Tuesday, January 31, 2006


I'm in the middle of beginning-of-the-month deadline hell -- too busy to take a busman's holiday -- so here's a journal entry from four years ago, almost to the day.


We finally got rooms at the Kauvery on Sunday evening. We'd spent that day buying mosquito nets, hanging out in a park, drinking coconut milk (they're greener and sweeter here than in Kovalam, and have more milk and less "meat."), and locating the yoga shala -- in short, doing everything but taking the naps we so desperately needed.

We arrived too late on Sunday to register for yoga, and Monday was moon day. A nice woman from Austrailia gave us Guruji's number, so we called Sharath and he told us to come on Tuesday at 6:30am (which is when all the new people are told to come. Turns out there are a ton of us here from Kovalam).

The rumor in Kovalam was that prices had been raised from $550 to $600. While we were waiting over an hour on the stairs (to get a spot in the studio, which holds 12), we learned that Guruji had raised it to $555. Who brings $5 bills to India, we wondered. We spent a good part of the afternoon finding someone who could break a $20 (turned out it was the American Express office, which was none too happy about it, either).

While we registered, Guruji asked us our mothers'' names and our ages, but nothing astrological. He's been wearing Ray Charles-like sunglasses, as he just had catarac surgery. Once we'd registered, we waited in line some more before getting a spot for our mats.

Guruji mostly sits on a stool and shouts out verbal adjustments (he's 86) while Sharath is more hands-on. They didn't stop me during the primary series (if they do you have to go upstairs and do the finisng sequence), which is a good sign. Also Sharath did drop-backs with me (helping one go from standing into backbend), also a good sign). Because Sharath is helping me, it means I will probably not be dropped on my head (but you never know). That is the other big rumor: Guruji will drop you on your head. So far he has not. Anyway practice here is very intense, as you want to do your best, to show them that you know what you're doing. Also because the other students add extra energy to the room. Guruji's been teaching here for, like, 40 years and so there's a lot of prana in the walls and carpet. He's building a big new studio, to open in June. I'm glad I got to see him in the olde one.

The yoga students are OK. A bunch of us arrived at the same time, which means we're all more or less equal (so there's a bit less attitude than in Kovalam) and everyone's just a bit more open and friendly. They all seem to be taking Sanskrit lessons or hanging out at the pool or taking cooking classes. I would do well to try the latter, as I only know how to prepare food. We'll see. There's a yoga sutra class that seems like it'd be most relevant to what I'm trying to accomplish. Also the writing.

At around 4:30 each afternoon Guruji holds satsang. After a late lunch at the Mandala, a restaurant-cum-yoga studio-cum-cultural center started by westerners, for westerners, we went to the shala. A small group had gathered by the time Guruji arrived, wearing sunglasses, a dhoti and a sleeveless Yoga Moves shirt, and proceeded to read the paper (in Kannada).

For the next 45 minutes we watched him read and look up and say "Yes, yes hello!" any time someone new arrived and touched his feet. Then Sharath rode up, dashing in all-black, on a shiny motorcycle. He changed into yoga clothes, sat adjacent to Guruji and began opening mail. We looked at them, looked at each other, and looked at the kids riding bikes outside. Occasionaly someone asked a question. When Guruji went upstairs to register new students, some students took the opportunity to flee. By the time he returned, Sharath was teaching his Indian students (who are charged Indian prices). A package arrived, and two senior stduents from New York City read the contents of the accompanying letter from a kowtowing London publisher who wanted him to recommend someone to write a(nother) ashtanga book. At 6 he looked at his watched and we all got to leave.

People staying at the Kauvery all seem to be looking for a different place to live. A lot of students live with families or share (luxury) apartments near the shala. After class Alan LIttle, a Brit whose online Mysore Diary was instrumental in helping me decide to come here, invited us up for tea and answered all of our questionsw about Guruji and ashtanga and Mysore Life (in effect holding a far more effective satsang than the official one). During our chat the lights went out, of course, and the walk home was treacherous. We ended up eating thalis at a nearby veg place called Iyengar's, where the towels are folded neatly (of course) and there are signs on the wall that say "DO NOT WASH YOUR HANDS IN PLATES."

That same day, earlier, I found a new place to live, But now I'm not sure I want it; so far I'm quite happy at the Kauvery, which is like a dorm w/ private bathrooms. My room and bathroom are bright and clean, and there's my new pink mosquito net. . There's even a phone, where I can get incoming calls! (The Hex has called twice so far, which makes me far less homesick). My room's on the top floor and only steps from the roof; I'm also near the palace and a major shopping area. The guys at the desk are very helpful. But everyone seems to want to get out of the hotel.

I found the place after running into Jennifer (yoga mat benefactor from Kovalam) on the street. The fancy house where she lives is in a more residential neigborhood, across from the Mandala and really close to the yoga studio. She and three other yoga students live in dingy little rooms on the roof (were they meant to be servants' quarters?). For rp 125 / day (vs the Kauvery's 205) they receive one meal plus laundry and hot water and room-cleaning (they have servants).

But now I am having second thoughts. On the one hand, it's a good idea for me not to cross too many busy streets, as I'm always looking the wrong way and stepping into the paths of various rickshaws / motorcycles / trucks / tongas. It'd probably be a more "authentic" experience, though there wouldn't be much interaction w/ the family, who are rumored to be descendants of the maharaja. There are the other students, and implements for boiling water. At the same time, it's far from Internet and there's no phone and it's kind of a dump (dark mattress on floor, icky walls and bathroom. And my room is supposed to be the "luxury" accommodation).

So I'm trying to figure out what to do.... I gave a small deposit and am supposed to move in Saturday. But I'm not sure if I will (I'm mostly worried that depressing surroundings = depression, which is, thankfully, remaining more or less at bay at the moment). In the meantime I'm trying to make friends w/ other women at the Kauvery and find out how long they plan to stay.

Photo of Author in Laxmipuram shala (c) 2002 by Kike (pronounced "KEE-kay")

Monday, January 30, 2006


Apparently last Tuesday wasn't just trying for me but for many....

Jan. 24 called worst day of the year:
British psychologist calculates ‘most depressing day’

By Jennifer Carlile
Reporter , MSNBC
Updated: 1:51 a.m. ET Jan. 24, 2005

LONDON - Is the midwinter weather wearing you down? Are you sinking in debt after the holidays? Angry with yourself for already breaking your New Year's resolutions? Wish you could crawl back under the covers and not have to face another day of rain, sleet, snow and paperwork? Probably. After all, it's Jan. 24, the “most depressing day of the year,” according to a U.K. psychologist.

Dr. Cliff Arnall's calculations show that misery peaks [Tuesday].

Arnall, who specializes in seasonal disorders at the University of Cardiff, Wales, created a formula that takes into account numerous feelings to devise peoples' lowest point.

The model is: [W + (D-d)] x TQ
M x NA

The equation is broken down into seven variables: (W) weather, (D) debt, (d) monthly salary, (T) time since Christmas, (Q) time since failed quit attempt, (M) low motivational levels and (NA) the need to take action.

