Thursday, July 28, 2005

Yoga and Ecology

The first night of Yoga training, I attended a lecture on yoga and ecology. It wasn't part of our course but the topic seemed interesting. It was, except for the language used. My bullshit detectors for New Agey language are finely tuned, so it made it tough for me to get into it completely. I mean, all concepts introduced that night come out of really old traditions, so why not be faithful to the original terms?

And I never got the ecology connection. The point seemed to be introducing exercises to expand our consciousness from personal to global to universal. (See what I mean about language? Fuck!) We'd generally do something (i.e. meditation, yoga, nature awareness, candle-gazing, chanting) then write something for three minutes, usually the first thing that popped into our (individual? collective?) heads. Mine were pretty bad, but here goes:

>>Ujjayi--> Fire in a bowl. Feeding it with my breath. Fire in turn nourishes me, keeps me warm in my own bowl, this valley which clouds and storms kiss gently, yet rarely with passion. Cool hands work down my spine, pulling out knots and memories, allowing this space to fill with peace, the gentle wind blowing up this valley. Rain falls- a distraction, drops large, gumdrops flattened out with the force with which they fall, sugar to nourish all they touch.

>>Nada-->The nada river flows, stopping at nothing. Energy channel of the bare earth, nutrients left on all the shores, inlets and runoffs carrying to the far reaches and out, beyond, up into the air the river goes, to those galaxies there, floating out to places beyond comprehension. Do these uncomprehendable beings nourish us with their energy rivers? Are their rivers composed of the same stuff as ours?

One other thing we did was eye gazing for three minutes. My partner was an old friend, Amy, from Texas. The whole thing was uncomfortably personal, but I'd love to try it with a lover someday. I wrote:

>>Dristi-->Shadows flicker across the face, like the flame in my periphery. Are these all the hidden emotions in Amy's life, a history of a soul torn by experience? Her face itself is kind, but the shadows distort. Her mouth too seems to move, silent verbal reaction to this pain. The light at the perimeter dims, like a lens suddenly changed in a 60's film. I hold focus, trying to ignore how incredibly personal this practice is. Do I have a right to see these secrets in someone I hardly know? Which brings this: what is she seeing in my eyes? Which of my own secrets are being revealed? Self-consciousness follows. Looking for the earth in her pupils, her rapid blinks are the change over eons.

Our last practice was free-drawing. Now, I absolutely suck at this. I have no talent at all, and my drawings always look done on a broken etch-a-sketch. I decided to color the spaces between my erratic lines. So at the top margin I wrote:

>>I like coloring more than drawing. My hand can't create what my mind can see. Are these doodles below the parts of the subconscious which I can't make out--seemingly random patterns expressed without thought? If coloring is better than drawing, would I make a better actor than director, a musical instrument rather than musician, a crayon rather than an artist?

DISCLAIMER: I promise never to write this badly again. This kind of stuff is best left in the journals of disgruntled residents of the Freshman dorm. I'll bring talent next time...

On the turntable: "High Fidelity" (soundtrack)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Yoga Source Teacher Training

Drinking bad coffee and gnawing a stale donut, I drove up to Santa Fe for my second level teacher training. I missed the morning asana practice entirely and showed up ten minutes into the first lecture, no doubt reeking of wine and second hand smoke. Then I had to give hugs. About 7 of the 24 teachers I knew from Level 1 were here, in a group of 44. The first day was rough, but when the day was finished, I got some rolfing from Jen, her hands abusing my spine while I tried to ignore my grimaces by focusing on the red hills before me.

Most of week went along the same daily schedule. Arise at 6:15 for my own private pranayama practice. Tea and energy bar followed, eaten in the sun. Meditation at 7:00, then asana from 7:30-9:15. Breakfast and work period next. Morning lecture from 10:45. Lunch at 1:30. Afternoon lecture from 3-5. Lecture topics varied: anatomy, philosophy, nutrition, sanskrit, but in almost all of them, we found ourselves doing lots of poses. I'd say on average, we did asanas 3-4 hours a day. Free time, I sat and read, played my flute, or walked down to the creek. I also met lots of interesting people from all over, new friends and old. Before bed, I always wound up in the cedar wood sauna, loving the fact that progressive folks have no qualms about co-ed naked bathing, a far cry from the "iya da!" cries I could imagine.. During level 1, I'd treated the whole things as a retreat, rarely leaving the Upaya compound. This time I had a car, so headed into town nightly, usually to Whole Foods. Three times I had pizza next door to Yoga Source, and once, a group of us had an excellent meal at Maria's, world famous for their incredible variety of tequila. One friend wanted to buy me the most expensive margarita in the house. $200. OK, the second best then. $40. Happily, I settled for the best $15 marg I've ever had.

