She does spa, I do not. I suspected trouble when my friend ordered me to pack my bag for a girl-trip.
Now, mention spa and she looks as pithed as a frog. She's a girlie-girl, she loves being indulged and just couldn't understand that at the mention spa I go claustrophobic.
I've had some experiences in the past; Wilbur Hot Springs in the days when it was very hippie--and communal. All I did was soak in the water, easy.
There was a massage at Meadowbrook Inn in Napa. The gentleman was so violent, I thought he was working out his hatred of mothers on my gluteals. I broke out in full body hives four days later--were these events related?
The only spa sleep-over was at Kripalu, due to a friend's request. Krip has a no alcohol policy, so I snuck in a flask, I felt like I was getting away with murder. We booked dinners where not only could we talk (they have a no speaking dining rule) but drink. We wended through the hospital like hall, past the walking wounded to our cell-like rooms. Come mornings, we ran to Lenox as fast as possible for the caffeine fix, the sneaks we were! So much for yoga.
Yet this particular time, at the beginning of December, I was as drained as week old juiced lemon. I had just handed my book draft in and my brain was sitting in one corner while my body was sitting in its Aeron. I admitted I was in need of a break. She was being kind. I was being given a gift, yet it felt more like a trip to the acupuncturist.
"Gurney's!" she said, so thrilled.
I did a little research. Barely anything written about family run Grande Dame on Montauk. There are Montes in chef coat, and Montes running the Spa and Montes in charge of the dining room and marketing. This is not just family run, this is dynasty and in America, rare.
But Gurney's fame is the spa, Long Island's only destination full-service spa, and one dedicated to Thalasso therapy.
Their Olympic sized indoor salt water pool was a huge selling point to me. The reviews on the treatments were glowing, but the ones on the rooms were tired.
After first determining that they would allow me to bring my own wine, (very kind of them, after all, I'm a fuss pot) I gave over to fate, packed a bathing suit, scouted out an escape plan, chose a Clos Roilette VV (2007) and a Monte d'all 'Ora valpolicella. Two bottles of wine when one might be corked was not enough, but never the less, headed for the LIRR, determined to do it with a smile.
Once the train passed Babylon, I was confronted with memories of college years at Stony Brook, the searching the feeling of being a misfit. "I hate Long Island," I sighed.
I didn't mean this as an sort of criticism, just a statement of my history with that lobster claw protrusion off of Manhattan.
"Are you going to be negative about this? If so, go home. Please!" my friend had already had it with me, a little over an hour into the ride.
There goes that friendship, I worried. She just could not understand my reaction. Her context? Fun in Hamptons and melting at Spa runs in her blood. We lived in different realities. I feared the sun. I never had a good Hampton moment. Holing up in a house in Walton, staying out til dawn and watching the planets rise and set, now, that I understood.
I assured her I was going to behave.
"Is this really torture for you?" she asked, stupified.
I peeled a tangerine and gave her half.
Medicine was ministered upon arrival a latte (decent) and a gorgeous linzer cookie. I was surprised by a level of authenticity about Gurney's, both, low-key and luxe. There was no artifice, there was no struggle to sing outside of their range. Even the European toy train decorated for Christmas in the courtyard seemed to make sense.
We scored one of the redone beach cottages. Quite new and fresh. Business -ready. Wifi everywhere. Those Yelpers, they know nothing, I thought.
I didn't need anything more but a corkscrew (which was in the kitchen).
There we were, winter outside, right on the bleached dunes (negative -ions! my friend reminded me.) a deck, the cadence of the ocean. My book in the hands of the editor.
Things were looking up. My attitude started to turn positive. All of those negative ions?
A massage was pre-destined. ('I'm not a spa girl,' I admitted. The masseuse broke out in laughter. Glad I could amuse her, but I also had the revelation that something was very off in my upbringing, neither Red-Diaper baby nor Spa-baby, but I had been caught in the netherworld of unfrill.)
I warmed up to the pedicure which, looking out to that clichéd beach at sunset, breathtaking. I never knew there were so many services one could do to feet in the name of 'treatment.' Soaking, oiling, massaging, oiling again, clipping, wrapping, heating, painting, spraying. The care given to my feet was biblical.
Then we had the vitamin C facial. With my face swaddled like a mummy, I could almost believe when the wraps came off I was beautiful and reborn. If only. Being a solitary sort, I was the most happy doing things under my own steam. Lapping in the extraordinary salt water pool, lapping on the beach, spotting the deserted Madoff house, a wounded sea gull, a lonely happy birthday mylar balloon bobbing on the water. But all around us were happy spa people and trend alert: two sweet-sixteen weekends. Instead of parties, parents are sending their teens to Gurney's for the weekend for spa-ing? In the morning, a group of them ran into the water (!) that's a little bit too much Thalasso for me.
At night, the local catch was a surprisingly delicious local flounder, doubled over, thick and as juicy as halibit. The dining room smelled like the fish places in Freeport, iced butter co-mingled with sea air, one of the few happy, transportational flights of the past.
(extreme roasted red pepper/tabasco, touch of smoked marshmallow, tannins worn down, acid perks it all up, and its structure stays fragile-and firm, works well with pizza potate and better with ricotta and blueberry honey)
is more my speed, or maybe a fierce fat-burning pilates class, or super-sized white truffle, perhaps it's the way I was brought up, but the idea of a stranger catering to my body for money merely for relaxation feels discordant. But I will tell you this: my feet sure look good, my skin glowed and I started to think kindly about their $100 a night winter rates as a getaway, if only to swim in that pool and write looking out at the ocean, the body that I usually only see when I fly over it on the way to Europe.
I had arrived with that escape plan, a lists of restaurants, coffee zones and even vintage stores. But just like being in the mountains when the outside world seems an imposition, we hunkered in. Neither one of us had any inclination of leaving until we had to catch the train. Me? Grateful and way more kindly to Long Island and spa-girl and I still friends.
The only glitch? Corked bottle of Valpolicella! So forseeble, so avoidable and I only had myself to blame.