Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Next week will be the 26th annual running of the Los Angeles Marathon. I wish the runners in that event well. Despite all my planning and preparation I will not be there to see them compete. Bummer.

Part of my preparations to attend the LAM included a first-ever professional massage. I scheduled the massage for last Friday, and since my ankle injury would have no adverse effect of my lying down -mostly naked- and having some stranger touch me, I went regardless of my change in LAM plans.

I like the idea of massage. Studies have shown there is a real, albeit almost negligibly small in most cases, positive effect from massage. It also feels good, which is a tremendous positive effect enhancer. After my professional massage last Friday I would consider having one several times a day forever, accept for one thing: they are too darned expensive.

The only reason Friday’s massage made it onto my miserly schedule was that an e-mail announcing “HALF OFF AN HOUR LONG MASSAGE” found its way into my inbox. It was a “Daily Deal” distributed by the Deseret News Newspaper. Basically, with the daily deal, local merchants provide a limited number of promotional business-boosting coupons to the paper, and the paper gives you 24 hours to purchase them. I once purchased four-for-the-price-of-two entrances into the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Unfortunately every time I go to UMFA I have some other free-admission invite deal, so I have not used them. I have looked into massages in Utah, and the Daily Deal price was good. An hour long massage for $32.50 sounded like about $10 less than what I could expect to pay at one of the lesser-expensive massage locations. I snapped up two; one for a friend.

There was no way to know that Japan would experience what may turn out to be the worst natural disaster survived by any developed nation while I was getting my massage. Nice as the massage was I would rather have taken the opportunity to call up folks in Japan to tell them to turn off their nuclear reactors, and go for picnics way up in the hills. Even scientists who have been exhaustively studying seismology repeatedly prove clueless in predicting even huge quakes like last Friday’s. If ever there was an opening for some psychic or direct-interface-with-god person to make a proverbial killing in the survival-through-precognition arena, Friday would have been it. There may turn out to be tens of thousands (the death toll rises, and the devastation looks unimaginable) of people whose deaths could have been avoided if just a fraction of the thousands of years of practice in religious prophesy proved worthwhile.

"They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you if you'll get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it's a deal." – Pat Robertson on Haitian quake 2010

I will prophesize that outspoken religious persons will proclaim divine reasons for the quake. Probably some sort of retribution. More people will turn to religion in the quake’s wake. I will hope they find comfort in their faith; anything that can reduce suffering in such a situation should be exploited.

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?” – Mathew 5:45, 46 NIV

I was, however, blissfully unaware of the quake till after the massage.

When we arrived at the indescript office suite (Mind Over Matter) for our scheduled massages we were informed that the massages would only be a half hour each. “That’s the daily deal” we were informed. Part of the cost apparently went towards the paperwork I spent almost ten minutes filling out before my massage. This was a new experience for me. I had never before felt disappointed when, after arriving at an office suite, being told my appointment would be over an hour early.

The massage, as I mentioned earlier, was delightful. The masseuse was a rapidly-aging single mother of three in her early 30s. Her recently out-of work live-in boyfriend was putting such financial pressure on her household that she was planning on moving to a more distant bedroom community where the rents would be cheaper. I could also give you details about her kids; it sounded like they were good kids who may have inherited their mom’s sparkling tenacity. She was a graduate of the Utah College of Massage Therapy; the same place most of the non-spa massage locations obtained their masseuses.

The massages were scheduled sequentially, and the waiting room had both comfy chairs and a microwave. My companion told me, when I emerged from the massage, that some very fat man had talked to her about hypnotherapy before disappearing with the attractive receptionist into an office whose closed door she nodded towards. I told her that if the massage had been longer I might have started to drool.

I nestled into a chair, and began to settle into my book when lunch arrived for the office folk. The hypnotherapist and the attractive receptionist emerged from their office hide-away to retrieve some Styrofoam lunches. The hypnotherapist was large. Someone should have told him the inflatable balance ball was not to be eaten. I wondered if his hypnosis sessions were designed to help people with weightloss.

