May 2004 (v6 i6)
Going down in elevators since 1997
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The true chronicles of Todd
My visit to a Hot Springs, Arkansas bath house
by Todd Nienkerk, Editor-in-Chief

The summer after my freshman year, I took a month-long road trip with a couple of friends. Alan, Greg, and I left in early July and drove up to Chicago, cut across to Boston, and headed south through New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. For three recovering suburbanites, it was the most exciting thing we’d ever done. And then we arrived in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Why Hot Springs? Why Arkansas at all, for that matter? After the excitement of the Big Apple and the rich history of our nation’s capital, why waste time in The Worst City in the World? Simple: the bath houses. We wanted to see a bath house, go into a bath house, and do bath house things. We wanted to give a bath house money! And we did.

We were already waiting outside when the bath house opened at 6 a.m. sharp. We paid $15 for some kind of package deal that included a bunch of other crap and a massage — we only cared about the massage. Led into a locker room with privacy curtains by a giant bald man with a tear tattoo near his left eye, we were told to undress. Mr. Tear Tattoo handed me a giant white towel, and I flashed him my best please-don’t-murder-me-in-prison smile. Hiding my money in my shoe, I checked the cabinet’s lock twice before entering the main room.

Imagine a giant bathroom lined with white tiles from floor to ceiling. Now imagine that it’s about a hundred years old. Now imagine a very old black man named George. That’s basically what the place looked like.

George greeted us by saying he’d worked there for over 30 years. Being 19 at the time (and only 21 now), I couldn’t comprehend 30 years, so I said, “Wow.” George then led us to our first bath house experience: the hot tub.

George started to run the water, and he told us about the history of the place. The three of us stood around awkwardly wrapped like toddlers at a swimming pool in our oversized towels.

“That’s real spring water, straight from the spring. It comes out hot,” George explained. We nodded.

George pointed at Greg: “Okay, you. Let’s get in the tub.” Greg looked at me, then Alan. We looked at Greg and shrugged. Greg stepped into the stall.

The tub was huge — about three feet tall. Getting into the hot, slippery tub would require intense concentration and deliberate movement. Naked movement, of course, and that’s exactly what happened. Before Alan and I could react, George had pulled off Greg’s towel, and his ass was exposed to the world. Like deer frozen in a pair of headlights, Alan and I stared at it, agape. And as Greg stepped gingerly into the tub, lifting each leg high into the air to clear its massive sides, we saw his balls. When Greg slid into the tub, he turned completely around and shot us the “Holy shit! What the fuck?” glance. We looked at Greg and shrugged.

George leaned halfway into the tub to test the water. “Mmm, yeah, that’s nice and hot,” he said.

Then it was my turn. George drew some water, took off my towel, and I bashfully draped myself into the massive porcelain beast. I leaned back into the tub and George fiddled with the faucets. He eventually left to tend to Alan, and I was beginning to relax — the memory of Greg’s dangling sack began to melt in the almost-scalding water.

Time passed, and the heat of the water made me delirious. My vision was blurring, and I felt dizzy. I started hearing things: a yelp, a splash, and George’s deep voice. Suddenly, George was back. He had a bottle in one hand and a sponge in the other. I hadn’t been hearing things: George was bathing us.

I hadn’t been bathed since I was three. I was very proud of that fact, but that pride was robbed from me the day George from Hot Springs, Arkansas lathered me up with soapy coconut oil. “That feel good, muh friend?” he asked. It was an honest question — he wasn’t trying to be creepy. “That feel good?”

“Uh, sure,” I said, wanting to grab the sponge and finish the job before I lost all of my dignity. But the heat delirium made me weak, so I let him finish.

The morning progressed like a lucid dream. Memories pop up in pieces: a contraption that resembled a full-length urinal with a lever that, when turned, rammed a cold, steel plunger into my groin; a “needle shower” that shot tiny streams of scalding, high-pressure water from every conceivable angle; a massage that was completely ruined when George discussed his diarrhea. It was more like an S&M club than a relaxing retreat. We returned to the dilapidated motel around 9 a.m. and slept until the afternoon. We made the decision that evening to drive back to Dallas the next day, ending our epic road trip a few days earlier than we’d planned.

A week later, I developed a raging case of jock itch. I don’t think George ever washed that sponge.
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