Phantom Japanese

No, not like the Phantom Germans of an early post here. What happened was, SmellBoy — who may have bought a clue, because he doesn’t whiff me out of the room lately — didn’t show up for his appointment. It meant I finished early, and I know he’ll pay the tariff, but it still cranks me a little. Anyway I called his cell phone, which I had captured in my own office telephone system; I love technology, you push the Save button and you don’t have to write anything down or fiddle it into the phone while squinting sideways.

The ring sounded at the other end. After a moment’s dead air I heard a recorded-sounding “Konnichi wa?” For those not into travel phrasebooks, that is “Hello,” more or less, in Japanese. (SmellBoy is Hispanic.)

“Hello?” I said back. The connection cut off.

You know those moments when you look at an inanimate object as if a snake is coming out of it? That look.

I pressed the Call button again. A perfectly normal generic “You have reached an automated messaging system” announcement began.

By the time he called me back this morning to apologize and reschedule I had forgotten the phantom Japanese guy in his phone. Or somewhere between me and it. I’ll have to ask him.

PS. For those following his recuperation, Torvald has been eating like a horse since Monday. Today he got up on the printer. I’m sure he adjusted all the settings.




Cats Invented Smug

Torvald — who is now getting a little Catsure(tm) twice a day (yes, it is a thing), and seems to feel better from it — posed for a client fan of his who dropped by especially to see him.

Smug Torvald3

He has been off his food pretty seriously, even with the Pumpkin Soup stuff, and lost two pounds (possibly more) before I starting humiliating him with the Catsure from a large ear syringe for elevenses and a late snack. Today he toodled around the house all day, sampling sunbeams, then sat by a dish and waited till I put in a wad of Tuna And Salmon In Pumpkin Soup. (Yumm!) He ate half, which is pretty good, and then plunked himself down by the door that he always expects to open and let him meet ALL THE BUDDIES upstairs. Whom, in sordid experience, he would try to thrash.

I left the door closed, but it looks like a good sign.

After a while he got up on the sofa just in time for his visitor. Cats know how to work it.

Pumpkin Soup


Dr. Cohn called me from the veterinary clinic Wednesday while I was pole-walking. I have to stop giving Torvald one of his medicines, he said, and the other has got to be cut back. The diuretic that has been saving his life for a year is now, after his siege in the ICU and a raised dose to prevent another one, starting to tank his kidneys.

I had suspected as much. He hasn’t wanted to eat much of anything since the hospital stay, and didn’t even drink on his own, so far as I could tell, for two days after that. (I did something that he considered undignified, several times, with an ear syringe, before he went back to slurping at the fountain. You do what you have to.) Kidney toxicity erases a cat’s appetite, famous for being finicky at its best.

He’s lost a pound, on top of the bad bloodwork, and I no longer feel the coiled springs under my hands when I pick him up, though he grouses and complains sometimes when I do. Possibly if I can keep him eating something, he might perk back up; for several days I thought he was going to stay bouncy again — top of the sofa, favorite window — but just as that seemed a sure thing, he slowed back down. He walks half way across a room, stops, and sits down. This morning he slept in the same position so long that I was afraid to look closely for a moment.


I have no idea how this is relaxing but he spent an hour this way

I hope, however, that’s how it ends. He could go for a few days or for weeks, I don’t know, but once the drugs start to break their kidneys, you can’t do a save on the heart failure like we did a couple of weeks ago; you can’t even give them the dose that was helping before. It’s a brutal bargain; it’s just the only one I’ve got. I just watch his breathing — slow and quiet now, the way it should be.

I did find some food that he seems to like — a trendy little organic grain-free blah blah pouch brand called “Soulistic” that offers such delicacies as “duck and chicken in pumpkin soup.” I don’t know what this thing is for feeding pumpkin to quadrupeds, but it seems to be suddenly all the rage. He certainly slurped it up. Not the whole dish, but enough to signify. This afternoon he went for “tuna and duck in gravy”: I don’t know why, but he now wants food that he can lap.

He is a Viking and would pee on me if he knew I were telling anyone about this.

Right now he’s on the porch, though, watching whatever prey there is to watch in the rain. Not going anywhere yet. I have to go out tomorrow and get him more pumpkin soup.

How To Be A Good Massage Client (#9 in an occasional series)

Get Your Adult ADD Diagnosed And Treated

I don’t mean everyone. I mean those of you who have it.

