Tuesday, May 29, 2007


What is the first thing you do you do after meeting three deadlines and teaching 18 classes in 7 days -- four of which were taught on Sunday?

You go home, take a shower, pick up some mochi ice cream and head over to MariKay's annual Memorial Day get-together.

The exquisite party was already in full swing and spilling into the alley, where some folks were playing that annoying beanbag game. But Henry the Punk made a place for me at the yoga table in the backyard. He was joined later by some Europrof friends. Some of my college radio friends who were in town for the weekend (one also a professor, although lacking the requisite snazzy jacket) also joined us. The food was incredible, the temperature hovered near 72 degrees, the moon was out, and there were at least 20 types of homemade dessert to choose from -- including many pies.

The topic of the impending cicada invasion came up time and again. They come out of the ground every 17 years and infest the trees and make loud locustlike sounds as part of their mating ritual. After some time they breed and die. The larvae eventually hatch and burrow underground, where they hibernate for 17 years before they re-emerge. They've been spotted in the suburbs, but have yet to penetrate city limits.

Or, as National Geographic puts it:

Billions of black, shrimp-size bugs with transparent wings and beady red eyes are beginning to carpet trees, buildings, poles, and just about anything else vertical in a wide region of the U.S. The invasion zone stretches from the eastern seaboard west through Indiana and south to Tennessee.

Uh, make that ILLINOIS, not Indiana.

The last time the cicadas came I was working on a live-action movie with my old boss, J P Somersaulter. We did a lot of oudoor shoots, but had to stop and wait for the cicadas to take a break from making their mating call before we could roll film. Between them and the airplanes overhead it was a bit of a nightmare finding windows of silence. Plus it was incredibly hot that summer.

At the party everyone had an opinion about the cicadas -- even the Germanprof, who thought that Pinocchio had a friend who was a sih-CAH-duh (after some time we figured out that he was referring to Jiminy Cricket).

No matter how many times we said "sih-CAY-duhs," though, he kept calling them "sih-CAH-duhs."

Eventually we called the whole thing off....


The other thing you do after 18 classes in 7 days is...... teach two more classes.

And after 20 classes in 8 days what to you do?

-Ride your bike to the super yoga megastore to visit your friend and try on EVERY SINGLE PAIR OF SHORTS THEY HAVE. And learn that you're a 6, not an 8.

-Purchase an outstanding veggie sandwich and giant pickle at Potbelly (holding the onions, mayo and hot peppers of course)

-Purchase organic yogurt at Jewel



-Clip nails. Finally.


-Clean the house. Finally.

-Organize the recycling.

-Make salad and prep watermelon and pineapple for later consumption.

-Consider returning phone calls, then realize you're too tired/crabby and discard the idea.

-Eat again

-Pay bills while watching Four Jills and a Jeep.

-Use yogurt to make a frozen mango lassi

-Crack open the Ram Dass book "Be Here Now"

-Go to bed early for Tuesday Mysore practice.

-Wake up every hour on the hour

-Get up at 6:30 and ride bike 5 miles to practice anyway

-Sweat bullets and beg for help with dropbacks

-Search for Bhagavan Das

-Track down a 24 hour Indian restaurant and learn it's been closed by the health department.

-Waste time before lunch by looking over the offerings at H&M

-Overgraze the buffet at Gaylord India, where you run into Miss Y

-Ride the 5 miles home




-Consider returning phone calls but realize you're still too tired/crabby and disard the idea

-Tweak story about the Dalai Lama

-Return one phone call and regret things said


-Go with college radio friends to Mysore Woodland

-Eat thali and babble about the American sense of entitlement and high divorce rate and inability to pick up after themselves. Attribute American self-centeredness and lack of a sense of duty to the misinterpetation of the "pursuit of happiness" provision of the Constitution.

-Receive curious looks

-Regret that you opened your mouth at all.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Even worse than not being chosen to participate in the meme game is having every single person on your tag-list refuse to play.

It's kind of like having a student walk out in the middle of their practice.

These things should not be taken personally.

A cognitive therapist might say the person is too busy or not feeling well.

Dharma might say they're working through old karma -- perhaps one did something bad to this person in a past life, or vice-versa -- and it has nothing to do with being. here. now.

Yeah, that's it.


That said, Friday's kirtan and yesterday's Nada Yoga (yoga of sound) workshop with Bhagavan Das were AMAZING. During a particularly intense Kali chant yesterday there was a huge clap of thunder, followed by laughter. It was the only thunderclap all afternoon....

When we worked on the heart chakra (you start at the bottom and work your way up), things started to melt like they hadn't since teacher training in February.

The floodgates were open, and watching the terrific Hindi movie hit Rang De Basanti later on unleashed a torrent of tears. A torrent.

The film explores the idea of patriotism and links the revolutionary activities of Bhagat Singh and his cronies to modern-day citizens who fight government corruption -- and has ZERO SCHMALTZ. If you see one Bollywood movie in this lifetime, make it RDB.

The music was composed by Bollywood wunderkind AR Rahman -- who also sings on the hit "Rubabroo". He'll perform his first Chicago concert EVER -- complete with some 70 musicians, dancers, etc -- at the Sears Center on June 9. I can't wait.

At the same time, I'm content to be. here. now.

Are you?

