It was the face I loved and I knew I had to run away and get down on my knees and pray That they'd go away
But still they begin Needles and pins Because of all my pride The tears I gotta hide"
Needles and Pins, The Searchers
In my never-ending, it seems, journey to find relief for my pain, I decided that maybe acupuncture would be the way to go. It couldn't hurt. Right? Well, that is to say that it couldn't possibly make me feel any worse.
I've never had acupuncture before. I had an idea of what it is, from, like a great deal of things in my life, television and movies. I will be honest and say that the image of me with a body full of porcupine quills did flash before my eyes several times. I wondered if I would leak like a colander when I had a drink of water. Of course those were all just silly thoughts. Silly thoughts were much better than thoughts of 10 inch stainless steel needles being stuck into my body.
But, like I said, what did I really have to lose? Nobody else was offering any solutions. A friend suggested acupuncture. I said "Sure. Why not?"
I met with Dr. Wang today for the first of what will probably be many appointments. Yes. Her last name is Wang. Go on. I'll wait while you make funny jokes in your head.
Ok. Done? Good.
Actually her first name and last name sound a little like John Wayne which probably means I'm saying her name all wrong. It does remind me of the character in the 2000 movie Shanghai Noon starring Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson. Chan plays a character named Chon Wang. Upon hearing this, Wilson's character says "John Wayne. That's a horrible name for a cowboy."
Of course I made no jokes about Dr. Wang's name. Wang is a very good name for doctor who practices acupuncture and I'm guessing it's a good thing that the first doctor I saw for an acupuncture appointment was Chinese. I'm not saying the Chinese are better at the practice of acupuncture than anyone else, but records indicate that the Chinese may have been performing acupuncture since 1600 BC. Sounds like they have had some practice. Sounds like they may have worked out the kinks.
Maybe there is a bright kid from the community college down the street who is good at acupuncture. I'll stick with Wang. Give me Wang! (Now there's a bumper sticker!) Maybe the Irish are good at it too, you just never hear stories. Perhaps there is a Eskimo acupuncturist who is working miracles. I just haven't come across them. And they're not here in Richmond. I think I would have heard or read about the Eskimo acupuncturist by now.
It's a comfort thing for me. An innate sense of confidence and trust. Yes. I confess. A trust that is totally based on a superficial perception of a particular race, but I'm just being honest here.
Tell me the truth. Would you pick the name Goldberg from the Yellow Pages when you are looking for an acupuncturist? Tax attorney? Yes. Perhaps a proctologist even? Sure. Doctor Goldberg? That man is head and shoulders above the others when it comes to the rear end. If someone told you that their dentist, Dr. Chatting, was from the United Kingdom, would you do a double take? C'mon. Really?
Call me shallow. Call me a cab if someone else other than someone named Wang is gonna be sticking me with long needles. Get me my Wang.
I liked Dr. Wang. She is a small woman with a quiet demeanor and there was something about her that appealed to me right off the bat. And no. It wasn't because she was Chinese. Maybe it was her very positive attitude and confidence. Not once during our hour long session today did she tell me she couldn't help me.
She did the simplest things to relax me and give me hope that maybe this was the route I should have been going all along. She told me I would feel better. I would feel relief. In other words, she did what a doctor is supposed to do...give their patient a sense of hope.
She told me that she had been in this country for ten years. I asked if she liked the United States and she told me, smiling, that she did. If she had stayed in China, she explained, she would have to practice medicine for the government. Here, in the United States, she was able to have her own practice.
The exam room was small and sparse. There were some charts of the human body, shown in a variety of poses, with dots and lines criss-crossing the body to show flows of energy and where to place the needles. There was some other charts and some small tables full of strange looking devices and containers.
And there was also the table. Covered in the traditional white butcher paper, it was much like a massage table and had a place for my face to slide down into. It was tight fit (I have a big face) and Dr. Wang gave me a little shove.
As we talked and Dr. Wang reviewed my personal information, she came across my birth date. She told me that on the Chinese Zodiac, my birth date coincides with the sign of The Dragon.
In Eastern philosophy, The Dragon is said to be a deliverer of good fortune and a master of authority. Therefore, those people born in Dragon years are to be honored and respected. (You all read that. Right?) Furthermore, conformation is a Dragon's curse. Rules and regulations are made for other people. Restrictions blow out the creative spark that is ready to flame into life. Dragons must be free and uninhibited.
Oh yeah. I am so a Dragon. A wood Dragon, to be more precise, because I was born in 1964. So don't rain on my parade and don't blow out my creative spark. Actually there was a lot in the description of The Dragon that did apply to me. For the positive and the negative. Wood Dragons are outspoken and at times a bit pushy to quell everyone, even in the most friendly quarrel.
Ok. So moving on.
Stop it. I know what you're thinking. You're blowing on my spark.
Let's move on.
Those DAMN NEEDLES
When one hears the word acupuncture, one thing comes to mind. Needles. And "Damn. That would be a great SCRABBLE word." Okay. So when one hears the word acupuncture, two things come to mind. Big stabby devices the size of crochet needles and total SCRABBLE domination.
Pain wasn't really a concern of mine. I've actually got a high tolerance for pain. Well, for unusual pain, let's say. I don't even flinch when I get a tattoo. Seriously. I just sit there calmly and let them do what they need to do. And usually, the artist stops several time to ask if I am okay. I tell them I am fine. I tell them I've gone to my other place.
It's the stupid little pains I have a hard time with, I am embarrassed to say.
