by Slo Mo
I celebrated a birthday last week, and get this: the only person who remembered the occasion was my crazy neighbor, Joolz. How's THAT for an ego-booster, eh? The anniversary of my blessed arrival into this cursed world, and my own mother didn't even bother to call. Sheesh.
It looked like the highlight of my day was going to be a cupcake with a candle in it and a big, wet kiss from Dog. So you can picture my gratitude and unbridled joy when Joolz showed up with a little gift bag and a card. Of course, I should know by now to worry whenever Joolz shows up with anything, but I was having a desperate day. I'd have accepted candy from the Hillside Strangler. I'd have accepted a complementary issue of Watchtower magazine from the Jehovah's Witnesses. See what I mean? Des-per-ate.
So anyway, imagine my birthday surprise when I looked in Joolz's gift bag and saw... a brochure. "Wow, Joolz! Thanks!"
"You have to read it, Mo."
The front cover was printed in big, swishy script. "Welcome To Nirvana!®" And then, just underneath that: We've Reserved A Special Place For You In Our Natural Paradise Retreat. Discover Your Unique Spiritual Essence - Forge Your Personal Path To Enlightenment - Find The Shaman's Wisdom Within. (*no smoking, please)
According to this brochure, Nirvana® is owned and operated by none other than Dougie and Darla Howlingwolf, North America's leading spiritual facilitators and international superstars on the self-help lecture circuit. Their books and videos have helped millions to see the divine light of glowing goddessness. Their annual Stonehenge Sparkling Summer Solstice Extravaganza is sold out until the year 2018. Also, their "Celestial Rock!" album is very popular in Germany. They once opened for David Hasselhof.
And the best part? The very best part? The Howlingwolfs' express luxury shuttle would be picking me up that very afternoon and whisking me away to Nirvana®. For a week. By myself. Compliments of Joolz.
This should have been the least of my worries, but for some reason I spent the next hour and a half obsessing over what to pack. I'd never met a glowing goddess before, let alone my inner shaman, so I had no idea what to wear. Joolz encouraged me to "cast off the chains of fashion" and go with stuff that was loose and comfortable and free. Which is how I came to board the Nirvana®-mobile carrying nothing but a gym bag full of t-shirts and pajama bottoms, three mini-bottles of tequila in my pocket, and a heart full of dread.
Not since my first trip to summer camp have I been so reluctant to get on a minibus. This vehicle was definitely nicer than the ones I recall from childhood - a/c, mood lighting, lava lamps, surround sound - but my feelings were the same: a well-meaning, misguided person was sending me off to the Great Unknown "for my own darn good and personal development, goddammit!" where I'd have to share a bathroom with strangers and eat in a dining hall and meet a whole bunch of people who I hated but who I'd have to pretend to like because we'd be stuck doing stuff together for the next eternity and-- oh wait, that was school.
Apparently, Nirvana® hires graduates of the Phish Driving Academy, which would explain why the steering wheel was covered in tie-dye do-rags and the driver looked like he hadn't eaten anything but granola for the last twenty years. Phish Guy took my bag, handed me a bottle of purified water and a stick of sandalwood incense, and before I could shout "wait - I've changed my mind!" we took off in a cloud of enlightened goddess diesel fumes. I pressed my little nose to the window and waved goodbye to Dog and Joolz and the house and the beach and the bar and everything I cherish, but especially Dog, because I had a feeling he'd regret spending the week with Joolz even more than I'd regret spending the week in Nirvana®.
I waved and waved and waved until we rounded the corner and headed over the bridge to the mainland. Then I sank back into the plush paisley velour seat and tried really, really hard to pretend I couldn't hear that John Tesh CD playing over the speakers and...
Either Phish Guy put something funny in my incense, or John Tesh is a bigger soporific than previously imagined. Whatever it was, I didn't regain consciousness until the bus had stopped and I was being shaken out of my seat by a rather large, looming, unshaven woman in a caftan.
"I'm Darla Howlingwolf! I read your aura in another life a long-long-long-long time ago, Mo, and now the rhythms of Fate have brought you here! Ommmmmm!"
"Our chi's embrace, our spirit songs unite in harmony! Here, wear this big purple orchid in your hair as a symbol of the divine flower of Creation blooming in your psyche."
Uh-oh. Joolz didn't say anything about flowers.
"Now come, tap twice on the friendship tambourine and take my hand as I show you to your room in Nirvana®!"
Flowers and tambourines. Holy spiritual hijacking, Batman. If anyone out there is reading this: s.o.s. Really. I'm not kidding, guys... S.O.S.!!!!!!!!!!