Thursday, October 21, 2004

Evening in the Sauna

On the way to the sauna in Haarlem last night, F said, "I told the manager of the outlet that we were going to the sauna tonight and she said, 'There's a gay sauna near here.' And I said, 'It's not a gay sauna.'"

I said, "I know. I always mention that we're going with your brother and brother-in-law so people don't think we're going to some orgy." Sort of like I'm doing here.

This whole sauna thing is very European. Tom and I went to one in NYC years ago - The Turkish Baths on East 10th, I think - that was filled with old Jewish men. There was a big sign that said, "This is not a gay bath." We had to be very cool. I heard it eventually got to be very cruisy, which is a pity.

F has been going to the sauna with his brother, M, and his brother-in-law, T, for years. I've been three times now. F will only go when the weather is cool and crisp. The first time we went, I thought I would die. It was miserably hot. They're all used to it. They love to get as hot as possible (in the sauna, hot tub or the Turkish baths) and then get cold quickly (in the cold water bath, with buckets of ice water or on the roof deck). We do a round of hot, cold, hot, cold and then we have a coffee or water and then we do another round of the same and then have a juice and then a beer.

It's a very sweet bonding thing, and I feel very lucky to be included in. They speak very quickly in Dutch and I read articles in Dutch magazines very slowly. Hanging out naked with my brother is something I have never done, and will never do. Years ago he offered to take me with him to Hippy Hollow outside Ausitn, but I am so uncomfortable around him that I think being naked would only compound the problem.

At the end, the only problem is that we have to get on the train back to Amsterdam and then take a tram from Centraal Station. It was relatively painless last night. I can't wait until I can understand F's family. They all speak like they've got cotton in their mouths. I have my final exam tonight for Intermediate Dutch. I'm sure they think it's ridiculous that I'm this far along when I can hardly understand anything they say - Oh Well.

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