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.
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.