Mom visited last week. Flew in on a Friday evening. Very good to see her, I’m so glad she made the trip. We did some pretty awesome things in our tours of Moscow and St. Pete; stuff I won’t soon forget. But I’m gonna write it down anyway.
I meant to last week, but I was so busy. I would have done it on the train ride to or from Pete, but the trains didn’t have WiFi and I considered that a legitimate enough excuse. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to write sometimes. I don’t hate it so much in the act, but the anticipation is killer. Recently I’ve had such trouble coming up with interesting things to discuss on the blog, too. That’s a lame excuse, though, and I know it. Whatever I write, even the most bullshit stuff, I’m going to love reflecting on in 10 years. Or 20. Or 50. (Hi 70-year-old me, hanging in there? World hasn’t ended yet?) But even still. Felt like I had nothing worthwhile to say.
That changed for sure when Mom came, though. Had some $150 caviar, danced until 2:30 at one of the hotter nightclubs in Moscow (Rolling Stone), saw a couple ballets at some magnificent theaters, toured multiple grand imperial palaces, and stayed in probably the fanciest hotel I’ll probably ever stay in (unless Mom ups the ante on one of the future family trips): the Four Seasons in St. Pete. I think it was like $370 or so a night. Not too bad for the states, but the place was downright ostentatious. Cool, though. Not exactly somewhere I’d go on my own.
Possibly the coolest thing I did, though, was take a bath. On Tuesday evening (or was it Monday…) we went to Сандуновские бани (Sanduny Baths), the oldest continually operating баня in Moscow. It opened in 1808, and I felt its history. Not just in the decor, a mix of old and new embodied by the traditional wooden tubs of water situated next to showers with modern plumbing and xeroxed, laminated sheets advertising shampoos for purchase at the front desk, but in the sense of continuity; of belonging to something deeper and aged. Timeworn masculinity. It was easier than I thought to disrobe and sit in a room with about a dozen other naked men of all ages, the temperature hovering around 200 °F. The heat hits in waves, washing over you like a dry shower. Saturated, coated, inundated in sweat, the bather sits on wooden slats sticking out from walls on a second-floor landing. Two tables lie in a central area next to the stairs for those lucky enough to get a ‘massage,’ code in Russian banyas for assault by birch branch. Everything is wood and steam, save for a massive clay furnace off in the corner into which a flushed worker on the lower level continuously shoveled coal. Occasionally, he would ascend and, with the flap of a large woolen sheet, blast the bathers with superheated air in an effort to spread it out. This was unbearable. Though there was no way to keep time in the physical and mental haze of the room, I’m sure my first time in lasted no more than five minutes. After I had cycled through the room and the freezing baths outside twice, my soon-to-be masseuse cautioned me in heavily accented English, “Not so fast. It is not healthy.” I had been pushing myself to stay in both places, extreme heat and relatively extreme cold, to the brink of my endurance.
You’ll have to wait until tomorrow for the rest of this experience, and some other adventures with Mom, until tomorrow. I promised myself I’d watch Birdman (at last!) tonight, and I don’t want to go to bed so late. I’m tired enough as it is.