Saturday, December 29, 2007


During rough times in the olden (pre-yoga) days, I'd be susceptible to infomericals selling dreck and telemarketers wanting me to switch phone companies. I was so vulnerable I'd buy anything. That's how I ended up owning a prissy mint green sweater from the Home Shopping Network and "The Fabulous 50's" CD box set from Time/Life Books.

Nowadays I turn to self-help books. This bit of wisdom from The Four Agreements really hit home today:

"In your whole life nobody has ever absued you more than you have abused yourself. And the limit of your self-abuse is exactly the limit that you will tolerate from someone else. If someone abuses you a little more than you abuse yourself, you will probably walk away from that person. But if someone abuses you a little less than you abuse yourself, you will probably stay in the relationship and tolerate it endlessly."

Now that we've said "Rumpelstiltskin," does it mean that the monster will finally disappear?

Monday, December 24, 2007


Sunday, December 23, 2007; 3047 N. Lincoln Ave.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


1. A coyote pacing back and forth behind the fence of the Jewish Graceland cemetery. (When I stopped my bike to look and make sure I wasn't seeing things, it too stopped and then moved back a few feet, raised its nose in my direction, and sniffed the air. I'm not sure whether he went out for a sandwich later on or not).

2. A man crossing Ashland Avenue at Foster on a unicycle. Right in front of my car. (He was wearing a helmet).


"I support the camp. Fill it up."
"You're all sick!"
"I hope you get beheaded!"
"Get a life!"
"Shame shame."
"They deserve to be there - they attacked us!"
"Couldn't you choose a better time to do this? Thanks for ruining our holiday!"

(The people saying these things were tourists)

Friday, December 21, 2007

NO. MORE. DIBS. - ???

From today's "Chicago Tribune":

City snow shovelers told to kick chairs to the curb
Tribune staff report
December 21, 2007

CHICAGO - The Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation is telling city residents to move their furniture off the streets.

Every winter, some residents use tables, chairs and other items to reserve shoveled-out parking spaces during snowstorms, but city officials say people haven't been removing their markers after the snow clears.

"While we don't condone this practice, we are generally tolerant of it in the hours following a big snow," Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Michael Picardi said in a statement. "It stopped snowing on Sunday."

Streets and Sanitation workers have been instructed to immediately begin clearing away furniture left in the street.

Methinks the denizens of The City of Big Chip on Shoulders are not yet ready to practice this sort of self-restraint and non-attachment - particularly since more snow is predicted for Sunday.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


I found this in my personal, handwritten "secret" Mysore Diary, in an entry from March, 2002:

....I woke up from a nap and dream in which Sharath turned into a health club owner demanding money from me....

Sunday, December 16, 2007


SportMarty and I had plans to see Asimino Chremos's new piece Red Swan Red Swan last night at Links Hall. She's been dancing in Chicago forever and I teach on Friday mornings at her place, Silverspace. But for some reason I'd never seen her perform.

I suspected that the show was going to be good, because I'd been looking at the red tutus she was going to wear for weeks. In fact Asimina and one of the regular Friday students recently put them on and did poses in them - which was hilarious. (I actually took some pix, and will ask for permission to put them up). You really haven't enjoyed yoga until you've done Caturanga Dandasana in a bright red tutu.

But I digress.

Long before they predicted yesterday's blizzard - which "punched the nation in its midsection" last night - we decided to walk to the show. It had more to do with parking than the poor polar bears, but that was the plan.

Meantime it continued to snow. And snow. And snow.

SportMarty called when he was halfway to my house, and told me to wear an extra layer because the wind was kicking up.

We trudged to the performance, complaining loudly about the inflatable holiday lawn decorations that are causing the polar ice caps to melt. The wind whipped the snow into our eyes, and we wondered why we hadn't worn ski goggles.

We also discussed whether or not we'd see any drunken Saturday night barhoppers wearing cleavage-showing shoes and tank tops - something we see each and every time we hang out, regardless of temperature. I bet that we would.

There was a good turnout for Asimina's show, despite the weather.

When they let us in the performance was already in progress. Dancers were writhing and rolling around on top of one other, flinging each other around, doing somersaults, etc. I think it's called contact-improv. It was mind-blowing to see bodies move like that, when you're used to the discipline and same movements of yoga. Also amazing was that no one messed up and put the other person at risk. Maybe they're like the BDSM folks, and have a secret password or something.

The space is next to the El tracks, and a few trains went by.

At one point, a ladder appeared in one of the windows. A short time later, a man's head appeared. He knocked on the window, and they let him in. For a moment I thought it might be Bobeisennow (with whom I went to India in 2002). But when he took off his many layers of clothes, it was clear he was not.

He finished the dance with Asimina, who then changed into *another* bright red outfit - while we watched.

Then she began to move to live music. It was riveting.

The show was a tribute "to the memory of Anna Paskevska and all of [Asimina's] ballet teachers."

Then she tore down some of the set, and put on a tutu and pointe shoes. She got up on them and began to move towards the middle of the room taking miniscule steps and making tap-tapping sounds. It was like she was on stilts. Then one of the musicians mic'ed her feet, and the sound reverberated even more. The image was startling.

The final act had her in black, and was sad.

I don't know what it all means, but it was awesome. She can move like no one else.

And the whole thing lasted about 45 minutes.


* * *

On the way home we stopped for mediocre Chinese food at Chen's (NOTE TO CHEF: NO ONE, AND I MEAN NO ONE, CAN CONSUME THAT MUCH SLIMY BORING TOFU IN ONE SITTING - ESPECIALLY WHEN THE DISH IS CALLED "STIR-FRIED GREENS") and watched the storm get worse. There was more snow, and it was horizontal.

After paying, we put on our many layers of clothes and headed towards my house. On the way we saw some fratdrunks in plaid golf shorts dart across the street to another bar. But still no tank top ladies.

During our walk, we realized we were trudging faster than the cars on the street.

We decided to stop at Julius Meinl for some molten chocolate cake.

The Viennese coffee shop is owned by an Austrian company that's been around forever, and is quite authentic (it's their only outlet in the US). They serve tea and coffee on a silver tray with an actual teaspoon, a side of water, a tube of sugar and a little cookie. Their desserts are amazing.

To our surprise, a classical duo began playing some exquisite music. Turns out it was the Sharon Chung Duo; apparently she is or was with the Civic Orchestra -- which is the farm team for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

After gorging ourselves on tea and cake, we layered up and headed outside for the final leg of the trip home.

The storm was even worse.

Yet there were still a few people out trudging.

And that's when we saw them, right in front of Toons.

Two drunken girls, clinging to drunken guys.

One woman was in middle the street, standing in the slush, trying to get a good grip on her man - who was trying to hail a taxi. But there were no taxis.

The other woman was near the door, standing in a snow drift, getting shelter in her boyfriend's arms.

Both women were wearing spike heels and tank tops.

Tank tops.

In a blizzard.

High heels.

In snow.

We thought we'd seen it all (And began speculating about why the men didn't act like men and leave the ladies inside and get the cab while they waited. Apparently chivalry really is dead).

But we hadn't seen it all. Yet.

Because then we heard a bellow from the woman in the street.


Ah, maya.....

