Tuesday, October 31, 2006


...when it comes to the cost of a drop-in yoga class in New York City.

On Saturday night I met the ashtanga teacher Vanessa at the home of MisGrace, and on Sunday I checked out her Mysore class at Shiva Shala in Patti Perez's exquisite East Village loft space. It was strange not going to Eddie Stern. But my back is still out and I didn't want to push it and I think V. knew that. It was a lovely practice.

Afterwards I met Cousin Marlene and her husband Alan for Chinese food and schmying in Times Square -- where I was treated to witty conversation, lots of memories and one of the best steamed vegetable plates of my life. Al dente indeed.

On Monday and Tuesday I went to Dharma Mittra's noon yoga class. Can I just say what a treat it is to practice at such a reasonable hour? And even though my last class with Dharma in NYC was in 1999, my name was still in thir computer. Scary.

The class was more packed this time around and sprinkled with good-looking, superbendy young people. Yet there was none of that competitive yogascene BS in the air. In fact I think I was the only one in Lululemon togs -- which is a good thing since I sweated buckets and their products really do seem to wick away moisture.

Dharma's vinyasa sequence is beyond intense; there is so much repitition where you go deeper into the pose each time. Instead of downward dog you can do tons of pinca mayurasanas (forearm balances) and you're allowed to do difficult variations of just about every pose; some of the students could jump effortlessly from handstand-splits right into Hanumanasana (sitting splits). (Yet later on, after we were encouraged to do "whatever poses you want" for ten minutes -- something that I've introduced in a few of my classes and which often causes confusion -- a bendy handsome French gent asked me for tips on getting into dwi pada sirsasana (balancing on your sitting bones while both legs are behind the head). I was floored. But as Dharma said in his Chicago workshop last year, "When you see someone doing a pose, don't think 'That is them.' Instead think, 'That is me.'"

This time he said, "Keep your eyes open. Look around at the other students. You may learn something." Which I did.

I found myself not able to do things I take for granted, and doing poses I'd never tried before. Dharma showed me new ways to do advanced versions of a couple of poses -- including King Pigeon -- that I've only been halfheartedly trying to do. And one of his students showed me how to kick into pinca mayurasana (forearm balance) with my legs together. It was the yogic-mind blow I've been yearning for, and it helped me go from I'm in a rut I'm in a rut I'm in a rut to Anything is possible.

On Tuesday morning I was sore as hell from Monday's practice and headachy from indulging in the migraine cocktail of red wine and dark chocolate with friends the previous night, and did not want to go to class. I was so loath to go that I showed up three minutes late. But they let me in anyway, and I practiced on my thin orange travel mat, and the sequence built off what we'd done the previous day. Soon I had no pain and no headache and no thoughts of the past or future.

Later on I felt cleansed, and spoke Spanish with the Ecuadorian driver on the way to the airport. Somehow I made it onto an earlier flight which was uneventful despite Mercury being in Retrograde. To get home I took the El (subway) to the bus and the ride was so lovely....the driver pulled right up to the curb at each stop so that the passengers could step easily onto the sidewalk without having to leap or step into the gutter. So as I was getting off I told him so and thanked him.

If only this feeling would last.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


At the Annie Leibovitz exhibit at the Brooklyn Art Museum they screen a video about how the show came together. They interview everyone from Arnold to Whoopie, and they all talk about the importance of family and how Leibovitz depicts family in her photos and her own family and how close she is to them and they are to her and how there were so many of them in her family and how great it is now that she has her own (three) kids.

There was also some talk about how hard it is to be a single parent.

Then they showed Leibovitz in her studio, sorting through mountains of photographs. Working hard. At one point her nanny comes in with the twins.

"Hi," Leibovitz says to them, bending down.

"Bye" she says, less than a minute later.

It was one of the finest movie moments of the year, hands down.

Yet no one else laughed.

On Thursday two runners came to the 6AM yoga class. Both were quite young. They said they were sore from doing the Chicago Marathon on Sunday but that their ailments did not include shin splints.

One gave up after the first half hour.

