Monday, May 18, 2009

Wellness Fair

On Saturday I attend a "Wellness Fair" in old town Pasadena.

It's a homeopathic convention mixed with a sprinkling of organic food vendors. After my recent "health" scare, I'm attending because there maybe something I could eat or purchase that would prevent future acid reflux.

Of course I could just try table spoons of baking soda mixed with a glass of warm water, but where's the fun in that?
It costs $8 to get in plus $7 to park. A woman in a tie-dye shirt hands me a black "goodie" bag full of coupons and a bottle of natural organic water. Inside the bag is a canister of cashew nut juice (did you know that the cashew is not just a nut, it is also a fruit!) coupons to help me embrace my shakti, tools for self healing and transformation, crystal bed healing, spiritual coaches, and psychics to help connect to "the other side".

There is even a pouch with a reddish rock shard to help with energy healing. According to the pamphlet, energy healing isn't better then traditional methods, just different.

I'm sticking with coffee.

Inside, the convention center is full of vendors. There are food vendors selling all natural vegan brownies, all natural vegan nut mix, all natural vegan cookies, all natural vegan berry juice with no preservatives. They offer free samples, which lacking artificial flavoring, sugar, or milk, has that authentic all natural vegan lack of taste.

The fruit juice is bitter and strong. "So this is organic?" I ask.

The rep chuckles. "Oh no, we don't like to use the word organic. After the government got a hold of organic products they started using pesticides. Our juice is "nature-ganic", or "true-ganic."

"Damn government." I mutter.

The rep warms up, expounds upon the virtues of his all natural berry drink.

I grunt. There's a reason why Welch's using sugar in its juice products.

I pass by a hypnotherapist. She charges $125 per session to hypnotize you and then run you through a therapy session when you are in an extremely relaxed state. She has a board of 144 ailments listing all the things she can help with: self-confidence, weight control, smoking, nail biting, anger management, test anxiety, glamour shots, stress, even writer's block.

I talk to her for a few minutes, and next thing I know she won't stop. It's like talking to that ugly person at the bus station who doesn't have any friends and is grateful for human contact but also is trying to bum you for a dollar. After five minutes I leave.

Her eyes watch me hungrily.

I speak with an acupunturist who claims he can rebalance your inner chi with the help of colored visor glasses - he has one of each color on a stand. I fill out a disclaimer form and he "examines" me. I tell him I have acid reflux and he begins pushing on my arms and legs. A minute later he hands me an orange colored visor. "Wear this," he instructs.

I hate the color orange.

A minute later he pronounces judgement. "You are having problems with your gall bladder, but it is linked to a chemical imbalance and your emotional state. We have to cure all three if we are going to solve your acid reflux."

"How often would I have to wear the glasses?"

"Only during acupunture sessions."

I thank him and take his card. Forget that. Don't like orange.

I spot a massage chair with a built in massage machine. It's extremely plush. The vendor hits a button and a minute later the chair is massaging my lower back and shoulders as it gently squeezes my calves. It's a pretty amazing chair.

All for the amazing price of $3500.

I speak to a woman about her biofeedback machine. It's an electronic device that she attaches to your head and which then measures your bodies electrical energy. The machine sends electronic pulses through your body to readdress its inbalance. "It's amazing," she gushes. "The inventor is a scientist at NASA, he's one of the guys that helped Apollo 13 land safely."

I grunt. Encouraged she continues.

"The device can cure almost anything. The problem with medicine is that patients often lie to their doctors, but the biofeedback scanner measures your body, and there is no way your body can lie to the machine. It will discover things wrong with you that you didn't even know about!"

"Can it cure gonorrhea?"


"How much for a session?"

"Twenty five dollars for a half hour. You know it cured the scientists son. He had severe autism, now he's fully functioning, has a job. I'm telling you the biofeedback scanner is amazing!"

I pass.

A minute later I'm complaining about all the "quacks" to Mr. C when a Russian jeweler, stand covered in "power stones" overhears me.

"My friend, you don't believe in biofeedback?"

"I believe other people believe in biofeedback. I don't believe an electrical machine from Dr. Frankenstein's lab will solve my problems."

"No problem," the Russian gushes, "I love cynics! Would you like to try a test?"

I shrug. The Russian has me place my feet together and hold out my left hand, he places a hematite stone with a hollowed center in my palm. He instructs Mr. C to watch. "Now I am going to push on your right hand, you try to resist me."

I nod as he starts pushing, I remain standing. Then he removes the stone from my palm and pushes - I stumble.

"There you see! Stone makes you stronger. This is scientific, my brother in law from Russian space program invented it!" He points to a photo of a group of Russian cosmonauts. "My brother in law has been experimenting with energy, and he has found certain stones have energy waves that strengthen the body."

I raise an eyebrow. "How do I know you just didn't push harder the second time?"

The Russian is ready for this, he looks at Mr. C, who appears confused. "I don't know Brian, I think he was pushing harder the first time."

We try it again, but this time the Russian has a pressure gauge. I hold the stone and he pushes, gauge in hand. Pressure 50. I put the stone down and he pushes a second time - once again I topple over. Pressure 35.

"There you see my friend, I actually push harder first time. These stones are mathematically aligned with geometric formulas that enhance strength."

I don't have a ready explanation - could be the gauge is rigged, could be some kind of judo move that he uses when he wants to throw me off balance.

"How much are you selling these for?" I ask.

"May I ask what you do?"

"I'm a teacher."

"Well, because you are a teacher, and teachers don't have much money, $100."

I thank him for his time. He hands me his card, he claims he has his own jewelry shop, he just comes to homeopathy conventions to spread the word and for "fun".

"I don't do this for the money."

I nod. "Five dollars then?"

He laughs.

Outside a group of people of all ages have formed a drum circle. A belly dancer twirls a pair of hulu-hoops around her body as a drum circle leader directs the drummers, they strike their drums in a frenzy before he quiets them down in a rhythmic hush.

The hippies and granola are like anti-conservative spray, as liberal as I am even I'm starting to get a little dizzy. It's "spiritual-materialism", an intoxicating spiritual blend of shopping mall sentimentality, a hippie Disneyland for those who prefer their spirituality light and airy minus all the difficulties of mediation and sacrifice.

A couple days later I talk about it at work, mostly to make fun of it. Karen, who was with me at the convention, tries not to get offended.

"Leiken, you slept on the crystal mat, didn't you feel better afterward?"

"Of course I did, the mat was heated and it was comfortable. I had a nice nap."

"You were supposed to meditate."

"It was only $550. Why didn't you purchase one?"

Karen shakes her head. "I pity you Leiken. You are so closed minded you can't believe in anything."

No easter bunny.
No Santa Claus.
And no Uncle Mikey!

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