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I spent yesterday being pampered.

I took one of the gift certificates that you wonderful people bought for me, and headed off to one of the best spas in Boston.

Newbury Street, for those who have never had a chance to see it, is the top shopping street in Boston. It was created in the mid-nineteenth century, on some of the landfill. (Boston dug up several of its hills, and deposited the land in some swampy area. Enlarge city, and make it easier to walk. Not legal these days, of course. You know how the EPA is about wetlands).

At the east end of the street, the buildings are fairly modern, and most of them are the big name places - famous designers, leather goods, and so on.

But the west end still retains the same Victorian style buildings - bow windows, basement areas, some tiny gardens in front. Some buildings are apartments, some are retail shops. There are trendy restaurants, spas, stores, gallerys, bookshops, a pizza place, a hardware store, a drugstore, and a grocery market, all tucked into these old buildings. There's a tremendous amount of charm and delight in just walking down the street. You can see that the people who live there have a real neighborhood.

I arrived very early - we have a tremendous amount of flex time at work, so as soon as I put in forty hours, I can leave. If I want to work four ten hour days, that's fine. So I put in three and a half hours to finish up the forty, and off I went. Since there was plenty of time, I walked up and back on Newbury Street, pausing occasionally to examine real estate offerings: "1 Bedroom, kitchenette, and living room - $1100.00 a month." That's part of the price for trendiness.

At 11:15 I was at Giuliano's. I handed them my gift certificate, and asked plaintively if it was possible to add a hair-cut to the day - my hair has just grown into the unmanageable stage.

I was greeted tenderly, handed a tote bag, and led off to the ladies locker room, where I changed into a robe and slippers. I was then led off to have a massage with Rena. As I left the lounge area I noticed a sign: "No cell phones beyond this point." In other words, this is a place to relax and be soothed, not to talk business, or engage in chatter with friends. Relax, calm down, soothe yourself.

Everyone, by the way, was fascinated when I told them the whole day was a gift certificate. Obviously a lot of people buy something like a massage, but the package was a huge one, and they were very impressed, particularly when I mentioned that these were internet friends, and I'd never met most of them.

Rena asked me how long it had been since my last massage, and I mentioned the chair massage my boss gave everyone when we brought in a high-priority project under the wire. At least four and a half years. So Rena spent an hour locating kinks and tight muscles. I could feel each of them 'pop' as she finished an area of my back. Warm oils were rubbed all over me. She told me that she'd had another cancer patient who, upon being diagnosed, decided that it was time to start her 'Life list' and a massage was easier to arrange than skydiving.

Once I was relaxed, and redisovering the distinct pleasure of turning my head to the right, I went downstairs for a facial with Terry. The spa used to be one floor, but has grown, and now has three floors of the four story building (including the basement boutique where they sell robes and creams and so on). A bookstore and a flower shop share the first floor.

My skin, I was informed, was in terrible shape. Creams were applied. Exfoliants were used. Warm towels appeared. My eyes were covered, and a bright light used to examine my face. Spots that I had never noticed were removed. My hands had creams applied to them, and were then placed in electic heating pads. A mask was applied, and I lay there dozing, feeling delightfully at peace for ten minutes. Terry also gave me a list of 8 items I am supposed to purchase and use to keep my skin looking good. Don't think so. Not in my current life. No time, no space in the bathroom. But it's fun to read the list of what some people do to keep their skin looking good. Terry, by the way, is a single mother of two children. Fortunately, her own mother is willing to baby-sit during the day.

I changed back into street clothes, and had a pedicure with Jane. My feet soaked in a whirlpool while I read a magazine and Jane clucked over my toenails. All I've ever done to them was clip them off when they got too long, so they definitely needed tons of work. I picked a pretty rosy-pink shade - I'm not the blood-red nails type - and this was applied. I wore thongs, with tissue separating my toes, for the rest of the day. (The cat, by the way, is not thrilled with the pedicure. He likes to lick my feet, and of course the polish has a slight fragrance, which throws him off).

After a wait of a few minutes back on the second floor, I had my manicure while I discussed rental prices with Patrice. She agreed they were outrageous. She can't afford to live in Boston either, and she actually lives one town over from me, while her parents live in the same town I do. I had the paraffin treatment, which involved dipping my hands in warm wax - 5 layers - and then having them sealed in plastic bags and encased in those heating pads again. After the wax was removed, the same color nailpolish was applied to the fingernails that had been used on the toes.

Then I waited until it was time for the hair-cut. I had time to watch other people at that point. One of my fears about going there was that everyone else would be sleek, polished, rich-looking, and very thin, and that I'd look out of place. But a lot of people, in fact most people, were not sleek, polished, rich-looking or thin. They came in a variety of shapes and sizes, and some looked better than others, but I certainly didn't feel that I was out of place.

All the time I spent waiting - waiting for nails to dry, waiting while the mask did its work, waiting for the paraffin to soften my hands - gave me a lot of time to think and relax. That's probably part of the charm for a lot of very overworked people. When your hands are encased in giant mitts, and you aren't allowed to have a cellphone, then you can't tell yourself that you should be using the time to be productive. You have no choice but to sit back and relax.

The haircut was a terrific success. I explained about the hair growing back in after chemo, and told Joanne how I normally wore it - parted on the left, bangs brushed over, hair cut around the ears, trimmed to the hairline in back, and very layered. But, I said, I'm certainly willing to listen to other suggestions.

She understood my point about not fussing with my hair, particularly when I told her I got up at four am and had to wash my hair every day. So we looked through some magazines, and found one we thought would work. There's a softer part, closer to the top of the head, and the bangs are brushed down instead of across. The hair is trimmed to a blunt cut in back. It certainly worked this morning (crucial part of a haircut is whether I can achieve a similar look in my own bathroom after the hair has been washed). I finally left the place around 5:30. Fortunately, public transportation was only a block and a half away. (Another of the charms of Newbury Street is that there are subway stops available only a few blocks away, no matter where on the street you are. And the Public Gardens start where the east end stops.

All in all I had a lovely day. Pampered, refreshed, and feeling altogether good about things. Thank you again, all of you. And please pass the thanks on to everyone who donated time and effort and money to buying these gift certificates, and making me feel so loved and cherished.

off to see the Lion King in NYC, so I won't be posting again for a few days.
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