“Writer’s cramp” and “writer’s block” are two different phenomena plaguing scribes that share the same cure. The cramp has all the symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome but has a more literary-sounding name; the block is a mental dysfunction which causes words to fail to, uh, well, er – um, hold that thought – flow. Booze is often administered in either occasion, but as a cure it’s merely palliative and can be habit-forming (see Hemingway, Faulkner, Howell, et al).
I’ve discovered another therapy, however, that’s just as euphoria-inducing, easier on the liver and appeals to my inherent sense of decadence: a massage at MacArthur Place, Sonoma’s Historic Inn and Spa.
For the sake of the writers (and for that matter readers) of the world, I elected to undergo this experimental therapy. I was a human guinea pig, but the kind swaddled in a svelte bathrobe and invited to luxuriate in a steam room and offered complimentary beverages.
“Ah, Daedalus, you didn’t have to do that for us,” you say.
“Oh, yes I did. You see, dear readers, making personal sacrifices, i.e., spending the entire afternoon at a swank day spa, is part of my commitment to the craft.”
“Thank you, Daedalus.”
“No – thank you.”
Up until last week, I figured the concept of somato-emotional memory was simply pseudoscience. It’s the idea that deeply buried memories can be accessed by physical stimulation using a variety of techniques – massage being one of them. Though this is not on the menu of methods practiced at MacArthur Place, the concept was in the back of my mind, or as it turned out, wedged beneath my left shoulder blade, when I went in for my, ahem, treatment. With only the slightest amount of pressure from the velvet and steel hands Natalia Obrasova (the brilliant Ukrainian masseuse assigned my hopeless case), I suddenly recalled in a Proustian rush why I went into the word game to begin with: to experience moments like this and get paid to write about them. I’ll admit I nearly cried from the self-satisfaction of it all.
In Natalia’s capable hands – and emphasis here on the plural, for they seemed to multiply as if she were a Slavic Shiva, the multi-armed Hindu goddess, but blond instead of blue – joints I’d long written off as frozen thawed until mushy and limber. A knee that had been irrevocably tweaked in a freak parking accident was suddenly unshackled from its persistent stiffness. My wrists, forearms and fingers, which had recently slowed to an aching 70 words per minute at the keyboard were loosened and fine-tuned back to their land-speed record of 160 wpm, well, potential.
I started tough as chuck and was pummeled, pounded, soothed, smoothed and otherwise tenderized until I was chateau briand, marinated, in this case, in eucalyptus oil (one of more than a dozen of such oils from which to choose). I was like the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz” when Dorothy administered his salvation from an oilcan.
The spa is a lavish outfit that did much to foster the delusion I’ve developed in recent weeks about being a VIP (that is until I realized that the automatic doors at the grocery store open for everyone and not just from the shear force of my presence). When I awoke (because, dear reader, one can’t live the dream without a little sleep), I was refreshed, repaired and recharged. But alas, I’m worried that the writer’s block persists (this column notwithstanding). I suppose I’ll have to continue the experimental treatment…