The Accidental Chinese Foot Massage

Thursday, May 18, 2017




What’s better than a massage on Mother’s Day? Well, for my wife, shopping at a thrift store is better.  I went along for the ride and noticed that there was a little hole-in-the-wall massage parlor in the adjoining strip mall.  It advertised $20.00 for a one hour foot massage.  Being the inquisitive potential customer, I looked up the establishment on Yelp.  There were some conflicting reviews, but the ‘between the lines’ message that I gleaned was that the place offered a good value and suggested that some reviewers went back for repeat business.  It was clear that a $10.00 tip was highly recommended, but even so, $30.00 for an hour massage seemed a great perceived value.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to massages: some people believe that a massage should be a relaxing, spa-like experience where your body is gently caressed while the air is filled with a hint of lavender or eucalyptus.  Others believe that a massage should be of the deep tissue type, where there may be brief moments of discomfort, and no amount of lavender or eucalyptus in the air will be enough to transform it into a truly pleasing experience.  You might call this the “no pain, no gain” mentality.

I’ve had foot massages before.  My most memorable ones were during a trip to China.  While there, I had one full body massage and a bunch of foot massages.  The full body massage still remains fresh in my mind because of the painful scraping sensation on my back, and the irritation that I felt on my back following the session.  An hour or so after I got back to my hotel room, I began to feel something similar to a sunburn.  It persisted to the point where I felt compelled to look at my back in the mirror.  I don’t know if it was more disbelief or horror, but my back no longer resembled ‘my back.’ It had more of the appearance of well, I don’t know, perhaps a strange piece of body art created by an out of control laser.  You can see for yourself what it looked like in the following picture that I captured in the mirror of my room.  

It turns out that I had been given a coin massage, or Gua sha, and apparently there were a lot of bad demons or spirits in my back that had to escape. 

My foot massages in China were also memorable.  I was put in the hands of a diminutive woman, whose strength was inversely proportionate to her size.  Although extremely painful, it was one of those ‘hurts so good’ kinds of procedures where you almost feel more grateful that the massage is over than leave with a feeling of relaxation that the massage is supposed to generate.  This little woman reached in the nooks and crannies of my feet in a way that suggested she had more familiarity with feet than do some podiatrists. 

This past Mother’s Day, I went in for a foot massage.  I had the China experience in mind, but decided that I would keep an open mind and let the eucalyptus leaves fall where they may.  From this point forward, I have to put the words “foot massage” in quotation marks, because what I got that day, didn’t so much resemble a straight forward foot massage as it did an exercise in exploring my threshold of pain (which is high), but even I have my limits.  Afterwards, I was left in a daze for a few hours as I tried to comprehend what had just been done to my body.

Just a week earlier, I had told my foot doctor not to push so hard on my heel (I have plantar fasciitis) because he had hurt me during my previous visit.  I had thought about saying something to the masseuse about my right heel, but decided against it at the last minute and chose to take my chances.  I admit, in retrospect, that sometimes my instincts are slightly off the mark. 

I was led into a cubicle with shoulder-high curtained borders and a massage bed in the middle.  The maĆ®tre d’, if you will, motioned for me to put my stuff in a basket off to the side.  What exactly to put in the basket was not clear, but I emptied my pockets and put in my socks.  Should I have taken off my shirt/pants? Strange thoughts go through one’s mind before a massage, but I prefer to err on the side of caution. I remained fully clothed.

After soaking my feet in tepid water, he began with my left foot.  This was a good thing, because it would give me a sneak preview of what to expect when he got to my right, sore heel.  I’m guessing that it’s not just me, but I am extremely ticklish when it comes to my feet.  It’s hard for me to relax when I’m simultaneously squirming and trying not to laugh.  He didn’t explore all of my foot as his Chinese counterpart did, but he covered the highlights and didn’t cause me any undue pain. 

The rest of the massage, I’ll admit was intense.  I’m not ashamed to say that I wanted to start crying a few times.  I’m convinced that he wanted to get my back to crack, like at a chiropractor’s office.  I thought I felt some frustration on his part when he didn’t hear any popping noises, but that might just be me imagining things.  There were times, when the masseuse touched on some pressure points I never knew existed.  How did he find them, and why did he have to push so hard?  The thought of being in an octagon for an MMA fight kept popping in my head.  I’m convinced that if I were in a ring, I would have tapped out – a few times.

Maybe the manhandling that I was subjected to was payback for not joining my wife at the thrift store – on Mother’s Day.  Maybe the masseuse was trying to get me to tap out or cry, so he could put another notch on his belt.  Or maybe, just maybe, I should have spoken up a little and kindly asked the guy to take it down a notch.  I, of course, am going with the second option; but like I said earlier, my judgement is sometimes slightly off.

