Archive for September, 2007

It’s Always Something

September 19, 2007

It’s always something, isn’t it?  You have a hangnail, or an ingrown hair, or your ankle is wingeing each time you walk, or you have a pimple on your ass – there’s always something.

The other day I got stung by a hornet.  They flew into my B&B in Vancouver when I turned the light on to read in the pre-dawn darkness. (When I get stuck in a book – I was rereading on of Le Carré’s masterpieces – I am addicted.)  I got up to pee, and must laid down on the poor thing, and it stung me twice.  I had a few moments of intense pain, but the poor thing crawled off the bed onto the night table and died.

But now they itch – right where I can’t reach on my back.


The Opera Singer

September 19, 2007

Early in my practice in Little Rock, Arkansas, I was visited by a former opera singer.  A grand dame in her seventies in the Southern tradition, she had long since stopped singing professionally.  She was tall, stately, with a chest as large as a diver, and a bosom you could have served tea on.  She would disappear into the practice bathroom with a sheet and emerge wrapped in it, her blonde beehive hairdo coming out of one end of the sheet, and her black patent leather shoes peeking out of the other.  She would doff the shoes and lie on the table under the sheet.  She had her undergarments on, but dignity must be preserved, and I never did see her, and had to do all my work by feel.

She had come to me to fix her knees.  With advancing age, she had worn the cartilage off the back of her knee caps (chondromlacia, I later learned) so that they hurt every time she bent them, as in going uptstairs. When she bent them reflexively in sleeping, the pain woke her up.  She also complained of migraines, but the knees were the main thing.  She’d heard good things about me from her son, so she was game to try this as one last clutching at straws before surgery.

Being a young rolfer, I was going through the 10-session series.  It was soon readily apparent that her quadriceps were overly tight, pushing her patella down onto the femur.  What hope I had of changing it lay in getting those quads to relax their grip.  So every session, I would tuck some work on the quads into the session.

When that failed to make any progress, I tried the antagonists, the hamstrings.  And when that didn’t work I tried the counterantagonists – the soleus and gastrocs.  I tried everything I knew how.  Maude was loving it – her migraine headaches were better, and she had more of a spring in her step, but “My knees!  Young man, when are you going to do something about my knees?”

I redoubled my efforts but nothing was working.  We cam to the seventh session, when we usually do intra-oral work and put our fingers up people’s noses.  I didn’t know if this dignified old lady was going to go in for this, but Maude was up for it all: “If that’s what you do, then go ahead.”

In doing her mouth, I noticed that her palate was high and narrow as a Gothic cathedral.  Since a high palate can sometimes be implicated in migraines, I worked intra-orally to widen her palate to lower the ‘ceiling’.  As I worked on the left side, she said, “I feel that in my knee.”  I didn’t pay attention – I was fully concentrated on working in this dignified woman’s mouth.  As I worked the other side, she said, “I feel that in my right knee.”

She called me the next morning: “Young man, you’ve done it.  The pain has gone from my knees.”  And that was it – we finished the session, but she never had another day of pain.  That was the only session I never went anywhere near her knees.

Old Ida Rolf was still alive at the time, so I called her up, “Dr. Rolf, I have found the naso-patellar ligament.”  (It was a joke in class – when we didn’t know what else to do, we would say, “Work on the naso-patellar ligament.”)  We talked about it a bit, and came to the conclusion that perhaps when she hit the high notes, which you bounce off your palate, she had reflexively forced her knees into a locked position with the quads, and somehow there had come to be an association between the palate and the knees.  Though one could manufacture a fascial connection, it was most likely a conditioned reflex.

And it certainly wasn’t talent, but a great stroke of luck, and a standing demonstration of Ida Rolf’s dictum, “Where you think it is, it ain’t.”

A friend of Maude’s showed up at the Rolf Institute in one of my classes 8 years later: “Maude’s still singing your praises. She’s even singing again.”  Luck – but covering the entire body via the recipe makes its own luck.

The Film Director

September 16, 2007

A Hollywood film director who shall remain otherwise nameless, working in London, visited my practice. A small, trim, and athletic man, he was completely mismatched by his feet, which were crabbed, tiny, thin – looking like some old hen’s feet.
Like many wealthy Americans he was charmed by the tailors of Jermyn Street, and had ordered himself a full set of ‘bespoke’ clothes – tailored to himself alone.  Because his feet were a problem, he had also gone to Lobb’s to have himself fitted for a couple of pairs of shoes.

In my second session with him, I tackled those feet with the zeal that only a new rolfer can provide.  I finished the session, and spent a couple of minutes making notes and putting the sheet in the hamper.  When I came out, he was sitting there on the church pew I had in the entrance hall, with his head in his hands, holding a shoe.

