Sunday, September 27, 2009


Today's New York Times has a piece about how the hip new accessory in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) is the tender coconut.

Here's an excerpt of the article, by Sarah Maslin Nir:

Strolling down the Williamsburg street, Martin Mancusi, 30, a tourist from Barcelona, Spain, and his friend Alejandro Kaed, 33, stopped to examine the items: young peeled coconuts, waiting to be pierced by a straw and sipped tiki-style by someone young and fashionable, as they have been all summer.

Like banh mi sandwiches and sriracha chili sauce, the young coconut and its juice is the latest formerly humble food to be discovered by New York City’s style set, and elevated — if not quite to the level of a status symbol — at least to that of a prized accessory.

In the last few months, retailers in hipster hot spots like Williamsburg and the Lower East Side say they have sold unprecedented amounts of the fruit for streetside consumption.

“I think it’s stylish, it’s pretty,” said Zarifeh Saleh, who owns Bedford Avenue Fruits and Vegetables with her husband, Ayman Ismail. “You feel like you’re on the beach, but you’re not on the beach."

....Some say the public ritual is part of the drink’s allure.

“I don’t ever go and buy a bunch of coconuts and stock them and drink them at home,” said Jennifer Verdon, 30, a band manager who lives on the Lower East Side. Others, like Fiona Byrne, 32, a music journalist who said she averages two coconuts a week, insist they drink the juice — which is prized by raw foodists for its nutrients — purely for health reasons.

When a friend of Ms. Byrne’s became overheated at the Coachella music festival in Indio, Calif., last spring, she said the first-aid staff advised her to rehydrate by drinking a young coconut on sale at the festival....

Read the rest here.

Of course the tender young Brooklynites are probably paying $4 for the things - which are available for just $2 in Chicago at Fresh Farms, 2626 W. Devon Ave (where they are anything but a fashion accessory).

Learn how to open them yourself - sans machete - here.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


You can hear my 2006 public radio essay about living without health insurance - which I still don't have - here. Just click the link and scroll down to "living without insurance."

Thanks for QE for the video link.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Or should I say SIGN "$" THE TIMES?

We find out next Friday whether Chicago gets the 2016 Olympics.

Look for President Obama Himself to make a surprise visit to the IOC session in Copenhagen, for some last-ditch lobbying.


Photo snapped 9/14 on Cicero Avenue near Midway Airport

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I called Dreyfus on the way home from the airport last week.

He was not all that interested in my trip.

"Look at the pothole when you get home," he said. "Tell me what's going on!"

First, the bad news.

While I was gone, the pothole was covered up with a gigantic steel plate - a pretty lazy and anticlimactic solution, if you ask me.

The good news: they left behind the sign and the debris that filled the hole. It's right there on the curb, where people can still enjoy it.

Even better news: The Latex Gals (the women behind the pothole sign and its notoriety) are hard at work on their next project - another interactive urban installation.

It's called Ill. Wishes, and it combines street art, biting humor and traditional Asian religious customs to comment on the many (seven) indicted / convicted governors of Illinois. Audience participation in the project is not just encouraged - it's required. Ill Wishes will be on display in ex-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevic's former office October 3 and 4 as part The Blago Project at the Ravenswood Art Walk.

In other words, it will be on display in the very same office where the Guv was wiretapped.

It's an effing golden opportunity to put in your two cents about the sad state of affairs in Illinois.

Please come....

Monday, September 21, 2009


I'll be leading a Maha Sadhana (Dharma Mittra Workshop) Saturday from 2:30-5:30 at Yoga Trek Center in Oak Park. It's easy to get to from Chicago, as it's just off the CTA Blue Line and Eisenhower Expressway (at Austin).

Maha Sadhana means “The Great Practice”, and this intensive will include chanting, pranayama (breathing exercises), and meditation as well as direction toward the true goal of yoga. This intensive will include Psychic Development practice, a special series of mental exercises that help put power behind our thoughts and make it easier to achieve your goals and desires in life.

Dharma Mittra Yoga is a classical, flowing hatha style originated by New York City-based yogi Dharma Mittra, creator of the Master Yoga Chart of 908 Poses. Dharma’s energizing Shiva Namaskar sequence focuses on opening the hips, shoulders and upper back and includes variations for every level of student. Poses are repeated so that students may go deeper into them each time. Many options are given, so that all levels will feel challenged/comfortable. The emphasis is on practicing in a playful, relaxed manner.

