Ear Defenders

I have been bitching for years about the universal plague of the earbud, the solipsistic me-world accessory that isolates other gym members in their own little music bubble and makes them impervious to things like friendly conversation or requests to “work in” on the machine they’ve been hogging for three sets without getting off in between. Well, you can talk to them, but you have to cause an international incident by raising your voice and waving your hand in front of their faces and repeating yourself when they fork the gross wax-glazed bud out of their ear and say “Huh?” like an old deefer in a retirement home.

Only I seem to have joined them. No, I don’t stick things in my ears. Never have, never will; it’s disgusting, and TOO GODDAM LOUD. I don’t need my music inside my bodily orifices; I really don’t need it in the gym at all. Which is sort of the reason. Gold’s was bad enough — they had their own disgusting radio station peppered with repetitions of the same ads every fifteen minutes,, for teeth whitener or Spandex leggings or what not. Back at Planet Fitness, where I reluctantly retreated after the millionth commercial and one too many rude assholes and a paucity of warmup bikes — they pick a Sirius station, and on Sundays I can stand the classic rock, which sort of takes me back to my roots at the biker gym that was my home in the 80s. The current top forty, however, can take a hike. It either sounds like a bad case of fleas or someone banging his head on a wall for eternity, and one of the current songs features a talentless female vocalist ascending to a dramatic peak note — practically in whistle register and grotesquely flat. I was raised on real music, goddammit — Mozart and Bruckner and Schumann and Brahms. I don’t know why people need to fray their nerves with this amateurish shit all day. No wonder society is in a mess.

So what happened was, I was reading the Twitter feed of Steven Silberman, who wrote the book, literally, about autistic people finding their place in human culture, and one of his autistic tweeps posted about wearing his Ear Defenders in the subway and meeting a gradeschool-age autistic kid who was excited at the sight because he wore them too.

I perked up. I have always gravitated toward people on the spectrum, though I didn’t usually know it because “on the spectrum” hasn’t been a term for most of my life. But forex, my first decent boyfriend (my “transgender ex,” as it turned out) ticked all the boxes for Aspie whiz kid with tics and quirks — could play reams of Bach and Beethoven by heart, chess maniac, used to make weird rolling movements with his hands and hum to himself, wore clothes until they were in tatters because they were familiar and soft. The Congressional protest candidate that I worked for in the oughts used to routinely stim while driving the car, holding his hand over the air vents and waving it continually at the wrist; couldn’t remember a face for five minutes; couldn’t shut up once he started talking, did statistics for a living, handled carefully planned public speaking with grace but had genuine meltdowns when there was too much unscripted interaction. (I earned some kind of an award for stage-managing his candidacy.) He had had a ham radio call sign since his teens — a hobby that was home to autistic people before the digital age gave them a larger playground. I was always sorry that I couldn’t coax him, a man born long before adult autism diagnosis was a “thing,” into getting evaluated, but like neurotypicals (that’s me and pro’lly you) of his generation, could only hear me suggesting that he had an awful defect instead of alternative wiring.

The common ground is that I get the characteristic low threshold that autistic people have for sensory input. I get a violent headache and throw up if I view 3-D movies or even the vivid animations that often precede a feature film. I cannot be near anything like a disco or party and, lacking any desire to attend a rock concert, can detect (and be crazed by) a loud stereo two houses away that the Engineer can’t even hear. This is a “thing,” too, though it is kind of mortifying that it is termed “high sensitivity,” which sounds like I am trying to align with a cohort of tender weepers who swoon if you say “fuck.” Whatever. It makes me a good bodyworker and ruthless lifter who says “fuck” a lot in the presence of excess commotion. Maybe that is its own neurotribe.

I stuck “Ear Defender” into the search bar.

A few days later this wonderful pair of orange things showed up.

IMG_0572

They look like the headphones that a lot of gym peeps wear, they’re just not connected to anything. No one else has to know that. They muffle 37 decibels, are considered adequate for driving monster trucks or light shooting, and I can attest that while they do not obliterate the vile noise that pours from the gym speakers, they move it way up the road. Also, I don’t have to overhear screamingly banal conversation from the schlubby housewives and shuffling pudgy men who use the machines backward and operate the bikes on zero resistance in slo-mo just so they can tell their doctors they “work out.” I miss the days when only goons and buff gay men (and me) hung out in gyms.

Now I get to be the one saying “Hm?” What the hell. It’s nice and quiet in here.

 

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Stick ‘Em Up

OK, this thing is the everlasting balls.

