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I arrived at Harbin in a jittery haze, still spun out and twisted from the two hour drive north on 101 and the final stretch of sharp switchbacks of Highway 29 over the mountain and down into Middletown.  I hadn’t been to Harbin Hot Springs in probably over 15 years and had only spent the day there, never an overnight trip, but I do remember that stretch of mountain highway being a bitch even though I was a passenger and we drove it in the dark.  Relatively, however, it is a beautiful drive.  Fully accustomed to driving the 101 stretch but instead of heading west to Guerneville I turn right and head east to Calistoga, through its downtown if desired, and over the Mountain.  Fog, drenched in morning light, clings like smoky clouds to tree and vine.  Once over the mountain and passing an Indian Gaming Casino, suddenly one is in Middletown and its just a drive through the backways and past the school to find the dirt road taking one up to the resort.  There is an attendant or two at the 24 hour gate.  I didn’t know what the etiquette was so I just waved and drove past, but the gatekeeper waved me back and gave me instructions on where to check in and how to park.

Went to the office to register and booked a bed in the Men’s Dormitory for $35 a night.  It was my intention to only stay one night but because check in was at 3pm and check out at noon I started to consider spending another night and driving out to work early on Tuesday morning.  The offer of a midweek package of breakfast and a massage at a discounted price made this deal more enticing, but I wanted to give myself some time to get used to the resort before making that commitment.  Because I couldn’t get my key until 3 pm, I drove my car down to the parking lot, sorted and arranged my shit that I would need for the day in an absent minded sort of paranoia.  Then I went on the grounds to look for the restaurant to find breakfast.

It was pretty busy in there, this being the Sunday and the last day of the New Year’s weekend and from observation and eavesdropping surmised that the resort was at capacity.  Various groups, couples and single men and women of most persuasions occupied nearly all of the restaurant’s tables.  Some even took their morning repasts outside along the deck for even if the morning woke up chill the sun shed a promise of warmth and bright.  Scanning the menu, lacto-ovo vegetarian, and the prices (high for what was being offered) finally settled on a breakfast burrito.  I took a seat at a small table against the wall and noted that in all black I was a little bit morbid looking in this group where organically died hemp clothing and Patagonia wear was the stand out norm.  Still, I wish I had my cowboy hat.  Stripped down some of those black layers to regulate my body temperature.  My body was going crazy trying to metabolize all the vodka and the shots and the weed I indulged in over my birthday weekend.

The burrito arrives, unappetizing, but I know it is in my best interest to eat.  Hung over, overheated, uncomfortable in my surroundings and still swerving from the curves in the road I take my shaky time and manage to get most of my ghastly breakfast of bland stir fried veggies and over cooked egg in a flour tortilla down, reading a little bit about the history and the etiquette of Harbin and getting some New Age and much appreciated gardening advice from the quarterly newsletter between small chunky mouthfuls.  Finally I quit and go up to the sundeck to see what I can make of a nap.

There are two wooden sundecks, and I chose the upper.  It overlooks the valley that Harbin is nestled in and faces east.  The sun was coming up and it was surprisingly warm.  People were already sunbathing naked on the deck and that was a good sign.  I dragged a chaise lounge from a corner and positioned it in a way as to take advantage of getting the most sun.  Sitting there in my black track suit I felt warmed up sufficiently to strip it off.  Naked, most of the tension of detoxification eased off of my body.  I was careful to sunscreen up, especially my burns and for further protection wrapped my forearm in a loose grey bandana to prevent the new skin from getting hyper-pigmented from overexposure to the sun’s ultra violet.

I had 4 hours to kill before I could check in.  No problem.  I had Shadow of the Scorpion by Neal Asher, a bottle of water and a couple of cans of cream soda.  I soaked up in the sun glad I got there early to reserve a chaise as soon enough the deck filled up with nude sunbathers who had to make do on their blankets or towels, however they all looked content enough.  More than infrequently I had to get up and put on my Coach boots and hike to take a  piss…detoxification in full effect.