Friday, May 25, 2007


Tim tagged me for a meme, which appears to be some sort of hellish blog chain letter game for office drones who surf when they should be working. The rules, apparently, are this:

1: Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves. 2: People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules. 3: At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and include their names. 4: Don't forget to leave them a comment and tell them they're tagged, and to read your blog. 5. If you fail to do this within eight hours, you will not reach Third Series or attain your most precious goals for at least two more lifetimes.

Of course the facts aren't really random. Self-indulgent, yes. And doing it properly takes EONS. So please, never, ever tag me again. But here goes:

1. I just sent an application to the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute telling them I'm coming 7/7/07. Then I looked at the calendar. 7-7-7 is a Saturday. There's no practice on Saturday. Oops!

2. I've never operated a TiVo or an iPod -- and until this Monday I'd never used eBay (I coudn't help myself; the tamboura CD was just $1.99).

3. I'm typing this on a flowered 2001 iMac. The most expensive thing I own is my car, which cost $900.

4. I've loved, but I've never been "in love."

5. A new Chicago travel guide for which I wrote a chapter (back in 2005) just hit the shelves.

6. Two of The Bad Seeds have stayed at my house. Yes, those Bad Seeds.

7. I've had editors named Chuck Taylor and Charles Shaw. But my role model is Chandra Om.

8. I used to review music for the Chicago Tribune. I had a column in the Reader. I was on all the guest lists. I couldda been a contender. I couldda been somebody, instead of a bum, er, aspiring yogi -- which is what I am.

You’re it:

CRON Architect
LoTus Keller
Queen Elyssia
Mars over Erlangen
Bad Lady
Alan Little
Yoga Beans

Those rules again:

1: Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves. 2: People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules. 3: At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and include their names. 4: Don't forget to leave them a comment and tell them they're tagged, and to read your blog. 5. If you fail to do this within eight hours, you will not reach Third Series or attain your most precious goals for at least two more lifetimes.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


I am on Day Five of teaching 18 classes and meeting three deadlines in a single week. So far I've not missed a single yoga practice.

I think this is a new record -- for me anyway.

It’ll be broken up by Friday’s kirtan with Bhagavan Das.

I’ve been reading his memoir, “It’s Here Now (Are You?)" AND watching the documentary “Ram Dass: Fierce Grace,” which has put me into total wHindu mode. Bhagavan Das went to India as a 20-year-old in 1964 and searched for awhile before finally finding his guru; Neem Karoli Baba. While in India he met Harvard prof and LSD wallah Richard Alpert, who imprinted on him and wanted him to be his teacher (actually Baba/Bhagavan Das says Alpert fell in love with him. and that it was quite annoying). Apparently it was Baba who kept telling Alpert to "be here now." In an attempt to shake him, Baba took Alpert to meet his guru -- who gave him the moniker Ram Dass (the guru had originally tried to give the name to Bhagavan Das -- who didn't like it and asked for something else. Why, if I’d known you could refuse a guru, I would have said hell no to Caca).

Ram Dass returned to the US and wrote about it all in his bestselling book "Be Here Now."

When Bhagavan Das returned from India awhile later, he learned he was famous because of the book. He started doing kirtans and hanging out with the likes of Allen Ginsberg and "Way of the Peaceful Warrior" author Dan Millman (apparently he was quite the boozer). But Bhagavan Das had a hard time handling his celebrity: The drugs. The women.

He eventually became a yuppie and alcoholic and Jesus freak -- not necessarily in that order. He returned to the wHindu trip in 1987, after darshan with Amma-the-hugging saint. This is all documented in his memoir. Baba also appears in "Ram Dass: Fierce Grace," which is about RD’s life and struggle to deal with a stroke (which he wrote a book about, called -- surprise! -- “Still Here”).

Krishna Das also appears in the movie. He too was part of the whole Maharaji trip (Krishna Das is sort of like the Leonard Cohen of the kirtan world; ie, deep voice + a minimum of schmaltz), although he lacks the long hair and beard. I recently learned that my favorite KD album, "Door of Faith," was produced by legendary hip hop svengali Rick Rubin. Beastie Boy Mike D. -- who practiced next to me in the old shala back in '02 -- produced Bhagavan Das’ terrific album, "Now." . And Bhagavan Das is quoted on Dharma Mittra's website: "Dharma is not just a yoga teacher, but a true yogi." You see -- it's all connected. We're all connected.

But I doubt Mike D will make it to the Bhagavan Das kirtan. It's Friday at 8 at YogaNow, 742 N. Lasalle. Baba is also doing a Nada Yoga (chanting/chakra) workshop on Saturday from 2-5 and booking private astrology readings over the weekend. Book one and you may just find out that you are best suited to be a dominatrix and should take up drumming and chant to Lord Shiva every morning from 4 to 6.

We should all be doing that, actually.

Das, by the way, means "follower of." Bhagavan, Ram and Krishna are (more or lesss) names for G-d. You already know what "caca" means.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I have not seen cockroaches here in years. But last night I came home to find a giant, India-size cockroach lounging in the litterbox. Like its Indian bretheren, the light did not seem to bother it.

My first instinct was to smash the thing to death, and toss what was left into the toilet.

But I've been trying to practice ahimsa (non-harming), and knew it would be wrong to kill it.

