Monday, January 14, 2008

Extreme Americana--part II

So, my idea for a distinctive American tour spot was a spa -- obviously I am still suffering from Thai massage withdrawal.

Our hosts knew instantly where to send us -- a strip mall in suburban Lynnwood that is home to the Olympus Spa.

I quote from their advertising material: Where the medicinal techniques of the east meet the relaxation techniques of the west.... If you happen to live in the Seattle area you almost certainly know about the Olympus Spa the most amazing day spa that is exclusively for women. It has wonderful heat 'energy" rooms at varying temperature - Jade, Salt, Sand all have unique healing properties. A chill out room at 70 degrees for reading and hanging out - there is something for everyone. There are therapeutic whirlpool baths with hydro jets, and the signature massage (Turkish scrub style- the dead skin peels away) a Mugwort steam sauna and herbal dry sauna. The facility also has beauty treatments like manicure and pedicures and a small cozy restaurant serving healthy Asian food and even a traditional Korean Tea Ceremony.

The Olympus Spa is spectacular place for a woman to experience Exile, Express, Exercise, Explore and Exhale - it covers ALL stages of EX - so if you are feeling a little low, need energizing, relaxing, it!

The cost for an afternoon of luxury was around the same as the monthly grocery bill for a mid-sized African village. But you can't put a price tag on a new experience.

And really, what is mugwort? Something to do with Harry Potter?

In fact, the scene at the Olympus Spa was so odd I neglected to take photos. I simply was so wrapped up in it all this slipped my mind. Also I was naked.

Olympus is a women's only spa and so you quickly become accustomed to the sight of baggy, pasty women wandering about from pool to sauna to massage table. It was something like a scene from Night of the Living Dead --only in light and steam. And the tattoos! They sprung up everywhere like the Space Needle -- on hips and over breasts and in the small of many mayonnaisey backs. One woman had a tattoo in the shape of panties. I decided I definitely never will be tattooed.

So Jennifer, who stood out as the only black woman and the only thin woman, wandered from the sand room (150 degrees, floor of canvas over sand with surf sounds piped in) to the hot tub until these stocky, very bossy Korean women called out our number.

You don't have a name here only a number that corresponds to the locker where all your clothes and your camera are put away. "25 (me) and 37 (Jennifer). Did you wash your hair yet? Do it now."

We were then led naked and washed to a plastic table and told to get on it face down. I was reminded strongly of cadavers in my Ex's gross anatomy lab. Only instead of dissecting us, the stocky, bossy women pulled on handmits made of Brillo pads and began to rub off the outer layer of skin on our bodies. Occasionally they would grunt roll over, once in a while they'd pour water over our flayed carcasses to get rid of the rolls of dead skin accumulating on the table.

Then came the rejuvenation treatment. The Koreans slathered olive oil all over their cadavers, then smoothed on heated milk. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. Then, as if to complete the image that they were making a weird exotic dish to go with bok choy they smeared squashed cucumbers all over our face. This was covered with warmed towels and Grace, my dominatrix, instructed that I was to marinate for five minutes.

Oddly, this all felt great and well worth the enormous cost.

But then Grace began peeling and scrubbing off the food layer and she slapped an icy towel onto my face. I yelped. "Are you OK?" she said. "I prefer the warm towels," I said.

"Everyone gets the cold closer," she informed me and after that did not deign again to speak with her cadaver.

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