“You need a personal Sanitorium,” my friend says with a smirk and a small clink of our beer glasses. He is implying something he doesn’t truly understand. He thinks I’m insane for my Zen of driving. My friend doesn’t get my love for the long hours involved with travel. He only heard that I was worn out. His mind didn’t comprehend about the quality alone time. He didn’t listen.
“That would be a great vacation, no doubt,” I concur. I toast my friend back with another tilt to the glass, an understanding wink, and a smile.
His inference is not lost on me. I get it. We all need a place.
I crave the hours and the muscle of sailing in a steady wind in the old Laser sailboat on my northern Michigan lake. Or, I miss a pre-sunrise fishing trip of breakfast Blue-Gill or Perch from the old row-boat. I could easily find my center on a lone trail on cross-country skis with a backpack of snacks and hot chocolate (although now I might put in a flask). A motorcycle ride out to Pozo would fix what needs adjusting in a second. Golfing at sunrise works, too. Dogs! I miss my happy pups! A road trip on back highways with music blaring and a raw throat from singing above the volume is still a thing. Alone time is good.
These are the images I conjure in my head when I hear the word Sanitorium. It’s not a mental institution, but a spa. It is what brings one to center. It is a personal, positive space. I’m working on yoga, just saying!
Still, there is a stigma with the literary “Sanitorium” illness, the sort of malaise from a 19th-century novel. It involves doomed characters; the witty, hopeless men and the bright, fragile women who have a condition killing them in a couple of decades or so, who, in the meantime, enjoy ill health with visits to unusual places in the eastern block of Europe. It’s a spa. In literature, let’s admit that fact. They hung out in steam rooms and got massages.
I visited Prague once. The city is the deep-rooted center of this sanitorium idea. The rich and famous of old Europe came to the Czech Republic for cures to stuff. Czechoslovakia’s history is crazy with retreats for health. Monarchs like Russia’s Peter the Great and Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary made their way to the spas there. Beethoven, Brahms, Bach, Mozart, and Chopin spent time in the Czech spas to get better or centered. The hot springs and steam rooms drew them in. They spent weeks hanging out and getting well. Those composers wrote about it. They composed. People vacationed.
I remember getting out of the car at my hotel in Prague. Divorce and running away from life in California captivated my consciousness to the new/old world. My friend and I walked into the center of the city.
There is a magic in the river. The rolling cityscapes of pastel buildings, plated with fenestrations, some newly renovated and progressive, others adorably battered. The architecture is unforgettable. Along the river, there are picturesque buildings with pavilions and fountains. It resembles postcards. It is a place for concerts, park benches, gardens, fountains, and kissing. The women are beautiful, and the men seem youthful. The energy resembles birds at a birdbath; new and fresh with hope for the next minute. I understand the idea of a Sanitorium here, in this part of the world.
Prague hinted I should invest in a better bathrobe, something bright white, not the black t-shirt and jeans I wear as the personal uniform. Although, that works too in the streets. But Prague says I should sleep-in and enjoy coffee more often, the kind of coffee not in a to-go thermos from Costco. There should always be a left-over bottle of red wine to have with breakfast. Prague says naked is a good thing. And then, when you must, clothes should be elevated, not just routine. As for the architecture, enjoy old world spaces in a new world. These thoughts are the hub for a quality sanitorium and good health.
I sip my IPA and ask my friend, “So, when do you get to get out of here? Any vacations planned?” I look around. The bar changes from the after-work people to the vacationing dinner crowd. He doesn’t know how to answer my casual retort. For him, it has been years of the same old, same old….
“I don’t know,” he states honestly with a little bit of melancholy.
“Maybe you should find a sanitorium for you, too,” as I throw the word back at him.
I hold my glass up for toast back, “Hell, THIS is Palm Springs. THIS place is the Prague of the West Coast!”
“Prague?”, my friend inquires. He doesn’t understand my reference.
“Vacation! A personal sanitorium!” I continued with a raised glass in the air. “You live in vacation Mecca. You live where other people play when they need to get away!”
“You, my friend, are on your way,” I continue with a continually raised glass. I haven’t finished toasting. “You just need to take advantage of what you have RIGHT HERE!”
He thinks I’m insane!
Clink 2! Maybe I am a bit delusional.
I pull into the parking lot of the Palm Springs condo. Entering the kitchen, I throw my work stuff into the corner by the tv trays my mom and dad use to eat and watch Jeopardy. I open a bottle of wine from the refrigerator. Prepping food for one, I grill chicken and artichokes. After dinner, I take a glass of wine out to the pool. A single towel and some flip-flops. I casually throw them near a chair and wade into the night illumination glow of the water. Then, I sit in the hot tub for a bit and let the day dissipate.
I think I might need to keep a white robe in a closet here, just for the old-world fashion statement. I’d go naked, but there might be condo rules here…..
As much as I have pushed back on Palm Springs for years, it is now a personal sanitorium of sorts. I like that. It reminds me of Prague, in a way.