Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Party of Special Things to Do or... The Great Good Place

Yesterday I turned 48. It was a particularly good birthday, celebrated pretty much all weekend. Kelly and I had a first little gathering at our home we've been making together, I beautifully landscaped a corner of the yard I'd been struggling with for years, and I spent my actual birthday doing what I love to do the most - lots of acupuncture for lots of people. The Party of Special Things to Do indeed (a Captain Beefheart reference). Wrapped it all up doing another one of the things I do quite expertly - watching TV in my sleep on the couch. Woke up to a lovely PBS segment on surgeon turned potter, Cliff Lee.

Last week I had a patient tell me his brother used to be a cook at Armadillo World Headquarters. As a result he got to sneek in to many great performances there...Van Morrison, Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, and on and on...He was telling me this because he noticed the clinic's armadillo logo and domain name (Acupuncture World Headquarters) and he got it. It's not so often people get the nod to the 'dillo which is our homade branding effort, so it's always fun when they do.

There's another thread that runs through all this though, which was made crystal clear to me during the recent community acupuncture workshop held here in Austin, put on by the fine folks of Working Class Acupuncture with an additional hand from Alexa of East Nashville Community Acupuncture. What I'm talking about here is the notion of "the great good place" as put forth by urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg. Thanks Alexa, for sharing this.

Turns out what Ray Oldenburg is articulating is what community acupuncture clinics are doing. Who knew?

I have at various points attempted to make this connection. I've added language to our website, I've taken it away. At the end of the day, this is what the Armadillo references are about - the commonality of the great good place. The 'dillo brought people together in a strange sort of way - bikers, hippies, cowboys, students. Music was the great leveler. Community acupuncture brings people together in a similar sort of way. In our case, acupuncture is the great leveler (or maybe it's the recliners!). I never cease to be amazed as I look around the treatment room at the variety of folks there: the fireman, the teacher, the grandmother, the cancer patient, the musician, the mom, the job seeker...all doing their part, just by being here together, to make this the great good place it is.

So happy birthday, and
Good night Austin, Texas - wherever you are!

Friday, October 7, 2011

#OccupySouthAustinCommunityAcupuncture (or the cheesy bandwagon post; or the unlimitables)

I don't really know the hashdot. Wait, hashtag apparently. I swung by city hall last night just to see what was happening, it was a nice night out after all. Now I don't really care to speculate here about what the Occupy movement (or post-post-post-grad school graduation party) really will mean for everyone when it's all said and done, but it definitely re-emphasized a lot of what South Austin Community Acupuncture, and all the other community acupuncture clinics, have been practicing for awhile now: People getting together in a big space, hanging out for awhile, looking for, and often finding something to be different by the end of it and coming back again to occupy and fill that space up another time. This is what makes community acupuncture effective: the consistency of the occupation. And the occupation of the big room is strong because even when only one person is there they are welcoming the many and when many are there they are welcoming the one.

The economic frustrations that are pushing the Occupy crowd are an element that pushed the community acupuncture movement. It makes acupuncture available at a cost that the 99% of people can actually afford. Acupuncturists often emphasize the need to actually get acupuncture to see it help. But help you can't afford isn't really going to do the job. So we've made acupuncture affordable and the most important part of that equation is that it's still effective at this affordable cost. Call us a factory that just sticks needles in people over and over. It's a factory that hums a lot. The waking-up-in-the-morning-like-you-want-to-wake-up “hum”. (You may have forgotten about it, but it is a real phenomenon.)

Patients have simple demands for large problems: more sleep; less sleep; less stuffy nose; make me poop; help this rash; prevent me from going ballistic on my co-workers; standing up without pain would be nice. We limit barriers to these demands when so many other avenues have come up short. These barriers are financial. They are physical. They are psychological. All those types of barriers that patients know about like only they can. So come, unlimit yourself. Bring a friend, occupy a recliner.