Saturday, December 15, 2007


On Wednesday we went to opening night of Joffrey Ballet of Chicago's Nutcracker. It was the 20th anniversary show. (The Joffrey, by the way, is the dance organization featured in the Robert Altman documentary, The Company. They moved to Chicago in 1995).

My expectations were low - I've seen The Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre (overrated) and the Ruth Page version of the Nutcracker with my mother and grandmother at the Arie Crown Theatre way-back-when. I remember not a single thing about the performance - except that we managed to find the place, which was 1.5 hours from our town, and that we weren't late.

But I was excited because the Joffrey version is being performed at the exquisite, acoustically perfect, Louis Sullvian-designed Auditorium Theatre. Previously I'd seen Frank Zappa and Sonu Nigam perform there (not at the same time, thankfully). I also saw a Philip Glass opera. But never a ballet (I don't understand ballet).

When we arrived in the lobby, we heard the dulcet tones of a really terrific children's choir, singing an ethereal version of "Winter Wonderland" - my favorite holiday carol.

There was electricity in the air (and not just the static kind). Everyone was dressed in their best clothes, and we spent many happy moments listening to the choir and watching everyone make their entrance.

It was like a parade of too-cute Princesses and Fauntleroys. We saw so many matching sets of kids - little girls wearing velvet dresses, red tights, patent leather Mary Janes and oversize bows in their (perfect) hair, boys in velvet suits, bow ties and yamulkes - that we lost count.

Finally, we went to our seats - which were amazing. We were just seven rows behind the orchestra pit, where the wonderful Chicago Sinfonietta was raring to go. In fact we were so close that during the performance we could hear the beads clicking on the costume of Mr. Coffee from Arabia.

We read the synopsis beforehand, so we'd know what we were seeing. (Actually, TJ read it aloud because the print was small, the light was dim, and my scary old lady half-glasses wouldn't fit into my fancy purse).

The ballet was jaw-dropping, as was the music. There was so much going on at any given time that the many children in our section didn't get bored - and neither did I.

In fact there were so many exquisite moments that tears came to my eyes several times. I couldn't believe how lucky I was to sit there and watch something so beautiful, made possible by so many people, while wars waged and people outside begged for change. I also marveled over how startling it is to see something up close that is peformed by real people in real time and is not being viewed on a screen. And all done without words - which made it the experience even better.

Interestingly, most of the kids left at half-time. Perhaps they knew that after the first few numbers, the second part was more "adult" (ie; boring). But still rather breathtaking.

Afterwards, we walked up State Street to look at the holiday windows at Marshall Fields, er, Macy's. The theme - surprise! - was the Nutcracker.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Catesey told me this morning that the Chicago Reader just dumped four of its senior staff writers - John Conroy, Steve Bogira, Tori Marlan and Harold Henderson.

I was dumbfounded. I knew the new owners were cutting heads.

But this is a travesty - especially when you consider the writers who remain. (This excludes the brilliant Ben Joravsky, who remains the sole muckraker at the paper. Week after week he goes after the city, and finds dirt that eludes the big papers, with their resources. Yet one can't help but fear that his days too are numbered).

John Conroy singlehandedly broke the story of Chicago PD police torture back in 1990, and has kept it in the public eye ever since. His story archives are here - for the time being at least.

The torture case has finally had its day in court - one of the lead attorneys is an avid ashtangi - and the city must now pay $20 million to the plaintiffs (actually we're paying. But that's another story).

Tori Marlan is a careful investigative reporter who wrote about such things as Guantanamo (interestingly, her ex - who writes about food - has not been canned. Yet.).

Bogira's stories about the Cook County Courts became a book that inspired an upcoming HBO series.

Henderson was hard to categorize - my favorite kind of writer.

Apparently the Reader story was important enough to get a mention on today's Democracy Now! and a big story in the New York Times, in which David Carr writes:

It is as if Creative Loafing executives bought a shiny new doll and then once they got their hands on it, felt compelled to tear its head off.

Some background - The Reader is a free weekly that goes back to the 1970's and has (had) a reputation for excellent writing (sorry NYers - it was far superior to the Village Voice). Its focus was super-local, and the style was along the lines of the New Yorker's "Talk of the Town." Things started to go downhill in 2002, after beloved editor Pat Arden was fired. The paper got a raunchy resdesign that elimited a lot of editorial content in September 2004, when TimeOut Chicago came to town. In July the Reader was sold to Atlanta-based Creative Loafing, which owns other free weeklies. Many employees were soon let go, and the paper turned into a tabloid. Some sections shrank. More editorial was lost. They started paying writers (me) less for their movie capsules. More staffers were purged.

As former Chicago magazine media writer Steve Rhodes says in (on?) today's Beachwood Reporter:

...this is an age when the bean counters, marketers and greedy corporate suits have completed their victory in an age-old battle against the very journalists upon whose work they profit. This is a battle that has always existed in the industry, but newsrooms have lost by getting arrogant and lazy while remaining uneducated about the business side of their business. Instead of scrutinizing the false claims of their corporate masters the way journalists might be expected to, journalists of this era instead have absorbed the marketing values and selfishness of their paymasters while chasing off the kind of creativity and imagination that could very well have saved their organizations from the kind of doom - oh boo-hoo, our criminally huge profit margins aren't as fantastically fat as they once were - that has become the norm as actual, real reporting disappears when it is needed most.

The Reader's actual Dear Journalist memo was excerpted in The Chicagoist:

Unfortunately the financial pressures of our industry continue unabated, and I'm very sorry to announce that as a cost-cutting measure we eliminated several positions in editorial this week.

The people we cut — John Conroy, Harold Henderson, and Tori Marlan, as well as Steve Bogira, who's been on a leave of absence — are all staff writers, and as you might guess, this move represents a shift in the financial structure of our relationship with contributors.

I'm by no means a great writer or reporter, and no one has really noticed my absence from the Reader. But the letter does remind me a bit of the Dear Caca E-mail I received back in 2004 - just ten days before I was scheduled to return from a trip to India and resume writing the Days of the Week calendar (a job I'd held for eight years, and which made up 3/4 of my income):

I'm looking forward to having you back in the paper, but I think it's time to make a transition to a new DOW writer, and this leave of absence is as good a time as any to make the change. There are various reasons this seems like a good idea, not least the benefits that arise from making change for its own sake.

Please don't in any way interpret this as punishment or retaliation for your having taken time off.

One can't help but thank one's lucky stars that one didn't bite when a staff writer position was proffered back in 2003. That silly intuition - it's never wrong.

But it is interesting to read what Reader media writer Mike Miner has to say about it - and to see him try to report the story without pissing off the new overlords (the full text is here):

They're gone because the Reader couldn't afford to go on paying them their salaries -- "As you might guess, this move represents a shift in the financial structure of our relationship with contributors," True wrote. They're gone because a few years ago Craigslist moved in on our classifieds section -- and classifieds represented a huge portion of our income. They're gone because the old Section One -- the editorial section -- was for decades the tail that wagged the dog here, and when revenues fell it became impossible to continue to allocate the same funds to it.

I called the boss, Ben Eason, in Tampa and reminded him that the last time we'd talked he was saying John Conroy deserved a Pulitzer Prize. (That's a popular idea around here. He's been writing about police torture since 1990, but there's no Pulitzer for persistence, no matter how important the subject.) The first time Eason and I talked, just after Eason had bought the paper this summer, I said that Conroy was, in effect, the canary in the coal mine -- as long as he was OK readers would know the Reader was OK.

