Sweat Equity

There are various sounds one might hear in the Russian & Turkish Baths Health Club that may remind one of ecstasy or provide evidence of some lucky guy or gal in a state of euphoric bliss, but most of them would be hard to spell and difficult to really get right for the page. Most likely, the cause and effect at work here has something to do with that rapturous blend of hot and cold that lies at the heart of this swimmingly pleasurable experience of the old world variety. And when I say hot and cold, I’m not talking about waffles and ice cream here, people. This is the varsity version, replete with hot rock saunas and buckets of ice water for temporary relief, suffocating catch-your-breath heat and exhilaratingly orgasmic cold. And when I say old world, I’m talking about 1892 and sultans and czars and shvitz (oh my!). The Russian & Turkish Baths Health Club employs a template that has facilitated relaxation and cleansing for a long time.

Juxtaposition is key here. While it’s true that going from a hot room to splashes of frigidity does wonders for the circulation system, not to mention healthy skin and clear breathing, it’s not just the contrast of temperatures that makes this place so special. It’s the big bear from Moscow in his underwear with a towel wrapped around his head next to the cute and capricious downtown hip folk. It’s the woman in need of platza (oak leaf whipping/massage, orgasmic) after a hard week of work next to the boy who visits everyday and reads Nazim Hikmet’s poems on the sun deck. It’s the aromatherapy next to human entropy, manmade tiles next to what feels like volcanic rock. It’s having a bit of the 19th century in urbane modernity. It’s taking your clothes off and not feeling the least bit self-conscious because everybody is allowed to be free here. And who doesn’t need a place to feel free right now?

The Russian & Turkish Baths Health Club is in many ways therapy for the body and soul. When all that is heavy feels like it’s about to come crashing down on you (or already has and you’re bearing its weight), the Bath House, as its frequenters affectionately call it, is here to help. It doesn’t matter if you’re in pursuit of money or love or fame or the meaning of life—every pursuit needs a break in the form of a good sweat. Well, actually, not a good sweat…you can get one of those at some of the more fancy places in town. I’m talking about an epic sweat, one for the ages, one that ain’t pretty because true transformation and healing usually ain’t pretty. A sweat that will rock you to your core and prompt you to consider mercy as a new stratagem for life. russianandturkishbaths.com.

alan semerdjian

Alan Semerdjian is a writer, musician, English teacher, and occasional visual artist. Besides LI Pulse, his work has appeared in Newsday, Adbusters, Chain, The Lyric Review and numerous other print and online publications, anthologies, and chapbooks. His first full-length book of poetry is In the Architecture of Bone (Genpop Books 2009). You can visit him digitally at alanarts.com and find out about his music at alansemerdjian.com.