Other nights we sat out on the patio, watching the moon rise full. Its glow coated the ridge, then popped up as quickly as if it were the sun, with coyotes in full chorus. Friday night was our final party, held in the garden of Yoga Source. In our group, we had about a dozen excellent musicians, so organizing the "Spontaneous Orchestra" was easy. All three of my roommates played music, two of them professionally. Richard from Pittsburgh was an incredibly gifted drummer. Preston, a guitarist from Florida recently published a book on Bebop and the Beat Generation. Jen is currently in a band, so she brought the equipment. The session ended up being light jazz, with sutras converted into sung Sanskrit and English. Flutes ruled the day, Sean on Bansuri, me on Shakuhachi, Luna on Western style. I also played drums on a few songs. Towards the end, some drunk guy came over carrying beer from Second Street brewery across the street, our number one fan. It's incredible how well it came off, considering we'd never played together. Maybe it was week of living in close quarters, and much physical contact in the form of yoga and bodywork. (I have to tread carefully through this post. A week in Santa Fe often leads to overuse of words like "Energy' and "Cosmos.")

Upaya food as usual had me feeling bloated and full. Not the best conditions for twists.. The microbiotic diet was great, but by Thursday, my stomach was in torment. Could it be altitude related? It's amazing how your stomach takes most of your focus when it's doing poorly. And as happened last year, looking in the mirror a couple days after it all finished, water weight gone, I was shocked at how thin and strong I'd become.

The Yoga itself was of course top notch. Tias Little is one of the best in the country, with amazing knowledge of anatomy. I could tell how much I've grown since level one, and how I seem to have an instinct for teaching. I got fewer corrections than I thought I would, and poses that gave me trouble in October were no longer a bother. Also, I am now able to kick up into a non-supported handstand, and the final day I dropped into a standing back arch for the first time. Overall, we spent much of the week upside down in inversions, which really helped me to finally get my head out of the sky.

On the turntable: Willie Nelson, "Teatro"
On the nighttable: Sherman Alexie, "The Toughest Indian in the World"

Monday, July 25, 2005

Thomas Wolfe, you can kiss my ass...

The weekend before last, I attended my high school reunion. It was spread out over three days, a cocktail party Friday, actual reunion Saturday, and BBQ on Sunday. I really liked this idea, giving you a chance for small-talk recon the first night, which would determine your social circle for the rest of the events. (How high school is that?) I arrived Friday with some trepidation. After all, I hadn't seen any of these folks in more than twenty years. Within minutes, I got incredibly freaked out, almost panicked. It always takes me awhile to adjust to the return to my NM past, and this thing threw me those feelings into overdrive. For the first time in my life, I needed a drink to steady myself.

In time, some of my (former) better friends began to show up, the beer did its thing, and I started to have fun. Looking around the room, I recalled that in school, I had pretty much liked everyone equally. Of course I had my closer friends and as the night wore on, it was with them that I began to settle. It was funny the things people remembered about me, most of which I'd long forgotten. Stranger still were the old scores. Many still seemed bitter at our buzzer beater loss in the championship basketball tourney (my girlfriend at the time had attended the school who beat us, and I never seemed to hear the end of it). I overheard many guys apologize for fights they'd had in Jr. High. Weirdest of all were the sheer number of my classmates who have college age children. One classmate is in the Air Force and outranks her 19 year old son.
I had a lot of fun trying to find the face I once knew inside the face sipping booze before me, morphing back and forth. It's like the friends I once hung out with were now stuck inside these bodies quickly declining into middle age, many wearing fat suits like in some Eddie Murphy film.

When the party finished, many of us went to Fiorillo's, which I remember being an Italian restarante, but now had after-hours dancing. It was a serious redneck scene, pickup trucks everywhere. The DJ was as bad as I've ever heard, in our honor (horror) playing nothing but 80's pap, most of it undanceable. One friend pulled me onto the dance floor, but how the hell do you dance to "Crazy Train?" I simply swung my hair around, and it was days before my cervicle joints stopped aching. As the night approached two, I had lots of fuel, but most of the gang was pooped and heading home. Am I really as old as they?

