Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown…

Posted on September 16, 2010

Ottawa’s Chinatown is home to what is possibly my favourite enterprise on the face of the earth.  No it’s not a Pho joint, it’s so much better than that…  The place I’m talking about is a business that seems at first glance as though it was created by someone who lost a bet and had to open a business based solely on opening a dictionary to a random page and going with whatever word they put their finger on.  In this case the entrepreneurial password is…  PARLOUR.

So if you had to open a parlour of some kind, what would you do?  A massage parlour maybe?  Or possibly an ice cream parlour?  Hell NO.  That’s not how things go down in Chinatown.  When faced with a choice like that the only correct response is “screw you, I’m opening a split level combined ice cream parlour and massage parlour”.  That’s right.  Your one stop shop for cold treats and oily fun.

Being the huge fan of ice cream that I am I was immediately drawn in, as this was a service that was heretofore sorely lacking in our community.  I stopped by for a cone several times, and each time they seemed surprised that I was there for ice cream.  They also didn’t know the names of the eight flavours, so I had to point.  The fellow working stacked the scoops so incredibly crookedly that eating them without disaster felt Olympian.  A great, great business.  I was fully satisfied with the ice cream (Kawartha Dairy, what’s not to like?) but one thing intrigued me, a service advertised without any explanation on the sign out front, under massages:  cupping.  Cupping.  Uh oh.

I imagined many horrible erotic things, but discovered (somewhat to my dismay) that cupping is actually a perfectly well established technique of some kind.  Hmm.  So a colleague of mine volunteered to pay for it if I would go.  I hastily agreed, and the next time I stopped in for ice cream I negotiated a sweet deal.  15 minutes of cupping, 15 minutes of massage, and one free ice cream cone.  The owner started at one scoop, but I talked her up to two scoops.  That’s hardball.

So tonight we got down to it.  My pals got some bubble tea and settled in to wait for me.  The owner remembered me and our little deal, and my sore shoulder.  She led me upstairs, and it was on.  Now I should add that I’ve never had any sort of massage before so what seems old-hat to you veterans was very new to me.  Forgive me.  I took off my shoes, and was ushered into a dimly lit room with a few chairs, a dresser of sorts, some kind of steaming machine, and a massage table.  It was all very sparse, but very well kept and meticulously clean.  I walked in, and she (we later exchanged names, her name is E; I don’t know how to write that, but just plain E looks cool so we’ll go with it) gave me my instruction:  “okay, take off your clothes”.  I reached for my belt, she wandered away to get something and then it hit me…  wait a minute, I don’t need to be pants-less to work on a shoulder do I?

“You mean my shirt, right?”

“Yes, yes, your shirt”.  Phew.  The funny thing is that if she’d said no, the whole thing, I would have done it.  She could have had a lot of fun with me.  I prostrated myself on the table, and as anyone who’s done it would know in this position you have your head wedged into this padding and therefore can’t see anything at all, so the entire rest of the experience was non-visual.

First E felt my shoulder a bit.  Hurts here?  Yes.  Here?  Yes.  She sensed that the lower part of my shoulder also hurt, which was true.  She also guessed correctly that the right side of my lower back bothered me.  Not bad.  Then silence.  A clinking of glasses.  A sound like a lighter.  Pause.  And a weird, warm sensation on my back, followed by another and another.  Cupping!

So how does it work?  Essentially these little cups have the oxygen heated out of them and are then stuck to you vacuum style.  The sensation is really interesting, as though someone is pulling on your back really hard, but it doesn’t hurt.  I figured that each cup would be put in place for a minute or so and then be removed or relocated.  After all six were in place she said “Okay, fifteen minutes, I’ll be back” and promptly left.  Hey, somebody had to watch the ice cream side of the business, and she was the only one working.

So there I was, laying out on a table with six cups stuck to me, listening to some Chinese music.  It was awesome.  Now, have you ever stuck a vacuum to yourself just to see what happens?  Ever made out as a teenager?  What does sustained sucking result in?  Hickeys!  So too with sustained cupping.  Check it out:

Memories of my trip to Guantanamo

Cool eh?  In fact she came back halfway through my 15 minutes to check on the colour, and seemed very pleased with the darkest one.  Making out with E as a teenager must have been something else.  Want to see more?  Of course you do!

Gang initiation, successful

But don’t get me wrong here; I don’t want to leave you with the impression that cupping is no fun, far from.  Look at this hickey, which has been enhanced through the miracle of modern-day medical imaging technology to show its true nature…

Nice to meet you!

After the cupping was done I got a very excellent massage.  E worked me over pretty good, and proved to be much stronger than she at first appeared.  I thanked her very much, and she asked if I wanted to check out the results in a mirror.  Of course!  On looking at it (it was even better right afterward, the pictures above were taken a couple hours later) I said “wow, it looks like you beat the hell out of me!”.  She smiled, pleased with her handiwork, and said:

“Your mom will cry when you go back home.  She will say that someone punched you too much.”  This is verbatim, because I immediately wrote it down.  Mom:  please don’t worry.  I was punched the exact right amount of times.

At the end of the experience I got my free ice cream, two scoops as agreed.  I selected cherry cheesecake.  I also suggested that they make the ice cream deal a more prominent feature, especially to drive business from hungry white people.  E agreed, and now readers of this blog can enjoy a special feature!  Hit up the ice cream massage parlour and mention my name and you too will get a free ice cream cone with your cupping.  For real.  I’m serious.  Do it, it’s a great time!!  And even if you don’t get a rub down at least hit some bubble tea or something, you’ll love it.