December 4, 2006

The crude oil spa.

Luxury, Azerbaijan style.
In her office overlooking the oil field that supplies Health Center, Gyultikin Suleymanova, the lead doctor, said the local crude was unusual because it contained little natural gas or other lighter fractions of petroleum, and as a result was safe.

Naftalan crude contains about 50 percent naphthalene, a hydrocarbon best known as the stuff of mothballs. It is also an active ingredient in coal tar soaps, which are used by dermatologists to treat psoriasis, though in lower concentrations....

Each bath uses about a barrel of crude, which is recycled into a communal tank for future bathers, given the cost of oil these days. [Bath master Arzu] Mirzeyev also uses paper towels to wipe bathers clean, a long, hard process that involves several showers....

The resort has 80 rooms and 10 tubs, 5 for women, 5 for men. The tubs are not scoured between baths and, as might be expected, have perhaps the world’s worst bathtub rings — greasy and greenish brown.
Oh, our spas are ridiculous too.


JohnF said...

Not THAT ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Why is this ridiculous, exactly? Because we hold certain fixed ideas, bordering on hysterical fiction, about petroleum?

Standard oil was a Cleveland company first. It cracked petroleum in sheds, and put the products produced in wooden barrels. Their two big sellers were petroleum jelly and kerosene. The jelly was just a refined version of an ancient folk remedy, and the kerosene replaced whale oil in lamps.

We've all got a tub of petroleum jelly in our medicine chest to this very day. Amerindians used to collect the clots of pasty oil tar out of streams and put it on their rheumatic joints and rashes. It works. That was before an oil spill had metaphysical implications. It used to burble out of the ground here and there before we knew it was particularly useful for anything but homeopathic remedies.

One of the byproducts of cracking crude oil to produce petroleum jelly and kerosene was stuff they called gasoline. Some refiners used to dump it on the ground outside their sheds because they didn't know what to do with the nasty,useless stuff.

They had a busy fire department, there in Cleveland, in the 1800s.

David said...

I don't know many women who would slide effortlessly nude into a tub of lube oil and then have to squeegee it off after a soak!

Dr. Wilkison's spa in Calistoga, CA., uses some kind of hot mulch mud bath that was soothing. They hosed you off after the soak and retrieved the recalcitrant moss for reuse in the steaming cauldron.

I presume there was no smoking allowed at the petro 'soak and poke' spa?!

Moklevat said...

Sippincottage: The availability of safe petrolium derived products and the behaviors of Ameridians does not demonstrate the prudence of bathing in crude oil. The idea that crude oil exposure may be somehow harmful seems to be supported when the doctor in the interview goes out of her way to describe how the local crude is safe compared to other crude. I guess their's is benzene free.

Anonymous said...

moklevat- my ambivalence about the spa is not due to an enthusiasm about the procedure.

People have insane ideas about their health, bordering on demented hypochondria. But it's trumped by their mystical revulsion to crude oil.

If anybody thinks this is any kookier than hot rocks on your back and cucumbers on your eyes, it's because they don't react to crude oil as inefficacious. They think it's evil.

It's just stuff. Useful, or not, depending on what you're talking about.

It's slightly more likely to actually help the one in ten thousand persons who are dipped in it that actually need some sort of treatment for their physical woes than your average holistic spa crapola. That's all I pointed out. Our hostess did too, in her own bloggy way.

By the way, I never read the source material if it's in the NYT.

David said...


How much could we make if we went to Hollywood and opened up a spa featuring a WD-40 rubdown using a giant loufa?

Could work! Maybe an IPO?!

Anonymous said...

Now David. You know that if we open that up, someone will open up their stand down the boulevard offering "3 in 1" oil enemas, and we'll be out of business.

Unknown said...

Well heck, it's not all that far from the volcanic ash mud they slop on your full-body style in Calistoga. Though in that case, my problem with it has more to do with the fact that they can't possibly change it all out between sessions, so I'd be sitting in someone else's ash.

Anonymous said...

If anybody thinks this is any kookier than hot rocks on your back...

I had one of those hot rock massages once. "Ow. Wow, those are really hot. That's starting to burn... Okay, enough with the rocks. Thanks." Unlike a regular massage--not so relaxing.

MadisonMan said...

The last time I had a massage, I forgot to tell the therapist not to touch my insanely ticklish feet. She did, and the relaxation was gone in an instant, never to return.

David, your 'No Smoking' comment made me laugh.