It’s said that acupuncture works for some people. Years ago, the acupuncturist that I had come to know somewhat well had done wonders for my anxiety. I needed to see him again for this head pressure. For some reason, he had to move his office to Highland Park, much closer to LA. It was going to be a mission then. Probably take all day. Temperature outside read something like 97, and it wasn’t even 9 AM. I was on the road at 10.
Traffic is frightening for me. Always induces a panic attack. I just can’t stand the sight of all those cars on the highway, creeping slowly along as they boil in the sun. I imagine the privileged single-passengers with their air conditioning and anxiety pills. If only advancements in technology worked that well for me. Approaching a traffic jam often seems like a form of incarceration: looking in the mirrors, seeing all the cars lined up on the opposite side, and turning my head to cure the incredulity – it’s like I’m walking into the prison and then pulling the gates down behind me. There’s no way out! What am I going to do? I drive, in misery.
Of course, there is no exit for “Gates” off the 710. Should have known that. Traffic was moving along so nicely, and the map on my phone so crappy, that I pass the required exit without noticing it. How often am I in this area anyway? Hardly ever. Now I’m near the 110. Hot and frustrated, pouring water on my head to cool me down, I call up the office. The secretary is sweet and patient. She tells me where to go. I get off the freeway and turn around. Two exits north, and there’s my exit. I take it, finally heading in the right direction. I call her back up. “When you get to ‘Seville’, head right. Then go to ‘Zoe.’” I thank her and obey. The sun continues to punish me, cold water douses only providing momentary relief.
Twenty minutes later, and I’m at the right intersection. At last! The last appointment I had to cancel, as the traffic and the heat had made my heart feel weak. I park two blocks away. Gather my bag full of medicines, lab work, and my first published book, which contains the interview I had done with Dr. Archer many years ago. A gift to my old friend. Walking would feel good; always a good stress-reliever, even in the heat. The streets were lined with parked cars. Busy part of the world. How does anyone choose to live here?
Then I get to the plaza and see the sign: “Acupuncture: Medicina Natural.” Must be the place. I swipe the sweat off my forehead and walk in. “I made it,” I say. The receptionist greets me and soon hands me a clipboard with some paperwork to fill out. “Thanks for being patient with me,” I say to her. “It was the other girl,” she replies. “Oh.” Immediately I can hear Dr. Archer’s voice, but can’t see him behind the walling that misses the ceiling by three feet; he must be in that back office. I fill out the paperwork and set it down. Then I sit down to relax. My head is on fire. I’m dying, I know it.
Here I would wait. For a long time. About a half hour later, and finally I see Dr. Archer from around the receptionist desk. He looks almost the same as the last time I saw him, albeit maybe with an extra wrinkle or two. He does a doubletake when he sees me. “So you’re the one who canceled last time.” I say something about leaving a memory on him, and he adds, “That’s for sure.”
Another half hour and my impatience starts to boil. I get up from my chair. All the blood and pressure surges to the top of my skull. I go outside and walk around the small parking lot, trying to calm down. I then go back inside the office and tell the receptionist that I might have to go to the emergency room. Just then, Dr. Archer soon comes out from his office. “Ah, you came back,” he says. “I came here to talk about this ‘head pressure’,” I say. Archer looks at me and replies: “OK, well, if you have to go.” But I don’t want to go; I want my appointment time respected. Archer has always taken his time with his patients.
After giving his other patients their homeopathic medicines, using some horrible broken Spanish, Archer is finally finishing up with them. Now me. Nurse takes me to one of two cushioned beds. Blood pressure time. Electronic monitor. It’s high: 175/90. Then to the bathroom for height and weight. Ah, I’ve lost another five pounds; running and hiking has done me well. Or has it? Back to the cushioned bed for another reading. Even higher: 180/95. Need to relax.
The nurse then tells me to sit in his office, relax, and wait for the doctor. I do. Big cushy chairs. I take out the results of my CT scan and blood work, throw them on his table. Archer soon comes in. Our reunion is not as joyful as I might have imagined in my head, what with my head bringing me noticeable signs of pain. “What’s wrong with you?” I lay it out. Head pressure. Moves all over the skull. Had a sinus infection. Took the antibiotics. Pressure is still there. And yes, I’m a father now; I show him a picture on my phone. “Oh, he’s older too.” Yeah, time flies, doesn’t it?
He looks over my blood work. Says it looks mostly good. Discussed the slightly high calcium levels. “But they did the ionized calcium test too, which is more accurate. Came back completely normal.” Still, they had not actually tested my parathyroid. That can cause elevated blood pressure, which can cause things like headaches. “So don’t tell me it’s been tested,” Archer says. My liver wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t the worst functioning liver on the planet.
“Let me feel your pulse,” Archer says. I put my arm up, and we begin chatting while he keeps his hand on my wrist. He says he didn’t think my head pressure was caused by sinuses. Instead, it was a “combination” of things: being overweight, stressed out. “You still drinking?” he asks. “I’ve got it down to one drinking day a week. How’s my pulse?” I ask. “Actually,” he says, “it’s a little soft.” That’s right, doctor Archer: give me some more anxiety. I stress to him how strenuous my cardio routines are, and isn’t that good that, while there is a definite pulse, it’s healthy that it’s not beating rapidity? Homeopaths don’t such terms; “the energy,” he says, “isn’t flowing right.” Whatever that means.
