Monday, April 30, 2007


Receiving instructions, across from the Museum of Science and Industry

Of course I got lost on the way to clean up Jackson Park on Saturday. Oops.

When I arrived I learned that park architect Frederick Law Olmsted never met a foreign species he didn't like, and imported every plant you could imagine from overseas and stuck it in the park. But the biggest threat to the natural oak savanna is invasive species, which can be either local or foreign and will mow down everything in their path if they're not stopped.

So we spent a lot of time cutting down box elder saplings -- you cannot imagine how cathartic this was -- and weeding out garlic mustard, which smells just like you'd think and can be cooked up like collard greens. It actually poisons the soil. I spent most of my time on hands and knees crawling around in the savanna (where the trees are not as thick as in a forest) and pulling it up; garlic mustard has little white flowers and heart-shaped leaves with prickly edges. I forgot how much I like getting down and playing in the dirt. Plus it was 72 and sunny. And it smelled amazing. It reminded me of those summers pulling weeds for $4-an-hour -- an unheard of sum at the time -- for my grandmother, who managed my uncle's apartment buildings.

The man in charge knew everything (including the site of the missile silos, which he'd like to turn into a bumper car park), and told me to keep an eye out for Morel mushrooms. I didn't find a single one, but came across several cheap golf balls that strayed from the nearby driving range. I also got to know a fellow volunteer named Charlie (love that name) who was also on his very first Chicago Cares outing. He recently moved here from Madison and thought it'd be a good way to meet people (and then he ended up with me. Poor guy!). The others in our group mostly cut and hauled out branches. Everyone was quite friendly, and most had tried yoga and had good things to say about it.

I learned that in addition to everything else, the man in charge also knows how to liberate bicycles from stuck U-locks. (I was so traumatized I couldn't blog about it, but I recently paid $140 -- after talking them down from $165 -- to have an evil corporate locksmith cut my bike from a rack in front of YogaNow when the key refused to turn). I made sure to get his number.

After we finished cleaning up, he took us all on a tour of the park and wooded island. It was an unexpected and exquisite gift -- plus I found a condom wrapper during the walk. Photos below.

He does nature restoration at Jackson Park every second and fourth Saturday; for more click here

The Osaka Garden

One of the oldest oak trees in Chicago.....

And another even older and more awesome oak tree.

....They're part of an oak savanna that dates back 4,000 to 5,000 years -- making it nearly as old as yoga. Apparently this is how Chicago looked when Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable first settled here.

The oldest tree of all was uprooted during recent storms.


Purple bush.

Pagoda Xing.

The wooded island from afar.

And the drive back home....

...To reality.

Friday, April 27, 2007


We are required to do 40 hours of outside work in order to graduate from Dharma's teacher training. There's a long list of things you can do, including helping out or teaching at the Dharma Yoga Center (30 hours), volunteering somewhere locally or teaching a weekly sequence of four free Dharma Mittra yoga classes (10 hours).
I just finished my two free April lunchtime classes -- one at the Chicago Yoga Center (Fridays) and one at the Uptown Writer's Space (Tuesdays). For the CYC class I did a bit of marketing (ie; flyering, posting it on my website and knocking on office doors in the building -- no small thing for an introvert such as myself), and actually introduced some people to yoga. The same was true at the Uptown Writer's Space, where actors from across the hall came to take the class. The experience pulled me out of my usual patterns and made me try something new, which is rarely a bad thing.

I also taught one free DM class at the Lululemon store and one at the Green Festival; both also a lot of fun and something I wouldn't ordinarily do. Each of those classes also had first-timers in them.

But I still have 20 hours left to work off; I'll write two papers to cover most of it -- a report on Autobiography of a Yogi and an essay interpreting a world issue or crisis through the filter of karma. To round it out I must do four hours of volunteer work somewhere. I was agonizing about this last week -- time is, after all, running out -- when Eric-from-Chicago Yoga Center told me about Chicago Cares, which connects volunteers with places that need help and posts a listing all of the options on a given day. The orientation is done online and takes about ten minutes (unlike, say, Little Brothers of the Elderly, which requires a background check that includes fingerprints).

