I've been to New York's Chinatown I'd guess about a couple-dozen times, but until last weekend I never took advantage of one of those massage joints scattered amongst the kitsch warehouses and tubs of live frogs and bubble tea shops.
We were outside a gimmicky tourist emporium. Leesha was asking about fans, Cha and Ma were trying on sandals pre-loaded with reflexology g-spot activators. A crate of electronic pups yipped at me. "You feel good!" a man said into my ear.
"Wha?" I asked.
"You feel good!" he said again, Marlboro cupped in his left hand as he gestured downstairs with his right.
"Oh, massage," I thought. A ten-minute foot reflexology massage was just what I needed. I mentioned to the others that I might give it a go, and bummed a twenty from the Mrs. I went downstairs and was put into a cubicle constructed of shower curtains.
"Take off shirt" my diminutive masseuse demanded, tugging my collar.
"Um, I uh wanted a foot massage," I told her.
"No foot for you! Back. You need back!"
My back has hurt for months, so I did what she said.
"How long you like?" she asked, and I told her ten minutes.
Eastern massage is decidedly different from Western. Instead of rubbing there is pressing, pinching, and punching. Often on one pressure point at a time. The masseuse punched a spot in my neck and my spleen somersaulted. She brushed with an ostrich feather a concavity by the hinge of my right elbow and I suffered the curious sensation of a lengthening large intestine. She pinched my left pinky finger at the third joint, and my uvula leapt forward to the rear of my top lip, poked out a slithery tail, and fled into my right nostril.
"Woah," I said.
"You like! You feel good! Fifteen more minutes!" I protested, asked if I could have my foot massage, and again was told "Back! You need back!" I figured I was just a gwai lo tourist getting the works. But the massage was pretty good and it was fucking cheap.
She leapt up onto the table and knelt with a knee in each of my ass cheeks. I thought that was kind of cool until she stared beating her feet against my calves like a seal. This sort of thing went on for a while before she took me upstairs to pay. I got a pretty good 25-minute massage for $25. I've paid a hundred bucks for worse at nice spas.
The woman who took my payment worked behind the glass counter at a Chinese pharmacy. She was alarmingly pregnant. She charged my VISA and asked where I was from. When I told her she said "Oh, yes. Have many men customer in Baltimore. They like strong sex herb. You try strong sex herb. VERY strong, no side effect!"
"VERY strong. Make you like horse. See?" she asked, pointing at her abdomen and winking.