Seeking the Spa Less Traveled

Oct 3, 2011

How about this as a hobby: spending years (years!) researching Los Angeles spas and massage-therapy places. (We are so loving this already.) And now these two professional women, Brenda Goldstein and Gail Herndon, both of Pasadena, have written a book about their findings: The Spa Less Traveled: Discovering Ethnic Los Angeles, One Massage at a Time.

How did you meet and how did this idea come about?

Gail: I’m an  an administrator for the department of Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope. We met there, when Brenda was working there as an independent health-care consultant.

Brenda: We found we had a common interest in travel, food and culture. One day Gail asked me to attend a lecture on Chinese cooking and a walking tour of Chinatown. We found there was so much to explore, we decided to get together every other weekend to check out another part of town. Chinatown led to Thai Town which led to Koreatown, and we noticed lots of places offered massage. We began to experience as many places as we could. After doing this for a couple of years, we had assembled quite a bit of data on all types of ethnic massages and the idea of a book was first born.

Your book is about to be released nationwide. How does that feel?

Gail: It’s amazing to think that our shared passion for exploring other cultures could evolve into a guidebook. It’s great to be able to showcase some of the under-discovered neighborhoods in L.A. County and give a glimpse into their rich cultural heritage via massage.

Being publishing newbies, how did you hook up with Colleen Bates and Prospect Park Media? How has that experience been for you?

Brenda: We found Colleen a few years ago when we read Hometown Pasadena, and we contacted her to advise us on getting published; at the time we were thinking of self-publishing. She gave generously of her time. We spoke about the whole nuts and bolts of getting a book to press. Though all the information was overwhelming, we continued exploring Los Angeles and taking notes. Over the next couple of years, we stayed in touch, updating her on the progress of the book. Then late last year we met, and she said she wanted to publish The Spa Less Traveled. We will be forever grateful to her for seeing the potential of our book and then bringing it to life—above and beyond our wildest expectations.

What are your favorite things to do on a Saturday in Pasadena, in sunshine and in rain?

Brenda: In the morning I’d go to the farmers’ market next to Victory Park. After that my dog, Bailey, and I would walk to the dog park on Orange Grove. Then I’d have lunch at Zankou (love the tabouleh and hummus!). I usually try to find an exhibit I haven’t seen yet at either the Norton Simon, the Pacific Asia or the Pasadena Museum of California Art. Then it’s dinner with friends—and there’s always somewhere I haven’t been for that!

Gail: Rain on the weekend is God’s way of telling me to stay home. I’ll put something enticing in the crockpot, make a fire, and curl up with music and a good book—maybe something new from Prospect Park Books!

Is there any particularly amusing incident that happened during your research?

Brenda: At one Thai place, I got the traditional Thai massage and Gail got the Thai herbal ball. As my massage ended, I was sitting up, cross-legged, and my therapist was stretching my arms behind my back. I looked over and there was Gail, lying on top of her therapist!

Gail: Yeah, it was pretty trippy. My massage began with the feet—but part of the herbal ball treatment at The Barai Spa in L.A. includes this little tabletop trick. While sitting on the floor for what I thought was going to be the final back stretches, I felt my therapist’s feet going progressively down my back, pressing and stretching. I still don’t know how she did it, but the next thing I knew she was on her back holding me up with her feet, and I was on top of her, laid out like a tablecloth—belly-up, limbs hanging. I thought, Oh my gosh, I hope Brenda sees this! I could barely turn my neck to make eye contact with her, but she DID look over before the amazing dismount—which was just as smooth as the uptake, by the way.

Brenda: Honestly, if I hadn’t seen it myself, I would never have believed it!

Gail: This was another reason for us to write the book. People want to know what’s coming!

Finally, the book launch for The Spa Less Traveled is just around the corner. What are you going to wear?

Brenda: I’m so excited about the launch party. We found a great spa in San Gabriel, Harmony Day Spa, that’s going to host the launch.

Gail: Hmmm…what to wear, what to wear? Brenda, I think that’s a call to go shopping, don’t you?

Click to listen to Brenda and Gail on KPCC’s Off-Ramp with John Rabe.

The Spa Less Traveled:  Discovering Ethnic Los Angeles, One Massage at a Time, by Brenda Goldstein and Gail Herndon, is newly published by Pasadena’s own Prospect Park Media (which also publishes this site). You can buy the book here, or at a host of local retailers, including Vroman’s, Flintridge Bookstore and Once Upon a Time.





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