I found two deals on LivingSocial that Cricket was okay with doing, and since they were both in the city we did them on the same day. One was a nice experience, but the other one… that was an interesting experience. First, we went on a boat. Like, a real boat, with sails and stuff. Me, Cricket and 150 20- and 30-somethings piled onto this boat which took us up and down the East River and gave us beer tastings. I do not like beer, so Cricket got all my beer tasting samples. He was happy, and once I took sea-sickness meds, I was happy too. Here is a picture of the boat called Clipper City.
After about two hours of boating, we hopped off the boat and went to The Russian and Turkish Bathhouse (opened in 1892). Now, the only bathhouse I have ever been to was in Budapest, and it looked like this:
So I (unwisely) assumed that this bathhouse would be similar in style and layout. And I was WRONG. Right outside is a flight of stairs and a sign.
The first thing I noticed when I went in was it was dark and tight. Very dark. Very tight. There’s a series of chairs and tables on the left with a TV mounted to the wall, identical to what would be in a senior citizen’s home located in a rundown area of a major metropolitan city. Then there’s a tiny deli booth with a variety of shmears in a case. On the right is a series of wall lockers where they keep your wallet, keys, iPod, etc. Everything is dim, except where there is harsh fluorescent lighting. Oh, and because it’s so small, everyone is gently shimmying past each other to get around. And many of these people are just wearing towels. It is an inevitability that you will be brushed by a man-boob. My immediate reaction was fear. I was like, “Fantastic. I will go inside, where they will take my kidney and leave me in a tub of ice. I probably won’t even get the massage included on the coupon.” As we handed over our valuables and got our key, our path was blocked by a large, strong, shaved man wearing only shorts and flip-flops. He said in a heavy Eastern-European accent, “You came with voucher?” I nodded yes. He said, “Good. I am Gene. You go to locker room to change, I meet you here. ” Now, I had no idea who this man was. He never gave me any inclination that he worked there. But I didn’t want to be a noobie, so I went to the locker room (small, hot, grim) where I changed into my bathing suit and met Cricket outside the door. Gene then said, “Follow me,” and we went down a tight flight of stairs into the actual bathhouse.
Oh dear God.
Hot. Dim. Tiled walls. Exposed pipes. Giant drains in the middle of the floor. Water on every surface. Very rape-y. Very organ-steal-y. Gene gestured towards shower-stall-sized room completely filled with steam. “You go sit there. I come and get you in five minutes.” I followed Cricket into the steam room where I realized a very important thing: I am not a fish. I cannot inhale water, specifically hot water, when it’s mixed in with my air. I turned to Cricket, gasping. “I… can’t… breathe.” I threw the towel over my head in an attempt to filter the water out of my air and discovered that the towel smelled exactly like fried wontons. I suppose wherever they do their laundry is near a vent for a Chinese restaurant, so all their towels smelled exactly like fried wontons. Finally, after a million years, Gene came back. “You want massage?” I nodded. He took me into a tiny dark room off to the side and put Cricket in the one next to me. Good, I thought. At least I can be near the one I love when I die. He gestured to a massage table covered with towels. Gene looked at me. “You wearing anything under that?” he said, pointing to my bathing suit. I said no, and he told me to strip to my waist and lay face-down on the table. I lay down and he brought in a cup of mud. At least, I assumed it was mud. It wasn’t marked or anything. It could have been camel poop mixed with apple juice for all I knew. I tried desperately to relax and buried my face in the fried-wonton-infused-towel my head was resting on. He then rubbed me all over with this mud, covered me with towels and told me to relax and let it bake onto me. He then did the same to Cricket. When Gene came back, he had me flip over. Now, I’m not shy about my boobage, but I was interested to see how he would attempt to protect my modesty. I rolled over, where Gene looked at my boobs quietly, as if pondering their purpose, then gently covered them with a towel. He rubbed the mud into all my exposed front-parts, covered me with towels and left me to bake. When he came back, he had me sit up, took all the towels off of me, and hosed me down exactly how someone would wash a car. With my breasts pretty much in his face. So weird. And, as it always happens when you mix me and mud and gravity, all the mud on my torso washed into my butt and collected there, packing itself so I resembled a one-year-old with a full diaper. I pulled the top part of my bathing suit up, thanked Gene for his lovely job (he really did do a nice job) and he said, “Thank you. Now go to sauna.” I toddled off to the sauna which was HAWT. I found out later it was 190 degrees in there. Hooah. I quickly popped out, jumped into a shower, washed out the sediment from my rump, and soaked a towel in cold water. Holding it over my face, I went back into the sauna where there was a man, no joke, doing 150 pushups in the corner of the room, I assumed because his mother didn’t love him or something. In the middle of the sauna is constantly flowing ice water, and at any time you can pick up a bucket and dump it over your head, which I saw people do quite often. I lasted as long as I could in there and then I came out, took another quick shower and headed up to the locker rooms to change back into my regular clothes. On my way up I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I looked exactly like a shiny pink pig. It was really cute. Here’s a photo I found of the actual bathhouse area.
And here’s an article I found on it. Notice how even the sexy models in the picture cannot temper the terrifying horror-movie-vibe of the place.
Here’s the best part: I accidentally clicked “2” when I bought the coupon, so I have to go back. Now that I know what to expect I’m not nearly as scared, but I don’t think I’ll become a regular by any means. I think I’ll take Neenernator if she’s interested. Every time she goes back to Germany (where she’s from) she goes to a spa and tells me stories with sentences in them like, “…After they covered us with hot soapy foam, they blasted us with ice water!” I think this will be right up her alley. Apparently they have an aromatherapy room with lavender and eucalyptus oils. I will try that one out next time.