‘Reality starts to kick in’
Arnall found that, while days technically get longer after Dec. 21, cyclonic weather systems take hold in January, bringing low, dark clouds to Britain. Meanwhile, the majority of people break their healthy resolutions six to seven days into the new year, and even the hangers-on have fallen off the wagon, torn off the nicotine patches and eaten the fridge empty by the third week. Any residual dregs of holiday cheer and family fun have kicked the bucket by Jan. 24.

“Following the initial thrill of New Year's celebrations and changing over a new leaf, reality starts to sink in,” Arnall said. “The realization coincides with the dark clouds rolling in and the obligation to pay off Christmas credit card bills.”

The formula was devised to help a travel company “analyze when people book holidays and holiday trends,” said Alex Kennedy, spokesperson for Porter Novelli, a London-based PR agency.

It seems that people are most likely to buy a ticket to paradise when they feel like hell.

“People feel bleak when they have nothing planned, but once they book a holiday they have a goal, they work toward having time off and a relaxing period,” Kennedy said.

“When you imagine yourself on the beach it makes you feel positive. You will save money, go to the gym and come back to the optimism you had at the end of 2004,” she said.

In U.K., up to a third get SAD
Research shows an escape to the sun can have real health benefits.

Up to a third of the population, in Britain at least, suffers from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, also known as winter depression, according to MIND, a leading mental health charity in England and Wales. Furthermore, nine out of 10 people report sleeping and eating more during the darker months.

While most cases of the winter blues are not severe, 2 percent to 5 percent of those with SAD cannot function without continuous treatment.

However, it's extremely rare to find anyone with the disorder within 30 degrees of the equator, where days are long and the sky is bright year-round, according to MIND.

© 2006 MSNBC Interactive



All well and good, except I suffer from reverse SADD (ie; the sun makes me feel even worse).

Also they use the word "depressing." Methinks vexing would be more appropriate.

And we're in Chicago, not Britain.

Plus the formula neglects to take into account {pesky career issues + chronic ailments}* x 10 to the nth degree.

On the other hand..... if I'd known about this malarky beforehand perhaps it all would have been a bit easier to take. You know, because I would have expected the worst.

Plus today I learnt that my jump-start savior** was waiting for me inside the store where my car was stranded the entire time -- only I didn't even know it (the savior) existed.

Yet another Yoga 101 lesson, thinly disguised.***


*Enduring shoulder and neck issues have meant that I've been modifying my practice and only going up to Navasana for the past two months. Perhaps we should add {- exercise + 5 extra lbs} to the mix.

***That savior would be Target's = Start-It Compact Elite Jump-Start System
• 12 Volt portable jump starter for your car
• Built-in jumper cables
• $29.99

***Methinks the lack of a meltdown means I must have passed the test.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


(to hear the radio version of this essay, click here)

I call it "the look."

It happens every time I tell the receptionist I don't have health insurance. Everyone within hearing distance turns and looks at me with a mixture of pity, contempt and fear -- like I'm going to give them bird flu or something.

I had health insurance once, thorugh my union, and I visited the doctor every year for a checkup and whenever I got sick -- just like a normal person.

I laughed aloud when I learned that my co- pay for my expensive monthly prescription was only $10. I even had dental coverage.

But it didn't last. Our insurer went bankrupt, and no one else would take us -- apparently there are a lot of sick writers out there. And as a self-employed person, all I could afford was catastrophic health insurance with a massive deductible.

So I 'm back to doing things the old way - going to the dentist once a year, filling my prescriptions in Canada, and getting physicals and eye exams every couple of years. I go to the Chicago Women's Health Center, where at the end of your appointment you put what you can pay in a plain envelope - no questions asked. When I get sick, I consult the Doctors Book of Home Remedies and the homeopathic medicine guide.

If I don't get better, I go to the sympathetic doctor at the bare-bones clinic down the street, who always seems to have plenty of free samples for me.

Shortly after my insurance ran out, my right knee swelled up like a baseball. I saw a specialist who spent 10 minutes with me, took some unneccesary X-rays and wrote a prescription for some useless anti-inflammatory medication. When the bill came a few weeks later I almost fell over.

By then I knew that insurance companies never pay the sticker price. So I called the billing department and pleaded my case - and got my bill reduced by half. I felt like I'd won a million dollars.

I went to an even more special specialist, and negotiatied a 25 percent discount for paying right away. During the exam I explained my insurance problem, and the doctor drained my knee for free. I felt like I'd won two million dollars. Until my knee
blew up again.

It was finally cured by some exercises that Judith Lasater showed me.*

I still have crappy insurance, which is a constant source of stress, which leads to illness that in turn leads to trips to the doctor that I cannot afford. I can't wait for the day when the Healthy Illinois initiative become reality, and health insurance is affordable.

In the meantime, I've found a new dentist. It's a woman who calls me honey and charges a fraction of what my old one did. She cleans my teeth herself -- and no one bats an eye when I say I don't have an insurance card.


*The exercises are from Peter Egoscue's book Pain Free, which also contains simple cures for just about every malady imaginable.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

and it's only half over....

4 AM - Wake up to sensation of cat rubbing butt in face. Feed cat. Check E-mail. Nothing. Return to bedroom and close door tight.

4:30 - Bless-ed slumber.

7 AM - Hit snooze alarm.

7:06 - Hit snooze alarm again.

7:12 - And again.

7:18 - And again.

7:24 - And again.

7:30 - And again

7:36 - Wrench wretched self out of bed.

7:37 - Urinate. Notice that urine is too yellow. Drink water. Notice wrinkles on face.

7:43 - Step on brown cat-turd skidmark on kitchen floor. Disinfect foot. Clean skid and search fruitlessly for its source (ie; the fresh turd that got stuck to Kirby's butt, and which is hiding somewhere in the house).

7:44 - Wash hands.

7:46 - Close bedroom door so the cat can't defile the bed.

7:47 - Wash hands again. Begin peeling tangerines for fresh juice.

7:47 - Wash hands. Make juice.

7:48 - Drink juice and check e-mail. Click to feed an animal in need. Visit Ladyfriend Zine and overstay welcome.

8AM - Wash juicer and pop two slices of Ezekiel Bread in toaster oven. Sort laundry. Decide it's too late to practice at YogaNow.

8:10 Peel linens from bed. Wonder about mysterious brown mark on bottom sheet.

8:20 - Do toilette. Forget to moisturize.

8:25 - Spend some time deciding which thong to wear and finally get dressed.

8:35 - Don hat and jacket, shlep laundry downstairs and ponder whether the high volume warrants three loads. Decide two will do and start washing machine.

8:45 - Go around to front of apartment building and note that no one has stolen the newspaper yet. Collect papers and return to apartment.

8:50 - Smear peanut butter and honey on Ezekiel toast. Drink a cup of nondairy chai that's thisclose to going bad, and peruse The Chicago Sun-Times. Read about the testimony of the former governor's gambling moocher alcoholic son-in-law, Michael Fairman, an oxymoron if there ever was one, and also learn that Jude and what's-her-name are splitsville again.

9 AM - Start yoga practice on terra cotta-colored Jade Harmony II rubber mat, which collects every piece of dirt in the room (including skin) but has yet to start shredding.

