The world is a never-ending source of wonder, is it not?
There really seems to be no limit on the human imagination; it gives me hope for a future beyond ice caps melting and swine flu and kids drinking the contents of the hand sanitizers in the schools.
There we were, Pete and I, at a Wellness Fair in Spokane, Washington, killing time before meeting Ian and Vanessa at their new restaurant in the Davenport District where they’d promised us great Latin food and some fine tequila.
The crowd was colourful; lots of tie dye and fringe, robe-like clothing and so much hair that it was difficult to distinguish gender.
The air was smoky with incense and loud with the sound of humming, chanting, and chimes.
There were booths offering massages, tarot readings, reflexology treatments, chakra flags, prayer wheels, hand-dipped candles, tofu in every imaginable form, beads, and other alternate lifestyle essentials. It was a busy place.
We wandered around looking at everything except each other. We had been sampling some local beer and were just giddy enough to realize that should we catch one another’s eye, we were in danger of falling prey to a fit of giggles.
One booth in particular was very busy, with a long lineup of folks waiting to get into a small space occupied by a wispy-haired blonde man in white pajamas who was busy doing something to a ‘client’ perched on a small stool in the middle of his booth.
What really made us curious were the folks in the lineup.
Unlike most of the attendees of this elevated event, they were not excessively hirsute, or wound in drifting yards of fringed material but were, for the most part, clad in hiking boots, Peter Storm sweaters and Goretex jackets.
Their hair was styled and tidy, their demeanours intent.
We had to know.
It took at least 10 minutes in the queue before we were near enough to be able to view the action inside the booth.
A middle-aged woman in a good tweed suit and sensible shoes was perched on the stool, eyes closed, while the pajama-clad miracle worker danced on his tippy toes around her. His arms were raised and his hands and fingers were wriggling, outlining her silhouette without any actual touching of her body. He was, by turns, humming and chanting. The tune sounded to me like Itsy Bitsy Spider, but I could have been wrong.
Tearing our eyes from the sight, we perused the contents of the table that separated the quiet lineup from the inside of the booth.
Most immediately noticeable was a small poster that simply said “$70 per treatment.”
Unlike every other booth we’d seen, there was no evidence of an ATM machine, or anything to process credit card payments. The $70 had to be cash.
There were brochures scattered on the surface of the table; these were hand-lettered and scarce in number. Another small poster requested that, in the interests of planetary health, we simply read the brochure and leave it for the next person. I picked one:
“Alter your DNA – retroactively!” read the headline, clumsily printed in felt pen, on the first page of the tri-folded paper.
Inside was a long list of hereditary diseases and conditions covering almost every affliction from boils to diabetes to heart murmurs to full blown leprosy.
Each had a little box beside it and the reader was encouraged to put a (mental) tick in the box for every illness listed that may be affecting oneself or a member of one’s family.
So extensive was the list that every potential client ought to be able to tick at least one box, with the likelihood being at the end of the questionnaire they would have several boxes marked (mentally).
The next page was crammed with testimonials of the glowing sort. There were a great many exclamation marks and a lot of italics on this page and the print was very small but we were able to glean that one of the many incredible qualities of this genuine shaman was that he used his remarkable powers only for good, never for selfish purposes or personal gain. We hurried on to the next page.
There we were promised that the man who performed these amazing feats of healings bore the name “Rain.”
That was the sole snippet of information regarding the fellow. There was no surname, no address, no telephone or fax number, no e-mail address or cellphone number.
Rain was free of the gadgetry of the modern world.
He was also free of any chance of complaint, or even of a referral, as the brochure ended with the guarantee all the necessary alterations would be achieved with “only one treatment” and there was no need for another ever again.
From what I could now see from our vantage point near the front of the lineup, he was also apparently free from the tyranny of banks.
Lying in a far corner of the booth was an old-fashioned doctor’s bag. It was made of old-fashioned leather and was clearly hard-used, the material bearing the nicks and scars of much wear and tear.
I nudged Pete and indicated the bag: the top was open and we could see the inside was full to the brim of bills. Not the sort of bills demanding payment; these bills were of the cash variety. American cash.
For the first time, we looked at one another. All tendencies to snigger and laugh had vanished at the sight of the money. There is something so convincing about large amounts of cash. And then there were those nicely-dressed, intelligent-seeming people lining up – were we missing something here?
We both spotted him at the same time; wandering through the crowd, and heading in the direction of this booth, was a well-known face.
It was one of the panel of wealthy entrepreneurs who are featured on a weekly CBC TV show called The Dragon’s Den.
This group is famous not only for their wealth, but for their audacity and cleverness in recognizing money-making ideas.
Would he be getting his DNA altered retroactively?
“Back up!” hissed Pete. “I want to see if he lines up. If he does, we are getting it done.”
“Uh uh,” I said. “I don’t care if Warren Buffett lines up; I am not going to sit on that stool and lose any chance of getting narcolepsy. You know how I have dreamed of a condition that involves naps all the time.”
We moved off to one side, keeping an eye on the Dragon; our coveted space as next in line gratefully taken by a young collegiate-looking couple probably intent on insuring for themselves a ‘super baby,’ I thought; why else would they be here – they looked the picture of a healthy young pair of breeders.
Our Dragon finally stopped in front of the booth. We held our breaths; the next moment would decide whether we spent $70 US on Pete’s DNA, or used it for beer and tequila this evening.
This morning, writing to you from our nice hotel room in downtown Spokane, I have a headache – does that help you to guess what happened at the Wellness Fair?