Saturday was more formal with round-table dinner party seating which broke the organic flow of the night before. Everyone sat with friends and seemed to camp. I started getting a bit bored and slightly bummed out, so I went outside and watched lightning terrorize the valley, yet again getting lost in the sky. I felt in a place of transition, wanting to look forward, not back. I was of course sentimental about old times, but for me they seem so long ago and were no more impotant than what has come since. Maybe it was the lack of connection I sensed, which I often get while hanging around people who haven't travelled much, not that there's anything wrong with it. (Although, with our current Foreign Policy, maybe it is.) Or maybe it was my slight envy at the warmth between those who had stayed on in this little town of 4000, people whose world view may be smaller than my own, yet they know the fine print incredibly well. Cue Gary Snyder and his "Place in Space."

I mentally came back to the reunion during the awards. It was a no-brainer that'd I'd win for "person who travelled the farthest to attend." But I also won for "person you're happiest to see." So I stand corrected. Even after twenty years absent, the connection is still there. I myself raise a glass. I'm incredibly glad that I came.

All night I alternated between caffeine and wine, but couldn't feel the effects of either. Christina J. kept pulling me into her hotel room, sharing the secret stash of wine her father makes. This seemed to finally do the trick and near midnight, I got my groove back. Blurred memories remain. Ronnie's story about being a guard at the state pen, and another classmate, now an inmate, being terrified to make eye contact. Yvonne in tears while talking about my losing Ken-chan. Later, upon hearing that I teach yoga, she began to do poses, the look of concentration on her face mixing with her drunkenness, me in hysterics. My foresight that former "nerds" (who I liked as much as anyone else) would have the most interesting lives. Geoff G.'s incredible memory of those days, and his sweet nature which hasn't changed a bit. Talking to Nina in Vegas on a borrowed cell phone. Crazy dancing to impossible music with Mary Beth. Sarcastic joking and Prince references felt like old times with Patricia. Overall, spending time with Robert S. was perhaps the highlight of my night.

Because Mary Beth lives near my place, she gave me a lift. It was now 4 a.m. On the way home,
we saw her family prepping the Sunday papers in the parking lot of the Iga. It was funny to get handed the paper personally, somewhat like the final scene in "Bright Lights, Big City" where Michael J. Fox eats fresh bread at dawn. Resting in the peaceful aftermath of a turbulent night out.

I fell into bed, and a few hours later, exhausted, I started the long drive to Santa Fe for a week of yoga teacher training.

On the turntable: Ani DiFranco (mix)
On the nighttable: Rick Fields, "The Code of the Warrior"

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Fretting zoo

Mom's gone back East and I have the house to myself. I still bide my time outside but now jazz music blasts through the open door and windows. Inside the house the acoustics are even better, the low moans of tenor sax skid across the hardwood floors, finding and filling space in all these empty rooms. Home as concert hall.

The other night, the desert followed me in. As I walked down the stairs to my subterranean dwelling (cool in the day, warm at night), I stepped over a scorpion. I squatted down awhile to watch him scamper back and forth, aware of my looming mass but unsure what to do. His stinger wasn't up, so he couldn't have been that frightened. Just aware. It's not often we get scorpions inside. I've seen a few black widows, and will sometimes hear centipedes rustling behind my books. On rare occasions, rattlers will come into the yard, and back when the dogs were alive, we'd have to pull them into the house. Now, the dogs are buried under crosses in the dirt which the snakes now slither over unmolested. I leave the scorpion the same way. If he found his way in, he'll find a way out. That or one of the cats will get him.

On the turntable: "Sonny Rollins and the MJQ"
On the nighttable: Bruce B. Junek, "The Road of Dreams"

Friday, July 15, 2005

Off the path

Needing a break from the sky, I escaped to the movies with Gino. He drives this funky yellow and black truck with a few bat-symbols on it. Who better to see Batman Begins with. It was much better than expected, a dark tale of fear and rage. The training scenes set in what was probably remote Tibet or western China made us both want to disappear awhile.

So we drove toward Acoma sky city. On approach, we saw signs telling us that the city was closed, no doubt due to some sacred ceremony. We continued west, deeper onto Navajo land, along a road set at the base of where the Acoma mesa ends. The cliff face was pockmarked by caves, their blackened backs the remnants of old warrior customs carried out in the dark. Across from the mesa were the ancient lava flows, realm of the feared fire gods which kept the Acoma people up on the safety of the cliffs. Only the truly brave did descend.

