The Portable Massage Table

The Portable Massage Table

by Alejandro "Jano" Cabrera

He didn't exactly walk into the room, as much as he swept in, arms outstretched with a car-salesman smile firmly plastered on his face. It was his way.

"Amigito," Jos began, "I have a wonderful idea that you would be a fool not to want to be a part of."

I eyed him warily.

It was the summer of 1996. Jos and I had met in college and were now living together with another friend in a cramped two bedroom apartment in Washington, DC. Having not joined Jos on his Alaskan adventure the year before, I had already graduated from Pomona and was working in the city. With one academic semester left to go, Jos was there on a semester abroad program.

Having known him for four years at that point, I was used to Jos's ideas. They came to him often and were a mixture of folly and genius, sprinkled with enough entertainment value that they always seemed to loop in his friends.

For example, there was the time that he decided to head up Collaborative Productions, Pomona's on-campus film studio, and convinced me that I would be perfect for the role of executive producer for all projects. I initially tried to defer, telling my friend that:

  1. I knew nothing of film making
  2. was not interested in film making and
  3. had no clue what an executive producer did.

But to that, he simply waved his hand in the air and marched off, shouting behind him as he went: "Minor details friend. I'll see you tonight at the first staff meeting. It's at 8pm. Ciao."

In the end, I did serve as executive producer. To this day, I'm still not exactly sure what my role was. I can tell you that it was time consuming, at times trying, but certainly fun.

And there he was again, standing in my room, with a devilish grin on his face and another idea in his head just waiting to tumble out.

"I have three words for you," Jos said. "Are you ready for them? Because once you hear these three words, your life -- and the lives of everyone who hears them -- will be changed forever."

"I'm as ready for them as I'm ever going to be," I sighed.

"Okay," he said. "Here they are: .. portable .. massage .. table."

"Portable massage table?"

"Yes," he said.

"Jos," I said with the patience I hope to someday have for my own children. "What are you talking about?"

And he proceeded to tell me.

He wanted to construct -- from scratch -- a massage table. But not just any old massage table would do. No. Jos wanted to make a table that would fold in on itself, ultimately forming into something resembling an oversized briefcase. Complete with handle.

What would one do with such a table, I wondered aloud.

And to that -- like many other questions I posed to him throughout the years -- Jos had a ready answer.

"I'd travel the world, bringing people pleasure and relaxation, of course. My card would read: 'Have table. Will travel'."

"And what, pray tell," I said. "Will my role be in all this?"

"Just wait," he answered with that smirk/smile of his that was all too familiar.

And so Jos began construction of his portable massage table. First he made a very scientific sketch of the whole thing, a crude pencil drawing on scratch paper that a gifted second grader might have identified as a cow with a broken leg wearing a ski mask.

Next he went out to the local hardware store and purchased all the tools he needed for the job: a screwdriver, a hammer, a saw, nuts, bolts, and lots and lots of wood.

Then he setup a workshop -- in our kitchen. He worked on his table like a man possessed, sawing here, pounding there, a flurry of action was he.

And after two weeks of constant work on the damn thing, he was done. Though I had seen the table progress in stages over the course of several days, I hadn't exactly seen the finished product as he was constructing it in pieces. So, at the end of week two, there was a great unveiling of the unit as a whole.

And I must say, once he yanked the bedspread that covered the table away, I found myself speechless.

For there, standing (and I use that term liberally) before me was something that looked less like a table and more like a cow with a broken leg wearing a ski-mask -- made completely of wood.

Jos simply stood there, smiling lovingly at his creation.

The fact that the whole thing swayed madly when Jos yanked the bedspread off of it filled me with dread. For I realized then, before he even said a word, what my role would be in this little project of his: I was to be the first on the table.

"Jump on," he invited.

"I'd rather not," I said. "In fact, I'd rather not anyone do any jumping around that thing. Maybe not even breathe."

"This thing is solid," he replied, firmly tapping the air 2 inches above the table. "Trust me."

And like so many other times in the past, I did trust Jos. I got on the table, distinctly hearing each creak and wooden groan, feeling each support buckle underneath me as it adjusted to my weight. And once I was fully stretched out, I realized with some wonderment that the damn thing worked.

Sort of.

You see, in the end, the table didn't so much as fold in on itself as it needed to be deconstructed with a screwdriver and mallet, a process that took about 10 minutes total to exercise.

And unlike the original design he had in mind, it wasn't exactly portable. The table, being constructed entirely out of wood, weighed -- I'd guess -- about 55 lbs. Further, once fully in "travel mode" (as Jos described the table once deconstructed) it took up quite an amount of space, about the size of a 27" television. And so rather than simply picking it up by the handle, he needed to lug it around with the help of a dolly.

But as my friend had said before: These were minor details.

The real point to be made here is that Jos built the table. Others would simply talked about it, but never done anything. Or they would have began construction, and given up half way through. And a scant few may even have built one, but not be satisfied with what they had wrought.

But not Jos. Jos saw the table for what it was: it was a dream that he could make a reality. And he set about to do just that. And it though it didn't live up to his exact vision, he could at least say that he did it -- and that is more than what most can say in this world about their own dreams, their own "tables".

That is what I will miss most about my friend. He inspired in me a determination to pursue throughout my life my own dreams.

It was his way.

Opposition to the Portable Massage Table by Jos's dad.

In favor of the Portable Massage Table by Jessica B.

More by Jano Cabrera: Moist and Fresh, Portable Massage Table, Kurt Kobain , Damon and Phintias, People's Guide to Mexico

Return to the amazing Life of Jos Claerbout