Monday, May 12th, 2008...2:12 am
It’s Time For A Shvitz
My friend Kras hit me up this past Saturday morning to hang out. Until then, my plan was to stay in bed as long as possible to try and sleep off a great night of celebrating the Weilgus engagement that somehow ended with a little too much late night Pop Burger. Kras first proposed golf or the gym but I quickly negged anything that would exert physical activity. So when he proposed we go to “Shvitz” I was intrigued. Kras has been hyping up this Russian & Turkish Baths for a few years and it sounded just weird enough that it was worth trying out. We called Da Bwetty to join us and were on our way.
I’m not sure if the place is called Shvitz, nicknamed Shvitz, or you just go there to have a Shvitz. The building looks modern from the outside (thanks to a recent remodeling) but once you get inside you’re back in the first half of the 20th century. It actually opened in 1892. Since it is co-ed you can wear their standard issue complimentary shorts and robe or rock your own swim wear. Softly, we all chose to wear our own bottoms.
In the locker room we ran into our friend Frumpkin’s dad who Kras knew. At first I thought this was a coincidence, but I quickly learned that the elder Frumpkin is a regular schvitzer. When Kras mentioned it was our first visit, Mr. Frumpkin generously insisted that we get the “Platza” on his tab. He told Mashaf, the Platza guru, to make it extra hot and hit us extra hard and that he’ll get a bigger tip if we pass out. At this point I had no clue what to expect.
The facility included a Redwood Sauna, a Turkish Sauna room with radiated heat, a steam room, the Russian Room, an ice cold pool, and a Swedish Shower (the human power washer!). After warming up in the saunas we headed to the Russian Room. In this room the oven is filled with 20,000 lbs. of rock which are cooked overnight. During the day, these rocks give off an intense heat. Therefore the room is immersed in a hot, very steamy, stone furnaced “radiant heat”. When the heat starts to get unbearable, you can take one of the dozens of buckets around the room, fill it with ice cold water, and like the Russians hundreds of years before you, dump it over your head.
This in itself would have probably been a satisfying experience but we soon experienced the added intensity of the Platza. Brett went first. He lied down on his belly and proceeded to get vigorously beat with a broom made of fresh oak leaves. The oak leaves supposedly contain a natural astringent, which will open your pours, remove toxins, and actually take off layers of dead skin. Mashaf also covered Brett with olive oil soaps and then drenched him in buckets of hot and cold water. He would lift Brett’s legs and karate chop his back. I had to stop watching. I went upstairs to get a bottle of water and try and prepare myself for what seemed to be similar to water boarding torture. Finally, Brett whisked out of Swedish shower where he was power washed. He then jumped into the ice cold pool and dried down. As I was about to enter the Russian room Brett turns to me and warned “don’t touch the wall…it will burn you”.
My only plan was to survive this torture…and not touch the wall. At times I thought I was going to pass out and at times I wondered why this guy was beating me so damn hard. I had to stop at one point to drink some water and was thinking about cutting it short but knew I could never live with myself or face Mr. Frumpkin if I did that. I made it through, got the power wash, jumped in the ice pool and dried down. After a few minutes I had my bearings and was sitting next to Brett on a bench
All of a sudden, I realized that I’ve never felt better or more relaxed in my life. I’m not sure if the euphoria was because I was no longer being beaten or if Platza is really “Jewish Accupuncture”. It was like I was on 10 vicodin! Brett and I just sat there for a good 15 minutes with grins on our faces. Afterwards we headed up to the roof deck and chilled out for another half hour or so. We ended our afternoon experience with a snack from Anna’s Kitchen. Kras and Brett ordered the Chicken Soup while I munched on potato blini.
I left a true believer. We met one guy the sauna who told us he’s gone there every single day for the last 20 years of his life. I’m not sure that will ever be me but I can definitely hit this place up once a month. P-Diddy, Russell Simmons and Colin Farrell are regulars and perhaps soon da Bwetty and Lhoops will be too!
Also, check out Shvitz on Myspace.