Green Thanksgiving tales from Seattle

Yesterday, I noticed it starting to wiggle. The foot rest lever on everybody’s favorite Cadillac recliner was acting funny, describing strange arcs as I attempted to maneuver people’s feet up and down.

Then, it happened. Jane was leaning back to get some relief from her peri-menopausal headaches, left elbow pain, and a dose of 21st century stress all mixed together. “Is there something wrong with this lever?” she asked me with a quizzical look on her face. “Maybe”, I replied. I grabbed the lever and began to coax it to make one more leg lift. I breathed a little Chi into it, and it performed in one last gasp, then died.

The dang thing broke off in my hand. I held it up to show Jane, looking befuddled. We were like two clueless landlubbers looking at a seamonster that had
washed up on shore, trying to figure out which end was its head.
We both laughed hysterically. Her legs were now permanently stuck in the up position on a dead recliner. “Looks like I’m here to the end. I can’t think of a better way to go”, she deadpanned.

An hour later, Jane’s headache gone, I gently pushed the footrest down with my foot and Jane floated out the door to catch her train to glory. Two more left shortly afterwards, with tickets on the same train, and I was alone with my team of work horses. Ten recliners, Craigslist specials all of ’em.

In an earlier time, I would have been embarassed at their tattered edges and clunky sounds. But not now.  The writing is on the wall. Planet Earth needs us to get lean in every department. Next Friday is Buy Nothing Day, my 75 year old mother reminds me.

So I turned over Big Bessie and stared at her innards. The metal handle had twisted right off. Hmm. I played, and pushed, tunked, and tugged, and then figured out that I could tie a short length  of hemp rope (my dad used to find them on the beach and collect them) to the “rotation axle” which controls the foot rest. After one patient climbs out, one gentle tug to reset the spring and the next person wouldn’t even need to use the now non-existent handle. It would work even better than before.

Well, ain’t that just lovely! Yet another reason to either start a community acupuncture clinic, or support one as a patient – it’s a sustainable enterprise – for a cost conscious American economy, and for a planet with finite resources. There is no pretense about being part of some grand edifice of Professionalism designed to impress our materialistic propensity for glitzy packaging. We’ve gotten rid of the packaging! What you get is affordable community medicine without all the extra garbage (or sticker shock!)

river Jordan
Author: river Jordan

After graduating from the Northwest Institute of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine in 1997, I had a hobby practice for a few years before moving to Northern India to study Buddhism. During this time, I volunteered in a local clinic, giving acupuncture to Tibetan refugees and Indian nationals. <p> Returning to the U.S. in 2002, I started a typical insurance based acupuncture practice catering to the upper middle class. In 2005, following Hurricane Katrina, I volunteered with <a href="" target="_blank">Acupuncturists Without Borders</a>, using community style acupuncture to treat trauma victims in a natural disaster setting. </p> Inspired by the power and efficacy of acupuncture in a post-disaster setting, I began to contemplate issues of socioeconomic class. What could be done to make acupuncture accessible to everyone and still provider a livable wage for an acupuncturist? After attending WCA's first conference in October of 2006, I had found the answer to that question. In January 2007, together with my partner Serena Sundaram, we founded <a href="" target="_blank">Communichi</a>, Seattle's first dedicated community acupuncture clinic. <p> As a Buddhist, I believe that healing begins in the mind. As the positive qualities of wisdom and compassion are cultivated in the mind of a practitioner, this...

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  1. the story of stuff

    thanks for your story.   

    the recliners at community acupuncture on cape cod are such characters also!

    cris, your printer cartridge story reminded me of something i saw recently.

    here is a link to a great video called ‘the story of stuff’. if you have not had a chance to see it please do, it’s a great 20 minutes.


    office staff @ community acupuncture on cape cod



  2. The City of Providence

     has a “Tangible Property Tax”  for businesses, where they count up all of the equipment a business needs to run.  I have been paying this tax for the last 9 years and it is part of what first inspired me NOT to have a computer in the office, since the tax I would have to pay for it would quickly exceed it’s resale value.  Planned obsolescence in consumer goods is one of my pet peeves.  I just learned that many printer cartridges contain a chip that shuts them off before they are actually out of ink, and manufacturers intentionally make their cartridges difficult to refill! I am outraged, but really not surprised.


    Every few years the city sends an inspector to the office to assess what we have. Back in the day when I had a boutique practice, much of my office equipment, desks, chairs, bookshelves, file cabinets, lamps, etc. were garnered from the abundant cast-offs of the privileged  college students that leave Providence every May with heaps of their stuff headed to the dump.  Thankfully the tax inspector was receptive to my truthful claims that most of my office gear had been found on the street, or given to me.  My quarterly Tangible Property Tax is about $20.  Nonetheless, we’re probably due for a visit from the inspector this year.  Of the 9 recliners at PCA, 2 have been gifts, and the total paid for the remainder (yeah Craigslist) is probably still less than the cost of a new massage table, my prized possession just out of acu-school.  


    Wonderful post–Thanks. 


  3. another great post!