So after some chase I managed to catch it in the litterbox scooper, and tossed it out the door and onto the back porch.

It landed on the bannister. But it didn't run away. Then I noticed that it was injured, and could barely walk. I poked it to make sure. I must have smashed one of its legs when I caught it.

What to do? Put it out of its misery? Let it suffer until Jenny Whatever came home and screamed before dispatching it with a fashionable shoe?

I didn't know.

I was stuck.

It was suffering.

Instead of making a decision, I tossed it onto the roof next door -- probably causing more pain. ARGH.


All I could think about later was Dharma's words, "The cockroach also has a family, and wants to be left alone to live his life, too."

Today I searched for it, but it was not there.

How do you catch a cockroach without maiming it?

How long does it take for a cockroach to die?

And how much karmic debt must I repay for this?

Because it most definitely was a test; I've never, ever seen cockroaches that big here -- let alone in my apartment.

Unless... do you think I could have brought it back from India?


Monday, May 21, 2007


Catesey's anti-torture group (or was it the constitutional rights group?) went to Times Square Saturday to do an *action* and performance. Catsey created and performs in a Guantanamo prisoner performance thingy that's quite compelling (you can see pix and video here).

But when his group arrived, they found a pro-Gitmo demonstration already in progress.

So the police asked them to perform a ways away.

Which they did.

So much for democracy.

But yes, those men really are holding a giant homemade "I Heart Gitmo" sign and no, it is not part of the performance.

Apparently "Guantanamo" wouldn't fit.

But imagine the marketing possiblities:

I Heart Global Warming

I Heart Kiddie Porn

I Heart Dick Cheney*

I Heart Navasana

Now, go ahead and make up your own.

*If you did indeed heart someone you thought was evil, you would be cultivating compassion and on your way to being a true yogi. Dharma says, "Love the bad man, but keep the distance."

Saturday, May 19, 2007


I recently quoted Swami Sivananda out of context and it's been a topic of discussion on my friend's blog. So I decided to look it up and make sure I got it right.

He really does say that "Gluttons and epicureans cannot dream to get success in yoga. He who takes moderate diet, he who has regulated his diet can become a Yogi."

It made me think about how yoga has affected my own diet....or vice-versa.

After class Dharma often tells students to adopt a vegetarian diet, although “a little mozzarella is OK.”

As many of you know (and are tired of hearing), I've been veg. for 20 years and, until recently, about 30 percent raw (since teacher training I'm about 50 percent, give or take).

Most of Dharma’s sangat (community) is into live (uncooked) food. Not the highly seasoned processed stuff, but simple juices, vegetables, soaked nuts, and fresh fruits such as pineapple and watermelon. I think the idea is that these things do not overly attract the senses (being neither rajastic nor tamastic) and digest easily -- keeping the body and mind clear for concentration and meditation.

I am pitta dosha and must eat constantly or I become crabby, tired and unbearable. That's my excuse anyway. But during February’s teacher training, as I became more and more immersed in asana, meditation and philosophy, I found myself eating less and less -- and suddenly able to do poses that had been vexing me for years as well as concentrate better and cultivate compassion, etc.

Apparently this was no accident.

From Sivananda’s The Science of Pranayama (p, 112):

"Gluttons and epicureans cannot dream to get success in yoga. He who takes moderate diet, he who has regulated his diet can become a Yogi. That is the reason why Lord Krishna says to Arjuna: 'Verily Yoga is not or him who eateth too much, nor who abstaineth to excess, nor who is too much addicted to sleep, nor even to wakeulness, Arjuna. Yoga killeth out all pain or him who is regulated in eating and amusement, regulated in performing actions, regulated in sleeping and waking' (Gita, VI: 16, 17). Take pleasant, wholesome and sweet food half-stomachful, fill the quarter-stomach with pure water and allow the remaining quarter free for expansion of gas. This is moderate diet.

"All articles that are putrid, stale, decomposed, fermented, unclean, twice-cooked, kept overnight should be abandoned. The diet should be simple, light, bland, wholesome, easily digestible and nutritious. He who lives to eat is a sinner but he who eats to live is a saint. The latter should be adored. If there is hunger, food can be digested well. If you have no appetite do not take anything; give rest to the stomach.

“A good quantity of food overworks the stomach, induces capricious appetite and renders the tongue fastidious. Then it becomes very difficult to please the tongue. Man has invented many kinds of dishes just to satisfy his palate and has made his life very complex and miserable. He calls himself a civilized and cultured man when he is really ignorant and deluded by the senses. His mind gets upset when he cannot get his usual dishes in a new place. Is this real strength? He has become an absolute slave of his tongue. This is bad. Be natural and simple in eating. Eat to live and do not live to eat. You can be really happy and can devote much time to Yogic practices.”

In other words, it's time to kick the old corn chip addiction.

Or, as Sharath says, "At least try to do."

The word for pineapple is the same in most European langauges as well as Kannada, the native language of Karnataka (and Mysore) in South India: "Ananas," pronounced "AH-nanas." It's also the Native American word for the fruit and comes from the Paraguayan "nana" meaning "excellent (or exquisite) fruit." The Ananas is native to South America and was brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus. One assumes that the Portuguese brought it to the coastal Indian state of Goa, which borders Karnataka. The Portuguese began to colonize Goa in the 15th century in order to corner the spice trade. Apparently they were slaves to their tongues -- as was everyone else in Europe.