"I know, I know," said Eason, who was informed of True's intentions before she made her move. "All I've done is, I've said this is what the budget number is. This is what we’ve got to have. And it’s the same number that’s been out there since August."

Eason and Creative Loafing have some interesting, and let's hope brilliant, ideas about the future of the Reader and the CL chain of six newspapers. "It's ultimately to me a navigation problem," Eason told me. "How do you keep putting out a newspaper at a quality people expect and how do you migrate this stuff to the Web, which is ultimately the future? We’re in a fight over who can tell you more about the street corner in Chicago....."

Whatever. What I do know is that it's nearly impossible to make a living as a writer anywhere these days - let alone find an entity that will publish your work in a place where people will actually see it.

I wish them the best.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Tuesday, 1.29.02
Old Shala.

Today was my first day of practice…

The carpet on the studio floor is bordered with (counter-clockwise) swastikas.

Satsang (ie conference with Guruji) takes place in the shala’s little lobby. A few people are already sitting on the floor when I arrive a few minutes early. Two chairs are empty. It’s clear that the ornate one is for Guruji. So I sit on the one next to it.

“That’s Sharath’s seat,” says a bald man wearing all white.


More people arrive, and finally Guruji slips in wearing a crisp white dhoti(sarong), Yoga Moves tank top and three fresh white Shiva stripes across his forehead. And Ray Charles sunglasses (he's just had cataract surgery).

Everyone sits on the floor looking -- at each other, at the kids outside on the street playing on their bicycles, at the clock, at the photos on the shelves, at each other, and at Guruji as he silently read the newspaper in Kannada, the local language.

Sharath pulls up on a black motorcycle wearing wraparound sunglasse and Levi’s, straight out of GQ. He disappears for a few minutes and comes back wearing bike shorts and a tank top (he’ll be teaching Indian students here later).

He sits on the chair next to Guruji – my chair – and begins to read the other newspaper.

Then they start to go through their mail. More students show up wearing Punjabi dresses and baggy fisherman’s pants, granny shirts, and regular New York attire. All of them are white. Some arrive on scooters and motorcycles.

Each time one enters, they greet Guruji and touch his feet, and he looks up from the newspaper and says, “Yes, yes, hello.”

Guruji disappears for awhile to register some students in his office upstairs, and then comes back. Two senior students from New York – C. and W. – sit near his feet. “So many new students,” says C.

A thin, dark Indian man with a moustache delivers a package. On the way out he lightly kicks someone. He immediately brushes his hand over his eyes.

“This is Indian tradition when they kick someone,” Sharath explains.

Then he leaves to teach in the tiny adjacent shala, where we do our practice every morning.

Some students sneak away when no one’s looking. Now there are about 25 of us sitting and sweating on the floor.

The package is from a London book publisher. C. starts reading the letter that accompanies it.

“Please forgive my presumption for writing to you…-”

“Good! Good!” Guruji says, interrupting him.

The place erupts with laughter.

Later, someone asks Guruji what the opening chant is about. He looks at C. and starts chanting the mantra.

Then he ends the conference with his most famous quote.

“Yoga is 99 percent practice, one percent theory.”


Later we go to Allen Little’s massive apartment, just around the corner from the shala.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Today's newsletter has a link to some public Q&A's with Pattabhi Jois from 1991, translated (?) from French to English by Guy Donahaye.

In it, Guruji addresses such burning issues as:

What happens if you do the sequences out of order (illness will come).

What to do when there is no sound on the inhale ("He is not controling completely abdominal and anus. Anus you control, stiff (strong) breathing is coming, with sound breathing....If long breathing, inhalation is not correct or if only the exhalation is coming long, that is heart trouble is starting. That is very bad").

Why we shouldn't practice outside ("Energy you doing practice practice outside, your heat is not coming out. Heat increasing and poison is not coming out. Poison means sweat… Your strength is gone. Your temperature is gone.").

What floor to practice on ("Third, fourth floor he is doing yoga - very bad. Underground he is doing yoga, very bad. First floor, that is all.")

What to do when you're feeling lazy and don't want to practice (eat proper - sattvic - food)

When to do full vinyasa (when you don't have to work and can spend five hours on your your practice)

Whether it's OK to heat the room / keep the windows open during practice (too much heat is bad, because the heat should come from within - HOPEFULLY THOSE OF YOU WHO TURN THE THERMOSTAT UP TO 90 WILL HEED THIS - and one open window, high up, is good).

Some excerpts:

Question: Why should we not practice on full and new moon days?

Answer: That day is very difficult day. Two stars one place (conjunction) is going. New moon also, full moon also. That day very dangerous day. You (take) practice (on that day), anyone can have a small pain starting. That pain is not going very quickly. Long time he is taking. Some broken possible. That is why that day don’t do.

Question: While doing tolasana at the end of practice, which is the correct drishti?

Answer: Both sides: Pull up. Pull upping time you take Nasagra dristi. One also here also, both dristi, no problem. Nasagrai dristi and broomadhya dristi.

On why to do vinyasa:

"Without vinyasa you don’t do asana. Why? One part (of body) you bending - you can understand? For example, paschimottanasana, Ardha baddha padma paschimottanasana, you doing one leg, bend one leg, and take back your foot. How long? Long time. After little (restricted) blood circulation, every joint stopping. After again take up, jump back again, next posture, next leg you put it. After your jumping time, tight your whole body, don’t loose, tight it (for vinyasa, the body should be engaged, not relaxed). After blood circulation automatically is going (moving). That pain quickly is going.

"You without vinyasa, you do every pose (without vinyasa), all the joints so blood circulation so blood circulation not correctly. Circulation is not coming, stopping there (in the joint). After sitting posture you do completely, all body sick, gradually sick(nes is) starting. "Oh! Yoga is given (making me) sick - not liking" (i dont like it). People is not liking. That some asana - "Oh! It is very bad. Very pain is coming. Oh! left it (I dont want to do it). That asana don’t do!" Some people is telling. Why that? This is method you don’t understanding (why? because they dont understand the correct method). That is why you this method you follow - no trouble! Body also is very perfect. You can understand? That is the method."

The full text is here.

And tomorrow I will post an account of my first conference with Guruji, which took place over a decade later - in 2002.

Monday, December 03, 2007


At a recent yoga-related luncheon, someone asked me how many classes I teach per week.

"Fifteen," said I. "Soon to be 18."

Gasps were heard.

Eyebrows shot up.

Hands covered mouths.

"Why do you teach so many classes?" someone asked.

"To earn a living," I answered.

They were still perplexed, and talked about how they were teaching less.

What I didn't say is that when you're single and don't have a spouse / partner with whom you share expenses, and need to plan for retirement and trips to India, etc., you take on more classes. Also, it's rather enjoyable.

Then they asked a question that made my jaw drop.

"Do you still practice on your own? Or do you work out with your classes?"

OF COURSE NOT, I said. It's not a workOUT, for one.

And I demonstrate only when necessary in class.

Yes, I still do my own practice.

Without it I'd be a fraud.

