Friday, March 27, 2009


I was driving down the winding road to the massive Wisconsin resort complex where the Yoga Journal conference is being held this year when I had a jaw-dropping realization: The Grand Geneva used to be The Playboy Club, which had a kick-ass ski hill back in the 1970s.

Suddenly a flood of memories invaded the mind.

Our high school ski club would hit the slopes at The Playboy Club at least once a month.

The yellow school buses would take us up there after school, pounding the AC/DC and Bob Seger the whole way up. Once we got our lift tickets, we'd spend the night skiing and drinking Jack Daniels out of hip flasks and smoking pot on the lifts. In those days, I also liked to light a minty Salem Light and take a huge drag right before getting off the lift. The cooling menthol created the most wonderful head-rush you could imagine.

Sometimes we'd get tired of skiing and sit in the very fancy night club, which was all black and red and chrome. For some reason they never carded us (in those days the Wisconsin drinking age was 18, while in Illinois it was 21). We'd settle in and get good and drunk. The novelty was that we were waited on by actual Playboy bunnies wearing rabbit ears and hot pants and fuzzy tails. They were always polite, and did their signature sexy bunny dip when they set down our whiskey stone sours.

In hindsight, it must have been quite a scene; a table full of giggly 15-year-old girls being served sugary drinks by honest-to-God Playboy bunnies.

We didn't care, though; we were being served drinks! While on an official high school excursion! It didn't get much better than that.

* * *

We were devouring a pitcher of sloe gin fizzes on one of these trips when we noticed that a table of women across the bar looked rather familiar.

We realized it was our ski club bus drivers.

We averted our faces, and sucked down our drinks even faster - certain we were busted.

But they never told on us.

We never could figure it out.

In fact, it wasn't until last year that I learned why.

Someone actually had to point it out to me: Of course they weren't going to bust us. They were bus drivers. Who were in charge of driving us home. After sucking down drinks at the bar. They had far more to lose than we did.

* * *

After Dharma's intensive today - where I experienced the most wonderful Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep) you could imagine - I drove to downtown Lake Geneva for dinner.

I ended up having a big salad at Popeye's while watching the sun set over the lake. It was beautiful.

Afterwords, I was getting into my car when a vaguely familiar sign caught my eye.

It was for Hogs & Kisses, a bar we used to frequent in the early 1980s.

Slowly a memory began to form. Kathy S and I pissing off two fat drunk girls from Chicago. Regret at bringing a squirt gun to a bar. Yelling and screaming. Kathy talking back and defending silent, sullen me. A large round table being flipped over a la Duran Duran. More yelling and fist-shaking (them). Cowering / being smart asses (us). Trying to leave but getting beaten about the face on the way out. Flashing back to the stepmotha landing blows on the same face, while turning tail. Running down the street, fast. Being chased. Suddenly not so drunk any more, as the cool night air hit our now-stinging faces. Finally taking refuge at the White Hen, where Kathy said so dramatically (and, inexplicably, in a Southern accent), "Call the po-lice! We're being chased!."

Instead, some guys we didn't know sneaked us out the rear, put us on the back of their motorcycles and whisked us to our car.

Which we then drove home, drunk.

* * *

And now I'm here at Dharma's workshop. How I got here from there is beyond me.

But I'm very grateful indeed.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Here's an old interview with ashtanga vinyasa guru Pattabhi Jois.

It's such a treat to see/hear him speak.

It makes the heart fill with love and gratitude.

Om nama Shivaya!

* * *

1. It seems that in those days yoga was 95 percent practice, 5 percent theory. Nowadays the ratio is 99 to 1... which reminds me of why I loved the old name of Guruji's shala in Mysore: The Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute. It implied that the practice (and its teaching) was not fixed, but ever-evolving.

2. You can see many more wonderful SKPJ videos here, at the Ashtanga Yoga Sangha website. For those who are serious about the practice and its parampara (lineage), these videos are must-watch material. Actually, the whole website is a wonderful resource.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


It is nearly impossible not to get sick in winter - especially as a yoga teacher, whose students often come to class when they're not feeling well (NOTE TO STUDENTS: We can tell when you're not well; you're the one in class who is sniffling and can't breathe through the nose and has a wad of Kleenex piled up next to your mat - which we step on, and then pull off our foot just before we place our hands on people's bodies to adjust them, and then use the same hand to push back our hair and accidentally brush our mouth.... you get the idea: PLEASE DO NOT COME TO CLASS WHEN YOU THINK YOU ARE GETTING SICK. If you can't breathe, you can't practice. And getting everyone else in class sick is not practicing ahimsa, or non-harming).