Friday, May 18, 2007


Apparently Guruji came down to the shala yesterday -- for the first time since falling ill in March.

Details here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


The drive to Shea Stadium took about an hour due to heavy traffic. After enduring the BQE and the LIE you pass the ruins of the 1964 World’s Fair, which was attended by both Dreyfus and Kai (I was busy being born that year and was unable to make it). After that the approach to Shea Stadium is rather pretty – trees and winding roads that pass the site of the US Open (Tennis).

Shea was built around the same time as the World’s Fair, but it’s not in ruins. In fact it's in perfect working condition. Nonetheless they’re building a new stadium next door that will have 1,000 fewer seats than Shea. It's being built on the current parking lot, which means that parking has been halved. The locals seem more upset about this that than the fact that they're building yet another new stadium and lining more political pockets with public funds.

There are strict rules about what you can and cannot bring in (this is NYC after all. Well, Queens). The bag-check man at the entrance actually called me “Smiley” (as in, “Smiley, you’re next”) as he made the motions of going through my uncharacteristically small bag. When I whispered that I was from Chicago, he said my secret was safe with him and no one would care and I was welcome there. That was before their best pitcher broke his five game winning streak and the Cubs creamed the Mets 10-1. I prefer games that seesaw back and forth and end with a close score; that way no one is humiliated and fears losing their job.

The beer came in beautiful red-orange and blue bottles decorated with the Mets logo, and when Kai jokingly asked the Fire (pretzel) and Ice (beer) Stand man if he had a Cubs beer for me, the vendor offered that he’d been to Fenway and all the other stadiums, but Wrigley Field is by far the most beautiful ballpark in America.

I'm no baseball fan – two games in one season is unprecedented – but I did develop a taste for it when I was six or so, and my mother would take me to the bars with her. I’d drink cokes and eat potato chips while listening to Jack Brickhouse and watching Billy Williams, Ron Santo et al smack them into the ivy between ads for Tru-Link Fence and Empire Carpet. I remember wondering why they counted the balls, and how they knew knew which was which.

Our seats at Shea were near some drunken Cubs fans, which made me feel right at home. Unlke Wrigley, the Shea scoreboard has instant replay video. But I was downstairs casting my ballot for the All Star game and missed the Mets' single homer -- apparently a man in a top hat pops out of the dirty Big Apple in right field, and dancing girls come out. Too late, I realized I should go back downstairs so the Mets could score again. I did however catch Aramis Ramirez's glorious Grand Slam. But I had to ask everyone around me if it had actually happened. No one cheered, and Shea only shows replays when the Mets do something well. Suffice to say there were few replays that night.

The drive home was uneventful; when we got to Park Slope we saw that the telescopes were again focused on Saturn. It was a new moon and the skies were dark and clear; you could see Venus with the naked eye. Kai got rock star parking (of course) and we got out to take a look. Saturn’s ring was still at that jaunty angle and it still looked like a cartoon. While we were there Jupiter rose, but no one seemed ready to focus on it. The opera singing man came up from the subway and had a turn at the 'scope; one group of women was simply not interested. We started talking about Steve Buscemi and Catesey was doing an impersonation of him from “Fargo” when who walks up but his double. Turns out it was his brother – whom of course Kai knows. And his companion had met Catesey at a birthday party a couple of weeks ago (No one knew me though). After chatting we sat on the stoop and snacked on hummus and mozzarella sandwiches (Dharma always says, “A little mozzarella is OK.”). And that retired the side.

Other highlights:

-Tea with the Goodmans in SoHo on Monday. Lovely to see them as always, plus PSG gave a bonus blow-by-blow account of the previous night’s “Sopranos.” He and the oldest daughter were leaving for Scotland the next day and the passports had yet to be located.

-Coffee in the sun on Tuesday at Two Red Hens in Park slope, watching the expensive strollers holding drooling zombie-like three-year olds pass by. SportMarty has a theory that when children outgrow the stroller they’ll be unable to walk on their own because their legs will not function. He has a point. We saw exactly one pre-tween walking on her own two feet. Unlike her wheeled brethren, she was actually smiling and alert and interested in the world around her. Anyway we were watching this and enjoying a blueberry-oatmeal scone and talking about Venice-based surfing actor and ex- Blue Man Tahmus Rounds when who calls but…..Tahmus Rounds. Apparently all is well in Cali, the back is almost healed from surgery and he’ll appear on CSI tomorrow.


-Dharma on Monday talking me through a partner headstand between the knees of Erin, who was in Bench Pose (like Table Pose). I got busted for the same things Suddha says; put the chest forward, move back the legs. Dharma tried to walk me through Part B. but I’m hopeless at partner yoga and first-time instruction, and wound up with my feet on Erin’s throat. Oops! Then we switched places, and she did it perfectly. The first time around.

-On Friday I did full splits on both sides for the first time. The guy with the awesome nose noticed this and said something and my attention shifted and I responded and suddenly felt something deep in my buttock go “thunk.” But it seems to be a shift rather than a tear.

-On Monday and Tuesday I dropped back and stood up during the final part of the Shiva Namaskar sequence like it was nothing.

