Having slept 15 hours to make up for previous insomnia, I was happy to be a full day ahead of schedule. I went to the doctor for my annual check-up, where I received a clean bill of health. It was clear to me that today would need to focus on self-care. Having a busy schedule is helpful, but I’m also prone to burn out. I was already getting enough exercise from exploring LA, and I can’t swim until my actigraphy bracelet is off. Retail therapy is another favorite of mine, but only when I can justify new purchases. With my usual relaxing activities off the table, I set out to do something I’d always wanted to.

#13: Get a professional massage

I carry a lot of stress in my shoulders and neck, and my other muscles don’t do so hot either. I usually solicit free shoulder rubs from any generous friend, but I could use a professional.

Excepting food and drink, I hadn’t spent any of the $325 max budget I’d set. Having spent only $15 for the very filling soda tasting and $7 for chicken chow mein, I figured it was time to treat myself.

Unfortunately, the windowless massage parlor two blocks up from me is a known prostitution den. I could get a regular massage at a seedy place, but there’s something about suspected human trafficking that takes me out of the moment. So, how would I find a probably-legitimate place without shelling out the big bucks? I checked Yelp for affordable places with a large female clientele, and set out to finally get my first massage.

As soon as I walked into LA Face & Mind, I felt instantly relaxed. I planned to get a Swedish massage, which is good for beginners. The masseuse made an executive decision that my muscles were way too tight for something so gentle. She opted for a Thai combination massage. It included everything I’d expected, plus acupressure and stretching. Plus, I’m pretty sure, her walking on me. “Are those feet?” I thought. “They have to be feet.” Whatever the method, I’ve never felt so pain-free and calm. My feet and legs, sore from walking to new things, were completely renewed. I even got a head massage. And yes, my shoulders and neck are at long last relaxed. For $40/hour, I can’t recommend it enough for those who need thorough stress relief. The tranquility is unmatched.

#14: Barnsdall Art Park

I was surprised to discover that this park was just a few minutes’ walking distance from some of my local haunts. I used to miss so much. It boasts Hollyhock House, the first building Frank Lloyd Wright built in LA. Completed in 1921, it’s his answer to what Southern California architecture should look like. Barnsdall is also home to a gallery, theatre, and art classes for all ages. I arrived at sunset, when crowds gathered around the grassy knolls to gaze at the city below.

Yes, the classic LA smog takes a little of the magic out of the photo. In person, the dual view of the Hollywood sign and the Griffith Park Observatory is captivating. I began to remember the sirenic nature of Los Angeles that was evident to me as a “fresh off the bus” transplant. On the one side, the observatory– scientific, practical, like a city with more people and more jobs. On the other side, the Hollywood sign, evidence of a project never realized. Hollywood is a neighborhood synonymous with the film industry for non-Angelenos, despite having very little connection to it in modern times. The main stretch of Hollywood Boulevard is an overall trashy area. By day, tourists and squabbling fake characters loiter by the score while I try to get to work. By night, meth heads and catcallers make it too dangerous to walk home past midnight. Don’t get me started on the gigantic homeless man who pushed me when I tried to protect a smaller girl from his shoving.

I claim to hate Hollywood, yet I’m there constantly. I even get peeved when someone sits in “my seat” at the Hollywood & Highland mall. So I’d have to say that I love this city, not in spite of its trashier elements, but partially because of them. Okay, not the people who gather by night with the apparent goal of breaking boundaries. The tourists, however, remind me of a simpler time. I didn’t know anyone in LA when I first moved out here. I couldn’t find landlords willing to rent to someone they hadn’t met in person. I stayed at the Motel 6 on Hollywood and Whitley for my first week, walking down the boulevard between scouring West Side Rentals. The Walk of Fame and concrete hand prints were still enjoyable. At night I went to the now-defunct King King and perched at the red glitter countertop. Locals pulled me by the hand to dance to jungle. I hope to find nearby attractions that make Hollywood new to me again. In any case, LA as a whole is beginning to restore its allure.

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