Anyway... for the first time in eons, I did not get sick during winter - even with the stress of all of those blizzards and subzero temperatures and car problems and moving in late January into the most freezing-cold apartment in the Windy City.

Here's what I did differently this year:

-Quit all caffeine, including chai

-Got a flu shot (after much research and internal debate)

-Stayed off the bike (usually I bike year-round)

-Disinfected my water bottle on a weekly basis

-Drank coconut water whenever I felt run down

-Took two Zicam whenever I felt run down

-Took a nap or canceled plans whenever I felt run down

-Did my practice (but napped instead whenever I felt run down)

I think that January's purification retreat in North Carolina, where we were in a completely nurturing, sattvic (peaceful, pure) environment and only ate juicy fruit for several days, was also a huge part of staying healthy. I cannot say enough good things about it.

Sadly, all of this good work did not stop me from suddenly coming down with a fever on the first day of spring.

What did I do differently during the preceeding week?

-Rode my bike to class

-Drank chai

-Thought about how I'd gone all winter without getting sick, and smiled.

-Ate a veggie burrito + chips + guacamole + 2 squares of chocolate the night before.

The lesson?

-Stay off the bike

-Stay off the chai

-Watch the ego

-And never, ever eat all of those rajasic foods at the same sitting.

Friday, March 20, 2009


I've been visiting and feeding a cat called Big Baby when his owner goes out of town each week.

I usually visit at night, and can hear him mewing when I come up the stairs.

When I open the door, he rubs against my legs and then rolls over so I can pet him on the belly.

After filling the food and whatnot, we play for awhile, and then I brush him. He's crazy about the brush; just can't stop rubbing his face on it.

Just before leaving, I give him a few cat-snacks.

I try to run out when he's still eating him.

* * *

Then I head over to my place. On Tuesday afternoon, when it was warm, I heard mewing sounds as I approached my building. They were coming from the tiny Juliette balcony on the first floor. I looked up and saw a big orange and white cat, who was standing on the postage stamp-size balcony and could not get back inside the apartment. It was hard to tell how long he'd been standing there, mewing. He looked quite distressed.

It was worrisome, because the occupant of that apartment had not been picking up her newspaper, which the other tenants bring upstairs and leave outside her door.

And his mews were so plainitive, it broke the heart.

So when I got home, Little Miss Busybody called the landlord and told him what was up. The landlord, a cat fan who used to feed the stray Big Baby before our friend took him in, was also concerned, and said he'd call the tenant. He thought she was out of town, visiting family. He didn't think she'd replaced her old cat when it died, but you never know.....

The next morning, the pile of newspapers was still there - but the cat was gone.

That night, the cat was back on the balcony, mewing. It made motions like it wanted to jump down. Then it curled into a ball and lay down.

All night I worried about that cat.

The next morning it was gone.

* * *

When I get home, I usually call for Kirby - who may or may not come, depending on his mood.

I don't pet him that much, because it always ends with him biting me.

I don't brush him that much, because it always ends with him biting me.

I don't give him that many treats, except as a reward (for allowing me to clip his nails or brush him).

But we do like to sit quietly together, or hang out in the same room.

And he really loves it when I sit still, or do savasana.

(He hates sun salutations - which are another excuse to bite me).

He also likes a chase game that WrongWay invented, called Sheep and Shepherd.

And he loooves the new apartment - he runs back and forth down the 14-foot hallway to the yoga room, where he slides on the floor and plays. He has hiding places here that I don't even know about.

* * *

I've been meaning to get a new scratching post for Kirby ever since the brother exclaimed, "You moved that f*cking piece of sh*t to the new place?" WrongWay and his former consort bought the scratching post for Kirby when they took care of him during my first trip to India, and it is indeed trashed. So I started shopping for a new one.

The one at PetSmart seemed OK. It's taller, and doesn't have carpeting on it. More like jute or something.

But I remembered a really special one that had belonged to Fritzka. We'd gotten it at a local no-kill shelter that takes sick, injured and abused strays (which is where we'd gotten her and her littermate, Snarfee). It had cost a lot, but it was made by someone they knew and was virtually indestructible (although I'd managed to destroy it during one of those fits of rage I used to have before I discovered yoga. [I was also known for putting the fist through walls and windshields, among other things. Yoga cured all that. Really]).

So I went to the shelter. Sure enough, they had a super-fabulous one, called The Ultimate Scratching Post. It was much bigger than the one we'd gotten in the 80s - and cost twice as much. I couldn't really afford it (Who am I kidding? I can't afford health insurance! Or to take the cat to the vet! Or to live in Lakeview!). But I figured it was worth it. Kirby deserved it.