-On Tuesday Dharma showed me the proper way to stand up from Parvritta Parsvakonasana; after walking forward you first straighten the bottom leg and lift the chest; only then should you attempt to straighten the top leg. When the body starts to shift, you should stop straightening. That class was super hot and sweaty, and I FINALLY got Padma Pinca Mayurasana (lotus forearm balance) for more than a few seconds.

-Dharma was mic’d on Monday, his birthday. But not on Tuesday.

-On Friday I fell over once in Pinca Mayurasana (finally!) and again when trying to go into headstand from the pose. It did not feel so good on the neck but I didn't hit anyone and in the end it was fine.

-On Tuesday I learned some new tricks from Dharma and Rebecca-from-teacher-training; arm balances with the foot either on the upper arm or shoulder, the other leg straight.

-Throughout class Tuesday I noticed my mind wandering or saw myself slacking off in yet another challenging pose and had to remind myself: “There is only this moment. What are you waiting for? Do it.” And “A yogi has fortitude and does not show fatigue just because s/he is tired. The pose is not for you anyway; it’s an offering. So offer it.” By the end of class I was dripping wet, and experienced that same sense of release and relief that I received during teacher training. Interestingly, my clothes did not smell much at all (and I have a very good sniffer). But the ones I wore on Friday certainly did. More proof that there really is something to Dharma’s purification techniques.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


I wore these Dalai Lama red Be Present crops and the accompanying polka-dotted socks to Dharma's noon class on Friday. I had no idea of the effect until Catesey showed me this snap. I looked positively batty. But not to him. "It's New York City and you fit right in." Indeed.

I called Dreyfus a little awhile ago and asked him to guess what I was doing tonight. He already knew -- and had commented to that effect on my last post: The Cubs-Mets game at Shea of course.

Last night's trip to Williamsburg was indeed *interesting* but not dangerous. The band was of course still recording but I was quite content to sit and read It's Here Now Are You while they went through it again and again.

Finally we left and had an exquisite dinner at Marlowe & Son, which is part import grocer, part hipster bar, part coffee shop and part gourmet restaurant in a rustic little wood building. The food was AMAZING and I'm no gourmand. In fact I recently read in Sivananda's Science of Pranayama that yoga is not for gluttons and epicureans. But this food was GOOD. Not that I'm attached to ever going back. We had a soup made of some tangy, dark green leek-spinach hybrid called Ramp -- which seems made up but apparently not. Tangy and dark green; that's for me. I also had some Ramp-topped gnocci. I don't even like gnocci but the veg. options were few and it was of course suprisingly amazing. We ate this in the corner of the candle-lit store-part in front of the restaurant, and at one point a man with very good hair walked over and grabbed an eight-pack of English muffins off the shelf above us.

At some point I noticed a dog curled up between two very pretty women at the table of ten next to us. It was tiny but had the biggest ear-span I've ever seen on a pooch. Kai asked about the dog and it turned out it was something Swedish as was the group; apparently we'd been sitting next to the famous band Blonde Redhead all night.

And today I went to Dharma's class and finally felt like my old self. It was swamped and sweaty. He showed me a couple of new tricks and said a couple of very important things, which I may or may not have heard correctly:

-Copy the teacher (this followed a story about a Zen master who told his students that he would stop talking and teaching; some of them left but others stayed on and simply copied him). Of course Dharma tells it much better than that.

-If you have an injury, let it rest for a week. If it doesn't heal, eat only watermelon for one week and it will improve.

-I also learned what he said to me at graduation -- without even having to ask.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Graduation followed a three-hour Maha Sadhana (Great Practice) class, which consisted of mantra, breathing and various purification techniques as well as asana. There were mere inches between mats, and when Forearm Balance time came around (which was whenever we did Downward Dog -- which was often) you had to be rather careful. But there were no serious collisions.

There were only a few of us for the actual graduation, which was very low key and consisted of Dharma handing us a certificate and saying some words to each of us. I of course couldn't understand what he said to me; he couldn't possibly have said "Eat more sole. Eat fish." I did learn afterwards, during the pot-luck, that two of my fellow graduates are seriously considering the 500 hour traning next year.

After the potluck there was a birthday party for Dharma, which was also low key; people sat on the floor and got up and gave him presents and/or gave testimonials in a very informal manner. Dharma actually turned 68 today; Saturday was Catesey/The Hex's birthday(46).

Things wrapped up after midnight, and Erin and I stayed over at the Hotel 17. Unfortunately our friend from Argentina couldn't make her connecting flight in Florida and missed the festivities.

Of course I lost another earring; it was my second on this trip. Plus during teacher training I lost one of the 24-kt gold ones from India. Apparently the gods do not want me to wear earrings. But will I listen? No. After getting back to P-Slope on Sunday I scoured the area for earrings; nothing under $40 and all of it quite ugly and made of some unknown substance. Pressing on, I headed to the the little flea market they hold in front of the school on 7th Avenue. At the very last stall I found a pair of servicable sterling silver earrings with decent clasps for...........$2. Now that's the stuff.

That evening we wanted to see experimental guitarist Fred Frith (say that five times fast) at John Zorn's East Village club, The Stone. We looked everywhere for a phone number to make a reservation and found nothing. Finally Catesey went online and learned that you just show up and hope for the best.

