Monday, April 12, 2010

Day 162: Happy Endings

On Monday, Kristof and Elizabeth had to go back to work, so I set out to see San Francisco on foot, on my own, something I had done before.

Though I know it's not true, I started worrying that this blog had started to be less about me trying new things and more about me just doing stuff alone. True, this experience has forced me to do a lot of things that I've never done before on my own and it has shown me that solitude can be enriching. But while making me a more independent person, I'm also learning that just because I can do things by myself, doesn't mean that I necessarily want to. Companionship is important to me, and I am finding that most things in life are more fun if there is someone to share them with.

Being in San Fransisco for the second time in five months, I couldn't help but think about the last time that I was there with an unexpected travel companion, on a whirlwind tour of California. I'd be lying if I said my new circumstances didn't bum me out a little bit.

But on Day 162, I made new San Francisco memories as the thing I've never done before: I got a foot rub down in Chinatown, I saw the Fillmore music venue and ate dinner at Yabbies.

While covering some familiar San Francisco territory, my friend Myles called. If you've been around the blog for it's entirety (and if you weren't, it's ok, but you should go back to Day One and start reading), you might remember that Myles was at the wedding that I crashed on Day 49. He is an old friend who now lives in San Francisco. We had talked, ahead of the trip, about getting together for dinner when I was in town. He asked me how I was spending the day in the city.

"Well, right now I'm on my way to a spa in Chinatown to get a foot massage!" I said, triumphantly.

"Interesting, you didn't strike me as a happy-ending kind of girl," Myles said.

I laughed because Myles is hilarious and it would be like him to assume that I was going to a shady massage parlor that offers a wide array of "services," most of which I wanted no part. But then I paused, concerned for a moment that maybe that was the kind of place Elizabeth was sending me to. No way, I decided. Her place is legit. I'm not worried.

My conversation with Myles involved a few other jokes about Chinatown massage parlors, but I refused to let any of them get to me. We moved on to talk about our plans for later that night.

After a few minutes he asked me a question.

"Are you by yourself?" This conversation was getting weirder.


"Ok," he said, sounding almost relieved, "I would not go to that place your friend is telling you to go to."

I honestly couldn't tell if he was being serious or not. About 95 percent of my conversations with Myles involve inappropriate jokes, so to hear him seriously tell me that there was a chance the place I was going to could get raided by the INS, was concerning.

After we hung up I called Elizabeth to confirm that the idea she'd given me as thing I've never done before in San Francisco was legit and not creepy. So while I appreciated Myles' warning, I proceeded with my plan and went anyway to Ching's Chinese Medicine and Therapy for a foot massage.

Ching's was in the middle of Chinatown, which was bustling with activity. I walked through the door, which let out a very loud "Ding," to alert everyone upstairs, and within a mile radius that I was on my way. When I got to the top of the stairs, I walked into a normal-looking waiting room. I knew Elizabeth was right when she said this place was less spa-like, more ancient-Chinese medicine-like.

Less happy endings, more painful ones.

One of the ladies escorted me back to a room with two chairs, much like the spa pedicure chairs at nail salons. Only this chair sat lower to the ground, there was no tub at the bottom and I couldn't instruct it to knead my back with a remote control.

That shouldn’t have mattered, though, because Elizabeth told me that while my feet soaked, someone would come in to massage my shoulders too.

I sat in the room for a while, reading outdated issues of Shape magazine. Despite no massagers, the chair was actually quite comfortable. After several minutes had passed, a large woman entered the room awkwardly carrying a large tub full of water. She didn’t say anything, but appeared friendly and smiled a lot. She motioned for me to take my socks and shoes off and put them in her tub full of lukewarm water.

I did, and she left the room. I went back to reading my magazine.

One minute later, she returned to get started.

I can’t remember if I was looking down or what, but the second she touched my foot, I flinched, as if I wasn't expecting her to touch my feet, despite the fact that I has asked, and paid for, a foot massage.

That I chose a foot massage was all because of Elizabeth's recommendation. She sold me when she said while the ladies let your feet soak, they'll massage your shoulders too. Only I forgot that I hate to have my feet touched at all. And my lady didn't massage my shoulders.

Why I didn’t just get the full body massage, which was more or less the same price of the foot massage, I still don’t know.

My lady saved all of her energy for my feet. She grabbed my foot out of the water, held it up and glided her knuckle down its arch. It freaking hurt. Bad. But it also tickled, which confused me. How can something tickle, and be painful, at the same time?

No one ever discussed this with me (the lady and I never spoke to each other), but based on the many charts showing the pressure points of the body, I’m going to assume that the focus of their massage practice was pressure. Lots and lots of pressure.

I tried to lean back in the chair and relax, but I found myself gripping the arm rests, like white-knuckle style. The woman massaging my feet and I made eye contact several times and I thought she’d be able to read the discomfort all over my face, but she just laughed, like the women do at the nail salon when I jerk my leg back from their hands when they tickle me.

The massage lasted a half-hour, and I’d say I was relaxed for a total of seven minutes, the time she wasn’t touching my feet, but massaging my legs. My feet did feel better after she was done, but I wished I’d made a wiser decision about what kind of massage I purchased.

When I was done, my happy feet took a long walk to Fillmore Street, near where we had eaten the night before. I took my time, poking my head into several shops along the way, dodging the intermittent rain. This trip was my first experience with rainy San Francisco weather, which I had managed to avoid the last two times I'd been there. I found myself confused by the rain there, because it always seemed to downpour while the sun was still shining. The showers never seemed to last very long and the rain was friendly.

Not dark, ominous, I'm going to ruin your walk rain. Sweet, gentle, I'm here to cool you off San Francisco rain.

I walked down Fillmore until I got to the Fillmore, one of San Francisco's historic music venues. Unfortunately there were no good shows happening while I was there, but I still wanted to check it out.

Later that night, Elizabeth, Kristof, and I met Myles, who lived in the neighborhood, for dinner at Yabbies Oyster Bar. Ahead of us meeting him, Elizabeth sternly said to Kristof that we all needed to be on our best behavior at dinner. The conversations we'd been having over the weekend needed to be toned down, as we'd all reached a level of comfort with each other was one that an outsider might not be okay with.

Within five minutes of our arrival, however, after I assured him that there were no happy endings at my foot massage, Myles set the pace for inappropriate. Soon jokes were flying out of our mouths at record speed like we'd all been best friends for a lifetime. The door had been opened for an "anything goes" kind of conversation that my mom would be ashamed of, but one that I'm still laughing about.

We finished the night with a couple of drinks at a local bar, and I wasn't feeling as bummed anymore. I'd manage to get a happy ending out of this day after all, just not the kind you find at creepy massage parlors.


  1. I actually had my first taste of reflexology in NYC last weekend. I, too, thought it was heinously painful. I broke out into an underarm sweat. Whit loved it but I thought I was being murdered. They do say redheads have a lower tolerance for pain...

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