I have had an aching back for as long as I can remember and over the years I have tried every modality of massage and body work out there.
I have had expensive massages in fancy salons, and freaky massages in dimly lit apartments.
I have been massaged by a blind woman, who burst into song in the middle of my massage, sharing with me later that "singing is her gift to the world". I can never hear "what's it all about Alfie?" without thinking of Sue.
I once went to the home of a single mama massage therapist for a massage and had her two children burst in and proceed to wrestle underneath the rather rickety old table.
I started my search for the perfect hour free of pain in 1986.
I spent the enormous sum of $60 on a one hour session with the fabulous Cynthia Hillis, and it was worth every penny.
She had a tiny studio in the building over the old Metro on Broadway, that is now Columbia Sportswear's headquarters. I used to save and save to have a massage with her every six weeks.
During a long broke spell I lost track of Cynthia and moved on to Toni. Toni was one of those early 90's riot grrrls, with lots of piercings and a women's study degree. She was very into abdominal massage, which is not really my thing, but I felt like I would be hurting her feelings to say so.
From Toni, I went to Mary Garvy for transformational massage, which was excellent, until she moved to Beaverton, I would sometimes cheat on Mary with Babbette Perkins, who offered body brushing. There is really nothing better than body brushing. Sadly she also moved to the westside.
A long string of one massage stands followed through the 90's many excellent therapists and a few nutjobs.
The woman who did bookings for Key Largo, and offered foot massage as a side gig and referred to herself and an empath...
The remarkable fellow who did massage and astrological readings and made house-calls, who always made me feel like he was vaguely inappropriate.
One of the most outstanding massage therapists I have ever worked with is Chris Lacey, who I was lucky enough to meet while he was still offering house-calls, and doing some Swedish work. Chris eventually went to a total Thai massage practice, which is awesome, but not at all relaxing the way traditional massage is. If you ever find yourself in Portland and want the best Thai massage this side of Thailand, check out Chris. He takes it all very seriously and spends a good chunk of time, post massage telling your how to fix your posture, and lots of handy exercises you can do to make your back feel better. All of which I personally chose to ignore.
My go to guy during times when I can't say stand up straight or get out of bed without wincing, is Dave from Morning Star massage. Dave is kind of scary looking, like a cross between Santa Claus and a Hell's Angel, but he does excellent deep tissue massage on the cheap- what he calls "massage for working people". Ninety minutes with Dave is $45 spent very wisely!
My new favorite place to go is the Chinese reflexology clinic in the Fubonn center on 82nd.
You can get some Pho, pick up a fabulous Hello Kitty handbag, and have some VERY intense shiatsu done all in the same trip to this remarkable Asian mall.
The massage is $19.99, with a very strongly suggested $5 "tip".
Still a huge bargain for an hour massage with foot bath included, and unlike at The Barefoot Sage (where they charge you $50!), they work on you while your feet are soaking.
When I say work on you, I mean it- they slap, pound, twist and beat the knots out. It is amazing.
The treatment all takes place in big dimly lit room, with five other people getting treated at the same time. You lie on this sort of Barcalounger/massage table hybrid, with your feet soaking in a big bamboo tub, while they work on your head and shoulders, then they move the tub and do your feet and legs.
Fancy and private it aint, but thorough and intense it is.