“I can’t believe it,” he said, “I just paid £600 for these shoes” – about $1200 at that time – “and now I can’t fit in them.
“Your not in America anymore,” I said, “Go back to Lobb’s and show them.”

The session had changed his foot a full shoe size in both length and width, as it turned out.  The gentle folk at Lobb’s were non-plussed, but entirely accommodating – they made both sets of shoes over again with new lasts to fit his new feet.


September 16, 2007

My life is replete with embarrassing moments, when I have over-reached, or let myself down, or simply put my foot in it.  When these moments surface in memory, I feel the pressure of the embarrassment and have to let it escape through sound.  My wife has learned to recognize these little grunts, hisses, or moans, and takes delight in wheedling from me what memories habe arisen unbidden.  (To her credit, she never uses them against me. She has a full arsenal of things I’ve done in her presence, and so no need to shell me with the old stuff.)

Like the time I took my roommate’s camera and shot the entire roll, lied about it – but when the film was developed I had been stupid enough to take a picture of a mirror that caught the side of my face.

Or the time I borrowed an outboard motor from a fellow yachtsman only to flip it off the dinghy into the shallow water, so that the owner had to spend all afternoon taking it apart and cleaning it, in full view of my red-faced self.

I am split in this – in almost every case I could name, and even those that are recent, or so egregious they would never make these pages, I can see that they are funny, or just sad.  But still, when they come up, they create such inward pressure bordering on pain that can only be expelled via a little groan.

I suppose this is a form of conscience; I suppose this is how we learn, but the phenomenon, this moment of psychosomatic pressure is interesting to me – what is happening inside?  The memory bobs to the surface, and the dissonance between  the hero one wants to be and the buffoon one is becomes temporarily unbearable.

And the groan serves what?  Is it like a fart of the brain, relieving pressure?  A form of prayer – Please God, make me one with my illusions again?


September 12, 2007

My companion and I were bumping across the vlei of the Masai Mara in a tiny jeep. Hearing the strangest of hisses above us, we looked up to see a hot air balloon, low and drifting in the morning cool.  “Quick, quick, that way!” pointing back behind them.  We turned off-track and bucked over the hill.  Four lion were just felling a buffalo, jaws closed on the throat, legs kicking, the cats leaping back and forth in glee.  As they settled in to feed, the hyenas circled an exact number of yards from them.  It was a precise circle, as if drawn with a compass and one of those electric fences.  Beyond the hyenas, the jackals circled, again on a precise radius from the feeding lions.

One by one, the lions, sated, wandered away to sleep in the shade.  The last lion, a male, finally took a last couple of gnaws from the pink flesh, and wandered off into the bush for a pee.  The hyenas moved in toward the lion, 1 foot in for every foot the lion left between him and the kill.  It was a precise minuet.

As the hyenas reached the buffalo and, keening, started to.feed, the male lion suddenly started out of the bush toward them – and us.  I was, “oh, shit, oh shit” fumbling for the key in our open jeep, but he wasn’t interested in us.  The hyenas and jackals raced back to their prescribed circle, and the lion took a couple of more licks, but he was only fooling, really, and shortly went off to sleep.  The hyenas took over, the jackals now circling the hyenas, waiting their turn.

At the end of the day of hippos, giraffes, elephants, gnus, and birds of every feather, we stopped by on the way back.  The buffalo was now a rack of bones fathered in shredded fiber, and the whole thing was covered by birds, alive with the ruffling wings, caws, and bobbing heads.  Soon it would be left to the microbes, and the cycle of death would be complete.

We went back to pitch our tent just outside the boundaries of the park, in the yard of a friend of a friend who studied baboons.  After a very interesting conversation on primates over several beers, we retired to the tent.  In the middle of the night, the beers pressing at the other end, I went to unzip the entrance to go outside.  At that moment, I heard the indescribably chesty cough of a lion just outside the tent.  I peeked through the screen window – there were four lion in the yard, checking out the garbage.  Suddenly the tent seemed very small and flimsy, and I placed one knee over the other rather than risk peeing in the direction of a lion.  We awoke again at dawn, when the coast was clear.

In My Life

September 12, 2007

In times of fatiguing political news and busy sameness in the workaday world, I am launching an new thread to this blog.  Having crested to what I presume is the second half of this life, there are stories I would rather not forget, so this is where I will put them.  Some are personal, some professional, and they will be so indicated, but they all hark back, rather than being current or future-oriented.

iPhone Redux

September 12, 2007

Having revealed in a previous post that I am an iPhone early adopter (read: sucker) before the precipitous drop in the price, and Steve Jobs’ very annoying and self-serving letter, I must say that as a tool, it is worth all I paid for it.  I have watched others use their Treo’s and Blackberries, and all crane their neck at the ease and intuitive feel the iPhone allows.  The future of hand-held computers starts here.