Dusk Somewhere

A vision for bathing in the Bay

Posted at — Jul 1, 2024 by Izzy Meckler

Bathing is fun

Bathing is already a popular pastime in the bay: from Archimedes Banya to Good Hot to the (sadly gone) Essex tub.

It’s a good time and people know it!

Bathing provides us with a slice of the good life. At its best it is spiritual, sensual, social, and an immense aesthetic pleasure.

The sauna I designed and had built for me and my neighbors.

Bathing is also cheap

Ignoring land costs for a moment, it can also be quite cheap. As an example, building a top-of-the-line 6-person sauna can be done for about \$20,000, and at current electricity costs of about \$0.468 / kWh costs \$3.75 to run for one hour. The ongoing labor requirements are minimal: let’s say about 1 hour of cleaning every two weeks (assuming it’s getting very heavy use) which can be performed by the users.

If it gets used by 18 people a day (3 shifts of 6 people let’s say), the construction costs amortized over 3 years (and this is really conservative, more realistic would be 10 years) are just about \$1 per use. Adding in the electricity, the total cost per use would be a little over \$2.

I have built such a sauna in my shared garden and it is really lovely.

Bathing builds community

As communists, one important goal in the current moment is to strengthen the social bonds between working people. There are automatic tendencies in capitalism that produce these bonds to some extent (e.g., the coworker or co-tenant/neighbor relationship) but we can act to produce more opportunities for the formation of these bonds.

Bathing together is one such opportunity. Anyone who has shvitsed with a friend needs no explanation but I will provide a partial one for the uninitiated (although there is no substitute for experience): the extreme heat and moisture of a sauna, banya, steamroom, etc., opens one up mentally and makes it difficult to maintain a front. Moreover in the bath one is stripped of any external markers of status. As the Russian saying goes, “there are no generals in the banya.”

Currently we are very lucky that bathing in the Bay has not been very thoroughly commodified. The capitalists have plans for our baths though. They look like this terribly expensive, equinox-looking bathhouse in New York.

In this moment, we should work to build a de-commodified bathing culture, paid for and managed by the bathers themselves, so that there is no space for capitalists to occupy and extract their toll from what should be a sacred part of our days.

The plan

The plan is to establish an organization (provisional name “Communist Bathing Association”). We would then find lots (say starting with just 1) for sale or rent (in the East Bay to start) and build a sauna there.

Once the sauna is up and running, we would open up membership more widely. Members would pay for the amortized cost of their usage, and perform their share of the necessary maintenance work (in practice, occasional cleanings). This would be tracked by an automated system.

Members would book bathing slots using an online system, which would be connected to the heater and make sure the sauna was hot at the appropriate times.

New members would need to be referred by existing members and should be involved with the workers', tenants' or communist/socialist movements in some way.

The long-term goal is to have a sauna within 15-20 minutes walking distance of everywhere in the core of the East Bay. This is achievable with about 10 saunas.

What would each bathing space look like?

Each bathing space would consist of a sauna (probably for 6-10 people), two outdoor showers, a sitting area, and a bank of lockers. Each should also be full of plants.

How can I help?

Please get in touch if you are interested in

You can email or text me if you know how, or leave a comment if you don’t.