April 26, 2004

Old Men in Cleats

I have a question. Well… actually I have dozens, but I don't think *you* are in any position to explain why I keep imagining myself rushing to the aid of the little girl in the Coppertone ads or why Carson from ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’ is doing ads for Goldfish Crackers.

Which brings me to my question, one that pops in my mind every spring like a popping up image in a pop-up book. The baseball season has begun and the glory of America’s pastime is underway. Teams look to their skipper to build a cohesive unit and lead them to victory. Using an elaborate set of statistics and gut instincts built on decades of baseball know-how these coaches guide million dollar athletes to peak performance and mastermind games like a work of spit-fueled art. All this begs the question why do baseball coaches wear baseball uniforms?

but can he field?

I understand why the players are in uniform, as they actually play baseball, but why are the 70-year old coaches suited up? Is there a chance they might get in the game?

"Quick, I need a pinch runner…DAMN! Lasorda's not suited up!"

Basketball coaches don't wear baggy shorts and jerseys to the games, football coaches aren’t seen with shoulder pads and athletic tape wrapped around their joints, swim coaches, thankfully, don't wear Speedos to meets, and badminton coaches…well, I have no idea what they wear, but I imagine they dress differently than the players. If you're a coach, dress like an adult. Why are you wearing stir-ups? And cleats…not to be rude, but you're a senior citizen, when do you need that kind of traction?

I'm not saying I don't appreciate the way those snug polyester baseball pants gently cradle the groin of formerly athletic older men… quite the contrary. I am saying, that if I coached a baseball team it would be a lot different. Speedos for everyone. Athletes, coaches, referees, fans…everyone.


Posted by Kaya at 07:26 AM | Comments (5)

April 19, 2004

My Cupping Runneth Over

Cupping is a treatment in Oriental medicine that helps remove stagnant blood from ‘blocked’ areas of the body to increase blood flow and oxygen to the injured area. The practitioner does this through creating suction within a cup (generally a round, glass cup or bowl) by lighting a small wick to rob the glass of any air then immediately placing the cup onto the skin. The suction it pulls the skin up within the cup and gradually pulls out impurities and stagnation.

Or, in layman’s terms, it’s like getting a gigantic hickey.

I’ve had lower back pain for about 15 years. Injuries in football and wrestling exacerbated a slight curve in my spine and I’ve dealt with some back pain, ranging from subtle to debilitating, ever since. I’ve gone through physical therapy, chiropractic care, massage, acupuncture, yoga, rolfing (intense deep tissue massage) and I do daily stretches. That said, I’m generally able to exercise when I choose and, for the most part, it’s manageable but frustrating.

However, I had recently heard of a doctor doing “wet cupping” and having wonderful results in terms of pain relief. While I had received a “dry cupping” treatment in the past (no blood is exposed but still leaves your body with wild tribal hickeys), “wet cupping” involves making a series of punctures to the skin first, and physically removing the stagnant blood from the body.

How could anyone turn down the opportunity to get punctured hundreds of times and have their gummy blood slowly suctioned through their skin?

I arrived at the doctor’s “Acupuncture, Cupping and Herbal Therapy” office ready to bleed away my troubles. I was happy to see no signs of a tank of leeches, but a rather simple office smelling strongly of herbs. Dr. Park’s wife, an older Korean woman led me to my room while apologizing for her poor ability to speak English.

Without words, she pointed to the clothes I was too remove, leaving me standing in the room wearing only my underwear. I sat up on the patient table and pulled a towel over my legs to keep me warm while I waited for Dr. Park. A joyful man in his early 70s walked in to greet me.

“Oh, you very handsome! So, so handsome,” he commented upon seeing me sitting on his table in my underwear.

As I’ll take any compliment I can get, kind words on my appearance from a Korean man forty years my senior was still nice to hear. We discussed my ailments, and, in broken English, he assured me that I’d never have pain again once we got to work.

I laid on my stomach as he figured out where I’d need to be cupped. Then, since he needed to get to my backside in order to alleviate pain in my lower back, he confidently pulled my underpants down so they were held in place within the crease where thigh meets cheek, exposing my “gluteal cleft”.

“Yes. So handsome. Very handsome,” he remarked again.

Again, I appreciate a compliment from anyone, but once my boxer-briefs were down and my pale rump exposed, I was less thrilled with the flattering comments. I wanted to tell him that I appreciated the sentiment, but, to be honest, I heard him the first go around, and was fine with quitting while I was ahead.

After marking where on my body he was going to cup, he began to puncture the skin using an instrument somewhat like a tattoo gun, making shallow pin pricks in the afflicted area. I began to count the pricks to take my mind off the pain of the repeated piercing of my skin, often in the same place over and over again. He often exceeded 100 punctures, like he was aerating the lawn, before placing a large cup over the fresh wounds.

Before he left the room, I had five large cups attached to my back, held on by the suction left from the small fire within the cup. I could feel the blood being extracted and my skin taut from the suction of the cups.

