I was telling my friend Kevin last week about how I’d pulled something and my neck and shoulders were sore. Kevin told me in no uncertain terms that what I needed was a massage. He sent me the link to Fiori, a spa near the Galleria, that he had visited with Kari. I was impressed by the website, thought the prices were reasonable, and was thrilled to learn that they had Sunday appointments. I made one for this past Sunday, between lunch and the HCB concert. Granted, a relaxing afternoon at the spa isn’t something you should squeeze into your calendar with a shoehorn, but I had no choice if I wanted to do something about my neck any time in the foreseeable future.
I got there early for my appointment, as requested, filled out a form that asked me some very pertinent questions, such as my gender preference for people providing my services, whether or not I bruise easily, allergies to foods or herbs, etc. Then I was shown to the ladies locker room. Which was palatial. It had wood paneled lockers with key pad combination locks, sinks made to look like basins of glass on top of marble counters, two large showers, two large toilet stalls, a steam room, bottles of chilled water, towels, towels, and more towels, and in my locker, a stack of towels, some washcloths, and a soft, fluffy, chocolate brown robe. The attendant brought me my spa slippers, and told me to find her in the shop when I was done changing, and she’d show me around.
I put on my swimsuit, just in case, wrapped myself up in that warm, thick robe, and padded off to the shop for my tour. The attendant showed me the pool (too cold), the underground mineral bath (YES in HOUSTON!), and the Jacuzzi hot tub. That’s about as far as I made it. She said she’d send someone down to get me when it was time for my manicure and pedicure (after wandering over Italian cobblestones in the dust of Rome and Tuscany wearing sandals, my feet needed some pampering). I soaked in the warm, foamy water, relaxed by the sound of water flowing all around me in the small, rock-walled room. I had the place entirely to myself at the time. I closed my eyes and cupped my hands along the water’s tumbling surface, feeling the fizz of the bubbles as I trapped them in my hands. It reminded me of a dream I had where I lay along the hill side of my old home as clouds skimmed along the ground, and I reached out to catch them as they raced by.
I kinda got bored of sitting around after a while, so before anyone came for me, I went back to the locker room to towel off and put on dry things again before padding along in my robe to the shop again to figure out where to go for my nails. The attendant sent me to the top of the stairs to find the quiet room and wait for the manicurist to collect me. I went up and found some soft comfy couches and chairs, and sank down into an armchair to wait.
In a bit Tracie came to get me, and took me to the manicure and pedicure room. She told me to pick out an enamel, but I asked if I could get a buff shine instead, and she said of course. (I really don’t like nail polish much. It’s fun, but it chips too easily, and I don’t have the patience to let it dry properly.) We started with my hands, and while I was quiet, she just let me be quiet. Eventually I got over my usual shyness, and asked how long she’d been a manicurist. She laughed and said too long, since high school, but that she’d always worked with people, and was glad she had this to fall back on. After a number of other jobs, all requiring more patience than I certainly have, she had come back to this, and enjoyed her job very much.
We talked about how beautiful the building was, and the attention to detail in its décor. I haven’t really mentioned this, but the spa is a rock and timber building with slate floors, for the most part, or warm tile, covered with sisal mats or rugs. The walls are painted warm colors in some rooms, or a soft ivory, with decorative patterns painted inside the archways or around the wooden doors and wooden doorposts and lintels. The windows are shuttered with thick wooden blinds, and the lighting is soft and indirect. As Tracie gave me my pedicure, I could look alternately into a small, sunny courtyard, or at the bronze and amber chandelier hanging from the ceiling. The room with the mineral pool had a blue ceiling and red ceiling painted over with beige lattice that reminded me of a ceiling in the Vatican museum. Warm woods and leathers and ceramics were everywhere, and the whole looked quite a bit like the pictures Summer showed me of the villa they visited near Siena for a stargazing trip.
After Tracie told me what not to do to my nails in the future (I did rather hack at my toenails recently, since it had been so long since my last pedicure), and buffing all my nails to a lovely shine, she released me for my massage. I went back up to the top level, and finally found the quiet room, though all the ottomans were taken, so I didn’t go in, but instead sat on another plump armchair just beside the curtains that separated it from the corridor to the massage rooms.
