TIRED OF MY Gorgonzola-shaded skin, damp socks, and enough Northwest gloom outside to make even Dracula depressed, I did what any SAD-afflicted citizen would do—visit venerable Tubs, "Seattle's Luxury Spa."
Though Tubs has been a U District institution for almost two decades, I'd never actually been inside. When it opened in '82, I had neither the money, cocaine, girlfriend, nor car required to hit the hot spot.
Times have definitely changed. The challenge now was finding a willing co-tubbant. In '82 I wouldn't have had to beg someone to join me; she'd have grabbed her tanning oil, Ray Bans, and an eight-ball and jumped right in. But AIDS, STDs, anthrax, and the waning hot tub novelty craze have apparently taken their toll on my generation.
My first choice declared herself a germophobe and declined. Another responded, "What, are you kidding? That's disgusting." A third candidate had a problem with both chlorine and our relationship. Even a basketball buddy turned me down after being informed we'd need to BYOB (bring your own babes), as Tubs isn't apparently the singles bacchanal we'd always dreamed of.
LUCKILY, I FOUND a date deep in the "S" section of my Rolodex. "Tubs? That's a helluva pick-up line," she said, warning she might "just sit there" and watch me saut鮍
Sadly, the freewheelin' days of disco music, orgiastic swingin', and a naive understanding of bodily fluids are long gone, and Tubs today serves a different purpose and clientele. As it turns out, Tubs isn't exactly the sperm-infested sex pit I expected.
It's clean; it's sober; and it really is a spa (not that there's anything wrong with that).
The disco-era lobby was full of gorgeous, nubile young coeds there to tub their midterm worries away. Clean-cut attendants looked like delegates from a Young Republicans convention. In addition to a gaggle of leather-skinned Eastsiders paying for the electric beach (11 tanning beds on-site), an elder statesman with what could have been his daughter—or Aurora bride-for-the-hour— also made an appearance.
More locker room than romantic B&B, Room 3 (of 14) was cozy, chlorine-filled, and buzzing with a Phil Collins medley from the kick-ass Clarion car stereo on the wall. Trying to get "in the mood," we reclined on the minibed and poured a few cocktails. (As "Tubs and Alcohol Don't Mix," we brought our own airline bottles.) My date sat down just long enough to feel an unknown fluid from the bedsheet soaking into her pants (eeew!), then exited to the rest room down the hall to change into her suit. (We're not at the comfort nudity stage quite yet, and there are no curtains in the room.)
I followed Tubs' rules and got in the shower, a ridiculously complicated system of knobs and pulleys that may have been Star Trek cool in the '80s but is now simply outdated and annoying. Thus cleansed, I jumped into the 103-degree tub. The water was clean, the whirlpool strong, and the experience effectually soothing.
THOUGH THE ROOMS could use darker decor, candlelight, and a remodel from this century, I very much enjoyed my visit to Tubs. My date, on the other hand, never even toed the water. And there lies the rub (massages also available). Maybe she disliked the Kleenex-sized towels, the lack of soap in the dispenser, the strange shower configuration, or the dope-enhanced paranoia making her imagine two-way mirrors and live video feeds. Perhaps it was the gray algae on the floorboards or the sight of my naked ass bobbing in the bubbly that got her.
Regardless, she chose to sit high and dry, nearby, rocking to tuneage and sipping her vodka lemonade. For her, it was about sex. Between others. Before us. In the hot tub. That I was floating in. And I respect that.
So we hit the dimmer, smoked a soggy joint, and regularly rang the well-scrubbed pool boys for more ice, towels, and time. (One hour is hardly enough to figure out the lighting scheme, much less the shower/tub/ sex/sauna/shower routine.) Two hours later, I was as relaxed as a matzo ball. Far from our drafty hovel homes, we'd danced, we'd chilled, we'd been warmed and secluded. And that's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp icicle.
Tubs, N.E. 50th and Roosevelt N.E., 527-8827, www.tubsseattle.com. Open 7 a.m.- 2 a.m. daily. $17.95 per person per hour (two adults minimum per tub). Tanning beds: $5 per 20 minutes. Fry on!