9:20 - Inadvertently locate the missing turd while doing Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana (standing side stretch) with one heel on the fireplace mantle. Fetch a disinfectant wipe and clean the mantle; wash hands long enough to sing "Happy Birthday."

9:22 - Continue yoga practice

9:30 - Ignore the ringing phone. Unknown caller hangs up when machine answers.

9:31 - Resume yoga practice.

10 AM - Heat chai and pour into travel mug.

10:02 - Eat toast while practicing reading aloud a new essay about health insurance.

10:05 - Dress for success in outfit not unlike one's own informal high school uniform; black cords, grey-and-black turtleneck, black hiking boots.

10:07 - Get in new (1992) Hondacar.

10:10 - Head down Lake Shore Drive. Neglect to look at Lake Michigan.

10:30 - Arrive at the bloated obscenity that is Navy Pier and make way to Chicago Public Radio reception area.

10:35 - Get ushered into studio; chat with producer.

10:40 - Get chided for neglecting to silence cell phone.

10:45 - Begin recording essay. Alternate awkwardly between dull monotone, fakey happy yoga teacher voice and cracking, confessional, pseudo-sincere cadence common to contributors to a Certain Famous Radio Show that records down the hall but is poised to pull up stakes and defect to NYC.

10:46 - Discover that spilt honey from breakfast causes script pages to stick together and make noise.

10:48 - Learn that one has been exhaling loudly through the nose, in such a way that "would be difficult to edit out." Picture self as Brenda Vaccaro. Kick self for being too afraid to use the netti pot purchased after recent illness -- and for not using the even scarier chemical-laden Walgreen's brand saline nasal spray recently gifted by Dorian Black

10:55 - Find out that the essay will air tomorrow (Tuesday) between 9 and 10 AM on WBEZ-FM (91.5).

10:56 - Search for creator of Famous Radio show to thank him for giving his apartment to the Evacugees last fall. Learn that his TV show has been picked up by Showtime and that he's not in the office today anyway.

11 - Return to reception area. Realize mitten is missing while covering self in winter burka. Fail to notice stunning view of Lake Michigan during frantic search.

11:01 - Beg receptionist to ring producer and enlist his aid.

11:02 - Find mitten hiding under a chair.

11:03 - Wave producer away. Feel sheepish.

11:05 - Return to parking garage and realize that urinating before leaving would be prudent.

11:06 - Enter Navy Pier complex and search fruitlessly for bathroom. Wind up in the not-so-fresh hell that is the Stained Glass Museum.

11:07 - Give up and return to car.

11:08 - Sit in car. Call home for messages. Learn that client has cancelled the evening's private lesson. Realize that peeing is the most important thing in the world.

11:09 - Resume search for restroom. Notice a sign announcing that restrooms are both to one's left and one's right. Fail to find restrooms but manage to locate Stained Glass Museum. Zero in on a store selling Bears merchandise and other ill-fitting, badly-designed, Chicago-related gift items that will wind up in landfill. Awaken clerk from her Sun-Times coma and learn that one has walked right past the restroom several times. Recall that tantrum five years ago at that Vegas casino, when it took OVER AN HOUR to find one's room at the sense-organ nightmare known as the Luxor Hotel.

11:10 - Relieve self. Sigh. Urine is still too yellow.

11:11 - Wash hands and refill water bottle. Drink half.

11:12 - Return to car.

11:13 - Plug in earpiece and call Dorian Black while heading to Targhetto.

11:20 - Congratulate self for successfully using tricky-to-access access road as shortcut from expressway to store.

11:22 - Target Therapy. Sigh.

11:45 - Return to car. Turn key. Nothing. Not even a click.

11:46 - Realize that someone left lights on after leaving the parking garage -- and never turned them off. Oops.

11:47 - Curse self for being too cheap (poor) to get Triple A. Start making calls

11:55 - Learn that everyone one knows is either not home, not available, not picking up or out of town.

11:56 - Feel sorry for self.

11:57 - Turn key. Car makes halfhearted attempt to turn over but fails.

11:58 - Feel sorry for self. Consider waiting 15 minutes and trying key again. Look at cell phone and wish it would ring.

11:59 - Consider leaving car in lot and going home.

Noon - Consider going to service desk and begging for help. Put $5 in pocket, and mentally prepare.

12:05 - Turn key. Ignition chugs but fails to turn over.

12:05 - Notice middle-aged African American man getting into the GM car parked two spaces down.

12:06 - Jump out and approach man, who is putting shopping bags into a trunk as messy as one's own. "Hey mister! Are you in a hurry?" He is not. "Can you jump my car? I have cables if you don't."

12:07 - Man is noncommittal but does not seem to oppose the idea. "I just got the car and it doesn't make a noise when you leave the lights on, and this is the first time this has happened, and...."

12:08 - "....So, would you mind doing it?" Noncommital nod.

12:09 - Struggle to open and secure the unfamiliar car hood while man walks over with small black box attached to two jumper cables and looks at engine.

12:09 - "Is the jump in there?" (pointing to box). Noncommittal nod. "Wow! I've never seen anything like that!" Man nonchalantly puts cables on battery and says to try the ignition.

12:09 - Car coughs for a second and starts.

12:10 - Profuse thanks; possible gushing. "Where did you get that magic box? I think I need to get one." Sears. For $40. But you need a new battery first. "What??" Your battery is old. Oh.

12:11 - More profuse thanks, followed by exaggerated waving.

12:13 - Drive home. Realize that cell phone is missing.

12:14 - Pull over on very busy street, engage flashers and search fruitlessly for cell phone. Wish fruitlessly that it would ring. Ignore honking behind car.

12:15 - Think, just for a second, "Well, maybe that helpful man took my phone."

12:16 - Return to parking lot.

12:18 - Scan pavement for cell phone. Nothing.

12:25 - Re-search car and realize that the phone is definitely not there.

12:26 - Feel sorry for self.

12:27 - Scan pavement for cell phone.

12:28 - Start looking in a giant grey greasy pockmarked snowbank.

12:30 - Locate wet, dirty cell phone perched in middle of snowbank.

12:31 - Return to car and congratulate self. Disinfect phone.

12:32 - Decide it's best to return home straightaway, and resolve not leave again unless absolutely necessary.

12:33 - Plug in earpiece and call Gridlife to share jump-story. Leave out part about phone.

12:45 - Arrive home. Switch laundry. Go upstairs.

12:47 - Sit on toilet. Read Ask Amy. Wash hands.

12:51 - While checking e-mail, inhale half-bag of "whole grain" and "stone ground" corn chips that have all the fat but not enough salt.

1 PM - Think about napping

1:15 - Eat lunch of rice and garbanzos with chilled steamed vegetables.

1:30 - Think about napping

1:45 - Return e-mails.

2:15 - Think some more about napping. Wash dishes. Curse cat.

2:18 - Think about going downstairs and switching laundry. Decide against it.

2:20 - Drink old, cold coffee. Resolve to stay awake until 5:30 asthanga class.