The second one made it almost to the end.

Monday, October 23, 2006


It was one of those weekends.

Plans to see Hollywoodland were scrapped at the last minute last Friday night. The next morning I drove my arse to the Paul Dallaghan workshop in the suburbs and accidentally went to the old studio and got so lost finding the new one that by the time I got there that I was so late I turned around and went home (where I did a two-hour yoga practice). That night SportMarty and I went to see the Departed. But the only seats left by the time I finally got there were in the second row, all the way to the right... at a theater where the screen is already on a weird angle. After watching for two minutes our necks hurt so badly we stormed the lobby and exchanged our tickets for Little Miss Sunshine, which I wanted to hate but could not. (Does anyone else think that Greg Kinnear is simply a slightly upscale William H. Macy)? Afterwards we went in the front door of the nearby Mexican restaurant, saw there was not a single open chair, walked all the way through to the rear room, which was also full, and kept going right out the back door.

On Thursday things fared better when a group of us went to see our friend the actress Lily Mojekwu in the play Another Part of the House. It dealt with the two things that scare men most; women's emotions and sexuality. Perhaps that explains why the lone male in our group fell asleep. It was based on a play by the Spanish writer Garcia Lorca, who hailed from Andalucia and was a contemporary of Louis Bunuel and Salvador Dali. But apparently he took it personally when they called their famous surrealist film collaboration Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog), and they fell out. But it was the fascists that killed him in the end.

SportMarty and I tried again to see The Departed on Saturday and this time we met with success. But Jack Nicholson made his irritating "Here's Johnny" look so often I wanted to go up there and smack him. Marky Mark was brilliant as the crazy detective with all the good lines. Afterwards we had an animated discussion about the film over margaritas and comida at the Mexican place -- where we scored the best seat. We were so loud in fact we attracted the attention of the guy at the next table, who grabbed us on our way out and began a new spirited discussion of the film while his girlfriend silently sipped her drink and looked down at the floor.

This afternoon I played hooky and went to see the remake of the Bollywood classic Don. Shahrukh Khan is no Amitabh Bachchan (who played the dual role in the original, 1978 version) and I went in with a wrinkled nose and arms folded over my chest. There were four of us at the brand-new theatre, which is in the heart of the city's Gold Coast neighobrhood, in the middle of the Mag Mile -- aka the toniest part of the city, at 600 N. Michigan. Another major Bollywood release, Jaan-E-Maan is also playing there. (Yet apparently that's not enough to warrant capsule reviews in the city's free independent weekly).

Like The Departed this was a mobster movie with crooked cops and slippery informants and twists and turns and foot chases and carefully-choreographed cell phone exchanges and plot problems galore and a bizarro plot bomb dropped at the very end. Don however had better music (think James Bond on the crack) and costumes and special effects and dancing and, uh, a moral center. It took place primarily in Malaysia -- which is a lot more appealing than Boston. And in Bollywood movies the mobsters enjoy the fruits of their illicit lifestyle; unlike the slob Jack Nicholson with his stubble and spittle and dive bars and grody cronies and crappy little hideouts, SKR and his well-dressed ilk shaved regularly and lived it up in highrises and on the beach -- and also got up off their arses and danced from time to time. Plus their molls did more than stand by and prescribe drugs and wring their hands.

I wanted to hate SKR's Don but I couldn't. His range is limited but he's just so charming. Plus whenever you got sick of him, in walked the handsomest man in the world -- Arjun Rampal. Once his character started limping and carrying a cane I was a goner.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


The enterprising muckrakers at the scrappy Chicago Sun-Times just kicked the conservative Chicago Tribune's corpulant ass with an astonishing piece of investigative reporting. Writers Tim Novak and Art Golab show that some 20 percent of patronage workers* have been "injured" on the job and filed disability claims with the city -- which pays to settle out of its own (i.e.; OUR) pocket.

"The city has spent more than $38.9 million to resolve 1,719 claims filed by those patronage workers during the last two decades. Another 708 claims are pending. Some with pending cases have been off work for years, disappearing even from the city payroll, as if they were ghosts -- but still, in most cases, getting 75 percent of their salary while on "duty disability."

