Thursday, January 28, 2010

Roller Disco

Stuff to do: "Space is the Place" Roller Disco Party
World On Wheels
4645 Venice Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019

Cost: $10-$12 (The website said 12, but we were asked for 10 at the door so who knows?)

When I was a kid, I was really good at roller skating. And because I've never claimed to be good at anything, you should take me very seriously when I say that. Not only did I spend most weekends at the local skating rink, Sports-O-Rama, but I also practiced constantly in the driveway and on the hardwood floors in the living room. I mastered the figure 8 and zooming down the street, balancing on one foot. I could even jump and twirl in the air, landing gracefully like the Olympic ice skaters I was trying to mimic.

But then I got older and roller skating went out of style. And after a brief affair with roller blading, I gave up on wheeled footwear all together.

So it was with great anticipation that I made my way to Space is the Place roller disco party on Saturday. I wondered if I would still have the skills. Or if I would fall flat on my face.

World on Wheels is not located in west LA, where I thought it was. Instead, it's in one of those random areas of LA, in between familiar neighborhoods and landmarks. Specifically, this was south of Koreatown and slightly north of the 10 freeway. Because I'd mislead a few people on the location of World on Wheels, a small group was already there by 9:50, but the event did not start until 10:15. Thus we broke what turned out to be the first rule of roller disco: Don't be early.

If you're early, you're forced to stand in the lobby while the rink empties out from family skate. An endless parade of screaming, hyperactive children passes by and they look at you like they know you're responsible for their untimely departure. "I needed this more than you," their little faces seem to say.

To avoid the awkwardness, us early birds decided to go to the bar.

Decorated like a PTA Casino Night fundraiser in the gymnasium, the bar is actually part of the bowling alley upstairs from the skating rink.

While having a cocktail I looked around and noticed the bar filling up with people in fantastic 70s costumes. Some were disco inspired. Some were more like roller derby -- knee high socks and short shorts. There were actually some insanely short shorts that night and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't jealous of these cellulite-free divas.

This brings me to the second rule of roller disco: You should wear something really, really ridiculous. I tried to get into the spirit of things, conservatively, with a 70s looking t-shirt and some bell bottoms that have been collecting dust in my closet since I bought them on a stupid shopping rampage in college. Some other Doing Stuff Clubbers looked vaguely disco. We tried, but we should have tried harder.

As we made our way back downstairs to the skating area, I found that I was surprisingly anxious. Admitting that I was unsure if I could still skate, Becca told me that it was probably just like riding a bike: you never forget how. This wasn't comforting because the last time I rode a bike I discovered that I had, in fact, forgotten how and wobbled down the street wondering if I'd fall and crack my skull open.

Once we paid our admission and entered the not-ever-remodeled-not-even-a-little-bit skating area, waves of nostalgia washed over me. The lockers you rent for a quarter. The carpeted benches you sit on to change into your skates. The snack stand with nachos and pizza. Heavenly!

Here's a picture of my bellbottoms and my skates. I have a theory that some enterprising young guy got ahold of a massive stock of the world's ugliest carpet and sold it to every single roller skating place in the country. Tell me this was not the same carpet at your hometown rink.

While getting our skates on, more members of the Doing Stuff Club arrived. Some of them apparently got the memo about the whacky outfits.

It was weird seeing all of my friends on skates. There's just always something funny about familiar faces in a new environment... like when you were a kid and you saw one of your teachers at the mall.

Once over the initial shock of it all, it was time to skate!

The only way to enter the rink is by going down a ramp of doom that forces you to accelerate to a terrifying pace before spitting you out onto the floor and into oncoming skater traffic. It's a lot like going up the onramp to a busy freeway; when it's time to merge, you just brace yourself and hope for the best.

Fortunately, I made it off the ramp without falling and was pleased to discover that, with a great deal of effort, I could keep my balance. I could not, however, control my velocity whatsoever, and so I quickly left Devin and my sister in the dust as I sped my way through the infinite loop.