2:30 - Leave phone message for Hedge Fund Lady, who unilaterally canceled last lesson with no notice and no pay. Beg her to call back and confirm tomorrow morning's private lesson -- which overlaps with radio show (9-10AM on 91.5-FM).

2:31 - Reconsider napping

2:32 - Make halfhearted stab at overdue deadlines.

2:44 - Feel sorry for self.

2:45 - Work on blog.


5:10 - Look up and notice time. Panic. Put on yoga pants under cords and head out door.

5:12 - Turn key hesitantly. Car starts! Drive recklessly to Habitrail health club.

5:25 - Park car. Turn off lights. Check that they are turned off. Lock door. Check lights again.

5:26 - Enter club

5:30 - Ask front desk to turn down lights

5:30 - Enter studio and peel off layers of winter burka. Look up at stilll-bright lights.

5:31 - Mention that class will start after speaking again to front desk about dimming lights. Nice Pilates instructor pipes up and offers to do it. Accept. Lights dim almost immediately.

5:32 - Poll the class; no injuries and no beginners. Everyone has done ashtanga or, quote, power yoga before. Except perhaps for the woman on the squishy shiny black Pilates mat, who apologizes, puts it back in the wrong place and switches to a sticky mat.

5:33 - Begin teaching a Level 3-4 Ashtanga Class.

5:44 - Pilates Lady interrupts someone else's downward dog adjustment to gesture and mutter something. WHAT? Stop adjusment and put ear near her mouth. She thought this was a half-hour yoga class -- isn't it? "No, it's an HOUR and a half." Well then she will have to leave early and it should not be taken personally. OK. Thanks.

5:55 - Woman in back row starts waving and gesturing during Utkatasana (zigzag pose) -- just before the most heart-pounding part of the series. She explains that her hands are shaking and she's hypoglycemic and doesn't feel well.....but she doesn't want to stop. Order her into child's pose.

6:00 - Return during Paschimattanasana (sitting forward bend) and ask how Hypo-lady is doing. She shows her hands -- still shaking. "Are you dehydrated? Maybe you should eat something." She is quite thin. But no, she does not want to leave. Insist that she must -- that it's not worth it to pass out in class, there is food at the little cantina outside and she should do savasana first if possible. She relucantly agrees. Pilates Teacher watches with concern. Perhaps procedure is not being followed.

6:02 - Finally release class from Paschimattanasa. They are good sports....

6:30 - So good in fact that they're led through the first few intermediate series poses.

6:59 - Ring brass bell and end class. Write what they did in notebook. Chat with nice Ukranian girlfriend of nice Italian bass player friend of The Vexx, who was not nice at all.

7:05 - Put winter burka back on.

7:07 - Sign timesheet. Pick up check and W-2 form.

7:09 - Wash hands

7:10 - Urinate

7:12 - Wash hands again. Head to parking lot.

7:15 - Turn key. Car starts! Plug in earpiece. Call Dorian Black. Drive home.

7:35 - Park car. End call.

7:36 - Switch laundry. Get mail.

7:37 - Take mail and laundry upstairs. Hang wet yoga outfits in bathroom. Pour sheets onto bed.

7:38 - Wash hands.

7:39 - Fix blog

8:15 - Look at mess on desk. Shrug.

8:20 - Check e-mail.

8:30 - Call friends and tell them about radio appearance. Wash dishes

9PM - Make halfhearted stabs at cleaning office area and kitchen.

9:20 - Wash hands. Make dinner (large, very fresh salad followed by plain yogurt with maple syrup).

9:45 - Begin making large batch of chai and even larger mess. Wash dishes.

9:55 - Flip mattress. Start putting clean sheets on bed.

10:05 - Turn on The Sheild.

10:20 - Finish putting sheets on bed. Fold clothes.

10:30 - Commerical break; put away clothes. Stir chai. Add black tea.

10:32 - Draw bath

11:05 - Realize that the last hour has been a near-total waste of time. Pour chai into pitcher.

11:06 - Take call from Dorian Black. Realize you both are so clever you should have your own radio show.

11:06 - Do toilette

11:10 - Sit on toilet.

11:15 - Wash hands.

11:15 - Take bath. Shave legs and armpits not once but twice.

11:25 - Moisturize. Put on PJ's

11:28 - Fill humidifiers. Turn off lights. Lock doors

11:45 - Read new New Yorker movie reviews and "Talk of the Town"

12:05 - Turn lights out. Pray for a better day tomorrow.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


At a writers' weekend last July I had the good fortune to meet one of my favorite writers, Suketu Mehta. He's the brilliant author of Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, a heady combination of personal history and exhaustive investigative work that profiles one of the world's largest, most chaotic and complex cities. Although Suketu was one of the speakers at the event, he'd forgotten his copy of his book and read from mine. I was starstruck of course, but instead of hiding during the breaks (my usual behavior) I could not shut up about India India India, Mysore Mysore Mysore and yoga yoga yoga and my then-impending (and since nixed) book about Chicago. He recommended a book to me, Samskara*, by a famous Kannada writer that I'd never heard of, U.R. Anatha Murthy (I did know about Raja Rao and R.K. Narayan and even S.L. Bhyrappa). After the conference I dutifully wrote the title on my "books to get list" and promptly forgot about it.

On Tuesday I met my favorite editor for dosas and thali at Mysore Woodlands. She told me that she just painted her bedroom (yellow) and had shedded a lot of junk -- including books -- in the process. Then she reached into her purse and handed me a thin volume and said, "I don't know why I have this or when I got it but I thought you might like it." It was a mint condition 1978 translation of Samskara, which turns out to be a controversial novel about a decaying Brahmin colony in Karnataka (it's controversial in that it makes most of the Brahmins look like a bunch of hypocrites). It was first published in 1965 and made into an award-winning Kannada art film in 1970. I was pleased as punch and resolved to read the book ASAP and to continue stalking Suketu the next time I'm in Park Slope** -- since now I'll have something to discuss with him.

While I overate, my editor and I discussed shedding, accumulation and the importance of buying something not because it's on sale, but because you need it or want it. She told me that many many days go by when she doesn't buy a thing! After lunch we went across the street to Taj Sari Palace, where she picked up some sheer (yellow) sari remnants ($10) to make into curtains for her bedroom. I lusted after scarves, dresses, bangles and kurtas but stopped myself, and instead went across the street for jaggery, Red Label tea, chickpeas, ghee, calamine lotion and a tongue scraper.*** Later that night I started reading Samskara -- which is so far well worth the wait -- and which I'm about to get back to right naow.


*In this case the word refers to funeral rites. Samskara has also been called karma / conditioned existence. According to Hinduism Today, "For the Hindu, life is a sacred journey, and every step from birth to death is marked, and thus acknowledged, through traditional ceremony, called samskara. A samskara is an enduring impression etched into the malleable substance of a person's mind at a psychological point in life. During these Hindu rites of passage, a temple or home ceremony deeply influences the soul and directs life along the path of dharma. There are many types of samskaras, from the rite prior to conception to the funeral ceremony. Each one, properly observed, empowers spiritual life, preserves religious culture and establishes bonds with inner worlds as the soul consciously accepts each succeeding discovery and duty in the order of God's creation. Religious samskaras serve two purposes. First, they mark clearly within our minds the occasion of an important life transition. Second, they solicit special blessings from the devas and Deities, society and village, family and friends. These blessings and feelings of love have a markedly positive effect, stabilizing the mind so that the deeper meanings of life can unfold within us."

