Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Wait 'til I Get My Hands On You

Can I suggest some music to go with this post? Open a separate tab and open this link. You can watch it with the images later...


Okay? Ready? Turn it up. Yes, nice atmosphere. Mmmmmmm. Let me know how the timing works out.
In the US we live increasingly non-touching lives. Oddly, as we have become more "liberated" it seems like we are ever more  anxious about our bodies and our personal space. When I was a kid, all the old men ran around without shirts, but now I rarely see that and I feel like I am being "gross" if I take mine off (even though I am still super hot). We worship the hairless teen six pack but only from afar, in safe two dimensions, on the billboards, magazine ads, and music videos. The hugs and squeezes I got from my teachers and all kinds of adults could cost a person their reputation and even job today. It has gotten so that I believe most Americans are very self conscious and weird about touching, though it is such an integral part of emotional well being. Thank God in Thailand this politically correct infection has not arrived. Men are exceptionally touchy feely, and though there are social taboos about going across genders, kids swarm me and most other adults for physical affection. It feels damn good.
My American touch adventures have included the following.
I have had Reiki performed(?) on me (I won it in a raffle- glad I didn't pay full fare); I have gone up to the front of a church for the "laying on of hands"(I was feeling damaged and thought it couldn't hurt-maybe it helped just a teeny bit); I have been punched in the face (I deserved it- I stole my best friend's girl for the prom); I have been poked and prodded by Western doctors (including once by my surgeon father-more odd for me than for him, I think); I have had my prostate checked(no comment); I have been touched tenderly by a mother and by lovers (again, no comment); Until yesterday, I had never had a professional massage. Sure, I got and gave the whole "Do you want a back rub?" thing in college, which was just a college way of asking if someone wanted to come and see your etchings (this caught on as a catchphrase when racy etchings in the 1930's, such as this one by Charles Martin,  were popular)
Talk about hands on! Anyhoo, as someone said when I told them I was going in for my massage, "Wait a minute! Wasn't it you who was all about getting a Thai massage when we first got here?"  Yes it was. But on our first weekend, when I was stymied by the mini-hoard of my fellow volunteers clogging the local massage conduits, I just never got back in. Life got in the way, in the manner it does with so many projects and desires. This Saturday was different. I had nothing else in town to do but acquire a crescent wrench to tighten the various shitty parts on my shitty bicycle. And so I went to "Jackie's lady". Everyone seems to have an opinion on just who is the best practitioner or the best value. There are the cheaper ladies uptown who give you a lot of bang for your buck, but they are likely to talk on the phone while they work, and you lay out in a more or less communal public space. There is the very Camdenesque boutiquey place on the hip street, more expensive, smells all perfumy. They use oils, and you are in more of a private chair, worked on without interruption. There is also the option of getting one in the middle of the busy Indochine mall. They seem to do a brisk local business, though none of the volunteers has yet frequented these. There is Sarah's blind masseuse who works through ones' street clothes. And there is "Jackie's lady". The one with the foot sign. This I learned was in fact one of those reflexology charts like this:
As there was no rational means of assessing something I had never experienced, I went in. I had to wait a half an hour, which was a good sign, I hoped. Miss San (she later asked my name and then said, "My name is San...Miss San!") walked me(literally by the hand) upstairs to a silent green sanctuary, lay a sarong on the bed, and departed.
That is when the panic set in. I couldn't help but remember Dwight's story of a similar encounter with a dermatologist's mole check (yes, pretty much the antithesis of this I admit), which had him stripping naked only to have her, on reentry, react to the sight of his bare bodkin with shock and dismay. A quick phone call to Jackie saved me.  Do I lay down to wait? Do I take off my shirt? Do I get naked? Okay, so, boxers on, sarong on, shirt off. Sit on the edge of the bed and read my novel. Act relaxed. I'm all cool with this.Here she is...There is nothing like sitting in a sarong in a quiet, curtained room with a cute woman in complete ignorance of each others' language.