The "club" is in a corner storefront with no windows and no street number or other identifying marks; plus the metal, graffiti-covered shutters on the sides were down. We went in and found a black, triangle-shaped room filled with rows of chairs facing a shiny black grand piano. After paying the $10 cover we were offered pieces of foam and a chance to sit on the floor; after asking some people to move we were able to sit in actual chairs.

After some time Fred Frith (whom you may know from the band Henry Cow and / or The Art Bears and / or the 1980s Ralph Records samplers that also featured the Residents and other out-there acts) came out. He has gray hair and a kind face. He was followed by an older, limping woman carrying an accordian and a young woman sporting a fabulous shag haircut and Eddie Munster bangs. She sat behind the grand piano... and proceeded to play its innards with mallets. Frith played the guitar with a bow and a small chain and other devices and the other woman played accordian. It was awesome. The young woman (Elsa, who is a classical pianist) also played balloons, bubbles, a wind-up toy, and a toy Xylophone. From time to time she'd go into mad scientist mode and play the piano. It was hypnotic, astounding, and over in 45 minutes. It was also pure yoga. Plus they all hugged at the end.

Then we went to Angelica Kitchen, which is still my favorite vegetarian restaurant in America. Then it was time to take the F Train back to Park Slope. When we came out at 7th Avenue we saw him -- the man with the telescope. He was joined by two newcomers; a man with an OK 'scope and a woman with a brand-new one that she said was the strongest one there. Whatever. We got to see Saturn (which looks like a cartoon of itself) and Jupiter. It has many moons and made me think of what it would be like to live there and do ashtanga; there would be so many moon days (ie days off of practice) that everyone would do it, and no one would complain.

Well, they'd probably still complain about how much their body hurts and how hard it is to practice every day and they'd rather sleep in and why can't they do some easy late-morning hatha practice a few days each week and this pose isn't coming and why are they stuck and the teacher adjusts them too much / not enough and which teacher training should they take, etc etc etc.....

Now I'm off to Williamsburg to meet Kai at some recording studio in the back of an unmarked garage owned by the head of neurosurgery at a Manhattan hospital. I get to take the F to the mysterious G train. But it's a litle worrisome when someone says, "The neighborhood looks a little iffy but don't worry; it's safe now."

One can only hope....

photos by Catesey

Saturday, May 12, 2007


On Friday I got up at 3 so I could leave at 4 and take a 6AM flight to La Guardia in the hopes of attending Andrei Ram's 12-2PM Level IV class.. Despite much backup on the BQE I made it to Catesey's Park Slope abode in good time, and then took the F to the 6 to 23rd and 3rd. Instead of Andrei, though, the teacher was Dharma. What a treat! We did several 3rd series poses that I'm learning to adjust (don't tell anyone!). And the meditation afterwards was, well, amazing.

By the way, Dharma is the one doing a hands-free headstand on a Houston Street sewer cap in the new Vanity Fair spread on yoga teachers. Pattabhi Jois is the one at the end, in front of the Sanskrit College with the bicycles and staring men. Their two photos seem to be the most "real" of the bunch. Hmmmm, I wonder why......

After class I met Catesey at Astor Place and we hoofed it to my favorite serve-yourself vegetarian sold-by-the-pound restaurant, Temple in the Village. On the way we passed through Washington Square Park, where we stopped to hear some young ragtime-y musicans that Robert Crumb would approve of -- complete with washboard, homemade drum kit and dancers. Ragtime is the new pUnK rock.

Later we rode bikes to Issue Project Room, a Brooklyn silo next to the stinky Gowanus canal to see a Butoh-y performance by Vanessa Skantze called "Lucifer" and attend a birthday party. Marc Ribot was in attendance -- but not Steve Buscemi. Still, Brooklyn is the new downtown.

And today I slept in til 11:15AM.

No sleep til Brooklyn indeed....

And tonight is Maha Sadhana at Dharma's, followed by teacher training graduation and a potluck birthday party for Dharma's 68th birthday -- which runs from 10 to midnight.

Yes, til midnight.

Nope, Hatha really isn't the new Astanga. Not by any stretch....

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


I finished the essay about therapy, depression and yoga and sent in the book report on Sivananda's The Science of Pranayama and the karma yoga teaching diary and letters of proof....which means I may actually finally be finished with my teacher traning homework and could possibly "graduate" on Saturday. So here, at long last, a report on Sunday's activites.....

I rode the bike downtown to teach the morning Mysore at YogaNow, then went down the street to Baba Palace ("Water is for Drinking. Do Not Wash Hands Here!") for some palak, naan and chai. Then I rode east towards Millennium Park. At 12:30 it was already a madhouse, and I did not fancy using the free bike valet. INstead I locked my bike across the street, in front of the Chicago Cultural Center, and went in to have a pee. I was treated to the dulcid strains of a live sinfonietta when I opened the front door of the historical building (which used to house the Chicago Public Library and contains one of the largest Tiffany domes in the world). There was no line for the bathroom.

The line across the street to get in to see the Dalai Lama, however, wrapped around the block. Everyone had to go through two metal detectors and -- just like at the airport -- many items were confiscated. A student with pavillion seats told me it took her 1.5 hours to get through the line. Ouch!

