Wednesday, January 31, 2007
I mentioned on Sunday that it seems like the only Americans who still retain a sense of wonder are children, immigrants and older working class folks. Those are the people who stopped and stared when I did Saturday's yoga demo.
The whole time of course I was thinking about Robert Smigel's brilliant short "The Baby, The Immigrant, and the Guy on Mushrooms," which originally aired on the most subversive program yet to appear on cable television -- TV Funhouse.
Prior to YouTube I'd seen it only once -- but it stuck in my head.
Now it can be viewed over and over, out of context, until it no longer seems like the masterpiece it truly is.
HeRe'S CrUmB AnD ThE ChAkRaS
I was doing research on the glands of the endocrine system and their relation to the chakras of the yoga system when I came across this gem. It originally appeared on the cover of the UK Guardian; for a larger version, click here or on the image itself.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
I gave in to my addiction yesterday.
The monkey was on my back.
I was Jonesin'.
I could not help myself.
The higher power did not stop me.
I gave in.
I ate 1.25 bags of heavily sea-salted Frontera Lime Stone-Ground Organic Yellow Corn Tortilla Chips.
I ate them straight from the bag(s), while sitting in front of the computer.
I savored the salt.
I made a mess.
I did not stop until there was only one chip remaining at the bottom of the bag.
"If you eat that, you're really in trouble," I thought.
So I threw that one out with the bag.
I felt like crap before, during and after the ordeal.
In fact I still feel like crap.
But afterwards I began working on the Project I've been putting off for the past six months.
And then I did some of my teacher training homework, and later dreamt that I was on the right path yoga-wise.
So maybe corn chips aren't the problem.
Perhaps they're part of the solution.
I'm sure Hemingway and all the other drunken writers thought that about the drink, too....
At least I'm in good company.
It has been a very mild winter in Chicago.
There has been barely any snowfall, which means that the city has used very little salt on the streets to melt it.
Yesterday it snowed just enough to make it look like a winter wonderland.
The salt trucks were out even before it started to snow.
And they stayed out; could it be that the city needs to get rid of all the salt they have stockpiled, so they can buy more from their connected friends?
Could it be they need to give some overtime to the sanitation workers who moonlight as ward cretins?
Could it be that there's a mayoral primary coming up?
But I digress.
Last night it was snowing lightly and the city trucks were still out.
You'd think we were expecting the Blizzard of '79.
There was so much salt on the Clark Street that the tires literally crunched as I drove north.
It was exactly like driving on gravel.
But by this morning the snow had stopped.
Everything -- buildings, cars, signs, the street itself -- was covered in a fine coating of salty dust.
It was floating in the air, making everything a little bit blurry.
The eyes even watered.
You could taste the salt on your lips and in your mouth.
Corn chips would have been redundant today.
Monday, January 29, 2007
DRISHTI MY ASS
I did a yoga demonstration at the super yoga megastore on Saturday.
It was Yoga Day, an initiative designed to bring yoga to the masses.
I was a little skittish.
I thought of the early days of the famous Limelight nightclub, where live models did strange things behind glass.
Then I thought of Manju Jois in Pondcherry, who did such an amazing demonstration that the Americans who saw it tracked down his father and begged him to teach them ashtanga yoga.
So I did primary series in the megastore's front window for an hour and a half.
I did this in an upscale, verywhite neighborhood.
I did it wearing one of their space-age outfits -- which I got to keep.
I did it beneath one of those "Chicago is Fat" signs.
So when I did Prasarita Padottanasana (above), I made sure my arse faced away from the street.
Not many people stopped and stared during the demo.
The majority of those that noticed did a double take and then pretended not to be looking.
Too cool for that.
The only ones who stopped and openly stared fell into three categories*:
-Older working class folks
Not that I was looking at them or anything.
*Sometimes I think that these are the only people left in the America who still have a sense of wonder -- and aren't afraid to show it.
(Well, maybe not the precocious little gourmands pictured below. In fact they may already be jaded enough to start a band. They could call themselves Plum and the Gourmands).
Sunday, January 28, 2007
I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS A PLANET
Half of the world's children may be starving, but the trend among mature, upscale urban parents (MUUPs) is to turn their offspring into miniature foodie versions of themselves.
They are sending them to cooking clases where they make haute cuisine, and dining out with them at NYC's top restaurants -- where they wear ties and order from the adult menu.
(One of these kids is named Plum).
"It's a badge of urban sophisticate honor to have your kid be an adventurous eater," says one of the offenders quoted in the New York Times article, These Kid Never say 'Yech'"!
Nope -- it's the readers who are retching.
"Some mothers start children’s gastronomic education while still pregnant, eating spicy and garlicky meals, and continue to do so while nursing, citing research that suggests children exposed to many tastes through breast milk or in the womb are less likely to be picky eaters."
How many people eating garlic and paying $40 for a fancy kid's cooking lesson do you suppose donate to groups devoted to eradicating world hunger?
But it's not all fun and Frankenstein games.
"Mr. Ripert admitted he learned a lesson when he offered his son, Adrien, now 3, a burger that was medium-rare — the only way real food snobs will eat it — at 18 months.
"'I didn’t want him to have meat well done his whole life,' Mr. Ripert explained. 'The nanny said, "You don’t do that for a baby." I did it. He got sick. Since then we have been reluctant with red meat. I do spaghetti Bolognese and he loves that. But no steak yet.'"
All together now:
Saturday, January 27, 2007
YOU'RE DRIVING ME MAD WITH YOUR APOSTROPHE ABUSE
Yes, you are.
Notice that I didn't say "Yes, your."
I read your (not "you're") mistakes everywhere -- on blogs, in e-mails and on signs and brochures.
"The Earth celebrates it's 10th anniversary on the wagon its been riding since 1996."
"It sucks when your nodding out and everyone else wants to smoke the last of you're opium."
"Their smoking the last of they're weed, and still have a month to go."
GOD HELP US.
And then there's the related two/to/too problem, which we'll get into later ("They drank to much and then went too the zoo" -- EEK!).
Please, for your sake (because it's the abuser who looks lazy and uninformed and will eventually wind up in Grammar Prison, not the reader) -- print and clip this quick lesson and then put it into use:
It's = It is (It's a longshot but the Bears could win)
Its = possession (The owner bit its dog in the face)
You're = You are (You're being advised to stop abusing the apostrophe immediately)
Your = possession (But it's your choice if you decide not to. Of course it's my choice to stop reading your butchered words).
They're = They are (They know better but they're doing it anyway)
Their = possession (It's their apostrophe and they're going to put it wherever they want, dammit!)
Then there's the possession problem when it comes to nouns:
In "The owner's dogs ate her breakfast," "dogs" is plural (no apostrophe) and "owner's" is possessive -- which does require an apostrophe.
Plural = No apostrophe. Ever: "Her cars won't run".
Possession (when it's not a pronouns such as your, it, her or their) = requires an apostrophe. As in, "Casey's car still won't run but at least it's hers." or "The car's heat vent emitted a strange odor."