Little Miss Fraidy Cat didn't want to deal with anything too depressing, so I called about greeting people and helping out at the Hyde Park Arts Center's 24-hour artmaking festival this weekend. Too late.

So tomorrow I'll be helping to clean up Jackson Park, which I've never visited. It's on the city's South Side, a stone's throw from the University of Chicago (and should not be confused with Washington Park, where the mayor wants to hold the Olympics). The 1055-acre park was laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, designers of New York's Central Park. It was also where the 1893 World Columbian Exposition's famed White City was built by Olstead and planner Daniel Burnham -- and where the HH Holmes of the bestelling Devil in the White City trolled for victims.

From the Chicago Park District's website:

A team of the nation's most significant architects and sculptors created the "White City" of plaster buildings and artworks. The monumental World's Fair opened to visitors on May 1, 1893. After it closed six months later, the site was transformed back into parkland. Jackson Park featured the first public golf course west of the Alleghenies, which opened in 1899. Today, two structures remain as impressive symbols of the World's Columbian Exposition. The "Golden Lady" sculpture is a smaller version of Daniel Chester French's Statue of the Republic which originally stood at the foot of the Court of Honor. The original Fine Arts Palace now houses Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.

The Osaka Garden from the expo is also still there.

But here's the good stuff, from Wikipedia:

During World War Two jingoistic vandals severely damaged the Japanese Garden. The Chicago Park District waited for decades before considering repairing it, in keeping with its long-standing policy of under-funding parks in minority neighborhoods. It wasn't until Osaka again donated money than the Garden was restored. During the Cold War the park housed a Nike-Hercules nuclear-tipped missile defense system; it was dismantled in 1971. In the 1960s an attempt was made to have Lake Shore Drive cut through the park. Many large trees were cut down, and Hyde Parkers protested vigorously. Elderly women chained themselves to trees, and people lay down in front of bulldozers until the city relente.

Now that's the stuff!

Tomorrow we will do "invasive species and debris removal."

It doesn't hold a candle to chaining ourselves to trees.

But it does provided food for thought if the Olympics do end up coming to Chicago...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


What do Aldous Huxley, Alice Coltrane, George Harrison, Nina Hagen, jd salinger, actress Heather Graham, jazz fusion guitarist John McLaughlin, and "Cabaret" author Christopher Isherwood have in common?

They're all converts to Hinduism.

Which is interesting, because the way I understood it is that you're either born a Hindu or you're not.

But apparently you can be naturalized, sort of like how Arnold Schwartznegger became an American.

Since Monday's intense astrology session, I've been doing a little bit of research on Ram Dass's book Be Here Now (in which the former Kermit Riggs aka Bhagavan Das figures prominently) and BD's own memoir, It's Here Now (Are You?), and thinking about the idea of giving up everything in order to have everything -- which is what both of them did.

I did that once, when I moved away from my father to live with my mother when I was 12.

I gave up my horse, a massive bedroom, swimming pool, tennis court, indoor and outdoor riding arenas, a Winnebago and more (including, it turns out, my inheritance. But that's for another chapter).

What I got in return was freedom, access to knowledge and a chance to become a full-fledged (albeit rather annoying) human being.

I'd had an epiphany while sitting alone in my mother's living room during a visit. I felt such a sense of peace I could not return to my father's house, where I'd lived in fear 24/7 since the age of 8.

Being a coward, I called to tell my father and Xmas Judy I wasn't coming back -- rather than doing it in person.

The decision wasn't noble; It was what I had to do. I had no idea what I was giving up. Or getting into (my mother was so poor, despite the monthly payments, that we qualified for the free school lunch program. And for a long time we had no car).

When I returned to say goodbye and retrieve my things from my father's house, I found out that it was a wasted trip. Xmas Judy had given all of my clothes and toys and other worldy possessions to her niece -- who had been like a sister to me. Buckwheat had already been sold.

