we talked. Turns out my old friend was living well . . within driving distance. Specific location not divulged. We planned to meet the next day.

Ahh morning, fresh air and free breakfast. 4 kinds of cereal. Milk and sweet rolls. All gluten and lactose full. I had coffee, OJ and a banana. I had saved the Gf croissant from the day before and had it heated with my ham and cheese in the room’s microwave. Good enough. I went on to Calistoga for the main event. 

If you looked at the slide show in the post above you saw the road to Calistoga. I got so involved having the experience I forgot to take more pictures till the next day. A nice drive. A bit of drizzle. The trees got thicker. Calistoga, like many places in Northern California, preserves the look of the gold rush era. Old timey things like rail cars are made into shops and restaurants. I had set the Maps App to find the Calistoga Spa Hot Springs. It was 9 miles from El Bonita and one right turn so that part was easy. I got there so early that there was a line of other pilgrims outside waiting for the place to open. It was a standard motel with 2 floors. Looked to be 30 or 40 years old. 
Behind was an array of pools. Behind that a new building with the mud baths and other spa facilities.   After it opened and I got checked in I realized that I had left my swim suit at the motel. The mud bath and massage also includes use of the mineral pools for the rest of the day. Dang it. Like I said I was way early so went back to fetch it. Once I got back, stowed my gear in the locker provided it was time for my mud bath. 
My attendant Leo was a stocky Hispanic guy about 25 or so. He showed me to the room with the baths. As you can see in the photos each bath is a tiled box about 3 feet wide and 7 feet long. I'm not sure how deep. Leo gestured to get in. I swung my feet over the mud, sat and sank in. The geothermal heat is uniform and the mud smooth. As I sank in he indicated to pull the mud up over myself. When I had gone before, the attendants were more helpful, pushing the mud around and offering a hand. No big deal. I was covered and never did feel the bottom. I was suspended by the water and volcanic ash. It is difficult to describe the sensation. The heat penetrates right to the bone. Your muscles and nerves have no choice but to let it all go. You start to sweat. Just then Leo came offering a cool wet cloth for my forehead. I settled even further into the mud. The warmth softening my bones. I quickly lost track of time. I don’t know how long this part was supposed to last. In my alternative health and spiritual practices we talk about “Grounding”. Not unlike grounding an electrical circuit or lightning rod by making an unbroken attachment to the earth. In those practices it can be symbolic or a process facilitating the grounding. The is the real thing at it’s most elemental. Every bit of you is in physical contact with mother earth in an unbroken circuit. All of your residual energy psychic or otherwise is drained away. You, or at least I, could feel myself getting in sync with the natural hum of the earth. As good all of this is, the heat starts to get annoying. Once again Leo reappears, this time to say it’s time to get out. I sit up and start to scrape the mud off. Then stand. Huh, guess it was only a couple of feet deep. 

The room is kind of big. There are 5 other mud baths and 6 personal sized jacuzzis all permanent fixtures in the room. The center of the room has a divider wall with showers on one side and a steam room in one corner. First I shower off the mud then slowly I move over to the jacuzzi and get in. When I was a teen my friends and I used to go to a natural hot springs in the Kern Canyon called dahlonega. The story I was told was that It had been built by the Chinese workers that built the railroad through the canyon. the problem with that story was that there was no railroad tracks. There was a toll road to the county seat in Havilah and a couple of early power plants so there were probably Chinese workers. The place we went to was probably the remnants of the "Dahlonega Health Resort" there were 2 others in the canyon as well. It was so sulpher that it promoted miraculous healings. One time my buddy sliced his hand badly on a beer bottle. Being drunk and stoned as we generally were when we were there he didn't bother dressing the wound. Just stumbled back into the concrete tub for more soaking. It had completely scabbed over by the time we left. I could smell the sulphur in the mineral water in Calistoga but is was not nearly as strong. Just like in the mud bath in the jacuzzi I got a cool cloth on my forehead. When I was ready it was time to get out.

From there I went into the steam room. Guess I didn't mention this. I was the only guest taking the mud at that time. The other people I had lined up with were women and had their own mudroom. There were a few families but they appeared to be there just for the mineral pools. When I go to the gym the steamroom is my favorite thing. This time I had had enough heat treatments and threw in the towel, as it were, before Leo came to get me. 

Next comes the nap. The best nap you ever had. Along with all of my stress and pain went my energy in a most relaxing way. I was lead to a curtained off little cubby with a soft bunk lined with warm blankets. The lights were low, I was bundled up like a baby and there was that soft new age music. I guess I drifted off. I don’t remember. It was a most blissful meditative state. After about half an hour or so it was time to get a massage.