Two = number. "She gave up after two sun salutations -- which to her mind were two too many."
Too = “also” (“I want some soy ice cream, too.”) and “in excess" ("They ate too much soy ice cream and were no longer able to bind in the two Marichyasana twists")
To = all other uses. "He was too lazy to go to the shala and gained two pounds.".
If you're an analytical, Iyengarian type and need the actual rules regarding the apostrophe:
The apostrophe has three uses:
1) to form possessives of nouns
2) to show the omission of letters
3) to indicate certain plurals of lowercase letters.
And from ApostropheAbuseDotOrg:
Apostrophes are to be used:
In a contraction to denote a missing letter or letters
The morons can't spell. CORRECT
To denote possession
The moron's paper used unacceptable grammar. CORRECT
Apostrophes are not used for plurals. Ever. Under any circumstances. At all.
The moron's indiscriminately use apostrophes anywhere they please. INCORRECT
Apostrophes are not used for the possessive form of it, nor are they used in ours, yours or hers.
If not, keep going:
From Britain's Apostrophe Abuse Society, which is far too (not "to") polite if you ask me:
The rules concerning the use of Apostrophes in written English are very simple:
1. They are used to denote a missing letter or letters, for example:
I can't instead of I cannot
I don't instead of I do not
it's instead of it is
2. They are used to denote possession, for example:
the dog's bone
the company's logo
Jones's bakery (but Joneses' bakery if owned by more than one Jones)
... but please note that the possessive form of it does not take an apostrophe any more than ours, yours or hers do
the bone is in its mouth
... however, if there are two or more dogs, companies or Joneses in our example, the apostrophe comes after the 's':
the dogs' bones
the companies' logos
3. Apostrophes are NEVER ever used to denote plurals! Common examples of such abuse (all seen in real life!) are:
Banana's for sale which of course should read Bananas for sale
Menu's printed to order which should read Menus printed to order
MOT's at this garage which should read MOTs at this garage
1000's of bargains here! which should read 1000s of bargains here!
New CD's just in! which should read New CDs just in!
Buy your Xmas tree's here! which should read Buy your Xmas trees here!
Note: Special care must be taken over the use of your and you're as they sound the same but are used quite differently:
your is possessive as in this is your pen
you're is short for you are as in you're coming over to my house
We are aware of the way the English language is evolving during use, and do not intend any direct criticism of those who have made the mistakes above. We are just reminding all writers of English text, whether on notices or in documents of any type, of the correct usage of the apostrophe should you wish to put right mistakes you may have inadvertently made.
Friday, January 26, 2007
A nice reader named Sauterel says that the so-called oldest man in the world has died.
Of course I thought s/he was talking about 117-year-old yogi Swami Bua.
But apparently the reference was to 115-year-old Puerto Rican sugar cane farmer Emiliano Mercado del Toro.
"He died like a little angel," said his grand niece.
Del Toro was never married and had no children.
There's no info on whether he practiced yoga.
Now they are saying that 114-year-old Connecticut woman, Emma Faust Tillman, is the oldest living person.
But we all know it's Swami Bua.
I met him last year and took a class with him in Hell's Kitchen.
The article about it is here.
The New Yorker ran their own piece some months later.
Swami Bua was very insistent that I close my hands (ie, fingers together) in each and every pose. Even the hand that was on the floor had to be closed.
He showed me all of the pictures on his walls, which featured him and Sai Baba and Famous Westerners.
At the end he asked me, "Are you happy?"
On New Year's Eve longtime SoHo denizens and musical theatre-folks The Goodmans left a delightful tag-team message on my answering machine about Swami Bua, which I have yet to erase.
Miriam said she was taking cooking classes with him when she and Paul met eons ago.
He'd also ask her, "Are you happy?"
He liked the ladies.
Miriam said we should go see him the next time I'm in NYC.
I can no longer blame yesterday's moroseness on the death of Swami Bua -- since it wasn't him.
So maybe the sobbing on the way home from the radio show taping -- which featurd a performance by Robbie and Donna Fulks -- was because it was a Valentine's Day special, my career is shit and the parking cost $26.
My original Swami Bua post is here.
Sauterel's comment follows:
I met Swami Bua in 1977 and spent most of that year with him doing yoga and cooking big meals for everybody. He was great, very funny, always laughing and joking, fond of pretty girls, energetic and youthful in behaviour and movement though he definitely looked his age, which was a mere 87 then. Little did I realize then that by the time I would be in my 50's I would find it so difficult to be anywhere near his level of vitality that he had at 87. He was very devoted to Sai Baba but also extremely independent and extroverted. I was quite astonished but then maybe not so astonished, last year (2006) to find that he is still alive. I managed to find out his telephone number and called him up. I recognized his voice right away and he sounded pretty good at 116. The news today announced that 'the oldest man' in the w"orld died at 115. Swami Bua tried to teach them a thing or two many years ago but they ignored him, and they keep on ignoring him, but he's still older (and yet younger) that the so-called oldest man. Even though I have not seen him for 30 years now, I will never forget him.
While researching this I came across this article about Hindu-Muslim riots in Bangalore this week. These riots were essentially caused by the US:
Hindu Muslim Riots in Bangalore Under Control
BANGALORE, INDIA, January 22, 2007: Federal police were deployed and schools were shut in India's technology hub of Bangalore on Monday after communal rioting between Hindus and Muslims left one 12-year-old boy dead and dozens of people hurt. Protests by thousands of Muslims against last month's execution of Saddam Hussein in Iraq sparked a chain of violence over the weekend between the minority Muslims and nationalist Hindus, police and witnesses said. Riot police patrolled empty streets of downtown Bangalore on Monday but operations in the city's numerous software firms and call centers, mostly outside the city centre, were unaffected.
Muslims protesting against the execution of Iraq's toppled president clashed with police on Friday, ransacking shops owned by Hindus and burning at least 15 cars. Protesters at a rally on Sunday of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps) then attacked shops owned by minority Muslims and stoned vehicles, forcing police to fire on rampaging crowds, killing the boy. Police said at least 150 people had been arrested on Sunday.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
"I think the entire world we live in is fabricated," Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro told Terry Gross on Fresh Air today.
The director of the best film I've seen in ages was referring to borders, political parties and religions. He sounded like he was referring to the Hindu concept of Maya, or fear-driven illusion or false belief.*
"These imagined conceits can create such horrors," he said, in an accent that recalled Cheech Martin.
When asked about the darkness of the movie, which takes place just after the Spanish Civil War, he said, "You need horror for beauty and poetry to exist."
Funny, I've been reading something similar in Autobiography of a Yogi:
"Creation is light and shadow both, else no picture is possible. The good and evil of maya must ever alternate in supremacy. If joy were ceaseless here in this world, would man ever seek another? Without suffering he scarcely cares to recall that he has forsaken his eternal home."
I wonder if del Toro meditates.**
I know he's a Catholic.
He told Terry that he and Alfred Hitchcock have a lot in common.