At this point, I mention to him my latest line of research. “I’d be shocked,” I say, “if you were an advocate for vaccines!” After all, Archer was the one who had warned me against putting aluminum inside my body all those years ago. He replies: “I’m not an advocate for vaccines.”
“Are you still doing journalism?” he asks me. I get back my right arm and say I have a gift for him. Pulling a copy of my book out of the plastic bag I brought with me, I say: “Yes. And you’re in my first collection. Page: 117.” I hand it to him and flips through it. “The limp of society?” he asks, “What’s that mean?” He’ll have to read it. He takes a slip of paper, marks the page, and puts it on one of his shelfs. Then he takes my other wrist, and begins ranting against vaccines. He tells me that he used to write waivers for parents, but decided to stop doing this after learning of another doctor in Orange County who was brought up on charges. “Now I help kids detox after they’ve received them.”
“So you’re telling me I have a weak pulse,” I say. “I didn’t say it was ‘weak’, I said it was soft. You see, the energy” ……and then he begins telling me that “in Chinese medicine,” something about heat in the body creating wind that rises to the top of the head. “I see,” I say, nodding ignorantly. Archer says he would give me some homeopathic medicines before I leave. I ask him if we could do some acupuncture today. “You want to do some acupuncture?” he says, almost in disbelief. Why not. After talking for some twenty minutes by now, we get up from our chairs, going into the other room where the two cushioned benches were at. The secretaries had gone to lunch.
“I also started taking some colloidal silver,” I tell him. Archer quickly admonishes me. “What have they got you on?” he asks. This was surprising to me. That liquidized silver is popular in naturalist circles, seen as a powerful compound that destroys all forms of bacteria and fungus. Archer quickly steps back into his office and grabs the large black book that I remember him always having. He flips it open to a page that he had probably flipped to a million times before. “See? It can cause…” and told me all the dreadful side effects of colloidal silver. “OK…no more of it then.”
Into the other room. Just the two of us. Me onto the bench. As soon as he starts sticking me like a pin cushion, we resume our conversation on the deadliness of vaccines. He even pulls up a video of someone on YouTube. “Homeopathic vaccines are much better,” he says boldly. It had been ages since I got acupuncture. “Electricity?” he asks me when he stuck my lower legs.” In one of them, yes. A lot of it. Right down to my heel. “I’ll set the clock for 15 minutes,” he says. Then pulls a white curtain around the bench. Such concern for privacy!
About five minutes into the needles, and someone opens the door. A lady’s voice starts talking; good English, but I could tell she was Hispanic. She wasn’t frantic, not as I was, but did seem in need of urgent help. I try to pick up some of their exchange, but was mostly focused on trying to let this ancient medical practice do its magic. “He’s in the car,” the lady says. “I’ll need to see him if I’m going to help him,” Dr. Archer says. “Bring him into me next time.” She left.
“You see?” Archer says to me from beyond the curtain.
“Her son got vaccinated years ago, and had a horrible reaction to them. He just got his boosters, and again had a horrible reaction.”
“And you helped him detox the first time?” I ask.
“I did. And now I need to help him again.”
Archer is a good man. The woman must’ve seen the good results from his work. She needed him once more. I ask him to take the pins out of me, as I was starting to get uncomfortable. He drops what he was doing and comes over to me immediately. “Am I going to die?” I ask him. He chuckles and says no, evidently confident, as always, that he could fix his patient up.
I collect my things and we both go to the secretary’s corner. He fires up his computer and puts the disk in with my CT scan results. I pace and rub my head as we talk casually about vaccines.
“If your kid gets injured, you can’t sue the hospital, the manufacturer, the state….”
“Nobody,” I finalize for him.
“Right. They’re poisons,” he says.
“There was a university that was studying them, but as soon as they started producing the ‘wrong’ results, they got their funding cut.”
“Does not surprise me,” I say.
“I can’t make this out,” he says. “Come here.”
I went over behind the desk and peer into his computer screen. Dr. Archer thought maybe he had seen a deviated septum. “Well,” I say, “I’ve already had one ENT look at it.” Archer then tells me a story about a patient he had who used to fly a lot in airplanes, and would get dizzy every time he did.
“All because of a deviated septum. Once he got it straightened out, the dizziness went away.”
“Can it be causing all this pressure?” I ask.
“Maybe,” he says cautiously.
He has two bottles with him, each filled with little white beads. Homeopathic medicine. The first was nux vomica – something he’s prescribed for me many times before, but which I rarely finished. The other was glonoine. “Very good for headaches.” Attempting an aura of authority, Archer deliberately forgets to say “this is.” Our appointment was just about over. He charges me a mere $35 for this whole consultation, meds included. My credit card gave him some momentary trouble. “Signature please.”
“Let me ask you one last thing,” I say. “You’re one of the smartest guys I know. What are you still doing living and working here in California? And why did you move deeper into the city?”
“I got a good feel for this city,” he says, leaving it at that.
I let it go. To each their own, I suppose. We walk to the glass door, and he unlocks it. I slap him on his shoulder and say it was good to see him. Brightly smiling, he says “same!” His electric-powered car was right out in front, 20 feet away. I walk with him.
“And the blood pressure?” I ask.
“Oh, that’s easy: get hawthorn berries. Not the stems and seeds…the actual extract.”
Okay. “And my exercise?”
“Take it a bit easier.”
With that, I say goodbye, taking my bag with the new medicines, and walk a half mile in the scorching sun back to my van. It took me an hour and half to get back to my suburb. At least I was a bit calmer on the ride home.