Stickemup

It is called, succinctly, the Massage Gun, and it pretty much is what it says on the can. I think it probably evolved from a kludge job on a power chisel (stick “massage gun” into the YouTube search field and you will see what I mean), only instead of a chisel there is a hard rubber ball on the business end. It pummels your muscles with several zillion turbocharged percussions a minute, sounding and feeling, from the handle end, a lot like an electric hedge clipper. You literally see the flesh rippling out from the point of impact as if someone were dribbling a Superball off a dish of Jello.

So far, only the Minotaur and I can take this. Oh, and the Engineer, who is built for comfort not for speed and needs at least a four pound maul to get through to his muscles most days.

It was actually the Minotaur who tipped me off. He is a Masters competitor in Olympic lifting, with a string of records and a state Hall Of Fame to his credit, and lately I have been having to wale on him every blessed week because there’s a competition coming up. One day he described using a gadget like this — several companies are in the market now — at the power gym where he goes through his paces, starting with things like squatting five hundred pounds for triples. Oh yeah.

Someone had told him this product was the best bang for the buck. Well, as John Carter of Mars says so often in the books, with me, to think is to act. At least. to see this thing demonstrated on the website’s video was to click the Order button.

I’ve tried it on a half dozen clients and they all yelled something like “Uncle!” or “Christmas!” after around five seconds. Me. I put my feet up after a hard day’s work. brace that baby against the wads and knots of chronic pain that nothing else seems to reach in my thighs (in my business, the junkies become the dealers, and I’m having trouble finding capable dealers), and let it rip. The cats think it is a weird purring animal.

I think the LED over the percussion ball is a nice touch. Sort of like the laser sight on the Engineer’s cordless jigsaw that helps you make an exact cut, even though with this baby, you really have to go by feel. No one on this earth has a precision ass.

 

 

Bath Bombs

I dreamed I was giving a massage to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. There was nothing salacious about this. Bodywork is my skill, my calling, my career. I fix stressed, injured people. Probably it was easy for my dreaming mind to imagine that Mr. Mueller could use some destressing. The odd thing was that I was using the dining room table that lived in the house(s) I grew up in, one that was made for the family by a Maine artisan related to a family friend, out of solid oak, not a nail or screw in it, all wooden pegged with a longitudinal strut that I used to sneakily rest my feet on. No clothing was off. I kept getting interrupted between this extremity and that, so that when people started arriving expecting to be served some sort of repast on that table I hadn’t done Mr. Mueller’s feet yet. I held out. Feet are important.

One of the chattering, irritating, girly arrivals had come with a supply of “Bath Bombs,” I’ve read of the things, blobs of bath salts or bubble stuff with usually obnoxious aromas. These, though differently colored and composed, were all pecan-scented.

My Southern relatives, whom I repudiate to the extent that I would carve their DNA out of myself with a blunt knife if it were possible and survivable, owned many pecan orchards. They would probably vote for Roy “Lolitaphile” Moore if they were still living. Don’t know about subsequent generations. I cut them off.

There’s just something wrong about dreaming politics. I’m glad the next segment of the dream involved an old client of mine coming into possession of a hot pink convertible.

 

 

The Kidney Meridian

Chloe has been my client since early days. Meaning since before 1991, when I vacated my studio at the late lamented Spa Lady, which divested and fragmented and mismanaged itself out of business in all but a few metropolitan areas. She moved to the American Southwest over a decade ago, then came back to my turf over family issues, and here she stays.

She’s a creative worker. Meaning that, increasingly, she competes in what is referred to as the “gig economy,” aka “you’re on your own.” When you’re over sixty, that is not a good place to be.

A few months ago she hit a wall of some description, and ended up in the hospital with tanked kidneys. Long years of intrusive pain, lots of NSAIDs which are not balm for the kidneys, might have had something to do with this. I’m not a doctor. I just see people year in and year out.

Chloe is a natural spinster; meaning that she likes men but isn’t ready to let one dictate the circumstances of her life, at least not so long as he is any degree of an asshole, so she is on her own in more ways than one, the asshole issue being so prevalent. Our culture assumes that you will be partnered and buffered therefore and not have to face the world on your own. Yeah. Tell me another one. I didn’t find that place until a year ago, logistically, and that was altogether a fluke.