    I have been recliner hunting lately so this really strikes a chord; they all have so much personality already.  For awhile I couldn’t find any used ones — or none that were within my price range.  Now, I see tons of them at the Salvation Army and on craigslist…I fear that it’s partly because people really need the cash, or are getting put out.  “Buy Nothing Day” seems like a quaint concept to me this year.

    Furniture is one of the other things that Michigan makes (besides cars), so recliner shopping also has me thinking a lot about material goods and labor and qi and realness.  Maybe there’s a post there somewhere…but in the meantime I love yours.  Thanks Jordan.

  4. powerful

    This short video helped me to see what all of us already know, but haven’t yet collectively been able to face with honesty and hope. 


    All true religions seek to gain access to that level of consciousness which is not ego-bound.&a

  5. Quaint?

    In what way dear Nora? I equate quaint to “old fashioned”, but not sure what sense you are using it. Maybe I would agree with old fashioned if what you mean is buying nothing on one day is not enough. But as the short article on Wikipedia points out, “Buy Nothing Day” is about much more than stopping shopping on one day (and shopping on the next). It’s really about changing patterns of thought.  Becoming more aware about “externalized costs”

    I vaguely remember hearing the term “externalized costs” before, but this little video really hit home as to what that exactly means. 

    And by the way, its okay if you go shopping for some used recliners! Patients have to sit in something.Cool

      All true religions seek to gain access to that level of consciousness which is not ego-bound.&a

  6. quaint isn’t quite the right word…

    …I guess I mean something like outdated and precious (in the sense of being sort of self-congratulatory or out of touch).  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for reducing consumption, reusing and recycling stuff – indeed, those are our only long-term options.  It’s just that “Buy Nothing Day” seemed to come out of a very different economic moment, and it almost seems cruel to exhort people to buy nothing when they don’t have money or credit left to buy stuff with.

    Also, thanks for posting the link to the Stuff video, deer – it’s very well done and well worth watching.



  7. buy nothing

    Hi Nora, 

    I see your point about people hit by the economic crisis being asked to tighten their belts, even if they were not directly responsible for tanking the economy. The advice to “buy nothing” could be delivered in a sort of parental, condescending tone that does little to acknowledge the very real material difficulties people are facing. 

    However, after watching The Story of Stuff, and being reminded of Bush’s advice to people after 911 – “go shopping”, I still think that materialistic consumer culture misses the boat completely when we look for “stuff” to fill the empty places in our heart. That mentality is killing the planet, fuels wars, economic inequality, poverty, injustice and so much suffering in general.

    Maybe the economic moment was different when Buy Nothing came out, but its definitely the same ecological moment – or closer to midnight to be more accurate. Maybe the same spiritual moment too.

    All true religions seek to gain access to that level of consciousness which is not ego-bound.&a

  8. less and less stuff

    last night was a rare occasion that I ended up around the big box stores.    I needed a cushion for the $7 papasan chair frame that I found at Goodwill.  Across from Pier 1 was a sad, but big banner on the Linens and Things “Out of Business Sale.  Everything Must Go.”

    I am glad I went in, I ran into the son of one of my patients from when I was still an intern.  We talked about how he would soon need a new job, the crazy state of the ecomony and a recent trip to England, which he assures that Americans are really not hated everywhere and the economy in England is not in the best of places either.  I gave him some info on community acupuncture and let him know that I’ve missed seeing his family and I feel a very nice connection with them.

    I talked to a few other people working in the retail chain.  These people look very run down and depressed.  I felt sad.  I read about retail chains going under and I felt a sense of jutice for any local business that might have been driven out previously.  The other side of that coin are these people, these very real people who wonder where they will be working next.  I am optimistically awaiting all of the sustainable green jobs that are in the works right now for our communities.  But my heart goes out to everyone left on shakey ground during this shift in consciousness. 


  9. employees of big box stores

    Thanks for casting more light on this side of the story. On the one hand, working in a big box story probably isn’t the most satisfying job in the world, and from what I heard, these places generally don’t take very good care of their employees. But it does pay the bills. It’s a difficult problem to break the mold and completely start over from a new paradigm. Hopefully we are at that point now.

    People need meaningful work to fully energize and harmonize the Shen…which is at the core of health in TCM. I too eagerly await the green economy of sustainable jobs where people are contributing to….a sustainable world. Surely that would be more satisfying and enlivening.

    All true religions seek to gain access to that level of consciousness which is not ego-bound.&a

  10. “Jane”‘s privacy?

    Stories like these are wonderful to share. But they also make me a little uncomfortable. Perhaps the reader is supposed to assume that “Jane” is not the patient’s real name, or that she explicitly approved the post before it was published, or at least gave her approval for her symptoms and words to be shared on the worldwide web. Maybe this blog needs a convention when sharing patient data that would make this privacy disclosure approval more obvious? Y’know, like an asterisk with a footnote?

  11. Jane is not her real name

    “Jane” for “Jane Doe” is a fairly common writer’s figure of speech to mean “anonymous person”.

    Not Jordan

    All true religions seek to gain access to that level of consciousness which is not ego-bound.