Professional Portrait: Dan Myers

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Sometimes opportunity knocks … and knocks … and knocks again. In the case of Dan Myers, it knocked three times before he finally answered it.

Myers had tried myriad jobs before he found his true calling, hands down — and hands all around, actually. Myers is a massage therapist and delights in bringing healing to his clients with his unique style.

I had a session with the multi-dimensional masseur and, though I’ve had a number of massages in my time, I have to say this one was special. He beat me up a bit (I must have been feeling masochistic that day when I told him I was flexible) but the next day, I felt energized and even a bit taller. It’s been a few days and the positive effects are still evident in the skip in my step and my desire to eat healthier. Maybe I’ll be able to keep my New Year’s resolutions this year …

PGN: How did you get involved in massage? DM: The first knock at the door came when I was 15. I got a Reiki session with a friend of a friend. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew right away that it wasn’t the traditional massage I thought it was going to be. He didn’t know me, but he started telling me things about myself that blew my mind. Stuff no one knew. It spooked the heck out of me but it was fascinating. After three sessions with him, he proposed that instead of payment, I could give a Reiki treatment to him. I told him that I didn’t know how to do it and he said, “Yes, you do.” I was a student and poor, so I thought, “Why not, it beats having to pay.” He told me what to do and I experienced things I don’t even know how to explain. I saw an image of Disneyland, kind of an odd first Reiki image, but there it was. The image flashed before me at 90 mph. I felt embarrassed because it seemed silly, but I told him what I saw. He told me that he’d been there six times in the previous two years. Without thinking, I said, “It went by really quickly, I think maybe you missed something.” I was actually surprised by myself: Here I was giving advice to this guy off the top of my head. After that, my parents convinced me to go to college. I knew I wasn’t ready for it, but I went to Temple, Ambler campus, to study landscape architecture. I spent two-and-a-half years there and I realized that they weren’t really up to par.

PGN: How so? DM: They didn’t even have a CAD [computer-aided design] system in place and weren’t really up to date with the latest trends. So I left school and did some soul searching. I got my next knock on the door in, of all places, a dentist’s chair. I was having my teeth cleaned and they had the radio playing in the background. While sitting there I heard a commercial for a massage school. I remember saying to the dentist, “They have a school for everything, don’t they?” It stuck in my mind. I went back to work — I was a waiter at the time — and there was one waitress who used to always insist that I rub her neck. Whenever she had a free moment [laughs], not when I was free, but whenever she had a moment, she’d grab my hands and put them on her. That day, she took my hands and said, “You’re really good, you should think about pursuing it as a career.” It was the third knock. I finally got the message and enrolled in school. I’m not a religious person, but I believe things come to you for a reason. That was over 10 years ago and I’ve loved every moment of it.

PGN: What does it do for you personally? DM: I get the gratitude of knowing that I’ve helped somebody. I’ve always been a people person. I always have to deal directly with people. Even before this, I always wanted to be in jobs where I had direct contact with people. I had two jobs where I didn’t get to interact with the public and I hated them. One was as one of those annoying telephone-survey people. We dealt with pig farmers asking crazy questions. I got to talk to folks, but I like face-to-face interaction. The other was as a stock boy at Pathmark. I was so starved for contact that I would get giddy when people asked me where something was.

PGN: So what are some of the other jobs you’ve had? DM: I’ve been in banking, restaurants and I think the weirdest job was that I was a door-to-door vacuum salesman. That only lasted two weeks. It was embarrassing: They barely trained us and I went to one house and started the demonstration, the one where you ruin the carpet and then clean it up. They didn’t give me enough soap, so it didn’t work; the woman looked at me and said, “Is that working right?” I squeaked out a “yes” and got out of Dodge.

PGN: As for your current work, you have an interesting technique. DM: Every year I try to learn something new. So over the last 10 years, I’ve built quite a bit of knowledge on top of what I learned at school. I enjoy incorporating new things into my massages. Not everything works for everybody, but I’m pretty intuitive to people’s needs and likes and dislikes. I take into account people’s body issues, boundary issues, how much pressure they can withstand or how light they might prefer. I’m trained in Swedish, shiatsu, polarity, deep tissue, maternity, Thai and VitaFlex, Shirodhara. I do aromatherapy using therapeutic oils, I do raindrop therapy and I have a Reiki mastership. I also do reflexology and I’m also a licensed nail technician. I’m trying to create a whole list of holistic treatments I can offer. I’m also available to do chair massages.

PGN: I’ve found that massages are usually very segregated: You can opt to have Swedish or shiatsu, Reiki or aromatherapy. It’s rare to find someone who lets you get a touch of different things in one massage. DM: I don’t find too many people doing it. The last spa that I worked at was at the Ritz-Carlton. I was very friendly with my boss and she was very open to ideas. I suggested that I offer a combination massage: We have so much knowledge in our brains, we should be able to give people the benefit of all that we have to offer. It quickly became the most popular massage. I haven’t really seen anyone else offer it the same way, but I think it’s effective in helping people.

