May 1, 2009

When in Rome

While visiting Hot Springs, Arkansas last weekend, I bought a spa package to take advantage of the local flavor. Hot Springs is famous for its “Bathhouse Row” where gangsters and society doyennes alike “took the waters”.

The downtown area of Hot Springs is a national park. We visited the Fordyce, a restored bathhouse from an earlier era, and saw an incredible, colorful stained glass ceiling which featured mermaids and Neptune’s Daughter.

The waters of Hot Springs, for centuries, have drawn the ailing and the curious for their curative powers. I learned that, at least during the early, last century, the curative powers may have come from the prescribed 14 days of bathing. A Saturday evening bath in the family’s washtub behind the kitchen stove was the norm. Two weeks of bathing, plus the required walk up and down the Boardwalk, brought healing to many with arthritis and other pains.

Before our long drive home, I had a mineral bath, massage, and scrub at our hotel spa. A large, tiled room featured a pristine, marbled jet tub. The attendant showed me various bath oils and I chose juniper. Immediately the sparkling waters filled the tub with bubbles. Getting into this tub felt so totally decadent. The tub was surrounded with small, lighted candles, and a pseudo-Oriental, sitar, and Kenny G music set the scene.

As I sat down Buddha-like in that sizzling brew, my size caused the bubbles to rise almost over my head. An imaginary visitor could only see my disembodied head, seemingly floating in the bubbles. Ah, Calgon take me away. Next -- a massage, exfoliating scrub, and then, a shower. The water is purportedly 130 degrees and has to be cooled for showers.

Nearly 8 p.m., the attendant suggested I go back to my room in my bathrobe. “What a great idea,” I thought, “I can put my pajamas on, and just relax in the room.” I gathered my clothes in a terrycloth bag provided by the spa, and wrapped up in the spa robe, and hobbled in my spa slippers to the elevator.

The electronic doors opened and I went into the empty elevator. As the doors shut behind me, I remembered I AM STAYING AT AN EMBASSY SUITES. Ever stayed an Embassy Suites with their huge, open atrium, and glass elevators?

Had I unclenched my terrycloth bag to press the elevator’s “open” button, I am sure my too-tight robe would have flapped in the breeze. Since it was 8 p.m., most of the men attending a plumbing convention were wrapped around the piano bar in the atrium.

Beep. I backed up slowly and clutched my clothing bag against my chest to hold the robe shut, and I closed my eyes until we reached the eighth floor. Quoth the raven.