I don’t often feel the compulsion to blog, or twitter, or even update my status on Facebook. In a world where everyone is constantly sharing why would a “writer” want to “write” in such easy-to-distribute formats? There’s so much “content” in the world why would I want to add to the pile? But tonight I do feel the urge to post a random blog post, to say goodbye to a wonderful place in San Francisco that has served as a refuge for me over the last ten years.
Osento was a uniquely San Francisco women’s spa in the Mission District that has existed for over 25 years. Affordable: it only cost $12 to get in. Diverse: full of naked women in every size, shape, color, and nipple style. Unpretentious: the lounging cots offered both stacks of literary magazines and US Weekly. And divinely, sometimes dizzyingly relaxing: there was nothing like emerging from Osento, cleansed from an almost scaldingly-hot water soak and a pore-draining 20 minutes in the wet sauna, to Valencia Street, light-headed and renewed.
My friend Jenny and I went for the last time tonight–Osento closes August 31. We couldn’t remember the first time we went as individuals or together. We’ve probably gone together at least 50 times over the course of our 11-year friendship. We’ve gone through triumphs, despair, breakups, for sleepover parties with other friends. Most of our time there was a blur to me–we went so many times–but as I sat in the hot tub tonight with 15 other women (it was a popular night, the third to last at Osento ever), Ia slideshow of most memorable visits played in my head.
Snippets of memories flickered in my head: bringing my mother, and delighting in her joy in bobbing in the hot water pool, after her initial reluctance to get naked in her fiftysomething body among other women. Coming with a then-best-friend and creative collaborator, who is no longer a friend at all. (Friendships, like romantic relationships, do sometimes end.) I almost started to cry, though, when I thought of all the times that Osento has saved me. Being a hypomanic workaholic, I go through cycles where I work in bursts for weeks, then collapse in exhaustion. During the exhaustion, I allow myself to get massages, and I would always go to Osento to take care of myself, to recover. Most of all, I thought of the massage therapist I met there who helped me through one of the worst periods of my life–when, after publishing Quirkyalone, I had done so much press and radio that I couldn’t sleep–even for days on end. She helped me sleep during a crucial period when nothing else helped. I am forever grateful to her and that place.
The owner published a long explanation about why she is selling the building rather than selling it to someone who would maintain Osento as a spa. It makes more financial sense for her, and she’ll be able to recoup enough money to retire in Clearlake, Lake County, California.¬¨‚Ä† I appreciate that sometimes we all have to say goodbye to businesses and projects that we and others love. I’ve had to say my own goodbyes to projects, in ways that have saddened me enormously. I just feel so lucky to have lived within blocks of such an urban gem. Jenny and I are going to start frequenting a Korean spa recommended by our friend Colleen soon. Another decade begins.