Aside from writing, the only other thing I might be good at is being stressed out. I can be stressed about anything. If it's remotely unsettling, I can be stressed out about it. It could be something big like the CIA falsely accusing me, or something small like the way a girl on the street looked at me. You name it and I can be stressed out about it. My versatility with my stress is the only thing about it I can take pride in. The stress itself is quite horrific.

The person who is concerned by this the most is my mother. Aside from being a loving parent, the reason she cares so much about my level of stress is that it is surpassed only by hers, so she probably feels responsible for passing it down to me. We both deal with our stress in different ways. She generally uses alternative Eastern medicine practices, while I use whiskey and self-imposed house arrest. For some reason she thinks this is detrimental to my over all well-being. Go figure.

So she decided to set up a session with me and her acupuncturist. I, of course, was a bit apprehensive about it, but it did get Eric Clapton off of heroin. If it's good enough for him, I figure it's good enough for me.

As I walked into the acupuncturist's office, my nostrils were instantly assaulted by a mixture of sweet smells. The combination made me a tad nauseous. A Chinese woman greeted me and led me to the back.

"So how exactly does this work?" I asked.

Earth Wind and Fire CD cover
The heart and soul of every man? That's right, 10-13 extremely vocal black men.
Well we all have different elements inside us: earth, water, wind and fire. When those get out of balance we have problems," she replied with a thick accent. This wasn't exactly the answer I was looking for. I was hoping for something a little more scientific. I was now more confused than before I had arrived.

In the back room I met a Chinese man who spoke no English. The woman instructed me to sit down and stick out my tongue. I reluctantly did so and then she and the man conferred with each other in Chinese. The tone they used made me think that they had discovered something wrong with my tongue, but I never found out if that was true. The woman then asked me a series of unsettling questions.

"Do you have bowel movements?"

"Um, yeah," I replied.

"Do you finish?"

"Uh, yeah, I do." This was kind of strange because I had never thought anyone could start shitting and than stop halfway through. I really feel sorry for anyone who has this problem. It must be very messy.

After the awkward Q&A was over, the actual acupuncture began. I laid on the table and the woman stuck needles into me. She put a few in my arms and legs which didn't really hurt, but then she put one between my eyes and one on top of my head, which was a little uncomfortable. My best advice for anyone about to get acupuncture: keep your eyes closed while the needles are sticking out of you. The experience is relaxing but the process is a little disturbing. I felt exactly like a pin cushion, only without enough cushion for the pushin'.

So I must admit that the acupuncture did make me feel very calm. I actually got a buzz on par with a couple of beers, and a general sense of well-being. I kind of felt like I was floating in warm water; it was very soothing. The needles were then removed from me and we proceeded to something called "cupping." Basically, you lay on your stomach and glass cups are placed on your back. The cups are than heated so that the air is sucked out, creating a vacuum. The idea is that negative energy is sucked out of you. I would have been less apprehensive about that if I hadn't seen it used in the film The Madness King of George. There I was lying on my stomach being administered a treatment that hadn't been used since the Hanoverians controlled England. But again, I must admit it relaxed me. The worst part of the treatment was that it left perfectly circular bruises on me. I looked like I'd been given multiple hickies by a giant suckerfish. It's not that fun going to the beach looking like a goddamn domino.

Before I left I was given a small paper bag of herbs. I was never told what kind of herbs they were, only that they would help me. When I got home, I opened the bag. It contained several little packets of a light brown powder. At first I thought it was heroin, the ultimate anti-stress medicine. It was actually a sweet substance meant to be mixed in water and drank. Turns out it wasn't half bad. I'm not sure the herbs helped much, but the treatment itself was effective. I'm just surprised it worked at all, but now I'll always keep an open mind, even when needles are involved.