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12/31/06 Massage
12/25/06 Salsa Dancing
12/25/06 Plant Lady
12/25/06 Auto Show
11/23/06 Circus Vargas
10/29/06 Competitive Eating
09/17/06 Wine-Tasting
09/17/06 Words
09/17/06 Cell Phone Chirps
08/12/06 Fashion for Men
06/04/06 Free Cat


I write to you from a parallel dimension. I just left The Massage Place, where Stephanie Sullivan, Jedi Masseuse, changed my beliefs about the universe.

It felt awkward to undress in a small back room to be fondled by a stranger. Wait a minute -- that part was fantastic. The awkward thing was letting go. What if she laughed at my lower body, which resembles that of a chicken?

Fortunately, this masseuse was not a cheeky bum looker. Stephanie was a professional, strong like Mother Earth, like someone whose license plate reads, "Healng Is."

A vanilla candle lit the room while Enya chanted in the background. It was like an ad for AA: "Even if you live in a cubicle under fluorescent lighting, there is hope..."

Stephanie lathered up with Theracream, which contains secret herbs and spices to which you have access when you are Mother Earth. She started on the trapezoids and worked me into an altered state.

No, seriously. I found myself flying over Africa, dancing with discarnate heads, doing recreational long division. Scientists say these "hypnagogic images" are trivial, but I'm telling you, man, it was a vision quest.

For the record, my animal spirit was Garfield. Not the funny-page Garfield, but the creepy theater version. So it goes.

There is such thing as bad massage. I once visited a "cutting-edge" masseur, Frank, who stabbed me with his bony little elbows (that was the cutting edge part). Frank believes that illness comes from muscles attaching to the bone or some such thing. I couldn't hear him over my yelping.

Stephanie, by contrast, made me feel more like a candy cane, the way my grandma described her near-death experience: glowing light, tender breezes, Enya. How can I describe it? Imagine tensing every muscle in your body and then finally letting go. Or imagine listening to an entire album by Meatloaf and then turning it off. It was that kind of peace.

Word of caution: Outside of ab work, massage is the No. 1 cause of accidental flatulence. At the gym, you can dismiss it with a disapproving glance, but here on the massage table you have no choice but to smile and explain that, where you come from, it's a compliment.

At one point, an officious region of my body felt inspired to make a cameo appearance. Where I come from, that is also a compliment, but I respected this woman as a professional and needed to act fast.

Think of Rosie O'Donnell. No, Martha Stewart. No -- GRANDMA! ...

Through Zenlike self-mastery, I found more constructive ways to express my gratitude, namely, drool. An hour later Stephanie shook my arm and told me it was over. I spilled out of the room like Robert Downey Junior on prom night. Stephanie handed me water, which I held with a dopey smile.

"Drink it," she said. "It purges the toxins."

Done with my wa-wa, I tipped Mother Earth a ridiculous amount of money and felt that I still could do more -- rub her back or take her to breakfast.

I'm not sure whether you can be arrested for driving under the influence of massage, but I was in a state where if I happened to veer off the road and die in a fiery blaze, it would have been okay like a candy cane.

My car drove home because evidently that's where I lived. I had the gall to draw a bath, which was like mixing hallucinogens. I was one good meal away from wandering through the street giving away my life savings.

The point is that if everyone got massages, we might not have problems like the Middle East. It would become the Snuggly Inner East. People would hold the door for each other and take cell phone calls outside and stay married. Everyone would use their turn signals!

I will continue my research on this important subject, hoping the editors will pick up the tab. And when I run out of funding, you will find me in a gutter face-down for massage, Enya chanting in the background. A passer-by will go to hand me a dollar, but his wife will grab his coat and say, "No, honey -- he'll just use it to get another massage."

And I will curse her under my breath as I fall back asleep hugging my creepy little Garfield.


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