Experience the Couples Massage!


Not us pictured … Divorce might result if it was!

Hope you enjoy this very carefully, very tastefully written review of our first couples massage experience.  Hopefully I will not end up sleeping on the couch … again, when the incredibly lovely Carol stumbles across this post and discovers I shared an semi-intimate moment solely as a way to promote tourism to the Dominican Republic.

OK … and for the laughs.

As I see it … at my age … any day that starts off with me in a pool with a naked female is a Very, Very Good Day!

When it comes to the massage, one must acknowledge that the ability to render a proper massage is an Art!  The techniques are to be admired and enjoyed, but require training and experience.  Although many an intimate couple will play at the Art of Massage, without the proper knowledge and experience, the massage is just a means to an end.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that ….

I will be the first to admit my skills at massage never advanced beyond the clumsy basics.  After this experience while in Punta Cana, I can honestly state that I had no idea just how inexperienced I was.

The Couples Massage package was an extra to the all-inclusive concept at Barceló Bávaro Beach.  But it’s worth every penny!  The spa is located within the Palace Deluxe Hotel complex. and is accessible at any time by Premium Club members.  Besides the quiet, fragrant massage rooms, the spa includes a large outdoor pool and jacuzzi, indoor jacuzzi and small pool, but no drink service.  (You can bring in adult libations if you so desire.)

The experience begins in the gender-specific locker rooms where one can shed all the decorative physical trappings of modest society … at least on the female side.  The men however were encouraged to keep their swimsuits or shorts on …

Bummer … Completely understandable, I guess … Still a bummer …


Draperies are closed to enhance the romantic mood, and were opened only after the massage was completed.

Once ensconced in a fluffy terry cloth robe, Carol and I met up in the couples suite.  Quiet, dimly lit by candles, with a romantic arrangement of towels in the shape of a heart and two obviously smitten terrycloth swans, richly appointed with fragrant flower petals.  The atmosphere exudes everything you need to slowly slip into a coma of complete relaxation.

What caught me off guard was finding Carol sans ALL Decorative Trappings of Modest Society, while I was still in a swimsuit.  WT … ?!?

But I guess the presence of two female masseuse explains the discrimination to which I was unexposed.  Not that I’m complaining …  At least one of us was completely stripped of all Decorative Trappings of Modest Society!

Even funnier was the experience of the gentleman in the couple who accompanied us to the DR.  He was instructed to shed his swimwear and sling his … uh … male-hood in a “banana hammock”!

When I heard of this AFTER our massage, I was relieved I wasn’t required to sling The Hammock!  Otherwise Carol would have been laughing throughout the entire massage experience!

The massage itself starts with an exfoliation, cleaning and massage of the lower legs and feet while reclining peacefully and blindfolded, which simply makes the experience a bit more mysteriously unsettling.

“What the heck is she doing?  What’s that stuff??  Oh, that’s nice …”

Next comes the main massage event, complete with security-inducing sheet and coverlet on the traditional massage table.  It was during this transition that I noticed Carol and I were differently dressed.

Have I mentioned that already???

To make a long post shorter, I will not go into a detailed playback of the massage itself.  Rest assured it was expertly applied and deeply relaxing.  This being my first professional massage experience, I can say without reservation that the good masseur at Barceló know what they are doing!

champagnesetup02Once the experts were done, the drapes to our private couples room were thrown open to reveal a small pool set off in an equally private walled-off courtyard.  And when we slipped out the door, we were surprised by the presence of two lounge chairs, a bottle of champagne and two glasses!

As one masseuse bid us farewell and drew closed the drapery, she made a very clear pronouncement, “I will be back in 20 minutes!”

That’s when the light went on!

Hmmmm … Carol still au naturel … champagne … massage oils … a pool and complete privacy … for 20 minutes!?!

Well, I appreciated the optimism, especially as to my personal stamina, but that presumption was a bridge too far.  We did however enjoy the personal intimacy of being secluded in an extremely relaxed state in a very cold pool, and enough bubbly to liberate one’s inhibitions.

But that water might have been a bit too cold …

As it turned out, it was one of the best days of the vacation.  The couples massage is definitely worth the price of admission, assuming of course you get a masseuse who knows what they’re doing!

