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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Thai Massage in Mui Wo

Thai Massage in Mui Wo

You get 45 minutes for about 12-13USD (tip included). Mom treated me. Walk in from the rain with Mom who is ushered into the chair by the front entrance. I’m told to climb up the green stairs—candles on the side of every other step. OK. It’s authentic. This means that the people seem Thai and not Filipino. Not that it makes a difference. Somehow I don’t think that Filipino massage would do as well. Well, I think British massage might even do worse. And I’ve never heard of American massage.

Beige satin curtains separate the cubicles. There are 3-4, hard to say. In one, I overhear a chatty Filipino woman client. The Thai masseuse points to the middle cubicle. I go to the bathroom. Clearly someone lives in this building. The floor is totally wet despite mats and there are toothbrushes and toothpaste.

The toothpaste is Darlie, Stephen told me before that this was formerly Darkie, yes as in black/negro, as in the derogatory word DARKIE and it remains, despite its letter change, still offensive and a bigselling toothpaste in Southeast Asia. Asians are obsessed with white skin. You’ve never seen so many whitening products advertised in your life. But more on that dirty subject another time.

A low shower nozzle indicates recent use. Somehow, a damp bathroom with water all over the mats and lower walls does not make for an inviting massage. But what do I expect? What am I paying for, after all? A massage or a place to pee?

I go back to my cubicle, strip down and put on the batik pants and shirt on top of the pillow. She comes in and begins by pressing on my back. I try to explain in sign language and basic words like BABY BIG and BABY HEAVY that my lower back is killing from lugging around a 32 pound (or thereabouts) 2 year old. She nods. I motion the neck cracking gesture and nod my head NO. I will not do that neck cracking stuff. Forget about air pockets being released. I can’t stand it. It scares me.

I start to hear Mom chat below and laugh. Mom doesn’t really do massages. I remember taking her to Kunming and her laughing whenever the masseuse touched her shoulders.

Press. Press. I do lots of exhaling. But I’m not totally relaxed.

Is it the deafening drilling next door through the walls? That ole melodic song of Hong Kong?

Is it the cell phone ringing in the cubicle next to me? The disco ringtone and then the woman shouting in Cantonese and having a conversation in the middle of her massage? Twice?

I continue to hear mom laughing downstairs. She’s too ticklish for a massage. Oh well. She’s having a good time.

Then I start to relax just a bit thinking about this authentic Southeast Asian experience. I start to laugh because I somehow think about all those design books that advertise Japanese zen living, when the truth of the matter is that the majority of the Japanese live in crowded packed small apartments without a tatami mat or tea set anywhere. I think of this because I think what is the Thai thing really? Crowded conditions. Interesting textiles. A bit of dirt. A random orchid in a vase. It reminds me of the Thai massage I went to in the Valley in LA on Ventura Boulevard. You entered from the parking lot and had to pass the kitchen where they were whipping up food, ironing clothes, and watching Thai soap operas.

And I start to kind of laugh thinking about the drilling and the woman shouting on her cell phone. After all, this is Hong Kong. There is nothing relaxing about Hong Kong ever. Ever. I may be in Mui Wo, population 3000, but it’s still possible to have a totally urban experience here.

Massage done. I get up and go downstairs. Mom has enjoyed her neck/shoulder chair massage—they even gave her some extra time. I’ve enjoyed my back massage too.

A day later. I get sciatica on my right side. Mom will go again, but I think I’ll have to go to another place. I pop two Tylenol. Yep, Mui Wo Thai massage.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Thin Gray Line

The thin gray line
between the sky and sea
a watercolor wash of cloud and water
divides the horizon
a step here
and the stones smooth from the ocean’s caress
crunch and shift
a step here
the earth quivers
and settles
a step here
and we surrender
to the cold.

What is this land
where we meet
this land
impossible
this land
that swallows
and spits
your dreams?

This scratch across the sky
is why we return
and flee
wait for the wind
and night
wait for the dark
and time
wait for the clock
and death.

I Never Liked Redheads

This is what I see:
Red hair and pale flesh
woman atop, straddling you.
I awake.
This picture makes me sweat and kick,
and in the dark on the edge of the bed

I remember:
The steam of a hazy hot night
when you walked through the door
a silk dress damp against my skin.
The desert sun against my back
as the light spilled on your bare shoulders.
The way my body trembled
from your flesh and embrace.
And then, your soothing whisper as our son was born.

