Nikki & the Ghost of Marcus

Nikki & the Ghost of Marcus

Some morning in late 2015, 10:30 am, Massage School, Texas 

Note:  To protect their privacy, I have changed the names of those mentioned in this post.

I’m about to fall asleep in massage class.   It’s the middle of the morning – that time when you want to find a private place at work or school and sneak in a fifteen-minute power-nap.  My airplane flight and travel demands from the night before have drained all of my energy reserves needed to plow through the remaining ninety minutes to lunch.

I never imagined we would be talking about something so boring or so very unrelated to massage.   Our veteran instructor, Nikki, is explaining how a brain cell does something in the brain.  “What is she talking about?” I whisper to Horch, my classmate. He is transfixed staring in a linear forward direction.  I can tell he hears me but his brain is trying to decide whether to answer me or to listen even more carefully.  He’s on the very edge of deciphering the point of this lecture.  Horch is black, athletically built, street smart and works in the county Sherrif’s office.  He wears a mantra on his shoulder and switches it out for a chip on his shoulder when he is in a busy grocery store filled with inconsiderate assholes.  Toward all of us, he is considerate and kind, but, probably keeps his guard at full attention.

Ah! I see his mouth tighten.  Then the edges of his mouth start to curl up as if he is in a losing arm wrestling contest.  His hands fly back – he’s lost the tug of war contest with his brain.  He surrenders.  “What Wally?” I ask again, and he gives me a ‘where are we going for lunch?’ look.  It’s 10:30 am.

Less than an hour later, I can’t hold it in anymore, and, I unintentionally expel a crescendo’d yawn that could have been mistaken for a vociferous mournful ghost.   My very kind and non-judgmental instructor gives me a look as if to say, “I know, I know this is boring, but, standards require I teach you this.”  Everyone else was looking at me. Our class valedictorian makes eye contact with me and smiles affectionately with a familiar look and whispers “you goofball!”

Nikki has one of those motherly voices that makes anyone feel safe.  She could tell a bedtime story about Wes Craven’s monsters and the listener would still have heavenly dreams.  I first met her on the phone when I called to inquire about massage school.  A few weeks later, I was sitting at a table with her listening to her pitch about my future education and signing a financial agreement to pay for it.  She has curly red hair, Irish skin, and a demeanor that compels one to her company.   She is always surrounded by people seeking her knowledge or counsel about massage techniques, essential oils, or psychic experiences.

I figured out early on that Nikki was either a medium, a psychic, or an intuitive life coach.  When I could catch her unattended by school obligations, I would seek out discussions with her about those subjects.  I often wondered how much she could see into my life (that I was already doing massage without a license and getting paid for it) which caused me to create an imaginary metaphysical wall in between my mind and hers.  At times I wondered if I should wear a baseball hat lined with tin foil.

Nikki continued:  “A neuron consists of a cell body (also known as ‘a soma’) with signal receivers….”   Gradually, everything went blurry and her words made no sense; they were only sounds that comforted me.  I was sinking lower into my seat, my face cocked towards my feet.  And, without warning, I was instantly transported to an ocean liner that was only as big as a small yacht.  I didn’t have the capacity to argue that this yacht was not an ocean liner, but, in my dream it was fact.  People I didn’t recognize where everywhere.  I was conscious of my existence there, but I was without a history, a purpose, or luggage.

“(GASP)!!” I jerked up in my seat.  My classmate, Horch was pushing on my elbow to wake me.  I had fallen asleep.  As I adjusted my posture, I murmured apologetically “how embarrassing, I’m so sorry.”  I could feel the heat on face, I was rock-lobster embarrassed.

Nikki was looking at me and then scanned over the class.  “Why don’t we come back to this later?!?!  Let’s go to lunch early but come back early.  How does that sound?”  She was mildly startled by the unanimous and resonant response to her question: “Y-E-S!!”.    “Great.  See you at 12:45 and sharp!”

Most of us usually went to lunch together, but, this time roughly half of us wanted to stay and take naps to regain their energy lost during the lecture.  The rest of us walked to a nearby Mediterranean grill.  We stood in line staring through the posted menu above.  “I don’t know how I’m going to get through the rest of the afternoon,” Horch sighed.   All of us produced resigned expressions in agreement, and, I had a feeling that eating lunch would only weaken our abilities to survive another march up ‘snooze mountain’.

After leaving the eatery, we were faced once again with having to make another dangerous crossing of the six-lane street known for its hustling traffic.  Our adrenalin glands activated and induced our muscles with a temporary dose of fight or flight energy to dodge the accelerating cars traveling towards us well above the posted speed limit.  Without the help of traffic lights or a cross walk, we walked quickly toward the other side.

As we rounded the corner of our drab outdated building, Nikki was exiting her car and walking toward the school entrance.  She waved and waited for us to catch up.  “Are you all ready for a few more hours of brain science?  Isn’t this exciting?!?!”  Her farcical humor was lost on me as we wandered into the school like zombies.  I turned toward her and said, “exciting?!?!”  She saw my zombie expression and broke into a loud giggle.

“Actually, we’re switching gears today…we’re picking up brains tomorrow.”  Like the rest of us, Horch was in a brain coma and processed every ridiculous statement as if it were true and possible.  He coddled his newly filled belly like an unborn child.  “We’re picking up brains?  Uh…Nikki…,” Horch interjected,  “uh…I don’t think I can make class tomorrow…I will have to do a make-up.”

‘Picking up brains with his hands’ seemed like a real possibility to him because from the beginning of the semester our Sunday instructor, G.G., would consistently ask if we’d like to go the city morgue sometime to see the body in action.  “We’ll make it a field trip!!  (GASP!) They even have a cafeteria there – we can have lunch!!  OH!!  And, you’ll be able to pop the I.T. (illio tibial) band just like a rubber band…isn’t that fascinating?!?!”  She demonstrated how she would play the I.T. band by bending down near the side of a pretend body on a pretend examining table and how she would pull it outwards.  “POP – POP – POP!!”

As we all settled back into our seats, I noticed that the classmates who stayed to nap somehow had large-sized Starbucks coffees in front of them.  I gasped and then belted out “GREAT idea!”  I scanned the room to assess our class start time.  Nikki was still in the administration area.  She was delayed by walk-in clients looking for an inexpensive massage by massage school interns, but the school admin was still at lunch.

“Nikki is detained because the admin isn’t at her desk.  I’ll be right back,” I whispered to Horch.  I scurried to my car to retrieve my coffee bar on-the-go.  It contains a coffee maker, bottled water, coffee filters, a coffee grinder, freshly roasted coffee beans, and, of course, a fresh bottle of Clorox spray.