"We're both fat, Catholic and repressed."
Go see the movie.
*I've never understood why people name their children Maya.
**Some of my favorite famous folks do some form of meditation:
Howard Stern (Trancendental Meditation for decades), David Lynch (TM for 35 years), R. Crumb (sits for 45 miutes each morning) and Leonard Cohen (who lived in a Buddhist monastery for a year). George Harrison and Alice Coltrane were also pretty Hindu-y.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Caca's Mid-January Index
7: Number of classes taught Sunday and Monday
40: Size of largest class
1: Size of smallest class
4: "Importance of Savasana" (corpse pose) speeches by Caca
15: Number of walk-outs prior to Savasana, despite speech.
3: Attempts to make the perfect cup of hot chocolate
1: Of which was successful
1: Massive moderno art print (above) gifted to Caca by her friend
2: Nails required to hang print above dining room table
1: Jackhammer so loud it awakened Caca this morning
11: Water Department men standing around "working"
1: Exchange with Water Department men:
GUY ONE: You want his autograph for that picture?
CACA: Nope. I just need the image, thanks
GUY TWO: You sure?
CACA: What's going on, anyway? What happened?
GUY ONE: The water main that serves these three buildings here is ruptured.
GUY TWO: We called the managment company -- the number that's on the side of the buiding.
CACA: That's not a management company -- it's the owner.
GUY ONE: Well, did they call you and tell you that the water will be off?
GUY ONE: Well it'll be off most of the day
CACA: That's OK. I have backup water. I know what to do. I've lived in India.
Monday, January 22, 2007
"LIFE IS NOT FOR DOING YOGA. YOGA IS FOR MAKING LIFE BETTER."
So says India's wildly popular yogi Swami Ramdev -- whose practice and teaching consist primarily of pranayama (breathing exercises) -- in this BBC article.
"Earlier I also used to try the really difficult asans [postures]. But gradually I understood there is no need to push and punish oneself needlessly. So now I practise and teach simple breathing exercises which keep one healthy and stress-free," he says.
Go here and here to learn more.
Just don't tell the asana police.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
In honor of today's big Bears win we bring you this rare photograph of a Goodbye Girl-era Dreyfus (Caca's brother) and Papa Bear George Halas -- one of the founders of the National Football League.
I found this old pic of Papa Bear George Halas and myself from 1981.
No comments regarding the glasses, please! They were cool then.
It was some sort of party, and at that point, Papa Bear was in a wheel chair. We spent some time talking, as he wanted to know what I did for a living, etc. And he wanted to get away from his grandson, who was wheeling him around to meet people, and have a swig of whiskey.
Actually you can say what you want about Drey's giant goggles, since that's why we have a "comments" section.
Some George Halas triva:
-Both of Halas' parents were Lebanese. He was born in Chicago.
-Nonetheless he stood in the way of integrating the NFL in the 1930's by refusing to sign black players for the Bears. According to Wikipedia, "Fritz Pollard, who in the 1920s was the league's first African-American coach, blamed Halas for keeping him out of the league in the 1930s and 1940s. Halas eventually changed course and helped to integrate the league, drafting the NFL's first black player since 1933, George Taliaferro, although Taliaferro did not play for the Bears; Halas later signed Willie Thrower, who with the Bears became the league's first black quarterback."
That's a good one -- a quarterback named Thrower.
We also bring you this dirgelike update of 1985's brilliant Superbowl Shuffle. This one was written by Chicago Magazine editor Jeff Ruby. The "music" (minus the tuba) was done by local beatboxer Yuri Lane -- whom we profiled for Chi-mag back in 2005. Yuri uses nothing but his mouth, hands and body to make the sounds and looks very good in blue.
I HEART R. CRUMB
Not because we secretly thumbed through his notebooks in the early 90's, when he was away from the SF home where he was staying.
Not because I met him on that same trip, hoping against hope that he'd notice my ample Midwestern legs and backside and ask to draw me (he was far more intent on figuring out how to use his calling card).
But because of this bit in today's New York Times profile of Crumb and cartoonist Aline Kaminski -- who have an open marriage:
"Mr. Crumb has calmed considerably since his early days, when he was so afraid of social interaction that he focused all of his energy on drawing. “I basically lived on paper,” he said, reclining on a small wicker couch in his study, where the shelves are packed with vintage 78 r.p.m. records, comic book figurines and back issues of Fate, a magazine of the paranormal.
"In recent years he has taken to sitting in a chair every morning and meditating for 45 minutes, following the rising and falling of his breath. The resulting inner calm has changed his vibe. As a younger man he was a gerbil-like creature with a whiskery mustache and a twitchy demeanor. Now he seems more like a small Lincoln or van Gogh, a bearded, although still bony, thinker with a certain gravity."
Saturday, January 20, 2007
The new Business Week article about the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute is up.
It's part of a regular feature called "Executive Life."
I can see it now: corner-office hotshots across America ordering their minions to book their flights to Bangalore posthaste.
Because Mysore is the new Tuscany.
Among others, they interviewed Russell-the-lawyer.
But they forgot to ask him how he convinced his firm to outsource work to Mysore.
Some highlights from the article (or lowlights, depending on your perspective):
...At 5 p.m. on a breezy Saturday, the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in the southern Indian city of Mysore is buzzing. Students from around the globe are thronging the steps of the three-story, light-gray concrete building. Clad in light- colored cotton pants and T-shirts, their backs ramrod straight, their eyes and skin aglow, they are queuing up to greet Sharath
Ranga-swamy, 35, a master of Ashtanga yoga, and his grandfather, Guruji K. Pattabhi Jois, the institute's founder....
I've been there at 4:50 AM and "glowing" is most definitely not how people looked.
Glowering would be more like it.
And when did Sharath start hyphenating?
...When the school is closed, Sharath travels abroad. His workshops in New York, London, Sydney, and elsewhere have been attended by a host of celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna, Willem Dafoe, Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, and Mike D., drummer for the Beastie Boys. Sonya Jones, wife of hedge-fund magnate Paul Tudor Jones and a close friend of Guruji and Sharath, has made a few low-profile visits to Mysore, too....
Since when does "low-profile" include cameras, an entourage and more adjustments than most students receive during their entire stay?
And Mike D. is no halfhearted celebrity slacker -- he dragged his skinny white ass all the way to Mysore to study with Guruji in the old shala.
I'm just miffed because I didn't write it.
(If you want to see how it's done, click here).
Friday, January 19, 2007
When is a moon day not a moon day?
When you're in the Midwest.
This morning I told my class to take it easy because today may or may not be a moon day -- and that if it is one they should back off and wait to have their big breakthrough next time.
A refresher: Traditional Mysore-style Ashtanga yoga is not practiced on new or full moon days. In other words, there are no classes on those days. The energy is thought to be unstable, and injuries sustained on moon days can take twice as long to heal. (For more details, click here).
I thought this was b.s. until I messed up my knee on a full moon day (see Tuesday's entry), and it took nine months to heal.
