There is no gain without pain. That’s what I keep telling myself after my recent “fact-finding” trip to a massage parlor. I really took one for the team.
Actually, it was both Marilyn and I who shed our dignity (not to mention our shoes and socks) in pursuit of truth, and a good time.
As you probably know from reading the Journal, the practice of using massage therapy as a cover for prostitution (including, sometimes forced prostitution) has become more common in this part of Orange County. Most massage businesses around here are legitimate, I believe, but there are quite a few hiding behind a medical or therapeutic facade.
Some of these are easy to spot. Those are the ones with darkened front windows, lurid flashing red signs and hours like “Open ‘til 3 a.m.!” to convince you of their dedication to your good health.
Marilyn had the week off from her real job recently, so we went to a place called “Massage Therapy,” which featured folks from Korea who appeared to speak as much English as our dog, Scout. In fact,come to think of it, I think they understood even less. Or maybe that was just a facade. Anyway ….
We didn’t go into this investigative raid totally unprepared. Marilyn had actually been there before with some associates from her work, and pronounced it a very legitimate and forthright operation.
But, hey, she’s not the grizzled, battle-hardened, sadder-but-wiser journalist that I am. Would she really have spotted the tell-tale signs of corruption as I would? I think not.
So off we went on our mission. Walking in, you see on the right a wall covered with massage therapy certificates and diplomas. Past a screen is another part of the space where several low-slung couches are arranged. You lose your footwear, fall back into the couch and find a warm hand towel placed over your face while your tootsies are dunked into a basin of warm water.
What follows is a kind of good cop-bad cop routine. The attendant massages not just your feet but also your head, including earlobes. The massage part ranged from nice-feeling working or muscles to angry-seeming assault on your joints and key points in your body’s “meridians,” which is another term for places that will ache for hours later.
Once they’ve tenderized you there, you get taken to a back room (really, just behind another screen) where they lay you face down on a table and proceed to beat the living heck out of you.
This little Korean woman punched, pushed, leaned on and generally hammered me with the vigor I normally associate with trying to get a rusted bolt loose, and no WD-40 available.
Not since seventh grade when Al Rooks threw a body block at me when I was rushing the quarterback and knocked me into the middle of next week have I experienced such powerful blows. Think of those guys who break bricks with the side of their hands and you’ve got the idea.
After nearly an hour of alternating pleasant pressure and gasp-out-loud pounding, they let you go with a cup of cool water and a goodbye. You then get to walk to your car, if you can walk.
So what did I learn from my/our undercover assignment? Firstly, it’s not the size of the masseuse that counts, it’s how many karate lessons they’ve had.
Secondly, it’s amazing how much you’ll put up with if you don’t want your spouse to think you’re a total wimp.
And finally, although some massage parlors doubtlessly are guilty of plying “the world’s oldest profession,” most are not. These guys, you could probably arrest for assault with intent to commit grievous bodily achiness.
On the other hand, it did seem to invigorate my old middle-aged body. No gain without pain, eh?
We’ll probably be going back next week.