Dec 5, 2014

A $20 Thai Massage

A few weeks ago I was having a full on "YOLO" moment - not in an ironic way either. Truthfully, I have a lot of those moments because, though the saying is stupidly overused by people trying to get wasted on a Wednesday at 3:45, the sentiment is completely accurate.

YOLOing as follows: I met a new friend in Culver City for coffee at the deliciously pretentious Bar Nine cafe (feels like you're in Brooklyn with its lack of seating and cement on every surface). Afterwords, I remembered a friend of a friend had posted a photo of a Thai massage parlor in the area on Instagram (I understand how 'millennial-y' this is) boasting good reviews and $20 full body massages. Yelp had decent reviews for the place and it wasn't far.

Upon arriving, I was greeted by a lonely desk and curtain marking a waiting area filled to the brim with three chairs in the area the size of my bathroom. A hand appeared from behind the curtain and motioned me inside without saying a word. The Thai man who owned the hand, who was using his other hand to massage someone, pointed silently for me to go sit in a chair a few yards away.

I'm sitting in a room devoid of walls and filled with about 20 fully-reclined La-Z-Boy type chairs, each one covered in a large white towel and a small stool on each end. The lights are very dim and it sounds like there might be a hidden decorative water fountain somewhere making relaxing trickling noises. Nobody speaks. Nobody speaks English. Where's the bathroom? Where do I put my coat and purse? All of the masseurs are Thai men who appear to be 30-40 years old. There are both men and women, mostly middle aged Asian women, getting massaged in these giant chair-beds around me.

One of the masseurs comes over to me and 'gently' throws my shoulders down onto the bed, rolls up my skinny jeans as far as they will go (not far) and places my feet in a bucket of warm water. Then everything goes dark as he abruptly places a towel over my eyes. The angry slapping, grabbing, moving of skin and sometimes tickling that amounts to this massage begins. Some of the 'moving of skin' I find mildly pleasurable but it's very rough and I'm afraid to tell him to go at it more gently. The slapping catches me off guard. I first hear it being performed on the lady next to me. I raise my towel-mask to see what's happening and find her comfortably accepting loud slaps on her arm. Is she smiling? I cover my eyes again. Eventually I hear everybody at one point or another, including myself, getting rhythmically slapped all over. It sounds like a man angrily masturbating. Slightly disturbing but I can't stop now. I'm determined to get my full $20 worth.

The man massages me for a full 60 minutes. I'm impressed with his commitment to the advertised time. I'm a bit sore when I stand up and I'm covered in a strange oily moisture but my muscles do feel slightly looser. I wasn't sure how the payment and tip process worked. I thought it would be okay to tip $3 for a massage that I was probably going to need another massage to fix. Apparently, that's not okay. I gave him the demanded $5 tip - fair enough - and left. Though I'll never return to that parlor, I can't help but wonder if some of the other storefronts would provide a more satisfying $20 massage.

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