When I was assembling it, I saw that it was made in China. So much for supporting a real, live person, I thought. But at least the inflated price will help support the poor sick, injured and abused kitties.

Kirby had other ideas.

When I put it in the place of his old scratching post, he looked frightened, and gave it a wide berth.

I put his favorite toy, a beat-up old stuffed weasel, on it.

He still wouldn't come near.

I made scratching motions, and encouraged him to join me.


I left it there a day, and for a day he walked around it and would not even sniff it.

So I took it back today, and put the old one back in its place.

He happily scratched on it right away.

As I explained to Bo, we are not posh people.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Part II of my most recent trip to Mysore is on the Yoga Chicago website.

Here's an excerpt:

Tonight I had a scooter accident when a man on a motorcycle sideswiped me and three other vehicles. The force was so great it knocked off my ankle bracelets. Bystanders pulled the scooter off of me, and asked if I was OK. The ankle was bloody, the elbow was throbbing and blood was seeping through the knee of my baggy salwaar pants.

One by one everyone else got up and left, and I drove to the hospital where I had been treated for a major gastrointestinal problem and had my nose pierced on my first trip. After a long wait, I was on the same examining table I'd been on back in 2002.

The nurse and her assistants crowded around me, wanting to know what happened. They were all quite concerned. One of them wanted to know if I had any foreign coins (it never fails).

As they cleaned the wounds, I became concerned about the cotton balls, which were shriveled and gray. "Are those new?" I asked. Yes, yes.

After the wounds were covered, an older woman raised a needle and said, “Injection.”

"Where?" I asked. "Backside?" I was joking.

But sure enough, they wanted me to turn over onto my stomach. I was so out-of-it I didn't even notice (or ask) if the needle was new.

Outside, my friend Ammu’s employee, Dungar, accompanied me to the pharmacy and said that Ammu's mother wanted to see me.

Ammu's mother made me lie down on the couch, where I iced my leg. One by one, people came in and asked me what happened. Between my limited Kannada and their limited English (and many gestures), we pieced together the story.

Then Ammu's mother brought out some food and insisted that I eat.

And the heart melted, as I thought about my own long-gone mother and how she used to tend to me after my many bicycle crashes.

And I thought about the idea of "I, me and mine" that we're trying to get away from in yoga, and how at that moment Ammu's mother was not just his mother but also my mother and everyone's mother, and I was beyond grateful. To be taken care of that sweetly, without reservation, so far from home, is the greatest gift.

Read the rest of the story here - and see if you can discern what really went down on this most recent trip....

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Not only does the produce store on the corner have tender Thai coconuts for $2, but they'll also cut them in half for you when you've finished the juice - and provide the spoon to scoop out the "meat."

The coconuts are part of a full juice bar that boasts everything from carrot and wheatgrass and grapefruit and pomegranate juice to fresh sugar cane juice and various smoothies. In the warm months there's a walk-up window, so you don't even have to go inside.

There are always crazy deals, like last week's three slabs of jaggery for a dollar.

And in the back there's a discount produce rack, where you can find even crazier deals - like the one in the photo: six oranges for 79 cents.

It sure beats Jewel....

Friday, March 13, 2009


I'll lead a Dharma Mittra workshop this Saturday, March 14 from 2:30-5:30 at lovely Yoga Trek Center in Oak Park.

I'll do another one next Saturday, March 21 from 2-5PM at the equally lovely
Beverly Yoga Center, on Chicago's south side.

These will be my last DM workshops for some time - although Dharma himself will teach at the Yoga Journal conference in Lake Geneva the following weekend, March 26-29.


This impromptu photo (notice the sandals!) was snapped by professional photographer Robert Yager during Dharma's Mexico retreat in December. It also appears on the cover of the current Yoga Chicago magazine, in conjunction with my article about Dharma's Life of a Yogi teacher trainings. The article will appear online soon, at

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


We are eleven days into the longest, hardest month of the year, and people are already losing it.

(If you don't believe me, you can hear my classic public radio essay about how much March sucks here).

So far there have been three shooting rampages - in Illinois, Alabama, and Germany.

Most of the people I know are miserable. The minds are dull and depressed. There are aches and pains. Everything is difficult.

But in India, people of all backgrounds celebrate the coming of spring with the festival of Holi, or colors - where people make merry and throw colored powder on each other.*

It seems to work as a way to let off steam right before the infernal vernal equinox.

Perhaps we chould figure out some similar form of institutionalized deviance here in the west -- preferably something that does not involve drinking, basketball, guns or dying the river green.

Any ideas?


