I want to be the Subaru guy

I want to be the Subaru guy.


You know, every town has one. Maybe
it’s the Volkswagon guy or the Toyota guy.* The local mechanic that works on the
work-horse cars, the ones we buy with 80-100,000 already on them, because we
know it’s got at least another 200,00 to go. You know, the guy that everyone
says, “yeah, go to him, he’ll give it to you straight, he won’t try to fleece
you, he’ll give you the break down: what you absolutely have to do, what else
you could do–but maybe over time, etc. He’ll work with you–he wants you back
on the road.” And you know how it is. You go, just feeling easier: not on the
defensive, not terrified that the price will be inflated with unnecessary stuff
you do not need and did not ask for. He knows three different ways to get perfectly
good used/rebuilt parts, no need to sell you brand new at twice the price. You
go knowing you’ll be connecting to a real person on the other side, someone you
can trust, because you know your friends trust him.

He likes his work, always has. He got
into it mostly working on his own cars and eventually his friends and
neighbors’ cars. His shop is off some weird side street, pretty low key,
nothing too shiny, but always surrounded by cars in process. He’s ridiculously
busy but he doesn’t make you wait two weeks to get in—he takes your car right
away, he knows you need it back asap. He calls you within a day to give you the
scoop and it seems reasonable—you’re happy to pay it. And next time you need
anything for this car, you know where you’re going. If you eventually need to
buy a car, you probably even ask him if he knows of anything good.

This is who I want to be in my
community. Just one of the people we can rely on. Nothing flashy, just fair,
reliable, available, real. Just someone to help get things back on the road. I
know there was a thread on the Tan forum not long ago, knocking CA—why drive a
Hundai (or a Subaru) when you can drive a Mercedes or some such thing. I say,
because you get the Subaru guy to go along with it!

I think the parallels are obvious.
When my car is broken down, I am vulnerable. The last thing I need is to be
fleeced, or talked into a bunch of stuff that is out of reach. And I need to
get to work every day so I can’t really wait until next Friday before you can
even take a look at it. And don’t tell me my car is a piece of crap, I
certainly don’t need the lecture on it. It’s a great car with lots of miles on
it, and many more to go. Lots of people I know think it’s great.

Same when I am sick: vulnerable,
need to be treated with respect, need help as soon as possible from someone I
can trust, don’t need the lecture/education/judgement, just need some help
getting back on the road.

This past week, Kelly treated on
July 4th and treated two people this week who came in after our regular
hours. I think she saw in their faces that they just really needed it. This
week I spoke to a new patient that was shocked that we welcomed walk-ins—she
has frequent migraines and tmj stress. We’ve had a number of people with
serious emotional stuff going on, on the edge of break-downs, really. It just
hit me again how CA is offering something different: you can’t predict your
next migraine or your next step up to the edge for next Tuesday at 3pm; you
need help when you need it. It feels so, so nice to be of service in a way that
people really need.


I had an amazing mentor when I
lived in Taos and was hatching my plan to go to acupuncture school—scratch
that, when I was getting well enough to even contemplate how I might be useful
in the world. Her name was Peggy French and she was a truly gifted
acupuncturist, friend, and elder in her community. She never had a guru thing
going on, no fancy marketing, all word of mouth—she always said, the people who
need to see you will find you, don’t even sweat it. She gave great treatments,
had a wildly sliding scale—(eventually I cleaned her house for trade, she
insisted that it be hour for hour, explaining that what I was doing was just as
useful to her as what she did for me). She had a huge heart and was steady and
compassionate, without being gooey. She never shielded her life from me, or
made it seem any different than mine.


When she died a few years ago,
people came from all over and spoke about how she was there for them through
their most trying times, and also their most joyful times—she had become a part
of their lives. Some described her as being kind of prickly, but they always
valued her honesty. She was herself and created a safe place to be ourselves,
without judging.( more dark, leafy greens would really be great but if you had
the cake, did you at least enjoy it?) And some part of you did just kind of
want to do better, be better in your life, and when you were, it was cause for
celebration! Either way, she was just available and let the needles do the


Doing CA is allowing me to live the
dream of being real. I hope it’s a mix of Peggy and the Subaru guy.

*my apologies to the rockin women mechanics out there, it’s just always been a subaru guy so far in my town…

Author: melissa

Found community acupuncture in my last year of acupuncture school and it was like cool water on the dry desert of aculand. It addressed all those nagging questions of how to make acupuncture accessible and inviting to people like me, in my own communities as well as actually make a living and I knew I would practice this way for the rest of my life. I have learned more (about acupuncture, about people and community, about myself) in the past few years of running a CA clinic and being an acupunk at another BDC clinic than ever before. It's one of my all-time favorite places to be. I am eternally grateful to this community for its welcoming support, its passionate determination and its irreverence for useless sacred cows. I look forward to our continued work in supporting community acupuncture clinics worldwide!

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  1. I love this analogy.

    Especially when you realize that our bodies are vehicles for our souls, as our cars are vehicles for our bodies.  It’s true that finding a good, trustworthy mechanic for your car is a treasure.  I found my last one in a gas station.  I stood outside and watched the mechanics work.  I noticed the lack of loud music, the almost silent concentration in the shop, the constant and purposeful activity.  I took my car in for an oil change, and while standing there waiting, chatted with another customer who found them by knowing that, in his auto parts store, this was the one shop that hardly ever returned any parts.  This is the place that matches Melissa’s description to a T.  I think I’ll print this blog and bring it to those guys.