One of my students, an air hostess for a major carrier, told me that the pilots are warned when there is a full moon, so that they take extra care.
In India, businesses sometimes close on the new moon.
And we all know that "lunatic" is a modernization of Middle English "lunatik," which is derived from Old French "lunatique," which comes from Latin "lūnāticus," from "lūna" - or moon.
Yesterday there was much craziness concerning the date of this month's new moon.
At Tim Miller's Encintas, California studio the new moon was yesterday and the studio was closed. They are on Pacific time.
In NYC, the new moon was today. They are in the Eastern time zone.
In Chicago, where we are on Central time, the new moon day was....
....confusing, and dependend on which ashtanga studio you attend.
My calendar says the new moon was Thursday night at 11PM Eastern time.
Eddie Stern's AYNY website says, "We are closed on the full and new moon days, following the dates listed in the New York Times; if the moon falls after 11 pm, it is observed the following day."
That's fairly clear.
(To further confuse matters, 91-year-old Ashtanga guru Pattabhi Jois has been known to lasso the moon and move it to a more convenient day when it suits his schedule.
But he's Guruji. He can do that. We can't.
Or shouldn't, anyway).
The best bet is to check the studio's website.
As Miss Y explained in a recent E-mail:
Traditionally, in India at Guruji's, the Moon Days go from sundown to sundown so an 11p.m. moon day would be listed as being on the next day, with moon days occasionally being moved at Guruji's discretion. However, most people in the west are used to days divided at midnight, so we will go by this system. The ultimate answer as to "when will the moon day be for Shala Y" will be listed on the Shala Y website under the "Moon Days" link.
I think the ultimate answer is that it lands on day when the people act the most insane.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
The big story in Britain is that Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty (pictured above, in a PETA ad) has been racially harassed by other contestants on "Celebrity Big Brother," which has received a record 25,000 complaints from outraged viewers about her treatment on the show.
From Wikipedia: "Shetty had been branded a "dog" by Lloyd and former housemate Jackiey Budden was unable to pronounce her name properly, instead referring to her as "The Indian". Jack Tweedy was speculated to have called her a "fucking Paki" although show producers have denied this, stating that the second word (which was bleeped out) was actually "cunt". Danielle Lloyd also referred to Shetty as 'a bitch'.
"When the actress cooked an chicken dish for her housemates, contestant Jo O’Meara refused to eat it, saying she didn’t “trust” it and was “scared.” She also did impressions of Shetty’s accent and protested that the actress had “touched housemates’ food with her hands” (to which fellow contestant Danielle Lloyd replied that “they eat with their hands in India... or is that China.…You don’t know where her hands have been")."
The long list of incidents can be found here.
It's erupted into a huge brouhaha.
Now there are armed guards at the Big Brother house (to protect the racists from the public).
They are burning effigies of "Big Brother" contestants in India.
And PM Tony Blair has stepped in to give his two schillings-worth.
Maybe he'll do better with that than he did in Iraq.
Speaking of which....
Tens of thousands there are protesting Bush's upcoming trip to India.
“'Whether Hindu or Muslim, the people of India have gathered here to show our anger. We have only one message — killer Bush go home,' actor-turned politician Raj Babbar, told the crowd."
The majority of the protesters are Muslims and Communists.
"Some mosques in Hyderabad, where Bush will visit on Friday, have already unfurled banners protesting his arrival and plan to chant verses from the Quran in hopes that it will drive him away."
Yes -- but to where?
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
A nice reader read Monday's post about all of my various knots and pains and suggested cupping.
That's where the acupuncturist uses fire inside little glass jars to create suction in an affected area; he leaves the jars on for awhile so they can suck out the toxins. You may recall that in 2004 ashtangi Gwyneth Paltrow appeared at a movie premiere in a backless dress with blotchy red cupping hickeys on her back.
Yet I'd forgotten about cuppng.
Maybe I blocked it out.
My acupuncturist used that technique to help cure my swollen patella, which I had FOR NINE MONTHS in 2002-2003 -- despite teatment via diet and vitamins and chiros and ultrasound and MD's and a manual medicine practitioner who gave me many exercises to do (at the same time I had a pulled hamstring and wrist and shoulder problems, which he was able to cure).*
I even went to one of the city's top knee surgeons, who took pity and drained it for free and gave me sample meds because of my insurance was so bad; the thing swelled back up the very next day.
Imagine -- nine months with minimal biking and yoga. ACK! I could barely bend the knee and of course there was pain. I used to wear giant volleyball kneepads while teaching so I didn't bump it. My friend MariKay and I eventually deveoped knee-friendly variations of primary series poses so I could still practice ashtanga. We call it Patella Yoga (c). Backbends were pretty much out of the question, though.
The surgeon gave up when the draining failed. He told me some of the Chicago Bears had had the same problem and did nothing and it eventually went away on its own -- and that's what I should do, too. At that point I actually considered and then discarded the idea of taking up tackle football.
Although the surgeon said to do nothing, I thought I'd try acupuncture as a last resort. I got a recommendation from my editor.
The Chinese acupuncturist was in his late 60's or 70's and wanted cash only. He worked out of a tiny dusty storefront in Andersonville. His English was adequate but minimal; he smiled and laughed often. He made me buy my own cupping jars, needles and special medicated bandages that smelled like mint, pepper and earth. I had to remember to bring them with me to each appointment.
His treatment included fire, needles and electrodes, and lasted about 45 minutes. His wife would bring his lunch in the middle of it, and they'd eat it in the other room while the radio played Chinese talk shows at full volume. Meanwhile I was prone on the table with live electrodes hooked to the needles in my knee. It actually felt kind of good, and knowing they were next door eating was comforting. Also it was nice to be still and do nothing.
With his help some pressure was relieved and I gained some mobility. After treatment I'd walk across the street to the chocolate shop and order a bonbon or two while moving the bandages to examine the bright red hickeys on my right knee. Then I'd bend it to test for swelling and mobility.
It helped a lot; I could move it without pain. Plus the silver dollar-size bruise-hickeys looked cool. But it didn't disappear completely until a couple of months later, when Judith Lasater diagnosed it and gave me some Egoscue exercises to do.
I think the acupuncturist has since retired. He always always keen to move to the suburbs and I'm pretty sure that's exactly what he did.
*The ashtanga primary series, or Yoga Chikitsa ("yoga therapy") is meant to re-align and detoxify the body. Perhaps just not my particular body).
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
BUT I PLAY ONE ONLINE
I did some foot modeling for a friend's company a couple of years ago.
Not because my feet are fab, but because I was there.
I got a pedicure out of the deal -- plus I got paid, too.
It was fun, and the post-shoot airbrushing made my feet look much prettier than they actually are.
I mention this foot modeling in my online bio.
Because what's lower than a hand model?
A one-off foot model of course.
It's even funnier if your mother was a much sought-after runway / tv / print model-model (pictured at left).
Apparently there are still some foot fetishists out there, who specialize in the mediocre.