*Sadly some bad men use use Holi as an excuse to Eve-tease, or fondle unsuspecting women. That would have to be outlawed, although it shouldn't be that much of a problem here in the west - where the women are just as likely to Adam-tease right back.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Rooms: 6

Bedrooms: 2

Radiators: 5

Windows: 13

Ceiling fans: 3

Cabinets in kitchen: 1

Amish space heaters
: 1

Electrical outlets in dining room: 1

In bathroom: 0

Circuit-breakers: 3

Units in building: 12

Eunuchs in building: 0

Average daily temperature: 64

Coldest temperature so far: 58*

Warmest: 70

City-mandated minimum: 68 (66 at night)

Number of units between CK's apartment and boiler: 11

Number of complaints about the cold: countless

Number of items the landlord has repaired so far: 3

Number of yoga mats that will fit in living room: 10

Number of vegetarian restaurants in three-block radius: countless

*To his credit, the landlord has been working tirelessly to fix the heating problem; it turns out there are other apartments in the building where the temperature is a good ten degrees warmer.

Monday, March 09, 2009


It rained all weekend.

There was flooding.

People were not happy.....

Except of course for the ones who did yoga.

Friday, March 06, 2009


Number of people who helped (paid) on day of move: 4

Number of people who helped (unpaid) on day of move: 3

Number of people who helped (unpaid) before, during and after move: countless

Cost: $390 plus tips, boxes, tape, food, etc.

Distance: 33 blocks

Stairs: 3rd floor to 3rd floor

Size of truck: 15'

Number of boxes: 92

Number of times someone fell down stairs: 3? 4? 5?

Bones broken: 0

Items broken: 3

Lawsuits threatened: 0

Rooms and closets unpacked by Mrs. Dreyfus: 6

Hours spent waiting for cable guy who never came: 4

Number of years in old apartment: 15

At the address before that: 7

Number of years with old phone number: 22

Number of days old number worked at new address: 10

Number of calls to RCN to beg for it back: 5

Number of curt refusals: 5

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


By Swami Sivananda, from the Divine Life Society website....

"Eat three things; wear three things; practise three things: Ahimsa [non-harming], Satyam [truth] and Brahmacharya [celibacy]. Remember three things: death, afflictions of the world and God. Renounce three things: egoism, desire and attachment. Cultivate three things: humility, fearlessness and love. Eradicate three things: lust, anger and greed.

"Friends! Here are some triads for your daily spiritual practices. Three things to love: desire for liberation, company of the wise and selfless service; three things to despise: miserliness, cruelty and petty-mindedness; three things to admire: generosity, courage and nobility; three things to respect: Guru, renunciation and discrimination. Three things to control: tongue, temper and tossing of mind."

Monday, March 02, 2009


I think he was....

The Chicago-based broadcast innovator and icon died over the weekend at age 90.

He read an abridged version Bo Lozoff's "An Impatient Letter To All Of Us From God," above, on his syndicated radio show in 1998. (NOTE: It's best to ignore the video, and just listen).

I used to tune in to him on the Armed Forces Radio Network in Spain, in 1985. He gave me a connection to home.

He will be missed.*

Good. Day.


*Harvey's death comes hot on the heels of three other Chicago broadcast deaths: former Chicago Bulls head coach and analyst Johnny “Red” Kerr, former Chicago Bull Norm Van Lier (a true gentleman, whom I waited on at Wishbone), and former Sun-Times and ABC-7 food critic James Ward.

Today marks the birthday of Revolutionary War hero, who was born JMP Kazimierz Michał Wacław Wiktor Pułaski herbu Ślepowron on March 4, 1745 in Poland. A General in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, he trained US soldiers and oversaw the cavalry. He was under the command of George Washington and, according to some, was rather arrogant.

In Chicago - which used to have the largest Polish population outside of Warsaw - it means there is no school today.

The libraries are closed.

Cook County employees have the day off.

And morning yoga has been canceled.

Sadly there is no special pastry to commemorate this event.


*This holiday is not to be confused with the federal holiday, General Pulaski Memorial Day, which commemorates Pulaski's death at the Siege of Savannah on October 11, 1779.

* * *

The video features the song by Sufjan Stephens, from his album Illinois, about a girlfriend of his who died on Casimir Pulaski Day. Big Black beat him to the punch with 1988's "Kasimir S. Pulaski Day" - which also has a driving theme. Lyrics here.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


Friday after work I walked (!) to the bank to make a deposit, had a tender coconut on the corner, and shopped for a picture of Shiva (no luck).

Then I went to the salon to get my eyebrows threaded.

When the woman finished, she pointed to my upper lip and said, "You do."

And I was like, NOOOOOOOOO.

"You need it," she replied.

It was a priceless moment - just like being in Mysore.

Except that it was snowing outside.