Saturday, November 29, 2008

In which I leave my dignity and a bunch of dead skin somewhere in Koreatown

A lot happened today. Eric, Michael and I had brunch at Jackson Hole, a great breakfast place. Then we headed to Union Square to walk through an open air holiday market. Michael left for work, so Eric and I did some shopping on Lower 5th. And we eventually had dinner at Nonna's, which featured an amazing Caesar salad with "croutons" made out of semi-molten cheese.

But, really, all that wonderful, fun stuff paled in comparison to the night Eric and I had in Koreatown.

To preface, I bought a couple of tour books before this trip which have led us on quite the series of misadventures. This is how we learned of the dark spot on the ceiling in Grand Central, the Campbell Apartment, the shops we visited in SoHo and the Chinese restaurant where we ate last night. In reading through and deciding what I wanted to do this trip, I became fascinated by the idea of visiting one of the spas the book discussed. There was a whole list, but one was open 24 hours a day. How perfect, I thought, for the city that never sleeps.

Eric, however, was much more sanguine. He reminded me of the deviants that would likely frequent such an establishment, wondered how clean and/or disease free it might be, and generally (rightly) thought a non-24-hour place was probably the better way to go.

We were both a little leery by the time we got over there. We'd decided to try a classic Korean spa treatment -- a vigorous body scrub followed by a massage. Neither of us had ever been to a Korean spa, though, and what we'd heard of it basically made it out to be something straight out of Silkwood, as Eric said: vigorous whole-body scrubbing that threatened our virtues.

I don't know that I have adequate words to describe this experience. You lie on a table and are approached by an all-business Korean lady wearing a swimsuit (the reason why becomes apparent later). She begins to rub your body very vigorously with these two exfoliating mitts. This was not entirely pleasant, especially at first, but oddly satisfying. The Korean ladies worked us over, methodically scrubbing away at every part of our bodies, stopping only long enough to toss buckets (literally) of really warm water onto us as a rinse. This cycle repeated itself until our fronts, backs and sides were completely rubbed pink. At one point in the process, I looked over and there was a six-inch-long gray ribbon of dead skin that the woman had scrubbed off my arm. It was repulsive to see -- but satisfying, too. I can only imagine what all come off the rest of me.

And while we're talking about the rest of me -- yikes. That disposable bathing suit? No match for these ladies. My, um, virtue was fully on display as she lifted the top of the bathing suit and rearranged the bottom to gain access to whatever she felt like. Let's just say there's no dead skin anywhere on my body. Anywhere. None. Thinking of places dead skin could be? I don't have any there.

More than two hours after we arrived, Eric and I stumbled out onto 32nd Street and hailed a cab for home. We were both gobsmacked by the experience, which was overstimulating to say the least, and left with skin softer than babies'. In many ways, cleaner that we've ever felt -- and yet dirtier, somehow. I fully recommend the Korean spa experience to anyone prepared to let their dignity take a break for a few hours, but it's not for the faint of heart or those attached to their boundaries.

1 comment:

Stacy said...

I have read about Korean spas before...they are certainly not for the weak. (good call on avoiding the 24-hour one, though. you have a good friend in Eric to warn you...)