A day at a Turkish bath house

I’d been in Istanbul for a week when I figured it was time to book myself in for a session at a Turkish Bath House. I knew little about them; just that somebody gives you a semi-violent scrub down.

Finding one proved to be easy enough, though as I walked through the door I filled with an instinctual unease that I’d just entered a men’s only swingers club.

I was first lead to the counter, where a moustache-with-a-bloke-behind-it asked me to pay up front. He was enormous, and I was somewhat confused by the request of scrub and massage prepayment. Next I was given a robe, a pair of sandals, and a towel about the size of a banana peel.

‘Why?’ I asked

‘It’s your costume.’

‘I see.’

He then gave me a key and led me upstairs to a private room to lock away my clothes, and naked, but for my banana peel, I was next led downstairs to the main bathroom – The Lair of Cleanliness.

I had no prior visual of what to expect, but as he pushed open the heavy marble doors the main room opened out to a vast size – with rows of giant pillars stretching into the distance, and all reaching to the ceiling above.

Off the main room were other smaller rooms, and all surfaces; be it walls, floors, or ceiling, were made of a purple-coloured marble.

The entire place was steamed as though someone had left the chips on, and through the thick fog could be seen countless old blokes, all strutting around nude, but for their banana costumes. There were men sitting on marble chairs, others strewn across marble beds, some talking and laughing, and others splashing themselves in steamy marble sinks. It was as though I’d stepped back in time, like I was in some ancient world that existed in fables long expired.

The first stage of the process was to bake yourself in the sauna rooms, and my general feeling being they’re like a prison cell with the option of suffocation, I managed to convince myself throughout that breathing was best considered secondary.

After some time I came back out into the steamy lair, and was now starting to find the experience of hanging nude with the old fellas quite liberating. The situation certainly forced me to lose any self-consciousness regarding my physique, whereupon thoughts of ‘I’m too this’ or ‘too that’ were dying like the impurities in my skin.

I walked slowly through the steam, but it was then, that as if from out of a dream, the silhouette of a man appeared in front of me.

Be it nearly infeasible, he was even bigger than the Moustache-with-a-bloke-behind-it at reception, and as he drew nearer I could see he harboured an even beastlier moustache. He too was nude, but for his banana clothes, but was hairy enough, nonetheless, to be considered legally clothed.

‘Come with me,’ he ordered in a tone derisive enough to make me nervous, and thus he was – The Cleaner.

He led me into a private cubicle, about the size of a toilet cell, and as I stood there in the steam, he, without warning, put his hand on my shoulder and pushed me to my knees. I looked up at him with vulnerable eyes, and just to be precautious, locked my lips and threw away the key.

He frowned down at me, mean and contemptuous, with eyes twisted and haggard, like a scorn soul marinated in long years of revenge, and where I would have been happy if he were armed with a baton and bayonet, he was armed with a weapon that could strike fear into the heart of Tarzan himself – a bar of soap. But this was no ordinary bar, but fully equipped with built in razor blades, and a chewy centre made out of nitrogen and Tabasco sauce, was an ultra bar.

As though psyching himself for battle, he began breathing heavily, and although I knew not of the details to come, I was frightened, oh so frightened.

He doused me with searing hot water, of a temperature comparable to that Dad used when occasionally having the job of running a bath for me as a kid. My skin turned pink, only before it next turned red.

He then grabbed me by the hair and raised me to my feet, and with not a whisper of romance, grabbed my banana skin towel and ripped it off me, leaving me standing there like a cheese stick without its wrapper.

He then spun the towel into a thick twined rope, much like an older brother does with a tea towel before flicking his little brother, and then pulled me in close like a girl on the dance floor.

Half wondering if we were about to tango, we stood there naked, until in a second’s blur he wrapped the towel back around my lower half, leaving me looking like a Sumo Wrestler in a championship nappy.

He pushed me back into oral kneeling position, and with his breathing getting even heavier; it was then that he put on some gloves. ‘What’s he doing with them?’ I fretted, sighting that these gloves, not dissimilar to the mittens Mum used when taking a hot tray out of the oven, looked as though they were made of a cruel low-grade cloth coarse enough to fashion a tree into a toothpick.

He glared down and spat to the side, and thus the hands on battle begun.

It was an onslaught, a systematic invasion of my person and more, where I could scarcely decipher the tearing of my skin from the slaps across my face. The bloke’s hands were a blur as he attacked – with hot water being thrown about and soap being rammed especially into my eyes, I felt like I was in a crocodile roll of death but with the added disorientation of suds. This was not a war of pride or land; but a war of exfoliation.

