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    Wednesday, May 27, 2009

    Chinese Neck Massage of Death

    I’ve been dizzy for five days now. Since I’m not blonde, I find this sensation troubling. I haven’t got a clue what’s causing it. The only other symptom I have is a very stiff and sore neck.

    Those of you who’ve been with me for awhile know that I’ve had problems with my neck in the past. For my misadventures in the foggy land of prescription pills, read "Muscle Relaxer Hangover."

    With no relief from the prescribed vertigo medication, I decided to resort to alternative medicine. Actually, my mom sternly informed me that she was taking me to her “Chinese friends” for a massage.

    Mom discovered her “Chinese friends” a year or so ago. In a strip mall on a busy Colorado Springs street, there is a sign that reads simply “Massage.” Next to this incredibly informative sign is a large, neon green foot. How self-explanatory can you get?

    Actually, behind this store front there exist several wonderful people, who will, for a fee, plunk your feet in a steaming bucket of mysterious tea. Once you’re thoroughly steeped, they perform magic on your legs and feet so that when you’re done, you resemble not so much a person as a pile of pudding.

    And they don’t just do feet. Today I had a chair massage from our very nice friend, David. When I told David that the doctor recommended gentle massage for my neck, he must have been pondering the unknowable intricacies of his craft or perhaps wondering if his lunch would grow cold before he returned to it. Whatever the case, the term “gentle” failed to successfully traverse the air between my mouth and his ear.

    After a few preliminary pokes, David placed his fingers at the bottom of my skull and, with indescribable pressure, pushed upward. I was sure he would separate my head from my neck. I told him so.

    He replied, “Don’t worry. We have insurance for that.”

    I laughed nervously.

    He said, “We have insurance for all kinds of crazy things.”

    Was that supposed to make me feel better?

    To change the subject from my probable decapitation, I told David I’d been dizzy. Immediately, he located and probed a very tender spot on my neck. I protested. Loudly. He suggested the possibility of a pinched nerve.

    Being less than intelligent, I asked what he recommended for a pinched nerve. I should have kept my mouth shut.

    He mumbled something. I could tell he and the woman brewing Mom’s feet were puzzling over the proper term for my “therapy.”

    “Press?” He muttered to her.

    “Pump?” She replied.

    “Beat!” He exclaimed. “Yes. Beat!”

    “You’re going to beat me?” I whimpered.

    “Yes.” He sounded so pleased. “Chinese people beat their bodies for ten minutes every day. It make their bodies strong.”

    While not prepared to argue the veracity of this statement, I had no intention of finding out for myself if he was, indeed, correct. David continued with his “gentle” torture while I tried not to whine like a giant baby.

    As I bit my lip to keep from hollering, a profound truth penetrated my fuzzy brain. All of these professionals, from massage to physical to occupational therapists, operate under the principle that if they hurt you severely, when they finally stop, you will undoubtedly say, “I feel better.”

    How could you not? Relief is inevitable the instant they stop touching you.

    And should your head happen to disconnect from your body, there is no need to panic. They have insurance for that.

    Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    Study Tips from Case and Evangeline

    I’m excited! My brother and sister-in-law are coming for a long overdue visit. I almost don’t mind cleaning the house. I’m that excited.

    As a way of sharing my happiness with all my Internet friends, I thought I’d tell you one of my favorite stories about my brother and I. I know you’re thinking I’m going to make your hair stand on end with a wild tale of childhood pyrotechnics or pet baptism.

    Sorry. My brother and I were good kids. And he was a good teenager. We never got in fights or played pranks on each other. So this story involves an activity that all well-behaved, nerdy kids are familiar with. Studying.

    My brother, Case, and I had the same major and went to the same college. We ended up in class together on more than one occasion, which caused embarrassment for me. You see, professors tended to dote on Case, delightedly calling upon him to read Hamlet’s soliloquies, offer his exalted opinion on Beowulf, or share his most recent ground-breaking thesis with the class.

    When a professor would discover that I was Case Tompkins’ little sister, they’d turn to me with an “Are you brilliant, too?” question in their eyes. The best I could offer was a “No, but I do my homework” grimace in return.

    Toward the end of our undergrad years, Case and I landed in "History of the English Language"—arguably the hardest course in the English major. We’re talking impeccable grammar requirements, all the name and date memorization of a history class, and some scientific facts thrown in just to torment creative types like me.

    The professor was amazing. We loved him. But nobody would call his tests easy. So one afternoon, while struggling to memorize yet another block of information, Case and I came up with a different study method.

    We hauled out a couple of old t-shirts and some permanent markers. We then wrote our notes all over the shirts. We had a great time, and by the end of our project, we really felt we knew the material.

    That didn’t stop us from wearing our shirts on test day. We walked into class and sat down. No, not side-by-side. This isn’t a Dick and Jane book. Pretty soon our classmates leaned in to get a better look and started laughing.

    Case causally threw out, “Five bucks and you can sit next to me.” I piped up. “Ten bucks to sit next to me cuz you can actually read my handwriting.” The class was still tittering when the professor walked in. After a moment, he too squinted at our textbook shirts and then let out a whoop of laughter.

    We did have to remove our shirts before taking the test (yes, you gutter minds, we had shirts on underneath), but we both got A’s. When the course was over, we bequeathed our “study notes” to the professor. I wouldn’t be surprised if he loaned them out to overwhelmed students who took the class after us.

    Yes, folks, that’s what geeks do for fun. I doubt Case and I will need to cram for any tests while he and Eden are visiting, but you never know. Maybe I’ll whip out a ratty t-shirt and see if he’ll brainstorm plot ideas with me.