Thursday, January 8, 2009

Off ve go to Take der Vaters

The Romans had the right idea about hot springs: Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadena's "A Favourite Custom," 1909, oil on panel, at the Tate Gallery, London.

Tomorrow the Lady Friend and I don our engineer's caps and metamorphose into the unreconstructed rail buffs we are at heart. As promised last December 2, we are heading for Glenwood Springs, Colorado, aboard Amtrak's California Zephyr.

Among other things, at the Glenwood Hot Springs we will Take the Waters, as members of the upper crust used to say a century ago when they were going to such nobby spas as Saratoga Springs, Salsomaggiore in Italy or Baden-Baden in Germany. Here's part of the reason why, in a passage cribbed from my 1994 book Zephyr: Tracking a Dream Across America:

"Much of the attraction of thermal pools lies in simply letting one's imagination float upon the passing scene. Sitting on a ledge in the shallows of the larger tank during our visit was a quartet of stout matrons in their seventies, chattering animatedly in age-old fashion. Throughout history women have gathered to exchange gossip at watering places, and these ladies, despite their floppy straw hats and voluminous skirted bathing costumes -- "swimsuits" is inadequate -- wouldn't have looked out of place in linen robes, amphorae on their shoulders.

"Next to them four men of similar vintage -- their husbands? -- sat in silent line abreast like basilisks brooding on a cornice. Four leathery bald heads remained rigid as four pairs of reptilian eyes slowly trailed into the pool a thong-clad beauty who brought to life Raymond Chandler's line about 'a blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.'"

We'll be back in a week, but until then I'll try to post combat reports from the front.


  1. But, Henry, what does the Lady Friend say about the pictured "taking of the waters"? I assume, of course, that it is an accurate reprentation of where you are going. Do you need someone to carry the luggage? Would the waters help my shoulder? Do the pictured ladies do Physical Therapy?

  2. "In your dreams," the L.F. said.

    Actually you can't see much in the winter; the thick fog rising from the superheated waters into the wintry air makes that impossible.

    PTs don't do their job in the altogether, but some "spa" masseuses do. (This is not a fit subject for discussion outside the locker room.)

  3. To both of you, enjoy your trip and the healing waters. Keep us posted from the front.