Skating is actually a great way to hang out with friends, while hardly seeing them the entire evening. Everyone pretty much skates independently and then when they happen upon someone they know they bust into some stupid arm flailing move that is meant to look like dancing. "Hey yo! Look at me! I'm looking at you! We're skating!"

For those of you wondering if I found that I still could skate with great style and ease --turns out, I can't. I kept hoping that by my next lap I would have gotten back in the swing of things, but no such luck. I remained hopelessly uncoordinated.

The same was not true for everyone. Several people in our group were actually, inexplicably good at roller skating. At one point I looked over and saw Barry whizzing by me --in his afro wig and what appeared to be brown velvet pants --going backwards, on one foot, and doing what I could only describe as "grooving."

The only downside to the whole event was the bar. While it wasn't so bad during our earlier trip, by later in the evening it was just chaos. This isn't to say that it was extremely crowded, but that the bar staff was severely underprepared for the group. (And considering this is a once-monthly party, that shouldn't be the case.) The two bartenders were miserable and slow. I suppose they do okay when they are just serving the regulars, but they did not like pouring shots or taking orders of more than 2 drinks at a time. Half of our group didn't even bother trying to order drinks --and that's saying a lot about our level of frustration.

A real missed opportunity for the bar, if you ask me. Which brings me to the third rule of roller disco: Drink before you show up.

By about 1am, several DSC members had already gone home and I was about ready to do the same. But first, we decided to do another few laps on the rink. And I'm so glad we did! At this stage in the night, the crowd had thinned out so there was more room for terrible dance moves. The music got better (more actual disco --less pop) and we were really hitting our stride.

This brings me to the last rule of roller disco: Save time for the skating!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Doing Stuff Club

In November, before I had the epiphany that I need to get out more, I had the epiphany that we (me+whoever) need to get out more. And so The Doing Stuff Club was born.

Ok, well it wasn't exactly like that. I just sent out an email informing my friends that in the months to come I would consistently badger them into joining me on questionably fun outings. The first event was a classic (if underwhelming) Laserium show set to Beatles music.

Call me naive, but I sort of expected my world to be rocked by these lasers. I wanted them shooting out from every direction, accompanied by smoke and strobe lights. I didn't expect some piddly little shapes bopping around in the front of the room. Perhaps the problem is that the laser show is orchestrated by a laser technician, who is sort of like a laser DJ that stands in the front of the room and makes it up as he goes along. Normally I'd never advocate a machine replacing a person, but I think in this instance it could have helped. People get tired and obnoxiously artistic; A laser robot would somehow make lights go boom. Plus the idea of a laser robot is just awesome.

While few people share my appreciation for all things lame, I think most everyone had at least an okay time. I will say, though, that I was disappointed the popcorn did not glow in the dark, as the Laserium website promised it would.

The Laserium is currently closed for renovations and will re-open some time this year. So it's either a good thing we went when we did, or a bad thing that we didn't go after the renovations (and installation of a laser robot?).

Our second event was not very well attended, owing to December's holiday chaos, and was a trip to Griffith Park's Holiday Light Festival. A 1 mile stretch of the park is decorated with light displays resembling different local landmarks --except for the one with a volcano and giant purple dinosaurs. Sadly, there are no dinosaurs in L.A.

To view the light displays, you can either drive or walk. If you drive, you have to sit in your car on the road for hours before you even reach the lights; if you walk, you inhale the exhaust fumes of the 100 idling cars that sit between you and your view of the lights. We walked. Cough cough.

Here's Barry's picture of the tunnel of lights...which would be really cool to drive through. Walking next to it, not so cool.

And here's Devin's picture of an elf doing something that, I'm sorry, looks inappropriate.

Afterward, we went to my apartment for cocktails and all the egg nog we could drink (collectively, about 3/4 cup). We watched A Muppet Family Christmas and by the time Ms. Piggy finally made it through the blizzard to join her Kermie at the farm house, half of the club had dozed off.

We are, if nothing else, a lively bunch.