Because every month or so I receive an e-mail like this, which came today:
Hi Kaka [sic],
I'm a photographer looking for foot models. If you
have tear sheets or electronic images I can view, I'd
love to see them. Loved your website!
I think JP should just take a yoga class.
Then he could get the full 3-D effect;
A real, live foot-in-the-face.
With smell-o-rama to boot.
Monday, January 15, 2007
I started to feel nauseous during Class #1 this morning. After class #2 it was compounded by chills and exhaustion, and I thought I'd go home and sleep it off -- and pray I wasn't getting sick.
But Henry the Punk came by to practice, so I stayed and did some Yin Yoga (long holds that target the connective tissue) and mellow restorative yoga, including Judith Lasater's super-calming Instant Maui.
It was the opposite of ashtanga, which is very Yang and muscle-oriented. Today there were no vinyasas or jumping around or creating heat, no set series of poses. Instead of holding poses for five breaths, I stayed a long time in each. Instead of grasping and clasping, I focused on letting go.
It was like getting high on different drugs.
Heroin instead of crack.
I even caught the nods.
Afterwards I felt like new person.
So well in fact that I was able to keep my Noon appointment with the chiropractor
Which was a good thing, because my neck and shoulder were messed up.
Last week I suffered a massive headache that stuck around for two days.
On Friday, when I was feeling better, I got kicked in the head while helping someone into a forearm balance.
Saturday's fabulous massage -- B. found and loosened so many knots that tears started to come -- nearly did the trick.
Today's mellow practice and chiro visit sealed the deal.
As did the fact that it snowed a bit today -- for the first time in 44 days.
Snow is powerful stuff, too.
Especially if you're an uptight half-Scandinavian c**t from McHenry.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Despite today's 12PM Bears playoff game, there were seven people in my noon ashtanga class.
We did a twist with goal-post arms at the end, in honor of the Bears.
When I finally turned it on, the game was neck-and-neck, and went into overtime. The nail-biter ended when kicker Robbie Gould nailed a 49-yard field goal.
It was truly thrilling. I haven't been interested in the Bears since I dated one -- and here I was screaming along with the best of 'em.
As soon as the game was over, I went to teach my 4PM ashtanga class at the Fancy Health Club.
On the way I called Dreyfus.
"What was the name of the kicker?"
He told me over and over until I got it right.
When I got to class I asked how many people had seen the game; most of them had.
"That's why we're here," one of them said. "To get over the excitement."
Later, when we did shoulderstand, I saw them starting to look around -- even though I had shown them the whole sequence ahead of time.
I went into my routine.
"Don't turn your head, or you could damage your neck."
"Don't even turn it if Bobby Gould and his golden foot walk into the room."
Nothing. Nada. Pure silence.
Could it be due to the fact that I got one letter wrong in his name?
Later, I led them through a pre-savasana twist.
"Now bend at the elbows to make goal-post arms -- in honor of Bears kicker Robbie Gould."
One person tittered.
Out of 17.
And you call this a football town...?
On Thursday night I again partied like it was 1987.
This time the performance artist was Paula Killen, who moved to LA several years ago and came back to do a three-woman show called Sweet Ride with local partners-in-crime Karol Kent and Susan Messing.
It was at the new Annoyance Theatre space in Uptown, which is AWESOME and nearly erased the awful memories of the improv class Munkin and I took at their old Clark Street space over a decade ago (we ran out after the first class, and never came back to get our $50 deposits).
The Annoyance is like the anti-Second City. The first show I ever saw there was Manson: The Musical, in, like, 1990; I wrote about it for a satirical 'zine called The Planet. But the Annoyance is most famous for The Real Live Brady Bunch.
I was once in a variety (?) show with Paula. Sort of. Hosted by it-girl performance artist Cheryl Trykv, it was called Luck Be a Lady and took place at the old HotHouse on Milwaukee Avenue (now home to The Note, where my nephew's band Sequoia played last week). Ira Glass was also somehow in the lineup, despite being a guy. He mixed some radio thing, live. I can't remember what I read but I am quite certain that I sucked. I think Cheryl invited me to perform because her current boyfriend was my ex-boyfriend, and he kept saying things like you two have so much in common, and she took pity on me. His family was in the audience. I remember being flabbergasted (in a good way) afterwards, when Cheryl handed me a $20 payment for my "work."
Paula's new show, Sweet Ride, dealt with things like being a fortysomething single, the loneliness that arises when your best friends live in other cities, online dating, ageing, and being a cougar (ie; a woman who goes for younger guys, a la Demi). It was quite funny despite the subject matter and the fact that Paula rubbed her breasts into the backs of half the audience members.
There was one exhange that reminded me of the sit-com pilot I wrote with Gridlife (soon to be a major motion picture... any day now), in which Paula tells Karol she should date younger guys.
Karol protests. "I don't want to have to explain Watergate!"
On Friday I enjoyed dinner out with a man eight years my junior. Over patatas bravas and sangria at the tony Del Toro we talked about yoga and design and vegetariansim and shoes.
At one point, though, I had to ask.
"Do you know what Watergate is?"
He answered in the affirmative.
Then he walked me to the chocolate bar (yes, Wicker Park is now home to a chocolate bar!).
After drinking bowlsful of the most thick and satisfying hot chocolate you could imagine, we passed by the Double Door.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: I've always wanted to go to the Double Door.
CACA: I think Mission is Burma is there tonight! I used to play them on my radio show (when you were in middle school).
We went in. It was sold out.
But it didn't matter.
We could see and hear them from the vestibule.
And they were in the middle of their best song.
Yesterday the editor and I went to Toys R Us to pick up some gifts. The second we walked in we were assaulted by the awful smell. It was thick, overpowering and headache-inducing.
My olefactory recepters went into overdrive as they tried to analyze the source.
It was not the smell of turds.
It was not the scent of vomit.
It wasn't even cologne.
It was the awful aroma of some newfangled pungent poison plastic out of which they are making children's toys.
It was far stronger and scarier than the Best Buy smell.
When we finally left our poor nose-cilia were throbbing, and took a long time to recover.
They were back to normal when we had dinner at Handlebar, which has a vegan-friendly menu plus a full bar -- and is bike-friendly to boot.
It features artful barstools made of bike parts by an ex, Andy Gregg.
I'd almost forgotten about the place.
It was full of hip young people with cool haircuts and neck tattoos.
They let us in anyway.
Mark your calendars: I am doing a reading with some other writers on Saturday, February 3 at 8PM at the lovely Uptown Writer's Space. It won't suck. Really. And I may even use props. Just don't tell the Astanga Police.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
From Autobiography of a Yogi (p. 124):
"Students came, and generally went. Those who craved a path of oily sympathy and comfortable recognition did not find it at the hermitage. Master offered shelter and shepherding for the aeons, but many disciples miserly demanded ego-balm as well. They departed, preferring life's countless humiliations before any humility. Master's blazing rays, the open penetrating sunshine of his wisdom, were too powerful for their spiritual sickness. They sought some lesser teacher who, shading them with flattery, permitted the fitful sleep of ignorance."