And from Yoga Journal:

"Although he is best known as the chronicler of the eight-limbed yoga path, Patanjali also presented a version of kriya yoga, the path of transmutative action (i.e., the act of changing into a higher form) in his Yoga Sutra. Kriya yoga can best be described as a form of internal karma yoga. That is, by perfecting the niyamas or self-disciplines of Patanjali's eight-limbed path, particularly tapas (austerity), svadhyaya (self-study), and isvara pranidhana (devotion to the Lord), a yogi erases samskara (subliminal activators) from his subconscious. Samskara are like karma scars that result from good or bad behavior. They are indelible memories, imprinted on the subconscious, that propel the conscious mind to act; they are what dictate a person's birth, life experiences, and death. These activators cause the constant chatter or fluctuations in the mind that separate a person from purusha and make it impossible for him to experience it. An individual has good kinds of samskara and bad kinds, according to the Yoga Sutra. The bad kind keep the conscious mind actively seeking experience outside itself, regardless of whether that experience is pleasurable or painful. The good kind stop the conscious mind from seeking and attaching itself to external objects and senses. The resultant cessation (nirodhah) of vritti (fluctuations) and samskara brings true liberation."

**I hope to be in NYC in late March, for Guruji's workshop

***The last two are gifts for Dorian Black, who is still ill. Go ahead and infer all you want....but he has been out of it for so long that I suspect he now looks like the scary hairy "other" man from last night's episode of Lost.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


As is my wont I found myself listening to "Selected Shorts" on the way to teach at the Fancy Health Club last Sunday. I didn't catch the title, but the story was read by Sex and the City carrot-top Cynthia Nixon, who did an amazing job of making this British town and its railway station, Boots chemist, movie theaters, restaurants and lively depot diner full of conformists from the nearby small towns seem interesting. The writing had a certain bite to it and the images she conjured were so vivid that I was sad to have to leave in the middle of it -- before she got to the actual plot -- and wished once again that I'd had the wherewithal to invent TiVo for RaDio.

Tonight I was watching some movie on Turner Classic Movies (as is my wont when I'm trying not to work) and was amazed to see a train station with a refreshment room that looked exactly like the one I'd imagined while listening to "Selected Shorts." The little town boasted a Boots with a lending library in back and a couple of cinemas where visitors from the nearby hamlets came to see "the pictures," just like in story, and I thought, "Wow, whoever wrote that piece Miranda read on the radio really knew about British towns and railway stations."

While describing on the phone these uncanny similarities to Dorian Black, who was home sick with whatever I had last week, I heard someone in the movie say "Milford." It sounded awfully familiar, so I did a Google Search (in the middle of watching the movie.....this quest for useless knowledge is becoming an awful sickness) and I learnt that the story I'd heard on Sunday was Robert Coover's "Milford Junction, 1939: A Brief Encounter." I at first assumed the story inspired the play (Noel Coward's Still Life) which inspired the film, A Brief Encounter

But the math became fuzzy once I realized that Coover was born in 1932 and the film, written by Coward and directed by David Lean, came out in 1945. More searching revealed that Coover's story was written well after the fact and is from his collection A NIGHT AT THE MOVIES Or, You Must Remember This. Apparently you can now write stories based on movie settings and a Famous Actress will read it on public radio. (According to the New York Times review, "'Milford Junction, 1939: A Brief Encounter' scrupulously sets the scene for a bittersweet Noel Coward love story - but then hilariously releases into this hushed milieu an eruption of animal and terribly un-British sexual desire." I guess I missed that last part.).

The film's plot concerns a couple of middle-aged, middle-class married folks who meet by chance at the refreshment room and fall in love but never get to consummate their affair -- because the bloke whose apartment the man is borrowing comes home early and surprises them before anything can happen. The cool thing is that it's told from the woman's point of view. Apparently it's one of the most popular British films of all time -- one review describes it as their Casablanca. Poor Brits.

A Brief Encounter inspired Billy Wilder to write one of my favorite movies of all time -- The Apartment (it focuses on the bloke who loans the apartment), which in turn informed Woody Allen's Manhattan.* Which is probably inspiring some toddler with an iPod camera at this very moment.


*One Xmas the Hex and I watched The Apartment and Manhattan back-to-back and were floored by how liberally Allen borrowed from, er, paid homage to, Wilder's masterpiece.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


From Newsweek, sent to me by Gridlife, who called it a must-read (for me anyway):

Dating: Positive Thinking

Jilly Wendell
Yes, Sir: Headley

Jan. 16, 2006 issue
Maria Dahvana Headley grew up listening to the "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign of the 1980s. As a student at New York University in the late '90s, she applied that advice to her love life, turning down most men who asked her out and dating only intellectual, literary types. Frustrated by those guys, she reversed course, resolving to spend one year responding positively to all flirting and saying yes to literally anyone who asked her out. The ensuing 150 dates included a homeless man, several non-English speakers, 10 taxi drivers, two lesbians and a mime.

Headley's memoir of the experience, "The Year of Yes," is now in bookstores, and Hollywood's already calling. She urges other people to say yes more often, despite some horrible dates. (One guy took her to a bar that, it became clear, was a strip club—and that's a tame example.) "Lots of women are pretty set in what they think they have to have in order to be happy, but it doesn't hurt to date people who are not that," she says. It worked for her: during her dating spree, she met a playwright who was divorced and 25 years older and had two children—baggage that would have ordinarily nixed his chances. They married in 2003; now 28, Headley lives in Seattle with two teenage stepchildren. "It's something I never would have picked, but it's turned out to be this kind of amazing experience," she says.
—Daniel McGinn

© 2006 Newsweek, Inc.

Yes, and I (Satya) have dated* the man-with-kids, the tortured artist man, the tortured blue collar man, the tortured professional man, the tortured unemployed man, the still-married man, the much-older man, the much-younger man, the much-dumber man, the foreign man, the felon man, the psoriasis man, the homeless man, and the mime.... And the Basque architect who smoked and the Brahmin architect who did not and the busboy and the Vietnam vet who played guitar and the Iraq vet who did not and the former drug addict men and the short man with the giant SUV and the 6'7" man who slept on a twin bed and the rock star ex-lawyer and the Blue Man ex-lawyer and the pro football player with the "Nobody Does it Better" sign above the bed and the just-fired man who argued using a sock puppet and the drug dealer man with the three-foot Graffix and the man whose apartment was entirely white and the man who lied about his age and couldn't get over the death of his dog and the man with the Barbie doll room and sidewinder and the 12-step man who wouldn't ask for the check and the radio producer man and the music producer men and the man from the produce aisle and even a couple of brothers. In other words, everyone but the muffin man.


*Dating as in "gone on a date with."