I'm not sure if calling ourselves a club is exactly accurate, since we don't always have the same people at every event. But I like the idea of being in a club because I haven't been a member of one since the Ecology Club in middle school. And all we did was sell Human-i-tee t-shirts, adopt a whale, and take turns feeding the ducks in our courtyard's pond.

Tomorrow night The Doing Stuff Club heads to World On Wheels for Roller Disco night. In addition to roller skating, there will also be a dance party and karaoke. It's like a dream come true. Look for an upcoming recap of the outing.

If you want to join The Doing Stuff Club - find us on facebook!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Olympic Spa

Stuff to do: Olympic Spa
3915 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90019
Cost: $15

I first learned about this place from Alia, an old high school friend who recently moved to L.A. I've been here over 5 years, she's been here 2 months, and already she's showing me around. Figures.

For only $15, you are given access to hot and cold baths, the steam room and saunas. My sister and I made plans to meet Alia there one late Sunday afternoon.

Having only ever been to a spa for the occasional massage or facial, I was unsure how to prepare for one that was so focused on aquatic activities. Bathing suit, right? I stuffed a bikini and some flip flops into my purse (yeah, it's a big purse) and hit the road.

My first impression of the place was a good one. The lobby was tranquil and stylishly decorated -- but not obnoxiously so. I was pleasantly surprised. I'm not sure why, but I'd expected this place to have all the charm of a dentist's office and reek of chlorine. I think it was the $15 price tag that had me skeptical. But I soon realized this was a full on spa, with a menu of treatments --facials, waxing, massages --all reasonably priced.

Once Alia showed up, we paid our admission and were provided with a locker key, robes, towels, and a little yellow exfoliating mitt ($2 extra). It is during this stage of any spa experience when my brain shuts down and I have no idea how to proceed without careful instructions. There is something about delicate spa protocol that forces you to walk a fine line between cultured and stupid. And this place was no exception. While hugging my armful of spa supplies, an employee had to show me to the lockers where I store my shoes --and only my shoes --and then point me to the other lockers around the corner. "But wait! I have 2 towels. What's this little one for?" She sighed and explained it could be for my face or to wrap up my hair. "Do I carry it around with me the whole time? Miss...where are you going? I need answers!"

From that point on we were forced to rely on the help of seasoned Olympic Spa patrons. It was from one such woman, in the changing area, that I overheard "no bathing suits allowed." Well that's silly. If you can't wear bathing suits in the pools then what are you supposed to wea--

Oh. Oh, I see.

When I heard this, I was in the middle of changing my clothes, high school gym class locker room style-- magically maneuvering from one set of clothes to the next while revealing nothing. Clearly I was going to have to let my guard down a little if I was ever going to make this work. I found myself wishing I was European, raised in a land that puts topless women in breakfast cereal commercials. Then I could have just stripped down and strutted my stuff, casually striking up a conversation with a complete stranger by the drinking fountain.

But since I couldn't rewrite history, my only choices were to go home or get over it. Chalk it up to lessons learned. Before going to a new place, always check for mandatory nudity policies.

So, we made our way into the main spa area. Unclear if we were supposed to follow a specific system of moving from one treatment to the next, we chose first to enter the super hot, murky waters of the mugwort bath (yes, mugwort). If you've ever wondered what it's like to sit in a cup of tea, then this is the bath for you! Because, literally, you are sitting in tea. It's meant to extract toxins and relax your muscles...or something to that effect. I actually was having trouble reading the informational sign on the wall because I wasn't wearing my contacts. And also I was rapidly getting very dizzy. This older woman sitting across from me must have noticed I was going cross-eyed and suggested I always keep my body temperature regulated by taking a quick dip in the cold pool across the room.

The cold pool water was refreshing (if a little freaking freezing) and I became very grateful that it was there as I continued with my spa day because all of the other therapies involve ridiculously hot temperatures I wouldn't think would be suitable for humans.