Balance-ball hypnosis guy glanced at me, and must have decided I was not attractive enough for his hypnosis pitch. He disappeared back into his office with the attractive receptionist.

The older woman who had arrived with the lunches spied me, and then bee-lined it over to the comfy-chair microwave area. She sat on the corner of one of the other comfy chairs, and leaned in to speak to me. I cut her off.

“I was hoping for an hour-long massage when I purchased the half off an hour long massage coupon” I told her.

“That’s the Daily Deal” She replied “It’s only a half-hour massage”.

Clearly we were not speaking the same language. I tucked back into my book to signify that the conversation was over.

“With the daily deal you could also get an Aqua-Chi treatment for an additional twenty-five dollars” she said.

“that’s just great” I murmured “What’s Aqua-Chi”.

For the next twenty minutes I was assaulted with a detailed description of Aqua-Chi. In addition to words like “toxins”, “meridians” and “detoxify” I was subjected to the insistent flailing of the Aqua-Chi promoter. The pitch involved Carol Merel (Famous “Let’s Make a Deal” model, and miss Azusa California 1957) like gesturing to parts of the pitch-woman’s anatomy.

“Each leg has a meridian” She gracefully waved her hands up and down her corduroyed pant-leg “and the toxins travel down these through the feet to the Aqua-chi machine”

The Aqua-Chi spokesperson was a poorly-preserved should-have-been seventy-year-old. When she gestured to her legs I imagined that they would have looked like cottage-cheese-filled plastic bags held fast by a thick purple net of varicose veins. I decided that corduroy was my friend.

She gestured to other parts of her anatomy.

“Liver” She said.

I realized that what little color she had in her face was painted on.

“Kidneys” She said.

She must be wearing a rather full pair of adult diapers. I thought: “Most people’s butts don’t get that large and puffy on their own”.

“Colon” She said; waving, unfortunately, at her groin.

She must have just had her hair done. I wondered if she had the MSDS for the industrial epoxy used on it.

I was handed a laminated color printout with a couple pictures of what looked like a foot-bath. In one of the photos the bath was filled with clear liquid and had two feet and an aquarium pump in it. In the other photo the same bath was filled with opaque swamp-water. I studied the pictures carefully to avoid looking at the ongoing interpretive dance geriatric anatomy lesson.

I imagined I heard grunting coming from behind the closed office door. Unfortunately it sounded more like hypnosis-guy was devouring more inflatable exercise equipment than any interesting entanglements with the attractive receptionist.

“Black sludge, green, flakes, Vaseline, bubbles, cottage cheese” Aqua-chi woman had sat back down and was apparently describing the swamp-water in the picture I was hiding behind. I was only momentarily shocked before I realized she was not describing the contents of her pants.

I have slightly researched Aqua-Chi since this encounter. It is a footbath. The bath is filled with a salt solution, and a low-voltage sacrificial electrode is placed in it. The electrolysis of the electrode pollutes the water to opaqueness with iron oxide. Chlorine, and sometimes sulfur, is also released by the reaction; these turn the water different shades, and stink too. Hydrogen gas bubbles come off the electrode when the water molecules themselves are split into their component atoms. Somehow the idea of soaking my feet in a slightly toxic waste material is not appealing; even if the low voltage of the electrolysis electrode is supposed to be pleasantly tingly.

“I’m not going to get an Aqua-Chi today” I handed the printout back to the woman. “It’s not the dumbest thing I have ever heard of, but I have just not budgeted for it today”.

“Have you ever tried hypnotherapy?” she said, not even pausing to switch gears.

Hypno-dude had gone silent in his office. Maybe he was awaiting the delivery of some tether-balls for dessert.

“Does it work for weightloss?” I asked.

“Yes” She replied “Nothing works better for that”

“I’m sure it does” I replied; saved by the emergence of my companion from the massage office “But I must be going now.”

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