**OK, OK -- a couple of these guys are one-and-the-same.... and I'm still dating one of 'em.***

***Guess which one and win a copy of my first book

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

There's a new article about Patabbhi Jois and the Mysore phenomenon -- from an Indian perspective (finally!) -- in Outlook India magazine.

Photo by Saibal Das

Magazine| Jan 16, 2006


Sandalwood Simhasana

The sleepy city of Mysore is now a global yoga hub. It's a magnet for a new wave of body-wise disciples — and their dollars.

Gaga Over Yoga

Mysore's reputation as the premier yoga centre was established by its 3 great modern masters—Pattabhi Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar and T.K.V. Desikachar.

The city now has more than 500 yoga teachers, and a growing industry in the manufacture of yoga mats.

Some 3,000 foreigners, looking to tone their bodies through an authentic yoga experience, are drawn to Mysore's yoga institutes. Westerners increasingly see yoga as a rational alternative to power gyms and slimming centres.

Pattabhi Jois' rigorous ashtanga yoga system has attracted celebrity pupils like Madonna, Demi Moore, Sting and Gwyneth Paltrow.

The fees at Mysore's yoga centres range from Jois' initial of Rs 26,900 to Rs 700 for a single drop-in class.


Seated on a bench outside a house in Kuvempunagar here, three women from three continents are eating a snack made of beaten rice (poha) for breakfast. Finely chopped coriander is artfully strewn over it. If you think poha is just breakfast food for them, you're mistaken: it's symbolic of the very lightness of being. Each woman is also balancing a tender green coconut between her knees—a new substitute for mineral water. The weak morning sun casts a glow on their mildly perspiring skin—a glow of well-being, induced by yoga. And when Lara, Kyra and Cassandra speak, their lips round out automatically, as if every syllable is an 'Om'.

At first it seems incredible. Can poha and tender green coconut be part of a million-dollar industry with worldwide links? How did Mysore, best known for its scenic Chamundi Hills, its magnificent palace, grand Dasara and a horizontally challenged maharaja, transform itself into the world headquarters for yoga schools? When did this happen?

It actually happened rather quietly and gradually, without publicity and hype. Over four decades ago, Vidwan Pattabhi Jois' first Western student, Andre Van Lysbette, landed in Mysore from Belgium. With that visit, word began to spread that Mysore was the place to learn yoga in India. Now, it's no longer just word of mouth—there are even a couple of books and web journals that chronicle the unique Mysore yoga experience. Last year, it even inspired a 350-page travelogue called Yoga School Dropout by Lucy Edge, published by Random House's prestigious imprint, Ebury Press. Round the year, roughly 3,000 westerners come to learn yoga from various teachers, but chiefly from the nonagenarian Jois.

The Mysore experience is panning out to be a second wave of Understanding-the-Orient for the West. But the scene is quite unlike the Beatles hanging out at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi ashram in Rishikesh in a chillum-induced trance, or dharma bums speeding on Enfields through the twisting lanes of Pushkar. The firangs in Mysore may have vague ideas about achieving spiritual epiphany and cosmic bliss, but for them the body is as important (or more so) as the wayward soul. Their major goal is to shed flab to the chanting of 'Om asatoma sadgamaya' (and never mind if it sounds like "Om as a roamer sad yamaha"). Yoga is clearly a rational, risk-free alternative to power gyms and slimming centres. Lucy Edge's book even speaks of unofficial body-building competitions among yoga students by the poolside of the local Southern Star hotel.

Mysore's yoga centres offer a contrast to the old 'yogashrams' where a yoga session was part of a woolly-headed mix of spiritual discourses and meditation. They are body factories where you cough up hard-earned dollars in return for a toned body and 'compassionate grace'. "Yoga is about mathematical and psychological precision," says Jayakumar Swamysree, who's taught at Moscow's Indian Embassy for four years and now runs the Pranava Yogadhama in Mysore.

The 'code of conduct' notice hanging outside the Atma Vikasa Yoga Kutira, run by Venkatesha and wife Hema, should help in understanding the prim, pragmatic Mysore mood: 'The student is expected to be sincere, hardworking and obedient'; 'please do not touch the teacher for any cause'; 'decent and dignified behaviour is demanded out of the student; loud chatting, jeering, hugging your partner/others is prohibited'; 'you cannot practice if the dress is improper'; 'money once paid will not be refunded/readjusted'; 'we are not in any way answerable to your prejudices.' "We recommend satvic food," the couple add for good measure. However, the gurus also use terms from western psychology in an effort to secularise yoga and take it beyond Patanjali's sutras (circa 150 BC). As Vidwan Jois puts it, "Yoga is universal".

So where does Mysore get its yoga connection? Well, there's always been a strong tradition of yoga being taught as a formal discipline in the regal city. In the 1930s, Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar offered patronage to a Yogashala under T. Krishnamacharya. He later also ordered the opening of a yoga department at the Sanskrit College here (where Jois taught till he retired in 1973). The three great modern masters of yoga—T.K.V. Desikachar, B.K.S. Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois—are all students of Krishnamacharya and trained at the yogashala. Of the three, Desikachar, Krishnamacharya's son, has settled in Chennai, and Iyengar, who first went to Europe with violinist Yehudi Menuhin, is now in Pune. That leaves Jois, who rules Mysore with his daughter Saraswati and grandson Sharath. His son Manju Jois is a yoga guru in the US.

"He went with me on our first yoga tour to the US in 1975 and decided to stay back. My students did ask me to settle down there, but I find Mysore irresistible," says the elder Jois, whose star pupils include Demi Moore, Sting, Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow. For Jois' 90th birthday celebrations early last year, over 800 foreign students landed up in Mysore. Iyengar also made the trip. "After I started touring the West, people were exposed to real yoga...they shifted to the ashtanga method," says Jois, beaming with pride. Ashtanga, or 'eight-limbed' yoga, is the rigorous form of yoga taught by Jois.

Jois has inspired a booming new economy in Mysore. There are many young teachers around, most of them less than half his age. Among them, Jayakumar Swamysree and Sheshadri from the Mysore Mandala, and Venkatesha attract a fair number of foreign students. As an identity marker, each has evolved his own yoga method, claiming it to be different from Jois' ashtanga. For instance, Venkatesha, a back-bending expert, calls his method 'atma vikasa'.

But none of the younger gurus can compare with Jois when it comes to demand. His students pay an initial fee of Rs 26,900 and Rs 16,900 per month thereafter. The lore is he has a currency counting machine installed, what with 99 per cent of his students being foreigners. At present, he has about 150 foreign students on the rolls whose virtues he extols: "Their guru bhakti, dedication is far greater."

Venkatesha charges about Rs 8,000 a month while Jayakumar says he's not particular about money and will accept whatever is offered. Sheshadri, the only one who offers drop-in classes, is said to charge Rs 500-700 per class. According to Hema, Mysore has more than 500 yoga teachers, professionals as well as part-timers. "Earlier, only ashtanga was popular, now other methods too are becoming popular," she claims.

