A collection of grievances, memories, occasional musings, and everyday happenings


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No Clothes, No problem

I’ve never been interested in seeing an old man naked.  Crazy, I know – it’s just simply never appealed to me.  But with travel comes unexpected and occasionally undesired happenings, and in my particular instance, it was male nudity. 

In the fall of 2008, I spent three months living in Vienna, Austria – the same city I’m returning to in May. Our supervisors and students before us constantly encouraged us to go out and see all we could in Vienna, even when we didn’t feel like it. Living in another country makes you tired in ways you’ve never felt before, so it’s not really surprising to have days where you just feel like staying inside and stuffing yourself with tasty butter rolls (which may have just been my thing). Days like that didn’t roll around too often, but when they did, it was nearly impossible to convince yourself to go out and about, unless someone suggested going somewhere relaxing, like say, a spa.

A couple of my girl friends had been searching for something to do all morning when they stumbled upon what appeared to be a luxurious, high-class spa a little ways outside of Vienna. I happened upon their discovery, and together the three of us oo’ed and ah’ed at the descriptions of body wraps, massages, hot stones, and heated pools. It was particularly dreary and brisk that day, so a spa couldn’t have sounded more perfect. We extended the invitation to other classmates, recruiting another girl and one guy, unfortunately having no idea that mixing genders would later become a problem.

We traveled the somewhat lengthy trip outside of Vienna by train, finally arriving in a little town called Baden. The town was cute and filled with boutiques and restaurants way out of our price range. It didn’t matter though – we were there to enjoy ultimate relaxation for as long as possible and head right back home to Vienna. With pool bags in hand, we headed for the spa. The building looked like a peaceful hotel, complete with the sound of quiet music and tiny fountains. We went to the front desk, and in Germglish proceeded to list the services we wanted to partake in for the afternoon. The woman heard us out, then said all of that would be just fine as long as we each presented her with a doctor’s note. A doctor’s note? We were confused, but soon became less so as she pointed out that this spa was a rehabilitating spa, a massive detail we failed to read about on the website. The only thing she could do for us, she said, was to allow us 2 hours use of the pools and sauna, and we could come back later for 30 minute massages as long as appointments were made. All of us wanted to be able to say we had gotten a massage while in Vienna, so each of us signed up for a session for later on that afternoon. The woman showed us the way to the pools and that was that. Or so we assumed.

If you’ve never been to Europe before, one thing to know is that the human body is seen a little different there, in that the human body is seen. At beaches or pools, men wear tiny speedos and women may wear a top, depending on how they feel that day I guess, so for extremely private and somewhat prude US college students, this was nothing short of uncomfortable. It’s the culture though, we said. We can handle it. We’re adults. The five of us found the locker room where upon entering we learned that both men and women share the locker room and do not use private rooms to change out of or into their clothes. This presented a problem for us seeing as we had a boy in our group of girls. Not wanting to be separated but also not wanting to get to know each other more than we had to, we picked the farthest line of lockers away from everyone and each of us chose a locker. Since we had no other changing choices, each of us got inside our lockers and changed into our bathing suits despite the lack of room and light. We managed though, and finally made it to the pools. We tried out the outdoor heated pool as well as the indoor jacuzzi, ending with the largest indoor pool which was filled with rehabilitating jets and waterfalls. I think we piddled around for about an hour before we decided we were ready to sit awhile in the sauna.

The five of us made our way to the sauna where we were immediately told to halt at the turnstile. At first we thought the problem was with our flip-flops. We had noticed earlier that no one else was wearing any sort of pool sandal unless they were over the age of 65, so perhaps this was the problem. The guy in our group, John, and I attempted to communicate with the man who continued to politely refuse us. Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Nein, sprechen Sie Englisch? Nein. We then resorted to wild pointing and gestures as we didn’t know the first bit of German for articles of clothing, and the sauna man didn’t know articles of clothing in English. After a few minutes I noticed the sauna man had been continuously pointing at John’s legs, not his shoes. So, we can’t have hairy legs in the sauna? I was terribly confused. We all were. Eventually the exhausted sauna man called over his manager. We heard the sauna man explain to the manager that we spoke English, and that’s about all we got from that even though the conversation lasted a lot longer. The manager looked at us for a few seconds then looked as if he had a great idea. He ran over to a closet and grabbed a towel. He came back and held it up. Oooooh, we said to each other, we don’t have towels. We need towels to come in here. Got it. Somehow the manager knew we still didn’t get it even though we thought we did. He started pointing wildly at John’s legs, then drawing what appeared to be a square in the air with his fingers. John’s legs, air square. John’s legs, air square. Finally, when we thought all hope was lost and John’s legs were somehow related to a square which was preventing us from entering the sauna, the manager remembered a word he knew in English, I’m assuming from the last time he encountered this problem. OFF! OFF! OFF! We understood. The men hadn’t been pointing at John’s legs, they had been pointing at his swim shorts. The manager was drawing an air square to help us understand the need for the towel. John’s swim shorts, and also all of our bathing suits, had to come “OFF!” before entering the sauna, and we were only allowed one towel each.