As the mesa dropped away, we cut further into their territory, bouncing along the dirt road in the Bat-truck, listening to this crazy Arabian pop--my touch since I'm all about dry desert irony. A few miles in, we passed a large group of elk, a few calves in tow. Gene counted four and told me that it was a good year, for usually half the calves have been taken by coyotes this late in summer. The road bounced on, into an arroyo, then along a low canyon of wild dirt spires. Here and there were the ruins of old homesteads, long given up to this high desert. Beyond these were mountains which looked low, but Gene assured me they shoot up to over 9000 ft. We stopped across the valley from where their shadows ended. Just prior to stopping, my attention was pulled to low hills to our right. Gene, knowing my eerie penchant for rooting out "power" spots, asked, "You can already feel it can't you?" This was our destination, the sacred ground of the Acoma.

The moment I stepped from the truck I felt great. The lightness and headiness which had been plaguing me since my return to NM was sucked through the soles of my feet into the red earth. We wandered along the gradual slope, footing made soft with lichen. Trees had been scraped by elk-horn, and other large branches littered the ground. We took care to look for scorpions and rattlers, the latter starting to wake up now after the heat of the day had faded. We found an elk trail and got quiet, moving alongside it so as not to leave our scent. The trees began to thin along this route. Gene was moving in the fashion that he'd learned from an old Jicarilla elder he'd studied with before the old man had died. Gene stopped and asked, "Smell that?" I caught a musky scent, tinged with acid. Some predator had been through and had marked the area. Coyotes probably. They'd scared off the elk. We walked for another hour following side trails but didn't see any. It was strangely quiet. Even the birds who should have been singing our presence had nothing to say. The only life we saw were a few tarantula wasps. They sting the spiders, paralyzing them long enough for the wasps to lay their larvae in the spider's skin. The larvae then eat their way out. We figured the wasps would lead us to tarantulas, something I've never seen, not even after 25 years in NM. Nothing. We did find some bear tracks, days old. It hadn't rained in quite awhile, so all the tracks we found couldn't easily be dated. We followed them back down in the direction of the truck. The monsoon clouds which had been sitting to the east had moved in, throbbing with thunder. We left the elk trail and hugged the treeline, staying out of the clearings. The lighting soon came. Thunder's percussion moved along the same route we did. Gene said, "I love that sound." Me: "Only because I'm taller than you." We moved a little more quickly now. From this height I saw the wisdom of having a bright yellow truck, easy to spot in the wilderness. In one of the lower clearings we found a few pot shards scattered about. They'd long ago been purposely broken in order to let their spirits escape. As I turned a shard over and over in my fingers, the rain began to fall, drops so large they almost hurt. The gods have their own wicked sense of irony.

Driving out, I saw the wisdom of having a yellow truck which is light. We travelled quickly over the wet clay road, moving more sideways than forward. Going along the top of the canyon was a real nailbiter, and Gene grinned when he saw me gripping the "Aw, Shit!" strap above the door. He slowed only to cross holes filled with brown water, uncertain of their depth. I relaxed a bit once we'd crossed the arroyo, it's water not yet begun to flow. That could've meant a night spent camping. We let out a harmonious sigh as the truck's tires once again bit the dark asphault of a road newly built with tax money. This last fact reminded me of Ginsberg's awe -struck quip, "You mean there's a senator for all this?"

On the turntable, Joshua Redman, "Wish"
On the nighttable: Jack Kerouac, "The Subterraneans""

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Sky metaphors abound

Flew out of the thick SF fog, Twin Peaks stirring it with its tower. Sierra and Rockies holding July snow in their shadowy nooks. I love my usually infallible travel guy. (I've seen him so much in the last two years that I feel I may have to produce a ring.) This time he dropped the ball; three friggin hours stranded in Denver's new airport. I've never been here so start to walk. Make that stroll, given the length of the corridors. No, make that strut, due to Little Feat pumping thru the headphones. It's especially hard not to strut when the song is "Rocket in my Pocket." Caught part of a ball game on TV near my gate. I'm sorry but no amount of slo-mo replays can make baseball seem exciting. (Though I love it.) An hour later, bumping down into Albuquerque, as if sliding down a flight of stairs on your ass. It's often white knuckle coming in here.