I convinced myself that I liked it here and another day’s rest sounded like a good order.  Eventually the sun started ducking under the south east ridges and shadows stretched long while the crowd thinned out, either going to the baths or to their cars for the drive home.  It was still short of check in time, so I decided to go the Health Services office and explain my condition and get advice regarding a suitable therapist.  David was recommended because he had a deep tissue technique I felt I needed and it was recommended that I avoid the hot baths and drink lots of water with electrolytes because of my 3 days of overindulgence.  I gave them my credit card info to hold my appointment for the next night went to the office to check in and pay for another night’s lodging as well as claim my vouchers for massage and a breakfast.

I was pleased to see that I was the only guest in the men’s dorm so I chose the furthest bed next to the window in the upstairs loft.  There was a single bed in an alcove downstairs next to the half bath (no shower).  Upstairs there were 3 beds in a row and another perpendicular to the far wall.  The window by my bunk had a view of the pools.  It is my custom to always face the window when I’m in bed and I prefer the blinds open because I like to watch the changing light through the night.  I heeded the advice of the Health Office consultant and didn’t do the baths immediately.  Instead I moved my gear from my car to the dorm, got arranged and settled and tried to figure out what I was going to wear to the 5:30 pm yoga class.

I had a little snack before the yoga class at Harbin’s little overpriced organic general store.  I had some time finding something to eat that I felt comfortable paying for.  Eventually I settled on a container of Greek yogurt and hippie bean stew.  I also picked up a few packets of electrolytes with vitamins.  I ate  at a cafe table outside the store and when finished went to my Contour in the parking lot to retrieve my yoga mat from the trunk.

Yoga classes at Harbin, as well as other group activities, are held at the Temple.  The Temple is a domed one floor structure constructed of what seems to be an adobe like concrete material.  There are two bathrooms outside, two entrances and inside it has a wooden floor.  I left my Coach boots outside and entered the Temple.  Class was full but I found a spot to lay out my mat and then I stripped down to just my Nike running shorts, trying to be as naked as possible.  There is actually a reminder on the doors of all  the public enclosed structures to have some clothes on.

The instructor sat at the middle of the circle cross legged behind her harmonium as participants filtered in and laid out mats and props.  She began the class with a long ass chant that went on for awhile and I was laughing at myself both inside and out as I struggled to remember and utter this complex mantra.  The asanas themselves were relatively easy compared to the Naked Yoga for Men class that I normally attend even though this was billed as intermediate level.  It made me feel really good about my practice, although I have been attending to it only erratically.  I never built up any heat yet it remained just warm enough that I never felt I had to put back on my shirt.  Class over, I was happy that I ended December’s hiatus and was eagerly looking forward to my first trail run of the New Year the next morning.

I had no enthusiasm to make my own dinner, even though I did bring food.  I went to the restaraunt and it was rather busy.  I was shocked that they were charging $25 for a salmon fillet with brown rice and steamed vegetables.  The other choices, stir fried, seemed even less appealing.  I settled on a salad and a crimini mushroom soup which, although not creamy, was salty and earthy enough to leave me satisfied.

After dinner I chilled out and caught up with Shadow of the Scorpion a bit more, lauding myself for bringing such an appropriate book with me to the resort.  I love ironies, especially reading a sci fi novel by one of my favorite British authors that is steeped in violence and about galactic terrorism and espionage while I am resorting at a New Age Naked Hippie Hot Spring.  Then I thought to go and do a Sound Healing Class back at the Temple.  Tuning into people’s atonal wailings, I realized I was too sensitive to other people’s pain but was trying to join in in an unrevealing antiphony which told more about me than it should.  Then we grouped off and chanted each other’s names over one another, and I had a vision of myself that was similar to my drive this morning and was somewhat like looking for myself through a misty forest only to split the bamboo to find my eye peering back at me.  I had visions of each of the others too, which we were instructed to share.  In closing we circled and visualized an orb of rose colored light and then we sent it down to Gaia.  I totally felt that.

I think I retired up to the library after that and read a bit, then headed out to the pools.  I could finally take the heat by then and the soak was luxurious even though I could not take the super hot hot bath.  Happy to meet a chatty guy to talk with in there even though we kept getting shushed by some overly serious bathers.  He invited me to his room when he left, but I said I was more likely to fall straight asleep after I got out of the hot pool.


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