And, that I am intruding on my school by setting up a coffee bar there is a non-issue.  There is a casual vibe that allows one to have such conveniences if the electrical occupants on the rickety card table which I call ‘Fire Marshall Violation #3’ are only mildly disturbed.   Our school is a hodgepodge of forgotten sinuous electrical cords, overburdened electrical strips, abandoned stacks of paper, corralled dust bunnies, mismatched furniture, and roach poop– all housed in a 1980’s structure.  The school has a housekeeper, but, she is not really a housekeeper.  She’s a close friend of the owner and, it’s been rumored that he hasn’t the heart to replace her.  I give him kudos for keeping her employed for whatever personal reason.  The housekeeper and her assistant refill the paper towel dispensers, and, gently graze over the wooden floors with their stringy mops.  There is no Lysol or Clorox in her tool bin – so I bring mine.

I have never been a brand snob when it comes to clothes, cars, jewelry, restaurants, alcohol, etc.  But, I draw the line at exceptional coffee.  Coffee that has been medium or dark roasted, ground, packaged and shelved is just ‘coffee’ to me and I can take it or leave it.  But, coffee that has been freshly light roasted and recently brewed with filtered water helps to steady my mood and reestablish my connection to the world.  Very few retail establishments have satisfied my craving for amazing coffee.  With me on all my travels is either a pour-over plastic coffee maker, or a traditional electric coffee maker with all the necessary accoutrements.

Usually, I brought coffee to class every day.  But, upon arrival to school that day, I left my coffee bar in the car, so I could sign into class on time.  If any day was a day for a good coffee…today was mostly definitely that day. As I walked back into class carrying my bulky coffee bin, those without coffee looked at me with a hopeful plea.   “Yes, please!” nodded Ahmed.  “(GASP!)  YESSsss,” said another.

As the coffee brewed, Nikki returned to class with an armful of handouts, one of which was a quiz on the previous material and which she handed out after finishing the lecture prematurely ended by my exclamation mark of slumber.

After we submitted our completed quizzes, she announced that we were going to give our tortured minds a rest and practice the art of ‘palpation’ and marked Horch as the pretend client.  None of us were exactly sure of the purpose of ‘palpation’ and which prompted Ahmed to ask, “like a kitten nurses milk from its mother?”  Nikki explained that we were going to learn how to assess various parts of the body without applying deep pressure.

A massage table was retrieved, sanitized and draped.  The lights were turned off, the blinds closed, and a YouTube recording of Tibetan monks playing with their bowls filled the room.  Horch lie on the table prone (face down) under a sheet upon which lie a heavy red blanket.   Nikki pulled us to the exact spot where she wanted us to stand and directed our fingers to the areas she wanted us to palpate.

At last, we were all in our strategic positions and she directed us to apply sustained slight pressure to specific areas of Horch’s body.   She questioned each of us to describe the specifics of the area we were touching.   Sometimes she would ask what we felt if we pressed in a slightly different direction one half inch of the original location.  My classmates and I sunk deep into our own thoughts as we stood motionless.

Ten to fifteen minutes into this exercise, Nikki broke our spell of concentration and spoke above the Monks playing with their bowls to ask Horch if he had a brother who had died.  None of us really noticed how out of the ordinary that question was at first.  We were palpating!  A very long pause filled the space.  He was face down which led some of us to glance towards him questioning if he was asleep.  But, finally, we saw his back expand which activated his diaphragm.  Horch’s booming bass voice filled the darkened space with “NO.”

A second or two passed when Nikki replied with, “Huh!!  That’s odd.”  There was a conflicted look on her face.  She paused with intention before she spoke again.  “There’s a spirit here who says he’s your dead brother.”

We all froze in our movement.  All of our eyes slowly rose from Horch’s body to meet each other’s eyes.  Some of us could be heard whispering, “what the fuck?!?!” in high pitched tones.  Ahmed turned to look behind him to ensure a poltergeist was not in his vicinity.  I glanced toward the under-side of the table to make sure nothing odd was present.  I’d seen enough sci-fi in my life to imagine anything was about to happen.  I glanced toward the corners of the room to look for hidden cameras.  Then I looked toward Nikki.  She was oblivious to our expressions.

Horch waited a long time before answering her and we wondered if he heard her. Then, finally, “OH!” he said in that booming voice.  “You must be talking about my step bruh-thuh, Mahr-kus.  He lived in New ‘Yoke’.”  Almost immediately, Nikki sighed out loud.  “Ahhhh.”  She paused a bit before continuing.  Then she added, “Well, he just wants you to know that he’s here.  There’s no specific message, only, that he has always considered you brother.”   Everyone remained quiet and looked downward as if they were working while listening to a radio program.  Another very pregnant pause filled the space. Horch awkwardly blurted “thank yuh.”

Through the rest of the day, the excitement of the spirit’s visit may have slowly drifted away for everyone else, but, it has stayed with me ever since.  That we were in a spirit’s presence, or, if you prefer, that the spirit was in our presence was, to me, holy.  That space was sacred, and we stood on the border of the land of those who had gone before us.

Another question remained with me.  Why was it that it was Horch’s brother’s spirit that visited?  Why did it choose that moment to speak through Nikki?  Could it be because Horch was surrounded by his classmates and all of us were touching him with our energy?  In the same way the movies portray a séance, could it be that we were unintentionally lifting him up in some sort of metaphysical prayer?

And, that Nikki could see or hear Marcus was, of itself, remarkable, but, that she could see beyond Horch’s objection – that he didn’t have a brother who was dead –  was even more remarkable.  I have always been fascinated with the after life of spirits and souls of the just – I’m not fascinated with spirits and souls of the unjust and I hope they keep their distance!  But, I’ve always hoped that the world in which they live is one I could glimpse while still living in human flesh.  And, even though, I am fascinated by this entire field of interacting with spirits and souls, it was a little jarring to be part of someone else’s reading without preparing for it.  I’m not sure why I felt that way.

Soon after the excitement faded, I, once again, couldn’t hold it in anymore, and I quickly made my way toward the men’s room to pee.  I was afraid I was going to miss something, so after leaving the men’s room, I walked quickly past the massage table and rounded the corner behind my classmates to return to my post.  Almost sprinting back created a breeze in Horch’s direction.  Startled, he hollered out, “I FEEL A ‘COHLD’ BREEEEEEZE!!”  Our class valedictorian once again gave me ‘the goofball’ look with a grin, yet, no one admitted to Horch that I was the cause of that cold breeze.   Everyone had already returned to their own mind space and continued with the palpation exercise.

After the visitation, nothing more was said about Marcus’s visit.  We all digested the experience and moved on to other class work.  But, I filed that experience with visitations I’ve had:  three people who passed during my life.   They were visits in my mind, not visits I could see or hear:  my college accounting professor, my best friend’s father, and a very close acquaintance of someone very close to me.  And, maybe that will be a future blog post.

Three Men in a Bed

Tuesday February 24th, 2015, 7:45 pm, a private home in a small subdivision in the Ohio countryside 

Note:  I received permission from Tim and Clark to share this story.