For me … I hit the daily Double the next day with ANOTHER naked female in the pool.  But it was a dolphin …

Cranky Man’s 5 Stages of the Gym Mourning

‘Tis annoying when one goes to the gym or “fitness center” and encounters those “lunks”, as hopeless gym rats are derisively described by such authority figures as Planet Fitness.  Face it, some people were born to spend copious amounts of time in the gym.  They actually look forward to it!  Enjoy the hard work and sweaty toil … the Pain needed to make the Gains … the form-fitting workout gear only the lunky or curvaceous gym apostle can wear.

Bastards …


For the rest of us – which I would venture is the most of us – going to the gym is three rungs above a Dental appointment and one rung below dinner with the In-Laws.  A sad – but honest – admission …

As for me, I go through my own personal 5 Stages of Gym Mourning just to get out of bed and through a workout.  Similar to the more infamous 5 Stages of Grief, the stages to my gym morning are saturated in emotion and the desire to hide from painful Truth.  A sense of Loss lays the foundation for both.  In the case of anti-gym types like me, it is the Loss of Youth, the Loss of Leisurely Morning Routine, the potential Loss of Health, the Loss of Body Form and Image, the Loss of Laissez Faire Eating Habits, the Loss of Hair …

Need I go further …?

gym rats

No one likes the pretty gym people … except other pretty gym people.

After all to morning anti-gym rats, “grief” fairly accurately describes the process of hauling our sleepy bodies from our warm beds for the purposes of strapping ourselves to Machines of Torture!  For me, that’s 2-3 mornings a week depending on Mood, Physical Health, Weather, or if I absolutely have to fit into those pants I bought when I was oh-so-proud about recent weight-loss.  There are few things more demoralizing than your Significant Other perusing your chosen evening wear and saying, “Those pants have gotten a little tight there, chubby.”

So for all those reasons, I subject myself to the following Cranky Man 5 Stages of Gym Mourning pre-workout routine …

0515 hours … “What is that incessant noise?!?  Who the hell set the alarm clock on a Saturday?!?  This is freakin’ ridiculous!”

“OMG … It’s only Thursday.  You have got to be kidding me!  There’s no way I’m getting up this early.  This is stupid!  Who does this every morning???  Son-of-a ….”

ANGER … is always the first response.

0524 hours … The alarm again … “Oh c’mon … I can’t do this. This is inhuman!”

“No, you have to do this. You can do this!”  And rounds of BARGAINING begin.

“OK … If I go today, then I don’t have to go tomorrow.  Tomorrow’s Friday … You can sleep all the way to 0630 tomorrow if you just go to the gym today.”

“No … No way!  This is stupid!”

“Now, now … Listen!  There’s a half-gallon of Breyer’s Ice Cream in the freezer, Slick.  Go to the gym today and maybe – if you’re good all day long – you can have low-guilt ice cream tonight!” 

“OK … OK … OK … I’m getting up!”

(Now of course such a thing as “low-guilt ice cream” is impossible, as any reluctant prisoner of the Healthy Gym Workout cycle can tell you!)

gym-rat+treadmill+wheelA Bargain will eventually be reached.  And you will drag yourself from that warm bed  … unless the Bargain was reduced to sleeping in today for “guilt-filled ice cream” and a workout tomorrow.

The majority of those who go the gym, do so because they can eat whatever they want with little in the way of Rationalization.  That and a lighter load of Bad Food Guilt is as good as any endorphin buzz a workout can give the reluctant gym denizen!

ACCEPTANCE is usually the easiest phase to live through.  By this time, I have dragged my weary body from my soft, warm bed … one appendage at a time; pushed myself squint-eyed through the morning bathroom routine, bouts of resolve-strengthening mental cheerleading, and perhaps a few additional rounds of Bargaining. Then, once prepped in my gym-enduring workout clothes, primed for another day of attempting to fool Mother Nature, I resolutely head out the door.

Truth is the warm months of Summer make the Acceptance process all the easier.  Being able to roll out of bed and head off to the gym in the same clothes I wore to bed the night before makes all the difference in the world.  I can do everything up to climbing into the car with my eyes still barely open!

The biggest difference from the more well-known 5 Stages of Grief is the feeling of ACCOMPLISHMENT one gets from completing a strenuous, exhausting, and sweat-filled workout.  Let’s face it … The biggest reason many of us hit the gym is that feeling of doing something entirely for yourself.  Improving your health; increasing your Stamina; sharpening your Focus … blah blah blah …

DarrenTwissell_Old man ring_th

I don’t really look older when you work out. I just feel older … a lot older.

