Times columnist T.J. Simers is served a Dodger Dog by chef Anne Wiles on the… (Rod Hanna )
LAKE TAHOE — Stan Kasten's people called. They wanted me to get together with the new Dodgers' guru Monday. I presume to talk about the first-place team that Frank McCourt built.
So I immediately left to get my mind right.
I spent $1,000, a little surprised the newspaper didn't offer to pay me to go away.
The plan was to go where I might not find any people, but they don't have race tracks here.
They do have the very best golf courses, though, with a den of coyote pups adding to the ambience and a deer watching just behind No. 12 at Coyote Moon outside Truckee.
But when one of them asked me how the Kings were doing, I figured I really needed some rest. So I made my way to the Peace of Mind Float Spa.
The name alone is soothing; the Lake Tahoe setting is so calm with the owner emphasizing stress relief dressed in black, a Raiders tattoo on his right biceps and a German Shepherd attack dog ready to pounce at his side.
"That's Karma," said Darin Nobriga, announcing the dog's name, and how many times have I ripped the Raiders over the years?
Apparently the best way to achieve peace of mind is to first think you might lose your life, the relief overwhelming when the dog turns out to be as harmless as the team.
The spa was decorated in everything Zen, with an oxygen bar and Nobriga offering a snort of lavender. It was refreshing to have a Raiders fan offer to shove something up my nose rather than his own.
When it came time to float in the enclosed tube, a $65 sensory deprivation exercise, Nobriga explained it's like your mind taking a vacation. I know what you are thinking: Jim Buss must float with regularity.
I worried I might fall asleep and drown.
Nobriga said the water was 10 inches deep. And 800 hundred pounds of Epsom salts would make one feel weightless; wouldn't it be nice if the wife could experience that once in her life?
The water was 93.5 degrees, he said, and sheer heaven. Maybe that's why people don't panic once put in a coffin. They are already in heaven.
But I know when I lay on my back in the eight-foot long tomb, the ceiling maybe a foot over my nose and the door closed, I could only picture McCourt standing outside leaning on it to keep it shut.
The plan was to float for an hour. I made it about two minutes before pushing the door open to see if McCourt was there. I resumed floating, a wonderful feeling until I began to get the shivers, what with the door propped open.
I moved to Truckee to meet with a spiritualist. Leisa Peterson is a mother of two, which might explain in part why she spent nine months locked in a closet — meditating 10 to 12 hours a day.
"I would chant the same thing hundreds of thousands of times," she explained, and so who better to prepare me for what I was going to hear from Kasten?
Peterson said she studied Tibetan Buddhism under the guidance of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso; I said small world, I learned from Phil Jackson.
She was extraordinarily forthcoming, telling me about her life-changing experiences: her father murdered, her brother chasing her with knives before he went to jail. She wanted to know what I feared.
I told her Karma, and she seemed pleased by that, so I never mentioned it was a sissy dog.
Peterson said I might do better with the Dodgers if I approach them with love in my heart. Ordinarily I just hope I have batteries in my tape recorder.
She suggested I meditate before meeting Kasten. But we don't have a clean closet at home.
"Nothing good ever comes from our expectations that we have of others," Peterson said, explaining why I should never have expected the wife to clean them.
Peterson kept pressing, wanting to know what I was holding back.
"I fear Kasten will be dull and folks will stop reading Page 2 more quickly than they usually do."
She seemed to understand. "This fear is holding you back from writing the most amazing columns ever; fear is cutting into your inspiration, or at the very least dulling it," Peterson said, the nicest way anyone has ever called me a hack.
Peterson worked up a meditation to better prepare me for Kasten. I wonder how he will handle my chanting.
"Sit in a comfortable chair, close your eyes lightly and begin to focus on your breath," she said. "Begin to recognize the fear you are holding onto."
That would be someone walking into the room and seeing me focusing on my breath.
For some reason our time was up.
The next stop: the Thunderbird Lodge, and the former home of playboy George Whittell.
Whittell, his third wife and his primary mistress would vacation together. And I thought our family was close.
His best friend was Bill the lion. He took Bill with him when he could. It'd be nice just once if I went to interview Arte Moreno and he wasn't the one doing the roaring.
Whittell owned 25 miles of Lake Tahoe shoreline, which remains untouched by development. His home is now a museum supported by public donations.
Chef Anne Wiles prepared lunch, a table set for one on the Wishing Well Terrace overlooking the lake's crystal blue water. No idea how she knew I'd have no friends with me.
She served a Dodger dog, and then left me alone to marvel at Mother Nature's finest work. I almost forgot to pop open a beer.
It was at that moment I realized Kasten and I are probably more in tune than we know. We're both thinking the same thing: It's a shame I'd ever have to leave this place.