It was an out call to a client’s house, twenty-five minutes from the city that hurried me out of the hotel toward the five story parking garage across the street.  It was dark at 7 pm and evidence of a recent snow storm was everywhere.  I searched for any ice that escaped the transforming touch of the sun and my lungs and mouth coordinated and produced a low growled ‘augh’ at the thought of encountering it while driving.  I was already apprehensive about the drive in thirty degree weather because I would not be able to use Google Maps or Waze to navigate my way.  For some reason, the client’s twenty-year residence was still not yet acknowledged by the satellites.  So, reading the directions on my phone and trying to look up and find the right exits at night made me incredibly nervous.

It had been a good number of exchanges of emails and text messages over a period of months that made me feel comfortable about doing an out call this far from my hotel.   Normally, I won’t travel more than fifteen minutes because I am usually tightly scheduled – but I had reserved them as my last clients of the day.  And, this drive would yield two clients, a gay couple in a long term relationship, each ordering an hour Wally Special session.  I love working on couples.  Time flies because there’s usually some kind of verbal interaction between all three of us, or, just the two of us – the client on the table & me if separate sessions are preferred.  And at the end of the first session you don’t have to be obsessive about watching every free minute before the next client arrives because the next client is already in the vicinity and is aware of the setting.

Accessing the interstate north was not as scary as I thought, nor was driving on it.  But, exiting the freeway was a different experience entirely.  As I made my way through the narrow dimly lit country roads, the roadside piles of a recent snow got bigger and my driving confidence got smaller.  I was officially intimated driving on a two lane road while my speedometer hovered right at 25/mph.  Making my journey even more perilous was the absence of adequate street lighting and street name signs.  “Is this where I turn?” I would wonder over and over.

I finally arrived at their home a few minutes late.  I couldn’t tell much about the house except the usual one would expect:  two garage doors, a front door, a few windows and one or two flood lights keeping the moon light from casting silhouettes.   I was greeted by two very friendly tall men who appeared to be incredibly fit, very good looking – hot -actually, and who were very hospitable.  Quickly, I absorbed the feel and smell of my surroundings and registered a ‘very comfortable’ reading.  We each exchanged very tight and welcoming hugs and my instincts blurted out that I was going to love getting to know these two and I already knew that it would not be the last time I saw them.

Tim looked to be in his very early fifties and Clark in his early forties.  But both of them had outsmarted time each looking ten years younger than their actual age.  Tim had full and curly salt and pepper hair with Greek masculine features, a three day beard, and a commanding deep sexy voice.  I would guess his height at six foot one or six foot two broad shouldered, a muscled height weight proportionate build and the kind of ass  you’d see on a man, and, think, “now that’s a man ass!  I wonder what kind of exercises he does for it?”  Tim’s handshake over gripped mine with size and strength; and when we had finished our introductory hug, he planted his very strong hands on my shoulders and intuitively squeezed which made the day’s stress in my body rise on alert and leave.

Clark is six foot or six foot one, brunette, conservatively groomed & dressed, and was quiet and shy at first.  He has a disarming stillness in his disposition – we are alike that way.  His toned & height weight proportionate body was highlighted by two outstanding features:   1) beautifully shaped pecs that proudly draped the shirt material on his chest.  2) and a perfect bubble butt.

Tim, led the way to the massage area where I spied their massage table already in place.  “Thank God, I don’t have to unpack mine,” I sighed.  Unpacking included pulling out of my plastic black bin the coconut oil (now solid because of the cold temperatures in transit), the massage table padding, heating pad, water kettle, sheets, and headrest cradle covers. Tim, being the perfect host, offered me refreshments as I prepared the space for two Wally Specials.  I cued the hot water kettle for boiling in the kitchen and placed the crock pot on their dresser protected by a hand towel underneath.  “The crock pot will keep the coconut oil heated as I apply it to a body a few degrees colder,” I said.

As I got closer to beginning the session I settled in to my own comfort zone and asked myself, “can you believe you’re getting paid to work naked on these two hotties who will also be naked?!?!  Thank you, Lord, for this job!”  It wasn’t until they stripped off their clothes that I realized how hot they were…and, talented.   They also had beautiful asses, flat stomachs, muscle massed or toned bodies, and stood comfortable in their own skin.  Acknowledging eye contact with both,  they looked back at me and I realized that I was still dressed.  “Oops,” I said.  I quickly stripped off my clothes and tossed them into a corner on the floor.  Their unconscious expressions of delight led me to believe that Tim and Clark seemed pleased with their selection of their massage guy.

Clark climbed onto the table first.  As I stood next to the face cradle, I surveyed the tension in his neck, shoulders, and upper back with medium-pressured strokes.   Without moving from the front of the table, I surveyed the rest of his body distant to me with an occasional long reach all the way down to the soles of his feet.  Tim watched me work from a short distance, and, soon after approached the table furthest from my immediate work space.   Tim’s sexy big hands gently wrapped around Clark’s calves and moved slowly down his feet.  “Now, Wally, if I get in your way, let me know,” he said.  “Actually, I’m almost done with the warm up on his body, want to see how I do the trunk stretch?”  Tim brightened with an enthusiastic “Yes!”  I rotated Clark’s knee laterally toward the edge of the table then slid his knee all the way up to his chest.  I held his knee in place with my left hand while I laid my upper body onto his butt and hips pushing them gently into the table.  “Aaaahhhhhhh wow…” Clark moaned.  Tim looked up in curiosity.  I moved back and invited Tim to lay on Clark’s hips and butt like I did.  I love showing couples safe and effective movements they can remember and do to each other without a lot of effort.

The space between the massage table and the bedroom wall was very narrow and as Tim passed behind me to move into position, he held onto my right hip to balance, and, for just a moment, his tall naked body paused snugly up against mine.  “Woof!  Now, that’s a sensation I don’t feel everyday,” I heard myself say.

At times, Tim, stood opposite of me, and worked nearby muscle groups and, at other times he worked beside me, both of us intentionally maintaining some sort of side body contact while we worked on Clark. On several occasions, Tim stood behind me massaging my stressed muscles while I massaged his partner.  At one point, his hands very thoroughly massaged my pecs and slowly palpated down my torso passing gently over my pubes until his masculine hands landed on my inner thighs.  While one hand remained on my right innards, the other crossed up to my right pec.  He slowly and intentionally pulled my body toward his while removing the remaining one-sixteenth inch of distance between us.  My entire body tingled with goosebumps, and for at least two seconds, my hands went limp on Clark as I surrendered my stance to Tim’s hold.   “How much do you charge by the quarter-hour?” I asked, but, I don’t think he understood.

As Tim held me, I fast forwarded into the future and wondered  if I would ever have an ‘other half’ who would be tall enough to hold me like this and short enough for me to throw him around in the sack?

After I finished working on Clark, it was Tim’s turn on the table and similar antics ensued as Clark and I ‘turned the table’ on Tim.

When both sessions were finished, all of us showered, dressed, and loaded my gear into the SUV.  Before I could think about getting into my car, I was reminded that dinner was being heated in honor of my visit.  “What hospitality!” I said.  “Well, most of the restaurants are closed and we suspected you’d be hungry,”  Clark said.