My monday appointment was with a man therapist. My reschedule to today was with a woman. I kept telling them that it didn't matter to me. I was there for a massage not the therapist. They must get people with a real definite preference. The first 6 or 8 of the 10 years I made my living doing massage I was pretty much the only game in town. The only people I dealt with who had a preference were the lonely truck drivers who would call me from a phone booth. At that time we were at the tail end of the sexual revolution that started with the introduction of “The Pill” in the 60s. After AIDS and the reign of Ronald Reagan in the 80s society took a turn towards the uptight. I started seeing this preference thing shift around 1990. 

Typical massage room, Just big enough. This one had a skylight I seem to recall. Details get fuzzy here. I was so relaxed already. I can’t remember her name but she had many years of experiance and was good at her task, I was quiet at first but was so relaxed and hadn’t had a conversation with anyone except Stacey in a week so started talking. I/we talked all about the massage industry. I talked about my involvement with the California Coalition on Somatic Practices. CCSP had many round tables and did statewide surveys to determine the future of the massage industry. I was already out of the biz at that time and served as a kind of representative of the client side. After I left, CCSP morphed into the group that got the state massage licensing law through Sacramento. 

I went to the locker room and put on my swim suit. I went out to the hot spring pool area. They have an olympic size with warmish water, a mid sized one that was 3 or 4 feet deep that was a little hotter. One that was kind of an octagon with a shade over it that was warmer still. I tried this one first. Then the big one to do a couple of easy laps. There was a shallow one for kids with a couple of family groups. There were people from all over but 2 or 3 family groups were from Ukraine. I thought this was interesting because Ukraine has been in the news and most months over half the visitors to this page come from there. Web-bots I assume. Then a regular spa sized one that I figured was the real hot one. I didn't bother with those 2. I went for the middle sized one. It was just right. On a different day I would have stayed there longer but I had my fill already. The wrist band would let me back in all day if I needed more hot spring water time.  

The angst and frazzled feeling I had before I left Bakersfield was silenced. The drizzle was kind of neato when I was in the hot pools. Cool rain drops on my warm face. By the time I got dressed the clouds had parted and there was some sunshine. It was turning into a beautiful day. Time to forage for food. This was what I posted on my facebook page: That is just what I needed.
Baked in mud then soaked in mineral water and steamed. Followed by a quiet nap wrapped in blankets. Then a massage that went on and on.
After that I was free to use the hot mineral pools. And did. The town has many delightful restaurants. The rain and mist had cleared and it was a beautiful day so I decided it get deli food and eat outside.  

I sat in my new car with the windows rolled down and ate. Even food tastes better when you shake off the excess blah. Man I felt good. 

Didn’t want to leave. I had wanted to go a fair time. Napa County holds their fair in Calistoga. I drove around a little to find the fair grounds. It is also an RV park with not too bad rates. That done I drove back to St Helena and El Bonito. As soon as I got there I fell asleep. 

The meeting with my pal from the band of misfit partiers was at 7. I didn't want to eat much because I figured we’d end up at a restaurant. I did have a snack and watched local TV. I cut my cable 4-5 years ago and have a very low tolerance for commercials. Since I did bring my laptop along and there was free WiFi I watched a show on Hulu with the laptop sitting on my chest. I’m on vacation damnit why can’t I lie down?

We had agreed to meet at a grocery store in a nearby town. I programmed it into the Map App and it lead me there easily. A pleasant drive really. I got there first and waited outside. It happened again. I was standing outside the place minding my own business and twice middle aged women greeted me with more than the usual friendliness and eye contact. Alright my imagination. Country folk are just open and friendly that way. Sure. 

My old friend drove up. I got in and was warmly greeted. Bear hugs all around. So much to say. So much missing time to fill in. My description of this person is vague on purpose. His/her life and specific details, what little I know even after this meeting, have been withheld by request. Guess they didn't get the memo that personal details don’t have any real significance in the age of social networking. I should be flattered that someone thinks anyone actually sees this blog.  

While my old friend is probably more intelligent than I am (don’t say I said that) one reason we have always gotten along is that we share a similar cognitive uniqueness. ADD is a narrow and often inaccurate description for an array of cognitive characteristics. Cognitive Disorder NOS (not otherwise specified) is one description. While a difficulty at times I have never liked the word disorder in either title. Open minded investigations indicate these characteristics are rooted in successful hunter gatherer behaviour. A combination of pattern recognition and a predilection to scanning the environment. Great for hunting and gathering. Not so good, at least in my case, for focusing on tasks like scientific experiments and reading books. One difference between us is old friend is one of the most remarkable guitarists I have ever met. That takes hours of concentration everyday. 