But not if you had a press pass. I got in with no trouble and amused myself watching the State Department's bomb-sniffing dogs go over the TV crews' equipment. Then I went in; this was my first event inside of the famous, grossly over budget Frank Geary-designed bandshell, which resembled an artfully crushed can of soda. and despite myself I was impressed. I immediately ran into a student from the Fancy Health Club (his seat was actually better than mine) and wound up next to a Buddhist from Sri Lanka who let me use his binoculars. There was plenty of people-watching, and I could not but help notice that there are legions of good-looking male DL fans with excellent heads of hair. Some local dancers and the DL's Tuvan-like singers opened the program, just like on the tape of the DL speaking at Central Park. Their robes grazed their ankles, and they were all wearing shoes.

The setting, by the way, was exquisite; beautiful sunny weather, a lake breeze, and that crazy bandshell.

Everyone stood up when the DL came out, and he presented white prayer shawls to the local dignitaries -- including omnipresent A&E newsman Bill Kurtis. Then he sat down on a plush chair on a raised platform, his translator in the chair beside him. He talked for awhile and then paused. I saw him take off his shoes and cros his legs, meditation-style. Then he seemed to warm up and talked about compassion, the state of Tibet, how to deal with terrorism, how Bush is a nice guy and how Chairman Mao was also decent and told him that Tibet should indeed have its own flag although they should also fly the national (Chinese) flag. He made jokes. He giggled. He was utterly engaging. At one point he paused, drew his robes more snugly around him and said, "It's chilly here today, no?". But it's kind of sad that he has to come on these tours to promote the cause of the country from which he's exiled. That's why he does these tours. And it's even more disturbing to think about the US's role in all of it, what with opening up trade with China and awarding it most favored nation status (thanks, Bill Clinton). But it was wonderful to see him. He was just a far away presence until I got a good look at his face through the binoculars and immediately teared up. He's definitely the real thing.

That night I decided to see Mother Meera at the 19th Century Club in Oak Park. She is meant to be an avatar of the divine mother, and now lives in Germany. Unlike Amma, her darshan (viewing) is held in complete silence, and you must register online head of time. Instead of hugging, she holds your head in her hands as you bow down, and then you lean back and she looks into your eyes. The instructions about the darshan were very specific and said that you should come with clean hair. I thought "What the hell, my hair is clean." But then I re-thought it; a dozen miles on the bicycle in dirty city air plus two hours of sweaty morning Mysore adjusting do not a clean head make. So before leaving I washed my hair. As the minutes ticked by I realized it would be rude to present her with a wet head, so I actually blow-dried it -- a rare occurance that only happens a handful of times each year. Then I drove to Oak Park -- no traffic! -- which OP native Ernest Hemingway once decribed as a city of "broad lawns and narrow minds." Whatever it is, I was pleased to learn that parking is free on Sundays.

Check-in was on the porch of the historic buiding, and I was ushered inside. There was no line for the bathroom. The event was held inside a large hall with a raised stage; the minute I arrived, so did Mother Meera -- who is tiny and just four years older than I.

I didn't know where to sit -- there were tons of empty seats, although the afternoon programs had been sold out -- and was wandering around trying to figure out where to go when one of the people in white whispered that I should put my shoes under a chair and get in the darshan line. So I did. Just like Amma, you kneel up the central aisle until you get to the stage; then you climb up and kneel and move forward until it's your turn. There was no man-handling. Instead, her assistants were super unobtrusive, and made gentle gestures when it was time to move forward. The silence was wonderful, but my knees started to hurt like hell from the kneel-crawling.

Within ten minutes of arrival, I was able to see Mother Meera. She was wearing a stunning orange sari with a gold border. But it's her eyes that matter. I prefer not to describe what the darshan was like, but afterwards I took a seat and meditated on it until the last person had had their darshan. With very little fanfare, Mother Meera stood up and walked out -- and left me at least with an indescribable sense of well-being.

Not a bad day, really.

And lucky for you, Mother Meera is giving darshan again next week. Details here.

Monday, May 07, 2007


You may have read my 2002 article about Bikram Yoga, when it first came to Chicago.

And you've seen me prattle on and on and on about my regard for Park Slope-based writer Suketu Mehta and his 2005 masterpiece Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found.

Now, Suketu tackles the subject of tradmarking yoga in a typically brilliant op-ed piece in today's New York Times. The complete text is here.

I GREW up watching my father stand on his head every morning. He was doing sirsasana, a yoga pose that accounts for his youthful looks well into his 60s. Now he might have to pay a royalty to an American patent holder if he teaches the secrets of his good health to others. The United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued 150 yoga-related copyrights, 134 patents on yoga accessories and 2,315 yoga trademarks. There’s big money in those pretzel twists and contortions — $3 billion a year in America alone.

It’s a mystery to most Indians that anybody can make that much money from the teaching of a knowledge that is not supposed to be bought or sold like sausages. Should an Indian, in retaliation, patent the Heimlich maneuver, so that he can collect every time a waiter saves a customer from choking on a fishbone?

