Sunday, July 17, 2005

Feats Don't Fail Her Now
It took a Hong Kong resident to show me a side of Shenzhen this weekend that I'd never fully explored.
A Kiwi (New Zealand) coworker, Rob, makes regular, short visits to a SZ district I mostly try to avoid called Lohou. It's SZ's oldest commercial area, the site of an always-overcrowded, frenetic train and bus center and features scads of low-price pirate DVDs, computers, softwear, clothing, accessories, jewelry and CDs - as well as oddities like a small store that sells only live crabs and remote control cars, planes and boats. I dislike it due to the crush and pressure of desperate folks shoving fake Rolexs etc in my face and shouting: "You buy me watch! Makee nice massagie! Sexy DCV! " There's also the omnipresent fear of muggings and pickpockets, though I've never had that hassle.
Rob is hooked, though, on a Lohu massage place - it's legit, no "specials" - and a woman he's tried fitfully to wow and woo for many months and we both had Friday off with no particular place to go in a hurry.
He'd made a 2pm appt. at the parlor which is on the 4th or 5th floor of a ''Smoking's fine! Puff away and throw your butts in that pile of petro-chemical-based clothing, please!" commercial firetrap with hundreds of cramped small businesses; the kind of place that leads to headlines like "Ex-Boulder resident, 967 Chinese dead in Shenzhen inferno.''
I decided to join him and we hooked up at the Hong Kong/Lohou border to get the flesh pressed. The massage joints here, whether legit or not, follow the same basic template. You use sign language or rudimentary language skills to designate a time - 3 hours in our case - and, if you're a regular like Rob, the number of your massuse - #80 is his lucky number. I took pot luck and wound up with #12 after getting a locker key and having three or four small, young male attendants and the odd customer intently watch the foreigners undress, shower, towel off and be forcibly "helped" into plastic sandals and undersized cheap cotton shorts and robes.
Inside we lay on two of three rather small massage tables that were draped in towels awaiting Nos. 80 and 12.
The next three hours were mostly bliss, I gotta say. No. 12 spoke no English and my Chinese was limited to "ahhhh....mmmm....yessss" and "AUGGGH jeebusfrickingchrist! NOOOO!" when she hit a sciatic nerve with too much pressure. No. 80 (real name Ah-lahn or something like it) used her feet, literally, on Rob. It was truly amazing to watch her with her hands, and occasionally upper arms, gripping the bars above his table and treading, kneading and occasionally almost dancing with varying degrees of force about his back. Almost an acrobatic display that had Rob nearly licking her toes when he turned over.
No. 12 also displayed some unusual skills involving what one might call an "ear job." I never realized how many, er, nerves might be connected to one's ears and just how much one could enjoy having a stranger sticking a digit into the canals or simply brushing the edges and lobes. Yowzah!
"They trained for four years at a massage school in Shanghai," Rob reported between unsuccessful attempts to have No. 80 "go a little lower and slower with those toes, wontcha?"
As No. 12 feathered my ears I drifted asleep in a warm slow motion fade-to-black while thinking how my stateside pals would love to spend a Friday afternoon like this for the equivalent of $20, including tip. I awoke suddenly to No 12 giggling and snorting in an awkward impression of apparently me, as No. 80 and Rob joined in. I'd been snoring - and rather loudly at that.
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