The story is accompanied by a photo of a city truck driver bending over and doing lawn work -- while on paid leave for injuring his back after falling out of his truck for the third time during his decade on the job.

Perhaps this, combined with the myriad other scandals rocking his administration, means that Mayor Daley II's 17-year reign is about to end.


The sheep that populate the Windy City would never permit it.

*patronage worker = a relative of a politician or a local who has done political favors for someone in power and has been rewarded with a cushy job for which they possess little or no qualifications.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Or is this not-so-vaguely obscene?

And is this not Michael Jackson?

For those keeping score: both snaps were taken on Clark Street; the first is across the street from Wrigley Field (where Steve Davis ran into Bob Mould in the head after a 1984 Husker Du show at the Metro. Don't worry; Bob behaved himself) and the second in the heart of bourgeois Lincoln Park.

Friday, October 13, 2006


When a new student mentions that the only type of yoga they have done is Bikram (hot yoga), one must remember to impose upon them that Caca subscribes to the Judith Laster school of savasana (ie, longer is better) rather than the Bikram version (a minute or two is enough).

In other words, It ain't over til Caca rings the bell / your bladder is about to burst (whichever comes first).

That way they won't get up ten minutes before the class ends and make the floors creak and wake everyone up and then apologize later at Pockets.


Mea culpa, that one.

But not when it happened last Saturday in an ashtanga primary series class one subbed.

They should know better.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


This morning I was having a fabulous dream where I was slaying rattlesnakes and trying to come up with an antivenum serum. Then I realized I was dreaming. The thought, If this is a dream then you've probably overslept entered my mind and I began to paw my way to consciousness, much like a dog paddling in water towards shore and just about as slow.

Sure enough, when the eyes finally came unstuck the alarm clock said 6:10. Which meant that my first class had already started. WIthout me.


I stumbled out of bed, called the health club and asked them to tell the students I'd be in at 6:30, and to warm up until I got there.

When I arrived they were there on their mats, doing yoga.

Without a teacher.

Some were doing vinyasas. One woman was in the classical version of Ardha Chandrasana (the standing side stretch) and another was on her back doing a hip opener. The rest were a blur.

Of course they all were all sneaking looks at the two massive mirrors that span the room.

Still, they were doing yoga on their own.

And well on their way to developing a home practice.

Which would be the half-full part of the equation.

And this on a day when, after the second class, it snowed like crazy while I drove my oversleeping arse to class number three in the integrated suburban enclave of Oak Park -- the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway .

Hemingway left Oak Park at 18 and never looked back, famously dismissing it as "broad lawns and narrow minds."

Nonetheless the moms there are tough, and do all their vinyasas without complaint.

And one suspects they won't end up offing themselves while "cleaning their shotgun(s)".*


*Many members of Hemingway's immediate family also committed suicide, including his father, Clarence Hemingway, and his siblings Ursula and Leicester.....Hemingway donated his entire Cuban estate to Fidel Castro. He is interred in the Ketchum Cemetery in Ketchum, Idaho. The local public elementary school there is named in his honor. In 1996, his granddaughter, actress Margaux Hemingway, would take her own life; she is interred in the same cemetery. (From All Experts)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


The BBC just did a story on the disappearances, torture, murder and intimidation that occur daily in Iraq. They say an average of 60 tortured and murtilated bodies are found each day in and around Baghdad; the Shiites are doing it to the Sunnis who live in mixed areas, and the Sunnis are doing it to the Shiites who live in mixed areas. Those who don't leave receive notes telling them to move out or they will be tortured and killed, too. Since February some 300,000 people have been displaced as they flee to areas where others of their ilk are in the majority. The news people keep invoking "sectarian" violence. The Sunday New York Times carried a long cover story about teens whose lives have been derailed by the violence; they can't go to school or leave the country and stay home barricaded inside all day. Former friends of different sects no longer trust each other. Everyone knows someone who's been killed. But no one can get a visa to get out

One can't help but think of India after Partition, when the British handed over power in 1947 without having much of a security plan once the two new states of primarily Hindu India and primarily Muslim Pakistan were created at Midnight. A estimated one million people were killed as Hindus and Sikhs headed towards India and Muslims fled north to Pakistan. It was a massive disaster and the repercussions continue today when "communual" violence flares up.