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What's in Your Glove Compartment?

Monday, April 17, 2017


I’m not a professional comedy writer, so I probably couldn’t have come up with this story even if I locked myself in a room and bribed myself with Oreos and Dark Chocolate M&Ms. 

I got a letter in the mail today from the company that built our car.  I could tell you what car company sent the notice, but I’m not comfortable disclosing the source of one of my funnier jokes.  I may have to draw from that well again if I ever get writer’s block.  (OK, it’s FCA – look it up if you can’t figure it out.)  It was a recall notice dealing with the subject of proper child rear seat installation.  Apparently, the owner’s manual may have misinformed some people with the fine details of the attachment process.

There was an addendum card enclosed, which was about the size of a large postcard.  The notice asked owners to review the corrected content on the card and then place the card in the glove compartment.  It went on to say that “If you prefer not to place the addendum card (in the glove compartment) yourself, simply contact your dealer to schedule a service appointment.”  If you bring the addendum card to the dealership, they would be happy to put it in the glove compartment for you – at no charge.  It went on to say that if you have already paid for this repair, you may apply for a reimbursement. 

There was a moment, albeit brief, that I wondered if our local car dealership might offer a loaner car for the duration of the repair, but while re-reading the recall notice, I saw that the estimated time it would take to put the addendum card in the glove compartment would probably not exceed just a few minutes. 

I don’t have a huge social network to poll, but even so I don’t believe I have any friends, family members or co-workers that would find it more convenient to make a service appointment with the dealership to perform this “repair” than to put on their Mr. Fixit auto repair hat and insert the addendum card into the owner’s manual themselves.  It couldn’t be too dirty a job, and might offer a good opportunity to do some spring cleaning of forgotten parking tickets, expired registration forms and insurance cards at the same time. 

I chose to do the repair myself.  I hope that in the process I didn’t void the warranty in any way.  It wasn’t specific about where to put the notice, so I just put it in the front of the manual between the “Congratulations on Your New Car” and “Don’t Waste the Dealer’s Time with Unnecessary Issues” sections.  I hope I got that about right.

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THE HIKE, FIRST ATTEMPT

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


*MODERATE HIKE
Recommended daytime temperatures 80 degrees or less
Palm Springs Art Museum Trail – 2 mi., 900 ft. gain, 2 hrs – IN-OUT
Trailhead on Museum Drive at the back of the museum’s parking lot; Free
Excellent workout hike with a steep ascent to picnic tables with a view of the whole valley.
*source: www.visitpalmsprings.com

Previously on THE HIKE: I began the hike at 11:25AM.  The air temperature was 106 degrees, but it was dry heat.

Let’s review my hiking tools and skill set, shall we?  First of all, I do have two legs and two arms.  I also own a pretty good pair of white sneakers.  Oh, and did I mention that I recently bought a telescoping walking stick?  It’s pretty cool, with a cork handle and black loopy wrist strap.  I didn’t have this walking stick for my first hike attempt, so in all fairness we should probably remove that from the list. 

This was a fairly spur of the moment hike.  Do I ever go hiking in real life? Not really, unless you consider walking my dogs up the hill behind our house ‘hiking’.  I think that I can count on two fingers of my left hand the number of hikes that I had taken in the last five years prior to the Palm Springs Art Museum Trail (and I’m right handed). 

As I began the ascent of the trail, I remember being somewhat disappointed, because the cement steps and walkway reminded me too much of a standard issue sidewalk – not a “moderate” hike.  The concrete steps soon ended, though, and before I knew it I was in the thick of it on narrow dirt paths between blazing hot rocks.  I could see scattered footprints from previous hikers (an encouraging sign) and learned that there were white dots painted strategically on boulders (which I also took as a sign that I was headed in the right direction).  Although I kept a close eye out for snakes under rocks and in the many holes on the path, I think I was the only crazy one subjecting myself to direct exposure of the sun on that day.  In fact, the only signs of life that I did see were a lizard and a dead spider.  This glaring absence of wildlife (and humans) did not go unnoticed by me. There were some thoughts of mortality, specifically mine, that popped into my head as I got higher up the trail.

 (This could easily be a photo of the lunar surface, if it weren't for the sneakers and board shorts.)

It didn’t take too long for me to come to the realization that heat was going to be a deciding factor in completing my journey.  I had read that there were picnic tables at the top of the trail for casual wine and cheese gatherings.  About a third of the way up the hill, I was convinced that there could be not possibly be any picnic tables up here.  Who in their right mind would climb up this molten Mercury terrain to drink wine or eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?  And even more to the point, how could anyone bring a picnic table up here to begin with? 