So now a week in New Mexico and already a year older. I've spent most of my time on the back patio, getting lost in the vast sky. It's not the perfect dark blue of winter that I've become used to on my Xmas visits. After 12 summers away, I've long forgotten the clouds that flit at the horizon, but never seem to come in. I read alot, usually nature stuff about the land and the West. I listen to music. Ballads make me zone out and stare off the edge of the mesa. The Rio Grande is down there somewhere. Farther out are the LaDrones, former home to thieves, and ever-spooky looking with their jagged crags.

It's been hot too. I remember now how swamp coolers don't quite do the job. One day it hit 104, and Pete and I were locked out. We sat on the front grass in the shade, listening to the ice cream man's bells draw closer, our collective grins reaching Cheshire proportions. Timing is sometimes beautiful, baby. Another day, I sat in the car a half hour as my mom shopped, in a metal box cooked by 101 sun. No particular reason; the body just cries out to know. A final experiment in the desert. My father and my son share a grave in an unshaded cemetery on a large patch of bare, open desert. Think Boot Hill. I did my incense ritual, then walked around a bit. Yep. You'll die in the desert, and you'll die fast.

One incredibly windy day, I drove up to Santa Fe, the first of three daily commutes in a row. Tumbleweeds blew sideways across I-25 and later I needed to floss my grill. Again with the open space, the mind tries to fill it, often with litter best left packed away. So I sing. Now remember, my music collection in NM ends in 1994. (My own Austin Powers syndrone.) As I drive I'm just cranking old grunge stuff and caterwauling, Temple of the Dog, Singles soundtrack. (Pearl Jam was somethin' fierce back then.) Plus Catherine Wheel's Ferment (Black Metallic one of the best tunes ever.), a Jefferson Airplane compilation, Camper Van Beethoven taking skinheads bowling. Sunday morning it's all Lou Reed, storytelling the entire drive up. I'm temporarily distracted by Sandia Peak's tram cable, glistening like spider floss in the early sun. Then, the brutal power of the song Street Hassel (sic) brings me back. Favorite music, no matter how old, sounds so good, even on cassette. On the Pink Floyd tape, you can still hear the LP pops.
I went to Santa Fe for a Sanskrit intensive. It's a dead language (essentially), and I like the idea that I can become fluent in 12 hours. The class is held by my teacher Tias Little's yoga studio, and is part of my teaching license. The other members of the class are pretty cool, the usual suspects: yoga teachers, Gita freaks, or just aging hipsters looking for a hysterical fix at...sorry Ginsberg kicked in again. One girl, a New York opera singer, claims I speak Sanskrit with a Japanese accent. By Sunday, my mind's eye is filled with the twisted, squiggling shapes fresh from Tim Burton's imagination, my tongue tired from tracing strange shapes and sounds. The next night, while eating dinner on my mom's patio at dusk, I begin to see the characters extending from the branches of a tall pine tree, silhouetted against the sky.

Sunday, I dropped in on Tias' yoga class and remembered why I love him as a teacher. In my own classes, I emphasize feet alot, something I get from him. He's got a knack for keeping you grounded. Something important in this land where it's easy to get lost in this big big sky and all the NewAge energy threatening to cut your tether. And boy I've been drifting. Since arriving in NM, I've had this internal monologue going about where I want to go next year. Kyoto? London? San Francisco? Santa Fe? Drifting, just drifting. Two hours with Tias brought me back down. It also reminded me how hard his yoga is. Five minutes in headstand? Um, OK. The next couple days, I was sore up my sides, from hip to armpit. Are there even muscles there? Hamstrings hamstrung. I look forward to next week with more than a little dread.

And as I finish typing this, I hear the wind rustle the trees and feel the air cool. Looking out, I see that the clouds, a week held at bay, are moving in. Monsoon season is under way...

On the turntable: (see above) plus Buckwheat Zydeco, "On a Night Like This "
On the nighttable: John Sutter, "Poets on the Peaks"
"Heart of the Land; Essays on the Last Great Places"

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Yoga of Friendship

(Ted's in the air so Ben-chan's got the conch.)
Listening to Bowie and eating chips and salsa, I slowly come down from the buzz of two pints of post-yoga Guinness that I just finished with Ted at Dubliners. It's good to have my friend around again after a long absence. Or perhaps brother is the more appropriate term -- though born in different places, to different parents, at different times, we are somehow connected by a bond that pushes the limits of friendship.

