Monday, October 31, 2011

Different Strokes

I've been seeing the same massage therapist for the last four years. She's a few years younger than me and a former co-worker. Working from her home, just nine blocks from mine, and charging a mere $55 for a 90-minute massage, I was more than happy seeing her every four weeks.

The month before last, however, she didn't respond to a couple texts I'd sent regarding an upcoming appointment. Wondering what was up, but not wanting to send yet another message, I made an appointment to be seen at the biggest masseuserry in town. They were more expensive, but my wife was a big fan of theirs, having gotten caressed a number of times at their Las Vegas location (the only city in which she's ever had a massage). I asked to be set up with someone who was a specialist at what they call deep-tissue (Swedish) massage. For obvious reasons, I requested that the healer be female.

I headed to my appointment earlier this fall, not sure if it was going to be worth it, but knowing I had to give it a try. I parked my car and told the staff up front who I was and the time of my appointment. I noticed a curious thing. The other people waiting to be seen either had their noses stuck in their mobile devices or reading a magazine. No one's eyes strayed at the other clients as if, in some way, they were ashamed that they were here, about to be touched by a stranger. Imagine if someone they knew came in. It'd be like getting caught in a brothel.

As I sat, looking at the pictures on the wall, I lifted my right hand to my neck and started rubbing a bit. I was obviously ready to get it on. A big guy with a Harley-Davidson shirt came in and sat a few feet away. After a moment, he did the same thing. Had he noticed me doing it or was he also just getting in the mood? I was surprised when a male therapist came out for him. Could it be that his wife had let him go to this facility on the condition that he not see any female rubbers? Or was it his idea, not feeling a female would have the proper strength to get the numerous knots out of his neck and shoulders?

One thing I loved about the waiting area was the quiet. The staff spoke softly and, of course, there weren't any kids waiting to be seen. This was my kind of place. Just like when I go to the movies, I headed to the bathroom before things got going. In keeping with the quiet theme, there were no hand dryers to be seen, not even any paper towels. No, after one's hands were washed, you actually used a fresh white washcloth to rub the excess moisture from one's hands; there was a basket near the floor where you threw the spent cloth.

A few minutes later, I was greeted by the petite woman who would be mine for the next 50 minutes; there were more than a dozen rooms available. There were actually two different white noises going as I entered: a small fan and some piped-in music, the kind you'd expect to hear at a house of healing.

I disrobed and got under the covers and was pleasantly surprised that the masseuse knew a few things that my former one didn't. When she did my neck, she was pushing so hard that it hurt. I made sure not to let her see my discomfort as I felt being rubbed that hard would be worth it in the long-run.

One thing I've tried for years during massages is to let my mind go blank or at least not to think about ridiculous minutaie. What a waste of money to be getting pampered, but spending virtually all the time pondering on what I'm going to have for supper or why Kim Kardashian's getting divorced. I think I'm getting better at this, but it isn't easy. Thankfully, the good vibes I feel from a massage continue over the next few days, no matter how many thoughts I had during the actual appointment.

When it was time to get dressed again, I knew I'd be back in a few weeks. My former healer sent me a text a few weeks ago asking about my next appointment. I said that I'd sent her texts which were never returned, so wound up going elsewhere. She apologized and said that that may have been the time when she'd dropped her phone. I said that was OK and that I'd let her know when I needed to be seen again. In the end, I'm thankful I was led to my new masseusse in such a serendipitous way. Life can be funny that way.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Air Supply

My mother was a huge fan of the Australian group, Air Supply, in the early 80's. She had a number of their cassettes, one of which I distinctly remember had a picture of a hot air balloon on it. When, a few months ago, I learned that they were coming to town, I asked if she'd be interested in coming. She said she would.

I initially wasn't planning to bring my wife (she had seen them in Vegas a few years ago), but she convinced me to let her tag along. In addition, I asked my friend, Shanon, if he'd want to go. He said he would, so all was set as I told my boss earlier this fall that I'd be in a tad late as I had a morning "appointment" (to go on Ticketmaster). I went to the site at the exact time that the tickets went on sale. Thankfully, there was no pre-sale, so I wound up getting the best seats I've ever had for a concert; 3rd row, dead center.

Before heading to the civic center last Saturday, we had a delicious meal at Friday's, a restaurant I'd not eaten at in a number of months. With some time to kill before the show, we browsed at the downtown Barnes & Noble before taking the skywalk to where the Aussies would be playing.

As an usher scanned our tickets and we entered the staging area, a number of Beatles tunes (Do You Want to Know a Secret, A Little Help From My Friends, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da) played.

Me and Shanon did some walking around on the upper level remembering concerts we'd seen there before. He munched on a malt cup as we looked at the souvenirs and cash bar. I gave seat assignments to my wife, mom, and Shanon that weren't as dead center as my own. I was glad when the people in the front row didn't start the show standing; I just assumed we were going to be standing throughout.