Nothing hurts more than stubbing a toe. Good GOD AMIGHTY! Or biting your cheek when you're eating dinner. Ouch! If I was ever captured by the enemy (I don't know. Pick one.) and they wanted to get information out of me, all they would have to do is just hint at the threat of torture by pimple popping. Here you go, Comrade. Here's the plans for the bridge, a schedule for our escape, my bank PIN number and my recipe for bread pudding. I'd rather skinny dip in a pool of piranha than have someone climb on top of me to squeeze the "big Mother" on my back. Just leave it. If it gets too big I will name it and look for an apartment for it in the city.
I was pretty sure I could sweat acupuncture needles. As long as she stayed above the waist. If she had gone anywhere near the boys, I would have been out of there like John Edwards at a Father's Day Brunch.
I'm sorry. Even if it meant relief and pain-free days ahead, no one is turning my scrotum into a pin cushion. SEE! I'm only typing that and the guys have retreated inside me until the All Clear is given.
It's okay, guys. Really. No one can hurt you here. This is the safe zone.
Dr. Wang began the acupuncture process by placing a needle at the very top of my head. I felt her rooting around up there and just figured that she was looking for the three 6's. Then all of a sudden I felt a little poke. (I beg your pardon?)
And so it began. Each time the process for applying the needles was the same. First there was some deep tissue massage and then some rubbing and finally the application of something I am assuming was an antiseptic swab of some sort. I would then feel the tiniest of pricks.
(Do you need a moment to compose yourself?)
Just one little poke and that was it. (I'll wait.) Truthfully, I've had mosquito bites that hurt more. One by one the little needles were placed on my back, up my arms (or down my arms if your right-handed) and on my neck. And as expected, I didn't feel a thing. I didn't even know to go to my other place. (Which, if truth, be known is actually Disneyworld) As also expected, Dr. Wang asked if I was okay. I laughed and said yes. I reminded her that I was Dragon.
She laughed and then jammed a needle in my neck.
(Mommy! Dragon has an owwie.)
Cupping refers to the ancient Chinese practice in which a cup is applied to the skin and the pressure in the cup is reduced, either by using a change in heat or by suctioning the air out, so that the skin and superficial muscle layer is drawn into and held by the cup. Okay. Sounds good to me. Let's do it.
As she prepare to cup me, Dr. Wang told me I was powerful.
Blushing a little, I said 'thank you.'
Then she told me that 'my back hair was powerful. Very powerful."
("The Force is strong with this one.")
Thank you Dr. Wang?
I mean. Seriously. What does one say?
Dr. Wang then told me that it might be difficult for the cups to stick to my body because of my woolly coat. She would try. Then she took a deep breath and began gathering the little glass cups. She would forge ahead. What a trooper!
Apparently she would have had an easier time making Post-It notes stick to a llama. I've never done that, but I can imagine it is a difficult task.
As I laid there, face down, staring at the floor through the table, I heard the unmistakable sound of glass cups popping off, rolling off the table, and then on to the floor. Luckily none of them broke.
This really is a little humiliating.
Every single one of them popped off of my body with a reverse sucking noise, followed shortly thereafter by a crashing sound. And it was like listening to an old time radio show because, remember, I'm face down staring at the carpet.
It was a little embarrassing, I have to say. As a guy with a hairy back, I've suffered some indignities in my past. I've been stared at when I go to the beach. Little kids have run to their mothers crying. I've heard all the Chewbacca jokes I can stand and after my third capture and release I know better than to travel to the Northwest during Bigfoot hunting season. I've got a hairy back. Shoot me. It happened in my mid-thirties. I went to bed one night as smooth as a 12 year old diving champion and woke up wearing a bear costume.
"My God," I thought. "My mother was right! And it spread from my palms!!"
Later, as I was getting ready to leave, Dr. Wang gave me strict instructions to shave down before my next appointment.
Sure. Easy for her to say. How was I going to assemble a team of experts that quick? Who was I? Ethan Hunt? Yeah. I got an impossible mission for you, Mr. Hunt. Shave this guy's back before next Tuesday. If you refuse this mission, please be advised that you may get beaned by a flying acupuncture cup.
So the cups continued to fly off my body and Dr. Wang continued to pick them up and press them harder onto the shag rug that is my back. (I know. Sexy right? You all have a new found respect for my girlfriend now. Don't you?)
Moxibustion is the application of heat resulting from the burning of a small bundle of tightly bound herbs, or moxa, to the targeted acupoints.
Basically, Dr. Wang wrapped up some stuff that smelled like a lot of college dorms and burned them on top of my neck. She's a brave women. Apparently she didn't see the NO BRUSH FIRES sign posted on the small of my back.
It's weird having a small campfire burning on your body. The heat did feel good, I have to say. Until, that is, it felt as if there was a bonfire burning on body!
AAAAA! Holy Crap!
Oh. By the way, Dr. Wang. When you hear me scream like that, but more importantly, when you smell burnt bacon and see smoke, that's your cue to take the small bundle of burning herbs off my back and douse me with water.
So, I'd been sucked on and I'd been deep muscle massaged and stabbed with tiny little stainless steel needles. I can't say that I felt better, but was confident in Dr. Wang that her promises for relief would come true.
As I headed home, a little tender and sore and smelling of burnt herbs, I prayed I wouldn't get stopped by the police. Later I would realize that I was covered in big purple bruises from the cupping. They didn't really hurt. I just looked like I was covered in hickies. Now I'm really glad I didn't get stopped by the police.
"Afternoon Officer. My license and registration? Sure. Here you go. What's that you say? A strange smell? Really? I hadn't noticed. Purple hickies? I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about...Hickies, huh? Oh! I can explain. You see...I'm Dragon."