The steam room had just the right amount of steam --if that makes any sense --and was scented with jasmine. And the sauna was more spacious than the ones I've previously been inside. I was glad it wasn't the sort of all-cedar, tiny closet ones that make me feel as though I've been trapped in a crate.

In addition to the traditional sauna, there was also an oxygen sauna. The floor was lined with a rug of rectangular oxygen stones, which reminded me of dominoes without dots. We all agreed that this room was the most relaxing because it wasn't oppressively hot.

By the time I'd finished cooking myself in various ovens and soups, exfoliated my skin to within an inch of its life, and used some of the complimentary unscented lotion, I felt relaxed, slippery and light-headed. It was time for the final portion of the spa day - the heated jade floor. For this, you put on your robe (yay!), spread out a super soft baby blanket and then just veg out on the stones for a while. I think you are meant to meditate or nap, but I was getting too antsy and also sort of hungry so I didn't spend much time here.

All in all, I'd say it was a fun experience. In addition to the treatments, the spa also offers little perks like free valet parking and complimentary herbal (unnamed) tea that tastes sort of starchy and fishy, but I like to think the bad taste is indicative of its healing powers.

There was also something unfamiliar and pleasant about being in a place occupied exclusively by women. Everyone just seemed comfortable and happy.

If you're interested in checking it out, but feeling a little unsure about baring all, fear not. You get used to it. And if you only use the steam room and saunas, you could stay in your robe the whole time.

I'd definitely go back. It cured me of my mild hangover and general feeling of blahness. Next time I'll take advantage of one of the other spa services as well.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Oh hi.

I tried to tell you I'd be back. See? Here I am, with a snazzy new blog and a nagging sense of purpose.

Allow me to introduce the Doing Stuff Blog. A blog about setting goals and accomplishing them. Or, really, about getting off my ass and doing stuff. And while I'd never say that I want to "inspire" people, because that just sounds so silly, I will say that I hope I can be a motivator in the way Yelp is a motivator. "Oh that seems fun, maybe I'll try it too." I don't think I could ask for anything more.

So why the sudden urge to live it up? I think, honestly, it has something to do with the fact that my wedding day has come and gone. I spent a good, hearty portion of my life --particularly in my 20s--trying to snag myself a soulmate and legally tether myself to him. And once that was accomplished I was confronted with a peculiar sense of "now what?"

And I think we all know the answer to that question: start a family. Eep. All of a sudden the imaginary kids we always talked about are becoming very real. I can practically hear them screaming in the other room and running up to me with their sticky little hands.

But to them I say, "Hold up, I need a minute." While I was working long hours and passing out every night at 9:30, my young adulthood quietly slipped away. I feel as though more was to supposed to have happened by now. I think this lofty idea of an adventurous existence is owing to my dear parents who, up until I was born, led the most fascinating, world-traveling lives. To support this statement, I should tell you that after Christmas dinner my mother told the story of the time she had a job going out to buy hamburgers for patrons of an underground gambling club. My father then told us of the time when he and Mom, shortly after meeting, worked together on a tomato farm in rural Australia.

And what of my life story? I went to college, graduated, and since then have worked full time at a series of respected companies with 401k plans and medical benefits. I may be the only child whose stability has been something of a let down to her parents. "Why don't you take some time off and travel?" they ask. And to them, I respond, "If I do that, how will I ever make my car payments? And who will look after the dog? Come on, be reasonable."

Oh brother. It's a sad state of affairs. And so, in short, it's time to get my kicks.

Hence, the Doing Stuff Blog. I will have at least one entry a week. And no entries where I just yammer on about my feelings. More verbs, less adverbs.

I'm going to try to do as many different things as possible. To be clear, when I say I'm going to do more, I don't mean living life like it's a Mountain Dew commercial. There will be no base jumping or shark tanking. There may be craft projects, and I apologize in advance if you don't agree that paper mache can be thrilling.

Lastly, I'm not going to do anything that costs more than $50. (Unless I come across $100 round trip tickets to Amsterdam.)

So I hope you stay tuned!