Friday, November 30, 2007


From the Huffington Post:

"Wednesday's '700 Club' featured a question about the Christian view of yoga. A concerned viewer asked, 'Does it really have its origins in evil?' Pat Robertson gave the verdict: Yes! According to Pat, stretching is fine, but by repeating common yoga mantras, you are actually praying to Hindu gods Vishnu and Krishna and you're not even aware of it!" The clip is here.

Actually many Hindus believe that it's all one g-d, and that Jesus is an avatar of Krishna who was sent down to set things right. Many even have depictions of this in their shops.

Apparently I'm not the first to notice the similarity between "Aum" and "Amen."

In his new postmorten compilation The Yoga of Jesus: Understanding the Hidden Teachings of the Gospels, Paramahansa Yogananda says Jeebus was actually a yogi and mystic.

Yogananda also claims that JC spent his missing years in India - and has the footnotes to back it up.

When I first heard this notion, from TJ, I dismissed it.

But now it makes perfect sense.

Where else would He have gotten the long hair and Beatles-during-their-Maharishi-period beard?

*Thanks to Bob K for the Pat Robertson tip

Monday, November 26, 2007


For shavers only:

To make your razor blade last forever (ie, to keep it sharp), simply pat it dry after each use and store it away from water. I was advised to put mine on the windowsill.

Apparently it's not the ladies who dull the blades.

It's the water.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


After today's long overdue massage with The Amazing Bridgett, I headed over to The Devil's Triangle (Clark/Broadway/Diversey) to pick up some free panties and stock up on Epsom salt.

I also purchased some overpriced-but-effective Shea Body Butter at The Cruelty-Free Fair Trade Scam Shop, where the clerk made a point of giving me a free sample of day cream.

When I got home I put on my reading glasses and looked at the label.

It wasn't just day cream that she gave me.


It was Wise Woman regenerating day cream for mature skin.

This is almost more sobering than the first time a gentleman who was not a cowboy called me "ma'am."


Friday, November 23, 2007

Thursday, November 22, 2007


That's how my (formerly) negative punk-rock self used to think of this holiday: "Thank you for letting us take everything and leave you with the crumbs."

Now I think of it as a way for people to thank g-d or grace or the greenback or whom/whatever it is they believe in for their relatively easy life.

It's more effective if it's backed up with something concrete; letting someone cut in in traffic, feeding the birds, making a puja, giving an energy bar (or pint!) to the homeless vet holding the cardboard sign, calling or visiting someone who may be lonely, making a donation to some worthy cause, not calling your cat an a--hole when it attacks and draws blood, etc.

As for the donation part.... I've been thinking quite a bit about Darfur (thanks, Frontline) and two "natural" disasters - the floods-we-never-hear-about in Tabasco, Mexico and the cyclone in Bangladesh - both of which are not unrelated to oil drilling, deforestation, global warming, etc. And there are also, of course, the unnatural disasters our tax dollars have caused in Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of the world.

In other words, our easy life has a price.

One way the average person can help alleviate suffering caused by the latter three is to donate to the Red Crescent, the Islamic equivalent of the Red Cross. You can do it without leaving your easy chair by clicking here. They'll even let you choose where you want the money to go. Just be aware that you may wind up on some FBI list.

There's also Oxfam, which is one of the groups that goes on the scene as soon as something bad happens in the world. They also let you choose your favorite disaster. Click here for more.

But wait -- there's more!

If you're poor, and/or you despise the commerical nature of Christmas (where much of what you purchase will end up in a landfill anyway), there's Buy Nothing Day. It takes place this Friday, Nov. 23 - on the biggest shopping day of the year.

All you have to do is refrain from spending money. Period.

Click here to find out how it's celebrated around the world.

And do at least one thing to show your gratitude....

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Now that I finally have a moment to write a post, Blogger won't let me upload photos.

So for time being you'll have to imagine the Warhol's Factory fundraiser for Facets that I attended at the MCA Warehouse on Friday. I wore a vintage mod dress that belonged to my mother, a white Chanel-esque cape with black piping, and black Ringo cap a la Edie Sedgwick. The highlight of the night was Gridlife's speech and the band, which played Velvet Underground covers and featured a Nico lookalike (but not a female drummer), and the screen printer who made souvenir t-shirts while you watched. And waited. And waited. And waited.

Saturday was my Dharma Mittra workshop. No one walked out in the middle except the person who warned me beforehand - so I think it went OK.

Sunday was Annkut, an end-of-Diwali puja, - to which I wore a black Punjabi dress with many, many sparkles and matching bindi, shoes, purse, bangles (48 of 'em), earrings, necklace, nose-pin, nails, everything. At this event the women danced in a circle -- all of the Gujarati ladies and, yes, even me -- and there was kirtan and the singing of bhajans to Krishna / an avatar of Krishna and, afterwards, mountains of excellent homemade food including countless sweets. It was so nice of them to have welcomed me so warmly....

Then I traveled to the other end of Devon Avenue for a wake for my girlfriends' father, who was kind and gentle and had many, many friends - and from whom I picked up the unshakable phrase "What the hell - ....!" Which I seem to pull out at the most inopportune moments. Like in the middle of class, when a student does something curious.

The exquisite funeral (the priest grew up across the street from him) was on Monday morning; it was fairly traditional until the very end. That's when, to everyone's surprise, Outkast's "Hey Ya" started blasting through St. Margaret Mary's speakers as the casket, pallbearers, family, friends and wellwishers made their final exit - as per Marty's request. It was not easy to refrain from dancing.

Right after the luncheon I was given a big (and very welcome) writing assigment - and have been busy with that ever since.

Photos are coming.


Friday, November 16, 2007


My teacher Suddha is on the cover of Chicago Athlete magazine. He appears in an article about choosing The Right Yoga for Your Workout

It's good that they have discovered this thing called yoga.....

and that they knew enough feature one of the city's old-school teachers (who is generally credited with bringing Ashtanga to Chicago but is now heavily influenced by Yin Yoga).

When one of Suddha's long-time students saw the magazine in the shala, she snorted and said, "He looks exactly the same as he did in 1984."

Ah, yoga.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Chicago Public Radio finally aired my reunion essay today on "Eight Forty-Eight." It'll air again tonight at about 8:15PM.

It mentions, among other things, how I can put my leg behind my head.

You can also hear it online by clicking here.

And my capsule review of Om Shanti Om just came out, too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Student - What does "State of the Asana" mean?

Teacher - It's where all the ashtanga criminals are sent when the ashtanga police catch up with them.

Student - It must be a very big place.

Teacher - Very big indeed.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


I'm almost afraid to write this, but I've had the most fun couple of days since............ well --

since I was in India.

In fact my mouth hurts from smiling too much.

Now that's a first....

After teaching my 10AM class on Friday I drove towards Little India on Devon Avenue. I wanted to see what was going on for Diwali and pick up some sweets.

I thought I'd eat at Uru-Swati. But somehow I ended up the vegetarian place up the street, where I know the owner quite well.

She was wearing a stunning, sparkly salwaar kameez that put my everyday blue cotton salwaar kameez and matching bindi to shame. And she had the jewerly to go with it.

(It's good to buy new clothes for Diwali, and then to wear them. Apparently this weekend was the time to take them out for a spin. So earlier in the day I wore a new yoga top and jacket, purchased on Wednesday for that very reason).

