Two Bunch Palms is a resort on the way to Palm Springs, in a small city called Desert Hot Springs, also known as the meth amphetamine capital of California. I did not know this as I followed directions through a somewhat frightening stretch of desert. The small resort had been around since the 1930’s and was reputed to be one of Al Capone’s hang-outs. What interested me more was the reputed “magic water” in the natural mineral spa.
Having grown up surrounded by the luxurious greenery that is the East Coast, the desert has always seemed a bit stark. The approach to Two Bunch was definitely stark…and scary. There was a guard gate where they made sure you were on the list and approved to enter. We checked in, found our oddly appointed room comfortable and headed for that water. I sat under the hot waterfall and floated around on the small white inner-tubes. I can honestly say that within an hour I felt stress disappear and was in a bizarrely blissful state.
So, they also had a spa that played quiet classical music. There were massages… Watsu water treatments…a mud bath that took days to completely forget, if you know what I mean…and “Quiet Zone” signs just about everywhere. Even the roadrunners were relaxed.
People wandered around in their Two Bunch terry cloth robes, blissfully nodding at one another. The breakfasts included a buffet with delicious raspberry granola…croissants…cinnamon coffee and silence. After quite a few visits my friend, Jackie, and I said we imagined we could get used to sanitarium life. If they had “magic water.” They told me there is lithium in the water…natural lithium. It soaks through the pores. I kid you not. Who knows? But there definitely are amazing minerals in the water that leave you in an altered state. I have proof. In 1997 I brought Jay to Two Bunch and after an hour in the water he asked me to marry him after only a month of dating. Another, much later, Two Bunch stay found a cranky Barbra Streisand and charming James Brolin in residence at the same time we were there. Apparently, she avoided the water. But, I digress.
The 1994 earthquake was the most recent trauma in the pretty trauma-filled life I call mine. No need for detail. We all have trauma. Some more than others, some worse than others. Some you get over slowly while some leave an imprint on your soul that never goes away. I’d found partial answers and ways to cope ~ I like to say I am living proof that mental health can, indeed, be purchased ~ But there were wounds on my psyche needing healing. Without even knowing it, these waters were my answer in 1994. I became a “Two Bunch Frequent Flyer.” You could stay two nights and get one free. Deals on the “treatments.” Perhaps even they considered it a sanitarium. It wasn’t inexpensive but it was doable and less than hours out of Los Angeles. I was there once a month, except for the hideous heat of the desert summer, that first year. And at least quarterly for a few years after.
I can’t tell you exactly when it happened. Maybe 1995 or 1996. No particular personal predicament that I recall going on at the time. I was sitting in the spa and I heard a voice. Now before you decide I’ve lost it and need a REAL sanitarium, let me say. It was my voice…in my head…and it said “trust, have faith, it will come to you.” At the time I remember thinking, “wow, that’s interesting,” as I have an interesting relationship with faith. Let’s just say I have it…most of the time…when I remember to take a deep breath and let it happen, and not spend time obsessing over projected horrors.
I decided ~ and know to this day ~ the words that became my mantra were yet another gift from my Mom, Emmy. I will tell you my Mom died in 1977 at the age of 56. Thirty seven years ago this October 28th. My Mom “believed.” She was having treatment at the Catholic hospital where I was born and I’d flown in from California as the situation became dire. I questioned her treatment, knowing it was senseless at this stage of illness, though her diagnosis had been just a month before. The nun/nurse told me, “Your mother will be fine, just yesterday she told me, ‘I have all I need…my family, my friends and my faith.'” Two weeks later, I clearly remember her wake, surrounded by more flower arrangements than I could count, thinking “someone this good could not possibly get gypped.” Flawed logic perhaps, but it works for me.
My faith was her final gift to me as she left this earth ~ but she’s never left me. Years later “magic water” helped me stop and take the time to really listen.
Trust…have faith…it will come to you.
Whatever it is, whatever you need.