The workshop is suitable for students who wish to deepen their yoga practice, and adapts well to all levels.

If you're thinking about signing up, please do so soon - in order to get the discount (and so we're sure the workshop will run).

More info here.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


The retreat took place at a progressive Jewish summer camp that's run by the eldest children.

A lot of time was spent sweeping and mopping the floor of the massive dining room, where class was held. During class, it was packed. At one point I counted 75 yoga mats.

The altar. During satsang, Dharma would sit in the chair and answer all of our questions. If you look closely, you will see a stuffed "E.T." on the chair.

Our little, burrito-shaped tent. Little E and I were given the task of waking everyone up at 7:30am by ringing a bell and blowing the conch (which makes the head vibrate in a most pleasing way).

Faculty housing.

The wonderful food prep crew. All of the food at the retreat was live / raw / uncooked, to help purify the body.

On Saturday afternoon, I taught the Level I class indoors, while Little E taught Level II on the lawn. It was an honor to be asked to teach. On Sunday afternoon, lovely Rebecca - who was in both trainings with us - taught the Level II class (above and below).

Alternate nostril breathing, as viewed through the log-thing.


The Devi Puja, or Celebration of the Divine Mother will take place at Chicago's Sivananda Vendanta Center over nine nights and one day, starting Saturday, September 19.

From their newsletter:

"The festival of Navaratri presents a great opportunity for spiritual uplift and renewal for all. We will celebrate with a series of nine "pujas", or ritual worship, each held in the evening on nine consecutive days. Through each puja we will honor a particular aspect of the Divine in the form of the Mother. The festival ends with a final puja in the morning of Vijayadasami, the "Day of Victory". Please see the words of Swami Sivananda below for a fuller description of the festival and its significance. A link to a detailed article by Swami Sivananda at the website of the Divine Life Society in Rishikesh is included at the end of this email.

"All are welcome to attend the pujas, at no charge. Donations to help cover costs, and donations of flowers or "prasad", offerings of sweets or fruit, are welcome. Help in preparation of the pujas is also welcome, please call if you can offer a little of your time or if you have any questions."

The puja schedule will be as follows:

Saturday, September 19th: 8pm (Durga)
Sunday, September 20th: 6:15pm (Durga)
Monday, September 21st: 9pm (Durga)
Tuesday, September 22nd: 9pm (Lakshmi)
Wednesday, September 23rd: 7:15pm (Lakshmi)
Thursday, September 24th: 9pm (Lakshmi)
Friday, September 25th: 9pm (Saraswati)
Saturday, September 26th: 8pm (Saraswati)
Sunday, September 27th: 6:15pm (Saraswati)
Monday, September 28th: 6am (Vijayadasami, Day of Victory)

Spirutual Significance of Navaratri
by Swami Sivananda

"During Navaratri, or the Nine Nights, the Divine in the form of the Mother is worshipped with great devotion. On the first three nights, Durga or the destructive aspect of the Mother is worshipped. On the succeeding three nights, it is the creative aspect or Lakshmi that is adored. And on the last three nights, the knowledge aspect or Saraswati is invoked. The tenth day is the Vijaya Dasami day or the Day of Victory.

"There is a special significance in this arrangement. When the Devi is worshipped by a devotee in this order, as Durga She first destroys the evil propensities that lurk in the mind. Then, as Lakshmi, She implants therein the divine qualities conducive to spiritual unfoldment. Then as Saraswati She bestows true knowledge on the aspirant.

"The tenth day commemorates the victory of knowledge over ignorance, or goodness over evil. Aspirants are initiated on this day. On this day the carpenter, the tailor, the mason, the artist, the songster, the typist and all technical workers do puja for their instruments and implements. This is Ayudha Puja. They behold and recognise the Sakti or Power behind those instruments and worship the Devi for their success, prosperity and peace."

Read more here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


During my first free trips to Mysore, I read every book I could find about India. I was especially interested in those written by Indians and those that were about women.

