Sunday, November 05, 2006
"Face Control" in Moscow...
Some sort of doorman lingo, looking at people’s faces trying to decide whether, or not, to let them in the club...? Often seen in nightclub adverts.
The traditional Russian banya is __________ there used to be entire districts of banyas, but now few remain. A R ussian sauna, I am told, involves more ____than therapy, but than it may be therapuetic.
The banya is like many public baths, etc, around the world, men and women separate behind oppositie doors. The place is all tiles and pipes and ____________. The men are weaaring these silly looking felt hats. And can’t figure out why they have them. Some men have bows of oak or birch leaves.
Men of all ages are standing around _____when a bousterous fellow, come out from the ________ and calls out in a military-like order, “Okay! Okay! Time to go in! Let’s go! Let’s Go! Everybody in!” Or that’s what it sounds like. All of us, maybe 30 men, file into the sauna room.
Now I have been to quite a few spas and saunas, and I had some idea what to expect.
My pals Ilyad and Sergei tell me “just be quiet...”
After climbing up a stairway to a wooden slat platform, the bigmouth, opens a furnace door and throws in a ladle of water, Sssssst! The humidity and heat rise. It’s the hottest I can ever remember feeling. Hotter than the Texas sun. Hotter than the African sun.
I crouch down to try and stay in the low, cooler air, in the back by the small intake air window. Men are self-flaggelating themselves and each other with the leaf covered birch and oak branches, which have been softened somewhat by soaking in pans of water. The heat combined with the extreme humidity is barely tolerable. I have to concentrate not to panic. No one else is bursting into flames, but I feel I may at any moment.
Then the boiler master comes back to where I am, shouting all the time, slams the little window shut and begins swirling a towel over hishead. “Ooof!” some of the men say, as the hottest temperatures are forced down from the ceiling.
I’ve never been hotter in my life. I can’t take it anymore. I have to get out of here.
Don’t panic. I stand up from my crouched position, and WHAM, the blast of superheated air is upon me. Too hot! Too hot! I make my way past all the sweaty n men,
One step, then another, don’t panic. I reach the stareway, and put my hand on the railing, ow!, five steps down to the door, four, three, keep moving, two, one...
I swing open the heavy wooden door, step through and close it behind me, gasping for air. It ____
There is an elevated pool with a ladder, “the cold plunge.” I carefully climb up, over in drop into the water. It is absolutely frigid. I expect ice to form on the top. I cannot stand it for a minute and climb out
This routine continues for several hours, the cooling off/warming up periods spent hanging out with the guys eating dried fish, _______ and drinking, not water, but beer. Lotsa’ and lotsa’ beer.
On my final trip in to the sauna room, I agree to take a beaten. The guy hits me with the wet oak leaves, which stings. Surprisingly, what hurts more is when they guy fans me with the leaf bow. The increased air concentrating on a small portion of my skin is too much to bear and I yell, “hoo! shit! damn! fuck!” Okay that’s enough, the guy relents. I bail for the cold plunge.
Down by "Phone Law"
In ‘merica, there are two types of law, civil and criminal. In Russia there is a third kind: Phone Law. While not an official form of law, it nevertheless carries condsiderable weight. As I understand it, phone law occurs when a business gets the call from a mafia boss,
or enforcer, “laying down the law.” Corruption, intimidation, pay me if you want this, pay me if you don’t want this to happen...
My client says they “resist” these extorsions, that they “don’t cooperate” with the mafia, but, if they have truck, and you must have the truck, then you must pay....
Top Ten Reasons NOT To Visit Moscow
#10 To let your hair bleach out in the sunny tropic breeze,
#9 To cut back on your drinking,
#8 To drink freshly ground and brewed coffee,
#7 To tune in to the nearly one dozen cable TV channels, a couple in English,
#6 To pay $5 for a 30 milileter Coke at the Hotel Lobby Bar,
#5 To walk around bare footed,
#4 To walk around bare headed,
#3 To discuss the situation in Chechnya,
#2 To contribute to the population boom,
and the #1 Reason NOT To Visit Moscow
To listen to Russian sports fans cheer on their teams’ triumphs in Salt Lake City.