Over dinner, we talked about our careers, our personal lives, and buckets lists.  I really enjoyed getting to know them and I was incredibly grateful to these guys for dinner.  I was very hungry and I was dreading having to eat another late meal at Denny’s – Augh!   After a warm parting involving strong bear hugs, I drove toward my hotel a little more confidently through the ice and snow.

A few days later, I received an email from Tim & Clark rehashing the amazing night we all shared and asking about my return visit.  “When you come back, we’re taking you to a movie…then to dinner and, after that… you’re spending the night with us.   We want to help you cross off one of the items on your bucket list.”  I paused and looked up  and wondered what they were talking about.  “…cross what off my bucket list?”  I continued to read.  “You’ve always wanted to sleep with three men in a bed…you’ll be in the middle!”  I gasped out loud.

I have always wanted to fall asleep while simultaneously being both the big and little spoon.  I could only imagine the sensations:  safe, loving, & sensual.  I couldn’t wait.

Months passed and eventually I was back in the area.  We went to see the movie Train Wreck  which was followed by an amazing dinner at Red Lobster and I was reintroduced to those addictive biscuits.  I hadn’t been to that restaurant since I was a kid.  After we waddled back to the car we headed back to the homestead.  We all brushed our teeth, stripped, and climbed into bed.  Oh my god.

I was in the middle, Clark was in front of me and Tim was behind me.  As we held each other a slow crescendo of guttural masculine sound filled the room.  It sounded like a small group of contented cavemen, and, I wondered if this kind of touch was part of our caveman ancestry – the instinct to be held and to hold.  Tim’s long arm reached over me and pulled Clark closer to both of us while Clark held on for dear life to my hairy forearms.  We were one.   “Wow.”   It was incredible.  I’ve never felt that.  And, this wasn’t a sexual thing.  We were too tired and too stuffed to be horny.  It was something else.  All I know is that I was submitting to the warm grasp of masculine animal instinct.  I was with my tribe.  And, even now I am lacking in words to express all that it was.

As I lay sandwiched in between those two, I thought about how starved for touch and affection many men are.  In my work, I give and receive touch all day long and I still crave it.  We have devolved from ‘high fives’ to ‘fist bumps’.  We touch each other as if we’re activating an elevator button.  When I’m at  a social event I tend to wave off centuries of community grown homophobia and that fear of touch.  Without engaging my conscious mind, my hands usually fly up into autopilot mode and land on someone’s shoulders with an acknowledging squeeze.

Soon after the initial overwhelming sensations wore off, we started to unintentionally drift off to sleep.   I awoke at some point and untangled from Clark.  I was starting to sweat. Tim had created a small gap in between he and I because we were both hot.  Then, suddenly, I was awakened by movement in the bed.  Tim was leaning over me and whispering to Clark…I was too tired to pay attention and I let sleep take me.

Very early the next morning I awoke in time to see Tim walking sleepy eyed and naked back into the bedroom.  “I had to sleep on the couch last night.  It was a furnace under the sheets,” he said.  Clark and I are heat generators and three men in a bed might be one man too many.   As Tim climbed under the sheets we resumed our spoon positions and reclined up against each other and once again and drifted off.   This was heaven.

Eventually, we made it out of bed and Tim made a quick run for donuts while I sipped on morning coffee and eased into the morning.  We gathered in the living room and reclined in warm clothes and nibbled on fancy donuts.    Being in their presence made me want the kind of relationship that they have.  I wondered what kind I would have?   “Would I be with one or two?”

I said my goodbyes and headed back to the city to begin working on the first of five massage clients.  As the day passed, I lingered on my time with them and how much I was looking forward to that experience in the future.  I continue to visit Tim and Clark when I visit Ohio.  And, we continue the tradition of ‘three men in a bed’, or, ‘two men in a bed and one on the couch.’

The Halal Guys

Monday, July 18, 2017, 7 pm, Houston, TX (Allen Parkway & Montrose areas)

My philosophical moments come unexpectedly, and, not often enough. It was early this evening, and, after reading between the veiled comments of text messages, I realized that my friend had once again fallen into a lifeless position on the couch in her home unable to move and unwilling to reach out.  After digesting her situation, I surveyed my living space where I was organizing my gear to take to Dallas for work.  I snapped mental pictures of what is not yet prepped and packed and made a gentle reprimand to myself  that I had a departure drive time of 6 am.  “At least three hours of packing to do,” I sighed under my breath.  “Wash, dry, & pack the coconut oil dispensers, pack clothes, clean the kitchen, return the incoming text messages about appointments, reorganize my office backpack, plan my meals and pack the cooler…” I whispered as I pointed toward each station.  I had a feeling that my sleep requirements would be curtailed.  But, she is my family and her wellbeing supersedes all.

I dropped everything and raced over to her home. In route, I was inspired that the only solution to the situation was to remove her from her living space for however long she needed. I arrived and found her as expected and surrendering to her fourth day of debilitating mental illness. She had kept this from me for three days. “How did I not see it?”  And, while to many, this situation may seem troubling if it happened to someone they loved, her current condition is light years more healthy than it was nearly two years ago.  And, one day, I will write about that.

I sat and tried to be present and quiet. And, though that was my intent, I was questioning, challenging, and mildly disagreeable.  I raised the issue of leaving the house, and, I was met with resistance and a cracking voice.  Finally, she agreed.  I proclaimed that her departure required shoes, a water, and any necessary medications.  She complied with slumping shoulders, slow movement, and a lifeless resolve.

As we stood inside her front door ready to leave, water was gathering in her eyes and I waited for her head to fall into her hands and expected her diaphragm to cue in rapid convulsion. But, she didn’t cry. I could tell she was trying to be strong, not wanting to be seen as weak or to worry me.  And, I suspected that she remembered that I was leaving in the morning to do massage work in Dallas and didn’t want to be a distraction or cause my delayed arrival.

She asked where we were going.  Several humorous & unappealing responses raced across my mind’s eye, but, I dismissed them.  We loaded into my car and I drove toward the bayou not far from downtown Houston.  This area is known for its running & biking trails which wind all around the city and which finally got connected this year.  Throughout this area evidence of art spaces, upscale casual restaurants, a bat bridge, and unexpected visuals of the city’s natural and manmade beauty constantly keep one on alert. These scenes are more pronounced when one is on foot or on two wheels, aka, a bicycle.  And, I have found that the world in Houston sounds different on a bicycle or on foot.

The well maintained pathways lead to modern walking bridges, which, of themselves, are works of art,  My favorite place along these trails are the Tolerance statues.  They are hollowed out Titan sized men kneeling as if in prayer.  Each of the seven are made of  metal symbols and characters from different languages.  Each statue is illuminated from the inside at night adding not just beauty, but, symbolism to ‘Tolerance’.