He also gave incredibly detailed descriptions and metaphors about impurities and health. With his thick accent, I was only able to understand parts of the fascinating (I assume) lecture. Something about how birds are active within the first hours of sunshine and are never sick, whereas tigers are active in the afternoon and are always sick. I’m supposed to be active in the mornings or eat more birds or less tiger or something. I hope it’s not imperative to my healing, because I got a bit lost and it’s tough to give up tiger, especially around the holidays.

After several minutes passed, it was time to remove the first round of cups. When he began to dump out the blood that had collected, it was less than I thought (I imagined the cups would be overflowing with blood), but more than a shot glass full for each cup. The blood was surprisingly ‘sticky’ and gooey like a raw egg and I still can’t imagine how it got through the small pricks in my skin.

After six more cups (eleven total), my session was done. I got up a bit dazed and went to drive home unaware of the gnarly bruises left on my back –like a team of horny, big-mouthed teenagers had at me like I was the starting quarterback at the spring dance...or what it might look like if I was dating Mick Jagger.

My back felt surprisingly good as I drove home and I continue to notice an improvement. The experience was fascinating and intense and painful and relieving and bloody – making it a lot like dating. Except with slightly larger hickeys.

I’ve already gone back once, and not just because I like telling people that the bruises just showed up on my back one day, like crop circles or because I know Dr. Park thinks my bare bottom is handsome. I do think it’s helping my pains...and I like people to wonder if I got attacked by that plunger wielding lunatic we’ve all been reading about.

Posted by Kaya at 03:11 PM | Comments (17)

April 12, 2004

Easter Bunny Ale

With Easter upon us, my thoughts turn to the colorful traditions that go along with this pastel and chocolate day. While my family doesn’t focus much attention on the religious side of Easter (the resurrection of the Easter Bunny), we’ve always enjoyed spending part of the day outside, embracing the arrival of Spring and the thrill of the hunt that only happens on Easter day.

I think of my family running around the yard, our baskets filled with plastic, green ‘grass’, eagerly trying to uncover hidden treasures in the lawn, behind rocks and within the bushes. The joy felt when first discovering a concealed treat is quickly pushed aside to focus on getting the next awaiting morsel. Scurrying past other smiling faces to find what few out of sight delights are left. Stealing a glance at my Dad’s loot to see if he had more Easter delicacies than me. Wondering where the other Heineken Dark may be stored or if anyone will trade me for this wine cooler. My brother has two New Castle Brown Ales...how did I miss them? The feel of the warm sun on my face and the soft, lush ground beneath my feet as a Fosters Lager is exchanged for a Sam Adams during the post-hunt trading.

Ah, such is the joy of the Easter Beer Hunt.

Several years ago, my Mom began to notice the low excitement level surrounding the annual Easter Egg Hunt. Once we were in college, scouring the yard for brightly colored plastic eggs filled with small, melting chocolates had lost its interest. Even the big prizes, the large pantyhose eggs (do they still sell pantyhose in plastic eggs?) containing quarters or even a dollar, had little appeal to my brother and me.

My Mom recognized that it was time to adapt the house traditions for Easter. “How can I best appeal to my college-aged kids and my husband?” she must have thought while pushing her shopping cart through the local Liquor Barn. The answer is shockingly simple: Revolve the activity around acquiring beer. It was a genius revelation and something the Christian Church may want to take notice of.

Imagine our surprise when we first received our cardboard six-pack holder/basket filled with fake Easter grass. We were told that bottles of good beer had been hidden around the yard and we were to fill our ‘baskets’ with whatever we could find. With no hesitation I ran off so fast that I pulled my hamstring. Getting to the Pete’s Wicked Ale first made any injury worth it – especially at a time when I was too cheap to buy myself quality beer. Not to knock the appreciated affordability of Natural Light or Keystone -- but those beers taste like the bottled urine from someone drinking real beer.

Even the non-beer drinkers in the family get involved. There are wine coolers scattered about and the occasional Ensure (adult nutritional drink) for my grandparents. My mother doesn’t drink so we...I mean the Easter Bunny, hides fun, non-alcoholic drinks (flavored iced teas, fruit drinks, etc) that are all-too-easily skipped over by the beer drinkers during the hunt. If anything, you’d find my Dad rapidly pulling his hand away and dropping an accidentally picked up iced tea like he’d picked up a rattlesnake or an electric eel.

While I generally make it my personal quest to leave no beer behind (possibly President Bush’s college motto and predecessor to ‘leave no child behind’?), there have been a few LEBs (Lost Easter Beers) in the past. They’re often found in the next beer hunt, with their labels weathered from a year or more of sprinklers and months of facing the harsh seasons of San Diego (fall and spring).

The rumors of years of accumulated LEBs have circulated throughout the neighborhood and urban legend has the number of beers high enough to get seven teenagers drunk. Occasionally, when the moon is full, you’ll see high school students scampering around the front lawn of my parent’s house with their flashlights darting across the yard, furiously searching for an elusive, aging Heineken.

The Easter Bunny would be proud.

Posted by Kaya at 05:34 AM | Comments (3)