It's a wonder--as I push 30--that I have any friends left at all. My community since college has slowly succumbed to personal apathy and the fragmenting influences of post-industrial post-modern existence. The bleakness and loneliness in the American soul that Coltrane and others saw (thanks, Ted) find their greatest exemplar in me. Why, otherwise, would I have taken off for far-flung shores?

What a gift, then, what a fine blessing to have a friend who I can be both obliviously stupid and stop-drop-and-roll serious with. We talk So-Cal-like, saying "dude" and knowing the precise meaning of each of ten different intonations. We guffaw when one of us farts (OK, at least I do). We discuss things that matter: sex, politics, vagabonding, and the meaning of existence (yes, in that order). We talk about love and loss and the quantum trajectories of our lives--If I try to pin myself down, I'll surely miss--and it is the talking and the simple walking through the fog-washed hills overlooking San Francisco that bring a kind of transcendence, a sort of samadhi-through-camaraderie.

I have a new term for this practice: the yoga of friendship.

Much love, my friend, and come back soon.
-- Ben

On the turntable: David Bowie, "Ziggy Stardust"
On the nighttable: Herman Melville, "Moby Dick"

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

SF on the wane

Tuesday morning I slept really late for me, until 10:30. I felt like I was 25 or something. I sat thru the morning in Ben's room, chilling out. I didn't know it, but there was an open house going on, strange people poking their heads in yet without saying hello or 'scuse me. Whatever, ya rude gits. I was starting to feel like I was in the zoo, labelled gaijin incrudulous, and there was a bus out front letting out the gawkers.
So I went walkabout. I had planned to go up Twin Peaks looking for dwarves and cherry pies, but a long unending billow of fog poured over the top like cappucino froth. (OK, admittedly a weak simile, but remember what city I'm in, man.) So, I wandered toward Bernal Heights instead. Along the way:
>I finished my fossilized jet lag burrito, though incredibly, I didn't seem to get it this time round, due no doubt to all those late nights;
>wondered why so many drinks are in cans here and if it is a reason for the obesity, downing them in one go;
>overheard the socialist street terrorist poet, his weapons his words, dig!
>saw street corner rummage sales;
>watched ice cream vendor vatos racing their carts, a jingling as they go;
>saw a heavily-tattoed girl reading the book,"7 Stages to Money Maturity";
>remembered a line in Sunday's play, one actor saying, "I used to be CIA butI don't do faith-based intelligence;"
>misread a sign as "We refuse the right to reserve service to anyone."

I sat atop Bernal Heights Park reading and playing with dogs. Dropped down to a coffee shop called, Profound Ground (?), and wanted to sit out on Bennigan Street but didn't think I had enough pieces of flair. Met CLo later and we listened to music and rapped the evening away. Grabbed an Indian Pizza(!) at Zantes (32nd and Mission), downed an Argentine red. Our buddy Herb came by, and the words, in our usual unique vernacular, began to flow.
It went a little something like this (Hit it!):

Koi Pond Floundering
C..."Those people make some good pizza."
T..."God bless those Indians."
John Malbecovich, being the sounds of the SF city electronic histrionic
every long haired person here is crazier than a corndog.
Or Poi Dog on pizza, no mere CPK with ham and pineapple.
Aloha Honolulu, "Did you bring the lotion?"
Rubbing those spots still green from fresh Nippon haze,
Soy sauce: the spice for every occasion.
Shoyu, show-me only so much outsider.
Rice-a-roni, holy cannoli
harping the chords that bliss the day
leading into the song of the jay
as it sparks its mischief with SPF 30
plus the piece that knows no peace.
The End of Violence-->Waits breaks the silence
with La Boca Right On!
Vaga-male-bonding about our vagabondage
No place to hang the hat,
But on goat horn hooks.
Squeeze-->slap and tickle the cheese for this Zante's infernal za.
No bovine comedy for these slices.

* * *

ThisMorning, connected with Ben-chan again, and headed up toward the Haight. We talked about street yoga, yogis on the street are willing to work it out. Also heard:

T..."I think I'm the only long-hair in the city who's not crazy."
B..."Naw, dude, that's not true. You're totally crazy."

Had an awesome sit down lunch at some incredible teashop whose name escapes me. Famous though. Up to Ameoba to drool and dream. Passed the post office on upper Haight, and threw out my "Haight mail" joke again. Over chai at The People's Cafe, who should walk in but Sean and family. Good reconnect there. Yoga inNoe again,followed by a couple Guinness pints. (I think I'm starting to get the hang of this karma-caloric balance thing.)