And, where I landed us was in the parking lot of a new glam restaurant built on the bayou which opened a few years ago.  The Dunlavy restaurant shares parking with the city’s park patrons and is a safe and quiet entry point into our nature walk.   It’s a casual restaurant in a very modern building proudly made of concrete and accented with floor to ceiling two story windows.  Actually, except for the west wall, all of the walls are windows which creates an air conditioned gorgeous view of the trees and bayou.

Our nature walk behind the Dunlavy didn’t last long.  She would slow to a stop as if she needed to take a breath to cry.  A couple of times, I pulled her into my chest to offer privacy from public view so she could let out the unnamed sadness, but, gently pulled away and declared that she was not gonna ‘let it out in public’.

“Well, this isn’t helping,” I thought.  So, I insisted we head to Amy’s Ice Cream, a Texas based mom & pop chain.  Once again, we loaded into my car and headed south.  And, just before exiting the car for my FAVORITE ice cream in all the world, she made quite a surprising suggestion:  “Do you mind if we dine across the street to have ‘real dinner food’ first?”   “You’re hungry?!?!” I asked.  “When did THAT happen?”   Internally, I sighed…my fat cells required regeneration – it had already been weeks since they had been fed by the high cow we call Amy.  (There really is a plastic cow perched high above the entrance…and I assume her name is Amy.)

I glanced across the street to see the familiar building which once housed a Starbucks, a vegan packaged foods store, a Diet Gourmet store, and, two other businesses.  Lining one side of the building were giant letters in red and mustard yellow:  THE HALAL GUYS.  “Sounds Greek or Mediterranean,” I thought, “I love that kind of food.”  So, off we went to find legal parking in their lot.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t busy at all.  But, it was so fucking loud.  I wondered if the cooks were having anger management issues given all of the noise they were creating.  After gathering our food, drink and silverware, we sat outside on the patio to feed the mosquitos, but, mainly to avoid the PTSD-inducing sound explosions of metal spatulas on thick metal pots.  I wanted to say, “Is that what that Broadway show STOMP is like?”  But, my thoughts and shovels of food into my mouth were interrupted when she said, “I think this is helping…getting me out is really helping with this bombshell of restraint.”  I looked up in surprise.  Her posture was more animated, her voice sounded like it was powered by her diaphragm, and, though the sparkle in her eye wasn’t there yet, I could tell it was on the way.

She was mostly finished with her meal, but, not before exclaiming several times how amazing our food was.  And, it was very flavorful and completely filling.  I paused the food shovel and blurted out, “well, you know, if you can’t change ‘how’ you see the world, change ‘what’ you see.” Both of us looked up in surprise at the wisdom of those words. “OMG!!  I can’t believe I just said that. It’s so deep and so true and so very simple,” I said. She concurred and asked me to repeat it.

Whenever I can pull her out of the quick sand, it’s a HUGE victory for me.  And, figuring out the way to those victories is sometimes about changing her physical point of view from a routine one to a colorful and moving one.  At the beginning of this story, she never moved her eyes from the white wall across from her position on the couch.  I wondered what movie she had cued up from her past to project there.

Tonight, as I type this story, she is sleeping in my bed.  I insisted that she not be left alone tonight.  And, as I reflected on that sentence “if you can’t change how you see the world, change what you see,” I wonder, if the wise words we speak to those we love are really the words we want to speak to ourselves.   When I spoke those words, it was a spontaneous articulation of my own minor victories when I faced overwhelming depression which spiraled downward into suicidal tendencies.  And, I’d never acknowledged that until that ‘A HA!’ moment with her.

UPDATE to The Halal Guys:  September 5th, 2017 –  Post Hurricane Harvey – After I imported my old website into my new WordPress website, I thought it would be a good idea to take pictures of the nature trails that were part of this blog.  But, they were still under water or still covered in wet mud.

You have a what?!?!

Sunday, 7 pm, Sometime in late September, 2015, Hilton Hotel East Memphis

When I was trying to figure out which massage school to attend, all of my massage friends said, “it really doesn’t matter – you don’t learn how to do massage in massage school anyway – it’s the continuing education courses that teach you how to be an amazing massage therapist.”   “Why would you go to massage school if you don’t learn how to do massage?   It doesn’t make any sense,” I argued.

Well, they were right.  In massage school, they teach you mostly how not to hurt people and about certain health conditions with which a client might present.   A client’s health condition might affect the way one does massage for that client.    I learned more about massage therapy when our instructor went ‘off-book’.  Most of the time, we stayed after school for two hours learning the answers to burning questions like:  “How do you relieve back pain?”  “Can we practice on the psoaz muscle group?”  “How does one do massage with release?”  (Just kidding:  I never asked about the psoaz muscles.)

And, regardless of the curriculum my two massage school instructors were amazing.  I came to know both as close acquaintances and about their favorite Master Teachers in massage therapy.

After massage school, I sought out continuing education workshops given by the Masters l learned about in school.  And, even though I didn’t have my license yet, I signed up anyway.  I remember the people at the registration table asking me, “why are you paying all of this money ($350) if you don’t have your license yet.  Your continuing education units (aka C.E.U.’s) won’t be associated with your future license.”

At my first C.E.U. workshop, I learned that if you don’t come to these workshops with a partner, they pair you with anyone that doesn’t have a partner.  My assigned partner was five foot six, and, opposite of my height, six foot five.  She had an entitled demeanor and was ungrateful that I provided sheets, head rest covers, and that I constantly raised and lowered my massage table to accommodate our dramatic difference in height.

She reminded me looks-wise of a girlfriend (friend who’s a girl) who is gay, and, not just gay, but stereotypically gay.  My friend has a Mullet hair style, wears golfer-like clothes, and has her Caucasian skin covered with a golfer’s tan.  My friend is bossy, spews her opinions everywhere, and is loud.  My workshop partner was all of these things also except my workshop partner was from Alabama, and, she sounded like it!

At the end of the weekend, all of us were brain-fried and physically exhausted.  But, there was one last technique on the weekend syllabus.  I call it The Hamstring Slide, and, I use this move in my sessions.  As I slid my hairy forearm along her hamstring toward her sit bones, she hollered out an “AHHhhhhhhhhhhh.”   And, then, “I can’t W-A-I-T to get home and show my huhzzzband this move.”  My brain filter was turned off.  As I said earlier, we were all brain-fried.  I said out loud, “Y-O-U have a H-U-S-band?!?!”

Everyone turned around with obvious giggles because they knew EXACTLY what I meant.  But, I didn’t mean it in a malicious way…it just came out of my mouth.   And, as soon as I said it, I realized how intrusive that must have come across.

She lifted her head out of the face cradle and turned to the side to address me.  “Well, of COHRSE I have a HUHZZZband.”  Everyone around me continued to giggle quietly but didn’t hide their facial expressions since Ms. Alabama was face down on the table.  We finished the exercise and proceeded to the long-awaited closing of the weekend.

It was my very first C.E.U. workshop and I learned a lot in those sixteen hours, like, don’t stereotype people!  It was a long ass weekend and I was drained.  And, during the entire weekend, I thought, “this is what massage school should have been!”




