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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Of Massage, Bacon, Elevator Cars and Fireballs

Friend Kass gets my nomination for the Girlock Holmes Super Sleuth Award which has utterly no value other than it's tribute to her sensitivity to me. And that makes it worth millions. To me. "The silence is deafening," she wrote. "What kind of shit are you dealing with?" This woman and I are simpatico, favored reader. Congenial. We've never met and yet there is an electrical connection. And she was right.

I'd been pleased and proud to limp out of the holiday season upright. There were still the daughter's and the mother's birthdays to deal with and the every few days' (or once a week) sly and sometimes unkind shots made across my bow, but I thought I was doing pretty well. And then I made the phone call. When I was told that Stephanie no longer worked at Massage Envy, I couldn't reply. I don't think I said, "OK, good-bye." Now, I know how to find Stephanie. Her major job is in the spa at a high-end resort on the Strip. Although she'd never said a word about leaving Massage Envy, she had been bringing me spa magazines and speaking to me of vichy baths, exfoliation and various mud treatments, so maybe . . . . She'd been trying to figure out the best discounts for me, based on credit cards I held or frequent traveler scams I might belong to. Uh-uh. I'm not doing it. We found a way for me to get a 70% discount, and the day's treatment was still hundreds of dollars. I don't want a spa citron salad and a fluffy terrycloth robe all day once a month with treatments I don't seek made on my naked person. I want my frequent deep tissue massage, delivered by one person I trust and rely upon.

The phones took off dramatically at work. It was evident that none of us had kept our edge sharp for dealing with nearly impossible demands of time and resources when we're booming. Homes and I were feeling the pressure, steam cleaning machine hoses sprung funny leaks and the general public's attitude has improved little. One customer had a major flood in his home, resulting in a huge water damage job. No, we don't wish anyone ill. But that's income for us. That's what we do. We didn't flood his home. We just fix it. Unfortunately, the man appears to be a tremendous alcoholic. Sober when Troy arrived to do the work, he required assistance to write his check at the end of the job. Now we cannot raise the man from the bed he shares with his demons to get our industrial fans out of his house. We are also concerned about the man's welfare. For me, there is pressure because it was month-end, year-end, accountants, taxes, and the anticipation of helping to breathe life into David's new business venture. This is all shared simply to say, "New day, same old stuff." I get through it better at some times than others.

I'd asked Stephanie for recommendations of some of the other massage therapists. My friend was looking for a way to reduce the cost of frequent massage and wanted to give Massage Envy a spin. "How about if we each book a massage, pay attention to the talents of the therapists, compare notes, and go from there?" "Good idea!" "OK, I'll book the appointments." We presented ourselves at the appointed time and met in the lobby afterwards. Walking toward the car, I asked, "How was yours?" He said it wasn't bad. Not perfect, but slide her some points for this being the first massage. "How was yours, Les?" I'd have to say it was good. Definitely promising. I'm not shy about saying, "Hey, is there any therapeutic reason you can't _____?" And now we know three different massage therapists there who are at least acceptable. Other massage days will roll around, and so it goes.

I'd been given a generous gift card that could be used at any of four dining establishments. We were massage-lazy, so we chose the nearest, not the one we already knew we liked. Being seated was smooth and easy and the vivacious Vicky soon had brought his Tanqueray martini and my iced tea (no, not the Long Island variety). She enthused to us for quite a long while about the restaurant's new menu and pointed out several ways for us to "get more" and "pay less". We could actually get about 5,000 calories worth of food for less than the fewer than 1,000 we'd hoped for. But the fun really began when we opened the new menus and began to study them. For we - two truly irreverent, sarcastic and sometimes rude individuals - found ourselves in the west's last bastion of applewood smoked bacon. We are two people with a serious aversion to bacon. After seeing it on the menu, even in the desserts (no, not literally), I began to notice the plaques on the wall celebrating the greasy stuff. I heard him say, "Oink" and "Do you see anything you'll eat in here?" And I started to hoot in my seat. His burger was decent he said - "Hold the bacon, please." My quesadilla explosion salad fed me three meals - "Hold the bacon, please." Note to self: Avoid that diner ~ it smells of bacon!

And then, the end of the evening. We took time, again, to speak gently, with care, of things damaged between us. We acknowledged again that neither of us knows how to fix these things, completely. We committed again to wanting to repair what is broken - to find the way. A week prior, he'd come up with a brilliant idea and I'd pursued it. I shared my findings and the comments made to me to be shared with him. We shared schedules for availability and we took hands and agreed, there are some things not to be put down forever broken, but pursued until they are fixed or until there seems no reason to pursue them. We spoke of camping soon to be shared, and a blanket of peace settled.

