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Friday, July 01, 2005

Pass the Soap por favor

I'd just finished having a Peking duck crepe and some long blacks with Jenks at a miniature cafe that seats about eight people including staff. It's somewhat of a rarity that I get to hang with Jenks during the afternoon since his job has turned from a cool 'job' (where he would rock up to work three hours late, download some junk from the Internet and tell his aide-de-camp Bippin that he would leave for lunch and never return) to an actual job where he does about thirteen days straight every week. 'Where are ya heading to now champ?' he asks as we paid the bill*.
'This is going to sound a tad strange but Free Beer is shouting me to go to a Japanese Bathhouse.'

Free Beer is one of these guys who stopped ageing physically or mentally since the age of sixteen. To look at him he's this freckly guy who looks out of place in a suit like he's been forced to put on his Sunday best to attend Church and at any moment harpy-like aunties who share one eyeball will descend on him, forever tucking in his shirt and combing his hair. However he's really good at his job (whatever the hell that is- some I.T. crap) and has made his company something like a billion dollars this year already. He comes down from the Telstra office where he was working at (Grrrrrr. Telstra) which is about a tennis ball lob away from my work and says ; 'Let's bathe.'

The Japanese Bathhouse is in Collingwood near the Porsche dealership. We get off the cab and into Ofuroya (Japanese for 'Bathhouse') and being typically Japanese the moment we slide open the door (sign: Japanese Bathhouse-strictly non-sexual) we are encouraged politely, yet firmly to take our goddamn shoes off where you born in a tent?Madre mia! The bathguide Hiro then escorts Free Beer, a complete stranger and Yours Truly upstairs to explain how the whole bath thing works.

Hiro, in halting English and using a handy diagram where a cartoony Japanese girl takes a bath says 'You must...wash self all over with soap....shampoo...wash clean...then bath.' He says this about three times to make sure we get the picture but we can tell he's a bit dubious. For instance not two minutes in he comes and grabs the beer from Freebie's hand mentioning 'Not Traditional, Not Traditional!'
'Free Beer, just give him the bottle.'
'This sucks.'
'You suck.'
'No, you suck!'
....and apart from the fact that I completely made that bit up I'm pretty certain that Hiro knew all kinds of Aikido and Jujitsu to handle any situation associated with a bathhouse (dead hookers floating in the bath, fistfights maybe even some plumbing knowledge).

Inside the bath area we do the typical thing naked men do in Western culture by going into I'm-heterosexual-I-hope-you're-heterosexual-too mode of trying not to look at each others genitals and lowering your voice a coupla octaves and in baritone voice talk about football. The actual bath was frickin' awesome.

After that we don our kimono-esque garb and lounge around for a bit. Free Beer then shouts a Shiatsu massage sesh. Now, I'm not usually one for massages as I creak all over the place like a rusted up Tin Man. My friend Megs, for instance, tries to ambush massage me all the time- when we're waiting in cues, at tramstops
in my sleep. But since Free Beer wants to lash out some pesos I oblige.

Lying there, listening to ambient crashing waves music I really dug the massage which lets your mind wander for a bit before some sensation brings you back to your body. Every once in awhile these demure massage wimmin would do something wrestler-like (a bit of elbow to the groin, a light bitch-slapping, some gentle kicks to the head) but neither Free Beer nor I cried uncle despite our internal bleeding, broken ribs, etc.

Overall verdict: Super. If we didn't get drenched on the walk back to the city it would've been better but...


*I would just like to add here that I strongly resisted making a stupid Peking duck joke.


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