Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.


#312 In which our hero celebrates a birthday with a roomful of sweaty naked men. Part 1.

Last Saturday was my birthday. I turned 43.

There’s undoubtedly some commentary to be made on the fact that I’m probably at the halfway point of my life, and have maybe even been there for a couple years. But instead of that, I’m going to write about my weird-ass birthday celebration.

Couple of months ago, I guy I know organized a “Schvitz.” Now, if you’re not familiar with the term, you’re not alone. I had no idea what it was either. It was described to me thusly:

“The schvitz is an old-school styled steam - think something like the Rat Pack of guys in towels in a steam room. And then we’ll eat steaks.”

I was kinda “meh” on the idea. It sounded okay, I guess, but it’s not like I heard about it and was like, “OMG! I NEED to do that!” Honestly, it sounded a little weird.

But, I started to see the list of other people who had committed to coming and it started to get a lot more attractive. It was an interesting group of guys who I already knew because we shared a hobby… but I had never sat down for hours and really talked to any of them. Being that I liked and respected all of them (well, most of them) quite a bit, I started to think that it would be a great opportunity to get to know them better. And there would be steak and wine after the steam, so that couldn’t be bad.

Plus, I found out, when they agreed on a date it happened to be my birthday. Being that I didn’t have any other plans, I figured what the hell.

So I signed up and paid my money… I think it was $65. I was told what to bring--everyone was responsible for bringing either some sort of meat & cheese tray or wine. My one good friend and I discussed how we were both a little hesitant about this thing; it sounded like it would be fun, but on the other hand, it could be really awkward and uncomfortable. We both came to the conclusion that it was too weird to miss.

Then the emails started coming in.

The first went out to everyone informing us that if we wanted a massage while we were there, they were available for $60/hour. Now, my mind immediately went to the “happy ending” sort of massage, but the email explained that the masseuse was a.) a man, and b.) a professional masseuse who also worked on guys from the Cleveland Browns. Sounded cool, but I wasn’t really interested in shelling out another 60 bucks. But, the email went on to say that I could also get a “platza” for only $20. Much like the “schvitz” I had no idea what the hell a “platza” was. But it was explained as a “scrub down where they use a seaweed mop and horsehair brush with soaps that mimic the traditional oak leaves.” And the guy helpfully included this video:

Ignoring for a moment that the video appears to be shot in a CAVE, what I saw really didn’t appeal. Some brawny guy beating me with a mop for half an hour? I mean, maybe after getting all gross and sweaty a scrub down like this would feel good… maybe? More than anything, it looked like going through a car wash.

I passed on the platza.

More emails came with explanations of what you were to do when you get there. One instruction that jumped out at me was that when you first got there, you were to take “2 towels and 1 sheet.” Now, the towels, I understood… but a sheet?

It was explained to me that when it was time for dinner, you’d dry off and wrap the sheet around yourself. See, I naively thought that once the steam was done, we could get dressed again. Oh no. The idea was to remain naked for the entire experience.

Another email came with details on how to get to the place, including these directions:

“There is gonna be a sign that says "DEAD END" you ARE gonna go down that street. About 200 feet after the sign you're gonna see the gate, go past the gate and park in the back. There should be an attendant there telling you where to park ( he'll come out of his car). You can pay him now or when you come out, your choice.”

So, two days before the event we get the final email. It starts out like this:

Gents- It is time.
It is time to Relax & Sweat.
It is time to Laugh and make Friends.
It is time to Drink Beers, Wine and Vodka.
It is time to Smoke Cigars/ Pipes/ Cigarettes in an enclosed place.
It is time to Eat Steak so thick that it's cut with a bandsaw.
It is time to Dine in a sheet.
The Schvitz has been called, the Guy with the Gun is letting us in and they are expecting 43 of us on Sat Dec 10 from 5-9pm. As of this email we are not accepting anymore guys.

My first thought is that this guy is WAY too excited about this thing. My second thought is “guy with the gun”? That’s just an expression… right?

The day comes and we meet and all pile into three cars and drive over to the place.

It is in a terrible area of town. As instructed, we drove down a dead end street, turned into a gravel alley and parked behind what looked for all the world to be an abandoned building. The windows were boarded over and it was covered with dead ivy. Here’s a photo:

One of the guys in the car remarked, “Y’know, if I was being brought here by myself, I’m not sure I’d be going home.”

 We paid the guy sitting in the parking lot watching over the cars. And I found out that “the guy with the gun” wasn’t a euphemism.

We walked through the dirt parking lot and entered an unmarked door in the back.




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