Saying over and over, First time. First time.  and holding up an index finger only seemed to make me come across like some misguided pervert, who I assumed she would assume, would assume all the wrong things about what was available and slap me across the face with one of her small but powerful hands. Of course Miss San was nothing less than an experienced professional and within seconds I was on my back with one set of her fingers jammed deep into my thigh and the other so high up and hard in my groin I was tempted to cry for the police. If momentarily earlier I was worried my lizard brain might betray me with an embarrassing raising of the flagpole, now I was worried that I might never walk again. So...So... tense, she mimicked. And laughed. I try not to envision prior to experiences, the better to be open to what actually occurs, but I know I was bound by the conventional scenario in my head to a kind of kneading motion, some karate chopping and slapping, softening me up like a far overripe and tough candidate for kobe beef. Thai massage, at least as practiced by San, is much more about putting fingers, elbows, and I think maybe once or twice a knee, into various points around the body, holding them there, and doing a sort of separating motion. The rubbing was mostly a sort of cross motion on tendons in places like the top of my foot. I did manage to finally relax and go with it, mostly, when I came to trust she was not going to genuinely rupture my skin and snatch out my soul in some version of Steven Segal's martial arts death move. She climbed up on the platform and flipped me this way and that, teaching me a few words of Thai (left side, right side), and sometimes singing a little, quietly. At one point I almost dozed off. Two hours streamed by in a way I could never have ascertained accurately. For some reason, San found it hilarious when I said I was a Kru Assassamak (teacher volunteer) and when I paid her, her $14 (yes, cheap there, but pretty pricey here), and I said, "San, no assassamak" she thought it was funny as hell. When I walked out, I did not feel like some have described, 'like jelly', and actually I was a little let down. I felt good. Alert. Sort of more "aligned" as I walked. But I wasn't...high for want of a better word. Or maybe I was on a sort of subtle secondary layer. When you wait for something for 51 years I supposed it is pretty unlikely to exceed expectations. I think I will probably try at least one different place just to get a perspective bearing.

On the other hand, rather than diminishing, the episode has lingered in my memory in an expansive sort of way, so I won't be surprised if I find myself back in the green room, no longer a massage nube, ready to cinch up my sarong and take it like a human.


  1. Funny thing, really... a family friend of mine burned me a Sigur Rós album recently. I think their stuff is pretty cool. Do you know of anything else like it? It seems hard to imagine anything else quite as strange.

    In response to your question about the timing... I found that the music really added to this entry. Oddly enough, when I got to the part about you actually getting the massage, the singer(s) started wailing or something, so that was a little awkward. Kelsey got mad at me for listening to the music, though. I guess she didn't like it.

  2. Jackie O'KeeffeJanuary 11, 2011 at 7:29 PM

    Oh no! You got the wrong lady, that wasn't even "my lady" haha. It sounds like "my lady" is a little more tender with her touch. I'm sorry you didn't get the experience you were hoping for. However, I wouldn't rule out all Thai massages since they are all different. Maybe a little more harsh than massages back home, but you can't beat a $5/hour rate. I guess Miss San will not be "Peter's lady".

  3. it's n00b. you spelled it wrong.

  4. I am a "noob" at that too. Somehow I thought it was rooted in "nubile". Sigur ros is pretty unique. Check out the dvd of their Iceland tour and then I dare you not to love them!

  5. Rick in Kalasin injects ...

    After many months in Thailand I finally got my first, second, third, fourth and fifth massages during my last trip to Lao. (I bounce on the bus over the big river every five months to renew my visa)

    I have been the beneficiary of a variety of massage modalities over the years. Still, I was taken back by the intensity and depth of the style of this region. So much pressure delivered by such a small person.

    As I recall I paid about 100,000 kip for three women to tag team a three hour routine. I felt like been drawn and quartered, so I returned the next day for the second half.

    Previously you mentioned a fondness for wilderness experiences and the arduousness of your New Year’s hike.

    That massage I had achieved satiation of similar cranial centers.