Many westerners come to the top teachers for teacher training certificates so they can go back and start their own yoga classes. The fees are much higher for such training, the logic being that once trained, they go back and earn lots more.Jayakumar's teacher training programmes are registered with Yoga Alliance, a standard-setting organisation for the yoga teaching industry in the US. Mao, a jeweller from Slovakia, is currently enrolled with Jayakumar for the same. Alex Barlow, who has signed up with Venkatesha, has decided to give up his profession as a landscaping artist to teach yoga. Lara Herdman and Kyra Sudofsky, also with Venkatesha, have come back for a second stint to upgrade their skills. But there are also others like Steve Render, a rugby player, who are in Mysore just to tone their bodies.

Jois' students are in awe of their guru, a huge global yoga brand who does not need to innovate with teacher-training programmes to boost his image or income. They see him as a living example of what he teaches. Rob Zarachowicz points out that he is "very sharp for 91". Says Jill Ainsworth of New Orleans, who is with "guruji" for the third time, "It's a great feeling to be around his energy...it's very expensive to get here but it's also very compelling."

Despite his age, Jois still travels abroad, and will tour London and San Francisco in March 2006. "Across the US and in Europe, many of my students have opened ashtanga yoga centres in my name," Jois says. This has caused some to ask whether it is New York or Mysore that is the yoga capital of the world. Jois puts the debate to rest with a single line: "But I live in Mysore."

Foreign yoga students have had their impact not just on the incomes of yoga teachers, but on the local economy as well. In Gokulam, where Jois' centre is situated, house owners who let out single and double apartments are thrilled. "They lead a quiet, disciplined life, and they detest staying in hotels," says Sharada Subbiah, a landlord. You'll hear similar stories in Jayalakshmipuram and Kuvempunagar, other neighbourhoods popular with foreign students.

A vegetarian meal industry has also come up to cater to yoga students—that's where the poha breakfast came from. Shops have come up that rent out motorcycles and bicycles for short durations. And yoga mat manufacturers now boast export accounts. Some yoga students also learn traditional painting, rangoli, music and South Indian cooking in their spare time. There's a formal network of teachers in Mysore to cater to these needs too.

Thakurdas, of the Ashoka Book Centre in Devaraja market, has only words of praise for foreign yoga students. "Their presence is not loud. Their numbers have increased in the last three years. We now keep good titles, even offer discounts," he says. Big hotels here even offer special day rates to yoga students using their swimming pools.

For some yoga, may be an other-worldly experience, but in Mysore, yoga is very much about this world as well. But nobody's complaining, and why would they with the dollars flowing in? Om boom Mysore is the mantra!


Since I first fell ill last Friday, I've been thinking, "Well, even though this is annoying and prolonged and I'm miserable, at least I'm not throwing up and hating everything about my life." Oops.

This morning I awakened with an even more massive migraine and nausea, and threw up into the toilet and a bucket. I couldn't even keep down water, which reminded me of India and brought me to that awful place where you question every decision you've ever made (particularly the career-related ones -- you know, like choosing a non-traditional path with no benefits, no security, no income and NO SICK LEAVE). Yes, it felt like the end of the world.

Gridlife saved me from myself by setting outside my door some ginger ale, tissues-with-lotion and Vitamin Water. When my dehydrated self finally awakened again at 12:30, it was all I could do to haul the groceries to the kitchen and figure out how to get a can of soda out of the case. I gingerly took a sip of the ginger ale, which miraculously stayed down. So I ate a couple of crackers, which made me feel like vomiting again. I avoided the problem by sleeping and sleeping some more.

At 3PM the head was still pounding hard, and the stomach was massively agitated. At this point at least part of the headache was caused by a lack of caffeine, but the thought of drinking coffee or tea made my stomach toss even more. So, figuring that wide-awake-and-possibly-without-pain would be preferable to tossing-and-turning-with-the-world's-biggest-headache*. I bit the bullet and took an Excedrin Migraine (a legal speedball featuring the holy trinity of Acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine). It turned out to be my first good decision in many years; by 4PM I could lift my head and even move about a bit without vomiting / wanting to cut off my head / getting lost / falling back down again. Thank Durga for OTC pharmaceuticals.

It also seems that the sore throat has also gone into remission, the sneezing has stopped, the cold sore has shrunk and the snot factory is on strike.

Perhaps I will be able to practice yoga again one day -- possibly even in this lifetime.


*Now there's a memoir of marital dischord I'd like to read.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


-There are over one billion colds in the US each year.

-It is a respiratory disease caused by a virus.

-Over 200 viruses can cause the common cold.

-A virus is a disease-producing agent so small that it goes right through very fine filters that stop bacteria

-Kids average six colds a year; adult with kids also get about six, while the rest of us just two or three -- ha!

-Airborne doesn't always prevent them

-The sufferer is most contagious a few days before symptoms appear, and a few days after.

-It usually goes away after seven days.

-Apparently it's easier to catch it via getting sneezed on, not so easy via kissing.

-Complications from the common cold can include bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infection, sinusitis and the infamous cold sore.

-Even people who have a good diet, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and generally lead a healthy lifestyle can catch a nasty-ass cold.

-It is easier to get a substitute teacher / cancel a yoga lesson when the sufferer sounds as sick as they actually feel.

-On Sunday night the sufferer will call a trio of subs for her Monday morning Mysore class. One will say no, and two will not pick up the phone or return her call. The next day one of them will come and take (not take over) the class, leaving said sufferer mildly dumbfounded.

-By the end of the two-hour Mysore class, after taxing herself silly, the sufferer will have learnt that it's easier to teach by giving verbal adjustments while sitting on a fully-inflated exercise ball.

-If the sufferer teaches a class before the symptoms disappear, she will become even sicker and be forced to get subs for her next several classes -- and lose mucho dinero.

-The cat eats more when the owner is home all day and night. It also bites more.

-Tissues treated with lotion are de rigeur

-So are humidifiers

-And fancy, vitamin C-infused juice. And miso soup.

-Cable is a good thing when you're sick. A very good thing indeed.

-While ill the sufferer will watch What Alice Found (awesome), American History X (why is Ed Norton not getting Jude Law's roles?), School of Rock (perfectly mindless), the Hindi classic Sholay (overrated), Emily's Reasons Why Not (an overrated ripoff of the sufferer's own co-script), Jake in Progress (Blackie's getting old), Now Voyager (the story of the sufferer's life with her stepmotha), and Of Human Bondage (the book is better).... not to mention numerous episodes of CSI (yawn) and Law & Order (a good time to nap) -- and be delighted to learn that the caustic writer Fran Lebowitz now guest stars as an arraignment judge on the latter.

-The migraine won't kick in until midway through Sunset Boulevard.

