Monday, August 09, 2010

Mini Mountains, Strip Karaoke, and Serge the Bathing Attendant

We started off our morning with a short drive to the Hot Springs Mountain in the Hot Springs National Park to go to the top of the Hot Springs Mountain Tower where we can see 140 miles worth of Hot Springs. It wasn't quite like the Victoria Peak Tower but it was nice.

The Ozarks are very pretty with lots of trees but for some reason I expected them to be bigger. I haven't seen a lot of mountains in my lifetime but the ones I have seen are...well...mountains. I've seen the Canadian Rockies and the Swiss Alps and I guess I just assumed that all mountains looked like those. Yeah, not so much. The Ozarks are the Mini Me of the mountain kingdom.

During our drive up  Central Avenue Jayson, Taylor and myself each chose the roach motel we would stay in on our next trip and we each picked out own personal tattoo parlor.  We're not in a bad area of town or anything, but there is a colorful mix of businesses in the area. We were sad that we wouldn't be able to visit one "gentleman's club" that advertised strip karaoke.

After admiring the view from the tower, we drove up the street to the Gangster Museum.  Just the name of it screams cheesy fun.  It delivered about what we expected which wasn't a whole lot.  We did learn a lot of fun facts about some well known gangsters, one being how a lot of them came to Hot Springs to have their syphilis treated in the thermal waters. My life has been enriched by that little factoid.

Taylor wasn't very impressed with the Gangster Museum because she thought we said "gangsta" so she was expecting this whole hip hop experience which she did not get.  But at the end we got to take some pictures with a big plaster Al Capone which made the whole trip to Hot Springs worth it.  We could have spent all day snapping goofy poses with Al.

After the Gangster Museum we decided to grab some lunch so we headed over to Bill Clinton's favorite barbecue place, McClard's Bar-B-Q.  Evidently the McClard family is on vacation so they've locked up the shop for a week.  Plan B was Stubby's Barbecue, a place we spotted on our way into town.  It was pricey but we have enough leftovers for at least another meal, maybe 2.  The meat was excellent, the beans were baked instead of pintos so that's a strike against them and the potato salad was just so-so.  They have this thing called the pot-o-beans which is their baked beans, sauce and ham that's all baked up in this little crockery bowl.  It was pretty darn tasty.

After lunch, it was time for a bath.  We chose the Buckstaff Bathhouse because it is the only one on Bathhouse Row that is still operational.  Recently the Quapaw Bathhouse has opened up but it has been refurbished to be a modern spa.  You can't spit in Hot Springs without hitting some kind of spa that uses the thermal waters, but we really wanted the traditional bathhouse experience.  Okay, so "I" really wanted it and I planned the trip so we went to the Buckstaff.

Before we went, I explained to Taylor that the bathhouses are swimsuit optional and no, this is not inappropriate it's just the way it is. She asked if Jayson and I were taking our swimsuits and we both said no, we're old, we've both had massages and stuff before so we're good.  Or so we thought.  Taylor was completely mortified at the thought of her parents being nude at the bathhouse but we both just rolled our eyes at her and told her to get over it.

We each signed up for the traditional bathing package which includes the whirlpool bath, a hot towel treatment, a sitz bath, the vapor cabinet, a shower and a Swedish massage.  Oh, and your own personal loofah mitt.  We were there for 2 hours and got all that stuff for $55 each.  You don't get the opulence of a fancy day spa but you get the same services at a heck of a price!

Jayson went to the men's area on the first floor while Taylor and I took the old elevator to the women's section on the second floor.  I loved the architecture and decor of the bathhouse which looked to be mostly original. There were some modern fixtures here and there but the bathing area still had what looked like original pipes, tubs and solid marble enclosures around the tubs.  I snapped a quick picture of the dressing room but they don't allow cameras or cell phones in the bathing area.

After we disrobed, we were wrapped in a big sheet toga style and waited for our bathing attendants to come get us.  Mine was Latoya, who has been an attendant at Buckstaff for 6 years and loves her job.  Latoya removed my sheet, helped me into the tub, asked if the water temperature was okay and pointed out the cold mineral water waiting for me on the ledge of the tub.  I am amazed that I can remember any of that since the only thing going through my mind was OMIGOD I'M NAKED I'M NAKED I'M NAKED I'M NAKED OMIGOD OMIGOD!!!

