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I would have never guessed that the massage of my life would be at the hands of an elderly entrepreneur suffering from a case of dandruff, but sometimes life surprises you. I was at a new age-y flea market in Encinitas that appeared to attract both the insane and the inventive in equal numbers when the old guy reeled me in. Just prior, I had been listening to a woman from Ghana speak at length about the restorative qualities of three-dimensional crystals. She claimed that her crystals were made by an intense and mysterious process involving two things. I had no idea what those two things could be, but I can say with assurance that I was not expecting lasers and magic. But that's what she said. As far as I could tell, she was correct in calling the crystals three-dimensional because they were objects, but aside from that, I could not discern any special powers. I had a little chuckle, and when she began to bore rather than amaze, I decided it was best to move on. That was when I heard a voice calling to me, "Son, come over here and check this out." I looked over to see a trim, sprightly old man with bone-white hair and a blue fleece jacket.

"Your hands ever get tired after a massage?" he queried. I thought about it for a second. I couldn't recall the last time I had given a massage, nor whether my hands were tired afterward, but I decided to indulge him and replied, "Yes, sometimes they do." That was when he started telling me about the funny-looking pieces of plastic lined up on a table in front of him that resembled neon dog turds. He had christened them "Nukkles," and, according to him, they were a marvelous advance in the field of massage.

"You only have to use the palm of your hand. Here, turn around for a second," he ordered. I had a feeling what was coming next, but he was so cordial and grandfatherly that I thought it would be rude to protest. So I dutifully turned around, and the old guy went to work on my back with his hot pink, injection-molded plastic. I have to admit, it felt pretty good. His aged hands worked deftly with the Nukkles, and I noticed all the tension in my back beginning to melt away. "Do you want me to press any harder?" he asked. I did want him to press harder. As he forced the dimpled plastic further into my back, I became so relaxed that I momentarily forgot both who and where I was. I closed my eyes, saw a flash of white, and suddenly my back unclenched like a fist.

When I finally came to, my first sight was of the man smiling at me, holding out the Nukkles for me to try. He suggested I massage my legs: "Those are my sore spot, especially after a long walk." As I began to massage my calf muscle, he suggested I press harder. I took his advice and kneaded my right leg as if it were an unresponsive glob of pizza dough. When I finished, he had a look of approval on his face and said, "You're getting the hang of it."

That was when he turned around, proffering his back to my Nukkle-equipped hands. It was a situation that I could see coming a mile away. Time seemed to stop for a second as I stood there studying his back. His jacket and collar were littered with pieces of what I could only assume were dry scalp. The dandruff snow looked to have fallen recently. I took the Nukkles and half-heartedly ran them along his shoulders, ever vigilant to stay far away from the dandruff. "Press harder! Like you did on your leg," he instructed. I obliged and pressed firmly into his stooped shoulders. After a brief time, he turned back around and said, "You know how when you were younger and your mom would rub your head? These are great for that. Go on, give it a try, it feels great!" I looked down at the plastic in my hands and noticed it was covered in white. "No thanks," I said as I set the Nukkles down and backed away from the table, "I have dandruff."


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