So, dear Kass, you were right. The little elevator car that is me slipped a cable and took a dive down a couple of floors. I did not crash into the floor 20 stories down. I just slipped a little ways. And now I hear the professionals gathering. Tools rattling, measurements being made, voices. "Broken cable over here on Number 4 - easily fixed." "Little shot of WD-40 and some duct tape, this will be as good as new." "As long as we're here, let's polish up the buttons and replace the light bulbs." You see, when you don't know how to fix it yourself, you ask for help. Call for service. Trust in the good intentions and ability of all the players (I understand that, I work in a service industry!), set the appointment and go.

I share this, feeling somewhat vulnerable. This could be easily mistaken for "crazier than batshit". I would hope the reader has read enough from me in this and past posts to understand it is pretty healthy. I performed a ritual this week. I drove to the Mojave Preserve and parked in a paved, well marked parking lot. I took the fairly short hike that is nearly flat in the first half and pretty torturous rock climbing in the second. I am never 100% certain I'll make that last 500 yards. One ends up in a rock citadel with a 360-degree view of the world. This being a weekday, I saw no other human being on foot. I did not create this ritual. I read about it and I understood it. I "got" it. One gathers her anger into a fiery ball and hurls that flaming orb into the cosmos. I flung that fireball like an Olympian discus thrower. And then the next. And the next. I threw balls of pain and anger and every other kind of rot until my ancient shoulder forced me to stop. I began to sag a little in the climb down the rocks. Before Las Vegas came into view, I was worried I'd fall asleep at the wheel. I slept all night long, never getting up to use the bathroom, tend to meowing cats or explore why the BlackBerry was breeeeeng-ing me at 2:00 a.m.

Photo credit: Hammer Head - J. D. Morehouse

In my ears right now: "Crying", a most beautiful song. I've loved it by Roy Orbision, Roy Orbision and k.d. lang in duet, Don McLean and k.d. lang solo. Yes, I'm playing them obsessively in order.

Something that charmed me:

I like k. d. lang's "baring my soul", "baring my feet" performance style. I suspect splinters are an occupational hazard and a warm, wool rug is a perk.


  1. Dear, dear Les. Did you literally throw balls of fire (or something)? Or did you just hurl your arm around and nearly throw yourself off a cliff? Either way, you REALLY need a massage now. Too bad I'm in Salt Lake. Here's a poem I love and hope you will love too:


    There are names for what binds us:
    strong forces, weak forces.
    Look around. You can see them:
    the skin that forms in a half-empty cup -
    nails rusting into the places they join,
    joints dovetailed on their own weight.
    The way things stay so solidly
    wherever they've been set down -
    and gravity, scientist say, is weak.

    And see how the flesh grows back
    across a wound, with a great vehemence,
    more strong
    than the simple untested surface before.
    There's a name for it on horses,
    when it comes back darker and raised:
    proud flesh

    as all flesh
    is proud of its wounds, wears them
    as honors given out after battle,
    small triumphs pinned to the chest -

    And when two people have loved each other
    see how it is like a scar between their bodies,
    stronger, darker, and proud;
    how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
    that nothing can tear or mend.

    Jane Hirshfield

  2. That k.d. lang rendition - man, oh man. I usually get impatient when I see someone has posted a YouTube that's more than 3 minutes long, but I didn't want this one to end. She got me.

  3. @ Kass ~ That is a MOST wonderful poem. I'm going to print it and keep it at hand.

    My hands aren't singed, so I'm thinking those fireballs were imaginary, but - by god - I spun and threw them and nearly drove myself into the boulders like an auger.

    Re: k.d. I love both Orbison and McLean doing it, but k.d. has it best, I think. She feels it, she belts it, it is heartfelt. She wears her homely black dress or outfit suitable to an ex-nun and her bare feet and her androgynous haircut. I really, really like it.

  4. You alone on the mountain tossing away your fiery balls of anger.

    I call first dibs on the movie rights;>)

  5. @ Kirk ~ Stimulates the imagination, doesn't it? For being the first to request them, and given your superior grasp of films, you shall have those rights! I am very lucky I did not forget to let go of any of those flaming orbs - it would have been a long drop with a fistful of fire!

    Two things. First (for any readers), who shall star as me in the movie? Second, it hasn't yet been mentioned, but I performed a second ritual in the desert that day, one of my own creation. It might make for a hella sound track.

