A friend and I decided to go to Sweetwater last night, pretty much on a whim. The awesome thing about open public tubs is that you can do that, so we trundled on down the road to Mendocino in the evening to see what there was to be seen. He had never been to Sweetwater before, so it was an introductory visit. I’m pretty sure he’s hooked now.

Most locals know about Sweetwater. It’s been around for, well…ages. I don’t really know how long. But you go down this winding flower lined path and you enter a warm womb with a fireplace, and you give people money and they give you towels, and you slip through a door into the public dressing room and get naked. It’s a cozy place, not ritzy and super nice like some public tubs I have been in, but very clean and comfortable. I almost feel like I have been invited to someone’s house for the evening, honestly.

I’ve always had an affinity for public tubs. It’s not that I’m an exhibitionist or something, it’s just that I have spent a lot of time in cultures with public baths, and I like the idea. I like meeting people from my community, chilling out in the sauna and talking, or just zoning out. I never know who I’m going to meet there, or what we’re going to talk about. It might be martial arts, tamale recipes, or local politics. I miss the ornate hammams of Turkey, with tiles and cucumber slices and everything nice.

Unlike a lot of public baths, Sweetwater is not segregated. People of all ages and genders are always welcome, and everyone stays fairly mellow. Most of the people in the public tubs are locals, some of whom come on a regular basis. I’ve never seen anything untoward or objectionable there, or felt uncomfortable. This might be because I’m oblivious, or because most of the people at Sweetwater are there for the sauna, the tub, or both, but not booty.

We started out in the tub and then headed over to the sauna. It’s been awhile since I have been able to sauna, so I couldn’t stay in terribly long, but it felt fabulous. I love sitting on the top shelf, slowly drying and then becoming glossy with sweat. It sounds like a hippie thing, but I really can feel the toxins leaching out of my body. It’s awesome. Then I run and take a super cold shower to close my pores. Mmmtastic. After a cooling period, we hopped back into the tub to relax, idly conversing with someone whom I couldn’t identify without my glasses on, and then we drifted home, tub high and comfortable.

I always sleep so well after I sauna, it really makes me want to own a sauna so that I can do it every night. Alas, this house is far too small for any sort of logistical sauna placement, unless my landlord wants to let me take over the tool shed. Speaking of landlords, I also learned that my old landlady was recently in the hospital, and I hope that she is doing ok. She is very active in the community, and a generally awesome lady, so I was sad to hear that she was not feeling well. Those of you who are into praying and that sort of thing might want to think of her, since I defy anyone to meet her and not adore her. She is one of my favourite people in the entire world, personally, and I am really sad that I am no longer living above their kitchen, furtively skulking home in the middle of the night and hoping I don’t wake them as I stumble up the stairs.