Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Why is it so easy to fall in love with other people's cats -- even when one's own cat, Mr. Needleclaws (not his real name), is home alone and cannot eat because his beloved owner is out of town?

Oh, the guilt!

While in Cali I fell head-over-heels for my hosts' two cats, Kissy and Prissy (not their real names).

Kissy is an outgoing, well-adjusted medium-hair Calico who reminds me of my old cat Fritzka - aka the best cat that ever lived. She's smart and clumsy and has an adorable smudge on her nose.

Prissy is like a smaller, whinier, needier Mr. Needleclaws. They're both dumb, good-looking, athetlic grey Tabbies.

Whenever I'd see Kissy and Prissy, I'd get far more excited than I do when I see old friends, and start talking to them - way more than I do with other people.

They seemed to return my affection.

Kissy let me clip her nails.

Whiny Prissy would curl up like a grub and sleep on the end of my bed each night. (I'm sure this had nothing to do with the fact that it got quite cold at night and my room was the warmest in the house. No, it couldn't be that).

I started missing those cats as soon as I got to the airport.

It was worse when I returned home, and Mr. Needleclaws immediately got tangled in my feet and would not leave me alone.

When I gave him the gift I'd bought him in Cali, he sniffed it for half a second and walked away.

He spent a long time sniffing my luggage, trying to find evidence of other cats.

When I sat down at the computer, he placed himself between the screen and me, and swished his tail in my face.

Then he jumped onto my lap and dug his needle claws into my thigh. When I tried to push him out of the way, I noticed that his bottom smelled bad.

When I went to use the toilet, he got there first. When I sat down, he jumped up and bit my hand.

He was so annoying, I locked him out of the bedroom when it was time to go to sleep.

His whining woke me up at 4AM (seemed like 2AM).

Even worse was the banging noise from his simultaneous, Olympic-calibur (yet nonetheless futile) attempts to turn the door knob with his thumbless paws, while standing on his hind legs.

Finally I couldn't take it anymore, and threw open the door.

"Why are you such an a**hole?" I asked.

"I'm so sick of you! Go away and let me sleep!"

Crushed, he gave me a hurt look, turned away and skulked back to his spot on the couch.

And I went back to bed, dreaming about Kissy and Prissy.

And thinking it's probably a good thing I'm not married....

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Apparently famous father and prominent Buddhist Robert Thurman wears the same ring I do -- except instead of buying his from a Kashmiri in Kovalam, his was custom-made in Cali six months ago, of 22-karat gold. He calls it a Kundan - I call it a Navratna - and wears his as a wedding ring.

From the annoyingly coy "Possessed" column in Sunday's New York Times (it's *interesting* that he agreed to talk to them, considering how the Buddhists go on about non-attachment and egolessness and whatnot):

"... about six months ago, the couple were in Los Angeles visiting a friend who is a jewelry designer. She wore a pendant around her neck.

“I said, ‘That looks like a mandala,’” he recalled. “She said, ‘No, it’s a kundan.’ It’s something that protects you from the malevolent influences of the planets.” Shaped like a gold flower, a kundan is a charm set with nine stones, one for each of seven heavenly bodies — the sun, the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn — and two more for the “lunar nodes....”

Though unperturbed about planetary interference, Mr. Thurman asked his friend to make him a kundan on a 22-karat ring."

It is reassuring to know that even the rich and famous lose their stones, too:

"It did not take long, though, for chaos to reassert itself. Sure enough, the topaz has gone missing. Informed that the yellow stone is said to represent fate, he shot back: 'Ah, the gem of destiny. No wonder I lost my way.'"


*Growing up in lily-white McHenry, I thought this was the title of the Elton John song. I'd never heard the word "honky"... although the N-word was bandied about quite a bit.

Sunsets don't get old - people do!

The many patterms and textures of downtown SF-near-the-water.

Full moon rising (and looking like a whole note), as viewed from my hosts' delightful back porch. We saw this while consuming white wine, organic grapes, goat cheese, rice crackers and home-roasted pecans. Because we could. We do not know how to live here in the Midwest. (What we do know, with our summers and winters and hot dogs and Old Style beer, is how to bring on early death).

This truck was parked in front of a wimmin's anti-war clubhouse in Albany.

