Friday, July 4, 2008

For What Ails You

Dear Mouse,


Ah, the Fifth of July. That magickal moment between the Fourth and the Sixth, between (this year) Friday and Sunday, between America's birthday and my own.

My birthday, that is. Sunday is my birthday. July 6th. Is when my birthday is. Just want to be clear on that one.

The Great Diet Experiment of 08 continues and all is mostly going swimmingly.

OK. I had a piece of pizza yesterday. It was delicious. And necessary at the moment.

No terrible side effects (see next week for details of terrible side effects).

It got me thinking about the theme for this week's blog, which is Curing What Ails You and the Many Variations Thereof. I figure, what better time to talk about Cures than this season of Summery Excess.

Now I know this is a delicate and personal subject and everyone has something to say. No one but you knows best how to cure your hangover/breakup/work-related stress/existential angst, so I'm not going to presume to tell you what to do.

Except to say this:Go to the Russian Baths on 10th Street. Do It.

Here's a sentence you might never expect to hear:
"I could really use a good chicken salad and a plate of sausage. Let's go to the Russian Baths."

And yet... Let me 'splain. No, is too much. Let me sum up.

For the uninitiated:

How To Go To The Russian Baths (and Emerge Fabulous)

The night before, drink a lot. Alternately, you may want to organize a major life event such as a breakup, restrictive diet, or an impending wedding to give shape to the experience.

Go With Friends. Someone needs to restrain you if you are overcome by Eastern-Promises style fantasies and begin trying to wrestle a random dude in the Aromatherapy Room.

Arrive midday if possible; you will want to set aside a whole day for this (and you will be good for nothing but lounging and fabulosity when you leave).

CHECK before hand to see whether it's a men-only, women-only, or coed day. If coed, bring a bathing suit (and put it on).

Hand all valuables to the beefy, stoic, russian guy behind the counter. This starts you off on the right foot - enforced separation from mundane concerns.

Take the little locker key on rubber band they give you and wear it like a bracelet. If you lose the key, that's kind of It. So don't.

Go to locker room, put clothes in locker. Put on high-fashion shapeless blue thing and giant rubber sandals, grab a towel and head on downstairs.

Start w/regular steam room. All your group should pile in to small space together and begin by sweating in unison. If all goes well, you should be able to force out the one guy lounging in there with the force of your inside jokes and estrogen-centric humor. It's funny.

Rinse in shower, cos they want you to.

Hop merrily (and with increasing slowness) between the cedar-plank Turkish sauna, the Aromatherapy Steam room (my fave) that surrounds you with clouds of eucalyptus & lavender, and the oh-so-intense Russian Room. The hard-core sit there in a super sauna with wet towels on their heads, every so often picking up one of the many buckets of ice water dotting the room, and dumping it over their head. I made it about five minutes. (Good idea to drink water as you go)

Between the heat and steam, haul your butt over to the Cold Pool to take a refreshing and painful dip in freezing water. I haven't made it past my neck yet, but seriously, do this; it is necessary and beautiful.

When you start to feel stoned and wish for a change of pace, you may opt for one of the additional services... a massage, a salt scrub, or 'platza', which is Russian for "I wish to hit you with this leafy branch until you cry". I may be slightly off in my translation, but people seem to love it.

Let me say this - if you DO get a massage, make sure it is the guy who worked on me, whose name I forget. He was easy on the eyes.

AND if you get a massage, they usher you up to the ROOF DECK and into a little private hut with a table. You dont wear a damn thing except the sheet. A good way to spend an hour.

On the ROOF DECK, you may notice a number of other blue-clad peeps lounging around on wooden deck chairs at small tables. They may be chatting, sleeping, or drinking glasses of wine and beer out of giant bottles, and that's how you know this is not just some ordinary SPA. Which leads me to....


On the 2nd floor, maybe you didn't notice the first time, there is an unassuming counter with a fridge and a half a kitchen behind it. A giant yellow menu on the wall. When my friend ordered a chicken salad, I thought "Who would get food here? I'm in a towel." The menu options bear no resemblance to Spa Eats as we know them. BUT neither are they cheap/greasy/crappy.

A frowning, friendly woman materializes from the linoleum. Order from her. She will nod, and just, like, start cooking for you. You can wait at a table while the russian dudes watch sports.

I found myself on the rooftop, inhaling a plate of Polish sausage with rice and sauteed veggies that tasted like our aunt had just shown up with leftovers from Shabbat. My friend had a plain mixed green salad and I swear that five of us were picking green leafy shreds off the abandoned plate with our fingers going "Do you think this is really just olive oil and lemon?" And they have a juice bar too!

Somehow after all the steam and slowness, you taste the food that much more. And it is such a cool surprise that it is, like, real, good home cooking. I'm willing to believe that is a big part of the sense of nurturing I received there.

After the rooftop meal, go back for another round of sauna/steam/what have you.

Retrieve your clothes, blow your hair dry, get your stuff, and pay. ($30 for the whole day & use of the facilities. Food and massages extra.)

Notice, on the street, that your skin is glowing, you walk slower and feel somehow longer and leaner. And that any trace of hangover/anxiety/city rage is gone.

I can't wait to go in the Winter. Happy Steaming.

Love, The Boo

Hungry for More?
Mouse and Boo recently had a very successful hangover brunch at Ulysses down in the financial district. Pay $20 and get an all you can eat buffet plus an alcoholic drink (hair of the dog) or coffee. Have your fill of made to order omelettes, scrambled eggs and bacon, french toast, or a myriad of other offerings to suit your sleepy palate, including corned beef (YUM), beans, potatoes, salmon, muffins, and OYSTERS. Sit out in the back in the quiet and sunny cobblestone alley for as long as you want. And make sure you visit the pastry station...


vicki said...

oh Boo Dee...I loved this description...this is so not NOT what I would have ever thought to do/encounter/indulge in and, in fact, never even heard of and now, oh now...I must at some point get a group of old dames and get drunk in order to try it, not to cure a night!!!!
sounds like the stuff of a marvelous indie film...don't you think? AND WHY AM I THE ONLY VOTE????common other readers....demonstrate your presence!!!! make this blog 'sing'...

M. said...

Well, I'm biased because I was there, and because it was my splendid salad, but I second everything said here. Except for the part about the woman serving food being friendly. Perhaps it was just me and my turquoise bikini she didn't like. In summary, platza = bad idea.

fabShim said...

it wasn't scummy?? cause i'm so there. it's closer than the korean baths in flushing, and cheaper. where my ladies at?!

the Boo said...

Not scummy. I've been twice. Not fancy or gorgeous or spa-like. Def no-frills. but very fun.

erik said...

love love the russian turkish baths. make me so very happy. the best advice i got and ignored: when you look up at the lights in the sauna rooms, and there's a pretty rainbow around them...get out. stop being hot. you're gonna die. well, not die, exactly, but sit and dry-heave and breathe and be miserable until you're not anymore. after that, you still get the fabulosity, so maybe it's not all bad, really... that is all. me and my boys go at least once a month. go, russians and turks and your hot hot rooms...

Katya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katya said...

please recall name of hot russian masseur
b. i have also heard through the russian connection that Collin Ferrell loves the russian baths on 10th and bought an apartment around the corner so as to frequent them easily. another reason to hangout there and wait for hotness to appear...

The Boo said...

It wasn't him.

Sad Sack Sally said...

i always thought russian baths=underground sex ring.

thank you Mouse and Boo for revealing the error of my (unknowingly biased) ways.