Disclaimer: there are no x-rated elements to this post, because there are no x-rated elements to this story.
I remember the first time the nurse told me that now that I had a diabetes diagnosis, that I should pamper my feet, including getting foot massages. At the time I thought, yah right, I can’t afford that crap.
Then I moved to Shanghai and found myself getting them once a week, sometimes twice. They were at once cheap, entertaining (way better than state TV), therapeutic (we walked a lot!), and all around awesome.
So my first massage in Taipei a couple weeks ago was at a big 6 story McMassage super clearing house that I found on google maps near my hotel. It had hardwood floors, big easy chairs everywhere, long walls that were water falls, and big screen tvs that were blaring the news about the passing typhoon. The massage itself was harder than I expected, and there were a couple of times on the table upstairs where I was yelping in pain.
The next massage I had was a week ago on Squirmy Saturday. That place was in Ximending, in the bustling, neon heart of the old town district. The massage place itself had the feel of a really nice locker room at a county hospital…. in a good way. That massage was really hard, and they told us that massage is about 健康 health, not about 舒服 feeling good. It felt good when it was over.
Today I went with with Coyote S and Chicago J to take Aussie L to the airport. There was a little snafu with his papers, so it turns out his plans changed, so that adventure took up most of the day. It was a bad day for him; they brought him the wrong coffee, then the document snafu, then the Indonesian restaurant was closed… poor guy just can’t win. After a sushi dinner he went home early.
Me, I was looking for something to do…
Ok, so across the street from my place is a “Thai Massage Academy” that looks like everything is above board. I didn’t want a Thai massage… I think it involves wrestling on the floor, which I am not into. But I looked at their massage menu, and there was a 100 minute foot and body combo. So I went inside.
The front of house is floor to ceiling windows; from the street you can see three big rattan chairs with Thai-themed cushions on a platform behind some pretty cool looking foot sinks; big ceramic bowl sinks with expensive faucets to fill them. Behind that is the counter. So far so good.
To the left, however, right when you first walk in, there’s a couple of rattan sofas with the same Thai-style cushions around a coffee table. Behind that is an expensive looking dining table, and behind that is a pretty chic-looking kitchenette. All of this is visible from the street.
When I walked in, I was met at the living room area, offered a seat, a cup of tea, and menu card. I pointed to the one I wanted, and then they offered me slippers. They took away my street shoes (which btw are slippers) and then showed asked me to sit in the chairs with the foot sinks, the ones in the window that I told you about above.
Those big rattan chairs are cool looking, especially with those pillows embroidered with Thai elephants and dancers; the whole thing is very Fancy Import Store chic. The chair, however, is not comfortable, and I was wondering how this massage was going to work over this big bowl of a sink.
Then this exquisitely beautiful woman came in off the street, and the counter lady told her 足底; it’s a foot massage. So then Exquisitely Beautiful sat down at my feet and started bathing my feet and legs, first with soap, then with an exfoliating scrub, then more soap. I wasn’t sure what to do with myself at this point, so I looked out the front windows upon the McDonalds, the video game exchange, the 7-11, the dozens of scooters parked on the sidewalk.
Then a couple, other customers, came in from the back. They were ushered to the dining area where they were served tea from a clay pot. And then, as Exquisitely Beautiful lifted my huge feet and legs onto her exquisitely beautiful lap to dry them with a towel, the customers at the dining table started eating some pudding from the dishes on the table in front of them.
My feet now dry, the ladies ushered me to a room in the back. They said something in Chinese I couldn’t understand, and as I entered the room, I realized it was a bathroom; toilet, sink, you know the drill. Not needing to use the bathroom at the time, I poked my head out, and they urged me to use the bathroom. I told them it wasn’t necessary, so they told me to go downstairs.
So I go downstairs into the basement (hitting my head on the ceiling on the way down). There’s a little sitting area with a beautiful and uncomfortable-looking sofa decorated with more Thai-themed pillows. There’s close up of the happy Buddha’s face on an etching hanging on the wall. I am invited to sit on the sofa. So I sit.
I see down a hallway that there are dark rooms with wrestling mats. I, however, am ushered by EB through a secret sliding panel into a room with three tables. I tell her in Chinese, I’ve never had Thai-style massage before, I’m not sure what’s happening.
This is foot massage, she says, Thai-massage is in the wrestling rooms. I stand corrected.
She offers me massage pajamas, which I decline, and has me lie on the table. I remember that foot massage in Manhattan was on tables like this. EB turns the a/c on to “flash freeze” and then starts to rub my feet; lotion, pressure points, pretty standard.
The only thing is that she’s not hurting me, not like the earlier Taipei massages I had had. It feels good, but I actually start to long for the pain… 舒服 feel-good massage is a little boring to me now. I say nothing. The foot portion of the program ends about 40 minutes later with both my feet and legs wrapped in hot towels.
She has me turn over and starts finding the sore spots on my back. At one point she is definitely up on the table, and the next thing I know she’s sitting with her knees in my glutes, slapping my calves with the tops of her feet. Go ahead and take a moment to figure that one out. She’s neither strong enough nor heavy enough to hurt me, and over the course of the back massage portion of the program, I realized at one point that I had just woken up. At another point I realized I had drooled a little bit on the floor.
Next, Exquisitely Beautiful has me lie face up on my back; you have to drain your sinuses. She reaches to do my shoulders and then says, hey, take off your shirt! Yes, ma’am, says I, and the next thing I know she’s got her hands under my shoulder blades, flipping them around. This isn’t really isolating single muscles, it’s more of a touch-me-all-over type of feeling. Then she turns my head and starts massaging my neck, which hurts. I tell her 那邊有一點酸 that spot hurts a little. She took that as her cue to bust out the tingly cream and really go after my neck.
Finally, it’s the scalp massage portion of the program. There was a few moments of finger tips, but then I felt some kind of wooden instrument take over… and she started scraping my scalp in earnest. At one point in the scraping, she kind of sighed pitifully and wiped the head scraper on a towel next to my head. I did not ask. I did not.
The head scraping sounds weird but it felt good. And weird. And painstakingly thorough; no part of my scalp went unscraped. Just when I thought, oh, she’s scraped every part of my scalp now; no, she found another part of my scalp to scrape.
Then she turned my neck again, and I thought, ok, is she going to stretch my neck muscles? But then she said, could you sit up please? time’s up! and I realized she was just trying to get me to sit up. So when I sat up, there was a little bit of shoulder rubbing and then the wake-up pops where they hit you in the back a bunch.
She thanked me, and then sent me upstairs, where the counter lady ushered me to the dining table, where I was served tea from a clay pot. On the tray was a chocolate bar, a packaged rice crispy treat, and a dish of pudding. 咖啡凍, coffee gelatin dessert, says the counter lady, assuring me that it had very little sugar. The spoon she gave me to eat it with was not so much a spoon as it was a tiny ladle. It’s not easy to to eat, I said, and she says yes, 不好舀 tough to scoop.
And that’s how I learned the word 舀. The End.