While driving to breakfast with Jamba T. Jones, we took a wrong turn and ended up crossing the Bay Bridge. $4 round-trip. Priceless.

Ahhhh. Breakfast. At Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe in Emoryville.

This exquisite seaside park is in Alameda, and attracts many birds. And people - including a small crew photographing a pale, half-naked bleach-blonde woman lying like a corpse in the leaves. Perhaps she was from Chicago. But I digress. It takes Jamba Jones just 30 minutes to walk here from her apartment. There is no return bus, which annoys her.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Actually I'm staying at Queen E's place in Richmond, but just about everything we've done so far has been in Berkeley....

Note that each cut faces a different direction, and is in the shape of a crescent moon.

Parking in rear.

Snapped in transit, while leaving the Trader Joe's parking lot in El Cerrito.

Everything was so positive here - the dishes have names like "I am Creative" and "I am Divine" - it made me feel a little bit dirty.
But the food was amazing.
And expensive.

After taking BART to S.F. and visiting with Saltpeter and his delightful daughter Maisy on Friday, we checked out the Dia de Los Muertos exhibit at the Mission Cultural Center and then walked to 14th Street. Many abandoned movie theatres were there. We also stopped at the Sketchers outlet store - which is far more impressive than Nurnberg's Adidas outlet store. Still, we walked out emptyhanded and took the BART to Embarcadero, where we stopped for a delightful Thai lunch overlooking the bay. Then it was back to El Cerrito/Richmond. $8.50 round-trip.

We again did the 1.5 hour walk around the bay last night. Then we undid our good work with excellent Chicago-style pizza at Zachary's. There were signs on the wall for Diversey Pkwy, Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue. The place is packed all the time, and seats are at a premium. So when you walk in they find out how many are in your party, take your order, do some math, and give you a slip of paper that says you'll be seated by X O'clock. You can drink beer while you wait. When they call your name, you sit down and the pizza comes a few minutes later. We occupied our seats for a mere 40 minutes. Apparently the place is employee-owned. It was in Berkeley of course.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The cold and fever are gone but the phlegm lingers on.

And on.

I had to fly to Cali yesterday and was hoping to avoid another ear implosion / near aneurysm. So I did backbends and headstand (very good for the sinuses) in the morning. I took a Sudafed PE before boarding and brought the neti pot on the plane with me. I used it before takeoff and just before landing. In the toy bathroom. With people waiting outside.

I also used earplugs and chewed a big wad of gum.

It more or less worked. There was some pain in the ears during descent but nothing like last time around.

Nevertehless I was half-deaf for several hours before the ears finally popped.

The two-hour walk around the East Bay last night with Queen E. certainly helped. The moon was already high in the sky as the sun was going down. The water to the east had a blue sheen (from the nearly-full moon), while the west was orange-y. The Dead Kennedys' Moon Over Marin went through my head. Until it was poisoned by Journey. Still it was exquisite.

As was having chai and (sourdough) toast on the back balcony this morning, while drooling over the neighbor's fat, perfectly ripe but out-of-reach lemons dangling from a nearby tree.

And to think people live like this year round....

Friday, October 19, 2007


The Chicago Tribune discovered bhangra yesterday.

Unfortunately they mentioned the bhangra class I usually take, and the next session -- which I'd been planning to sign up for --is now full.

To read the article click here.

The piece, by Monica Eng, also included a list of upcoming bhangra events:

* Loyola University's South Asian Student Alliance's Bhangra Blowout: Dance party starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Bremner Lounge (in the Centennial Forum Student Union), 1125 W. Loyola Ave. Admission is one canned good or $2 for non-Loyola students and faculty;

* Bhangrateque: Dance night features DJ Xception from Canada; DJ Jimmy Singh. 9 p.m. Friday at Sonotheque, 1444 W. Chicago Ave. $10; or .

* The sixth annual Chicago International Bhangra and Gidha (women's dance form) Competition: A gala event that includes dinner and dance performances, to be held at "PCS Night 2007" dinner banquet. Dinner starts at 7 p.m. Oct. 27 at Waterford Banquet and Conference Center, 933 S. Riverside Drive, Elmhurst. $40-$200. 630-440-7730 or

* Bhangra I and II: 8-week classes by Shamila Khetarpal. Tuesday evenings beginning Oct. 30 at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 909 W. Armitage Ave.; $235; 773-728-6000. Free bhangra class by Khetarpal, 4 p.m. on Nov. 3 at Old Town School's main location (4544 N. Lincoln Ave.) during the school's open house.

