Goodbye Massage Table: With a Heart Twinge

Another old blog post from April 2011  ~ wish I had a picture of that table


My first massage table was handmade by a guy named Perry.  I know his name was Perry because on the bottom of the table there is a picture of a pear followed by the letter E.  The hunters green vinyl is covered in cracks now, and I gave up table work years ago, but still there is a part of me that doesn’t want to let it go.  When I was twenty it was my prize possession; something to take loving care of.  I had rules about my massage table; no one could touch it without my permission, and no having sex on my table.  This is the sort of rule you have to make when you are in your early twenties, living with roommates.

When I was twenty three I spent a summer and fall traveling around the country doing massage at skydiving events called boogies.  Boogies usually happen at small town airports; hundreds of skydivers converge to set up tents between the runways.  Loud speakers blast rock and roll all day, interrupted by announcements and the sound of planes taking off and landing.  I would set up my table, working in the chaos; people literally falling out of the sky around me.  It was my first grand adventure, and all I had was my backpack, my tent and my massage table.  I didn’t even own a car, so the journey across America and back started with a train ride to a drop zone in Montana and included a long time traveling with a friend who paid his way by packing parachutes at the Boogies.  There was also some hitching rides on jumper planes going from one airport or drop zone to the next.  Jumper planes are usually little Cessnas or Otters, with no seats – just a side door that opens for the jump.

My first jump was in Quincy Illinois at the biggest Boogie of the year.  It was a tandom jump, with me strapped to a base jumper who snuck me onto the plane in exchange for a massage.   My second jump was another tandom, strapped   in the early morning to a jump master named Junk Yard Dog who I met  the night before at the nitrous tank he managed (thank goodness we survive our twenties!).  Skydivers party.  I did that jump sans clothing, figuring that if you are going to fall fifteen thousand feet you might as well do it naked.  The moon was still out, hanging with the morning sun.

After that I got a ride in a little jumper going from Illinois to Arizona. Or damn, did Tennessee come first?  The pilot set the plane on go and promptly fell asleep.  We woke him up when the lightning storm hit us, causing an impromptu landing in some little airport in the middle of nowhere.

Arizona was end of summer hot.  I set up my tent in the desert on the edge of the drop zone and spent my nights listening to the coyote footfalls in the sand.  I liked the coyotes being around because I figured if wild things like them hung out around my tent it meant there weren’t any bad guys nearby.  In the days I did the occasional massage as skydiving teams from around the world slowly trickled in to train for World Meet; the olympics of skydiving.  There wasn’t really all that much massage business so I started driving the bus that took teams out to the runway, in exchange for skydiving lessons.  I got stick shift driving lessons on the job, figuring out how to drive the bus while the jumpers in the back laughed at me lurching them around the tarmac.

Once World Meet was in full swing massage business picked up so me and my table got back to bonding.  I’m not sure how long I was in Arizona.  Long enough to find a mattress for my tent and learn a lot about immersion in a male dominated extreme sport.  Eventually I put my backpack and table in a kind strangers car, accepting a ride back to California that led to a train ride to Oregon where I fell off the road without noticing.  For a few years I practiced massage under the radar since I wasn’t licensed in Oregon and I kept thinking I was about to get back on the road.  I dabbled in skydiving at a small Oregon drop zone that I won’t name.  I should have known from the duct tape on their parachutes that there was something amiss with them; I thought I was completing my training, but it turns out they were not qualified to give me a certification that would be accepted anywhere else.  The experience ended my jumping days since I could not afford to re-do the training jumps elsewhere.

Eventually I realized I might not be leaving Oregon, so I went back to school to get my Oregon LMT license.  My table was set up in my shack in Cannon Beach (a real shack, with raccoons underneath, rats in the walls, and plants from the outside growing into the inside) and I commuted four days a week to Portland for school.  My table never lost the smell of its desert time, and so even as years passed, it became a symbol of the kind of turning point that only happens at a certain age.  That table was connected to my first sense of adult worth; having a skill that I could take anywhere and support myself with.  And it was connected to this time when I learned that I could fling myself into the world with nothing and survive.  And of course, that table will always be imbedded with the visceral knowledge of free fall, literally and metaphorically.

Just me; my backpack, my tent, and my green massage table.  That was all I needed for one of the most self creating times of my life.

After getting licensed in Oregon I went down to Eugene and picked out a new table from Custom Craftworks.  It was bigger and cushier, “wine” colored, and designed to be climbed on.  It wasn’t cracked and dirty and rickety, but it didn’t smell like the desert or carry the vibrations of my twenties either.

The old hunter green table has lived in my basement for ten years now.  Unused.  I don’t even use the plush wine one since I devoted myself to Thai massage, but I’ll keep that one just in case.  At this very moment, as I write, my son is outside running a garage sale in our driveway.  My old table is out there with a lot of other junk.  I can’t think of a reason to keep something that big around that I don’t use other than material attachment; but it deserves an ode, so here I am, writing.  Maybe it wont’ sell today.  Maybe this isn’t goodbye quite yet; but it’s coming.  Because twenty years later I am still a growing and changing human, and right now is about a different kind of free fall.  Let go.