  2. getting back on the road

    “[I] don’t need the lecture/education/judgement, just need some help getting back on the road.”

    That is a beautiful line. Great post, thanks! Here’s to more “subaru guys” helping people get back on the road.

  3. Dr. Wu


    Wow Melissa, Peggy French.  I’ll remember her, I don’t even know her but I can say I’ve dreamed of being someone like her for a large part of my life, I hope I can rise to the challenge.


    Here is some of my story… I always wanted to have a place like Dr. Wu and his wife on Clark Street in Chicago.  I went to him when I was really sick with my digestion about 20 years ago.  His place was small, filled with herbs, he had a place in the back for tai chi, people came for classes, and herbal consultations.  He always took naps in the afternoon.  His wife who he jokingly called “the boss” would wake him up when you came. 


    After he was done taking your pulse, looking at your tongue, and writing out your prescription, his wife would fill it for you.  Even though she spoke few words of english, she allowed me to write down every ingredient she put into the formula by looking up the translations in the big dusty old herbal manual they kept at the front counter.


    His english too was limited but in simple words and gestures he communicated love and kindness to me, and I felt safe with him, kind of like a father.  He joked lighthearted in a musical voice during the consultation, but usually said something simple that stuck with me. When I left his shop, I always went home with a bag of herbs AND HOPE that somehow I was going to find my way out of crippling, daily, illness and I eventually did.


    As I began Acupuncture school, I remember thinking about him, and what I admired about his place – it was comfortable and unpretentious.  He was real, down to earth, and present when he talked with you, you could feel that he understood you, even emotionally, but he didn’t labor the point, and when the consultation was done he headed off pleasantly to his next activity for the afternoon or early evening, with no apparent weight on his shoulders…He was a neighborhood guy that quietly helped a lot of people learn how to take better care of themselves, and people respected him and enjoyed being around him and his wife.


    I remember watching him doing Tai Chi one afternoon. There was a palpable power that enveloped him as he gracefully transitioned from one move to the next. He clearly was in his element, with shining eyes, one pointed concentration, and a love for what he was doing.


    Last year I went to visit him and he was still the same, a lighthearted man with a big smile…I could swear this guy was immortal… Logically, I knew he was a lot older, but there was still that beautiful, open, lightheartedness about him that made any problem you came to him with seem surmountable. Thanks for reminding me of him.

  4. sorry, weird format, can’t delete, see below…

    Mmmm, Bonny, i loved reading your story! Thnak you so much for sharing it. My heart burst with this line:

    I always went home with a bag of herbs AND HOPE that somehow I was going to find my way out of crippling, daily, illness and I eventually did.

    Here’s to Dr Wu!!! and you, continuing the unbroken chain!


    Good health is not a measure of adapting to a sick society.

    When the power of love outshines the love of power, the world will know peace.

  5. thanks! and


    here’s to more healthy “subarus!” glad to hear you are doing well with Beach, keep up the good work!


    Good health is not a measure of adapting to a sick society.

    When the power of love outshines the love of power, the world will know peace.

  6. Here’s to Dr Wu!

    Mmmm, Bonny, i loved reading your story! Thank you so much for sharing it. My heart burst with this line:

    I always went home with a bag of herbs AND HOPE that somehow I was going
    to find my way out of crippling, daily, illness and I eventually did.


    Here’s to Dr Wu!!! and you, continuing the unbroken chain!



    Good health is not a measure of adapting to a sick society.

    When the power of love outshines the love of power, the world will know peace.

  7. Top get rid of the weird format

    go to Input settings and click Full HTML and then post your comment and submit.  🙂  You don’t NEED full HTML but it always formats correctly.

  8. Dr Wu

    was my first CM teacher.  I lived just down the street and a block over on Ashland.  Thursday evenings we had acupuncture class, Sunday mornings  herbs.  Then i’d hang out and watch him do the herb intakes on Sunday mornings, with the patients lined up in chairs, and Ms Liang filling the orders, calling out the page numbers in the first edition of Bensky’s MM.

    I was with him for about 6 months or so when i decided i needed to go to acupx school; he told me i couldn’t get to the boards through just him.  When i got to school, i’d had probably the equivalent of two years’ education in those six months.  Except for John Pirog’s class, i was bored silly.

    I still tell my students Dr Wu stories.

  9. Hi Robert – have you seen him lately?


    I know he and his wife were spending half the year in vegas since selling their building and retiring…I would have loved to have studied herbs with him.  Did he do much on pulse and tongue in his classes?

  10. unfortunately

    i haven’t seen him in years.  I moved from Chicago to Florida in 2002.  He was retired by then, i think, though he may still have had the building.  Not much pulse and tongue, really the classes were mostly going through the questions he’d compiled and putting together his study guide series.  My name is in the acupuncture book (the first one) and i worked on the herb and a little bit on the diagnosis books, but they didn’t come out until after i’d graduated Midwest and had gotten into the whole Toyohari scene.  I do think of him often, though, and am grateful for the time i spent with him.