I was down there, with my head at his crutch height, and while scrubbing me with every inch of his beastly valour, he for some reason seemed to be paying particular attention to my left arm, as he kept raising it up into a horizontal position, and holding my hand firm against his body. I was blinded by the suds, so could see naught a thing, and any time I let my hand drop to the floor he’d lift it back up and rest it firm against his person.

Time grew blurry, and as I sat there with my face at his waist height, and hand against his body, it occurred to me that something from his own body was resting in the palm of my hand. This something felt like a body part I’d never touched on another person. This something felt as though it were in two halves, or made of two neighbouring components. And it was then that my mind provided a visual of exactly what this something was – Aaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The world had changed for the worse, and violated and beyond I pulled my hand back in horror. I wished to stand up, slap him with my handbag and storm out, but whether by the slap of suds or testicle-induced shock, I grew weak and shriveled.

Weariness took me, and somewhere between wakefulness and sleep, I could hear a certain song rise into my head. I failed to recognise it at first, until with the assistance of humming I realised it was Roxette’s ‘It must have been love’.

This was without question the tenderest moment I’d ever shared with a man, and figuring I was already on my knees I braced to propose, but it was then that the soapy barrage stopped.

He glared down and again spat to the side, and as though in ceremonious conclusion of the kill, slapped his hands together before walking away. ‘And to think that I never knew his name…’

The chips must have still been burning, as the room continued to fill with steam, and as I slowly managed to rise to my feet, the silhouette of yet another man, bigger and more naked, came forward through the fog.

I frowned in awe, for surely – like an ancient god of half man, half strauss, and the other half retired racehorse – he was only just human.

It was like being faced with Conan the Barbarian, and I was convinced that he, The Cleaner, and the Moustache-with-a-bloke-behind-it at reception, were in fact a set of Babushka dolls in which he held top spot.

‘Come with me,’ he ordered in a gargantuan tone, and I figured he’d lead me back to reception where I’d be free to go, but he instead led me to yet another marble den with a sign above the door that read – The Massage Room.

‘Surely not? Surely the massage component was amid The Cleaner’s battering earlier?’

‘Lie down,’ he grumbled, thus becoming The Massager, and through fear of being eaten whole, I laid facedown on the searing marble bench. He peered down at me, and like a pizza chef before wadding the dough, he slapped his hands firm together. ‘Be gentle, this is my first time.’

But gentle he was anything but, as he dug into me with as much ambition as an archaeologist tipped to find the skeletal remains of two Stegosauruses in the 69 position. I was facedown, so couldn’t see his methods, but judging by the pain was convinced he was using an ice cream scoop to get out those unwanted knots. ‘Acceptance of suffering eliminates it… acceptance of suffering eliminates it…’ I recited the old Buddhist mantra, yet any time I made a noise, objecting to the re-alphabetisation of my flesh, he would grunt and spit to the side. It was like surgery without the anaesthetic, until, signalling the end; he slapped his hands together, and walked back into the fog from whence he came.

So if I were to summarise the experience – you walk in, strip off, walk around wearing an Adam and Eve tea cozy, are doused with lava, scrubbed, slapped, punched in the face, massaged and pushed out the door. Never again did I wonder of the inspiration behind the drive thru car wash, and feeling, at the end, as disorientated as I did, the requirement of prepayment therein made sense.

All in all it was brilliant, and I came out of Turkish Bath House softer than butter, and pinker than a slapped ham. But being this clean had its shortcomings, as the outside world next played host to an ensemble of threats – puddles, car fumes, chewy, and more. ‘Perhaps, like when ET wasn’t looking too well, they should have topped it with a bubble boy service door-to-door?’ I thought as I tippy-toed back to the hostel.

By David Kerrigan.

 

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Dog-Day Afternoon

I’ve always been sensitive to the breeds of dogs people acquire, wondering often if the paw fits the shoe.

Just last week this subject was awoken when the guy next door, someone who I’ve recently become friends with, yelled out over our back fence. ‘Hey man! Come check out my new dog!’ I stuck my head over; to be faced with the closest thing to a werewolf I’d seen this side of a Michael Jackson film clip.

‘We’ve named her Moon!’ he said.

The dog was a fully-grown German Shepherd Husky cross, was all white, and with one eye brown and the other icy blue, I felt the name Bowie would be a much better fit.

As someone with a fairly natural touch with dogs, I clicked and whistled as I stood gripped to the fence, but with her tail responding as enthusiastically as a pendulum clock without batteries, and her icy cold eyes looking at me as though she was willing a laser beam to fire out of them, I figured I’d not made her Christmas card list in any great hurry.

