The church, then funeral home, now "haunted" Iron Island Museum, Buffalo, NY featured on "Ghost Hunters"
Not really an article about Classical Tai Chi,nevertheless it is dedicated to a Classical Tai Chi student John C. and all those folks that suffer from "back ails". John indirectly had asked me about acupuncture and so I felt it only appropriate to tell him of my experience. Here is my defining and I hope the reader will find somewhat humorous moment in acupuncture to the tune of an old Forbes Magazine article called: "The New Old Medicine" by William Flanagan. In it I reminisce about Dr. James Gong (who helped me alot) "Ghost Hunters", Car batteries, Chinese herbal soup and more...
It was a frozen rope cold day in mid January 1987, Buffalo, NY. I thought it was going to hurt but it did not bother me one bit. The bespectacled and kindly face of Dr. James Gong hovered above me as he inserted needles into my lower back around the area of the sacrum that had been bothering me. Other needles were slipped into my arms, shoulders and, strangely, my upper lip.
I remained very relaxed and it seemed to increase. My back and shoulders began to feel a warm sensation like bath water when he hooked the needles to alligator clips. My muscles in back, shoulders, arms began to twich. Oh yes, and the alligator clips were electrodes which were attached to what only could look like mini car batteries. When attached, the devices had a very slight humming noise. "What on earth had made me come here to do this"?...to the Lovejoy Street, Buffalo, NY office of Dr. James Gong, in mid frozen January in Buffalo's Iron Island District.
Then I remembered-how painful my lower back and neck were. Several trips to a Tonawanda Street G.P. , a physical therapist, a chiropractor had failed to produce much relief.
I decided to take another tact and try acupuncture. A Tai Chi student of mine recommended Dr. Gong. I took my car to Lovejoy Street passing four pizza parlors, a Cafe, numerous bars, grocery stores, a drug store , a bank, and other personal businesses. I passed a formerly popular Methodist Church at 998 Lovejoy, which on that day was a funeral home. The funeral parlor long ago donated it to the Iron Island Preservation Society and it is now a museum called "Iron Island Museum". The museum was even featured on the Sci-Fi Channel series Ghost Hunters. The TAPS people believe that ghosts of an older man and woman are part of the Iron Island Museum. Reaching Gong's first floor office in a semi brick home built in 1900, I entered the front door.
Dr. Gong spoke English, but not often. Most of my questions to him were greeted with a friendly chuckle, but I managed to let him know where my back and neck hurt. He hustled me into a room, which was half filled with other men, all in their shorts and with needles sticking out of their backs. He had me lie down on a cot, and went to work. In the next room, I learned, that several women were also getting a treatment. I thought back on what my student had told me and the Forbe's article he had given me. The article had featured that piece "The New Old Medicine" by William G. Flanagan and how much Gong had helped him. Flanagan spoke in glowing terms about Gong after he visited him at his Mott Street, NY City office. He had spoken of Dr. Gong even treating the NY Giants professional football team with acupuncture. He mentioned how Gong had even been flown overseas by wealthy clients in order to treat them.
As I lay there a while, becoming oblivious to the needles and the muscle spasms and the electric current shooting through my arm, I drifted into a dream-like state and of all things fantasized about doing Tai Chi in the old Central Railroad Terminal which was close by. "Really" I asked myself, " while hooked up to a car battery"? I recalll now that not only was the Iron Island Museum featured on Ghost Hunters...it was featured along with the Buffalo Central Railroad Terminal when they were in Buffalo. I remembered in writing this, that the museum is allegedly haunted and that nowdays I could actually now spend the night in the "haunted" museum, maybe even still hooked up to the "car battery"?
There was an incredibly delicious smell coming from what appeared to be the kitchen, "Was that soup he was making?' "This guy treats rich people, and he makes his own soup?" Then I could smell what smelled like ..."Wait, is someone smoking marijuana?" How did I know that...why else...I worked for U.S. Customs at the time. No, I've heard of this, here he comes holding what appears to be a lit cigar. That's moxa and yes he is holding it over the needles on one of the gents on the other table. What a fantasy trip this is, I feel like I've stepped out of time and place.
I had been to another acupuncturist before this. I feel it safe to say not every acupuncturist offers such fantasy trips, soup and beyond along with the price of treatment, of course. Acupuncturists today are as likely to be found on Lovejoy Street in Buffalo as in Chinatown's all over the world, and they are as likely to be Caucasian as Asian. There are probably 10's of thousands of acupuncturists in the country today. A trip through the phone book...excuse me Google will show M.D.'s, DDS, who know acupuncture techniques. Why so? Easy, it is in big demand, but I'll bet only a few of them can give good reasoning why the thing works.
Very gradually I began to rouse from my half sleep reverie and smelled something else. It smelled like the soup was burning. Oh no, I wanted to try some, it smelled wonderful. Then the smell became stronger and I realized it was coming from my room. I managed to lift my head even though the effort was staggering, I was so relaxed, my head felt like it weighed a ton. As I looked to my left I could see smoke coming from one of the throw rugs on the floor. I noticed that his heat lamp had fallen and started to scorch the rug...wait, now there is a small flame.
I started calling, "Dr. Gong, Dr. Gong", I thought I was barely whispering but he began to enter the room. "It's OK", he said, you can all go back to sleep. He went over and stamped out the fire. During this time period, I began to fantasize once again. All I could think of was that I was in my underwear. "What if the fire spread, what if we all had to get up while needles were in our bodies and still attached to electrodes, what if we all had to run out into the frozen snow, into the street, staring at oncoming fire trucks while attached to car batteries with our backs and shoulders twitching like a bunch of demented frogs?"
He came over to me, detached the electrodes and began to remove the needles. With each couple of needles, he began a deep massage with some type of pleasant smelling ointment. That feels really good, this guy really knows his stuff. He gently said, "come on, get dressed, the soup is ready".