One of the books I devoured was Anita Nair's Ladies Coupe, a novel about the relationships that develop in a women-only train carriage (a segregated, second-class sleeper car found on most overnight Indian trains until 1998) as it made its way from Bangalore to Kanyakumari(both places that I've visited). It explores the roles and duties of women in India, and focues on Akhila, a 45-year-old unmarried eldest daughter who finally decides to do something for herself.

It begins with the line, "This is the way it has always been: the smell of a railway platform at night fills Akhila with a sense of escape."

Oh, how I miss it....

* * *


Yesterday's New York Times has an article by Jim Yardley about India's new women's-only trains, which have been launched in a few big cities so that the women swelling the ranks of the country's workforce can travel to and from work without being "Eve Teased" - ie, groped, fondled, ogled, yelled at or otherwise harassed. As someone whose been pinched and/or fondled on a bus, while crossing the street, and in a temple (yes, a temple), I think it's a wonderful idea. Whenever I took the train alone, I always tried to sit with other women. There's safety in numbers.

Of course the men are up in arms over these women-only trains.

An excerpt:

'....The problems of taunting and harassment, known as eve teasing, are so persistent that in recent months the government has decided to simply remove men altogether. In a pilot program, eight new commuter trains exclusively for female passengers have been introduced in India’s four largest cities: New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta.

'The trains are known as Ladies Specials, and on one recent round trip in which a male reporter got permission to board, the women commuting between the industrial town of Palwal and New Delhi were very pleased.

'“It’s so nice here,” said a teacher, Kiran Khas, who has commuted by train for 17 years. Ms. Khas said the regular trains were thronged with vegetable sellers, pickpockets, beggars and lots of men. “Here on this train,” she said, as if describing a miracle, “you can board anywhere and sit freely.”

'India would seem to be a country where women have shattered the glass ceiling. The country’s most powerful politician, Sonia Gandhi, president of the Congress Party, is a woman. The country’s current president, a somewhat ceremonial position, is a woman. So are the foreign secretary and the chief minister of the country’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, and the new minister of railways. India’s Constitution guarantees equal rights for women, while Indian law stipulates equal pay and punishment for sexual harassment.

'But the reality is very different for the average working woman, many analysts say.

'Since India began economic reforms in the early 1990s, women have entered the urban work force, initially as government office workers, but now increasingly as employees in the booming services sector or in professional jobs. Over all, the number of working women has roughly doubled in 15 years.

'But violence against women has also increased, according to national statistics. Between 2003 and 2007, rape cases rose by more than 30 percent, kidnapping or abduction cases rose by more than 50 percent, while torture and molestation also jumped sharply....'

Read the rest here.

And thanks to Catesy for the head's-up.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I'm finally back "home," after 11 days in New York and lovely Raleigh, NC.

The jaunt included a Labor Day weekend live food and yoga retreat with Dharma Mittra in the Catskill Mountains, hanging out with Little E in Long Island, traveling to NYC to take classes at Dharma's studio, hanging with Catesey in Park Slope and Bobeisennow in Grammercy, and a weekend Maha Sadhana intensive (and more live food) with my dear teacher Chandra Om.

Yesterday I was so tired I could hardly speak, in part due to:

-Teaching three classes before getting on the plane to Islip on Thursday, September 3.

-Taking Little E's Level I class that night.

-The Labor Day Weekend retreat with Dharma, which started the next day (and was a four hour drive away). It was cold in the Catskills, and we slept in a tent. Plus each class began with kapalabhati jumping jacks and lots of fast sun salutations. Also Little E and I were in charge of waking everyone up in the morning, so we got up extra early in order to use the shower and sit beforehand.

-Two two-hour master classes with Dharma on Wednesday and Thursday, plus two more classes on Wednesday evening. (Not to mention the 1.5 hour train trip into Manhattan, on the Long Island Railroad, Wednesday's fitful night of sleep in noisy Brooklyn, and Thursday's return trip on the LIRR, followed by Little E's Level I class).

-Friday's Flight to North Carolina

-A 2.5 hour Maha Sadhana that night with Lakshmi

-Two very brisk "walks" through the forest with the pit bull puppy Daya and her fast-walking owner.

-Two three-hour Maha Sadhanas with Chandra, followed by 2.5 hour satsangs / sitting classes.