She sat me down and said we'd go jewerly shopping as soon as she was free (we'd talked about this earlier in the week; during Diwali - and especially last Friday - it is auspicious to purchase jewelry and/or coins. Gold is best, but a silver Lakshmi coin will also do. It is meant to bring wealth in the new year).

We had chai. Then customers came. She waited on them. I read the paper and waited on her.

Then her friend came in.

Her salwaar kameez was even more fabulous. Lots of sparkles. She looked like a model.

We chatted a bit. She too wanted to get a Lakshmi coin.

The owner brought us some thalis (meals) and soon they were gone.

And, finally, so were the customers.

We headed down the street to one of the bigger jewerly stores.

On the way, people looked at us and we looked at them. Most were dressed up.

The women who worked at the jewelry store were wearing their best dresses and saris; it was like an amazing fashion show.

The atmosphere was festive; everyone was complimenting each other on their outfits and matching jewelry and shoes; they were even nice to me (especially when I pulled out the few Hindi words I know).

This store's one-ounce silver Lakshmi coins were $25, but they said they'd give them to us for $23. (Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth. Over half of the NRI's or non-resident Indians in Chicago come from the western state of Gujarat, where they worship Lakshmi on Diwali). Gold was just under $800 per ounce.

Before we left, they offered us sweets.

Then we went to the store across the street, where the women were also wearing sparkly new dresses and saris.

We started complimenting each other again, and talking about different styles (such as the butterfly sari, and how styles in India come and go, but here in the US it doesn't matter if you wear something a few years out of date).

There were no men around - or if there were any we didn't notice them - and we marveled over the dresses and jewerly and ate sweets and talked girl-talk and it was heavenly, and something this tomboy has rarely experienced, if ever.

Shakti. Female energy.

Plus, they had the same Lakshmi coins for $20, and said they'd give us each a dollar off.

Of course we said yes.

When the woman in the beautiful sari handed us our change, she said,

"Already Lakshmi is bringing you wealth."

Later I went to Uru-Swati to pick up sweets, and the owner would not let me pay for them.

I gave most of them away on Saturday.


Also on Saturday, after teaching a workshop where Lakshmi smiled on me, I met Bindi and the Colonel at Piper's Alley, to see Om Shanti Om.

I found a parking space right in front of the theater - unheard of in this congested area.

I sat around watching people coming in. One man wore a long top, but I was the only woman in a salwaar-kameez (I wore a bright red-and-purple number with mirrors, and matching over-the-top earrings).

Upstairs, Bindi and The Colonel got snacks while I got in line.

The line was loooooooooooooooooooong, and looped around the corner.

I was dumbfounded; usually, when Bindi and I see a Hindi movie in the city there are exactly four people in the audience; Bindi, two Indian guys and me.

Despite the long queue, we found decent seats and waited for the fun to begin.

The film began with the song and brilliant video from "Om Shanti Om" from Karz (see previous post), only this time Shah Rukh Khan's character - Om - was in the audience. He dreamed he was singing the song. Somehow, they made it look like he was singing and dancing on the spinning record, wearing a silver jacket that siad "Monty" on the back.
It was amazing.

As was the rest of the film. I've never seen a Bollywood movie make fun of Bollywood before, and it was hilarious.

They took good-natured swipes at many famous Hindi movies, and few Hollywood ones as well.

They got NRI's, too.

But the humor was never mean-spirited.

I laughed. I cried. I tapped my foot. I nodded my head.

I laughed more, though.

And I was smiling nearly the entire time.

The songs were great, and the plot moved quickly.

As if that weren't enough, a who's who of Bollywood icons past and present (and, in at least one case, incarcerated), made appearances.

From the film: Salman Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Saif Ali Khan and Shah Rukh Khan(yes, many Bollywood stars share the last name Khan. And Dutt. And Kapoor. Some are related (and ride on their parents' coattails) and others are not).

Following is the full list of stars who appeared in the film; the two that really poked fun of themselves were fortunate son Abishek Bachchan and Akshay Kumar- the latter of whom reminds me of Cary Grant and who, according to TJ, shaves his chest (because the hair there is turning gray).

The list:

Sanjay Dutt (who is currently in prision)
Salman Khan
Saif Ali Khan
Suniel Shetty
Abhishek Bachchan
Hrithik Roshan
Bobby Deol
Rani Mukerji
Preity Zinta
Zayed Khan
Arbaaz Khan
Dino Morea
Ritesh Deshmukh
Aftab Shivdasani
Shabana Azmi
Juhi Chawla
Karisma Kapoor
Urmila Matondkar
Priyanka Chopra
Shilpa Shetty
Lara Dutta
Vidya Balan
Amrita Arora
Tusshar Kapoor
Vishal Dadlani
Rishi Kapoor
Subhash Ghai
Karan Johar
Mithun Chakraborty
Amitabh Bachchan

(In other words, everyone but Aishwarya Rai and Aamir Khan).

And if you stick around til the very end, you also get to see everyone who worked on the film.

If you see one Bollywood movie this year, this is the one.

Five stars.

Friday, November 09, 2007


Today is Diwali, the Indian Festival of Light.

Many cultures in India celebrate this five-day festival - Hindus (many legends are there), Sikhs (their Sixth Guru was released from prison that day, and it's the day their holy book, the Guru Sahib, arrived at the Golden Temple), and Jains (it's the day of nirvana of Lord Mahavira).

But this explanation, from Wikipedia, is the most relevant to yogis:

While Deepavali is popularly known as the "festival of lights", the most significant esoteric meaning is "the awareness of the inner light".

Central to Hindu philosophy, is the assertion that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. Just as we celebrate the birth of our physical being, Deepavali is the celebration of this Inner Light, in particular the knowing of which outshines all darkness (removes all obstacles and dispels all ignorance), awakening the individual to one's true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, imminent and transcendent reality. With the realization of the Atman, comes universal compassion, love, and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings Ananda (Inner Joy or Peace).

....While the story behind Deepavali varies from region to region, the essence is the same - to rejoice in the Inner Light (Atman) or the underlying reality of all things (Brahman).

On a more worldy level, you get to buy new clothes and jewelry and exchange sweets and flowers and visit the temple and light lamps and go to parties (if you're actually invited to any) and concerts (Dandiya queen Falguni Pathak performed here last week) and bhangra and gidda dance competitions.

In your new clothes, of course.

Plus all the big-budget Bollywood blockbuster movies featuring various Kapoors and Khans open today - at mainstream downtown cinemas no less. The utterly amazing Om Shanti Om (below) is playing at Piper's Alley, and Saawariya is at 600 N. Michigan.

So it's also the festival of flickering light - at 24 frames per second.

It works for me....


Farah Khan, the female director of Om Shanti Om says it's not a remake of the 1980 blockbuster Karz (which in turn was based on 1975's The Reincarnation of Peter Proud). Whatever. It's definitely an inspiration. Om Shanti Om kicks off with a rollicking update of this classic video, from Karz. It's awesome x10.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


When I was in Berkeley, we unwound at night by watching the Discovery Channel's excellent Planet Earth series. (They're doing an encore presentation on Sunday nights at 7PM Central Time. Or you can rent it).

First we watched the one on caves.

Then the desert.

And, finally, ice.

The ice one followed a polar bear family; the female and cubs stay behind while the male hunts for food.