Friday, January 12, 2007
Seventeen people came to last night's ashtanga class at the health club.
This is a huge number for that club.
Especially in a class that's not exactly for beginners.*
Yet half the people were new to yoga.
Of course they were hiding in back.
"If she doesn't see me, I won't get in trouble."
Actually, if she doesn't see you doing the pose wrong, there's a good chance you'll get injured.
I asked the newbies to move to the front of the room.
Whenever I get people brand-new to yoga in my ashtanga class I say, "You've chosen a very challenging first yoga class. You're welcome to stay but please take it easy today. You don't have to do every vinyasa. Do the easy version of the poses. The person next to you may have been doing this practice every day for the past 10 years, so you don't have to keep up with them. In yoga we say 'No pain, no pain,' bla bla bla."
What I really want to say is, "What is it that makes you think that 'beginning yoga class' applies to other people but not you? Did you skip a few grades in school? Are you a CEO?"
Inevitably it's the new people in a health club ashtanga class who try to do everything and push too hard and do every vinyasa, while the regulars slack off and practice sloppily and skip vinyasas.
Then I have to say things like, "If you're an experienced practitioner, please try to do the [pose/hand position/vinyasa] correctly, because the new people are looking to you to see how to do it and you don't want to teach them bad habits."
Some people who are brand new to yoga -- about ten percent, in my experience -- take to ashtanga like they've been preparing for it their whole lives.
Most slog through it and if they like it, they come back. I always tell them that the first class is trial by fire, and after that it becomes familiar and starts to make sense.
But then there are the new people who struggle and push too hard. Many, but not all, are men.
They do the advanced version of every pose and try to fling themselves up into headstand even though their last one was in 1977 and my explicit instruction was do not go up unless you've done the pose in the past couple of weeks without causing injury to yourself or someone else.
Last night one of the new guys turned his head to look at himself in the mirror while he was in shoulderstand.
This combines two of my top pet peeves: the hated Looking at the Mirror (which turns the practice into a performance) with the dangerous Turning the Head in Shoulderstand (which can damage the neck).
So I said, "I guess it's OK to turn your head if you want to get back at your neck and hurt it. After all, it's YOUR neck."
What I wanted to say was, "If you're turning your head, ask yourself what makes you think that you are the one special person who's immune from damaging it in shoulderstand. "
Next time I'll just quote this Newsweek article about yoga and injuries.
The orthopaedic surgeon they interviewed says most of the injuries he sees occur when people try to force themselves into lotus position.
He says, "There are two scenarios I see frequently. One is that a group of girlfriends gets together, and one woman says to another, "Come to my yoga class." The woman who extended the invitation has been doing yoga a while, and the friend who comes along finds herself in a class that's too advanced for her. She ends up in our office.
"The other scenario is that people buy home instructional tapes and DVDs. If you've already been to yoga classes and understand the basics, that might be a great way to exercise. But it's not a great way to learn yoga in the first place, because you get no feedback. There's no one telling you how to do it correctly. People think yoga is not vigorous exercise, just stretching. But these are real injuries."
Next time I'll cite the article.
After all, who wouldn't listen to a male doctor -- even if he is channeled through a female yoga teacher.
(Actually after class I referred couple of people to the club's Iyengar, hatha and beginning classes).
*Ashtanga is a vigorous yoga practice that moves quickly from pose to pose and can be difficult to follow if you've never done the poses before -- or even if you have.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
I bit the bullet and enrolled in the teacher training program.
All of the signs were there; $98 round trip airfare, plus the Hex will be out of town so I can stay at his place.
But it will nonetheless break the bank.
So I've been searching for the best prices on the long list of required books, etc. My editor has loaned me Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi, which I read some time ago. A fellow teacher thinks he has Dharma's DVD's. And the Sivananda Vendata Center had Sivananda's Science of Pranayama book for just $6 (vs. $10 on the internet).
I popped over to the Sivananda Center to get the book. The place smelled of nag champa incense, just as I remembered.
I used to go there when I first started doing yoga. While the other studios were closed on holidays, you could always count on Sivananda. They're the ones who taught me how to do headstand without a wall.
I still feel very welcome there.
The teacher training list also includes a "meditation shawl." While I was paying, I saw some shawls folded up in the corner ($15). I zeroed in on the orange one.
I unwrapped and it smiled when I saw which deity was printed on it.
It was Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.
And beauty, too.
I finally unwrapped one of the mantra CD's I got at the Ramakrishna ashram in Mysore last summer, Paratpara Parameshwara by the Challakere Brothers. They seem to be Shiva chants, and I'm pretty sure it's one that they play before class at the AYRI. Apparently the Challakere Brothers are related to my teacher's teacher, T. Krishnamacharya.
Along with the beautific image of Shiva and his serpent, the CD packaging features a crossed-out skull and crossbones with the admonition, "Kill Piracy -- Buy Orignal Only."
That Shiva. Always about the destruction.
I just cracked open Autobiography of a Yogi. In the book, Parmahansa has visions at an early age. His mother understands this and, in a letter written before her death (which he predicted), she encourages him to pursue his destiny and make use of a special amulet delivered by his brother. "He should receive it at about the time he is ready to renounce all worldly hopes and start his vital search for God."
As part of my campaign to wean myself off of radio in the car and fill my mind with higher things, I just started listening to George Eliot's Silas Marner, on cassette tape. I'm only about ten minutes into it. Thus far, the super-pious young Silas has had a "fit" in church, and people start looking at him askance. Then his friend frames him in a robbery, and the whole village turns against him.
Such a different reaction.
It reminds me of a saying I heard at a retreat somewhere (and which I am butchering here): There are so many enlightened people in India because people there are open to that possibility.
The photo at top was taken at the library. I have no idea what "Flag Disposal" is all about. Is it an incinerator for flags that touched the ground? In tatters? Or is it for folks who put up flags after 9/11 and are no longer quite so gung-ho about the war? I suppose we may never know.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
There are so many people studying in Mysore right now that the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute has issued an ID card with a start time to each student.
Students have different start times in Mysore-sytle classes because they practice a memorized sequence of poses at their own pace. The teacher adjusts them in the poses they find difficult and usually helps with backbending and dropbacks. In the new shala there are led classes on Fridays and Sundays, when everyone starts at the same time and is led through the sequence by one teacher, who stands in front and yells out the poses. It looks something like a massive synchronized cattle call-cum-drunken ballet. There is far less strain on the teachers in a led class because very little individual attention is given to the students.
When I first went to Mysore in 2002 there were no led classes. We did Mysore-style self-practice six days a week in a room that held just 12 people, and received loads of individual attention. We also walked a kilometer barefoot in the snow to get there, and made our own mats out of jute.
Now far more students are coming to Mysore. The new shala holds upwards of 80 people, yet the registration process is done the same way as before; there is no minimum requirement. Anyone who wants to come sends a letter announcing their decision a month before they plan to arrive. I don't think these letters are ever recorded, let alone opened. When the prospective student doesn't hear back, it means they can come.