‘Ah man! I love this dog!’ he said.

‘Yeah,’ I returned.

‘Hey man, we’ve got a bike riding event all day tomorrow, any chance you could come around, say mid afternoon, and let her into the yard for a potty break?’

‘Sure, ’ I said, very concerned by the prospect.

The next day came, to which early morning my wife planted it on me that, in my new car, we were taking our dogs Maggie and Newman to the Elgin Hogeye Festival.

‘In my car?’ I asked, the tension flooding in me.

‘Yes.’

‘As in my new car with new leather seats?’

‘Yes, ’ she replied in carbon copy tone, ‘is that a problem?’

‘Ahhhr… no, ’ I replied, swallowing my great displeasure.

Why I felt this way was simple. As a man whose history of cars was peppered with those barely higher in the car chain to those that end up on the scrap heap only months later, I was very tense at the thought of our four-legged darling’s nails potentially scratching, or even ripping, the leather seats in a car as nice as my new one.

‘They won’t scratch the seats, I promise!’ she said, but feeling history would be a better judge, I felt reassured little.

The Elgin Hogeye Festival came and went, and with the journeys to and fro filled with the sounds of Maggie and Newman whinging, farting, dribbling, jumping from the back seats to the front, and shaking off their coats as liberally as their little hearts desired, mine was a minefield of exacerbation.

We arrived back home at 3pm, and as I pulled into the driveway I remembered the promise I’d pledged to the neighbour. ‘I better let the white wolf into their yard. ’

It’s rare that I’m scared of a dog, I’ve grown up with dogs all my life, but as I turned the key, pushed the door slowly open, and the darkness of inside masked my eyes, I felt a great reservation to enter.

‘Moon?’ I asked, my calls met with perfect silence as I closed the door behind me.

I entered further.

‘Moon?’ I asked again.

I then heard a noise that could be aptly cast with many an unwanted image, heavy breathing in the dark.

The dog came into view. She was cowered in the far corner of the lounge, millimetre perfect as far away from me as she could manage. I took a step closer, to which doing her utmost to maximise our distance, she proceeded to run from this corner to that. I’d heard it said before, that the only dog to be scared of is the one that’s scared of you.

I opened the back door and walked away, with hope that the dog would go into the yard. She did exactly that and I followed and closed the door behind us.

Outside, she proceeded to do the same act as inside, running from this grassy corner to that. I lay down on the grass, hoping to diminish the threat and in turn her anxiety, but it worked little.

Maggie and Newman, aroused by their new four-legged neighbour, were barking in our yard next door and running up and down the length of the fence. Katie was in the yard with them. ‘Do you want me to come over?’

‘Yes, ’ I said, knowing her slightly superior skills with dogs could be useful at this time. A couple of minutes later the backdoor opened from inside and she joined us in the back yard.

‘This dog is having anything but a fucking toilet break, ’ I said, revealing my frustration.

‘Moon?’ she called.

The dog lay down on the grass, seeming instantly less stressed by the sound of a female voice. A couple of minutes later Katie was lying on the grass and freely patting her. I tried not to take it personally.

I went back inside to get the other dog, a little brown Fox Terrier by the name of Jessie. He was in a dog crate, and being less than an advocate, I quickly unlocked its door and out shot the dog.

Jessie, running around in circles, jumping up to lick my face, and then jumping back down to do it all again, was far more my sort of dog, one that was delighted to see me.

The four of us stayed in the yard for fifteen minutes or so, before the next logistical challenge presented itself. ‘How to get the white wolf back inside?’

Katie and I stood at the back door, heartily calling Moon toward us, but with the dog reprising her corner-to-corner dance, it was very apparent she was going nowhere that I was.

Katie came up with the idea that I should hide inside, and like a Border Collie with a stray sheep, she’d get behind the dog and round her towards the door.

I went back into the kitchen, and standing there in the dark, still trying to not take it personally, the dog came swanning in a few seconds later. I put Jessie back in his crate, and locked the door behind him. That is, I thought I did.

Now standing in the kitchen, Katie and I looked at each other, and knowing this exercise had been mostly useless, we walked towards the front door. She opened it and walked into the all consuming veil of daylight, and as I stood at the front door, exercising my compulsion to check repeatedly if I’d locked it properly, a great white streak whizzed past me. Moon had got out.

‘Fuck fuck fuck!’ yelled Katie.

‘Fuck fuck fuck!’ yelled I as I proceeded to chase the dog on foot.

‘Get the car!’ she yelled, thinking faster than I, and as I watched the dog bolting away up the street, I ran in the opposite direction back towards our house.