He has to go a long, long way - on an empty stomach no less - and usually trudges across the ice to get to the seals or other prey.

But the ice is gone, and the polar bear has to swim.

And swim.

And swim.

He swims forever.

Days, weeks.

He is exhausted.

Still he swims.

Finally, he gets to land and locates a bunch of walruses.

The adults form a circle, their backs to him, in order to protect their young.

The polar bear chooses a target, and tries to try to pry the walrus off of the cub.

He tries hard.

But he's too weak to finish the job.

He slinks off and regroups.

Finally, he tries again.

But he is too weak from all of that swimming.

He does not pull the walrus off and get to eat his first meal in months.


This time, the walrus attacks him.

The polar bear slinks off again.

This time, he walks in a tight circle, like a dog before it lies down.

The narrator points out the patches of blood on his fur; apparently the walrus gored him a few times.

The polar bear finally lies down.

And then he dies.


After each show, there's a short making-of segment.

During this one, they showed a polar bear approaching the arctic shack where the film crew lived while shooting their footage. The narrator explained how unusual it is for a polar bear to do this.

The humans threw some flares and whatnot at him, and he didn't come any closer.

But apparently he returned later.

They showed him pressing his wet nose against one of their windows; the humans had food, and he was literally starving.

And Little Miss Ahimsa wanted him to break in and eat the film crew and all of their victuals.

It seemed like poetic justice, considering that it's humans who are causing all of the problems in his habitat.

So now, when I'm about to make a bad decision - like drive the car instead of ride the bike, or leave the water running while I brush my teeth, or not turn off the computer, or dream about buying that yellow Humvee, etc. - I think about that polar bear.

And, more often or not, I do the right thing.


I know some of you are saying, "Global warming is natural! It's not our fault!"

But even you oil company dupes have to admit there's a something very wrong when yogis start screaming for blood, and the hunters start acting like pussies.

The photo at the top of this page shows a hunter comforting a polar bear (which he has NOT shot). It's from this article, which says:

Jeremiah Johnson, a local hunter who tracks and kills polar bears "because they are there" has seen three of the behemoths collapse before him in just the last month. "It just isn't sporting to shoot one of these creatures when they are suffering like this", Johnson said as he recounted his attempts to revive a bear he was ready to shoot.

Think about that the next time you buy some unnecessary crap that will wind up in a landfill, or decide to hop on a plane to India.

I know I certainly will.

Monday, November 05, 2007


According to a piece that aired on NPR's "Morning Edition" last week, yoga students are making Mysore a center of tourism. Apparently yoga attracts some 1,000 foreign yoga student-tourists each year.

They discussed the economic boom that these students have brought to the local folks, who cater to their every whim.

They also said that the tide turned in 2001, when Pattabhi Jois started doing international tours... (Um, he did his first big recent tour in 1999. And things really began to change when he moved to the posh suburb of Gokulam and opened the new shala - which fits 80 people rather than 12 - in 2002-3).

They quoted a British student, who claimed that there are entire suburbs in Mysore devoted to western yoga students.


And here I thought Gokulam existed so that the local bourgeoise and wild boar population could put some distance between them and the noise, dirt and teeming hordes of the city center.

Hear for yourself by clicking here.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


The following may or may not end up as part of the project I'm currently procrastinating on. It's a diary entry from 2001.

Some background: I was in NYC on 9/11 and was stuck in Lower Manhattan until 9/15. Back home in Chicago (after people put out their flags) it seemed to be business as usual, which was very strange. But on TV there was one scare after another...


-An airplane with a beak grabs the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier and crashes into the building behind me. I must go through water to get to safety; there are many people, and much panic. The pay phones don’t work, and I cannot get ahold of my brother.

-A man releases radioactivity in subway platform. I get a dose and cannot escape.

-I’m riding my bike down Clark Street towards downtown. To my right, the Sears Tower is on fire. The John Hancock Building, in the foreground, gets hit and falls towards me, straight up Clark Street. I lose my bicycle and cannot go north fast enough. The bike shop gives me an “adult tricycle” and says I can pay later, and I take off. But I cannot find my friend.

-I’m in a London high rise, looking out over other skyscrapers in the distance. One by one they explode, starting with the furthest one and coming closer each time. We watch and wait.

-I must attend the high school across the street from Ground Zero, which is a giant devastated area covered in wet black ash. It is oozing water, which drains and forms a stream near my feet. My classmates take this in stride.

Sportmarty had a lousy week; his car was totalled and he spent the past few days getting a new car, dealing with insurance, license plates and all the rest.

I'm just tired.

We went to see a movie tonight anyway. Our expectations were decidedly low.

Ira and Abby made us laugh out loud.

It was written by a woman -- Jennifer Westfeldt -- who also played the lead (and did the same in Killing Jessica Stein).

It was another one of those movies where the schlub gets the pretty girl.

Nonetheless it was hilarious and smart, with clever writing and spot-on acting. More than once, I poked SM in the ribs and said, "This is awesome."

Especially good was the scene where the newlyweds are walking down an NYC street and Ira starts to sabotage the relationship by badgering Abby about her lack of "goals."


Not only that, but its overall message essentially anti-marriage.

It made one feel, well, validated.

Four stars.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Yesterday, I clipped Mr. Needleclaws' nails.

This morning, at 4:30AM, I awakened to the sound of cat paws trying to turn the ancient brass knob attached to my bedroom door.

A short while later, I nearly stepped on cat womit in the middle of the kitchen floor.

But when I came home from teaching three-in-a-row, Mr. Needleclaws seemed glad to see me.

He rubbed against my legs, but didn't get tangled in them.

He even pretended to play with the gift I'd bought him in Cali.

Later, I let him take a nap with me in the sun.

No tail-in-the-face, no scratching the chin and making the whole bed shake, no jumping across my body over and over again. No biting of the hand.

I wonder what happened when I was out teaching....

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Why is it so easy to fall in love with other people's cats -- even when one's own cat, Mr. Needleclaws (not his real name), is home alone and cannot eat because his beloved owner is out of town?

Oh, the guilt!

While in Cali I fell head-over-heels for my hosts' two cats, Kissy and Prissy (not their real names).

Kissy is an outgoing, well-adjusted medium-hair Calico who reminds me of my old cat Fritzka - aka the best cat that ever lived. She's smart and clumsy and has an adorable smudge on her nose.

Prissy is like a smaller, whinier, needier Mr. Needleclaws. They're both dumb, good-looking, athetlic grey Tabbies.

Whenever I'd see Kissy and Prissy, I'd get far more excited than I do when I see old friends, and start talking to them - way more than I do with other people.

They seemed to return my affection.

Kissy let me clip her nails.

Whiny Prissy would curl up like a grub and sleep on the end of my bed each night. (I'm sure this had nothing to do with the fact that it got quite cold at night and my room was the warmest in the house. No, it couldn't be that).

I started missing those cats as soon as I got to the airport.

It was worse when I returned home, and Mr. Needleclaws immediately got tangled in my feet and would not leave me alone.

When I gave him the gift I'd bought him in Cali, he sniffed it for half a second and walked away.

He spent a long time sniffing my luggage, trying to find evidence of other cats.

When I sat down at the computer, he placed himself between the screen and me, and swished his tail in my face.