It's Post-Colonialism 101: When the colonial powers leave, the groups that lived side-by-side and had a common enemy in their overlords go at each others throats in a bid for power.

Of course you can substitute "dictator" or "puppet" or "despot" for "colonial powers" and the same thing happens.

You'd think the geniuses who decided to invade Iraq -- and who went to far better schools than I did -- would have studied these things and taken them into account when they removed ol' Saddam and tried to install "democracy."

Because the next move, of course, is for the winner to take over the nation's natural resources.

Which in thise case would be the oil reserves.


Friday, October 06, 2006


Miss Grace recommended I read the book The War of Art in order to get over my writer's block.

Apparently it's working. You can view an excerpt here.

Since I'm "working" there's been no time to fool around uploading photos from last weekend's college reunion and radio station takeover. Or to write, in excruciating detail, about My Yoga Practice and Everything About the World that Bothers Me.

Nothing like a flashback weekend and a kick in the pants from the peers to remind one of what's important.


Tonight is Falguni's Dandiya concert-cum-dance-party -- in the northwest suburban shithole they call Schaumburg -- where they put on outfits and do the Gujarati dance with the sticks. Dare I go?

A more apt question might be: Will anyone dare go with me?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Reunion weekend was an amazing experience and not just because I had a massive sinus/nerves/PMS-fueled headache the entire time. First, we spent Friday night with our classmates at the official cocktail party and later on at The Lantern (the only place to get a beer and a burger in the mostly-dry Enchanted Forest). That's where some of our more Greek-oriented peers declined to join us at our long table that included people from a variety of social groups (radio, eurotrash, potheads-cum-lawyers/government policy analysts, general GDI's, and truly nice people like Page who maneuvered freely between all groups). They found it necessary to move to a different room, and poor Dr. Bob (another nice person who was able to negotiate a variety of groups) was caught in the middle. Twenty-year-old habits die hard.

On Saturday our alternative Homecoming schedule included a long and leisurely breakfast at the Deerpath Inn followed by an optional trip to the candy store Sweets, which is no longer owned by Mr. Dick (where o where do they get off charging $10/pound for mediocre chocolate?), and the takeover of the campus radio station. Especially after watching old videos, listening to old radio shows and looking at old pictures on Saturday night, one could not help but be flooded with memories of how easy things used to be, how much free time we had, and how we were indulged by the adminstration (You want to be on the radio? Go ahead! You want to write a smart-assy little column for the newspaper? We won't censor you! You can't decide on a major? Make up your own! You want to be in a band that plays original three-chord postpunk ditties about US intervention in central America and students named Elizabeth DeNoma, or covers songs like "Damaged Goods" and changes the lyrics from Bowie's "Sufragette City" to "Calumet City?" Go for it! You want to protest Apartheid? The president of the college will come out and watch, but be careful because you may be pelted with garbage by the strivers in the Alpha Chi fraternity. You want to take the campus van to a Cure concert in a dangerous neighborhood? Here are the keys! You want Naked Raygun to play in Commons? Here's some money! You want T-Bone Burnett to host the Ra Weekend talent show? Here's some more money! You want to try to kill yourself by taking too much aspirin? Go right ahead -- but do it too many times and we may just have to kick you off campus for a semester).

At one point JT pointed out the obvious: how ill-equipped we were to handle that first year out of college. It was the middle of the reign of Reagan and the worst year ever for college graduates as far as job prospects were concerned. Expensive liberal arts educations were considered a joke, and we shared dark $600/month apartments and went to graduate school in order to put off reality for as long as possible or landed menial jobs at places like Mrs. Field's Cookies and Guadalaharry's restaurant and Crate & Barrel.

