Tag Archives: Rockaways

Confessions of a Pedalphile: Lonely Boy Digest Vol 2: Brooklyn Banyas and Beyond part 2: To steam perchance to dream…

If one pedals hard and fast enough they may in fact reach the land of the Banyas, but if, and only if, they are true and light of heart. Fortunately for you, Ryder Strong is made up of all of these things and more! Beets and teats and soccer cleats!

Sloughing off from Floyd Bennet field, the lonely pedalphile will soon reach Brooklyn’s Coney Island. He need only follow the Belt Parkway bicycle path. Pedal here and you have reached the land of Banyas. Reward yourself with a bagel(for the jewish influence here is strong and the bagels delish) to replenish your calories and prepare yourself for a grueling sweat. Once you reach the general vicinity of Coney Island, you have 3 public banyas within your grasp. There is:

Now, keep in mind that the Banya business can be weird and rough, strange and terrible, and the aforementioned banyas are apt to go out of business, change ownership, move, etc. so that by the time you read this, those weblinks may not necessarily work. A good guide to current Russian Baths can be found here. It has served me well over the years, but it too may vanish at some point. Of course, there is always the promisedland: know that the manboy will do his best to always provide the seeker of steam with the most up to date sweat-related info at all times.

Fair enough.

On we pedal, through the borough of Brooklyn, to 1200 Gravesend Rd. and to the Russian Baths of Neck Road! Nestled betwixt 12th and 13th Streets the baths may at first be hard to spot, as they are tucked away behind an apartment complex and playground, and set back from the road. Find them and venture forth! Do not be afraid, for the staff are extraordinarily welcoming and friendly to the solo wayward adventurer and speak perfect English.

Keep in mind that Ryder Strong has his own personal sauna (he built it in his parents’ backyard) and knows what a good steam is, but he still likes to keep abreast of the general state of steam. Of course, it had been a while since he had been to a real Russian banya, so don’t hold it against him that he forgot the entry procedure. It follows thusly: Introduce yourself, stating that you want to partake of the steam. The proprietor will then hand you a plastic baggie, into which you put your wallet and then hand back to him. He locks it up behind the desk and then gives you a key. This key is the key to your locker in the locker room and is to be worn about your wrist. It has a number stamped on it, which functions like a bar tab. If you want a juice, a beer, or a dish of dumplings you simply flash your number and pay at the end. The Russian Baths of Neck Road cost $30 for the day.

As mentioned previously, Ryder Strong, Pipe Adams, and the Manboy know steam. They are the voice of steam for their generation. They know their shit. They have detailed files.

And if one truly knows steam, they know that the majority of banyas, saunas, Turkish steam rooms, etc. are mislabeled and misidentified. You can’t trust anyones description or label, save mine, and you never know what you are going to get when you enter a banya, spa, steam room, or whatever name your place of steam goes by.

That’s fine and you expect it by now. However, what you are looking for is the general quality of the steam, no matter the conveyance. This shit just doesn’t exist anyone like it once did and you take what you can get. When talking banyas, at least in New York, what you will generally encounter are variants of the banya, Finish sauna, and “Turkish” steam room. The banya, or Russian sauna, traditionally consists of a LARGE stove within the bathing area. The stove is heated and water is thrown into it, where there are rocks inside. Once the water strikes the rocks, steam is produced. The Russian banya tends to produce steam of a fine mist like quality. It is an excellent and well thought out way to steam bathe. Out of all the aforementioned steam bathing variants (Finish sauna, Turkish steam room, banya, etc.) the banya, being a thoroughly Russian tradition, will usually bear the most accuracy to its namesake. The Finish sauna, although it has its own variants, generally consists of a small stove within the bathing area. The rocks are external to the stove and water is ladled onto them to produce an invisible vapor-like steam. The majority of spas, banyas, what-have-yous consider the Finish sauna to be a dry heat bath and this is a misnomer. A real Finish sauna will ALWAYS use steam to accentuate the bathing process. The Turkish steam room is an enigma unto itself and they truly do not exist in the states. You will find them in Turkey I hear, but I imagine they are a dying breed. Generally, what is passed off as a Turkish steam here room will consist of a tiled room pumped full of cool, cloudy, vaporous scent infused steam. They are usually weak at best, but can provide some satisfaction should the mood for such a steam strike you right.

The Russian Baths at Neck Road consist of 2 thoroughly Russian banyas, a “Turkish” steam room, and a large swimming pool. The baths are laid out around the swimming pool. The space is generally tight, but an agile hooligan should have no problem getting around. And lest I forget, sorry ladies, there is a fantastic mens-only banya just off the locker room. It is LARGE, and in charge. I would describe its steam quality as superb. And, being that it is quite large, and limited to men only, it is thoroughly uncrowded and quiet. Perfect! It might well be worth a visit to the Russian Baths of Neck Road to check this one out.