PGN: Do you find doing energy work in Reiki sessions draining? I think of the “Star Trek” episode “The Empath,” where the character absorbs other people’s pain. DM: No, I protect myself so that it doesn’t energize me or drain me. I use an essential oil called White Angelica every day. It’s an energy protector and it helps cleanse negative energy and emotions, even negative people. I use it to protect myself and the client as well. It’s great, after a session, if you encounter someone with negative energy; they won’t come near you. Once in a great while, there is someone who has a lot of negative energy that might pull from my energy, but that’s few and far between.

PGN: What is the most unusual thing that has happened? DM: I’ve had a lot of interesting clients, but for privacy reasons, I won’t go into it. I do have one that stands out. It was my first year and for about a week I kept getting images. At first I thought maybe it was my client, but then it happened with the next and the next. I began to think that I was having the images instead of reading them. I didn’t know until later that they were being sent to me. At the end of the week, a woman walked in and when I looked at her, instead of seeing her face, I saw the image. It looked like a strobe light or blinking sun with a hummingbird fluttering in front of it. She came in for a Swedish massage, [but] we never got to it. The first thing I do with a client is ground them. They’re coming in from the world with all its concerns and stresses and I want to put them in the right place to optimize the massage. The way I do it is while they are under the sheet, I put my hands on the feet and ground their energy. I could not get my hand on her left foot. It was like a force field was pushing up against me, like opposing magnets. It was really weird, I had to push through it to get to her foot. I started the massage and when I worked my way back to her feet, I lifted the cover and there was a tattoo of a hummingbird with a flower on her ankle. At that point I told her that I’d been seeing it all week. She told me that it meant the give and take of life. The flower and the hummingbird both get something from each other. I thought, that’s wonderful, except that the rest of her energy was dark and negative. I usually don’t relate negative things to people, I don’t want them to focus on it, but she asked me if I saw anything about death. She insisted that I tell her, so I told her that I did see a lot of blackness. I told her that I saw a black cave with a river and a guy with a hood and sickle in a boat, but that things were not always as literal as they seemed. She said, “I don’t know why, but I keep seeing my brother dying, I keep seeing him die and I don’t know why!” I suggested that she take the positive energy around the hummingbird and send it to him. She slapped her head and said, “Why didn’t I think of that? I have a bird sanctuary in my backyard; I’ll send him a bird.” It was her symbol of life and I guess it worked: I didn’t see her again.

PGN: So, where are you from? DM: I was born here in Philadelphia at Albert Einstein Hospital and I grew up in Bucks County. I have two older sisters, five and seven years older than me. My parents still live there and they’re still together at 40-something years.

PGN: What did/do your parents do? DM: My dad is a home inspector; he does radon and termite and all those lovely pest inspections. When I was a kid, he had one of those ugly neon-green Cooper trucks [laughs] and smelled just wonderful coming home. Now they’re in business together and mom’s the boss. She does all the billing and reports and he still does the inspecting. It’s crazy, he’s crawling under things and up on roofs and loves it. They’ve been in business together for 25 years.

PGN: Are there any bugs you’re afraid of? DM: No, there’s not really much I’m afraid of. Every once in a while, I’ll find a bug and call them up and describe it to see what it is or if it’s harmful.

PGN: What made you so fearless? DM: I don’t know. My sister wrote a paper on me once called “The troubles my brother got into.” She got an A on it. I just was always getting into things. One time I drank kerosene, which was a fun thing to experience. My parents left it in a drinking glass and I mistook it for water. I had to get my stomach pumped. I apparently found a way to destroy rugs and suits. The first suit I ever wore, I went out to play and hugged a grease pole; I fell asleep chewing bubble gum in the second suit and woke up with gum matted all over it; the third one I purposefully snagged on a hook. Thankfully there wasn’t a fourth suit until I went into banking. I once punched a gate that wouldn’t open. It swung forth … and then flew back, puncturing my eyelid. Luckily it didn’t catch the eye itself. I was always having something happen to me.

PGN: And you were the baby of the bunch? DM: I still am called the baby of the bunch even though I have two younger nieces.

PGN: You have a pixyish quality … DM: Yeah, we’re all little in my family. My oldest sister Lori is 4-foot-11, my mother is 5-foot-2, my dad is 5-foot-5 and shrinking; I’m the giant at 5-foot-6.