With my hands shaking so much I could barely get the key in the ignition, I managed to start the car, slam it in reverse, and line it up on the road. Moon, by now, was a white dot in the distance, and Katie, a few houses along, was running after her.

I caught up to Katie and she jumped in. ‘Did you close the front door of their house?’

‘I think I did!’

‘Think?’ she said, catching her breath.

‘Yes! I think!’ I said, doubt filling me as to whether I actually had, in turn filling me with a secondary doubt as to whether I’d done so with Jesse’s crate door. The thought of losing, or seeing killed on my account, my mate’s dog was a thought unbearable enough, let alone the thought for two of his dogs.

We caught up to the dog as it galloped like a horse up the street. We drove alongside it, and Katie, like a Halloween advocate; futilely waved a bag treats out the window.

‘Moon!’ she called in the gentlest voice she could muster in her anxious state. ‘Moon!’

‘I wouldn’t waste your breath!’

‘What?’

‘The dog has only had that name for two days!’

‘So?’

‘So it doesn’t fucking know it! And just thinks you’re reading it its star sign!’

‘Moon! Moon!’

‘They should have called it Bowie anyway!’

A routine soon developed; we’d drive alongside the dog, calling its shiny new and entirely unfamiliar name, it would look at us like a pair of pricks, and turn around 180 degrees and run in the opposite direction. Bearing in mind that back at the house the dog had gone to every effort to keep as far away from me as possible, my hopes of calling it and it willingly jumping into the car, that, or me jumping out and like Usain Bolt simply outrunning it, were precisely 0%. Katie, however, seemed less deterred, and thus she called and thus she waved her bag of treats. ‘Moon! Moon!’

I could see in the dog’s eyes it had a plan, my suspicion being it wanted to get a bus to the airport and then a direct flight to neutral Switzerland or anywhere considered ‘not fucking here’.

My gravest concern however, as we continued driving alongside, was to keep her away from main roads and highways, as at this point, fortunately, we were tracking her through the relatively traffic-free streets of Brookfield Estates Pflugerville.

Often, like the Kelpie rounding the sheep, I’d cut the dog off by driving slightly ahead and pulling into the driveway of an adjacent house, causing her to about turn. It was a tiring routine, and if ever I felt worthy of an advanced driver’s certificate, it was on this day. This worked most of the time, and other times the dog would veer around the car – she once even went under it – but one time something happened that we didn’t foresee.

The dog entered a cul-de-sac, and at the house at its furthest end was a man standing in his driveway. The man seemed to catch on as to our situation, and I dreamt of the dog running into his garage and him being quick minded enough to lock her in. Instead, he wandered into his garage alone, and before the dog could get near, locked himself in.

Desperate for an ally, it was exceptionally disappointing, but at the same time a different man, in a small hatchback, pulled up to our car and stopped alongside us. The three of us hopped out of our cars, and the dog, as though gathering her thoughts as to what her next move would be, stopped dead.

The dog was at the cul-de-sac’s far end, but at the far end too was a vacant block of land. My heart rate increased as I realised it backed onto a creek, and that if the dog went that way there would be no way to further pursue her with the car.

And it was just at that second that she did exactly that.

The three of us ran towards her, and the dog, to our surprised, stopped at the block’s furthest end. Like a gift from the local council, it was sectioned off with a wire fence, and the dog, knowing she’d cornered herself, spun around hard. A glimmer of hope dawned as the three of us bore down on her, at which time she backed up and charged while making a growling noise not dissimilar to that of the t-rex in Jurassic park.

Only a year previous Katie had been badly bitten by our own dog when she tried to break her up from a fight – apparently you should hose them – and all I could think of, as the wolf charged, was a repeat of such injuries should we catch her. My concern was soon neutralised nevertheless, as the dog sidestepped us with the ease of Neo from the Matrix.

Catching our breath, we defaulted back to our cars, Katie and I in mine, and our nameless Good Samaritan following in his.

We exited the cul-de-sac to see Moon heading, to our dread, towards a highway. I accelerated hard towards her, noticing, in the mirror, that the whites of my eyes had turned pink from stress. I got in front of the dog and cut her off in a driveway again, resulting in turning her back towards the quieter streets. It was a good short-term solution at best, but it was then that the Good Samaritan, only trying to assist, got out of his car and frightened the dog back towards the highway.

I spun the car around and drove hard towards her again, realising that I was driving on a no-thru road, that, should the dog reach the highway before us, I would not be able to pursue her in the car. I was gaining, she was running, I was gaining, she was running, I was gaining, she was running and she reached the no-thru barrier and was gone from view.

