By Van Smith
Published in New York Press, Mar. 10, 1999
I got a phone message from a close friend, a school teacher in the Bronx, who for good or ill keeps up with the nitty-gritties of my life. “I’m just curious as to how far that rod got jammed up your asshole, Van,” my friend said. “And, you know, what kind of roughage – what kind of whatever you call it, excess – you had. … So please give me the details when you can. Thank you.”
Ah, the details. It started a few weeks ago when another friend of mine, an artist and photographer from Baltimore, came to town to keep an appointment with Maya Goldenberg, a certified iridologist and colon therapist who runs the Natural Health & Nutrition Center in the Homecrest neighborhood of Brooklyn. My friend ponied up $50 to use Goldenberg’s Libbe colonic hydrotherapy machine. This convenient device is, as my friend described it, essentially a self-service colon-cleanser. Plug yourself in, let the water work its magic and watch huge volumes of effluvial night soil parade through clear and backlit plastic plumbing.
He said it was supposed to be good for you. Knowing that he’s a scatalogically obsessed Virgo, I had other, more psychological theories about why he might go for radical bowel treatment, but I kept them to myself.
That’s about all I kept to myself, though, since I myself am somewhat scatalogically obsessed, and there’s nothing I like more than telling a good story involving the GI tract. So on a recent Saturday afternoon I crossed the threshold of Goldenberg’s office, gripped with mild, butt-clenching anxiety over the impending penetration of my rectum. Accompanying me for moral support was a close companion. The first thing I noticed about Goldenberg’s office, on the second floor of a rowhouse on Ocean Ave., was that its walls are pink. Like the inside of a newly flushed colon. New-age music floated quietly through the air in rhythmic drips and drops. The atmosphere was conducive to the peaceful release of whatever’s binding you up.
Goldenberg, a prim and proper white-clad Russian immigrant reminiscent of a young Dr. Ruth, greeted me warmly and handed me a questionnaire. I answered all the usuals – name, address, date of birth, height, weight, etc. – and then came to the one question that I briefly thought might put the kibosh on the assignment. “Have you ever had surgery? If so, where?”
When I was 18, I perforated my intestines in a moped accident. Massive infection had resulted, so the doctors had opened me up like a baked potato to clean out the pus and stitch up the cut. I thought that that session under the knife might cause Goldenberg to cancel on me. But she just perused my questionnaire, made a few asides (“A writer? I get writers, movie stars …”) and proceeded to explain the procedure, without once asking me about my intestinal surgery. With the preliminaries out of the way, she escorted me through a door that bore a sign: “Colonic irrigation.”
Inside was the Libbe machine. Goldenberg kept up a singsong banter about the device, which is made of blue molded plastic and looks like a combination of a La-Z-Boy and a bidet. As she spoke, she ripped open a packet of lube, greased up a nozzle sticking up out of the bowl and fitted a clear, disposable plastic tube over it. Then she handed me the packet and told me I would need to take off my pants, lubricate the tip of the tube and my anus, and insert the former into the latter while making myself comfortable in the Libbe’s reclining seat. She placed a folded sheet and a blue splatter-cover on the table next to the machine. Then she instructed me to cover my private parts with the sheet, and the Libbe’s bowl with the splatter-cover, once everything was in place. When I was ready, she said, I was to push the buzzer, and she’d come in and kick the Libbe into gear.
Now, some people say it’s a playground down there, but I’m not one to make fun with my brown eye. Except for some routine care and maintenance, I’m pretty adamant about leaving the sucker alone. Thus, as I probed a greasy finger around the ring and tried to relax and let the tip of the tube make its entry, I felt profoundly embarrassed, even a touch humiliated. I took small comfort in knowing that Maya Goldenberg wasn’t taking care of this end of things, at least.
Once all the parts were in their proper places and I was decent according to such dictates of modesty as still apply when you’re plugged in for a colonic, I buzzed for Goldenberg to enter. On the wall next to me was a cabinet, which she opened to reveal a series of clear tubes filled with filtered water. She explained that the water was warmed to just below body temperature for cleansing comfort. She turned a knob and, as the water level in the tube descended, by bowels distended.
According to Goldenberg, the Libbe’s great advance in colon-cleansing technology is that it ends the need to insert a painfully oversized tube in order to carry away the flushed bowels’ contents. Instead, the built-up mess just rushes out of the anus around the slim, inserted tube. This, she explained, makes for a much more comfortable ride, since the patient controls the rate and timing of release.
Having explained all this while my guts were slowly filling, Goldenberg left me in peace to contemplate the strange sensations and to worry about the inevitably loud sounds that would result from the release. The waiting room, after all, is just outside the thin door. As if reading my mind, Goldenberg offered to turn up the new-age music before she left.
Then came the deluge. I watched the clear drainpipe with great anticipation and fascination. Wave after wave of effluent left my body, but all I saw was fecal matter in suspension, some dark – some of it even black – and some of it shades of light brown to yellow. One thought dominated my mind as I watched: God, if all that was inside me, I really needed this.
I spent a little over a half-hour in the room. After I cleaned myself up with some paper towels (despite the splatter-cover, a little backwash tends to hit you in the cheeks and thighs) and got my pants and boots back on. I opened the door. Another patron awaiting use of the machine successfully avoided looking at me. It dawned on me that the music doesn’t quite cut it. What Goldenberg needs to play is a little G.G. Allin or some other shitty punk music. As my companion said later, “I heard the whole thing – every bit of it.”