Take a deep breath…right now.
After my day and night of over-reaction followed by poor sleep, this was my e-mail from The Universe this morning.
As far as I can tell, Janet, worrying about anything at all is a pretty good indicator that one has begun thinking that their joy and prosperity will somehow hinge on pending physical events, other people, or angry green Martians.
Can you imagine?!
As Roseanne Rosanadanna used to say, “it’s always something.”
This morning I’m going to make my something an almond croissant!
I am a woman of contradictions. I pride myself on being a tough Long Islander yet cry at just about everything even slightly sentimental. I laugh just as easily as I cry, not always appropriately. I can relate to Mary Tyler Moore at Chuckles the clown’s funeral. I can go from zero to sixty in a flash, both in my car and in my emotions, and have been told I am prone to overreaction. Really?????
Today was one of those days. So many annoyances, so little time. My stay in the moment philosophy was more than annoying today. I didn’t want to be here…now…at all. I wanted to smash a few people in the face. I mean, I REALLY wanted to. Seriously…several times. My “fight or flight” symptoms were on overload. I was nauseated from the over-infusion of adrenaline. Whenever I feel like my life is filled with hot water…I add more. I take a bath…I love baths. Candles and bubble bath. Soaking until I shrivel. You’re either a bath person or you’re not. There seems to be no middle ground on this subject.
While soaking, I thought of happier times. The 1994 Northridge earthquake immediately came to mind. Let me explain the thought process involved here. My house in Tarzana was 2.4 miles from the epicenter of said quake. I woke up on my feet that morning, having no idea how I got there. Thrown out of bed, living alone with my two faithful companions, Daniel the Spaniel and Murphy, a female schnauzer. The house was damaged but luckily, not irreparably, although I was picking up Hummel heads for days. I found a reasonable contractor, a FEMA loan, and began repairs. Cal was a dear older man, taking pity on this forty-something divorcee ~ sounds much racier than it, or I, was. He patched, primed and painted. The first room finished was the little den. It was time to move in the new couch and stereo. But alas, due to a narrow hall, the couch did not fit. I lost it…completely. I vaguely remember muttering, “My house is ruined, I finally get one room I can live in and I can’t even have a couch,” in between sobbing heaves. They were actually the first tears I’d cried around the earthquake. See, I don’t react to the huge things at the time. I plow through and then implode later over the smaller details. After popping out a window to get the couch into the room, Cal said, “Janet, you need to go somewhere and relax.” Oh, how I agreed.
I remembered hearing about an amazing spa in Desert Hot Springs. Two Bunch Palms. I jumped on the phone ~ this was before Al Gore invented the internet and I didn’t own a computer ~ made a reservation and headed out that weekend with a girlfriend. It was early March, the most glorious time of year in the California high desert. Warm air, blue skies and clean, clean air.
And a huge spa filled with “magic water.”
Last night Martin Luther King died on Mad Men. Oddly, except for when real-life events occur on this show I almost forget that it’s not completely fiction. The world depicted on that show doesn’t match the world in which I lived during that time. I vaguely remember the way some men and women dressed but in 1968 I was still wearing Villager sweaters and skirts and rarely took trips into New York City. I wasn’t part of the “sit-ins” or the “love-ins.” I’d just turned 19 and gotten engaged. I was going to marry a very nice young man, have 2.2 children and help run the family restaurant in Bayville. The plan to marry on January 17, 1970 seemed to be a very good plan until it wasn’t. Two months before the wedding. There was a lot to undo. It was not the best of times.
So, I moved to Los Angeles. I can’t say a whole lot of thought went into that location. A friend’s grandmother lived in the area. She was going to visit. I supposed if Grandma had lived in Iowa I might have gone there. I was running away without a clue of what I was running toward. When I left that sunny day in August, my Mom handed me a stack of the stamped, reception reply envelopes, addressed to our family home and said “you have no excuse not to write.”