If you have been in business as long as I have, you know that about 5% of your clients account for something like 90% of your missed or late-arriving (I mean insanely late, like twenty minutes out of a scheduled hour) clients. Maybe even 95%. You learned that there are certain people you will always have to call with a reminder, and half the time their phone battery is dead or their voice mail is full.

Once upon a time I did not believe in Attention Deficit Disorder. I thought of it as an excuse to profit from drugging children who were just behaving in an age-appropriate way — people have to move to grow their bodies and nervous systems, ferfrigsake, and these days they want preschoolers to sit still for hours and pass achievement tests. (Maybe that’s the reason they act like psychotic little screeching jackasses from hell whenever they’re anywhere near me.) Or an excuse by slightly older people who don’t want to be bothered with responsibility.

That was before I, briefly, out of stupidity the goodness of my heart, gave house room to a young person who could be a poster child for the diagnostic criteria. There is no way on earth that any person without something drastically wrong in their brains could possibly lose, forget, break so goddam many cell phones, wallets, key chains, appointments, identification cards — and treat every incident as one of those things that just happens, that’s life, why should it be any different?

Suddenly the intermittent problems I had had all along with my  client base sprang into blindingly sharp relief. All those people who were late EVERY goddam time until I just learned to factor that time gap into my schedule; who forgot every other time unless I phoned to remind them; who would take a live call from me at three in the afternoon about a four-thirty appointment and then forget before four-thirty rolled around. Honest injun. Some of these people were among my favorite people on earth — one a friend of thirty years that I used to trade massage with. You can imagine he did not take it up professionally.

Always the same people. And also the same people who lay on the table every time and unloaded to me about all the undone work, the unstarted projects, the missed deadlines and debilitating all-nighters in their lives.

There are beaucoup books about this shit. There are videos for people whose attention span is so fragmented that they can’t finish a book.

One of the books calls the genetic variant involved “The Hunter Gene.” Supposedly the sensitivity of ADD people to distractions would have been an advantage to early humans in hunter-gatherer days who would have responded more rapidly to the tread of prey on the forest floor. Fuck that. These people would be half way out to the hunting grounds before realizing they had forgotten to bring a spear.

I do have some clients who up front tell me they have adult ADD. One of them doesn’t want to use drugs, so she lives a life festooned with Post-it Notes and dingly reminders from her phone. She has never missed an appointment. If you recognize a problem and decide to solve it I figure you can. There are life coach type people who will help design these little hacks and work-arounds, apparently.

Which is why I am not real sympathetic about this, it’s a little like being expected to give rides to someone who could walk again if they just went to PT but they won’t,  but WTF do I do here? Take a grown person – one whom I probably like – by the lapels and say “You have all the stigmata of attention deficit on steroids, for Christ’s sake see a psychologist or a coach YESTERDAY because your inability to manage your own life is driving me crazy?” Actually, I kind of did that with the Forgot By Four Thirty Guy, who agreed there was something to it, but that was months ago and he has not done a thing to look into it because everything else is so distracting.

If you are someone who is always apologizing for forgetting and being late and after years or even decades you are still forgetting and being late, whether it involves your massage appointment or your job, just look into this, okay? And do something about it, if the shoe fits.

And if you want an appointment with me, warn me up front.

Guerilla Marketing

I had to cut my squat workout short to get to my dental cleaning today, on account of the pollen has been so wretched that it took me till after noon to feel able to face the rack, so it sort of worked out that when I got there the elevator was busted and I had to chug up six floors.

They have this new hygienist, the one who replaced the short-lived Fullback Mary, the chainsaw murderer of hygienists. Lita is nice. She actually talks in a normal tone of voice as if you are an intelligent human being and not a small half-wit, and her touch with the power scaler could be a little lighter but I can deal with it. About half way through she jerked her hand back as if she’d been shocked and worked her fingers, and said “Sorry, I pulled something. That happened before.”

“Lemme see,” I said. “I fix stuff like this all day long.” When I explained what I do for a living she stripped off her rubber glove and let me dig around her extensor muscles, stretch her carpal zone and drill down to the interossei between the metacarpal bones. “See if that feels a little different,” I said.

“It does!” she said happily.

“Glad to help,” I said. “I fixed my chiropractor’s table with a Swiss knife once too so he could finish adjusting me.” (True story.)

She finished sand-blasting three months of Darjeeling stain off my teeth and went to get the dentist — actually he’s a periodontist, who did a porcine growth hormone bone graft on my last mandibular molar (#18, if you care) about fourteen years ago, but that is yet another story, told elsewhere.

“He’ll be in in a few minutes,” she said when she looked back in. “And he wants you to look at his shoulder.”