Some of us of course quit grad school once twice three times before figuring out what we wanted to do nearly a decade later. And we're still not happy, are we....

And one couldn't help but think what it would have been like for us if there had been blogs and The Internets and podcasting and Pro Tools and digital video cameras and iMovie. Instead we struggled with trying to find outlets for the crap we wrote on our Tandy 1000's (or gave up altogether) and worked in (expensive) film or tried to land gigs for our little analog bands or begged for DJ gigs that paid $30 a night or signed up to learn how to use the bulky 3/4 -inch video equipment at the public access station.

Maybe it wasn't that bad after all. But still.... We didn't even have air conditioners or cable TV or computers in our dorm rooms. We waited hours to use the pay phone in the basement so we could call Ma Bell to hook up the telephones in our rooms. We had to wait hours in front of College Hall on registration day so we could sign up for the classes we needed to graduate. We had go to the library if we wanted to use a computer and composed most of our papers on TYPEWRITERS, for cryin' out loud. MySpace my ass -- we had to attend actual parties and "video dances" in order to meet people....

And we walked miles in the snow in order to do it.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Below you will find the parody song that inspired a group of pledges from the Phi Pi Epsilon fraternity to surround and humiliate me in front of everyone in the dining hall (symbolic rape, anyone?) and the Brotherhood purpose unit to attempt to attack me at a video dance party in Commmons (fortunately I was tipped off) and some members acting on their own to chase and throw things at some of my friends from the radio station. This shitty little ditty polarized the campus for a few weeks. Twenty years later, both fraternties are defunct. New ones have taken their place of course. It was nonetheless heartening to hear the radio station's music director ask, "What's Brotherhood?"

Some more background: The "purpose units" at our small (1200) liberal arts campus consisted of groups that lived together -- such as the Black United and Concerned Students and International House -- as well as fraternities and sororities. Until this point they'd had prime housing set aside for them. But each year there were more new Greek units (it was the Reagan years after all), and assistant Dean Steve Watter (he didn't last long) came up with a new plan to make room draw more equitable. In other words, purpose units had to draw numbers along with everyone else. The Greeks were outraged, and circulated petitions. A group of big male frat-jocks brought these petitions door-to-door to my all-girls' dorm, and stood over us as they waited for us to sign. Which wouldn't have been that big a deal, except for the fact that they also happened to be carrying baseball bats. Intimidating? Oh, maybe just a little.....

from the 2/18/86 Stentor
The Poison Pen Creates a New Shuffle
(sung to the tune of The Superbowl Shuffle)
By Satya Cacananda

We are the frats and sororities too
Creatin' a social life just for you
We like to have the parties for which you've helped pay
If they take away our housing we'll soon go 'way
It's pledge season so watch out during meals
We'll be singing our songs and sayin' our spiels
But we're not worried 'bout Szabo* trouble
They can't make us do the purpose unit shuffle

Asst. Dean of Students Steve Watter
This is Steve, and it's no wonder
I may have made a big housing blunder
The Greeks're mad at me, you know it's true
But I'm just doin' what I was told to do
Change the system and move them around
Put 'em on South* in one compound
But I'm not here to feathers ruffle
I just came to do the purpose unit shuffle

Greek Heads
We're the heads of the Greeks, big and bold
Do what we say our our alumni will withhold
We don't wanna mess with the status quo
Drawin' with the rest would really blow
Some of the units really do good stuff
So we enlisted their aid when things got rough
Please don't try to burst our bubble
They can't make us do the purpose unit shuffle

Our social life is not the issue here
We know how to have fun without your beer
Just leave us alone and quit wrecking our meals
with your stupid petitions and your pledging ordeals
Some of the units actully have a purpose
Those are not the ones that bother us
So get out of our faces, on the double
We don't wanna hear about the purpose unit shuffle


*South Campus was home to gnarley dorms that featured Cabrini Green-inspired architecture

**Szabo is the dining hall where everyone ate together. Well, where everyone ate with their own little cliques....just as they did Friday night at The Lantern.