Sexy Beast

Sunday, April 16, 2017, 6:02 pm, my apartment, Texas

Before I started this job, I didn’t do any research about the ‘traveling massage gig’ industry.  Of course, I read other massage ads on the sites on which I was going to post my massage ad…but, that was about it.   Why didn’t I do more research?!?!  It very happened quickly.  I should have anticipated what my job would be like by, at the very least, getting a half dozen sessions from my future competition. 

When I began doing the traveling massage gig, I was a little oblivious to some of the obvious aspects that this type of work might include.  For example, it never occurred to me that the person offering massage should probably be hot or good looking.  Or, that most clients would want to touch the massage guy during the session if the massage guy was naked.  And, I never asked, “Why would a massage guy be naked?” And when I say touch I mean not only from the waist down but also from the waist up.  So, if I had been told that one must be hot to be a traveling massage guy, I never would have ever tried to do this work.

“Why,” you ask?  I grew up skinny, nerdy and pale.  Until I was thirty-five, I was six foot five and between 160 and 170 lbs.  So, when I looked in the mirror during my body building years in which I weighed between 210 and 230 pounds, and, eventually 240 lbs, all I saw was a 165 lb geeky nerd.  Boyfriends would make positive comments about my looks, but, I always thought that was love talking.

Since I was fourteen years old, I had always been told from different groups of people in my tiny sheltered world that I was ugly or unattractive.  I grew up in my Dad’s company and my coworkers used to say to me frequently, “Wally, your brother and sister turned out soooo good looking.  How did you turn out the way you did?!?!”  On reflection, I’m sure they were just giving me shit because I was the boss’s son.  I was naïve and gullible and that made me a fun target.   But, I took them seriously during those teenage years and those interactions tilled the soil for my future self-image.    

The train of thought that solidified that I was the ugly duckling came from someone I loved:  My Aunt Bootsie.  And, despite her name, she was my hero.   Her sense of humor was quick and clever and she ALWAYS made me laugh out loud.  She was gorgeous, fit, donned long dark hair, and dressed as if she was about to get on a plane.  Remember those days?  Twenty or thirty years ago, just as flying was becoming mainstream, people put on their Sunday best to fly. 

She was southern and had a declarative way of speaking – almost like Olympia Dukakis in Steel Magnolias.  She was a mannequin model in a store window when she was younger – the job required her to stand completely still in some unusual and uncomfortable pose.  Before dinner, during one of her visits from her home in Flahr-ruh-duh (Florida), she relived her days as a mannequin model for me.  She stood motionless in the den.  I was mesmerized.   “SISTER!! BROTHER!!  COME QUICK!  AUNT BOOTSIE IS BEING A MANNEQUIN!!”  My mother hollered out from the kitchen, “if that mannequin wants to eat, she’d better walk her plastic butt in here to help!”  Like a Stepford Wife, Aunt Bootsie slowly and deliberately eased upward into a relaxed posture and moved creepily in an overly graceful stride into the kitchen.  As she approached the dinner table, she picked up the dinner plates and began to set the table.  Suddenly, her movement slowed as she leaned over the table holding onto the edge of a plate while setting it onto the placemat across the table from her.  Before she came to a complete stop, she turned her head toward my mother while wearing a frozen over-the-top enthusiastic smile.  Mom gave her an “mmmhmmm”.

The knife that sliced into my very young self-image came during a family gathering celebrating a confirmation or a graduation or some life event – and dinner at one our favorites was in order.  My Aunt Bootsie was still visiting at the time and I negotiated a seat next to her. 

At dinner, in between bites of her salad, she looked up at my sister and said, “honeh, you are so beautiful.  You should get into modlin’.”  Her gaze immediately went to my mother, “Sistuh, you need to get yore daughter into modlin’! She is goh-jus!”  Before she took another bite of her salad, she looked at my brother, and said, “And, nepheeew, honeh, yore gonna be a ladee killuh one day!  You should be a model too.”  She took that bite of her salad, and, as she chewed, she realized her greatest fan was sitting next to her staring up at her and awaiting similar acknowledgement.   She reached behind me, patted my back, and, risking un-lady-like chewing, said to me, “Wally, honeh, I hope yore goin’ to college.” 

My sister looked up in surprise and giggled at the absurdity of her words, and, at the same time gave me a look as if to say, “I can’t believe she said that.”   It was like laughing at someone who had just tripped and then running up to them and asking, “Are you (giggle giggle) alright?” 

Electricity plowed through and over my bod.  My stomach sank, my shoulders slumped, and it felt like the air had been sucked out of my brain.  “I guess my coworkers were right,” I thought.  That information held power over me for years. 

I didn’t hold any resentment for my Aunt Bootsie for saying what she said.  She didn’t say those words to me out of any malice.  In addition, she didn’t have any idea where I was in my personal development.  However, because of those words, I presumed that I would arrive into adult hood as the one that someone would ‘settle for’ looks-wise.   I imagined friends trying to set me up on dates who would respond to the question, “what does he look like?”  “He’s got a nice personality”.

And, those beliefs would be reinforced later in my thirties and forties when AOL chat rooms (or, as I like to say, WHORE-O-L Chat rooms) came on the scene, and, then later, with smart phones apps like Scruff, Growlr, Grindr, etc.  Whenever I would send face pictures, I would get ignored or blocked.  Many years later, a photographer friend of mine in Dallas said, “Augh.  You take bad pictures.  Some people require lighting – some don’t.”

But, the change in my warped self-image was on the way.  The first significant crack in my disfigured looking glass landed five or six years ago.  Before I began working under I had been working out with my trainer three days a week for months.  I usually always ate what my former nutrition coach instructed and managed sugar cravings strategically.  David, my former boyfriend would sneakily take pictures of me when I wasn’t looking and show me this ‘hot guy on his phone’ in hopes that I would see myself objectively.  At first glance, not knowing that the picture was of me, my reaction included cartoonish bulging eyes and a devilish grin as if to say, “I’d like to get into that!”  

But, the real change in my self-image came about a year after my massage work on the road.  It was the revelation that I might not be bad looking when I realized “I’ve worked on hundreds of men, most of whom don’t know each other, and, most who say that I’m good looking or hot!  Maybe I’m not ugly after all.” 

It was a revelation that arrived many years too late.   But, the bucket of water in my face came when a friend said to me after reading the preview for this post “so it took the admiration of hundreds of men to erase the words of one person (Aunt Bootsie).”   I hollered out, “OH MY GOD, YES, Exactly.”

My hero began to fall from grace in my twenties and early thirties when I saw how she fueled the fighting between my mother and father who eventually divorced.  Later, when I opened up to her about my uncertain sexuality, she spread that information to the rest of our Florida family both distant and close.  My mother was not happy that I shared that information with her.  But, no one told me that Aunt Bootsie was a careless blabbermouth. 

