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by C. Jeanette Tyson

     Beware when guilt shows up; itís only there to wreck things.
    Thatís what I tell myself one night when I have to stay in Dallas one night longer than Iíd promised my children, when they say ďMama, you said youíd be home now, when are you coming?Ē I put the phone down and run through the options in my head: crying, drinking, throwing another log on the fire of corporate resentment.
And then it occurred to me. I would slam the door in guiltís face and go to ZaZa.

    The ZaZa is the first hotel in Dallas catering to the hipper-than-thou crowd. The decor is Marrakesh market meets Parisian whimsy. A chair in my room is embroidered with the words ďSit Here.ĒEverything is about texture, things rubbing up against each other in a sensual, playful way: travertine and dark wood, sheer curtains and beaded pillows, bright pinks, deep reds, dramatic light, rainforest showers. The halls are skulking dark. Photographs of Hollywood legends and Prague prostitutes line the walls. Inside, everything is outsized and theatrical, silly, when it comes down to it. Outside, in the palm-y urban oasis, two huge beach balls spin in the Jacuzzi.

     Iíd stayed here for the first time the night before and ventured into the renowned restaurant Dragonfly. The cuisine, like the dťcor, is pan-global. Mediterranean goes Asian, it seemed to me.Chef Stephan Pyles and Executive Chef Jeff Moschetti, formerly at The Mansion at Turtle Creek, know how to impress the discerning palette. But the potstickers and calamari, while wonderful, were not the show. The show was the show.

     There were old men looking for younger women: a handsome guy with a black t-shirt under his jacket kept looking at me; I guess that put him in the even older guy category. There were old women looking for their younger selves. There are hardworking folks looking for a quick bite, traveling folks looking for a distraction, foreign folks looking for an experience. It was a good mix, and it wasnít even Thursday, allegedly the night for all aforementioned people and more to gather in a frantic attempt to cross-pollinate.

     Now Iím back, Night Two. Let me just say itís been a long summer. I was away on business nearly a month, staying in a hotel short on amenities but long on extra room for my kids. Now itís a month in Dallas finishing that project, mostly with day trips from Austin. Iím in a dark editing suite all day with people who are certainly entertaining, but, by now, a little too familiar. And I have to stay overnight.

     But Iíve already slammed the door on guilt. With that decision made, I decide to be brazen. First to the mini-bar for the chocolate-covered cherries. Then, a quick dial-up and within the hour Iím heading to the spa three floors up, swapping my clothes for a soft robe and scuffling off to a massage with Rebecca.

     Rebecca works out a nagging knot in my left shoulder. In the background, I hear not the usual waves washing the shore or wind chimes in the summer breeze but Gilberto Gil followed by Norah Jones. I feel all kinds of things unravel. Rebecca says I donít look like the mother of twins. Her tip doubles.

     After the massage I have a bath. I donít do baths at home. I donít have the time, or the tub, for that matter. There are candles, silky oils, Dead Sea salts, and some trash mag interview with Jeff Bridges. Really, is there any other choice? I slip in, put a cool cloth on my forehead and let whateverís left of my resistance to the world drift away.

     After a half hour or so, I reluctantly pull the plug and scuffle back into the changing room and into my own clothes. I ask if one of the staff members could carry me back to my room, piggyback would be fine, and itís about the only request the ZaZa doesnít honor.

     Massage, bath, whatís next, of course: room service.

     There are exotic choices. Ginger beef with wasabi mashed potatoes. Salmon with garlic spinach, tomato-ginger relish and coconut curry sauce. Striped bass with crushed fingerlings and watercress fennel sauce. But I order the Morroccan spiced Roast Chicken with seven vegetable couscous.

     Moist and tender and absolutely out of this world. Or pan-global. Whatever. Comfort food. There in my jammies.

     The smell of eucalyptus lingers and Iím reminded nourishment can be taken in many forms. There I was, after a long, hard summer of tending to business and to the kids, now faced with circumstances beyond my control, deciding to tend to myself.

     The only g-word I felt was great.
C. Jeanette Tyson rambles a bit for both work and column. And would go to the end of the earth for Jackson and Maddy. ZaZa is at 2332 Leonard Street in Dallas. 1-800-597-8399.


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