Without word to Katie I stopped the car and proceeded on foot, my barefooted pseudo heroic attempt being the last bullet in the gun to save this dog from likely being killed on my account.

The dog was a white dot in the distance when I reached the highway, but she was running, luckily, on the footpath as opposed to contending with the fast-moving traffic on the road.

I ran, I ran, and I ran some more, calling upon all traces of running bravado that I may or may not have acquired in my long distance running days. But louder than these voices were those of their predecessor, the skinny asthmatic kid that couldn’t so much as fart without needing to replace it with a puff from his ventolin puffer. I realised too, though, as I contended with bare feet and imploding lungs, that as much as pain and fatigue was my enemy, that of the dogs was my ally, for I could see, up ahead, the dog’s tongue hanging out of her mouth at a record length. And with each millimetre I was bequeathed a thousand miles of hope that I just might catch her.

However faint, I was gaining, and the dog, distracted by noise and streaming cars, seemed oblivious to my presence. The white dot grew bigger into view, and I tried to soften my footsteps so as to keep her unaware. Hope grew as I gained further and I dared to imagine the valour I’d feel if my efforts were fruitful, but it was then the dog turned her head and having seen me shot forward like a motorbike changing gear.

Contending with the desire to abort mission, this pursuit felt like the very definition of futility, but as we tracked forward I remembered that only a mile ahead was the interstate, a sure death trap for the dog and/or those that would be involved in the pile up she could cause.

The highway curved uphill, and I could see people in their cars transfixed by the spectacle – some even pulling over to have a look, resulting in the traffic slowing down, in turn giving me the idea to straighten my line to the dog and run barefooted on the road. The dog, oblivious, continued the long way on the footpath, and her tongue, my pink glimmer of hope, continued to grow in length as I gained inch by inch.

Within minutes she was just a few car lengths ahead, and I veered back onto the footpath to align myself with her. I ran, she ran, I ran, she ran. I was almost upon her. I ran, she ran, I ran, she ran. I reached out my hand, but like that of Gollum almost upon the ring, it quivered to the extent that it near thwarted by balance. I panted heavy, and the dog, hearing my struggle, turned her head again then accelerated and was gone.

I stopped in a heap as I watched her gallop away, grappling with the strangle of defeat and wondering how I would break the news to my mate. The dog became a white dot again; yet somewhere amongst my anguish I questioned why my will to detain her should outweigh her own to be free from a life in captivity. The thought gave me a trace of comfort, and encouraged my resolve to man up and accept the consequences, but it was then that I remembered the interstate up ahead.

With my compassion vanished by the thought, I proceeded to run again, fuelled as much by fresh anger as by the small running break. The white dot grew once more, and I cared not how much noise I made this time. The dog turned and noticed, but as though already in top gear she seemed unable to accelerate further. I yelled hard, returning a meek imitation of the t-rex growl, to which to my perfect surprise she did something I wasn’t expecting. She stopped.

I stopped as well, frozen with disbelief as I stood just a few yards from her. Facing me off, her dripping tongue hung at record length, and I knew that at any second the chase would resume, but it was then that a man, the heir to the Good Samaritan throne, jumped out of his car to assist.

Perhaps it was from the threat of our combined presence, but as defeat dawned in the beast’s eyes she proceeded to piss herself like a draught horse, and I lunged and – ‘bang!’ – the scruff of her neck was in my hands. Although I’d previously had concerns of her biting Katie, as I held the dog’s face to mine I simply didn’t care what the result.

I might have turned 40 just days earlier, but I cried like a 7 year old as Katie pulled up in the car.

‘Put up all the windows and I’ll lift her into the back!’ I said.

‘What about her ripping the seats?’

‘I don’t care!’ I said, not giving three, two, nor a solitary fuck if she torn them to kingdom come.

Fifteen minutes later the three of us, Moon and I both with bloodied feet and Katie with her bag of treats, were lying in the neighbour’s backyard, catching our breath. Fortunately I had shut the front door on the way out, and Jesse the little brown Fox Terrier was still on site. The neighbour text me as we lay there – ‘Hey man, we’re on our way home, did you let them out?’

‘I sure did.’

By David Kerrigan

Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening!

Wherever in the world you happen to be! Welcome to my shiny brand new blog!

So why have I succumb and finally taken this social media leap? In short, I’m just weeks away from self-publishing my debut book, and figured a blog to be the perfect appetiser before the main.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be posting articles, short stories, inflated opinions, and excerpts from the book to give readers a taste of who, what, why, and when. Thank you for reading,  and I look forward to seeing more of you.

And again – g’morn, g’aft, and g’eve!