She showed up today, fresh off six days in the hospital, with its freight of neglect and humiliation: “I was throwing up, and they gave me pot roast. In July.” Hospital staff emptied the trash in her room at two a.m.; someone requiring a blood draw showed up not much later. The doctor doing grand rounds on the Fourth said: “I know you aren’t happy to be here on the Fourth of July, but so are we.” “It isn’t at all the same thing,” she told him. Good on her.

She was shaking, ten pounds lighter than I last saw her, when she got on the table. I suggested attention to the kidney points on the Chinese acupuncture meridians, though I have no robust certification in this art; just a value-added proposition. I keep an acupuncture mannequin so as to jog my memory of these loci. I’ve had acupuncture, beaucoup times, and it fixes things. Manual attention to these points has a track record. She went eep every time I dug into the kidney points. I honestly can’t say what I was doing, other than no harm. On either side of the matter, I did what was called for, work on the flanks and back exhausted by immobilization in a hospital bed.

I think Chloe is a year or two away from Medicare. At the worst, the US government has elected kidney dialysis, of all interventions, as the one that will always be funded. Dialysis sucks. I hope Chloe can avoid it. I hope to hell she doesn’t need expensive intervention of any other kind before Medicare kicks in, because none of us know what Congress can ram through to relieve obscenely, unimaginably rich people of paying taxes so that Chloe or anyone like her can live without worrying about being bankrupted by medical bills.

I had some arnica oil for the bruises from four IV sites.

And a homing instinct for acupuncture points.

It’s all I’ve got.

 

 

 

Chilblains

For Christmas I got a chilblain and a dying lady. Well, dead, actually. More about that shortly as it is the more complicated story.

Chilblains seem like such a quaint, Dickensian affliction that it is slightly mortifying to have one. My readers from Canada and the upper tier of the US may not see it this way of course, but please remember that I live in Virginia, which is technically the South.

On the other hand I frostnipped a couple of toes on my left foot thirty years ago, shoveling the street in snowmelt while wearing leaky boots, and they have never exactly been the same. I have learned to stick my sockfeet in plastic bags before attacking a snowdrift, thereby mostly avoiding a reprise of the lopsided, purplish toe-tip that marked that past occasion, but lately, I have been working barefoot because I can feel my weight shift at the side of the massage table more precisely, neglecting to note that as the winter advanced, I was planting said bare feet on an increasingly frigid hardwood floor for a lot of the session.

The day before Christmas Eve was cold and grey and my feet would not get warm, but preferring cold to heat on any day of the year and impatient with anything like suffocating my feet in socks or shoes inside my own house, I just put up with it, until the following morning I felt the characteristic  “I have been in the cold and now I am warming up ouch” sense on the tip of one toe, and discovered a circumscribed, indurated, reddish purple bit underlapping the end of the toenail. It took a little Net searching to convince me of what I was seeing. Who the fuck am I, Bob Cratchit?

So now I am ignominiously having to stuff my feet into little socksies and shoozies (L. L. Bean’s Wicked Good fleece clogs, if you must know) and keep them dry because chilblains don’t heal if you keep, well, chilling them.

So in the middle of that I texted Clarissa, who has come to me for fifteen years: tall, majestic, always mercilessly well dressed, in peacock-patterned tunics and looping great necklaces of chunky glass beads, too conscientious for her own good, scattered, dutiful, full of narrative of her life and work like a fire hose under maximum pressure.

Only this was the year Clarissa hit the wall. Um, they said, we’ve found a recurrence of the precancer you were treated for several years back, they said. Well, no, this is cancer. Come on down to the medical torture chamber and we’ll zap you coming and going.

Strangely, when ominous signs began to manifest distant from the cancer site, no one bothered to check if it was in fact more cancer. Don’t ask me. We have the Best Healthcare System In The World ™, right?

Well, whatever, it didn’t stop things from getting to the point where she wanted work, because in bed all day long stiff sore ouch, but couldn’t get to me because oncologist says don’t put weight on your leg bone it is full of cancer and will break, so I loaded up that fucking folding table and went to her, on the only day of the week I could find the time. You just do this. One December Sunday. Then another. Then “no, family are all coming this weekend.” Then Christmas. I don’t give a rat’s ass for Christmas, and sent her a text on Christmas Eve, complete with emojis (I just figured those out), asking if she’d like me to come down her chimney on Christmas Day.

Her husband texted back just as I was about to set out the gifts that we do exchange because it is the time after all. She died late Friday evening. About the time I was cultivating chilblains. I had to read that text but motherfucking God, he had to send it. I have no words.

2016, have you no goddam mercy?

I am still wearing my fuzzy socks.

 

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.

 

 

 

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.