I am sure he was inspecting my gums and so on but I mainly remember him telling me he had this recurring pain and got dry needling and one good massage and some physical therapy, impingement, bursitis und so weiter, also there is bursitis in both hips, golf swing, worked out this morning and it’s really yelling at him.

I stood up when he was done and seized his shoulder. There is a spot on the back of the shoulder blade where the shallow rotator muscle there (the infraspinatus) likes to concentrate all its bile and venom. I think I got his feet off the ground. There was a nasty hot zone in his medial deltoid and, where I am sure he never thought to really dig himself, the usual horror show under the shoulder blade, where you have to slide it into excursion along the ribs to even get at the subscapularis muscle.

By now a large part of the office staff had assembled in the treatment room door, squeezing and jostling for a better view, and the hygienist was holding up her smartphone to get video of the entire occurrence. “Look at that expression!” said the receptionist. “They’ve all been good,” said the scheduling lady. I showed Herr Doktor how to lean forward from a seated position and use his thumb to drill up into the recreant muscle, then pointed out where it attached at the front of the shoulder and mentioned that it usually colludes with the upper chest muscles that cross the thoracic outlet. “Some people don’t have a subclavius, but you probably do,” I said, digging into it. “Holy crap!” he yelled. This was impressive as this guy usually displays such a cool demeanor that you could keep canapes fresh on his forehead.

“Gimme your card,” he said. “I gotta start seeing someone who knows what they’re doing.” As he went out the door, as an afterthought, he remarked “Your mouth looks great by the way.”

I don’t know how this all reflected on the person who gave him the other massage or the PT and so on. Anyway I dropped a fan of my cards at the desk on the way out.

The receptionist promised she’d send the video.


Anger Management

Torvald is doing better. I was a little afraid that I would have to use Aggie-The-Tortie’s checkup and vaccine appointment on him, but lo, this morning when it rolled around, he first whizzed copiously in the cellar litter-box, then ate with some gusto from a succession of dishes I had left around to tempt him through a long anorexic weekend, then capped the performance by lapping vigorously at his cat fountain. (The person who decided that a submersible motor and a pet’s water dish belonged together is a hero of mine, whomever he or she may be.)

I am only just realizing how crazed his predicament made me. After he returned from his visit to the cardiologist, he crashed, and mostly stayed in the bowl chair, and didn’t eat or drink. I dug up an unused ear syringe from somewhere (I can’t remember why I ever bought an ear syringe) and dissolved some Himalayan salt, laden with trace minerals, in hot water then diluted it with cooler water, and drenched him every few hours through Saturday and Sunday. Each evening he would amble up and act more lively, and each morning he looked shrunken and sunken in the bowl chair. Finally Sunday night he ate some kibble. It was like a Cecil B. DeMille movie with an orchestra and chorus underlining a visual effect of light breaking through clouds.

Meanwhile I was trying to stay sane. The Engineer and I had to hit the gym early Sunday and I was really not awake and not happy about it. There was this jackass in a sleeve tat, okay? Who seemed to be on every piece of equipment I needed. Culminating in a numb-nuts monopolization of the leg extension machine, an essential resource for my busted and finally recuperating left leg, yeah, don’t you love people who sit and blockade something you need while they diddle and twiddle on their goddam phone? After several attempts to find something else to do I finally said “Can someone else work in while you’re resting?”

“I have just one more set,” he said. And. Sat. There.

Don't be this guy.

I can’t remember how I ended up in the “functional fitness” room, where they keep the stretch bands, kettlebells and medicine balls. There are a half dozen soft medicine balls, ranging from six to about eighteen pounds I guess, and I had never played with them before, but I seized them up one by one with total random disregard to stamped weight and hurled each one two-handed over my head across the empty room, a distance of fifteen feet or so I guess, and then went over and hurled them back, repeat until I had flung all of them six times. It was the cardiopulmonary buzz of the decade. At the end of it I was just on the near, barely manageable side of homicidal rage. Sleeve Tat never knew how close he came to becoming a headline on the local Patch site. I just didn’t want to get thrown out of the gym — the only  critical, essential issue that penetrated through the red haze.

Maybe I need what my Panamanian boxer client once called “angry management.” Or maybe sometimes enough is just goddam enough. Or maybe I was channeling Torvald Einar Magnussen, the Berserker Viking of cats.

Tonight he leapt up on the back of the couch and let us pet him in turn while we watched old Star Trek episodes. Domestic bliss.


In Search Of Dutch Cleanser

The voices were unbelievable, but I still want the head of the concept designer.