Two years ago, I drove my mother down to my Aunt Gracey’s house in Florida.  My Aunt Gracey had degraded in health and was brought home to die.  As I visited with my relatives, I was given a heads up about Bootsie and how she had taken advantage of one of my younger cousins who had acquired an extra house in which she squatted without paying him rent.

As I stood at Aunt Gracey’s bedside,  I looked up and saw Aunt Bootsie standing at the bedroom door and surmising the visitors near her dying sister.  When she saw my mother next to me, she realized who I was and slowly walked toward me with much effort.  Her gate was stilted and painful and I didn’t recognize her at first because she had gained fifty pounds and looked like she was a person missing her walker.   I kept my familial distance from her but gave her a polite ‘two hands patted on the back’ hug.   I wasn’t trying to be rude.  I didn’t want to be near her.

It shouldn’t matter if I see myself as hot, good looking or average looking – but that I am fit, acknowledge others, and earn an honest wage.  But, deep down, it still matters to me.  And, THAT’s an issue for therapy. 

Going Home


Saturday, April 15th, 2017, 1 pm, Cleveland Airport

…Just a short blurb to say, for the first time in two and a half months, I’m going back home to Texas.  I’ve been on the road way too long and I’m yearning for my friends and family, my dominatrix vampire-ess fitness trainer, cooking for friends, time for writing, and of course, time to meditate.  I’m way behind on that.

Cleveland has been very busy and I got spend a lot more personal time here with friends than I normally do, and, making myself unavailable for massage appointments during those times dings my bank account significantly, but, it keeps my body and my spirit from breaking down.   And, it makes life on the road tolerable.

Someone very close to me is meeting me at the airport (at midnight) to take me home so I don’t have to rent a car for the first few days.  “You can use my car,” he insists.

At present, my only ‘partner’ is my job.  But, I look forward to the day when that changes.  I want another martini, but, I have to board the plane to Denver.  From Denver, I board another plane to Texas.  When one flies Southwest Airlines from the Midwest (Columbus, Cleveland, Indianapolis) it takes on average six hours and almost always involves a plane change.  Augh.

And, as you see in the picture, a martini was in order after I went through security and another is in order shortly after take-off.

Woo Hoo!  Here we go!

The Nervous Youngin’


Sunday, July 10, 2016, 9:00 am, my hotel room, Louisville, KY

A young apprehensive client sat nervously on the edge of the sofa and waited for me to finish refilling the oil dispensers.  I was focused on pouring with precision the coconut oil from the larger glass jars into the smaller pouring bottles I use during the session.   I was trying NOT to spill any coconut oil down the sides of the bottle.  As I poured, I began to feel the pressure of finishing quickly – I had a client waiting.  I held my breath to focus.

Client:  “Um….this isn’t one of those massages that will leave visible marks or bruises…is it?”
Me:  “No, that costs extra.”

A little later, I sat next to him on the sofa.  I could tell he was a still a little nervous.  And, when I sense someone is apprehensive, I usually try to lighten the mood with laughter.  (And, more on this later…but, I’m not an escort, why would anyone be nervous?)  I held his right hand with my right hand and gently palpated his palm with my thumb.  And, with my left hand, I held the same arm while my thumb gently palpated his forearm.

After I asked a few questions about his mobility and flexibility, he indicated that ‘medium’ was his desired pressure.  I looked him in the eyes to emphasize the importance of the words to follow.  “Most people are too shy to ask for more pressure or less pressure.  If I press to hard, please let me know immediately.  Don’t be a hero.”  His eyes widened to their physical limits.  “But, don’t worry, I haven’t permanently injured anyone in a long time.”   His lips unconsciously separated and I began to laugh hysterically slapping his knee repeatedly.  “I’M JUST KIDDING!  I’M JUST KIDDING!”

I’m not sure what he thought of me before, during, or after the session…but, I’m sure there’s a list somewhere.  I do remember him leaving more relaxed than when he arrived and I also remember feeling like I did my job WELL.  I hope the feeling was mutual.

The Charmed Life

Friday April 8, 2016, 10:14 am, my hotel room, Fort Lauderdale, FL

I was sitting at my laptop returning text messages to clients about my upcoming trip to San Antonio when a wayward breeze blew far into my hotel room snapping me out of work mode.   I was on a working vacation in Fort Lauderdale to get some much needed R&R and to work on my tan.  I turned toward the sliding glass door leading to the balcony of this four-star hotel and walked to the balcony.  This beautiful waterfront scene was a long overdue reminder that I am really fortunate to have this job.  People always say to me, “Damn you’re lucky to have this job.”  Or, “You must love to travel.”  Or, “You must make a ton of money.”

All of the answers to those questions have unanticipated answers.   I don’t have this job because I love to travel…it’s that  I don’t mind the traveling…but, the traveling is finally starting to feel like work.   And, it’s not like I plop into every city and have lines of customers throwing cash at me.  Most of my clients don’t realize that every city is a gamble.  Even some of my most popular cities have disappointing results more often than you would think.  So, the money is not predictable and it’s definitely not consistent, but, it’s consistent enough to keep me employed and able to achieve some negligible financial goals.

But, the people I meet, the places I visit, and the stress free life from corporate america are definitely on the ‘pros’ side of the pros & cons list.  And, I’m good at what I do and I take pride in the way I acknowledge my clients as well as  in the unique way I approach massage therapy.  And, the positive client feedback I receive is thee best form of job satisfaction.

I have the pleasure of spending intense one-on-one time with a lot of different men and I travel to unfamiliar places.  Recently, I noticed that I equate the cities I visit not with their amazing histories, their beauty, or with their associated industries, but,  with the types of businesses I patronize.  For example, when I go to Columbus, OH, I always think of that rare freshly roasted coffee taste at Mission Coffee in the Short North, or of ricotta pancakes at NorthStar Cafe, or of designer underwear found in the clearance bin at Torso, or the bonfire at one of my favorite bars – Exile.   I have promised myself that before I retire from this job I will take some sort of formal tour of each of these cities to deepen my connection to these places.

And, I don’t mind the driving but I do fly home every two weeks to reconnect with the ones I love.  And, though, I usually have close friends or family in most cities I visit, I can’t help but wonder about my own roots in my own city.  I want the next chapter in my life to involve less travel and more routine.

There’s a lot to be said for routine when you don’t have it.  I want my future routine to be waking up every day next to someone I love; cooking food network inspired meals in my own kitchen with my own cookware; consistent workouts with  my dominatrix lesbian vampiress personal trainer (more on her in another post); biweekly manicures and pedicures (so I don’t look like someone who could swoop down out of the sky to catch his own dinner); weekly yoga; movie night with my friends; etc, etc

I continued to stare over the balcony toward the water and compared this career to my last.  And, to be honest, I don’t miss my last job…anymore.  When the company folded, I endured a very long grieving period because I was there from the beginning.   And, like the other staff members, after a few years, my own identity became synonymous with the company’s identity.  It was an eighteen year employment history and when the company died a big part of ‘me’ died.    But working with my hands on men in other cities forced me away from home and distracted me with new surroundings and new people so I could heal.