What is this disappointment and sorrow
that binds and wounds? The pull and twist.

The dream was this:
A journey down a silk road.
Solitude in the tropics.
Time to read and write
slow, slow. Poetry.

The truth is this:
A long commute and silent return.
The chase that devours.
Back to back in the dark.
Time lost to tasks
fast, fast. Money.

I pen this in a hotel bathtub at 3AM
Rest on a brown pillow and cool porcelain.
You come in to pee.
I tell you the dream
I never liked redheads, you say,
and return to sleep.

The Memory of Water

(retitled The First Ocean)


The shower runs down your back
a morning stream, a soak of steam.
A great spine broken, the torks and twists
the pounding and running.

You swing our son over your shoulder
his heather head lit by your silver hair.
I note the shift in your gait.
I see time collapse.

Who knew it would come so fast and late?

When was that summer
you crossed the ocean
to have me put my hand
under your back
as we circled the swimming pool?
Still later
lifting me in your arms
you asked if I would love you
when you could no longer
push me to the sky.

* * *

In water everything floats,
a tremendous belly, a pink bikini.
Relief, the cool splash and stroke.

Water pooled between my legs
yet our son fought the descent
from the red sea. The first ocean.

Where is the elixir that heals the loss of matter?
Where is the memory of water and innocence?
We did not know.

* * *

And yes, I still do.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Back in Mui Wo, Aldeburgh, and Margaret Drabble

Back in Mui Wo. Wonderful trip. Except for Virgin Air. I HATE VIRGIN AIR. Cheap lousy service.

I haven't gotten it together to do my own photos. So here are Kath's posted. They more or less sum it all up, though I will also post my own soon. Stay tuned.

http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/sredir?uname=mewyoo&target=ALBUM&id=5312745892756910481&authkey=Gv1sRgCPSY_ajrj72zxwE&feat=email

I was able to listen to a talk by Margaret Drabble--best known for her work on the Oxford literature series, but also an author of 17 some odd books. She was interviewed by another woman from Virago Press. Kath and I went, the audience mostly filled with the 65 plus crowd, holiday types in Aldeburgh, Stephen's birthplace which is now a tourist village.

Very professorial, as to be expected, interesting and I bought one of her books The Red Queen with much curiosity as it was based on the memoirs of Lady Hong--a book I had read some years back when doing a Korean Studies course in literature at UC Santa Barbara. Drabble mentioned how this book posed many legal complications due to the original translator's disapproval of her book (this was after, apparently giving Drabble the go ahead etc...). I dipped into the book (briefly) and was a little disappointed. Drabble stated that she wanted to explore this prescient woman's life and that her work was one of the imagination, but I remembered the actual memoir as far more compelling, provocative, and truthful--not meaning in the factual sense, but in the sense of the spirit. This was merely an interpretation of this memoir, from a particular Western feminist's perspective. Now all books and fiction writing in particular are subject to the leanings of the individual writer, but the book lacked the raw energy of the memoir. It was Drabble through the voice of Hong. I know the rest of the book explores the researcher of the memoir and it all ties up together later, but I did not have the energy to keep reading it. Maybe later. Still, I enjoyed Drabble's talk. Her academic credentials and editorial work is highly impressive and she is an astute woman. But the book The Red Queen did not sing. I'll have to try another.

I finally got around to reading A Thousand Splendid Suns. This narrative really moved, the story was compelling, reconfirming the various horrors of female oppression in Afghanistan and the tragedy of war and sexism. I liked it. It was entertaining. But I thought about this book and viewed it more as summer reading. Not for its subject matter, but for the way it was written. I could see it rolling across the computer screen. Some books are like that. But what I enjoy most about reading is when the words go up and down, when there is texture and you have to grip the words---words that crunch and roll and run away and make you go back and re-read them. I wonder if the computer sometimes takes this away. I seem to remember Fay Weldon discussing this. For some reason I thought of this book A Thousand Splendid Suns and wondered if the texture might appeal to me more, purely on the aesthetic level, if it had been first handwritten. Story and characters were great. It was something else I wanted from the book. What difference would handwriting have made, if any? Could have simply been the creative execution--maybe not handwriting versus comptuer at all. Then was thinking of Orhan Pamuk. Didn't feel that about his books. At all. Story and art.

And on other notes--

Keohi used the future "I WILL" and his two phrases of the holiday were as follows: "DON'T TOUCH THE PLUNGER" (toilet plunger) and "MR. LAM HAS BROKEN BIKE."