Above image is by quilt artist Pam Rubert

Saturday, January 07, 2006


India is the new Tuscany

January is the new March

Hey is the new Hi

AM is the new FM

9PM is the new Midnight

Bikram is the new Lilias

Deadwood is the new Sopranos

David Milch is the new David Chase

Altoids* are the new Tic-Tacs

Ribbon Magnets are the new Baby on Board placards

Camouflage is the new Paisley

Coach is the new Steerage

The 2005 Chicago Bears are the new '85 Chicago Bears

Airborne is the new Emer'gen-C

War is the new Peace

Cliff Bars are the new Space Food Sticks

Oligarchy is the new Democracy

DJs are the new Rock Stars

Bronze is the new Tan

Earl is the new Seinfeld

Flip-flops are the new Heels

Bubble Tea is the new Milkshake

Streaked is the new Blonde

Thai is the new Chinese

Courtney Love is the new Bette Midler**

SUV is the new Station Wagon

The Daily Show is the new SNL

Cell Phones are the new Walkie-Talkies

Nextel is the new CB

Backwards is the new Sideways

Iraq is the new Vietnam

Green Day is the new Beach Boys

Three is the new Two***

60 is the new 40

200,000 is the new 100,000

Andre 3000 is the new Prince****

Yoga is the new Aerobics

Blogging is the new Circle Jerk.

Chutney is the new Salsa

Family Guy is the new Simpsons

iPod is the new Walkman

Philadelphia is the new Brooklyn

Bridgeport is the new Wicker Park

The Dalai Lama is the new Maharishi

Blue Man Group is the new Shields and Yarnell / Mummenschanz

The Memoir is the new Novel

Rap is the new Punk

Pamela Lee is the new Dolly Parton

Sangria is the new Mojito

The Interweb is the new Telegraph

Pilates is the new Yoga

Poker is the new Poker

Tibetan Monks are the new Horses*****


*Altoids contain gelatin, which is made of boiled bones, skin, connective tissue, hooves and other unsavory animal parts. Gelatin is also hidden in Starburst chews, Skittles candies, Lucky Charms cereal, marshmallows, Jello, Kellogg's and Trader Joe's Frosted Mini Wheats, candy corn, and some margarines and nonfat yogurts, among other things.

**When she's not impersonating Nancy Spungen, that is.

***3 = the new 2 when it comes to child-bearing, at least among my set.

****Andre 3000 was voted sexiest male vegetarian, 2004. Both he and Price are vegan. So is that theatrical c*cksucker, Ian McShane! And Pamela Anderson. And Bill Maher, Dennis Kucinich, Alice Walker, Alicia Silverstone, Lindsay Wagner******, Carl Lewis, k.d. lang, Weird Al and many others.

*****Women of a Certain Age seem to flock to and collect these smiling, traveling, oppressed monks with much the same tireless enthusiasm and devotion they once expressed towards those long-limbed equine creatures.

******Not that it aids The Bionic Woman's slumber, if her ads for The Sleep Number Bed are any indication.


Dear Readers (all two of you):
Feel free to weigh in with your own contributions

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


One of the last things I did last year was to redeem a gift certificate that was to expire December 31. It was for a soak at Space Time Tanks -- you know, one of those places with the sensory deprivation pods where it's all womblike 'n' shit; the water is skin-temperature, it's dark, it's quiet and there's so much Epsom salt in the water that you can float on top of it. It seemed 80's new agey, and I was skeptical -- hence waiting until the last minute to go.

The place had several rooms with tanks. Mine smelled like a barnyard (not that there's anything wrong with that). There was a little shower outside where you were supposed to clean yourself off. As I did I fervently wished that those who'd been there before me had done so as well. I chose not to use the earplugs* and checked the water depth -- ten inches.

Then I went in. There was none of that shock you get when you go into a pool. I rolled onto my back and tested the water's buoyancy -- yes, I really could float on top of it. I placed my head in the spot opposite the door, so I'd know where it was. Then I got up and tested the door a few times; it opened. Each time I put my head down, though, I started to worry that I would start to spin and lose the location of the door. When I wasn't worrying about that, I'd think that my head was getting too close to the machinery behind me, and I'd be electrocuted. Well, at least there's no lock on the door. Then I'd worry about someone walking in on me. Then I'd think about the hygiene of the other tank users, and whether the salt would kill whatever diseases they may have had.

At some point I was able to lie back and watch my racing thoughts. Apparently these tank things are conducive to problem solving, meditation, and sleeping** etc. I tried to focus on resolutions, intentions, and things I wanted to happen in my life. And then I'd think about electrocution again, or marvel at my newly-discovered claustrophobia. I'd tell myself to relax, and every time I started to actually do so I'd think, "Wow, it's working!" and then I'd stiffen and the thoughts would start again until the mind quieted and I'd notice and the cycle would repeat itself over and over and over again. At some point I must have drifted off, because the next thing I noticed was someone a-knock knock knocking on my tank.

After some time I knocked back and slowly emerged from the water. The door was right where I thought it was, and when I came out I felt calm, high and clear -- like I did after those early yoga classes, or after a good massage. I did not feel deprived. However, while showering I noticed that something was missing. It took me awhile to realize that nothing hurt. All of my aches, pains and ailments had gone into remission***, and I felt light and happy. The calm feeling lasted for days, and was in full force later on, when I made my way in the rain through heavy traffic to deliver cookies to the mechanic and have him install my new door handle -- only to learn that he'd ordered the wrong part and I'd have to come back yet another f*cking time. I didn't even reach for my gun or take back the cookies or call him a c*cksucker or anything; apparently these tank things really do work.


*Eschewing the earplugs was not a wise choice, as every time I burped over the next few days I felt the water in my ears and worried that I was getting an infection.

**Apparently sleeping a few minutes in a tank is akin to sleeping for HOURS outside of the womb.

***The pain came back the next day, in full force, while I was practicing primary series. Hmmmmm....

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Guruji is indeed coming to NYC in March!

Many options are there:

Led Primary Classes with Guruji
March 26, 27, 28, 30, 31
two classes daily at 6 and 8am
The Puck Building - 295 Lafayette Street @ Houston, New York City

Mysore Style Classes with Sharath
March 26, 27, 28, 30, 31
one class daily at 4pm
Ashtanga Yoga New York - 430 Broome Street @ Crosby, second floor, New York City

Mysore Style Classes with Saraswati
April 3-7
one class daily at 4pm
Ashtanga Yoga New York - 430 Broome Street @ Crosby, second floor, New York City

To register click here.


*And $4 chai

photo by Jim York

Monday, January 02, 2006


After doing five Surya Namaskar A and five Surya Namaskar B and riding my bike downtown and teaching a single class (which only a select few seemed to enjoy) I spent NYD doing a whole lot of nothing -- which included eating Hoppin' John* (for good luck), watching the What Not to Wear Marathon (for good looks) and the The North and South marathon (for good production values) and occasionally popped in to minister to Dorian Black and watch him watch the Monk marathon (ugh) and the Law & Order marathon (as if they needed one) and then eating some more (pasta and Hoppin' John with naan, coffee ice cream with chocolate sauce and whipped cream, etc). I did not make a resolution. I did not take down the Xmas tree. I did not help the homeless. I did not call old friends. I did not work on deadlines. I did not write a word. In fact, I wore a kimono from 1:30 PM on and did not leave the house. I did take a bath, make guacamole, bake cookies, and watch Miss Congeniality -- and for that I should be shot.


*Hoppin John is black-eyed peas and brown rice topped with scallions, diced tomatoes, melted cheddar cheese and hot sauce. My version has no meat. The idea is that if you eat "poor" on the first of the year, you'll eat "rich" the rest of the year. As if there's more to life than rice and beans.