And, I will always credit my friend Andy for introducing me to this work.  Coincidentally, Andy lives in Fort Lauderdale, and, once again, he has come to my aid by loaning me one of his massage tables so I could save the $150 the airlines would charge to fly my own table to Florida.  “…and DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT RENTING A CAR,” he ordered.  “I’ll pick you up….SAVE YOUR MONEY!”

My hotel room is not on the beach but it’s close enough.  My travel & vacation budget don’t allow for $250/day beach front rooms.  My budget in paradise is less than $150/day. And, all of my hotel room costs have been been paid for by working on a client in the morning and a client in the evening.  Sometimes, I imagine what it would be like to live in Fort Lauderdale and to visit the beach most everyday.  (Sigh)  Now, that’s a thought that makes me smile.

Note:  It took me longer than I wanted to finish this post.  And, that it took me longer was in itself a message to myself to clarify what I am working towards rather than simply waiting for the waves of encouragement to push me wherever.   I have noticed in my writing that when I am clear and passionate about a subject the words flow more easily.  It was apparent that I was, and, still may not be clear about the subject of this post.  But, I’m sure I will continue to explore this area over and over in an effort to make my end destination a more precise one.   


The Meat

One day in March, 2016 during Lent at dinner time, Minneapolis, MN

I was emailing back and forth with an old classmate about great restaurants in Minneapolis.  It was a Friday during Lent (a Catholic season of repentance & fasting.)  I shared that I was having the most wonderful meat dish.  He reminded me to get a to-go box.  “Remember Wally, it’s GOOD FRIDAY!!”  I am Catholic (well, at heart anyway…not so much in practice anymore) and Catholics don’t eat meat on Friday during Lent.

That friendly reprimand bothered me – not because it was directed at me – but, because it centered around the sacrificing of meat on Fridays during the season of Lent.  In the early days of the Christian faith the forty days and nights were used to prepare new converts for baptism.  Today, Lent is meant as a time of self examination and reflection. Many choose to give up something or to volunteer to help others.  And, when my classmate suggested I get a to-go box (which I did not), I imagined asking him, “Giving up meat is the best you can do to honor the Almighty during this season?  How about taking in a refugee family from Syria?  That would be a real sacrifice.  Is God (or the Universe or whatever you call the Entity) REALLY impressed that you give up meat for a dozen or so Fridays?”

There are a gazillion other activities (or non activities) one could substitute for meatless Fridays during Lent.  For example, how about giving up one’s cell phone on Fridays?  Or, giving up saying the ‘N’ word?

When I was in my twenties I did an internship at a Catholic parish in my hometown.  I would intentionally eat meat on Fridays in front of one of the associate pastors. There was something about this associate pastor and about the tradition of not eating meat on Fridays that bothered me.  It seemed sooooo hypocritical.   The very large gray-haired Alabama-speakin’ associate pastor narc’d on me, and,  I was gently reprimanded by my boss Fr. John.  I liked and respected Fr. John.  He also had a sense of humor and he genuinely cared about the people in his parish.  During my gentle reprimand I thought about bartering with him.   “If Fr.(name withheld) gives up saying the ‘N’ word  I’ll give up eating meat on Fridays.”  But, I was the new ‘temporary intern’ and I didn’t want to start a turf war that I would surely lose.

This past Lent it was made clear to me that I needed to give up judging people’s circumstances…permanently…not just during Lent.  My classmate raised two children with his wife and packed them off to great colleges – I’m sure his life and his wife’s were filled with sacrifice.  My little sister is raising two special needs children.  ALL of her days are sacrificed.  And, while I appreciate the current sacrifices that people make, I wish that our orientation of ‘giving up’ was more universal and occurred more frequently.

When I am having a low day (financial and/or emotional) and missing those close to me or worried about passing my massage exam or regretting certain life decisions, etc, etc… I will think about the place I am staying and offer thanks that I have a/c and heat and that I don’t have to hear gunfire or airplanes bombing my city in the distance as I drift off to sleep.

As I edit this post, I’m in a hotel room that is classified as an ‘executive suite’ in downtown Chicago; thanks to this hotel’s loyalty program I receive free room upgrades and this upgrade is the ‘max’.  It’s bigger than my apartment in Texas.  The bathroom is bigger than my kitchen.  I am fortunate to travel but I look forward to the days when I am home more frequently and in a routine that wakes me up to see the ones I love.


The Creepy Guys? Q&A

Thursday, March 31, 2016, 4:49 pm, DOLLOP Coffee house, 345 E. Ohio, Chicago, IL, 60611

My friends and my clients ask a lot of the same questions.  I wanted to take this opportunity to answer some of those.

“How do you handle creepy guys?”

I don’t think I’ve ever worked on any creepy guys.  I do a good job of making clear what will and won’t happen during the session.  And, I’m pretty straight forward – if I don’t like a situation I’m not afraid to say so.  Most all of my clients are really nice and more hospitable in my own hotel room than I am.  Because my clients are amazing being away from my friends and family is bearable.

“Have you ever asked a client to leave”  

No, but, I did walk out of a session.  I won’t disclose the city – I received a call as I was finishing dinner:  “Can you come to my apartment right now and deliver a massage to me?  You don’t need to bring your table or oil or anything…just come now.”  I hopped into an Uber and found myself outside a beautiful condo building.  I knew this was going to be a great session – this client had style.

I walked into his apartment with the stride of CRIME SCENE DETECTIVE.   Only in the movies have I seen a place this disgusting.  It was an efficiency apartment which made the space seem worse than it actually was.  There were piles of dishes smeared in week old dried food sitting in the sink and spilling over onto the counter; worn clothes that lined the pathway to the end of the apartment – you had to step over the clothes to get to a bare floor tile; wadded up tissues and napkins that had landed with no ‘waste basket goal’. In the distance I saw piles of haphazardly thrown papers and books that could easily fall over with the slightest wave of sound from the outside roads.

The client wanted me to work on him in his bed.  It was obvious that he hadn’t changed his sheets in probably weeks.  “Do you have any new sheets?”  He sighed heavily and was obviously annoyed at the request.   I helped him spread the new sheet (at least I had hoped it was new) onto the bed.  As he climbed onto the sheet I asked if he was gonna take off his boxers.   “In a minute,” he said.

I stayed standing on the floor working his shoulders – I held off getting onto the bed as long as I could.  I felt my senses on stand to high alert.  Then he slipped off his boxers revealing a very large cyst on his butt.  I inquired about the cyst and asked if he had received medical care for it.  Politely, I told him that I was afraid that it might be MRSA – “if it looks like a spider bite and you haven’t seen any spiders…then it’s best to have it popped and cultured, I can’t work on you.”  I apologized and left.

I  couldn’t wait to get to the lobby men’s room and wash my arms and hands.  The client was friendly and welcoming but as a host, he hadn’t a clue how others saw his space, or maybe because he was paying me to be there he didn’t care what I thought.