At the ripe young age of 20 + 21 (you do the math), having seen, done, sweated, feared, embraced, confronted, stared down, and jumped feet first into a plethora of experiences, I have become many things.
I'm an oenophile.
Yes, I know that sounds like something filthy, on a par with necrophiliac or philatelist (yes, I do find something slightly off kilter and unstable about a person who gets wood from tracking down and owning a stamp with a dead person printed on it - although not quite so off-kilter as someone who gets wood tracking down and boning a dead person), but it's not. It simply means I like wine. Having only been exposed to the 70's era standard of Lancer's by my parents, who would turn every bottle into some Itali-nouveau objet d'art by shoving candle in it's neck after the bottle was empty, my appreciation of all things grape expanded greatly when I met my husband.
He likes wine. No - scratch that. He loves wine. He appreciates wine. He understands wine. Wine has never known a bad week in his house. So through the years, I have come to appreciate the subtleties, can argue the merits of screw top vs cork, and have learned that the right wine can not only enhance a great meal, it can make it exceptional. I still rank Napa as one of my favorite vacation memories - although those memories are a bit fuzzy...the main activity being hopping from one vineyard to the next, imbibing at every stop.
I'm a soccer fan.
And believe me, being passionate about a sport is nothing I ever would have thought could happen to me. I grew up in a household where Steelers worship bordered on lunacy. Even today, on game days, my father will dress in full Steelers regalia, raise his black and gold flag in front of his house, and genuflect as he passes the miniature football (encased in Plexiglass, no less) signed by the entire team many years back. My husband managed to procure the rare gift for him when the team stayed in his hotel in Kansas City. (I am fairly confident our place in the Will is secure.)
For me, soccer is the sport. Two kids play it, I manage it, and our TV is superglued to Fox Soccer every weekend. It's not just a Beckham thing - it's a passion thing. OK, ok - Beckham and passion are fairly synonymous, but I watch teams from all over the world, not just Becks warming the Galaxy bench.
I'm a spa addict. A true hedonist.
No vacation is complete without a trip to the spa to be lovingly mangled, ripped apart, and put back together again by a total stranger. Shiatsu, Lomi lomi, Hot Stone, Aromatherapy, Deep tissue, Swedish, you name it - I've tried it. The only problem is that when it's good, and massages vary by therapist, it's very good - so good you find yourself sliding off the edge of consciousness, which tends to make me stress - Dammit! You can't fall asleep! Do you know how much you're paying this woman?!? - the total opposite of what you're there for.
I'm a sushi lover.
Having grown up on a steady midwestern diet of meat (cooked to well doneness), potatoes (mashed, au gratin, baked...), and canned fruit suspended in Jell-o, sushi was, in my mind, some exotic, yet disgusting, bowl of sloppy raw fish entrails eaten with chopsticks.
Enter my husband.
He will tell anyone who asks that the moment he knew I was the one is the moment I agreed trust him and go eat sushi (a longtime favorite cuisine of his). In the years since my first belly-up to the sushi bar, I have expanded not only my knowledge, but my palate.
Sushi is not, as I had wrongly assumed, all raw – it is often cooked – and the word sushi describes how an item is prepared (on rice) – so not all items found in a "Sushi" bar are actually sushi. Sushi is not sloppy either. In fact, it is one of the most pristine, elegant, artistic types of cuisine you will ever see. And while I draw the line at some items – like uni (sea urchin), which is an acquired taste – akin to acquiring a taste for licking outhouse toilet tanks which have marinated in the hot Texas sun for three weeks – I have tried the majority of items available – raw and cooked.
Our daughters have all been regulars since they could chew and all have their favorite items. There’s something to be said about an eleven year old whose favorite meal is edamame (steamed soy beans), maguro (raw tuna), raw salmon, and tobiko (bright orange or red fish eggs) – that’s an adventurous child who could dine happily anywhere Anthony Bourdain happens to squat.
It’s these last two addictions of mine which are likely to be included in every travel opportunity. Spa-ing and sushi-ing – both sure to put a smile on my face no matter the locale.
Which brings me to the actual topic of today’s piece. It seems I may have a new world to conquer in terms of those favorites of mine.
But it would involve my willingness to turn the tables and enter a spa where I would be the sushee, not the sushior.
Welcome to the Ooedo-Onsen-Monogatari spa in Tokyo. A hot springs facility now featuring the Doctor Fish treatment.
Are you ready?
Employing tiny fish, Garra rufa, specially imported from Turkey, the spa provides pedicures, manicures, back treatments, full leg, etc – in which the fish dine on the dead skin cells of the clientele during the treatment.
Yes, dine on, as in eat off of you.
As new agey Jaws theme music plays softly in the background - dun, dun, dun, dun, dundundundundundundundun (ok, fine, I'm making that part up...) visitors have described the sensation as "a very nice and natural way to remove your dead cells."
Others say that the sensation during their full leg "pedicures" would have been relaxing if it weren’t so disturbing – describing feeling the flutter of fins, the slight pinch of sucking little fish mouths, and the view of them swarming over their appendages. Some cling with such suction they need to be brushed off after the treatment.
All agree, however, that the result is baby soft, dead-skin-cell-free skin. And at roughly $4.50 to $8.50 per treatment – that’s a steal. Then again, they don’t have the employee overhead of salaries, benefits, sick days...
I don’t know. I like to think I’m an adventurous sort, but I guess I’m a little squeamish around the edges (although I’m sure those fish would be happy to suck those edges right off). And plunging my nakedness into a pool of pseudo-pirahnas doesn't do it for me.
So, even if my travel plans suddenly happen to include a Japanese stamp in my passport, it's safe to say I’m still packing a loofah.