posted by Joe Anaya on July 16th, 2012

I enjoy a good massage. I generally like a deep tissue massage, one where the pressure is on the verge of painful. One of the best massages I’ve ever had was from a huge Russian immigrant masseuse. He was a bear of a man with big beefy hands and sausage like fingers. I’m talking Kielbasas not puny breakfast sausages. And when he put his weight behind a well target heel of the palm, I could feel those knots running for their lives. I’ve enjoyed a Lomi Lomi massage with all it’s elbows and forearms. I don’t like massages from tiny women, when they try to push harder, the pointy parts of their dainty body hurt. (Except once I had a tiny Asian woman use her knees crawling across my back until it was time for her to stand and walk back the way she came.) And after each relaxing massage, as I slink jellyfish-like out of the lobby, I say to myself, “Why don’t I do that more often?”

The truth is I don’t get them very often, because they feel like an extravagance. Even though I know they are good for the body and could be a legitimate part of a general health routine, they feel like they’re part of a Kardashian lifestyle because the price tag (plus tip) can get pretty expensive.

But in the last year, there has been an explosion of cheap Chinese massage parlors in my town. $40 for an hour, $30 for an hour, I’ve even heard of one for $20. I’ve tried one a couple times. Like other massage places, it depends on the masseuse. But how can they be so cheap? Are they fronts for some sort of slave trade? Are these women hostages? (I want to write a note, “Blink twice if they’re listening.”) Maybe they’re a larger prostitution ring and I’m too naïve to realize what’s going on behind the other doors. Or maybe they’re just in a cheaper part of town, and because they don’t use separate rooms but partitions with curtains for doors, they have a much lower overhead and can afford to charge half the going rate of the local gym or spa. That’s what I tell myself anyway.

After a recently grueling workout, my muscles were aching; so I decided “What the heck,” I’ll try another one of those cheap places to get a massage.

A very polite Chinese gentleman greets me at the door. He speaks in short two-word sentences and gestures a lot. Pointing to a rate sheet, “$40 = 60 minute full body, $20 = 60 minute foot, $30 = combo.” I ask, “What’s the Combo?” He points to a different sign. “Combo 30 min. body + 30 min. foot.” “Sold. I’ll take the combo.” He replies, “Thank you,” and gestures for me to move deeper into the parlor. There are curtains on one side of the space; I lay on a specialized recliner in the open part of the shop. I guess you don’t get to be modest and have a Combo package. “Is okay?” he asks. “Sure, that’s fine.” “Thank you.” It’s an awesome massage. He’s strong and broad, with plenty of palm, forearms, elbows and even some knees. My bliss is only occasionally interrupted with his questions and pre-programmed response to my answers. “Pressure good?” “Perfect.” “Thank you.” Or “Right spot?” “Yes.” “Thank you.”

The massage finishes up. With the pep of a boneless chicken, I pay and leave a generous tip and as is his go-to phrase, “Thank you.” No, thank you. Thank you.

File Under Jack of all Trades