My masseuse, Maziel, came and led me to a dim, wood-floored room and a soft massage bed. She asked if there was anything in particular I needed her to work on, so I told her about my shoulder. She let me choose between eucalyptus, orange, or lavender oils (I chose orange) and left so I could get myself situated. The massage bed was warm (I think there was an electric blanket somewhere in there), and the sheets covering me were a cotton so rich it felt almost like silk. She came back in and started my massage. She was pretty shocked at how tight my shoulders were. I think at least 30 of the 50 minutes I got were spent working out the tension there.
The knot in my right shoulder felt like a golf ball-sized lump of pain that she kneaded and kneaded at until it finally broke up and dispersed back into the muscles of my shoulder. She did my legs and arms, and kept coming back to that shoulder to work it around some more, stretch out the muscles, loosen the joints. It hurt pretty bad, at times, but it’s the sort of pain you grit your teeth through because you know it will only get better by getting worse. She told me I’d be sore today, and I was this morning, but I also have full mobility in my neck and head again, in spite of slight bruising over everything between my shoulder blades. I did check off on the form that I bruise easily. Still, it was worth it.
She finished off by massaging my neck, my temples, and all through my scalp, then waited outside while I robed and slippered up, to take me to the quiet room. She handed me a glass of water with a hint of lemon and lime, and settled me into one of the tan, micro-fiber covered ottomans in the dim room behind a chocolate velvet curtain. There was a rich brown blanket to cover up my legs, and two huge candles on the center table, melting into soft golden curves beside a bunch of stargazer lilies. The lamps were dimmed, and I didn’t bother with the books on the tables, but closed my eyes and let my mind drift along with the music playing softly from somewhere.
After some number of minutes, I began to hope that the music was computer generated, and that no real musicians had been forced to sit in a studio for hours playing subtly shifting chords. I don’t care how celestial the sounds are, pages full of whole notes would just be cruel and unusual. I think it was mostly synthesized, at least, but still, if a person had to sit there and push the keys, I pity them, and hope it paid well. It was just background music, and thoroughly innocuous, but still!
By the time I’d gotten completely lost in the sounds, found myself again, and finished my glass of water, I decided it was time to refill the glass (“Drink LOTS of water, okay?” Maziel had said) and go sit in the steam room for at least ten minutes, like she’d recommended (“Otherwise you’ll be really sore tomorrow”).
So I slipped back down to the locker room with a fresh glass of ice water, wrapped myself in a humongous towel grabbed a chilled, damp, lavender-scented washcloth, turned the steam room dial to ten minutes, and went in. I sat on the caramel colored stone-tiled bench listening to the dial outside tick, which fortunately drowned out the sound of those interminable major chords, until a strange rumbling gurgle in the wall made me open my eyes to watch this new novelty: steam pouring from a spigot near the floor, filling the little room, clouding the air until I couldn’t see my own hands on my towel-covered lap, and the light above and the light from the door were just a gentle glow through the haze. I shut my eyes and breathed deeply in and out through my nose. Breathing through my mouth made me cough on the warm dampness in the air. My nose filtered most of it out, and (forgive me for reporting a less than graceful and sophisticated detail) the steam made my nose drip like a faucet. I found this amusing, intriguing, and thoroughly predictable, once I thought about it, but still, it surprised me.
Ten minutes wasn’t enough in the steam room. When all my lovely humidity had seeped away, I went out and reset for another 10 minutes. This time was better because the steam was warmer to start with and I found the spray bottle of eucalyptus and citrus scented something or other that made my nose tingle. I decided after 20 minutes of steam that I shouldn’t push things, because I still needed to shower and go change into a black formal for my concert.
I don’t think I got any more than half of my massage oil off in the shower, but didn’t mind going to the concert smelling slightly fruity, so I dried off, dressed, and paid my tab. The entire afternoon, gratuity included, cost me $188.80. Not bad at all for 3.5 solid hours of luxury!
Now, how do I get rid of thing lingering pain in my trumpet playing muscles that made me have to come home early from jazz band, and how do I get rid of the lingering guilt for spending so much money on luxury and not on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and defending the widow and orphan? I think that's another blog for another day.