Moving on, we encounter our first Banya, located just beyond the deep end of the swimming pool. It is HOT. An observant hooligan noted its temperature to hover between 230 and 240 degrees Fahrenheit. Doting attendants bounce in and out to splash water on the rocks. Excellent! A powerful steam indeed.

Nextly, we find the second banya between the previously mentioned HOT banya and the steam room. This one is for byrds, boys. The heat is medium. While there was a ladle and bucket of water on the bench, one gets the impression that this is considered to be the “dry” banya, as no attendants came in to spash water on the rocks. Fair enough. A good transition from the HOT banya to the steam room.

Ah, the steam room. Not bad, I would say, as far as steam rooms go. Thick clouds of deliciously eucalyptic and odorous steam obscure one’s vision and clear the sinuses. This Russian Bath’s steam room is better than most, as the steam is hotter here, than most. Be careful not slip however. You have been warned.

Past the steam room, there is a nice indoor lounge where hooligans can watch soccer on quality television sets and take naps. Thumbs up!

All in all, a quality banya worthy of a second look. As noted previously, the staff are courteous and polite, which has become a shocking rarity anywhere. No shenanigans and no hijinks here. $30 and you get a great steam. Ryder Strong left satiated and satisfied, pedaling on air all the way back home.Russian Baths of Neck Road - 1200 Gravesend Ave., Brooklyn.

 

Confessions of a Pedalphile: Lonely Boy Digest Vol 2: Brooklyn Banyas and Beyond part 1

In this installment of Lonely Boy Digest, Ryder Strong mounts his iron steed once again to take on the realms of the forgotten and the bizarre. And what better place to start, friends, than his own backyard.

Crossing the Atlantic Beach Bridge from Long Island leads one into Queens and the bygone hinterlands of New York city known as the Rockaways. Quickly, one is upon the jarring wooden planks of the beach boardwalk and hurtling towards Fort Tilden and the Marine Parkway Bridge, which secrets one into Brooklyn.

Excerpt from Ryder Strong travelogue:
The Rockaway Boardwalk: Truly, the freaks come out at all hours. Waterheads, decrepit and crumbling senior citizens being pushed in their wheelchairs by Haitian women, Russians, the mentally ill, the homeless, observant old jews, people letting their dogs shit and piss on the wooden slats of the boardwalk. These people are always here but gone are the shirtless muscular black men with perfect abs jogging the boardwalk and the doughy latinas stuffed into too-tight cheap clothes pushing baby strollers of the summertime. This is MADNESS!

Indeed, Ryder Strong is no stranger to the absurdity of it all, however the physical appearance of those encountered during this most recent pedal through the lesser Apple revealed a a truly beat down populace. People are falling apart. Things are getting worse. The end of times is coming, make no mistake.

Moving on, we encounter Floyd Bennett Field, yet another unremembered testament to a better time. Designated as part of Gateway National Recreational Area, Floyd Bennett Field is now a lightly used, and largely abandoned, airfield. Many derelict hangars and buildings dot this seldom visited park. There is an archery range there, if you’re into that sort of thing. Three people were using it. It is a well-known fact however, that all hooligans are strangely attracted to abandoned buildings.

Hmmm...the #33. Where have we seen that before..?

…to be continued.

Confessions of a Pedalphile: Adventures in the Rockaways and Fort Tilden Park

Please note that this article first appeared in the August edition of Pilgrims of Pleiades

Rockaway Boardwalk

Ryder Strong awoke before dawn.

He put his boots on.

He took a face from the ancient gallery and…

…walked on down the hall (in his one bedroom apartment).

Oh!

Oh, hooligan breathren! Those that are living the dream!

Ryder Strong misses you very much and he knows not what to do with himself!

So, to cope, he goes on long bicycle rides to forgotten places!

And please, keep in mind, that if one should be reading this blog, by all means take a face from the ancient gallery and ride on down to Fort Tilden; New York City’s best forgotten beach and abandoned military base.

Located at the far west end of the Rockaways, Fort Tilden is fucking forlorn and forgotten.

There’s no one out there.

This is good if you’re a misanthrope and/or prefer to be alone in a city of millions. Certain things are better left alone and this is one of them. Keeping this place out of the wretched hands of city folk is made easier by the fact that you can’t park your car there unless you have a special fishing permit or something, and even so there is only a small parking lot with spaces for about 30 cars.

Fort Tilden is a place better explored on two running feet or a mountain bike. There are many trails where one can slide off into the woods and fuck or jerk off (but no one is there so you can fuck/jill off in the middle of the trail if you want). Kinski would love it.

FT houses two large bunkers similar to Camp Hero and they are also forgotten. No one has sealed them up and you easily slip inside of them. They are the same design as they’re heroic brethren and are covered in graffiti.

The city, or whoever, has built a solidly constructed staircase up and around to the top of one that offers a decent view of the city skyline.

There is also plenty of shit to see that doesn’t have any staircases built into it and, at any rate, the staircase that was built is clearly falling into disrepair and has steps missing so this is definitely a hooligan landmark to check out.

For more information in regards to Fort Tilden please contact Ryder Strong at this blog.