On the turntable: Talvin Singh, "Breezeblock"
On the nighttable: ZZ Packer, "Drinking Coffee Elsewhere"

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Holidays in the fog

It's my first summer in the States in 11 years. My last July 4th was spent at Naropa's summer writer workshop, listening to Tibetan monks chant to Gamelan, and having Allan Ginsberg kiss my tattoo. (On my back, you pervs.)

On Saturday, Ben and I hooked up with CLo among others and drove to Mill Valley. A friend of Mike's lives up there, commuting the 90 minutes by bike down to CIIS in the city. Sean and his wife are awesome people, introducing elements of their Indian heritage into their life, such as the tent on the front patio under which he meditates and does yoga, a mid-70s Zakir Hussein (live at Naropa, in fact) LP spinning slightly warped in the sun.
After chai, we followed long narrow wooden staircases up to the top of the ridge, and into a forest which was the setting for Endor in "Jedi." I didn't see any Ewoks, but I did see a beautiful Moon gate, passing on the left Tibetan style, humming a slightly different version of a Monty Python ditty. "Always walk 'round the left side of life." The trail went behind some houses and along grassy slopes. We passed a small shack, and CLo joked that this was where an 8 year old had been chained until it was ready to accept the validity of cultural relatism, in some kind of horrific Marin County sub-urban myth. In fact he and I did little more than joke, having years ago created a bizarre hybrid language of our own, consisting mainly of song lyrics, film quotes, and ridiculous triple layered puns in multiple languages. When we hang out, I can't ever seem to be able to write, the words coming out in this twisted lingo of Asa Nisi Masa. ("Culture of two? Smoking or nonsmoking?")
We were heading toward Mt. Tamalpais, but stopped part way, at the German Tourist Club, a huge Bavarian-Tibetan-Korean thing in the shade above the grass hillface. We sat out on the deck and drank the dark full bodied beer that only European monks seem to be able to make, in their attempt to ignore crushing sexual frustration. And at 8%, ALC whew! On no food, it was a spike to the brain. Despite this, our picnic table was a heady place, Mike and Romanian Alexandra talking psych at one end, Sean espousing on the hidden Vedas down our way. Two-year old Noni drew goldfish on the napkins in between. We'd occasionally pull out a trivial pursuit card to show off, though I had my own version where I played my Shak. Later the guitar came out too, I harmonizing in barbaric yodel yawp. Good stuff all around, with a trekker's hostel vibe. It's an incredible place, but I want to keep it myself for awhile, and won't spill the beans on location no matter how large the bribe. So there. (Where's the goddam extended tongue icon?)
Our party headed back down the mountain in a drunken samba line, to Mill Valley proper. We ate cafe food, downed coffee,then parted ways. I had a wonderful veggie chili, which I came to regret later. I was sleeping in a high loft, a few feet below the ceiling. Usually a person doesn't mind their own brand, but that night was murder.

Sunday, Ben, Mike, Emiko, CLo and I went to Mission Delores Park to see the Mime Troupe put on their annual July 4th play. I am a sucker for old glimpses of hippiedom, and this day was no exception. I had a great time people watching. The play was decent, but the music was better. That band really knew their licks and had immpecable timing. There was even a Balinese dance of sorts, not 100% authentic, but not bad at all. After it was all over, we continued to loaf in the sun, watching people playing soccer and dogs jumping high for frisbees.
Ben and I walked back up to Valencia with Jack, an old radical who is a fount of Mission history. It's always a pleasure.
After a quick caffeine blast, Ben and I went back to the house for dinner and a video. Over a pasta made atomic by Chinese chili sauce (try it!), we watched "Suzhou River," a recent update of "Vertigo" set in Shanghai. It was a fantastic love story, erratic handheld camerawork helping to create tension. The lighting and sound were equally clever.

Monday, the 4th was mellow. We had planned to head up to Mill Valley again for Sean's party, but our borrowed car fell thru. Buses seemed a hassle, so we blew it off. In fact, we had a choice of three parties (two more in Oakland) but were in incredibly apathetic moods. It was starting to feel like teen angst,but we finally got it together, walking down to Rainbow foods for lunch, then continuing on toward the Bay. At Yerba Buena Park we sat awhile in the sun, watching shirtless kids chase each other around. Then a long hike back to the Mission. Emiko came by, cheesecake in tow. She made okaiyu which we downed with a cheap red while watching "Henry Fool." I forgotten how good a director Hal Hartley is, his ear for dialogue, his eye for blocking. (I hadn't seen a Hartley film since "Amateur" back in Kyoto in the mid 90s, CLo and I taking a time-out from Gion Matsuri craziness, accidentally jumping an express train all to way to Saidaiji. But that's a whole other story...) On this night, we had the sound up loud, to drown out the sound of the Mission's residents recreating the attack on the Alamo, fireworks engulfing us with noise. The smaller cluster pops like typewriter clacks, the large thuds filling chest cavities and setting off car alarms.