PGN: Any hobbies? DM: I used to collect coins and stamps, but no longer. They’re in a drawer somewhere hopefully gaining interest. I was really into castles and collected quite a few of them. I’ve always liked structures, which is why I got into landscape architecture. I did some drafting in high school and really enjoyed it. I wanted to go for architecture, but they only accepted a small amount of students for the program and I wasn’t one of them. I remember on Sunday mornings my mother and I would always go to the real-estate section of the newspaper instead of the comics and look at homes. We’d look at the layouts and picture ourselves in the different homes.

PGN: Any tattoos or piercings? DM: Just my ears. The first time I got them pierced, it was during summer of 1990 and I was in Israel. I’d just gotten the one ear pierced, and when I got home my mother made me take it out. She wouldn’t let me in the house with an ear piercing. When I moved out, I re-pierced it and, last year, I had the other one done.

PGN: How was coming out? DM: I think my grandmother knew from day one but my mother was taken by surprise. I was crying in my bedroom and we got into a “we don’t keep secrets in the family” argument. I was about 14 and she thought I was having some kind of male issue. She suggested I talk to my dad and I said, “I doubt dad wants to know that his son is gay!” It just came out. Her jaw dropped and she put her hand over her mouth and left the room. She came back five minutes later with the hand still over the mouth and asked me if I was sure. Then in typical parent fashion, because they didn’t know what else to do, they sent me to a psychiatrist, who basically asked me if this was what I really felt. I said yes, that I was just there for my mom, and that was that. My father took longer, but he came around. My family is fine with it now, including my husband’s family, who have been great as well.

PGN: What was an early sign that you were gay? DM: I knew from around age 10 or so that I was different, but it manifested itself in different ways. I remember that I wanted to be a fire truck when I was little. Not a fireman, a fire truck. I think I liked the idea of a whole bunch of men climbing all over me.

PGN: What type of music would I find on your iPod? DM: Anyone who knows me knows that I love ’80s music. Don’t be surprised if you find Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”

PGN: Who would you want to sit next to at a dinner party? DM: Oh, it’s so gay, but Martha Stewart. I love to entertain and I’d love to pump her for tips. I’d like to be at one of her parties, they must be just perfect. I also think that she’s an interesting woman.

PGN: Who would you contact at a séance? DM: My cousin Mark. He died last year in a freak accident. He was driving his motorcycle on 95 and had an attack of the spleen. He lost control and crashed. His friend was right behind him and saw the whole thing. He was a nice guy and died too young.

PGN: Favorite cartoon as a kid? DM: I liked Garfield. He has the same birthday as me; we’re both Geminis.

PGN: Uh-oh, a Gemini … DM: I’m a classic Gemini, though I think I have more than two personalities! There’s the professional side and there’s the wacky side that just goes crazy. I’ve taken a little time off but, for the past nine years, I’ve sung with the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus. I love to sing, but I also have fun dressing up for rehearsals — sometimes in drag, but sometimes I just do silly things. Geminis love attention. One time I wore one of those leaf canopies that they sell to go over kids’ beds at IKEA. I wore it and went to rehearsal as the Leaf Fairy.

PGN: First crush? DM: With a woman, it was Farah Fransoza. I’d known her since the sixth grade. She was Korean and an unusual person, different from everyone else. We went out twice and decided to be friends. Boys? My first crush? I’m going to get into trouble, but it was one of my sister’s friends. She told me he was gay and I hooked up with him even though he was about 15 years older than me. I think I’ve been into older guys ever since.

PGN: Most creative gift you’ve given? DM: One year I made personal Christmas cards from scratch. I took cardboard and layered it with other paper and glued stuff on them and put little messages on each one. They were really cool, but I didn’t realize what an undertaking it would be. I made 150 and it took me about three weeks to finish them.

PGN: What would you like to be reincarnated as? DM: I know that I’ve been reincarnated before, which is not something most Jewish people would say. It’s not something that’s considered part of Judaism. I was raised Jewish, but I don’t practice it anymore. I think that I’ve been back many times; I believe that I was one of Joseph’s brothers, [and] I believe I was a cactus once. I think I may have been a hyena because I love to laugh. I hope if I come back again, it’s as a dog. At least mine. They have a good life.

PGN: Since you like to laugh, name a time that had you slapping your knee. DM: My husband is from Shamokin, which is in the middle of Bumble … , Pa. It’s where a lot of the coalmines are located and he has the weirdest colloquial sayings. He’ll say things like “light the microwave” or “turn on the switch,” meaning the light. It always cracks me up. One time we were at the coffee table playing a card game and out of the blue he said something like, “Why don’t you dip it in the cranberry juice, I can’t reach it.” The problem was there was no cranberry juice anywhere to be seen. I was on the floor laughing. It was one of his hometown sayings but to this day, I have no idea what it meant. But that’s what keeps life fun.

Dan Myers can be reached at (215) 901-0899 or through his Web site, www.breathe3.com.

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