Yes, it’s a good feeling … That lasts all of 20 minutes until you realize you have to repeat the process in a few days ….

Forever and Ever and Ever!

That’s the realization that sends this Cranky Man into the final stage of his 5 Stages of the Gym Mourning …



No, I don’t … Honest!

49370Dear Sam’s Club Shopper:

I want to be completely open and honest, now that you’re not standing in front of me with that inquisitive look, no doubt thinking to yourself, “Does he use these things?!?”

I don’t … honestly.

I know you saw me perusing the selections and placing the Bulk Economy package (Then again, what else does Sam’s Club sell?) into my cart.  I know that you were only looking for a recommendation … from a guy … who MIGHT use them, even if you can’t come right out and ask that question without running the risk of insult or embarrassment (mine, not yours).

I know I shouldn’t feel awkward or uneasy discussing what has become a more frequent, open, and necessary product.  Of course I knew that whenever Carol asked me to pick up “feminine needs”.

I know there’s nothing odd, weird, or emasculating about running such a loving errand. Still it made me a bit skittish and self-conscious.  Just like our conversation today.

I swear … I really was buying them for another family member. I swear …

Just stop looking at me like that!

Or was that just my skittish, self-conscious imagination?  Maybe it was the fact that I had mumbled to myself … right before you walked up to me,  “I wonder if anyone who sees me thinks I need these things?”

Sometimes I am my own worst enemy.


By the way, your father seemed like a very nice man when he rejoined you and we exchanged knowing glances.  He’s lucky to have someone, who is looking out for him and doing everything they can to maintain his dignity in a difficult, but thoughtful way.

My wife, Carol, could teach a few things on the subject of taking care of our parents.

I hope I helped what little I could.

It’s never easy to confront the ravages of age.  Most of us will get there in due time.  Let’s hope we have those to take care of us when the time comes.

Has my Absence made your Heart grown Fonder?

mccainofflawnThis Winter has been a killer – motivation-wise.

Not sure exactly what the problem has been; but I have a few suspicions with which I will not bore those who still care enough to open those Cranky Man’s Lawn e-mail notifications they may wish they never requested.

Tough darts there, my friends!

I’m back, baby!  And I will be imposing my beliefs, viewpoints, and advice in your general direction regardless of your silent trepidations that – one day – I might rediscover my keyboard.

Here are a few ideas I am working on for near-future proselytizing:

  • A return to my roots – so to speak – with a renewed season-long look at keeping your lawn Cranky Man worthy!  Only this time I will reveal what I really do instead of what the Lawn Bible preaches.
  • a Trump dump … Not to be confused with a “Dump Trump” movement, this will only be my attempt to lance a boil I have been struggling to understand.

(Big Hint:  If it’s Hillary as the Democrat nominee, I would likely vote for just about any one or thing rather than to see her in the Oval Office unopposed by my guaranteed Right … even if I have to hold my nose the entire time I’m working the polls in early November.)

  • a look at the upcoming Phillies season with a different twist on what looks to be a painful, disheartening, glamour-less baseball season for Philadelphia’s faithful.  Now, doesn’t that make you want to run out and buy a Phillies season ticket plan?!?  Could be worse … They could be playing in 76ers jerseys!

So hang in there kiddies!

Rumors aside … The Cranky Man isn’t lawn fertilizer yet!

Have a Merry Global Warming Christmas!

Yeah, yeah … I know.

“That’s not “climate”, it’s just weather!”

Still …

I’m really getting into this Winter Global Warming/Cooling/Wetting/Drying/Changing thing.

I also picked up the parts I needed to get my snowblower into top working condition, thereby ensuring we will not get any snow this Winter. Maybe in July …

So here’s an apropos Christmas song for the new tropical Eastern United States!

Merry Christmas from the Cranky Man!

In Memory of a Dog named Zoe

IMG_1007After losing our pet Bichon Frise last week, I intended to share my own recollections on a family member with whom all three of our sons grew up.  But instead I’d like to share the feelings expressed by the family poet laureate, Alex Shortall.

Since this has already been a tough week, particularly for Carol, I will reserve my thought and memories for a future post.

Alex’s heartfelt expressions are framed by literary excerpts he thought were appropriate to our loss.

