Every one of us, at some time or another, gets that dreaded wake-up call. Mine came last February when I got out of a cab, slipped on an icy stretch of Third Avenue, and went crashing into…a parking meter. I quite literally tore open the top of my head. I wish I could tell you that I tripped over a case of Krug or stumbled getting out of a stretch limousine, cutting myself on a Verdura brooch pinned to my wife’s sable. Alas, it was 6:30 on a particularly gray, unpleasant rainy Thursday evening and I was rushing. I grabbed a cab and headed downtown to Kiehl’s pharmacy to buy a birthday present. The gift, which wasn’t even necessary, should have been bought days before, not at the eleventh hour, not in a hurry, and not in a part of town some 40 blocks from where the birthday dinner was to take place. It was the perfect storm: too much to do, short on time, cramming ten things into one taxi ride, a patch of leftover ice.
Fortunately, Jerry Imber—Manhattan plastic surgeon, sometimes Departures contributor (see “Plastic Surgery’s Reality Check”), and an unbelievable friend during a crisis—was in town that night, preparing to take his first sip of sake at his favorite Japanese restaurant, Sushi-Ann, some 30 blocks uptown. Instead, he postponed the pleasure to meet me at New York Presbyterian Hospital, arriving within 30 minutes, impeccably pulled together as always, and stitched me back up. A few days later the good doctor sat me down in his office, just off Fifth Avenue, and as he carefully took out nearly 100 stitches from the top of my head, administered the much-needed advice in so many no-nonsense words: slow down, think straight, get yourself into shape.
Less than a year later, there’s nary a scar (this was, after all, the handcrafted work of Dr. Gerald Imber), I’ve lost 15 pounds (I know, I know, but I’ve also taken it slowly), signed on with a personal trainer, and am at the gym, religiously, six days a week. I’ve never felt better in my life.
Although the theme of this year’s issue—well-being and good health—was decided long before my own spill, the idea couldn’t be more appropriate for January 2009. No matter what your profession or your politics, who can’t, after the ups and downs, elections, booms and busts of last year, appreciate the need for time out. For the past three years the centerpiece of this issue has been our Spa Almanac, which Managing Editor Deborah Frank oversees. Not an easy job. It’s in Deborah’s hands to enlist passionate reporters and committed experts throughout the world to weigh in on the stuff that really matters—and believe me, there’s a lot that doesn’t matter. In this particular issue, she covers everything from the best new spas, facialists, and treatments around the globe to up-to-the-minute first-person “I was there” dispatches. Take her own account of going it alone for five days on the new detox program offered at Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos. There’s also a four-page dispatch on the best new places that have opened in New York (as well as perfect spots to drop by for a little 30-minute “refresher” in between shopping, say, at Bergdorf Goodman and Saks); along the way you’ll find the cookie diet (yes, cookie diet), a report on developments in sleep therapy (our new obsession), what to wear to yoga, and a revisit to one of our favorite spas, Mii Amo, the ravishing, still-powerful new age place in Sedona, Arizona (see “Mii Amo: Three for the Road”). I myself first visited Mii Amo nearly eight years ago, shortly after it opened. It was here that I was introduced to what are now practically ho-hum staples on the spa menu: four-hand massage and Watsu therapy, albeit done amid the great open canyons of Sedona.
Our working title for the issue is Winter Break: how to take stock and relax, refresh, restore. Which is exactly what Marie Brenner had in mind when she called last spring before the publication of Apples & Oranges (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), her celebrated memoir of life with her brother. She was going to India, for her umpteenth visit, but this time in search of the perfect spa. I suggested two. She went to both. The upshot? “Finding Marie,” her brilliant, funny, and very honest dispatch from the ashrams, hot tubs, and Ayurvedic spas of the new India. Jean Nathan traveled a very different route to a small town in the Czech Republic to unravel the mystery behind Crème Ancienne, a supposed miracle potion made by monks at a remote monastery in the far reaches of Bohemia. The fact that the monastery was designed by cool contemporary architect John Pawson in a terribly chic modern vernacular and that the cream sells for $250 a jar merely adds to the aura. Elsewhere in the issue there’s a stunning portfolio of elegant, delicate, dramatic (and affordable) silver jewelry that seems particularly fitting for our less-than-flush times. For a more outré take on style, there’s our behind-the-scenes “fashion portfolio” by Finlay MacKay with the incredibly talented and athletic young dancers from Fuerza Bruta, now at the tiny Daryl Roth Theatre on East 15th Street in New York. While Senior Editor Andrew Sessa found salvation at Rosewood’s new glamour spa resort in Mayakoba, on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, “Material Comfort” columnist Mike Offit went nowhere glam. In fact, he sat at his computer in Bedford, New York, and cranked out eight invaluable New Year’s resolutions for Democrats and Republicans. In case you noticed, along the way we tweaked the look of departures this month to make it cleaner, bolder, and even more graphic than ever. The overall effect, we trust, is one of greater clarity and punch, with more power to inform, entertain, and enlighten. And in what is very much a sign of the times, we’ve replaced the last page of the magazine with a new column called “Necessary Luxury.” The idea grew out of our November/December feature where we asked various people to define the phrase “necessary luxury.” This month journalist-biographer-blogger Arianna Huffington, cofounder and editor in chief of the Internet newspaper–cum–political blog The Huffington Post, gives us her take on what it’s all about in these post–Conspicuous Consumption times.