* Diwali Show: Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. in the Northeastern Illinois University Auditorium, 5500 N St. Louis. Tickets: $3-$5 includes dinner and open dance after the performance. Part of the proceeds benefits a charity to educate needy children in India.

* Diwali Puja and Garba: Event includes a Diwali Puja (ceremony and offering), as well as a dinner and traditional Diwali dancing with sticks called garba at which the dance will be taught. Attendees are encouraged to wear colorful traditional South Asian dress. 8 p.m. Nov. 9 at the International House, 1414 East 59th St. Dinner will cost $3-$5:

* Diwali Night & Festivities: Weekend festivities include special cocktails, hand painted lamps, special street food snacks, and a three course prix fixe dinner that finishes with paan, a fragrant stuffed betelnut leaf for chewing. Nov. 9-11 at Vermilion, 10 W. Hubbard St.; 312-527-4060. Also, on Nov. 10, Vermilion will host a Diwali dance party with bhangra and Indian fusion dance tunes from 9 p.m.-3 a.m. Revelers are encouraged to wear colorful South Asian dress.

Thursday, October 18, 2007



Last Thursday, I printed out a boarding pass for Friday's flight to NYC.

When I noticed it had a seat number on it, I called ATA to request an aisle seat.

After making the change, I could not print out the boarding pass. Nor could the person on the other end of the line.

I was told to check in at the airport.

But when I tried to use the kiosk at Midway, the machine spat out my card and told me to see an agent.

While waiting in line I ran into my friend C. It turns out she was on the same flight. Sadly, we could not get seats together.

When we got to the security checkpoint, the agent pointed to a long line of S's on my boarding pass, and told me that I'd been flagged for an extra security check. He directed me to a different line.

I said goodbye to C, explaining that "If this is anything like the last time I was flagged [in December 2001], it will take forever and I'll be the last person on the plane."

I joined the others in the special line; a handful of home-maker types and a (tall, bald, female, Caucasian) Tibetan monk.

The line branched into two, and I got into the nearest one. When it was my turn I took off the shoes and belt and jacket and pulled out the laptop and the cell phone and baggie full of toiletries.

When I finally made it through, they asked me if I was an employee. Nope.

"Then you have to go through the other line."

"I have to go through AGAIN?" I protested. The line was loooooooong. And my flight was boarding.

The agent, who was holding my boarding pass, thought for a moment. Apparently I was making a face, because he agreed to move my stuff to the other side and not put it through again. He told me to get into the line in front of a glass structure that resembled a phone booth.

I padded over in my stocking feet and got into the line. I didn't have my shoes or ID or wallet or boarding pass or phone. Talk about feeling helpless.....

I waited.

And tried to keep an eye on my valuables.

And waited.

And watched the minutes tick by.

I must have still been making that face. A handsome man in a uniform - a pilot? - patted my arm and said, "Don't worry. It'll be over soon."

The monk, who'd also been wearing airport-friendly Merrill shoes, was far more mellow than I during the long wait.

Finally I was told to get into the booth, where puffs of air would be shot at me (in order to check for explosives). I was told not to leave the booth until the green light came on.

The puffs came quick, and made me jump a bit.

The green light took some time to come on - sort of like at the car wash.

Then I had to reclaim my stuff. I did a quick inventory; it was all there. An agent brought it to a table, where she wiped each piece with a white cloth and then had it analyzed in a thing connected to a computer.

After some time, I was finally set free.

I put my clothes back on and put my stuff away.

Finally, I ran - ran! - to the gate. It was the farthest one of course. Three walkways away. At the very end of the terminal.

Yet several people were still waiting in line to get on the plane.

Phew! I thought

But the line didn't move.

After about 20 minutes they announced they were going to stop boarding the plane, and told us to sit down.

Ten minutes later they announced there was an equipment problem, and said they'd make another announcement in half an hour.

I ran to the bathroom.

I filled the water bottle.

I bought a little something to eat.

My attitude changed about the security delay; because of it I was free to run around, while C. and many others were stuck on the plane, held hostage in their seats.