Sometimes they arrive only to find that the family has embarked on a tour or safari or some such thing, and they learn their first India Lesson: expect the unexpected.
Sadly this usually must be learned over and over and over again.
Monday, January 08, 2007
So many quotes, so little time....
"That whole store is full of fucking yoga clothes?!"
-- Incredulous, mildly overweight white guy wearing a backwards baseball cap, walking in front of the Windy City's Lululemon store. Overheard Saturday while locking the Brahmacycle in front of said store (pictured, above).
"I'm the yoga person. I don't smoke. I just go to yoga drunk sometimes."
--Twenty-eight year old Satcey Bendet, the "lively titan" behind the design label Alice + Olivia. Quoted in today's New York Times' "A Night Out With" column, cleverly titled Yoga on the Rocks. Those damn designers -- no wonder they never listen in class.
"Halfway through [famous yogi Rodney Yee's] class, however, [his future wife] walked out. She said she found him humorless and 'totally arrogant....'"
"A year after Ms. Saidman bolted from his class, a friend took her to another one Mr. Yee was teaching. This time she loved it. 'I thought he could teach me what I needed to learn,"' she said. "He went much more into subtleties like getting in touch with the corner of your eye or the center of the armpit....'"
"Three years ago Mr. Yee moved into her shingle-style house in East Hampton, NY, and rumors swirled around them and Yoga Shanti. Students quit, disillusioned. There was even an article about them in New York magazine, An Illicit Yoga Love Story. Ms. Saidman said, "For us to be together, it couldn't have been a harder path."
--From today's New York Times' "Vows" section, which is about the marriage between famous yogi Rodney Yee and former model / yoga studio owner Colleen Saidman. His three children look none-too pleased in the photo that accompanies the article; two marriages were ruined so that they might be together. Plus yoga teachers are not supposed to roger their students, since the dynamic is skewed from the start.
"Bush's appointee to head the Office of Population is someone who thinks women are too immature to make fundamental decisions about their own bodies. This is not a total surprise. After all, in 2002, Bush appointed W. David Hager--who opposes contraception and advocates prayer as the only way to treat premenstrual syndrome--to head the Food and Drug Administration's reproductive health drugs committee.
"Bush also appointed Alma Golden--who opposes contraception and sex education--to oversee implementation of Title X, the nation's only federally funded family planning program. He issued rules in 2002 making a fetus eligible for federal health dollars while explicitly excluding the pregnant woman from coverage. And on his watch, abstinence is the only sex education we fund for public schools with our federal tax dollars."
--Chicago author Sarah Paretsky in today's Chicago Tribune, on George W. Bush's decision to appoint Eric Keroack to head the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Population Affairs. If the full article doesn't make you throw things, you are probably already dead. Or should be.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
The first thing I heard this morning was an interview with Thich Nhat Hanh on public radio's "Speaking of Faith."
The first thing I saw this morning was an e-mail from Dreyfus with the title Israel Plans Nuclear Strike on Iran.
It made me think, "Here comes World War III. So many people will die. And I will have to move to a bunker in McHenry."
But the radio program was an hour long, and I heard Thay put it all into perspective again and again (in a way that is far more direct than yoga);
-Don't hate your leaders.
-They are victims of wrong perception.
Maybe it's time for him to do a retreat with the Mossad.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
The first time I saw Karen Finley peform was in 1987.
It was gut-wrenching. It was thought-provoking. It was the most raw display of emotion I have ever seen.
It stayed with you after the show.
It was amazing.
I've seen her about ten times over the years -- about as many times as I saw the Butthole Surfers (before they started to suck).
MariKay and I saw her in Chicago last night.
Karen Finley no longer covers her body in chocolate or feathers or honey.
She no longer is a target for tight-ass conservatives trying to eliminate funding for the National Endowment of the Arts.
She no longer performs at edgy dives like the long-gone South Loop club, Edge of the Lookinglass.
She hasn't shot a yam out of her dinkiss in years.
Now, she's a responsible parent who lives in upstate New York and has a respectable teaching gig at NYU.
She's a published Author, and one of her books features a naked portrait of her by Famous Photographer and dismissive parent Annie Leibovitz.
Now, she wears clothes onstage.
Now, she rarely goes into the heart-wrenching emotional trance like the days of old, that was so intense she felt every thing she was saying and you did, too.
But she's still political.
She's still a rabid feminist.
And shows how men are born and bred to kill and destroy.
Now, she does an informal slide show featuring her original drawings about the inner life of Laura Bush -- one of which features juju bean teeth and Tony Blair's rainbow-colored penis.
Now, she does a piece that points out that only stupid people wanted to keep Terri Schiavo on life support -- and that those people loved her because she was silent and pliable, like a woman should be (and not one of those outspoken bitches like that Hillary Clinton).
She still says the word "cunt."
C U N T
And refers to Macy's as the devil.
She knows that Clybourn Avenue is a diagonal street.
After all, she grew up in north suburban Evanston.
Yet the major newspapers still don't get her.
But we still do.
Friday, January 05, 2007
It was the first week of the new year, and all of the yoga classes were full.
The teacher began each one by asking the first-timers to identify themselves.
Each time, half the class raised their hands.
Next, she asked how many had come because of a New Year's resolution.
To her surprise, not a single person in any of her classes raised their hand.
Not a single one.
And the teacher knew they'd be long-gone come February.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
The drudgery of waiting in line at the post office is always offset by the the opportunity to study the magnificent WPA-style Harry Sternberg mural that spans most of one wall.
I always look at it and think, "Where are all the women who made the city great?" And then I think, "They must be in the houses, cooking and cleaning for all of these hard-working men."
Today I stared at the mural and decided that the masked person with the blowtorch is a woman. This week I'm also quite fond of the row on the right of punch-press or die-cutting guys. I think my father's father, an immigrant from Denmark, used to do that.
He also liked to tend to his back yard at the house on Patterson, and even installed some small windmills back there.
I was staring at this mural and thinking how lucky we are that we get to see Art in such unlikely places, when I noticed from the corner of my eye a dense and Shleprock-like being.
It was an ex, taking his time at one of the two windows that were open.
Facilitated Marriage #3. I introduced them. Months later I learned that he hounded her for weeks while wasting my time, too.
I immediately put up my hood and pretended to be invisible.
It worked a few weeks ago, when I saw the Proud Parent of Twins at The Food Whole.
And it worked this time, too.
Thank durga for hoods.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
While I was waiting at the doctor's office this morning I was able to read this whole sign -- even the small print. Sometimes, the care of the parents is the best medicine. Although antibiotics are strong, they don't cure everything. Taking them when they're not needed can be bad for your children. Learn to protect your children. Know when they should take antibiotics. Talk to your doctor today. Pride is bad but I'm kind of pleased that I can still read Spanish -- even if it is written by the CDC. For six year-olds.