At this point I don’t know why we didn’t nod and decide that we could just do a massage train back home in Vienna. It was as if we had been sucked into the cultural experience and were like, Oh right. We need to be naked for this. Yeah that’s totally fine – we’ll just run up and get some towels, and we’ll change out of these crazy swimsuit things and meet you back here! It was like, we were concerned…but there was no turning back now. Without really speaking to each other, or even looking at each other, we got our towels from the front desk and went back to our changing lockers. We came out of our lockers and faced each other, each of us clinging to our towels as if the possibility of them coming to life and leaving our bodies was a extremely high. I’d be lying if I said our faces weren’t a deep shade of red at that moment. We awkwardly shuffled to the entrance of the sauna where we were greeted with smiles and quiet cheers as if we were about to enter into a really great sauna party. We each went through the turnstile only to stop dead in the entryway. Before our eyes stood, crept, and inched along many, many, elderly naked men. 

In this kind of a situation, there’s really not a whole lot you can do. As a guy I’d imagine you’re kinda like, whoa – there’s a’lotta super old naked guys in here. But as a girl my reaction was definitely more to the extent of… WHYYYYYY are there SO many naked men in here?! There’s even one with a WALKER. He’s naked and using a WALKER. Do I look at the floor or the ceiling? Is there a secret bookcase I can disappear behind? A trap door in the floor? Maybe Jesus will come back now – that would be AMAZING timing.  Just clothe them with your mind. Clothe them!

After our group completely freaked out silently at the strange predicament we had gotten ourselves into, we realized we had officially passed the point of no return. The sauna man led us down a hall, pointing out all the sauna rooms we had to choose from. Some of the rooms were filled with just men, and some had men and women, the women being just as elderly as the men, so at least now John could officially feel just as uncomfortable as his lady companions. The sauna man finally stopped at the last room which happened to be empty. He opened the door and proceeded to show us the proper “sauna technique” – sit down on a burning hot wooden bench, put your legs up on a little prop bench in front of you, and your towel? Not needed. Scandalous titles for the next Talon (school newspaper) issue flashed through my mind – 5 Students Expelled Abroad for Spa Nudity… Students Kicked Off Fall Euro for Going Too Native… We were doomed. John tried once more to communicate with the sauna man, this time asking if there was a Women Only room and a Men Only room. John pointed to himself and to the sauna, then to us and the sauna room. The sauna man, again quite perplexed, pointed to all of us and then to the sauna room. People must have thought we were practicing for a miming show later. John, exhausted from his silent conversation with the sauna man, finally spoke up and said, “Boys, in here – girls, over there?” The sauna man seemed to understand but shook his head violently and corrected John, “No no no no.” Our eyes widened again. John looked back at us, then at the sauna room, then back at the man and for clarification asked, “…So… together?” The sauna man, beside himself with happiness that we finally understood, clapped his hands together loudly and shouted, “Ya! TOGETER!!” and ushered us into the sauna room, proudly closing the door behind him as if he had sold his first house to very difficult clients.

While it was pretty awkward baking together, we survived the Viennese sauna experience (with our towels on). We laughed the whole way back home, immediately told everyone our story, and got laughed at in return. Now four years later, I’m returning to Vienna – to live this time – but I can assure you, going to a sauna is not on my To-Do list.

October 2008

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An Analytical Look At the Best News Ever

Are you sitting down and prone to hyperventilating at the sound of amazing news? If not, sit down, and if so, brace yourself and go ahead and have a pillow nearby in case you faint. 

Ready?

Rob Marshall (director of Pirates of the Caribbean 4) and Billy Ray (writer of The Hunger Games) are teaming up for a remake of W.S. Van Dyke’s The Thin Man.

Don’t faint yet! The best part is…

JOHNNY DEPP has been cast to play the role of Nick Charles!

Ok now you can faint.

Will broke this news to me a few days ago on the ride home and I nearly collapsed with excitement. Why? Because if you know me at all, then you automatically know these three facts:

1. The Beatles are my favorite band.

2. The Thin Man is my favorite movie.

3. Bacon is my favorite everything.

The Thin Man series has been in my life for a long time. I have my mom to thank for this because while all the other kids were sick at home watching all the “cool” movies and TV shows on cable, I was being forced to watch any and every show and/or movie that was in black and white. At first I resisted, but when I finally understood the humor of Abbott & Costello, the talent of Jimmy Stewart, and the hilarious wit and charm of William Powell and Myrna Loy, I realized that my movies and shows were the real cool movies and shows. This put a tiny stint in my social life in that I had no idea how to carry on a conversation about Boy Meets World and Even Stevens, and when my girl friends came over, none of them were interested in watching The Beatles: A Hard Days Night or oggling at the flat out hotness of Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot. And of course, none of them jumped at the idea of having a Thin Man marathon – my idea of the perfect slumber party. Weirdos.

