Grabowski: Birthday Bath

November 16th, 2011

My birthday is Dec 21, when the average high temperature in Chicago is
below freezing.

Most years, it feels a lot colder than that.

This has caused me a lot of trouble getting friends to go out and
celebrate. Either it is too cold, too windy, too cold and windy,
snowing, sleeting, or a nasty wintry mix of all the above.

In my 20s I started a tradition of going out to a Euro bar or club
after my birthday dinner.

I usually like to go somewhere like Cafe Lura, Bim Bom, Jedynka,
Zakopane Lounge, Polish Highlanders.

You know, a place where you feel like you’re in Eastern Europe, where
everyone is speaking Polish or Romanian or Bulgarian.

And where the DJ yells something out in some Slavic language, and the
crowd, hopping around at 110 BPM, roars out in approval.

Anyways, when I turned thirty back in 2003, my birthday was on a Sunday.

I decided I would start out at the Russian Turkish Baths on Division Street.

Get a little steam and heat on a cold day.

I invited a couple buddies, and we made plans to meet there in the
early afternoon.
You never know who’ll you’ll meet at the baths — like Rev. Jackson!


In case you have never been to this particular bath house, when you
check in at the front desk, they give you a torn bed sheet about the
size of a pillow case. You can tell it used to be white, but now it is yellow and has stains.

It’s barely enough to wrap around your waist, but that is what you use it for.

It is an old-world bath house that’s been around for over a hundred years.

A place where a man can just be a man, get away from his woman for a
little while, and not worry about how he looks, nor be self-conscious
of his huge pot belly, excessive body hair, small pecker, or anything
like that.

I was relaxing in the heated jet pool when my buddies showed up and hopped in.

I would be lying if I could say I recall exactly what we talked about
in that pool.

But more than likely we recapped the night before, and how hard we had
partied at Rainbo until it closed at 3:00 AM.
Me `n the fellers after a night on the town….


After a few minutes we stepped in to the sauna. The nucleus of any
visit to the bath house.

Before long, we were sweating our asses off.

This heat was feeling good!

Maybe five or seven other guys were in there as well: a couple of
fifty-something Russians with their teenage sons, some tattoo-covered
Puerto Ricans.

Then the glass door opened and who walked in, none other than the
Reverend Jesse Jackson.

Torso wrapped in a ripped, stained, used-to-be-white-but-now-yellow bed sheet.

He made the rounds, greeting each fellow bather with a smile and a hand shake.

Making some funny comments, talking about how nice and hot the room was.

One of the Boricuas greeted him by saying “Yessie…..Yessie Yackson”
as they shook hands.

Jesse quickly got down to the serious business with an oak leaf broom
massage, laying out on his back fully naked, getting his rub down.

Just as Jesse was finishing his massage, my friend Mike, who sadly has
since passed away, apparently was feeling a little overheated.

He filled a gallon-sized bucket with ice cold water from the tap,
lifted it above his head and dumped it on himself.

Then in one smooth and continuous move, The Reverend leaned over to
Mike for a fist bump, giving him a glance of acceptance and coolly
saying “Ma-cho.”

The smoothness of their exchange was fun to watch.

Though saying macho during a fist bump doesn’t fit in most cases, in
this moment it was perfect.

Jesse, I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going resurrect your smooth move
and start using it. But only when appropriate.

Everyone else, if you ever witness this done, you’ll know where it came from.

Editor’s Note: Grabowski‘s last post for The Third City was Budapest Baby — What Happens Next….

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