| By Vince DiMiceli
The Brooklyn Papers
While every guy loves a massage, dipping your hand
in what looks like hot wax to moisturize the skin can raise a few
So I wasn't surprised by the way my father - a
retired cop who spent 20 years walking a beat in Coney Island -
reacted when, speaking to him on my cell phone over the whir of hair
dryers at Pilo Arts in Bay Ridge, I told him what was going on.
You know, you used to be the sports editor," he
reminded me. "You interviewed Joe Torre. What the hell's happening to
"Listen, I can't talk," I said. "This paraffin
treatment has to stay on my hands for 10 minutes, and I think the hair
on my head is being enriched with eight essential vitamins and
minerals. I'll call you later."
My dad was calling to tell me about a big move
in my stock portfolio, but I felt it could wait. I was beautify well,
And I needed it. The night before, I was
sweating out press night at The Brooklyn Papers, where it's not
uncommon to leave the office just before or during sunrise. So after a
lousy, early-morning sleep, I plodded out of my Carroll Gardens
apartment, into my car and off to Bay Ridge via the always jammed
Gowanus Expressway. Regardless of this thoroughfare's name, I was late
for my appointment - adding to the stress of my day.
After finding a parking spot in record time, I
was buzzed into the whirlwind environment that is Pilo Arts - people
being rushed back and forth, wine in hand, from stylist to pedicurist,
manicurist to colorist, on a royal-treatment assembly line.
Greeted by John Haubrich, the operations
director at Pilo, I was immediately taken down a flight of stairs to
the much quieter spa area where I would wait for the massage
therapist, Alla. She took me to a smaller, even more peaceful
treatment room where I disrobed, wrapped on a towel, laid down, and
prepared for my 30-minute massage.
Now, here's the first rule of massage that everyone must know: buck up
the cash and go for the one-hour treatment. I'm not saying that Alla
didn't do a good job - nothing could be further from the truth. In
fact, she was able to knead my muscles into relaxation in the time
allotted, but it left me begging for more.
Still, it took about 12 minutes in a steam room
before I came to my senses. My next hour with the aesthetician, Gigi,
who gave me a facial, more than made up for my desire for another
half-hour with Alla.
Upon hearing the word "facial," the image that
immediately popped into my head was that of a middle-aged woman in a
pink bathrobe with rollers in her hair, some sort of green goo on her
face and cucumbers on her eyes.
The reality was much different. My facial
consisted of Gigi massaging my face (which, as you might expect, ain't
all that bad), all the while applying some oxygen moisturizer.
Granted, I don't know what that product is
supposed to do for me, but I didn't have the strength to ask as the
rubbing of my temples made speech a low priority.
After my face was steamed for about 10 minutes rendering the pores of
my skin as open as an all-night diner, Gigi performed the
"extractions" - plucking out disgusting blackheads like those candy
"dots" that come stuck to a sheet of waxed paper.
"You're very lucky," Gigi assured me. "You've
got very nice skin."
Yeah, right, like I didn't know that.
Next was the aforementioned green seaweed mask,
which isn't nearly as bad as you might think - as long as you don't
look in a mirror. The mask peels off easily, but Gigi warned that guys
who come in unshaven won't have it so easy - no shave, no facial.
I left Pilo Arts rosy-cheeked and moisturized -
and in no mood to go to work the next day and get myself all tensed up
again. Alas, I still had bills to pay, so back to work I went and,
after two weeks, the effects of my treatment are beginning to fade.
On top of that, my editor said the story needed
a re-write, only adding to my work-induced stress. She suggested I
head over to A.F. Bennett on 86th Street "for a botanically based
scalp treatment and 15-minute shiatsu massage" to calm me down and,
possibly, add to my research. With two successful spa treatments
already under my belt, I wholeheartedly accepted.
Greeted at the door by owners Anne and Frank
Bennett, I was again immediately offered a beverage and a seat on a
comfortable couch. The 8-year-old storefront across the street from
Nathan's offers the gamut of hair salon services and scalp therapy. I
was told, though, that A.F. Bennett's Staten Island location was much
larger and offered a huge menu of spa services.
Not that I was concerned with such things. All I
wanted was a soothing treatment to moisturize my follicle bed, and I
was glad the atmosphere didn't include the razzle-dazzle of Pilo. I
enjoyed the laid-back vibe and Lenny Kravitz on the stereo.
The treatment consisted of the application of a
cold lavender-and-rosemary oil rubbed into my scalp and hair to
promote growth, followed by a 15-minute scalp massage - which pretty
much put me to sleep. I was a bit groggy at this point - a good groggy
- so excuse me if I mix up what happened next.
Truthfully, I'm not sure if it was cold then hot
or vice versa, but I was subjected to one of those famous seated hair
dryers: the ones that swirl a draft of hot air around the client's
locks while they thumb through Vogue. A cold compress was also applied
to the top of my head at some point. Again, thank the massage for my
lack of memory.
Either way, at some point I felt like I had a cold cabbage pressed
down on my head, which actually didn't feel too bad, and at another
point, I looked like Dark Helmet, the Darth Vader alter ego in Mel
Brooks' "Spaceballs," which, at the very least, brought back some
Finally, I was given my shiatsu massage by the
extremely nimble-fingered Antoinette, who also rendered me unconscious
during my head massage. They say it lasted 15 minutes, but I was
sleeping after about five. Cheers to Antoinette.
I left with the aches in my back a distant
memory, and the shiniest hair I've ever had.
"You've got nice hair," Sylvania the stylist
said while she adjusted my moisture-sealed, shiny mop.
Yeah, right. Like I didn't know that already.
On the way back home, my dad hit me on the cell
to see if I'd be joining him on a jaunt to Atlantic City to watch the
Super Bowl on Sunday. I agreed.
We went and had a great time, drinking beer, talking sports and
reassuring my father of my manhood.
But I couldn't help but notice how badly he
needed a manicure.
Vince DiMiceli, The Papers'
production manager and senior editor, is a recently converted fan of