Around two a.m., my cell phone rang. Not everyone knows I'm in the States, and this was the second time it's gone off in the late hours. It was a person I really enjoy talking to, so despite the time, I babbled away in the dark, enjoying the stillness of the city, until the batteries ran out. It was only the next morning that I realized we'd talked over two hours, and my rate for recieved calls is $1.80 per minute. Zoinks! Worth every penny...

On the turntable: Blue Merle, "Burning in the Sun"
Ont the nighttable: Susan Vreeland, "Girl in Hyacinth Blue"

Monday, July 04, 2005

On this independence day. . .

Googled "Fuck Bush" and got 4.6 million links.

Happy 229th America! God bless for keepin' it real.

On the turntable: Woody Guthrie, "This Land is Your Land" (Full version. I dare you to listen.)

Saturday, July 02, 2005

How to beat jet lag

1. Go up Valencia to a Colombian/Ecuadoran joint for a burrito bigger than your arm.
2. Buy a book for a friend at Dog Eared.
3. Sit in the sun on a redwood deck, watching the tower cutting fog on Twin Peaks.
4. Do a tough intermediate yoga class in Noe Valley, far more aerobically challenging than expected, but wonders for opening back and shoulders stiff from the flight.
5. Get buzzed on a single Guinness drunk at The Dubliner which you passed on way to said yoga class.
6. Giggle down small streets with Ben-chan laughing at ole tales from the 'Nog.
7. Have Pinot Noir and Pesto&Pine Nut Pizza at Paulines, next to the original Levi Strauss building. (alliteration rules!)
8. Talk movies over Wiezen with old friends. Annoy neighbors with impromptu jam on two beautiful redwood drums which you forgot you bought on your trip here last year. Neighbor's door pounding adds counterbeat.
9. Sleep 11 hours.
10. Drive up Skyline, heading thru thick fog down the South Bay, listening to CDs Amy made as "So long" present.
11. Have turkey sandwich and home-made lemonade at a German deli in Saratoga.
12. Walk amidst gigantic redwoods in Big Basin, awed at the quiet. Spy charred trunks blackened by lightning strike. View reflection in clear streams.
13. Meander down thru the Santa Cruz mountains to Highway One and turn north, driving past surfers and families camped on the beach. Pass pick-it-your-damn-self cherry and strawberry groves. Glimpse beautiful valleys thru breaks in the fog.
14. Have Kung-Pao Shrimp and Tsingtao in a no-frills Chinese place, all formica and fishtanks. Served by a high-school aged girl no doubt pissed about working on a Friday night.
15. Get pulled into a jazz club by hipster in black suit and fedora, yeah. Listen to a smokin trio, yeah. Drink a pint of Fat Tire, marvelling at the chocolate goodness, yeah. Eavesdrop on a couple Japanese men rapping at the end of the bar, yeah. Tap your fingers in the air to the beat, accidentally calling the bartendress over, yeah.
Be impressed that this club, Savannah is breaking new ground in the Mission, yeah. Swoon as the band segues into A Love Supreme, yeah. (No escaping that song these days.)
16. Walk twice as far home due to zigzag walking style, versus straight line of earlier in the night. (A buzz surpeme) Get a cryptic message by a guy pushing the Mobile Art Gallery. Be annoyed by a guy riding what sounds like a leafblower. Spy a pile of rags on the sidewalk, no doubt remnants of a mummy alien abduction. Pee against a graffiti coated wall for like ten minutes (A buzz supreme). Feel envious at the sight of a couple walking lazily hand in hand, bottle of wine held by the neck.
17.Merlot and crouton nightcap.
18. Sleep 9 hours despite car alarms.

On the turntable: Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley, Modest Mouse (Fine choices all, Amy)
In the fortune cookie: "Your winsome smile will be your sure protection (in bed)"

Odelay uncle Ted

Congrats to Eric and Angie for the birth of their son Beck. Outstanding, guys. See you in August...