We have so much to catch up on, dear readers. For one, I have new shoes. And a couch. And I may or may not have been wearing new pants this whole time. All in all, an era of sweeping changes in the house that rage built (patent pending). Before I move forward, however, I have been looking back through my prodigious archives and realized I forgot to tell you all a story- a singular story that will encapsulate my Latvian Rager from last year, which I went on, bragged about, and then promptly never mentioned again.
How sloppy of me, you might say.
You'd be right, for sure, but, in my defense, I have been rather distracted with my abject laziness as of late.
So, onto Latvia.
Now, a caveat here: I know nothing about Latvia.
I am a rather stupid man, at times, doubly so when it comes to geography. If you asked me to find Latvia on a map, I would probably throw a globe on the ground in the hopes that a smoke pellet was hidden inside so I could slink away, ninja style. When I spent a week in Riga I learned much about Latvia and her awesome ways. I studied her invasion double header (When the Russians came in, followed by the Germans, followed again by the Russians), and found out Latvians have to be some of the most attractive people on the planet. As irrefutable proof, I Googled "Ugly Latvian", and this was the first image that popped up:
Riga is an awesome city, filled with bars, lovely walking bits (something anyone from my neck of the woods can appreciate), great food, good views, and awesome, randomly terrifying, buildings like this:
Pretty sure this is the Justice League's headquarters. Or the world's most Stallone In The Future-ish library.
According to my ignorant lack of research and keen observational skills, the Latvians love four things above all else, erstwhile reader.
Twinkly bits at nightime...
Literal store names...
and beer spas.
Yeah, that's what I thought too.
When I saw this place, right around the corner from my ridiculously fancy hotel, I had the same reaction. If Tom Cruise has taught us anything, it's that who dares wins (or that explosions are good- I get mixed up) so, much like the Light Brigade in that Madonna song, or wherever it came from, I did not wonder why- I just went in, or something, and found myself in heaven.
Or a beer fueled facsimile.
See, the Beer Spa was like a regular type of spa joint, except for one key, life changing detail: every thing was related to beer.
I went into the lobby and, putting on my best "ignorant American" tourist face, told them I was new to Latvia, thought the beer spa was the greatest thing ever, and wanted whatever the best package was. The decidedly good looking woman at the counter smiled and asked me to have a seat. After a few seconds she handed me a beer while I waited. Needless to say, this did a great job in setting the tone. The aforementioned "treatment" turned out to consist of the following: a beer massage (using the primeval beer ingredients as oils), a soak in the beer bath (as awesome as it sounds), and then a stop in the beer sauna, where hops infused clouds filled the air. All of this was as absurd and relaxing as it sounds. If supine could be used as a verb, then, well, I was even too lazy to do that.
Pretty sweet, huh?
This was totally me in the sauna.
As I sat in the mist, wearing a fluffy towel surely hand crafted by a cozy God somewhere in the Valhallian garment district, sweating out the beer that I was drinking from my own keg (placed for me in the sauna by another example of Latvian virtue) because of course, the door opened and ANOTHER gorgeous woman entered.
Her face was indistinct, a blurred suggestion hidden in the beer scented steam. She might have been an illusion, conjured from my own Id.
Or symptoms of heatstroke.
She asked me the question that changed my life, and will forever more mark me as an ardent supporter of Latvia and her ways: "Sir, how many steaks would you like?"
Nearly spitting out my precious beer, I stammered out a suave answer, as is my wont under duress.
"Um . . . what?"
Her hand waved at something on the other side of the door. It was probably a baker's dozen of blond Latvian women.
"At the conclusion of treatment, you receive steaks with your beer. How many would you like?"
My heart skipped a beat. Was this really happening? Was that actually a question? As an aside, I am glad there is a place in the world where steaks are considered a side dish to beer.
"Um . . . I think . . . I think one will be enough. Probably. Maybe two."
She nodded, I think, and made her way out of the room, Eastern European style.
As I sat there, finishing my keg and feeling the steam soak through me, I pondered the vagaries of life, as one does while sitting in a beer sauna: what a tangled, winding road I have walked on, to go from Red Bank metal guy and end up on the other side of the world, working as an assistant principal in Egypt and seeing things that most people only get to experience in ponderous indy films. It's like a greasy version of that Dr. Seuss book that everyone is gifted when they graduate High School.
Sadly enough, time waits for no man, no matter how swaddled.
My recollections were finished with my last drop of beer and I slowly, sleepily, blissfully, got up and walked out of the sauna which had been my slice of heaven for the past thirty minutes.
I strolled through the sweet smelling wooden hallway/changing room, following signs that eventually, improbably, unthinkably, led me here:
Goddamn you Latvia, you sexy bastard.