Having watched a lifelong, pre-determined plan implode, I decided no plan was, indeed, fine with me. Armed with the phone number of a friend of my parents who now worked at NBC in beautiful downtown Burbank, I was offered an “I’ll call personnel and you take it from there.” I wound up Commercial Production Assistant on The Tonight Show…the REAL Tonight Show. This big news made the Locust Valley Leader, courtesy of Emmy. The show had recently moved out from New York and I think being a “Long Island girl” helped seal the deal. I moved into a little apartment ~ $175 a month, fully furnished, Kraft Mac and cheese 19 cents, gasoline 29 cents a gallon plus ten times Blue Chip stamps with fill up. I still have my Good Housekeeping cookbook, purchased with them with all those delicious, artery clogging recipes.
I was stunned by my fortune, yet having never aspired to such a goal, I wasn’t as impressed as I might have been. I realized these were all just people. Famous, surely, some nicer than others, but… just people. Ed McMahon’s office was the door behind my desk. He would walk in, larger than life, smiling and jocular. A very nice man, usually in a very good mood. He didn’t exactly say “hey-oh” as he walked past, but that greeting wasn’t a stretch coming from the man I saw every morning. Doc Severinsen…the same, except the flashy clothes were a prop. He wore jeans, practiced the trumpet ALL the time and loved all animals. He and his wife wound up with quite a menagerie. She was a friend of mine and I house sat for them a few times in their early days. I lost one of their cats. I accidently locked her in the closet and when I opened the door during my desperate search she leapt into my arms, foolishly forgetting I was the one who had condemned her to said fate. For years, that darn cat would repeat the performance whenever I entered their house. Doc would say, “that one sure does love you.” Silly cat!
Johnny Carson was shy. I watched him become Johnny Carson when he walked through the curtain every night. His office was above the studio, not in the bungalow with the rest of us. He’d park his car ~ first a Mercedes then a Corvette, license plate 360 GUY ~ in the first space a few steps from the entrance to the studio door, and walk quickly to his offices, behind locked glass doors. My interaction with him was intermittent. As Commercial Production Assistant, we scheduled and screened all network commercials ~ some we did “live,” like the infamous ALPO spot when Johnny ate the ALPO. The first two sixty second spots that ran every night were “national.” They were our responsibility, and Tonight Show income. At one time The Tonight Show actually generated one-third of NBC’s revenue, I was told. I’d write those scintillating lead-ins Johnny would read … “We’ll be right back after this word from our (emphasis added) friends at the friendly skies of United.” Every so often there would be “sales tapes” to produce. Large advertisers, such as United Airlines, had large sales conferences back in the day. Johnny and Ed would tape a “welcome” for them. My boss, the Commercial Producer, Dick Manley, would sit up in the booth with the director, Bobby Quinn. The copy would be on cue cards. Johnny and Ed would be at the desk in their positions and I was “on the floor” in the front row. I’d place the props and that was usually that. Dick or Bobby would communicate with Johnny directly over the Public Address system into the studio. But one day Johnny decided he wanted to change the copy a bit. He said, “Janet, what do you think about this?” JANET????? OMG…do not throw up. He said your name. Luckily, I reacted as if I weren’t about to pass out, made the changes and moved on. I do not recall him ever saying my name again. Once was enough…
Now “Mad Men” attempts to re-create days that were part of that era. Late sixties, early seventies. It was a pretty remarkable time to be on the cusp of adulthood and for me the time to be in a remarkable place I certainly never expected to be. I have no idea how many people watched The Tonight Show, but it’s been ranked #12 in the TV Guide list of Best Television Shows in history. I do know 3.2 million watched the season premiere of “Mad Men” and 9.2 million people watched the season finale of “Duck Dynasty.” But, more about that another time.
I know I cried the night Johnny Carson retired in 1992.
I cried even harder the day he died.
seriously, son, do you have any idea what you’re doin’?