First my old friend just drove us around. We investigated the area till we spotted a place in the woods where we could park and talk. My old friend had developed a taste for cigars and we stepped out to smoke one. Old friend must have thought I was a maniac with all the talking. I never stopped. Relaxed from the spa and glad to see my old friend the nicotine buzz let the dogs out. I went on and on. Old friend is such an interesting person and withheld. We tried to piece together news of the others we knew back then.

This lead to a recollection of the time we organized a big party where the band at the time could play. We went to the store and got a variety of colorful vitamins, mixed them up with hard candies and put them into a pinata. Besides the band, this was a high point of the party. When the pinata broke some people were mad that we would give out “Drugs”. Others were mad that they were fake. We on the other hand were delighted. 

We finished smoking the cigars. I am a hypnotist and understand the power of the stories we tell ourselves, or believe in, to curate our perceptions. Early humans had no clothing. There are the accounts of feral children walking barefoot in the snow unaware that they are supposed to be cold. I long ago let go of having a set temperature for being cold or hot. At the change of seasons it takes a while to readjust but in general I have a wide comfort zone when it comes to temperature. That said, it was getting freaking cold. Time to look for food. It was already 9 and 

I didn't hold out much hope that anything was open. We did find one. We talked there for another hour or two till the staff had finished cleaning and wanted to go home. I am truly jazzed about my new plans for focusing on the development of imagination as key to making hypnosis work and the changes and improvements people want. I talked about that quite allot. Hope my old friend didn't get bored. It’s all so grown up and potentially useful. Not like our hedonistic days of long ago. 
Dropped me at my car and I went back to the motel all happy with life. 

 Time to go back home. For about 6 months I have been taking an improv workshop on wednesday nights at 6:30. Offered to me for free in the hopes that I can get good enough to be on a team of players that can perform at a new venue that is opening in Bakersfield. For a number of reasons this has been the high point of my week. The effects of no days off and my other types of dysphoria have limited my progress but with those things going away, and/or being managed, I am getting up to speed. This is no time to lose momentum. Besides it is just really really fun to do. 

The trip home was going to be one big jump. According to Map App it was going to take about 6 hours. I had filled up with fuel on Monday but wanted to avoid repeating the stress of that day. I have an app on my phone called Gasbuddy that is usually good at finding the cheapest gas. It was not co operating so I looked for a Costco with gas on the homeward side of San Francisco. A little drizzly but otherwise another great day. It occurred to me that I was so enamored with my iPad that I didn't even think of the phone’s Google Maps App. I had used it once before with great results. I used it to set my course and told Scotty to engage. (is it a mixed metaphone to have an original Star Trek and Next generation reference together?). 
Not to scale
Anyway even in the country it I was just in time for the commuter traffic. The App on the phone also has a voice that told me when a turn was coming up. This took the stress out of the traffic and I put myself into ‘follow the car ahead, but not too close’ mode. With only a couple of exceptions it even knew which way my car was going and gave me correct right/left directions. My guess is that since cell phones have GPS built in and the connection is more direct than my iPad has, it was able to keep up with me. I can’t complain, the Freedompop 3G data puck (MiFi) only costs $20 a month. Built in AT&T would have made the iPad cost more to buy and the monthly would have been over $50.

The drizzle turned into sometimes heavy but mostly that rain that has you adjusting the wipers all the time. As soon as I got to Kern County skies were clear. Finding the Costco with gas took me off the interstate into the wilds of Livermore for a time. I took the time to grab a few things not sold at the Costco where I live. At Santa Nella I stopped in for a quart of Pea Soup Andersen's pea soup to take home. 

One thing that I have complained about on earlier posts is this thing where my gluteus muscles are wasting away. Exercise pisses them off but helps a little, sometimes. Not driving the Wasco route and the spa treatment gave some relief. About 3 hours in; the pain was all I could think about. Shifting from one cheek to the other and stopping to walk around the car made it tolerable. This was the other reason for taking the trip up in 2 parts. 

Once back home my 2 small dogs were joyous beyond understanding to have me back. We layed down and took a nap together. My fellow improvisers; a nice bunch of people. All younger than me, most have known each other for many years. I don’t play video games, card games or other games except improv games. Darts is kind of a sport or game but they don't play. I admire comic books and graphic novels but only really engage in the movie versions. Not in a geeky way. They can go for hours with the most arcane (geeky) details. I heard a few of them talking about drinking maybe even smoking pot. I have kind of lost interest in that stuff the last decade or so. Guess I need to take up poker. 

So I sat quietly through class with flashes of my big out of town adventure distracting me in a delightful way. 

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