  6. Well, Leslie, what a great post here, again. What sagas you tell, all these events juxtaposed in your ever delightful storytelling voice.

    I have just now slipped over to Kirk's blog to read about Raspputin following your trail. I love his writing too and so I've started to follow Kirk as well.

    I'm all for a good story well written. An honest and convincing voice will win me over hands down.

    I have also read your comment to my comment on your blog two postings ago. I'm sorry I did not see it earlier.

    I should like to call you Leslie. It's my husband's middle name. It's one of my dearest friends first name but she spells her Lesley with a 'y' and no 'i'. It's my husband's father's middle name as well.

    I don't mind the smell of bacon, though I don't choose to eat it. It's too fatty and full of salicylate and preservers, or so I hear. Not that I'm otherwise fussy about food.

    I'm glad the fireballs were only imaginary and like you I love Kass's poem by Jane Hirschfield.

    I love the roller coaster of your writing. I almost feel breathless reading as we swing from one association to the other. It's exhilarating even as it can sometimes be devastating.

    I am speechless at your capacity to convey emotional depths and - going over to my blog for a minute - I can see how someone like you with such a wealth of imagination and a love of detail would despise those who reduce everything to simple labels that tell you nothing at all.

    Long live diversity.

  7. I really love how you take the detail right up to fifth gear and keep your foot on the pedal - great read - at the expense of your health - makes me want to get a massage on your behalf - the K D Lang was mesmerising...she did a duet once (saw it on tv a long long time ago) with Erasure...wish I could remember what that was...going to go youtube it!

  8. The verification word was "shetat"...it seemed profound...

  9. Who should play you? Didn't you mention Angela Cartwright some time back?

  10. @ Elisabeth ~ You are very kind to me and I appreciate it. Thank you.

    I am so pleased you went over to Kirk's! He is one of the bloggers I most enjoy. He has a good mind and humor and he writes well. He never fails to make his thoughts known, he's imaginative . . you can tell how much I like him.

    You just caused me to land on calling my writing "free association". Sometimes I feel it's simply "messy" or "too loose". You just validated me. You also caused me to remember something. When I worked for a labor union, I was presented with both professional and personal challenges. I was a shining star there and I had a motto that got me through the day and ~ "my calling cards read earnest and sincere". Some of the male reps got through by swinging a bat anad smoking a cigar, but I did it well with earnest and sincere. I think I write that way, as well.

    I'm recalling Jim Murdoch's post the other day dealing with "what am I?" [What do we call ourselves?] You mention my ability to tell of emotional depths. I call myself a "feeler". That's what I do. I feel things. Intensely.

    Lastly, Elisabeth, you have now pegged me twice. A couple of posts past you said my piece was funny and heart-wrenching at the same time and I stated that probably was well descriptive of me. Now you say I go from exhilarating to devastating. And that's so true it makes me ache. I'm very glad you found your way here.

    Your friend, Leslie ;~}

  11. @ Rachel ~ I'm pleased you enjoy what you read here! As I just said to Elisabeth, I feel things very intensely and I try to tell about my feelings as clearly as I can. 5th gear and full throttle? Yes, most of the time. Both a good thing and a bad thing. Intense people have such high highs and such low lows. We also sometimes scare other people away. I strive for balance, but I also strive to honor myself at this stage of my life. I am what I am for all manner of good reasons.

    k.d. lang has dueted with a good number of other performers and I always feel like these "covers" are made more spectacular by her presence. I just can't process the barefooted thing, but more power to her!

    "Shetat" ~ I'd like to own the T-shirt! It also reminds me of a not-very-nice expression that I won't post on my blog.

  12. @ Kirk ~ Hey, I was just singing your praises while your comment was awaiting my attention! I only said I'd rather be Angela Cartwright if my other option was June Lockhart.

    So, let me see . . me in the rock fortress flinging fire with fury . . first I want to say Holly Hunter, but that's only because I'd actually like to BE Holly Hunter. There is no similarity between us, I just like her. But, come to think of it, I like her best in her role in The Piano and that makes me think of myself up in the rocks in the hoop skirts and that hairdo . . never mind. Not Holly.

    What about Sally Field? We're both small and dark haired, deeply sincere, strong and feisty when we need to be. I was the union rep and she did the Norma Rae role. She was as fierce as I feel in Places in the Heart. I'm thinking Sally, Kirk. Would Marty approve?

  13. Marty Volare might start sending you love letters.

  14. @ Kirk ~ Nothing wrong with that! Marty writes a fine love letter, and I enjoy corresponding in writing.