mail order viagra in ukTop1.jpg” alt=”" width=”432″ height=”330″ />
-by Ernie Diaz
You are not a sucker. Repeat, not a sucker. Western medicine leaves you no choice. It’s the only recourse for heart attacks and the Big C, of course. But when you can’t sit down more than five minutes without your sciatica setting your leg afire, and the doc tells you, “Nothing to do, really. Get lots of rest. Maybe a chiropractor?”
Or you can’t stop smoking, regardless of nic-patches and hypnosis tracks. Mind’s ready to quit, but body’s not letting you off this wagon. Even junkies who kick never quit the smokes, and lord with this pollution in China you’re smoking every day? Might as well jump off a bridge and make a chemo-less end of it.
Or a bum back, and an MRI showing nothing conclusive. Urged on by such complaints will you, westerner, oh scion of the Halls of Medicine, end up at the acupuncturist. Not out of hippie-dippy, misinformed faith, but because western medicine is great for crisis, dismal on prevention. And as to the misinformed faith, all that Prozac and Ritalin is doing us a world of good, eh? Remember twenty years ago when all fat was bad? Grandma can perhaps remember when psychiatrists gave electro-shock treatments like they were carousel rides. Cold water immersion therapy. Bleeding. The list of western treatments sanctified by Infallible Science, then furtively discarded, scrolls back through the ages.
Before those ages began, and long after western doctors are swearing we should only drink vodka and eat methamphetamines, acupuncture remains the once and future method of millions, to address their billion aches and pains and get through this thing called life with a modicum of grace and dignity.
The acupuncturist makes house calls. To Chinese friends’ houses, that is. You show up and he’ll treat you. Price? Don’t ask; you’ll just feel bad and insult him by trying to give him more. Where’s his clinic? He doesn’t have one; he’d have to register and prove which acupuncture college he went to, when the uncomfortable fact remains he didn’t attend one. Rather, he is the protégé of a protégé of a man who treated the last royal family, and today that branding is almost as ironically self-aware as the billboard of a country diner that advertises the best grits in Alabama.
However, making a career of acupuncture has almost nothing to do with advertising and accreditation – modern acupuncture schools are a bit of a joke, the way acupuncture is in the West. An acupuncturist’ reputation lives and dies by word of mouth, by small miracles eagerly told, neighbor to neighbor. No license, no insurance – how’s that for an Orwellian, oppressive police state?
A trim and humbly dressed man, sans fu-manchu or robes, he could stand before you on the subway and you’d think “not of the aspirational urban class, not of the peasantry”. He’s of that vast and amorphous Chinese middle class, they of the five-story walk-up, the dusty but serviceable bikes, the undistinguished bureaucratic careers that put you if not in a car, than at least in front of two hot dishes and soup for dinner every night.
He starts talking a few moments after he sizes you up. He’d let you tell him what’s wrong, but a hundred signs speak far more loudly. Blotches on your face – tired liver. Dull nails and porous, shiny nose – rampaging internal heat. Stooped shoulders and protective posture – weakened spine, letting the back muscles slacken. Bad habits aplenty, by the looks of you. You’re wearing shorts! Summertime nothing, one practice all the kungfu masters shared without quibble was to always keep the legs covered in long trousers. The wind, the humidity, the ague will eke into your ankles and knees and you will rot from the roots up. A persistent westerner, steeped in flow-chart diagnosis, will persist in reporting specific pains but the acupuncturist only nods distractedly, like a punter listening to a pitch for a flat screen, as he bends over a little burnished metal case.
Out come the needles, and truly they don’t unnerve; they’re willowy quivering things, so many in such a small bundle. But oh right, as you lay down, not your rationalizing brain but your realistic body starts preparing for having the willowy quivering things pushed into you. No assurances before it begins, none of that bedside manner hopefully taught at acupuncture college, no finger-pinch to distract from the niggling bite of the needle going in. Honestly not so bad, though, those two needles in the web between your thumbs and forefingers. Are those needles really sticking in the back of your neck? Just a slight prickle, and self-congratulations for being a trooper.
Oh Christ, are the sides of the knees really that sensitive? Then ‘Christ!’ out loud, for on the top of the foot there is less meat than in the hollow reverse of a chicken breast. And you can’t help twitching your foot ever so slightly, but the movement initiates an utterly alien current that sets your leg muscles to pulsating like Seabiscuit’s flanks in the home stretch.
There is nothing for it but stillness, to wait for more bites, niggling and vicious by turn. And then to remain in stillness, breathing deeply in the awareness that, yes, your body has an electrical system as well as circulatory, digestive, endocrine, et al, and that system is now switched on, the circuits buzzing on your radar, but well out of your control. After a small eternity of your trying not to add to the buzz by moving, the acupuncturist returns, and the pins withdraw without protest, thank goodness. A few dabs of alcohol on the invisible punctures, a spot of blood on the big toe – that’s good! you’re assured, and then admonished to drink no cold water nor take cold showers nor brace cold wind for the next twelve hours, lest the treatment be reversed, and your twenty minutes of suffering for naught. And put some trousers on!
In days to come, and after a few more visits, you will do a somatic inventory a dozen times daily, reflecting that yes, perhaps you are sitting longer without that pain in the hip, no, you don’t really want that cigarette – alright, if your friend’s going to offer you one over a beer and smoke one himself how do you refuse, really? And eventually comes the humbling realization that, even spared major illness, the less urgent ailments will continue to accumulate, and that the only cure is to stop breathing. And that is why the shaman will always have his place in medicine.