Judging by the online comments on reporter Layla Bohm's story about the Royal Day Spa incident, Lodians have more than a passing interest in the tawdry. [Lodi Masseuse Arrested for Alleged Assault, by Layla Bohm, Lodi News-Sentinel, May 23, 2009]
I freely admit that I include myself among those fascinated by the prurient.
The particulars of the case intrigue me and, because I have some extremely limited personal knowledge of what transpires inside the Royal Day Spa, they also immediately aroused my suspicion.
According to the police report, a 32-year-old Oregon visitor unfamiliar with the Royal Day Spa's frequent violations and dubious reputation went in for a massage to help alleviate his pain from a gunshot wound sustained in Iraq.
When the customer refused an alleged sexual advance, manager Nga Thi Khuu demanded $50.00 and pursued him to his car where she, again allegedly, threw rocks at his vehicle.
Forgive me, but even if the victim had never set foot in Lodi, his story is weak.
The Royal Day Spa, as seen while driving along Lodi Avenue, is a forbidding place. Window shades are drawn, the building needs paint and only a neon sign "Open" gives any indication of life within.
No one could possibly approach it without trepidation. Most certainly, the Royal Day Spa does not give any indication that it is the place to go for a professional Shiatsu massage, the type our visitor wanted.
For argument's sake, let's give the victim the benefit of the doubt and allow that he is merely a trusting sojourner. But once he arrived inside the Royal Day Spa, he could not have the slightest doubt about its nefarious purposes.
During the ten years or so that the Royal Day Spa has been open, I must have driven past it during my daily Lodi rounds no less than 5,000 times.
One day, after about 2,500 trips, my journalist's curiosity got the best of me and I decided to go in. Lest a passer-by might identify me and incorrectly assume that I was "officially" patronizing the Royal Day Spa, I parked my Jeep well out of sight.
When I entered, no one was behind the desk—no magazines, no diplomas, no aquariums, no licenses, no flowers and no televisions to while away the time.
Finally, I knocked on a closed door that apparently led to the massage area. After a few minutes, a completely disheveled woman in a terry cloth robe emerged.
I'm sure she thought I was an undercover cop. And, since I felt compelled to say something, I asked if I could purchase a Royal Day Spa gift certificate!
Told there was no such thing, I beat a hasty retreat.
My point is that, no matter what our visitor may say, it's impossible to be inside the Royal Day Spa and have the impression that everything is completely on the up and up.
Perhaps the police intervention will bring some good. Lodi has twice as many spas/massage parlors as it does Starbucks stores. The spas add nothing positive to the community. Their storefronts are an eyesore.
Since the spas are mostly Asian owned and operated, I'd bet that immigration violations are common even though that was not a factor in the most recent incident. But some massage parlors in other California cities have been linked to money laundering and human trafficking.
And if I were a legitimate masseuse who had paid for my courses, studied hard, remained current on my licensing fees and worked hard to build up a business, the unfair competition would make me unhappy.
Whatever police time is expended monitoring the spas would be better off used in pursuit of more serious crimes.
Ironically, while the economy is forcing mass retail closings, the massage business is booming.
Even though I now live in the western Pennsylvania sticks, a massage parlor is less than a mile away.
What that says about how some Americans spend their disposal income, even in a dramatic financial downturn, I will leave for you to interpret.
Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.