I couldn't believe how close we were. I put my feet on the rack of the seat in front of me and leaned down a bit as the show began. The two men named Russell were literally larger than life. It reminded me of when my twin half-sisters had super-close seats for a Sesame Street Live show in LaCrosse at the age of two and were so scared at seeing the Cookie Monster, Big Bird, etc, so gargantua that their father asked some people a few rows back if they'd change places with them.

Here are two pics I took as the show got underway:

Unlike a show which has a solo performer, I was torn over which of the singers to look at. I generally preferred the one that was doing lead vocals. When they both sang, I usually stared at the better-looking one. During one of the first few songs, I felt certain that the main singer (Russell Hitchcock) looked at me. Shanon later said that he gave an air fist bump to him and he returned the favor. Dori said he had winked at her.

Having sensitive ears, I'd brought ear plugs with me and asked Shanon before the show if he wanted some. He agreed, but a half hour later, as the show was getting ready to start, he said he'd accidentally thrown them away, so I had to give him another pair. I asked my mom and Dori if they wanted plugs, but they had no interest; my mom changed her mind two songs into the show. I kept my plugs mostly sticking out, so that I was exposed to probably 80% of the music, just needed to reduce some of the overwrought static.

My mother felt a bit confined in the folding chairs. I had no issues as there wasn't anyone sitting to the left of me. They rocked a bit harder than I was expecting, having young guys on guitars, keyboards, and drums. I had to physically stay interested in the show at all times as Hitchcock noted people in the audience who were crossing their arms and not getting into it. I didn't want to be one of those people. Thankfully, Shanon took some of the pressure off me by audibly singing along to most of the songs.

Most of the tunes took me back to 1980 and 1981. Those were some of the happiest years of my life and it was hard to believe that 30 years later, I was here with my mom seeing them for the first time. The intermission came up fast. It felt like they'd only done a half dozen songs, but I knew that some of their best were yet to come.

We stretched our legs and headed out to the concourse where Dori bought bottles of Dasani for the lot of us. My mom and me headed to the bathrooms upstairs where the lines were much shorter; the upper deck where we'd seen Vince Gill 18 years prior (my first concert) was like a mausoleum. On the way back down, I did something that I'd not done in many years, but something I did frequently in my college days.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

High Times

I'm a big movie fan, but don't get to the theatre as much as I did during the late 90's. There's a little less free time and I've grown to enjoy lying on the couch and watching my favorite TV shows on DVR. When I do go, then, it's important that I go to a movie that's going to impress me.

I'd waited quite a while for Brad Pitt's "The Tree of Life" to come to Rochester. It looked as if it wasn't going to make it, but a few weeks ago, it did. I happily went to a matinee of it where I sat way up on the top in the back. There were a number of mostly older people down below as the film played. The reviews were phenomenal, but did note that the film didn't have a straight narrative. An ambitious movie, it wasn't quite as good as I was hoping for, not quite as transcendent. Nonetheless, it brought up universal feelings about life, love and the cosmos and for that, I'm glad I saw it.

A week later, I went to another well-reviewed film, Ryan Gosling's "Drive". This movie was all about mood. I was hooked from the beginning as this song played over the opening credits; Gosling was driving late at night through L.A. The movie had something that most blockbusters don't: silences. Someone would say something and instead of the other speaking immediately, they would pause a bit, as if they wanted to absorb what was being said and maybe even enjoy being in that particular moment. There were a few action scenes which seemed more real because of the attachment that one came to feel for the characters. I've heard that many European movies exhibit this type of style and if this is the case, we, in the U.S., are really missing out.

Last weekend, me and Dori headed to the theatre to see the next movie on my list; I went up to the cashier and said, "We wanna catch "Contagion"'. I'd heard this was a good one, but it soared well past my expectations.

If there was just one word I could use to describe it, it would be "riveting". Matt Damon is tremendous as the husband of the first person who contracts the sickness, not to mention the fact that, in the film, he's a Minnesotan. Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and a number of others held my interest throughout and the final scene where the genesis of the outbreak is shown cemented, in my mind, the movie as a masterpiece. I was on a high for the next few hours as we dined at Famous Dave's and then headed home. Going to the movies is my drug of choice; no need to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or write a book about my life.

Saturday, October 01, 2011


Long time readers may remember that me and Dori had some marital issues back in 2007; we wound up getting divorced that summer. Those issues have long since been worked out, but there was one thing missing: getting married again. A week ago today, it finally happened.

Since this was Take 2, we didn't feel that a big deal needed to be made of it. We hired a justice of the peace to perform the ceremony and rather than it taking place in a courthouse, as I initially envisioned, it was done just adjacent to our neighbors' rose garden.

Being a pop-culture connoisseur, it should be no surprise that the 70's classic "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" played in my mind from time to time during the ceremony. Here is a picture from it:

Next are the words that the justice of the peace spoke (click on the pic to see it full-size):

We used two songs during the ceremony: our original wedding one (Martina McBride and Jim Brickman's "Valentine") and a song that was a big hit the year we met (Celine Dion's "Because You Loved Me").

Here are a few more pics from said event (our house is in the background in the shot directly below):