Mercifully, a lot of the Virginia Opera’s Flying Dutchman was done straight. No Sweeney-Todd-like ghostly maquillage on the entire cast (it’s been done). No weirdly industrial sets (popular everywhere). The chorus of the Dutchman’s crew was mercilessly cut, but the scarlet-saturated scrim views of his craft, leaving only tattered human silhouettes against the rigging to disquiet our imaginations, worked so well that you could forgive.

But the designer. Or the director. Or whose-ever idea it was to bring the cursed Dutchman — condemned for pride and stiff-neckery to sail the seas for eternity — on stage displaying a bare chest set off by period outerwear, and then eventually get nakeder from there. That person needs to walk the plank.

I have no problem with a bit of skin in the footlights, but if you are going to design and present an opera straight — in this case, dressing everyone as 19th century Norwegians plus one Dutchman of undetermined but presumably hoary vintage — I just do not want to see male nipples or, for that matter, a male navel heaving through the first two-thirds of the opera. When the soprano — who, true to tradition, boasted the girth and agility of one of those character suits worn at Disney World or for children’s street festivals — finally peeled his open surcoat off him for a clumsy scene of passion, the suspenders… well, just eye bleach. Eye bleach.

(The soprano’s costume too. Sorry. If she is huge, she is huge and that is how she has to be, her voice could have ransomed a kingdom, but the little peplum’ed jacket just set off a caboose that looked like a hundred and one buffets at Denny’s, which does not comport with a Gothically yearning ingenue being peddled by her father, a monument to cupidity if ever there was one, as a hot ticket in the marriage market. When she embraced her demon lover, it was desperately obvious from the angle of the peplum that she had to bend forward over her own abdomen and couldn’t quite reach around him, kind of like Domenico Scarlatti having to stop hand-crossing as he aged due to increasing portliness. I don’t know what to say about the red wig. Whenever a stage designer wants to convey that a female character is a loose cannon they give her a red wig. Ahem.)

But, oh, it was worth the evening even so — the lower notes of the basses full and resonant, the soprano’s top register liquid and unctuous and never strained or shrill. Dutchman is one of the handful of operas that Wagner composed in the grand aria-and-chorus format before he went all rambling and free-form, a quick crib to his later mania for having women die in some vague act of redemption. Dutchman is condemned to wander but will be released if a woman is true to him till death. So far they’ve all stepped out on him, been damned and left him to resume his journey. At the onset of his current seven year itch cycle he berths in stormy waters alongside Daland, a merchant who is impressed with the riches the Dutchman offers for a night’s lodging ashore, and says “Um, I have a beautiful virtuous daughter if you wanna, you know, marry someone.” Follows one of the most tremendous contrapuntal simultaneous monologues in opera — a tour de force of the bass voice:

(About 7:00. Dutchman: “I’m getting off this tub.” Daland: “I’m gonna be rich!” You can hear Wagner giving Verdi a run for his money in the organ-grinder style, just as he does later, when the ships have put in to port and the sailors and their girls enjoy some working-class merriment that can stand up to the Anvil Chorus — here, at 1:34:

Okay, the libretto beats its premise half to death. Daland meets the guy who just happens to be the cursed mariner whose sad tale his daughter is obsessed with, brings him home and says “wanna marry this rich guy?” while the rest of the town says “Dang, you know, that looks like the famous cursed Dutchman’s ship,” and then in the penultimate moments it’s supposed to be sort of surprising when the dark hero sings “Ich bin der Fliegende Hollander!!!!” and whistles up his ghoulish crew, determined not to wreck Senta’s life. (I think this, and not her sacrifice, is what actually releases him, but that’s just my theory.)

Which brings us to the other thing that has to go overboard. I could handle the unraveling of the situation in which Senta — now in a long bridal nighty-gown that suited her a deal better — seemed to be abed dreaming of her lover or getting a premarital visit (suspenders and all) or something, and then her former stalker suitor Erik, an open-carry advocate who barges in everywhere with his hunting rifle, shows up and creepily insists she is his forever because he picked her flowers once, and then the Dutchman catches them together and decides to spare her and face his damnation. She, of course, intends to be treu bis zum Tod and, in the original libretto, climbs to a promontory as the Dutchman puts out to sea, then leaps into the waves, making sure the death part kicks in. Here, she never got off the bed, instead reaching for one of the ropes that dangled distractingly from the flies throughout the production, and performed the physically impossible feat of strangling herself with it. Thud.

Erotic asphyxia? Just wondering.

Oh well, the music was incredible. Bleach is cheap.