-Sunday night's slow dog-walk with Aspen and friends and impromptu back-care seminar, after feasting on avocados and Mana Bread.

-Padma's 1.5-hour class on Monday morning.

-The flight back to Midway a short time later.

Today, I began to recover. And do laundry. (But the diet is still good, ie; mostly raw and no chai. So far. And the bliss is still there. So far).

Interestingly, all of the back and wrist and shoulder pain that had been plaguing the body slowly evaporated during the visit. In fact, the classes were like experiencing a taste of heaven

Interestingly, the body seemed to develop a brand-new allergy the minute I returned "home." The throat is itchy, the right eye is red and swollen and there's lots of sneezing.

Maybe Someone is trying to tell me something.....


Photo shows last Tuesday's Long Island sunset.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


There are so many upcoming yoga and India-related events, I thought I'd put them all in one place. Due to time constraints, I've mostly just copied the press releases:

September 12, 8pm, Kirtan with Amy and the Ananda Bliss Tribe at YogaNow Gold Coast
. More info here

September 19 and 20, 9-5, Eastern Philosophy and Ancient Texts Workshop with A.G. Mohan at YogaNow.

Eastern Philosophy and Ancient Texts: Upanishads, Samkhya, Yoga, Dhammapada

In this 2-day intensive we will start from the oldest texts—the Upanishads—and the most ancient philosophy—Samkhya. The Upanishads are inspirational insights of sages, recorded in Sanskrit, often in verse, from thousands of years in the past. Samkhya is the first systematic Eastern philosophy from which all others, including the teachings of the Buddha, take their origin.

From here we will move on to yoga psychology, based on the most definitive work on yoga, the Yogasutras of Patanjali. Finally, we will delve into the connections of the Dhammapada, the iconic text encapsulating the teachings of the Buddha, with the Yogasutras and Samkhya. More info here and here.

September 20, 3PM: Freedom Symphony: Dr L. Subramaniam & Kavita K. at Harris Theater'

"The Paganini of the Indian Classical Music” Dr. L. Subramaniam with the Chicago Global Orchestra conducted by Maestro Michael Koehler, and renowned Indian Vocalist Kavita Krishnamurti Subramaniam will come together to perform the “Freedom Symphony”.

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to witness Dr. Subramaniam’s strong melodic and heroic symphonic composition, which uses text from four different Indian languages and will be sung. The Freedom Symphony will feature music favored by Mahatma Gandhi - “Vaishnavo Janatho” and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s patriotic “Song of Freedom”, among other moving texts. The concert will start with the “Bach & Mendelssohn Symphony” and “Nada Priya” renderings by the Orchestra and Dr. Subramaniam. Ambi Subramaniam will also be featured in this performance. More info here.

September 23, 12pm, Rhythms of Rajasthan at Millennium Park
. Free! More info here.

September 24, 12 and 1pm, Rahim Alhaj and the Aditya Prakash Ensemble at Millennium Park. Free! More info here.

September 26, 7:30pm, Kirtan with Devi 2000 at Moksha River West
. More info here.

September 26, 9pm, Qwaali master Imran Aziz Mian
at the Ramada Inn, 780 E. North Avenue in Glendale Heights. For more info call 630-942-9500 or 630-674-1771.

October 10, 8pm, Dandiya 2009 featuring Falguni Pathak in Concert at the Odeum Expo Center, 1033 N. Village Avenue in Villa Park. Celebrate the Durga holiday Navratri and dance the Garba with India's most popular Dandiya singer. From my 2006 Reader review: "Of the estimated 125,000 Indian immigrants living in the Chicago area, approximately half hail from the western state of Gujarat. To celebrate the autumn Hindu festivals of Navratri and Dussehra, Gujaratis perform a dandiya raas, or "dance of swords," in which actors use wooden sticks to re-create the battle between goddess Durga and demon Mahishasura. The dance is generally performed to upbeat folk music dominated by traditional percussion instruments like the dhol, but Falguni Pathak has become India's "dandiya queen" by adding Western instruments. She and her band, Ta-Thaiya, perform both dandiya music and pop songs, a mix that has attracted massive crowds to her live shows in Mumbai. Her dandiya events are part concert, part dance party." For more info, call 773-552-6083.