I knew we would be discreetly wrapped as we walked from section to section in the bathing area, but I hadn't given a moment's thought as to how that wrapping would have to be removed as we got in and out of tubs and steam cabinets and sitz baths, etc.  There I was, lying in the crystal clear (and very warm) water listening to Latoya and trying to act like I was naked in front of people all the time.  I was SO glad Taylor wore her swimsuit and I would have given anything for one at that point.

Latoya asked if I was ready for her to start the whirlpool and my heart skipped a beat. Dear God, YES, please give me some bubbles to hide behind!  Oh how I wish I had a picture of the whirlpool device that was hooked up to my tub.  These were old claw footed cast iron tubs that didn't have any kind of fixtures attached to them.  The whirlpool device was a separate unit mounted to the wall and inserted into one end of the tub.  It resembled one of those stick blenders that the chefs on TV use, only a lot bigger.  The top part of it was red and looked just like an old gas can.  I half expected Latoya to pull a string and start that sucker like an outboard motor.

Once I got over the initial trauma of being naked in front of my bathing attendant and worrying about one of my feet getting too close to the whirlpool blender causing me to be instantly pureed, I really enjoyed my 20 minute bath.  Latoya came back in and loofahed my arms, legs and back then wrapped me in screaming hot towels for 10 minutes.  There was an icy cold one over my head so it wasn't unpleasant at all.

Then she walked me over to one of those metal steam cabinets like you see in the movies where just your head sticks out.  I baked in there for about 10 minutes then went to the sitz bath for another 10 minutes.  After that was a cool shower then about a 20 minute massage.  Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Jayson's bathhouse experience was similar to mine and Taylor's yet oh so different.  He got exactly the same services we got but apparently some of that comes with an ick factor if you're a man.  Jayson called his bathing attendant Serge (a la Beverly Hills Cop) which I am sure is not his real name but it got his point across.  After disrobing, Jayson was handed a sheet to cover up with but when he got to his bath tub, the sheet disappeared and he didn't see it again until he went for his massage.  When he stepped out of the bath tub, Jayson was handed a towel that he wrapped around his waist but the ends didn't quite meet in the front.

Jayson said all the guys were walking around buck naked and there were no privacy curtains.  He didn't even get the little lap towel thing during his sitz bath! He was quite traumatized by all the swinging junk he saw but nothing could come close to the creepiness of being loofahed by another man.  His voice actually broke when he told me that.  Poor baby.  Despite the trauma, he did enjoy the experience and was glad we did it.

Jayson & Taylor finished up a few minutes before I did and when I met them in the lobby they were chatting with Tim and Trish Osborne.  That was just weird.  A person normally doesn't expect to run into their Mission Pastor and his wife at a bathhouse in Arkansas.  I seem to remember hearing someone say something about the Osbornes going to Arkansas but I didn't know exactly where or when since keeping up with Osbornes' travel schedule could be a full time job for someone.  We had a nice chat and discovered that we'll be following the same path to northern Arkansas so we may run into each other again.

I didn't get really creeped out until we got in the car and Jayson started telling me and Taylor about his bathhouse nightmare and I didn't want to ask but I couldn't help but ask if he saw Tim in the tub room.  Fortunately he said no, he never saw Tim in there and I just knew that the hand of God himself had blinded both men so that later they wouldn't have to deal with any kind of naked fallout.

Poor choice of words.


Anonymous said...

First of all Shannon you were not in the Oarks, but the Ouachita (pronounced Washita) Mountains. Secondly we like our little city and believe a lot of other people do also. Thanks for visiting

Anonymous said...

The Ouachita "mountains" are really part of a huge series of canyons. (the horizon is usually flat, unless you are at the bottom of a "mountain" in one of the canyons.)
When you get near Springfield, MO, you come out of the Ouachita and Boston and Ozark ranges and level off. These mountains are great because you can look off in the distance and see ups and downs and a series of hills and valleys; whey you are out west and facing the "mountains" you most likely see ONE HUGE mountain. LOL