Finally, they told us we had to change planes, and that we'd depart some two hours after the appointed time (6AM). From another gate.

So much for taking the noon class at Dharma's, I thought. So much for getting up at 3:30AM.

I waited some time for C to get off the plane.

We went to the new gate and had a wonderful time catching up while we waited. I told her that no matter how bad this was, it couldn't be worse than my trip to India last year, when it took 24 hours and five planes just to get from Chicago to Frankfurt.

Finally, we boarded, and were given $50 vouchers off our next flight, plus $10 in free phone calls and airport food.

Once we got to NYC, we flew around in circles for an extra 20 minutes before finally touching down.

When we finally stopped at our gate at La Guardia, everyone stood up and started talking on their cell phones.

But the jetway could not get to the plane; another mechanical failure.

We waited and waited.

Finally they told us to sit back down.

I wondered if perhaps I should have stayed home.

Then we taxied to a different gate. This time the jetway worked, and we got off the plane.

While waiting for our luggage, I learned that the monk was in NYC to see the Dalai Lama. C. was there to do a silent retreat with zen master Thich Nhat Hahn. I was there for Dharma Mittra's monthly three-hour class. Not a bad group.



I caught a cold after Dharma's Monday class. Detoxing.

Detoxing so much in fact that I missed the Tuesday class, Oh, well.

I still had the cold when it was time to fly back home on Tuesday. My friend E. told me to use the neti pot just before I left, so that my ears wouldn't hurt from the cabin pressure.

It was still just a cold at this point, so I packed Airborne gummies and a box of Kleenex in my carry-on bag and hoped for the best.

While checking in, I was not surprised to see a long line of SSSSSSSSSS's on my boarding pass. Flagged again. Just what you want when you have a nasty cold.

This time, though, I knew what to expect.

This time, though, the x-tra security line was short, the agents were efficient and there was no phone booth machine.

This time, I wasn't late to the gate.

After getting on the plane, I used the WC right away.

Smart move. We waited on the tarmac for over half an hour before finally taking off.

While gaining altitude, I felt shifting and gurgling in my sinuses and ears. But no pain.

The cold worsened during the flight I used half the box of Kleenex, discreetly pulling out each tissue from beneath the seat in front of me.

The woman next to me was wearing a tank top. I had on two jackets, a scarf and a hat.

I tried not to breathe on the people near me.

The descent was a nightmare, despite the neti and gum and earplugs and frequent yawning.

My ears hurt more and more until all I could think about was the pain.

I looked at my watch; a half hour until touchdown.

More throbbing. I thought my head was going to explode. I thought I couldn't stand any more pain.

Then I felt a thin line of pain pierce the corner of my left eye. Like a thread of lightening, it slowly shot up towards my forehead.

I thought, "Wow, I'm having an aneurysm." I wondered if anyone would notice, or if I'd just die quietly in my seat.

I made it down of course. And collected my baggage.

After some confusion about the parking lot, I made it to my car and started calling for subs for the next day's classes.

Of course I got lost on the way home. There's nothing like driving around the South Side while shivering nad incoherent. Archer Avenue, anyone?

When I finally got home, I used the last bit of my strength to schlep my two suitcases up three flights of stairs.

Then I took my temperature: 101.

I spent the next two days horizontal, calling subs and watching the first two seasons of Project Runway.

And now, at last, I feel halfway human again.

Not to mention toxin-free.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


The following bit of dialog was missing from the blog, but a version of it will appear in Part II of my 2007 Mysore Diary - which hits the floors of finer health food stores on November 1. (You can read Part I in the comfort of your own home by clicking here).....

DAY 17

Today a friend informed me that the Kali pendant I wear is not good.

"She is too angry," he said, shaking is head. "Not good."

He had a point. Shortly after I put on the necklace -- back home in Chicago -- I nearly had a temper tantrum.

Still, I needed to have some reminder of God around my neck. But when I asked friend what I should wear instead, he shrugged.

"Should I wear Shiva?" I asked. "After all, he's for yogis."

He thought about it for a moment.

"No," he said, shaking his head again. "He is bachelor. Not good for woman to wear."

"Well," I said. "What about Ganesh? He's just a boy with the head of an elephant. And he is for writers."

