I'd go to the the baths at least once a month, paying a few kopeks (i.e. ridiculously cheap) for entrance and a massage. I'd start in the Russian room where women sat taking in the heat, at least 120 degrees, then they'd douse themselves with buckets of cold water. I'd work my way steadily from steam room to hot sauna, alternating with dipping into a pool as freezing cold as the Blue Hole of New Mexico. (Although pictures are forbidden, here's one I took from under my robe this morning, avoiding any naked ladies.)
inside the bath house
After about a half hour of shvitzing, I'd have a massage with Agnus. She'd beat my body with a brush of oak leaves, called Platza, still used today. Agnus' center of gravity was located low to the ground, giving her the strength of a mud wrestler. She'd knead my sore muscles like a loaf of challah. At times I could feel her big floppy breasts bouncing up and down on my back but I thought nothing of it. Back then no one dressed for dinner, if you know what I mean. It's different now, the masseuses wear clothes and some of the patrons wear bathing suits. But for the most part everyone's still pretty relaxed. Eighties punk rockers and Agnus might be gone from the lower East Side scene but the bath house, and its loyal customers, remain.
After my soak, I walked down Tenth St. through Tompkin's Square Park, from Ave A to B. Since last here, the needles have all been swept away and the homeless uprooted. In their place, young professionals, tulips and squirrels.
East coast black squirrels are very handsome, don't you think?
I finally made it to my lunch date with Cynthia...
Cynthia at the Cafe Colonial on Houston
Cynthia is one of my oldest friends from our theatre days in New York, when she designed a gigantic lizard tail for a performance piece I did at the Theatre for the New City, which is still there! Cynthia went on to design costumes for big-time movie directors but has returned to working on a smaller scale. Maybe it's true, the more things change the more they stay the same. What does that mean exactly? One gets the feeling in New York, at least, that a fancy facade has been constructed over much of the city, obliterating wide swaths of the original blueprint, which is true, but if you look a little deeper, the authentic spirit of New York is still strong, pumping a creative force that is neither rich nor poor, old or new. Perhaps when you live here permanently, you know the truth of that more than someone like me just passing through.