....It is worth noting that the people in the forefront of the patenting of traditional Indian wisdom are Indians, mostly overseas. We know a business opportunity when we see one and have exported generations of gurus skilled in peddling enlightenment for a buck. The two scientists in Mississippi who patented the medicinal use of turmeric, a traditional Indian spice, are Indians. So is the strapping Bikram Choudhury, founder of Bikram Yoga, who has copyrighted his method of teaching yoga — a sequence of 26 poses in an overheated room — and whose lawyers sent out threatening notices to small yoga studios that he claimed violated his copyright.

Apparently someone even tried to tradmark "Om."

Suketu compares it to Indian companies copying patented Western lifesaving drugs and selling them at more reasonable prices -- a process that was stopped in its tracks due to WTO pressure in 2005:

Drugs and hatha yoga have the same aim: to help us lead healthier lives. India has given the world yoga for free. No wonder so many in the country feel that the world should return the favor by making lifesaving drugs available at reduced prices, or at least letting Indian companies make cheap generics. If padmasana — a k a the lotus position — belongs to all mankind, so should the formula for Gleevec, the leukemia drug over whose patent a Swiss pharmaceuticals company is suing the Indian government. But the drug companies are playing rough. Abbott, based in Chicago, has decided to sell no new medicines in Thailand, in retaliation for that country’s producing generic versions of three lifesaving drugs.

And the payoff:

If the copying of Western drugs is illegal, so should be the patenting of yoga. It is also intellectual piracy, stood on its head.

I'm so gonna stalk him when I'm in P-Slope this weekend....

And if you think you're gonna steal my idea, I'll sue your ass.

Thanks to Catesey for the hot news tip.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


But The Beachwood Reporter -- a webzine created by the terrific media writer Steve Rhodes -- quoted my media column yesterday (scroll down to #16 and #17).

The column also elicited a nice comment from another favorite local writer, Bob Reed (scroll all the way down).

And here I thought nobody read it.

Friday, May 04, 2007


That's right; I'm going to a Cubs baseball game this afternoon (it's for work, OK?) and to see the Dalai Lama speak at Millennium Park on Sunday (technically also for work, since I somehow managed to score a single press ticket).

Somewhere in there I'm going to teach four yoga classes -- including Sunday Mysore at YogaNow.

Only in Chicago....

And I also might just try to sneak away from writing my teacher training essays to see Mother Meera.

Which reminds me. Last night I saw David Kodeski's utterly rivting solo theater piece Another Lousy Day, which is based on a pair of personal diaries from 1960-1961 he found at the massive, ramshackle Andersonville thrift store that used to be where Charlie's Ale House now stands. He's performing the piece next week at a gay theater festival in Dublin. But if you are interested at all in Chicago history -- the diary writer was a single woman who lived with her father near Bridgeport and worked at the Zenith factory on the West Side, where she helped assemble the very first color television sets -- tonight is your last chance to see it (that means YOU, Gridlife).

June 26: Another lousy day. Went to our new jobs on colored TV and are they ever awful and feel like I'm in Siberia. I asked Mike a couple of times about the controls and later on he called me over and showed me a book about a Baptist. He was so cute. Went to bed late.

Every time she used the term "lousy" -- which was often; days are lousy, nights are lousy, movies are lousy, work is lousy, etc. -- Kodeski rang a bell.

The bell rang so often you started to wait for it. When another adjective was used -- such as "awful" -- there was no bell, and it was a little disappointing; sort of like when you want to sneeze and cannot.

After the show, like two old people, SMacky and I sipped herbal tea at Uncommon Ground.

When it came time to pay, the unshaven young waiter waved his hand.

"This one's on me," he said. "I've had a really, really bad night."

I immmediately perked up.

"Was it a really LOUSY night?"

He agreed that yes, it had been quite lousy....


...and received a very nice tip indeed.

So....Even if the term "solo theater" scares you, you'll love Another Lousy Day; Kodeski uses tons of props, making it seem more like a show-and-tell than carefully-crafted Art. It's at 8 at the Live Bait Theatre, 3914 N. Clark. Details here.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


If a proposed postal rate hike goes though on July 15, small, independently-owned publications will see huge increases that may put them out of business. Yet larger magazines will see smaller hikes.

Instead of going with the modest increases recommended by the Postal Service, the Postal Board of Governors chose to implement a complex, difficult-to-understand plan submitted by Time Warner -- the nation's largest magazine publisher.

Small publications such as In These Times will see hikes from 15 to 30 percent (The Nation's will be 18 percent, or a half million dollars over the increase proposed by the Postal Service), while larger ones such as those owned by Time Warner will get a discount.

“It has the effect of making it much more expensive for small publisher to pay for postage,” says University of Illinois communications professor Robert McChesney, who is also the president and co-founder of the media reform organization Free Press.

The change has gone through without any public input or debate or congressional oversight – which is unusal for the Postal Service. Since its inception, US postal policy has been skewed to make it cheaper for smaller publications to get launched and survive; the principle, put into place by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, was to use postal rates to even out the playing field to ensure a diversity of viewpoints were available to "the whole mass of the people."

McChesney and others have been pushing for Congress to hold hearings before the increase is finalized. US Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago) has promised a legislative hearing in Washington, and a public hearing is tentatively scheduled in Chicago on May 31; for details contact Davis’ office at 773-533-7520. To sign a letter protesting the hike, go to stoppostalratehikes.com.

If you liked that video you'll love this.