I was in Turkey two years ago and I really regretted not going to the famous Turkish Baths and getting washed – apparently you come out cleaner than you’ve ever been before. I finally had my opportunity in New York last week, there was a Russian and Turkish Bath House two streets down from where I was staying in the East Village, so off I went. As soon as I walked in the door I was accosted by an Uzbekistanian man who told me he’d scrub me so hard I’d be feeling it for days. I felt several emotions at once: fear, excitement, disgust, intrigue, confusion? He led me into the changing rooms and watched as I undressed, then handed me a pair of house shorts, slippers and a robe to put on.
We walked downstairs to the shower cubicles, where he pulled off my robe and pushed me into the cold water: “First, we wash.” Then, taking me by the wrist, he pulled me to a door that read Russian Steam Room – Do Not Enter Heart With Condition! I didn’t even have time to giggle at the Rusglish as the door swung open and I was struck in the face with a blast of the hottest heat I’d ever encountered. He immediately poured ice cold water over himself and me, and made me lie down on a bench near the wall. A sense of panic engulfed me – I was frightened by the temperature, but even more frightened at what would happen if I tried to run away. He began hitting me all over the torso and legs with a big stick with bushy leaves, glistening with oil that almost began to bubble as the radiating heat hit it. Every so often I’d let out an almighty scream as the temperature got too hot for me to bear and he’d pour a bucket of cold water over me. He sat on top of me and struck me over and over again, then bent my legs backwards and my back upwards with moves that would have impressed Hulk Hogan himself. Finally, it was over. He took me by the wrist and walked me outside and threw me into the cold pool. I’m sure the water steamed as my overheating body plunged in.
Thankfully all was well, and after being wrapped up as tight as a new born baby, my Uzbekistanian friend took my pulse and declared “You have good heart. Strong Heart. Like Ruski!” I asked him the temperature in the Steam Room. “EEt was hot today. 215 degrees Fahrenheit.” I checked it out, and that’s 101.6 degrees celcius. Hot enough to boil water.
Five days later, I haven’t showered yet, and I swear I’m still clean. I still wake up in a hot sweat screaming out to Boris to stop, but that’s becoming less and less regular.