Wild Weekend

Sometimes a workingman gets bored.
It's the same grind, shift after shift, everything heading forward like a crippled sludge barge into the vague promise of those sacred sixth and seventh days--the weekend. Those 48 hours can be a gamble, but you've got to play to win. At least, that's what a guy in a rest home once told me. You know--have a few drinks, attend an art opening, tweak the tortino fantasia recipe, kick a little ass, whatever. American leisure time can be a beautiful thing.

Especially when you're at a Holistic Health Expo and you've got a chap like Master Choi standing above you, dressed in a black karate suit and plastic face guard, waving two chromium batons above your prostrate being in a sitcom-length, $30 Poki session designed to remove negative Ki toxicity.

Except that I didn't do that. My negative Ki toxicity may well be as high as an elephant's third eye, but I opted to pass on the master's powers. Though I did spend a few minutes observing Choi's action up close as he cleansed some belly-down lady. She looked like she was dead or asleep, the neg-Ki-tox apparently evaporating into the cosmic forgiveness of the ozone layer.

After a while, I moved on along the rest of the booths, listening to psycho-health spiels and tossing back blended mixtures of various fruits, grasses and proteins handed out for free in those same little cups you pee into at the doctor's office. All of these drinks were deep-green in color, and many possessed a certain tropical tang.

I saw three people with their eyes closed sitting next to each other, holding Autoharps being played by three other people kneeling in front of them. A fellow in a multicolored vest, who resembled a kind of poor, spiritually enlightened man's Joel Gray, stood there bellowing out long tones. He was in charge, providing guidance.

I talked with a woman who had a delicate, skeletal brass pyramid on her head. Her name was Sue, she was an "expert" in magnetotherapy, but I don't remember a word she said. I couldn't take my attention away from that delicate, skeletal brass pyramid on her head. I suppose it was commanding my psychic energy and channeling it straight into her skull. Heed the words of the ancients, and Sue, too, my friends: Beware the riddle of the pyramids.

Passing booth after booth, I skipped a number of other healing alternatives and finally forked over five bucks for a 10-minute physical therapy session with Y.M. Chen Dipl. Ac. (H.K.) CNMT. OBT. I don't know what any of that stands for, but I can tell you it is not a Web address. That's simply what it said on his business card. He wore dark, baggy pants that appeared to be a poly-blend, and a light blue surgical shirt, the combination of which put me at ease.

And Chen had the magic fingers. I've never felt better in 10 minutes for five bucks in my life.

I sat propped forward in one of those backless chairs that makes you feel like a helpless, relaxed Swede, my head smashed face down in what looked like a padded toilet seat from a Tiny Town lavatory. With, of course, a paper towel between my skin and the vinyl for hygienic purposes, Chen had me in a trance as he slammed the heels of his palms into the work-tensed regions of my back. The crowd noise melded into a calming murmur, my thoughts drifted willy-nilly from a Roman Gabriel football card I lost in 1973 to the most recent episode of When Animals Attack to how I could possibly write this column and expect it to be interesting.

Nine minutes of brutal heaven later, Chen pulled me into an upright sitting position and wiggled my head around like he was washing a golf ball. I opened my eyes a crack, and I could see that many holistic-health aficionados were watching, yet I was beyond self-consciousness. I sensed that they were envious of my serenity. And I did not blame them.

I arose, purchased a corn dog and glided out of the Civic Plaza. The weekend had begun.

Look up "excitement" in Roget's Thesaurus and you'll find words like "arousal," "stimulation," "working into a lather," even "lathering up," displayed in bold print, but you won't come across "an evening at the Wiener Dog Nationals."

I don't know why, because there was plenty of the "e" word to be had at Phoenix Greyhound Park, where the third annual Nationals were taking place mere hours after they shut the doors on the Holistic Health Expo.

That's right, both of these events were taking place on the same day. It's not just any city that can offer this kind of stimulation.

Classic oldies radio will tell you that kicks just keep gettin' harder to find--and classic oldies radio is usually pretty hard to argue with--but it has not witnessed the likes of Peppy, Lute, Rimshot, Oreo, Clem or Pookie Doodle--minimal-clearance racing dachshunds--barreling down a 50-yard straight-away toward their frantic owners, who are coaxing them with screams, stuffed toys, favorite tennis balls and fox horns. All for a fabulous grand prize of dog food.

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