Opium, No Extra Charge

An explosion of mini massage parlors have sprung up like daisies all over the Upper Eastside. It feels like a syndicate, just with hot oil and towels.

I decide to go to one to check prices. It’s very Azuma decorated with Buddhas and ceramic cats everywhere waving like drunks, and not cheap. When the guy said feet were the eyes of the soul, I knew the place wasn’t for me. Now if Capezio said it, or Chuck Taylor, then I’d give it a whirl, but moving on.

There’s a sign that looks as if it’s paint-by-number, red flag number 1, leading into an old basement. Undeterred, I pad down a grilled stairwell, open a pink door to find 3 Asian women in racy kimonos all standing in a row as if they were expecting me. Did Azuma call and say, we think she’s headed your way?


Now, when I see no lights, no uniforms and no customers, this is when I should have said, no thanks, but they were so happy to see me, Pollyanna decides to stay.

Did I mention they barely speak English?

After accepting tea I’m afraid to drink, I agree to a 30 minute foot massage for 30 bucks even after Madam Tang says, “fa you, fifty special…one ow’a.”

No thanks, say me and my feet, but the next thing I know I’m on a table, rather than in a comfy chair afraid to shut my eyes for fear they’ll toss me in a gunny sack and ship me to Shanghai.

Suddenly another woman with a body like Miss July but the face of my Korean laundress, pops in to see if I want a pedi as well. No, no, I say, really anxious to leave since it’s anything but relaxing. She smiles and winks. Hmm, is pedi code for something besides pedicure? Is this a brothel or possibly an opium den?

Finally it’s over, a buzzer going off like I’m a turkey in the oven.

I then get hit with sales tax, along with an entertaiment tax when Miss July presents my bill.

Entertainment tax?

She winks again.

This is when my mother shows up. “Hey, 30 bucks, cash and tip and no more. Take it or leave it.”

I make sure to say this with my hand on the doorknob in case they rush me like in a Godzilla movie.

She shrugs, her cleavage unhappily heaving, grabbing my cash like a seasoned croupier with five inch nails.

I run out dashing into The Gap to regain myself.

As for my feet, next time, Epsom Salt in a hot bath, a little Sinatra crooning, who for the record, no pun intended, charges no entertainment tax.


About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Amazon.com. Thanks.
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23 Responses to Opium, No Extra Charge

  1. You were so daring. I’m glad you stood up to them and got out alive.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. skinnyuz2b says:

    Susannah, I can’t believe you stayed. A foot massage without being in a comfy chair? No way.
    My funniest (weirdest) massage was in the Dominican Republic. After a so-so massage the masseuse had me turn onto my back. She arranged the towels so I had an opening around my stomach, like I was getting prepped for a cesarean. I held my breath, ready to bolt. I received my first and last stomach massage. Not relaxing at all, but better than the happy ending I was half expecting.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love massages but there is a caveat. I had one by Helga the Russian with hands of a beast. Thought I was gonna die. Then there was the foot/pedi given by someone who was definitely rubbing toxic waste into my feet to exfoliate it. There is nothing like a good massage and nothing more scary than a bad one!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Eilene Lyon says:

    That sounds so incredibly creepy! Glad you didn’t let them extort more money from you. I fortunately have the hubby to give me a weekly foot massage.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Moments like this confirm the origin of the old saying “curiosity killed the cat.” I’m glad you and your tootsies escaped safely, but I understand entirely the not running for the hills.
    Ps. Remember, skinny people slip right into sacks, so be careful!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. That’s brave of you. I’ve gone to some massage places in various countries trying to avoid anything that looks sketchy. Glad you still have all your organs. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s not just the massage parlors, there are so many places (restaurants, small stores, etc…) who smile and get you before you know you been got. I go for a pedi once a month (usually, surgery omitted) and thoroughly enjoy it. For $30 plus a $1 tip, I get my feet massaged, my calves massaged, my toenails clipped, some alcohol on them for disinfecting, and clear-coat polish to protect them. I was not able to cut my toenails due to hip pain for a long time and my double vision only makes that particular distance really hard to see. So, the pedi was the answer. Now, post-surgery, I kinda still want the pedi – must be they really are nice!


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