Yesterday I did indeed go to see Swami Bua for his 6PM class. He lives near tony Columbus Circle but it's still technically Hell's Kitchen. He's in a very nice doorman-building, where apparently he's lived since the 1970's. It's hard to believe he was seventysomething when I was born. Makes 41 seem like not such a big deal.
His daughter answered the door; she was quite sweet and apparently takes care of him. He has the white beard still and is quite spry; he was holding court on a little bench in his living room, wearing a white dhoti, some kind of shirt and red Dr. Scholl's. ....
I had a hard time understanding the Swami, and vice-versa. Before anything, he had to determine if my teacher would be angry I was studying with him -- if I had his permission. He couldn't hear me so I had to write down my answers to his questions. I told him that since we weren't in India it was probably OK (the contract they have us sign at the AYRI seems to apply to Mysore only). This took about 20 minutes. No one else came during that time, so I had a private lesson. I felt very bad about this, like I was wasting his time.... It was classical hatha yoga and he was patient with me despite my inability to hear/follow directions (I usually act like a big clod the first several times I try something new; more than once he asked, "Do you understand English?" because I couldn't figure out what I was supposed to be doing / was getting it wrong due to nervousness, etc. I really am a retard when it comes to following directions; that's one of the reasons the rote nature of Ashtanga suits me so well).
So I wound up having a private lesson. He seemed to think I was flexible. After some standing and sitting twists, shoulderstand and headstand with knee-bends and twists he had me pull out a chair and sit by him. He asked more than once if I had any problems. I laughed nervously because I couldn't narrow it down to just one and shrugged and said, "not really." He seemed to think I'm a good person, which was nice to hear from someone who apparently knows about these kinds of things. It felt good to be in his presence. A privilege. I am kicking myself though for forgetting to bring the 1999 Yoga Chicago issue with his photo on the cover....
Afterwards I took the train to the East Village to meet the Hex at Angelica's Kitchen, which is perhaps my favorite vegetarian restaurant of all time (Chicago Diner, Blind Faith et al don't compare). We sat at the communal table; the others did not seem to be Communists. During our meal, one of them told his neighbor how Thelonius Monk and Bud Powell used to come over to his house when he was a child and "pound out the tunes."
To walk off the meal we headed south towards the Bowery. There was a small line in front of CBGB (which still hasn't been closed down). For some reason The New York Dolls show I'd read about in the paper that morning was not sold out. They were about to go onstage; after buying a couple of t-shirts next door we paid our $20 and went inside; the band was in the middle of their first song. They were awesome; David Johansen must be a yogi or on some sort of raw foods / all juice diet because he looked great and played the harp like nobody's business. We saw the set list and stuck around for the encore, Personality Crisis. The experience was made all the sweeter by the presence of Debbie Harry (who also must be on that diet) and the actor who recently hung himself on the Sopranos. A perfect evening, all in all.
Now I can tell Dorian Black's grandchildren that I had a private yoga lesson with Swami Bua and saw the New York Dolls play at CBGB.
Sure, it was 30 years too late.
But they don't have to know that.
PHOTO CREDIT: The Hex
(This was taken right after the show; the top arrow points to Debbie Harry. And yes, that's me, looking like a figure from a Munch painting -- with a bright shiny pink yoga mat bag. At CBGB).