Friday, March 19, 2010

Face Cradle Frame and Heated Fleece

I stopped by Robert Hunter's shop last week and bought an adjustable face cradle – or rather an adjustable frame for the face cradle. It's been ten years since I bought my table from him. The table looks practically new, ten years later, and Hunter looks much the same too, except that his hair is quite white now.

His tables are legendary, in Portland. I set up to do a massage for a fellow therapist, and she says, “is that a Hunter table?” Like a violinist asking “is that a Strad?”

The table is dark green – hunter green, come to think of it – and it's two or three inches wider than standard: I'd always disliked having to tuck my hands to keep my arms from dropping off the table. I didn't know at the time that I'd be working as a therapist, and that I'd be setting up and taking down the table ten times a week: it was just good luck that I got a table that could stand such use. A factory-made table would have come to bits in my first year of practice.

But after splurging on the table, I got cheap about the face cradle frame, and bought an inexpensive, rigid one. It's been okay for most of my regulars, but it's not quite comfortable for one or two, and not really ideal for any of them – usually it's better for the cradle to slant down a little, so as to open the back of the neck. So, business being good, I finally went back and got an adjustable frame.

Hunter pulled a frame out of a pile of them, and glued a couple velcro strips on as we talked. I thought of how odd it is, now, to have contact like this with a craftsman: to buy something that's not packaged, and have it hand-tweaked in the shop, while talking of this and that. He gave me a couple pointers about using it – he's a massage therapist himself, and his Reiki certification hangs on the wall – and I walked out with just the frame, and stuck it in the basket of my bike, and rode on to work, feeling that I'd wandered back into some pre-industrial Shire, and liking the feeling a lot.

But I continued my buying spree in a thoroughly 21st Century fashion, by buying a heated fleece on E-Bay from someone in Florida. It left Hodgson, Illinois, according to the UPS tracker, two days ago, so it should be here any time.

I always tell people to crank up the heat before I come, but they seldom do it enough, and if they do, then of course I'm too warm. There's a ten degree gap between the comfortable temperature for giving massage and the comfortable temperature for receiving it – a perenniel problem. Many spas have a running battle about the temperature of their massage rooms: spa owners insisting on the high 70s and the pink-faced, sweating therapists longing for the high 60s. So I've been meaning to get one of these pads for a long time. It introduces some complexity (where do I plug in?) and some bulk to my travel kit, but I think it will be worth it. One of the very first things I learned, doing massage, is that a client who gets cold on the table is never, ever going to call you back. And this is the worst time of the year: people are so anxious for it to be Spring and so excited to see the sun that they fling open the windows and entirely fail to notice that it's still 50 degrees in the shade. After an hour on the table they notice, all right, but by then it's too late.

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