He didn't have to think very long about that one.

"No," he said with finality. "He is also bachelor."

I was becoming irritated - and quickly slipping into Kali mode.

"OK," I said. "Fine.

"But what SHOULD I wear then?"

He thought about it for a moment.

"Om," he said, brightening.

"Om is good. It is neutral. It symbolizes God.

"Yes," he said, nodding. "Om is perfect."


This friend, by the way, is Catholic.

Yet I went out and bought an Om necklace anyway.

It has not removed the anger.


Saturday, October 06, 2007


Amma says that, "Instead of giving up when things are difficult, we should hold onto God’s feet more tightly."

Apparently this is one of those times, at least according to the cover of today's Chicago Sun-Times.

But why are these folks praying?

Is it because America is involved in two expensive wars that have killed, displaced, orphaned and maimed thousands of people - and created millions of new enemies?

Because the state of Illinois just cut humanities funding?

Because Cook County is considering raising the sales tax to 11 percent?

Because Chicago is facing a CTA crisis?


Is it because Curb Your Enthusiasm really sucks this season?


It's because Cubs blew their first two playoff games and are thisclose to yet another losing season.

Whatever it takes, I guess.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Today was the opposite of last Tuesday.

This morning I practiced with Bindi and the Machine. It was difficult to breathe in the room and I lost half my body weight in sweat and flipped over no fewer than four times in Mukta Hasta Sirsasana C (a difficult headstand) before nearly vomiting during unassisted dropbacks. In fact I lost my new gold nose-pin somewhere along the way and didn't even notice until hours later.

I also taught a class, met a deadline, dealt with editorial inquiries, wrote a rough draft, napped for two hours and read another chapter of Kim - which, warts and all, is one of the best books about India I've ever read.

Then I went to bhangra class, where I sweated out the other half of my body weight and even seemed to be getting down a few of the moves before I ruined everything by pulling a leg muscle while "hopping," or jumping from standing to a deep squat and back up over and over again.

When I got home I rubbed black seed oil on the leg before eating twice my weight in delicious Indian carryout.

And now, I'm ready for bed.

Monday, October 01, 2007

MISSING FROM THE MYSORE BLOG... the following - a version of which I would like to include in the condensed version of my Mysore Diary but can't seem to get quite right.

It seems wrong to leave it out, but leaving it in makes me feel like a whiner. And like I'm going to be publicly flogged for writing about that which cannot be discussed.

Anyone care to weigh in?

DAY 21
Today I practiced between Vance-from-Berkeley and Guy-from-NYC; behind me was Peter-from-New Zealand and in front of me was Rolf-from-all-over. Even Lino, whom I adore, was nearby.

The energy was good. But my dropbacks were more like swimming frantically towards shore than floating.

Later in the day I returned to the shala to speak to Sharath about getting officially authorized to teach Ashtanga vinyasa yoga. (Although I’ve been teaching since 1998, official authorization requires at least four trips to Mysore, plus the candidate must “demonstrate appropriate attitude, devotion to the practice, and proficiency in the Primary Series (and usually at least half of the Second Series) as determined by the directors of AYRI,” while certfiication requires at least eight trips and proficiency in the first three series. According to the AYRI website, students are no longer allowed to even ask about authorization. But since I was left with the impression last year that I needed to come one more time and stay for one month in order to be authorized, I felt compelled to bring it up). After learning how many months I’ve studied in Mysore – nine – I was told to come back next year and stay for two more months.

DAY 22
This afternoon I smashed my foot between the kickstand and the Kaveri Lodge gate. It stung like hell, and it looked kind of dented but after awhle it seemed OK.

But in the evenining the foot swelled up and began to throb with pain, and I worried that I wouldn’t be able make tomorrow’s excursion to Kodagu - which would have entailed a lot of walking.

So I stopped to see the pharmacist, who gave me two tablets. He said to take one in the evening and one in the morning.

"And after that?" I asked.

"You will not need anything."

I iced my foot and took the tablets as prescribed.

The next day it was like new.

When I went back to the phamacist to thank him for curing me, he said, “It wasn’t me,” and pointed upward. “It was God.”

Apparently that's the same God who wants me to keep coming back to Mysore ad infinitum.

Here's hoping S/he provides the funds to make it happen.