While every guy loves a massage, dipping your hand in what looks like hot wax to moisturize the skin can raise a few eyebrows.
So I wasn’t surprised by the way my father - a retired cop who spent 20 years walking a beat in Coney Island - reacted when, speaking to him on my cell phone over the whir of hair dryers at Pilo Arts in Bay Ridge, I told him what was going on.
You know, you used to be the sports editor," he reminded me. "You interviewed Joe Torre. What the hell’s happening to you?"
"Listen, I can’t talk," I said. "This paraffin treatment has to stay on my hands for 10 minutes, and I think the hair on my head is being enriched with eight essential vitamins and minerals. I’ll call you later."
My dad was calling to tell me about a big move in my stock portfolio, but I felt it could wait. I was beautify well, relaxing.
And I needed it. The night before, I was sweating out press night at The Brooklyn Papers, where it’s not uncommon to leave the office just before or during sunrise. So after a lousy, early-morning sleep, I plodded out of my Carroll Gardens apartment, into my car and off to Bay Ridge via the always jammed Gowanus Expressway. Regardless of this thoroughfare’s name, I was late for my appointment - adding to the stress of my day.
After finding a parking spot in record time, I was buzzed into the whirlwind environment that is Pilo Arts - people being rushed back and forth, wine in hand, from stylist to pedicurist, manicurist to colorist, on a royal-treatment assembly line.
Greeted by John Haubrich, the operations
director at Pilo, I was immediately taken down a flight of stairs
to the much quieter spa area where I would wait for the massage
therapist, Alla. She took me to a smaller, even more peaceful
treatment room where I disrobed, wrapped on a towel, laid down,
and prepared for my 30-minute massage.
Now, here’s the first rule of massage that everyone must know: buck up the cash and go for the one-hour treatment. I’m not saying that Alla didn’t do a good job - nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, she was able to knead my muscles into relaxation in the time allotted, but it left me begging for more.
Still, it took about 12 minutes in a steam room before I came to my senses. My next hour with the aesthetician, Gigi, who gave me a facial, more than made up for my desire for another half-hour with Alla.
Upon hearing the word "facial," the image that immediately popped into my head was that of a middle-aged woman in a pink bathrobe with rollers in her hair, some sort of green goo on her face and cucumbers on her eyes.
The reality was much different. My facial consisted of Gigi massaging my face (which, as you might expect, ain’t all that bad), all the while applying some oxygen moisturizer.
Granted, I don’t know what that product
is supposed to do for me, but I didn’t have the strength to ask
as the rubbing of my temples made speech a low priority.
After my face was steamed for about 10 minutes rendering the pores of my skin as open as an all-night diner, Gigi performed the "extractions" - plucking out disgusting blackheads like those candy "dots" that come stuck to a sheet of waxed paper.
"You’re very lucky," Gigi assured me. "You’ve got very nice skin."
Yeah, right, like I didn’t know that.
Next was the aforementioned green seaweed mask, which isn’t nearly as bad as you might think - as long as you don’t look in a mirror. The mask peels off easily, but Gigi warned that guys who come in unshaven won’t have it so easy - no shave, no facial.
I left Pilo Arts rosy-cheeked and moisturized - and in no mood to go to work the next day and get myself all tensed up again. Alas, I still had bills to pay, so back to work I went and, after two weeks, the effects of my treatment are beginning to fade.
On top of that, my editor said the story needed a re-write, only adding to my work-induced stress. She suggested I head over to A.F. Bennett on 86th Street "for a botanically based scalp treatment and 15-minute shiatsu massage" to calm me down and, possibly, add to my research. With two successful spa treatments already under my belt, I wholeheartedly accepted.
Greeted at the door by owners Anne and Frank Bennett, I was again immediately offered a beverage and a seat on a comfortable couch. The 8-year-old storefront across the street from Nathan’s offers the gamut of hair salon services and scalp therapy. I was told, though, that A.F. Bennett’s Staten Island location was much larger and offered a huge menu of spa services.
Not that I was concerned with such things. All I wanted was a soothing treatment to moisturize my follicle bed, and I was glad the atmosphere didn’t include the razzle-dazzle of Pilo. I enjoyed the laid-back vibe and Lenny Kravitz on the stereo.
The treatment consisted of the application of a cold lavender-and-rosemary oil rubbed into my scalp and hair to promote growth, followed by a 15-minute scalp massage - which pretty much put me to sleep. I was a bit groggy at this point - a good groggy - so excuse me if I mix up what happened next.
Truthfully, I’m not sure if it was cold
then hot or vice versa, but I was subjected to one of those famous
seated hair dryers: the ones that swirl a draft of hot air around
the client’s locks while they thumb through Vogue. A cold compress
was also applied to the top of my head at some point. Again,
thank the massage for my lack of memory.
Either way, at some point I felt like I had a cold cabbage pressed down on my head, which actually didn’t feel too bad, and at another point, I looked like Dark Helmet, the Darth Vader alter ego in Mel Brooks’ "Spaceballs," which, at the very least, brought back some funny memories.
Finally, I was given my shiatsu massage by the extremely nimble-fingered Antoinette, who also rendered me unconscious during my head massage. They say it lasted 15 minutes, but I was sleeping after about five. Cheers to Antoinette.
I left with the aches in my back a distant memory, and the shiniest hair I’ve ever had.
"You’ve got nice hair," Sylvania the stylist said while she adjusted my moisture-sealed, shiny mop.
Yeah, right. Like I didn’t know that already.
On the way back home, my dad hit me on
the cell to see if I’d be joining him on a jaunt to Atlantic
City to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday. I agreed.
We went and had a great time, drinking beer, talking sports and reassuring my father of my manhood.
But I couldn’t help but notice how badly he needed a manicure.
Vince DiMiceli, The Papers’ production manager and senior editor, is a recently converted fan of spa therapies.
See the Spa Directory.