I went for a while without drinking any water.  I didn’t want to be a wimp about it.  About 50 steps later, I re-evaluated and stopped for a quick sip of water and a restful breath of air.  The 106 degree temperature in tandem with my racing heartbeat quickly put this hike in a new category of exercise that my body was not familiar with, so I decided to begin taking it more seriously.  It felt like an ideal time to start listening to my body more closely. 

As I listened to my body’s cues, I couldn’t help but feel that my heart was ticking extremely fast, and didn’t seem to let up very much when I made my little pit stops.  I looked long and hard for shady spots, but at that time of the day, there were none.  I had no choice but to turn my back to the sun to shade my face.  I looked for flat boulders to sit on, but they were of little comfort, as the skin covered by my back pockets began to burn after about 15 seconds.  (Yes, you interpreted that correctly.)

I focused ahead on the path, although if I’m honest, I may have veered slightly off the grid.  I lost track of the white dot markers occasionally, and tried to analyze possible trajectories for my quest to reach the picnic tables, which I concluded didn’t really exist.  I took more frequent breaks for water and rest for my heart but with the relentless heat, the overheated remnants of my sanity whispered to me that I wouldn’t be able to make it to the top. 

Initially, I didn’t want to admit to myself that I had failed to complete this ill-timed journey.  It’s true that we are our harshest critics, and we can be quite cruel to ourselves.  Still, I came to resolute acceptance as I started down the trail.  Looking down at the vast Palm Desert in awe, I knew that I had made the right decision.  Furthermore, I had a challenge ahead of me navigating down the loose dirt, dry brush and jagged rocks.  I’m still thankful that in my underestimated inexperience I brought a pair of gloves.  I put them on and will never again go on a hike without them.

At the bottom of the trail, back in the safety of my car, I turned on the air conditioning and just sat there.  I finished drinking the rest of my third bottle of water and tried to make sense of what had happened.  More than anything, I was happy to be alive.  I had put my life at some risk that day.  I was proud of what I had accomplished, and already began to put together a list of what I would do differently on a subsequent attempt. 


The next hike attempt, as it turns out would have a great significance to me for reasons that I wasn’t even aware of at the time.  As before, with some tweaks to my strategy, I would live to tell the story of my Palm Springs Museum Trail hike.  Stay tuned for the step by step details - including whether the picnic tables made an appearance.


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Seeing, Eye, Dog

Wednesday, November 18, 2015



(Note: This is one in a series of sad pet stories.)


Two plus two equals four.  If everything in life made sense like that, we’d live in a perfect world. 

Our dog is blind.  He wasn’t born blind.  The blindness didn’t come on slowly from some health issue.  No, he was blinded at the hand of another, or should I say the ‘paw’ of another.  That event is still very clear in my mind.  I wish I could change the chain of events that took place on that fateful night; but as many occurrences in life, we can only reevaluate and try to understand. 

I might not ever have learned about the word “enucleation” if it hadn’t been for the accident.  I’ll save you the time of looking it up on Google; it’s the removal of an eye indicated by an illness or other trauma.  I, the eternal optimist, thought that our poor little Coco would still be able to see out of the remaining eye.  Unfortunately, the canine ophthalmologist, (yes, they have those) suspected that the optic nerve of the remaining eye might have been stretched during the initial injury, severing the connection to the visual cortex of the brain.


The good news is that he’s adapted very well to daily life.  To the casual observer, you might not even notice anything wrong with him.  He knows where he is and knows where he’s going.  He loves to go out on walks, and is the first one outside when he detects that we're taking a little trip in the car.  He’s playful and affectionate.  He’s also very protective of his surroundings.  It’s hard to believe that there could be such thing as a blind watch dog, but he growls and barks just like the best of them. 

I can’t help but feel sorry for him though.  I’m reminded every day that he once had the God given sense of sight, but now he doesn’t.  Sometimes when he sleeps, he has bad dreams and whimpers.  I always wonder if he is remembering what happened on that fateful day.  Is he reliving it over and over again, or is it just me that relives it on his behalf? 

We bought him something called “Doggles” once.  They are these little dog goggles that protect his remaining right eye.  They made him look kind of hip and cool, but he didn’t really like to wear them, so we gave up trying. He navigates just fine, using his heightened senses of sound, smell and touch. 

In life you’ve got to take the good with the bad.  You don’t have to like the bad, but to be a productive member of society, you’ve got to adapt to it and integrate it in into your daily life.  You have to use it to make yourself a stronger person, even though you sometimes just want to just crawl under a rock.  It means that sometimes you have to use the mathematical workaround of making two plus three equal four, by first subtracting one. 

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