Slide and connect

So, along with my business partner Olivia, I’m just about ten days away from opening Chico Community Acupuncture. I moved out to the North-Central valley of California to follow my dream girl to her dream job in what Honora Wolfe likes to call “the land of fruits and nuts.” I figured we’d fit right in.

My girlfriend moved out here first to start her job, while I finished up acu school in Boulder. We moved our stuff out courtesy of Southwest Airlines’ free baggage policy – me lugging two 50-pounders each time I came out to visit. What was left fit into the back of an aging little Ford Ranger we acquired just for that purpose, and when I finished up at SWAC I made my final pilgrimage out here. Why all the moving details? I’m getting there, stick with me.

So, the bed of aforementioned Ford Ranger was the recipient last week of a set of lockers – like the kind they have in high schools. They were hand-me-downs from a friend who’s moving out of town. We thought they’d be super-cute décor in our barely-furnished apartment. Had we realized what we were in for, common sense might have trumped our thrift-store interior design notions. These lockers turned out to be super-heavy, and they were in the truck before we anticipated the predicament – our second-floor apartment. I’ve got to say the idea of these two girls lugging those lockers up stairs struck fear into my heart. And rightly so. Until I remembered…

Chico is a college town. As I was biking along yesterday I saw a hand-painted sign on a trailer advertising “College Student Hauling” Aha! Hire a couple of strong-backed students! Problem solved.

So, I arranged to have them come over last night, and I waited in the parking lot, scanning incoming traffic for a couple of burly college kids. Instead, though, a classic El Camino arrived, with yard tools in the back and a family in the front: John, mid-50’s, his wife, mid-40’s, and their kid, about 12.

Shitttt. Shit, shit, shitty me. Just pay someone else to do the hard work. To do the dangerous work. Really? How far was the $25 we had negotiated going to carry those three? I wanted to call the whole thing off, to stop the whole scene, but I didn’t know how to. Waves of classist guilt crashed in my ears as I watched them wrangle the lockers onto a hand truck and slowly, slowly drag them up-up-up-up the 15 stairs, mom and son pulling from the top, John supporting and directing from below. I watched stupidly from the bottom of the stairs. All my best intentions swirled uselessly around me, the confusing complexity of all of our human-ness mixing with the smoke from my pregnant neighbor’s cigarette, as I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with her.

The family worked well together, and made it to the landing without incident. As they deposited the lockers in the living room, John released his hold and grabbed his right elbow, shaking his head with a clear combination of regret and pain. At this, through some grace of the universe, I released myself from my ouroboros of paralysis. I connected. I asked questions.

Turns out he has tendonitis in that elbow, made worse because he uses it to compensate for a torn rotator cuff. Also turns out, I’ve got some ideas about what to do for that. I offered him a free treatment, mentioned the sliding scale, and scrambled around to find one of my brand new (are they even dry yet?) business cards. He’s had acupuncture before, and it helped, but he couldn’t afford to keep going.

I now realize what the sliding scale is to me. It’s the ethic – a simple code of behavior – that expresses my morals. It’s how to act. It’s what to do, in a free-market world that all too often strips our human transactions of all common sense, all common decency, all common courtesy.

So, he’ll come in for treatment. He’ll pay what he can. I’ll do my best acupuncture.

He’s psyched.
I’m psyched.

This is going to heal so much. This is who I wanted to be when I grew up.

Author: MichelleRivers

Related Articles


  1. WooHoo!

    You go, Michelle!  What a great blog.  What a great moment!


    It was wonderful to see you when you were in town for your birthday, and congratulations on getting everything ready for this new adventure in your life! Chico is going to love you.

    sending so much love,


    Julia in Berkeley


  2. I got chills reading this

    Michelle, thanks. I love that, every time I get to tell people Hey I might be able to help that, and really, I am not out for your money. It’s only fifteen bucks.

  3. aww, yeah!

     thanks for this amazing post. i guess it’s a weird thing to want to start my
    day crying but it’s the grace kind, so thank you

    isn’t it amazing
    to feel your life coming into alignment with your values in such a big

    i have always been a little in awe of you, Michelle, and
    cannot believe how lucky your Chico community and our CAN community are
    to have you!

    tick, tick, tick, your destiny is moments away–congratulations! here’s to CCA!!

    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.

  4. People of Chico

    Get ready for an amazing woman and super-bad skills as an acupunk!  Thank you Michelle for the great post. Thank you for slapping me in the mind during school with your wisdom so to wake me up to the possibilities of community acupuncture.


  5. Nice!!!

    Michelle-Congrats and best of luck in Chico!! I have a volunteer at my clinic who is probably moving to Chico soon. I am sure she will be happy to hear about you!

    Sacha Landreneau

    Yuma Community Acupuncture

  6. Glorious!

    Great post Michelle!

    The last time I saw you we were in that enormous room with that terribly unpleasant woman up at the front commanding, “I repeat! DO NOT call the Acupuncture Board for your score!” Some fun.

    Chico Community Acupuncture will be phenomenal. Lucky Chico!


  7. Yay!  I LOVE that Chico is

    Yay!  I LOVE that Chico is getting a CA–I love that town pretty hard (I’m a Redding girl).  Congratulations on getting up and running–it’s a lot to do, I’m finding out.  I’ll be sure to send my friends and relatives your way, and please say hi to Bidwell for me!

  8. go, Michelle!

    I’m excited for you and Chico.  And if it makes you feel any better, I was actually waiting for MORE information about the Ford Ranger (what year? etc.) – maybe because we have one, or maybe because I’m slowly becoming a Detroiter.  ;^)

    It will come in handy when you drive all around picking up recliners for the clinic…

  9. Pick-ups

    Yes, today was recliner pick-up day. We scored two more ($25 & $45), so now we’re up to 4 chairs for Saturday’s soft opening.

    Thanks all for your kind words and support.

    I just talked to Chad, and he’s rocking Charleston at 65 patients/week! I can’t wait to say the same.

    Nora – I’ll send you a picture of the truck, but you’ll have to send me a pic of yours first…