Then he jumped onto my lap and dug his needle claws into my thigh. When I tried to push him out of the way, I noticed that his bottom smelled bad.

When I went to use the toilet, he got there first. When I sat down, he jumped up and bit my hand.

He was so annoying, I locked him out of the bedroom when it was time to go to sleep.

His whining woke me up at 4AM (seemed like 2AM).

Even worse was the banging noise from his simultaneous, Olympic-calibur (yet nonetheless futile) attempts to turn the door knob with his thumbless paws, while standing on his hind legs.

Finally I couldn't take it anymore, and threw open the door.

"Why are you such an a**hole?" I asked.

"I'm so sick of you! Go away and let me sleep!"

Crushed, he gave me a hurt look, turned away and skulked back to his spot on the couch.

And I went back to bed, dreaming about Kissy and Prissy.

And thinking it's probably a good thing I'm not married....

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Apparently famous father and prominent Buddhist Robert Thurman wears the same ring I do -- except instead of buying his from a Kashmiri in Kovalam, his was custom-made in Cali six months ago, of 22-karat gold. He calls it a Kundan - I call it a Navratna - and wears his as a wedding ring.

From the annoyingly coy "Possessed" column in Sunday's New York Times (it's *interesting* that he agreed to talk to them, considering how the Buddhists go on about non-attachment and egolessness and whatnot):

"... about six months ago, the couple were in Los Angeles visiting a friend who is a jewelry designer. She wore a pendant around her neck.

“I said, ‘That looks like a mandala,’” he recalled. “She said, ‘No, it’s a kundan.’ It’s something that protects you from the malevolent influences of the planets.” Shaped like a gold flower, a kundan is a charm set with nine stones, one for each of seven heavenly bodies — the sun, the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn — and two more for the “lunar nodes....”

Though unperturbed about planetary interference, Mr. Thurman asked his friend to make him a kundan on a 22-karat ring."

It is reassuring to know that even the rich and famous lose their stones, too:

"It did not take long, though, for chaos to reassert itself. Sure enough, the topaz has gone missing. Informed that the yellow stone is said to represent fate, he shot back: 'Ah, the gem of destiny. No wonder I lost my way.'"


*Growing up in lily-white McHenry, I thought this was the title of the Elton John song. I'd never heard the word "honky"... although the N-word was bandied about quite a bit.

Sunsets don't get old - people do!

The many patterms and textures of downtown SF-near-the-water.

Full moon rising (and looking like a whole note), as viewed from my hosts' delightful back porch. We saw this while consuming white wine, organic grapes, goat cheese, rice crackers and home-roasted pecans. Because we could. We do not know how to live here in the Midwest. (What we do know, with our summers and winters and hot dogs and Old Style beer, is how to bring on early death).

This truck was parked in front of a wimmin's anti-war clubhouse in Albany.

While driving to breakfast with Jamba T. Jones, we took a wrong turn and ended up crossing the Bay Bridge. $4 round-trip. Priceless.

Ahhhh. Breakfast. At Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe in Emoryville.

This exquisite seaside park is in Alameda, and attracts many birds. And people - including a small crew photographing a pale, half-naked bleach-blonde woman lying like a corpse in the leaves. Perhaps she was from Chicago. But I digress. It takes Jamba Jones just 30 minutes to walk here from her apartment. There is no return bus, which annoys her.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Actually I'm staying at Queen E's place in Richmond, but just about everything we've done so far has been in Berkeley....

Note that each cut faces a different direction, and is in the shape of a crescent moon.

Parking in rear.

Snapped in transit, while leaving the Trader Joe's parking lot in El Cerrito.

Everything was so positive here - the dishes have names like "I am Creative" and "I am Divine" - it made me feel a little bit dirty.
But the food was amazing.
And expensive.

After taking BART to S.F. and visiting with Saltpeter and his delightful daughter Maisy on Friday, we checked out the Dia de Los Muertos exhibit at the Mission Cultural Center and then walked to 14th Street. Many abandoned movie theatres were there. We also stopped at the Sketchers outlet store - which is far more impressive than Nurnberg's Adidas outlet store. Still, we walked out emptyhanded and took the BART to Embarcadero, where we stopped for a delightful Thai lunch overlooking the bay. Then it was back to El Cerrito/Richmond. $8.50 round-trip.

We again did the 1.5 hour walk around the bay last night. Then we undid our good work with excellent Chicago-style pizza at Zachary's. There were signs on the wall for Diversey Pkwy, Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue. The place is packed all the time, and seats are at a premium. So when you walk in they find out how many are in your party, take your order, do some math, and give you a slip of paper that says you'll be seated by X O'clock. You can drink beer while you wait. When they call your name, you sit down and the pizza comes a few minutes later. We occupied our seats for a mere 40 minutes. Apparently the place is employee-owned. It was in Berkeley of course.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The cold and fever are gone but the phlegm lingers on.

And on.

I had to fly to Cali yesterday and was hoping to avoid another ear implosion / near aneurysm. So I did backbends and headstand (very good for the sinuses) in the morning. I took a Sudafed PE before boarding and brought the neti pot on the plane with me. I used it before takeoff and just before landing. In the toy bathroom. With people waiting outside.

I also used earplugs and chewed a big wad of gum.

It more or less worked. There was some pain in the ears during descent but nothing like last time around.

Nevertehless I was half-deaf for several hours before the ears finally popped.

The two-hour walk around the East Bay last night with Queen E. certainly helped. The moon was already high in the sky as the sun was going down. The water to the east had a blue sheen (from the nearly-full moon), while the west was orange-y. The Dead Kennedys' Moon Over Marin went through my head. Until it was poisoned by Journey. Still it was exquisite.

As was having chai and (sourdough) toast on the back balcony this morning, while drooling over the neighbor's fat, perfectly ripe but out-of-reach lemons dangling from a nearby tree.

And to think people live like this year round....

Friday, October 19, 2007


The Chicago Tribune discovered bhangra yesterday.

Unfortunately they mentioned the bhangra class I usually take, and the next session -- which I'd been planning to sign up for --is now full.

To read the article click here.

The piece, by Monica Eng, also included a list of upcoming bhangra events:

* Loyola University's South Asian Student Alliance's Bhangra Blowout: Dance party starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Bremner Lounge (in the Centennial Forum Student Union), 1125 W. Loyola Ave. Admission is one canned good or $2 for non-Loyola students and faculty;

* Bhangrateque: Dance night features DJ Xception from Canada; DJ Jimmy Singh. 9 p.m. Friday at Sonotheque, 1444 W. Chicago Ave. $10; or .

* The sixth annual Chicago International Bhangra and Gidha (women's dance form) Competition: A gala event that includes dinner and dance performances, to be held at "PCS Night 2007" dinner banquet. Dinner starts at 7 p.m. Oct. 27 at Waterford Banquet and Conference Center, 933 S. Riverside Drive, Elmhurst. $40-$200. 630-440-7730 or

* Bhangra I and II: 8-week classes by Shamila Khetarpal. Tuesday evenings beginning Oct. 30 at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 909 W. Armitage Ave.; $235; 773-728-6000. Free bhangra class by Khetarpal, 4 p.m. on Nov. 3 at Old Town School's main location (4544 N. Lincoln Ave.) during the school's open house.

