A memory popped into my head the other day. I’ve talked about it many times, but don’t know if I’ve ever fully written it out. It was a really odd day in the middle of my time in New York City. It’s a two part story that I’ll tell today and tomorrow. Hope you enjoy it.
A little over ten years ago, my friend had her 30th birthday at a place called Spa Castle. It’s a Korean Day spa way the fuck out in Queens. And by way the fuck out, I mean WAY the fuck out. You take the 7 to the bitter end, all the way to Flushing. Then you get out and walk to a parking lot. There a van picks you up and drives another who knows how long. You pass over into Connecticut and Massachusetts and then, finally, you circle back to Queens and then you’re there. It was so far out she wouldn’t have dared to suggest it if she was only turning 28 or 32. This was the kind of place that required a 0 on the end of the birthday. She knew it, and took full advantage of the situation.
Spa Castle has three different floors. The top floor is a heated outdoor pool. The heated part being crucial because her birthday is in December.
The second floor has restaurants and snack places. It looks like a food court at the mall. No one carries a wallet in the Spa Castle. Upon arrival they hand you blue shorts and a matching shirt. Then they give you a bracelet with bar code and that’s how you pay for things. Between the outfit and the bracelet it was hard to tell if I was at a spa or an insane asylum, but I think that’s part of the fun.
The second floor also has Sauna Valley.
That's right. Sauna Valley.
Sauna Valley is a valley of different types of saunas. Mistakenly for the first 30 years of my life I thought there was only one type of sauna- the one that’s part relaxation tool, part torture device. Every time I’m in a sauna I spend half the time enjoying myself, and half the time praying some sadistic asshole doesn’t come and lock me in and watch me burn to death.
Anyone else like that?
Well, turns out that wood paneled mouth of hell is not the only type of sauna, because Sauna Valley had eight of them.
There was the Gold Sauna, with plates made of real gold. There was the Soil Sauna, complete with dirt and herbs. Then there was Jade Sauna, complete with calcium and magnesium for healthy teeth and bones. Next was the Color Therapy Sauna, for those who wanted to sweat with the ambience of an 80’s movie. Next to that was the Himalayan Salt Sauna, if you wanted to feel like a piece of cured salmon. There was the Infrared Zone if skin cancer is your thing. That was followed by the Far Infrared Zone if you really want to get whacked out of your mind. And finally there was the Ice Sauna, for getting your body temperature back below 120 degrees.
Then there was the first floor. That had the entrance, the changing area, and the Baths.
What are the Baths? Well, it’s an area with steam rooms, wet saunas, and whirl pools, all for your relaxing pleasure. The only catch to the Baths, is that you have to enter them completely and totally naked.
At about 10am, after coffee and breakfast at our apartment in Brooklyn, Adam Knight and I walked to the G train and began our journey to the Spa Castle.
I don’t remember exactly when, but it was somewhere between the first and second hour on the 7 that Adam and I both decided we were not going to do the baths. By that point Adam and I had been friends for over 15 years and had never seen each other without clothes. It was a streak neither of us wanted to see end. We would enjoy the heated pool on the upper deck, we would partake in the wonders of Sauna Valley, but leave the baths to those who were freer with their bodies.
We got off the 7 train, made our way to the parking lot, and hopped on the shuttle. After what felt like an eternity, we were dropped off in front of Spa Castle.
We paid our entrance fee. They handed us our blue shirt and shorts. The next person snapped the bracelet around our wrists, then a third person gave us codes to our lockers and pointed the way to the changing room.
The changing room is connected to the Baths, and people of various levels of undress were meandering about. As we made our way to the lockers we were assigned, we were greeted, much to our surprise, by our friend’s husband. He was completely, totally, 100 percent naked.
He waved to us, and asked us about our ride out there.
"It's long," I said. "The ride, I mean. The ride is, was, very long."
"Yeah, it took us forever," he replied, apparently oblivious to the fact that his penis was hanging in the breeze. “Put your stuff away! I'll see you in there!"
"Yeah, see you in there," I said, as he turned around and walked into the Baths.
A gauntlet had been thrown. Our friend’s husband was confident enough to go into the baths, what were we going to do, say no, that’s ok, we’ll meet you in Sauna Valley? Adam and I are both self assured guys. We couldn't let him saunter around while we acted like Puritans fresh off the Mayflower.
We had no choice.
We had to go the baths.
Our lockers were right next to each other. While the streak was about to be broken, it wasn’t going to be broken standing side by side. “You go first,” I said as I headed to the rest room. After five minutes I walked out and caught the back of Adam walking into the Baths. He had crossed the threshhold.
I stood in front of my locker.
All that was left, was me.
To be continued tomorrow….
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