Many years ago, when the first cement sidewalks were being laid in our neighborhood, we children took the paw of our dog Mickey and impressed it into a kind of immortality even as he modestly floundered and objected. Some time ago after the lapse of many decades, I stood and looked at the walk, now crumbling at the edges from the feet of many passers.

No one knows where Mickey the friendly lies; no one knows how many times the dust that clothed that beautiful and loving spirit has moved with the thistledown across the yards where Mickey used to play. Here is his only legacy to the future – that dabbled paw mark whose secret is remembered briefly in the heart of an aging professor.

The mark of Mickey’s paw is dearer to me than many more impressive monuments – perhaps because, in a sense, we both wanted to be something other than what we were. Mickey, I know, wanted very much to be a genuine human being. If permitted, he would sit up to the table and put his paws together before his plate, like the rest of the children. If anyone mocked him at such a time by pretending to have paws and resting his chin on the table as Mickey had to do, Mickey would growl and lift his lip. He knew very well he was being mocked for not being human.

The reminder that he was only a poor dog with paws annoyed Mickey. He knew basically a lot more than he ever had the opportunity to express. Though people refused to take Mickey’s ambition seriously, the frustration never affected his temperament. Being of a philosophic cast of mind, he knew that children were less severe in their classifications. And if Mickey found the social restrictions too onerous to enable him quite to achieve recognition inside the house, outside he came very close to being a small boy. In fact, he was taken into a secret order we had founded whose club house was an old piano box in the backyard. We children never let the fact that Mickey walked on four legs blind us to his other virtues.”

– Loren Eisley, “The Night Country”, Chapter 6: Paw Marks and Buried Towns

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Today at 3 p.m. I felt one of my oldest childhood friends shudder and die in my arms.  At the veterinarian’s office, they have a special room where families go to spend their last few moments with a beloved pet, and when you’re ready, you flick a switch which summons the doctor who brings The Injections, first one white to relax the muscles, and then one pink to stop the heart. I couldn’t stop thinking, how many families have cried here together over an animal which is probably too distressed and sick to be aware of their presence? I’m not sure if Zoe knew whose company she was in at that moment, being blind and deaf and panicked, and had she seen me, would she have recognized me?

At the end of it, her head rested softly on my lap, staring straight ahead but seeing past everything, and I wanted nothing more than to close her eyes for her and let her sleep, but dogs don’t have eyelids the way we humans do, and the stubborn things stayed open. My dog’s ears were floppier than mine, her nose wetter, her body crippled and twisted by what was likely a stroke, and the hair on her face was a bit cleaner and sparser than mine. In the next day or so she’ll be ashes, returned to us, and then returned to the earth. I have a few photos of her on my phone and in my room, and her toys still lay around the house, my own childhood toys mangled and gnawed from her days as a vicious pup, but no dust or pavement will ever hold her mark. Her paw print is more an internal impression, which is me remembering how it felt to have her next to me.

Her mark is unique. It is the feeling of her chin on my thigh, her fur between my fingers, the shift as she rolled aside to let me scratch her belly, and watching her eyes slowly close in a peaceful slumber, knowing that in a few hours she’d be awake again, ready to walk or eat or watch my mom prepare dinner in the kitchen. I know now that she will never wake again, and that’s okay. She put in her fifteen years as a loyal and steadfast friend, the first animal I ever loved as all animals should be loved. She taught me a lot about what it means to be human, but also that being human isn’t so much special or better than being anything else. I wouldn’t trade my life for that of a dog, but neither would I choose it.

I love you Zoe. Rest in peace. I’ll meet you in the ether when the light flickers out.

Please send my mom good vibes in any way you can. She loved that dog more than anything, and fought hard to keep the candle burning. She will miss their walks dearly.

Best wishes,
A bad boy who lost a good pup
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the
end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.”

– Walt Whitman, “Leaves of Grass”, Section 6

The Hole in our Home

The hole in our home
Is not huge by any measure.
’Tis simply one of
Life’s little treasures.

The hole in our home
So recent in the making,
Was a loss we expected,
Quite common is its aching.

The hole in our home
Was Love with no conditions.
Affection given freely
No matter our dispositions.

This hole in our home
Our sweet memories will jog.
For the hole in our home
Is in the shape of a dog.

You will always be with us, Zoe!
Rest in Peace

You could never trust her to properly decorate the Christmas tree. But she was a good and loyal dog!

You could never trust her to properly decorate the Christmas tree. But she was a good and loyal dog!