* Diwali Show: Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. in the Northeastern Illinois University Auditorium, 5500 N St. Louis. Tickets: $3-$5 includes dinner and open dance after the performance. Part of the proceeds benefits a charity to educate needy children in India.

* Diwali Puja and Garba: Event includes a Diwali Puja (ceremony and offering), as well as a dinner and traditional Diwali dancing with sticks called garba at which the dance will be taught. Attendees are encouraged to wear colorful traditional South Asian dress. 8 p.m. Nov. 9 at the International House, 1414 East 59th St. Dinner will cost $3-$5:

* Diwali Night & Festivities: Weekend festivities include special cocktails, hand painted lamps, special street food snacks, and a three course prix fixe dinner that finishes with paan, a fragrant stuffed betelnut leaf for chewing. Nov. 9-11 at Vermilion, 10 W. Hubbard St.; 312-527-4060. Also, on Nov. 10, Vermilion will host a Diwali dance party with bhangra and Indian fusion dance tunes from 9 p.m.-3 a.m. Revelers are encouraged to wear colorful South Asian dress.

Thursday, October 18, 2007



Last Thursday, I printed out a boarding pass for Friday's flight to NYC.

When I noticed it had a seat number on it, I called ATA to request an aisle seat.

After making the change, I could not print out the boarding pass. Nor could the person on the other end of the line.

I was told to check in at the airport.

But when I tried to use the kiosk at Midway, the machine spat out my card and told me to see an agent.

While waiting in line I ran into my friend C. It turns out she was on the same flight. Sadly, we could not get seats together.

When we got to the security checkpoint, the agent pointed to a long line of S's on my boarding pass, and told me that I'd been flagged for an extra security check. He directed me to a different line.

I said goodbye to C, explaining that "If this is anything like the last time I was flagged [in December 2001], it will take forever and I'll be the last person on the plane."

I joined the others in the special line; a handful of home-maker types and a (tall, bald, female, Caucasian) Tibetan monk.

The line branched into two, and I got into the nearest one. When it was my turn I took off the shoes and belt and jacket and pulled out the laptop and the cell phone and baggie full of toiletries.

When I finally made it through, they asked me if I was an employee. Nope.

"Then you have to go through the other line."

"I have to go through AGAIN?" I protested. The line was loooooooong. And my flight was boarding.

The agent, who was holding my boarding pass, thought for a moment. Apparently I was making a face, because he agreed to move my stuff to the other side and not put it through again. He told me to get into the line in front of a glass structure that resembled a phone booth.

I padded over in my stocking feet and got into the line. I didn't have my shoes or ID or wallet or boarding pass or phone. Talk about feeling helpless.....

I waited.

And tried to keep an eye on my valuables.

And waited.

And watched the minutes tick by.

I must have still been making that face. A handsome man in a uniform - a pilot? - patted my arm and said, "Don't worry. It'll be over soon."

The monk, who'd also been wearing airport-friendly Merrill shoes, was far more mellow than I during the long wait.

Finally I was told to get into the booth, where puffs of air would be shot at me (in order to check for explosives). I was told not to leave the booth until the green light came on.

The puffs came quick, and made me jump a bit.

The green light took some time to come on - sort of like at the car wash.

Then I had to reclaim my stuff. I did a quick inventory; it was all there. An agent brought it to a table, where she wiped each piece with a white cloth and then had it analyzed in a thing connected to a computer.

After some time, I was finally set free.

I put my clothes back on and put my stuff away.

Finally, I ran - ran! - to the gate. It was the farthest one of course. Three walkways away. At the very end of the terminal.

Yet several people were still waiting in line to get on the plane.

Phew! I thought

But the line didn't move.

After about 20 minutes they announced they were going to stop boarding the plane, and told us to sit down.

Ten minutes later they announced there was an equipment problem, and said they'd make another announcement in half an hour.

I ran to the bathroom.

I filled the water bottle.

I bought a little something to eat.

My attitude changed about the security delay; because of it I was free to run around, while C. and many others were stuck on the plane, held hostage in their seats.

Finally, they told us we had to change planes, and that we'd depart some two hours after the appointed time (6AM). From another gate.

So much for taking the noon class at Dharma's, I thought. So much for getting up at 3:30AM.

I waited some time for C to get off the plane.

We went to the new gate and had a wonderful time catching up while we waited. I told her that no matter how bad this was, it couldn't be worse than my trip to India last year, when it took 24 hours and five planes just to get from Chicago to Frankfurt.

Finally, we boarded, and were given $50 vouchers off our next flight, plus $10 in free phone calls and airport food.

Once we got to NYC, we flew around in circles for an extra 20 minutes before finally touching down.

When we finally stopped at our gate at La Guardia, everyone stood up and started talking on their cell phones.

But the jetway could not get to the plane; another mechanical failure.

We waited and waited.

Finally they told us to sit back down.

I wondered if perhaps I should have stayed home.

Then we taxied to a different gate. This time the jetway worked, and we got off the plane.

While waiting for our luggage, I learned that the monk was in NYC to see the Dalai Lama. C. was there to do a silent retreat with zen master Thich Nhat Hahn. I was there for Dharma Mittra's monthly three-hour class. Not a bad group.



I caught a cold after Dharma's Monday class. Detoxing.

Detoxing so much in fact that I missed the Tuesday class, Oh, well.

I still had the cold when it was time to fly back home on Tuesday. My friend E. told me to use the neti pot just before I left, so that my ears wouldn't hurt from the cabin pressure.

It was still just a cold at this point, so I packed Airborne gummies and a box of Kleenex in my carry-on bag and hoped for the best.

While checking in, I was not surprised to see a long line of SSSSSSSSSS's on my boarding pass. Flagged again. Just what you want when you have a nasty cold.

This time, though, I knew what to expect.

This time, though, the x-tra security line was short, the agents were efficient and there was no phone booth machine.

This time, I wasn't late to the gate.

After getting on the plane, I used the WC right away.

Smart move. We waited on the tarmac for over half an hour before finally taking off.

While gaining altitude, I felt shifting and gurgling in my sinuses and ears. But no pain.

The cold worsened during the flight I used half the box of Kleenex, discreetly pulling out each tissue from beneath the seat in front of me.

The woman next to me was wearing a tank top. I had on two jackets, a scarf and a hat.

I tried not to breathe on the people near me.

The descent was a nightmare, despite the neti and gum and earplugs and frequent yawning.

My ears hurt more and more until all I could think about was the pain.

I looked at my watch; a half hour until touchdown.

More throbbing. I thought my head was going to explode. I thought I couldn't stand any more pain.

Then I felt a thin line of pain pierce the corner of my left eye. Like a thread of lightening, it slowly shot up towards my forehead.

I thought, "Wow, I'm having an aneurysm." I wondered if anyone would notice, or if I'd just die quietly in my seat.

I made it down of course. And collected my baggage.

After some confusion about the parking lot, I made it to my car and started calling for subs for the next day's classes.

Of course I got lost on the way home. There's nothing like driving around the South Side while shivering nad incoherent. Archer Avenue, anyone?

When I finally got home, I used the last bit of my strength to schlep my two suitcases up three flights of stairs.

Then I took my temperature: 101.

I spent the next two days horizontal, calling subs and watching the first two seasons of Project Runway.

And now, at last, I feel halfway human again.

Not to mention toxin-free.