But luckily for me, the girl friends I made in college accepted The Thin Man with open arms. Friday nights were Thin Man nights, complete with M&M popcorn and hazelnut coffee, with my framed Thin Man poster (the best birthday present my parents have ever given me) gleaming above us on the wall.

Now back to the remake. Naturally I’m a little nervous. Remakes often do no justice to its originals, leaving the die-hard fan of the original film extremely angry and dead inside, which is how I always feel when someone does a Beatles cover. But regardless of the bad remake-routine, I’m confident about this one, obviously due to the casting of Johnny Depp.

Why Johnny Depp is the best choice:

Johnny Depp can be anyone. He can be an ornery pirate (Pirates of the Caribbean), a psychotic writer (Secret Window), or a crazy and colorful Mad Hatter (Alice in Wonderland). He can be any character, in any wardrobe, and within 5 minutes of the movie you’ve already forgotten about Johnny Depp because he becomes the character. So bravo Mr. Marshall and Mr. Ray. You get an A+ from this Thin Man fanatic.

Johnny Depp’s Counterpart Options:

According to Deadline, there are 8 actresses lined up as possibilities for the part of Nora Charles – Eva Green, Amy Adams, Emma Stone, Carey Mulligan, Rachel Weisz, Kristen Wiig, Emily Blunt, and Isla Fisher. Several women to choose from, right? Eh, I think we can easily sort out the Uh, no ‘s from the mmm, maybe ‘s. Before we can do that though, let’s take a look at Nora herself.

If I could sum up all that is Nora Charles in one word, I would go with elegantclassygorgeoustallglassofwater- the point being, I can’t, because Nora is everything. She’s witty, classy, intelligent and beautiful with a touch of naivety. She adores her husband and he adores her right back, even though he jokes that he married her for her money. I mean, how can he not when his wife looks like this:

So let’s sort through the wannabe-Nora’s:

1. Kristen Wiig – I love Kristen on SNL, which is why she’s a definite no for the role of Nora Charles. When I think of Kristen attempting to be Nora, I think of two Kristen Wiig characters: The “Don’t make me sing” Lilia in the 1920s Party skits, and then of course, Mindy Grayson on Secret Word. While I know she’s funny and could pull off the quirky side of Nora, I don’t think she would successfully portray any other of Nora’s characteristics.

http://www.hulu.com/watch/311561/saturday-night-live-1920s-holiday-party

2. Emma Stone – Absolutely not. She’s been great in both comedy and drama, but her voice is way too low. Can you imagine Emma running around in fur coats attempting to yell “Nicky! Nicky wait!” in a high pitched semi-whining voice? I sure can’t.

3. Emily Blunt – Eh, no. There’s a lack of playfulness in her personality and one of my biggest fears about this is that Nora will be cast as not being playful enough. Emily would do well as serious Nora, but other than that, this role isn’t for her. Whoever plays Nora has to be able to be concerned for Nicky’s wellbeing, while also able to scrunch her nose at him from time to time.

4, 5, & 6. Isla Fisher, Amy Adams, Carey Mulligan – These three all get a No for the same reason – They’re girls. Being Nora Charles is not a girl’s role, it’s a woman’s role, and Isla, Amy, and Carey don’t fit the bill. Their maturity would have to rise exponential amounts before they’d be able to play a role such as this. Isla and Amy don’t belong in the film at all, but I do think Carey would be perfect as Dorothy Wynant, the daughter of the presumed killer. Dorothy is young, immature, overly dramatic, lives with a crazy family, and eventually states that she’s “just out for the ride”. Carey has experience playing a similar role as Kitty in Pride & Prejudice, and she even looks a little like Dorothy too.

Dorothy Wynant

7. Eva Green – Maybe. I don’t have a strong case for or against her. I’ve only seen her in Casino Royale and liked her for the most part.

8. Rachel Weisz – YES. Truly, Rachel is the only one who is capable of playing Nora Charles – the only one. She’s quirky yet sexy; she has a sultry voice but can also sound panicked and playful. She speaks infinitely more with her eyes than any of the other girls are capable of, and she’s a woman, not a girl. She’s it.

If you don’t believe me, do the test. Watch the first 5 minutes of The Thin Man so you can see how Nora Charles makes her first appearance – you’ll quickly realize Rachel Weisz is the only one who can pull that off. Then, obviously, watch the rest of the movie.

If you have never seen The Thin Man, figure out a way to see it. Have TCM running constantly on your TV or rent it from any remaining ghost-town Blockbusters. I would lend you mine but then I’d have to microchip you and that’s such a hassle. For anyone else who also loves The Thin Man, I’m totally up for a marathon before being Vienna-bound. And let’s keep our fingers crossed that the filmmakers make the right decision in choosing the correct Nora Charles. There’s a lot weighing on this.