Strangely, I had no trouble getting in to see the doctor -- without an appointment no less -- to get a physical and the required letter of good health for the teacher training I want to take. I learnt today that Ghousia (the doctor) is from Hyderabhad, the state capital of Andhra Pradesh. Just writing it makes me want some spicy Andhra food.
For some reason I did not have trouble getting in to see the mechanic, either. He quickly fixed the wierd ratting, which turned out to be nothing. Better yet -- he didn't charge me. Which of course has me worried.
(The photo was taken in the repair shop waiting room. I adore hand-painted holiday windows, and the late morning light was lovely).
Perhaps the morning went so well because of what I ate yesterday -- a traditional southern New Year's Day meal of Hoppin' John (black-eyed peas and rice) topped with cheese, tomatoes and scallions and a dollop of sour cream, plus greens (kale) and carrots. This snapshot was taken before I made vegan cornbread, which is meant to bring gold in the upcoming year. The idea behind Hoppin' John is that if you eat poor on the first of the year, you'll eat rich the rest of the year -- however, one can't help but think "eat the rich," ha ha ha. The greens of course symbolize money. I did not eat the cat. Must fatten him up a bit first.
This afternoon I walked through the alleys to the post office and saw plenty of landfill, which made me feel sad -- and that it is somehow connected to all of the polar bears dying.
During the walk I noticed that there are both iGo and Zipcar automobile hubs near my house. Both companies lease cars for short periods of time, and call it car-sharing. iGo is the nonprofit one, although both have Civic hybrids in their fleets. It's good to know there's backup for when my vehicle really does fall apart.
When I finally got to the post office, it was locked. The sign on the door said they were closed due to federal observance of the death of former president Gerald Ford.
"God knows what they'll do when Bush dies," I said to the other guy who was trying to get in. We both snorted.
I told Sport Marty about this later, and he said,
"What are you thinking? There won't be any post office or anything else left when Bush finally goes."
Happy new year indeed.
Monday, January 01, 2007
Over the past year Chicago has lost many beloved institutions.
The city as a whole bemoans the loss of Marshall Field's -- the nation’s first modern department store. My mother used to model there. Marshall Field's on State Street (that great street) is also where my grandmother took me on my first real trip to Chicago, when I was 12. It was the only such trip, ever. We ate fillet mignon at the Walnut Room (the first in-store restaurant in America created just for ladies) and visited the art department -- which carried original paintings by my grandmother's brother, Cydney. The paintings were expensive and I was impressed, since we all had Cydney's impressionistic images on our walls and took them for granted.
During the same trip my grandmother had her hair done at Brady C'est Bon -- by Bill Brady, who'd done my mother's hair and "was always trying out new styles on her." While I waited, I did my first real people-watching and experienced another first -- that queer sensation of not being able to make out a person's gender.
But now the Marshall Field's of the famous Christmas windows is just another soul-less Macy's.
Also gone is the long-running Berghoff Restaurant. Although I stepped foot into the old-fashioned German restaurant only once, I did, in fact, go to college with Pete Berghoff.
We also lost The City News Service (nee the City News Bureau), where everyone from Kurt Vonnegut to Seymour Hersh to Claes Oldenburg (!) honed their chops. During a visit in 1992, head honcho Paul Zimbrakos told my j-class that we’d never get jobs in journalism and might as well quit school right now. The films The Front Page and Call Northside 777 are both based on doings at the CNB, where playwright Charles MacArthur also did time. The Chicago Tribune is the entity that finally shut it down. They also own the Chicago Cubs. Losers.
These changes are significant. But in many ways it's the smaller losses that make one feel like a stranger in one's own city.
They just finished tearing down Bert Weinman Ford, which is quite close to my house. BWF is where my friend Wickey used to vote (yes, Bert was politically connected), and where I test-drove a used Ford Focus in '05 (it was too fancy and too expensive).
A TV commercial pioneer, BWF also served as entertainment for me whenever I’d hit a red light at Ashland and Addison. I'd sit and watch the balding salesmen in their white shirts, ties and Chicago Bears jackets slouch in the flourescent light or spin around in their chairs, waiting for customers that never came. I wonder what they're doing now. Developers are building 69 condos on the site. Because god knows the city needs more stunning new units. Who wants to bet they'll be purchased by people who drive foreign cars?
My favorite health food store, Sherwyn’s, also closed shop. They did it very quietly; one day it was going strong, and the next day it was closed and being “remodeled.” I always bought as much as I could there -- especially expensive vitamins -- since it was one of the only local stores to survive the invasion of Whole Foods and Fresh Fields. Also, there really was a guy named Sherwyn. But apparently they’re gone for good. Now I’ll have to drive to 75th street to get vegan soul food. Global warming wins again.
I’ve been going to Jim’s Grill since at least 1990. That’s when it was owned by Dave and Sue, who turned the greasy spoon into an affordable vegetarian paradise where customers such as Smashing Pumpkin Billy Corgan, James Beard Award-winning chef Paul Kahn and Caca Herself enjoyed Bi Bim Bop, Soybean Pancakes, Flu Soup and Energy Tea. I once met Ira Glass there for lunch, but it was closed and we went to Sparky's #2 (which is now a Domino's Pizza). Jim's was the one place where you could hang out with your hard-living rock friends and your yoga buddies. The only time I lost my appetite there was when my live-in ex told me he was seeing a woman I’d introduced him to (another marriage facilitated by Caca). Dave and Sue later opened the Korean vegan Amitabul and sold Jim’s to relatives Chris and Moon -- who kept the place the same. About a year ago they sold it to another couple, who raised the prices and added every type of meat imaginable to the menu. Since September, it’s been closed and there’s been scaffolding out in front. The convenient store next door is also boarded up. The building permit on the door says the “improvement” work would end in November. Two months ago. Jim's is located on a main artery, where zoning laws allow for taller buildings. Methinks more condos are coming.
They also tore down the tiny flower shop around the corner from The Empty Shala. I was always curious about the seemingly vacant shop, and finally did a story on it for the Backwards R in 2001. There was nothing happening at A. Wall Florist. But in back, near the greenhouse, it was a beehive. Each morning 95-year-old owner Pearl Wall and her niece, Dorothy, shared coffee and donuts with a parade of locals who would come by with stories and neighborhood news. I knew that Pearl had recently died, and that it was only a matter of time before her flower shop and adjacent six-flat became Yuppie housing. They tore down the shop a few weeks ago, and are gutting the apartments and installing rooftop decks and fancy rear porches. Because god knows the North Side could use more unaffordable housing. The building permit does not mention what they will do with the flower shop property. Ironic side note: Dorothy is the aunt of former Village Voice "Shelter" columnist Toni Schlesinger.
While writing this post I learnt that The Jazz Showcase is shutting down. After the Village Vanguard, it's the second oldest jazz venue in the nation. It was also one of the first clubs in the city to ban smoking, and Caca saw Ray Brown there before he died.
Poor Joe Segel (the owner).
Poor Caca, who feels betrayed and confused.
Time to get out, I think.