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Some Like It Hot Springs

A reluctant spa-goer warms to T or C.

 

I am a firm believer that a person's daily hygienic routine should be conducted with the same ruthless efficiency of a Super Bowl playbook. From brushing your teeth in the shower to skipping the "repeat" part of "lather, rinse and repeat," I rarely need more than 10 minutes' worth of ablutions to prepare for my day, after which I smell as fresh as a daisy.

There is a large, oval-shaped watering tank in our bathroom, which my wife calls a "bathtub," that confuses me. Too small for a swimming pool and inconveniently located for watering cattle, this device is apparently for people that have enough time to lollygag around and soak in hot water for interminable amounts of time. It might seem that this is not an efficient way to wash your hide, and burns way too much daylight. However, I count myself among a higher level of enlightened redneck now that I've been introduced to the hot springs of Truth or Consequences.

For those not familiar with Truth or Consequences, it's a humble little post-apocalyptic village positioned along I-25 that's inhabited by a mix of expatriated hippies and sunburned ranchers. There are underground springs of water heated by the very fires of Hell bubbling to the surface, and soaking in these waters is said to cure all manners of malaise. A ramshackle cottage industry of rustic spas and two-star resorts has sprung up around these hot springs, providing the small town economic alternatives to trailer repair, grave digging and meth production. What kind of person soaks in these curative waters?

 

This kind, it turns out. After hearing about the wonders of the hot springs for years from people we like who generally exhibit pretty good judgment, my wife and I gave it a shot a couple of years ago. Hoping to fall into the good graces of my lovely wife, I broadened my horizons and agreed to an overnight stay at a spa. She was looking forward to the hot soak and massage, and I was looking forward to a scantily clad wife. We stayed at a pretty swanky place; I could tell because they had fluffy white robes for us to wear. When it was time for our soak, we were shown a private room with a steaming cauldron of aromatic water and lots of bubbles. Climbing in gave me a new empathy for the last act of a lobster. I don't know if I've ever sweated in water before, but that's what it felt like.

After a few minutes of allowing all my innards to poach properly, I was surprised to feel myself relaxing into the liquid hot. I'm not sure if I was losing consciousness due to a low-level heat stroke or succumbing to the curative powers of the mineral springs, but I felt my bones soften. It was really quite remarkable. I was so relaxed, I almost forgot to get frisky with my sweetheart. (Almost.) Afterwards, we exited, toweled off and went for our massages, another new experience for me. At first, I was self-conscious about a stranger's hands all over my grizzled carapace, but I quickly stopped giving a damn. I'm pretty sure I drooled.

That evening, I possessed all the ambulatory properties of a jellyfish. I was in no mood to do anything more exerting than pulling a cork from a wine bottle. My wife, who is well versed in the relaxation arts, was amused by my amateurish languid state. I conceded to her that although chores needed tending to, there wasn't much wrong with this whole scenario, a kind of fiesta of fecklessness.

 

Since that initiation into the bathing arts, I have returned several times and have learned to embrace the eccentricities of the venue. In fact, we have gone ever further down the rabbit hole since that first visit, and found an even more Bohemian haunt. This particular establishment is built upon the bones of an old motel and festooned with weird, aboriginal objets d'art that probably make a lot more sense when you've smoked about an acre of weed. However, each room has its own private hot bath, filled directly and at will from pipes connected to Satan's boiler. I have learned to immerse myself for hours on end, reading books and listening to Waylon music on my portable music device. The tubs are roomy enough for two, so we can slowly morph into wrinkled, pruny skin-bags together.

Strolling the shops along the main drag in Truth or Consequences is like visiting a more civilized version of "Burning Man." Storefronts exhibiting aliens, art photography, statues of Ganesha, and funky antiques reek with the smells of patchouli and hantavirus. The entire chamber of commerce must be populated with grizzled hippies imported from New Jersey and burned-out ex-surfers aspiring to be metal artists — and yet, it works.

When I get up in the morning at home, I still adhere to my assembly-line shower ritual. I can go from sheets to shoelaces in 10 minutes, and look good doing it. I still cast mistrustful glances at the oversized tub in my bathroom, not sure what good it is if it isn't connected to boiling waters from the earth's core. I have come to realize that there is a place in this crusty redneck's world for a bath, however, and that place is at the hot springs of Truth or Consequences.

 

 

Henry Lightcap faces each new day freshly scrubbed in Las Cruces.




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