Actually, they saved my gym uniform for me (my name was embroidered on the back and there aren't that many Satya Cacanandas in the Midwest). And for some reason I got to keep my brand-new red, white and blue Bicentennial Schwinn Varsity ten-speed.

When my mother complained that I had nothing to wear to my new junior high, my father gave her $200 for a new wardrobe for me.

I ended up with something like four tops, three pairs of pants, shoes and some sneakers.

Not exactly the path to popularity in the purgatory that is seventh grade.

I created an elaborate chart where I recorded what I wore each day, so that it would seem like I had more clothes than I actually did.

It didn't work; no one liked me, except for my friend Jeanine.

I wonder if that's what it'd like to give it all up and become Caca Das....

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


The weekend finally ended Tuesday morning.

It began last Wednesday night at 9:15, when I came out of class and saw that my left front tire was flat. I ran to Jewel, got some Fix-a-Flat, and drove the poor thing home in time to get up at 5 to teach my 6-9AM classes. Afterwards I got new front tires.

That night after teaching, Enelle and I drove down to the Museum of Science and Industry to see the Body Worlds exhibit. That's the one with the real human cadavers -- some of whom are reputed to have been executed Chinese prisoners. It was amazing to see how all of the body parts we learned about in anatomy class fit together. There were strange bits, too; one of the cadavers was called Yoga Lady, although she wasn't doing a pose I'd ever seen. After the lung exhibit there was a video of Yul Brynner's last will and testament, in which he asks everyone to quit smoking. Next to it was a lucite box where you could drop your pack of cigarettes and sign a pledge to quit. We had the audio tour-devices, and when I pushed the button to hear about the "Angel" cadaver, the narrator got a whiny, self-righteous tone in his voice and went on and on about criticism of the exhibit and how all of the cadavers in it had signed releases when they were alive, etc. etc. Not one word about "Angel" from him. But it was well worth seeing. It runs 24-hours this weekend from Friday through Sunday, when it closes for good.

I spent most of Friday dealing with the loud whiny sound that has been coming from the front of my car. It turns out that it's not one but two things that are causing the noise and need replacing: the power steering pump and the A/C air compressor, which is a special type that was only made for two years and is impossible to find so I must fork out $500 to replace the entire thing. I'm living with the noise for now.

I was feeling so sorry for myself that I could barely tear myself away from "Edward Scissorhands" and head down to YogaNow to see Bhagavan Das do kirtan that night. His chanting pulled me out of my funk far more effectively than anything Tim Burton could ever produce.

On Saturday morning I practiced at home and got on my bike and headed down the lakefront bike path to the Green Festival at McCormick Place. It was a long, slow journey on my heavy, cumbersome bicycle, and it made me miss the Cinelli. I arrived with just enough time to illegally lock up my bike and find the famous Movement Room. About 17 people took my class, which was the first one on the first day of the festival. It was impossible for them to hear, so I summoned up the spirit of my fellow Dharma student from Tokyo -- who taught our small group class in Japanese -- and made a point of demonstrating the poses as clearly as I could. It worked, I think. One of the Movement Room students had taken classes with Dharma back when he was in the West Village, and she seemed to like it. Just as they went into Savasana (corpse pose), Mayor Daley was introduced on the mainstage, to thunderous applause.

I stuck around the festival for most of the day, and ran into people (including some former employers) and even manned the Yoga Chicago and YogaNow booths for awhile. It was such fun that I didn't want to ride north and get ready for the LL's birthday party. But I went anyway.

On Sunday morning I attended the VIP breakfast (thanks, Charles) and learned that Saturday had been such a smashing success that many vendors had run out of free samples and flyers, and ran to Kinko's on Saturday night to make more. Among others I spoke to folks from Yes! magazine, Transamoeba Studio and Traditional Medicinals.

After heading north to teach at the Chicago Yoga Center, I went back to the Green Festival place for an hour and hung out with solar seller Enelle and heard part of David Korten's speech.

Then I left to teach at the Fancy Health Club. But I could not find my way to the parking lot. I kept ending up in a parking garage when my car was outside. Each time I tried an exit I could not get out. I was like a rat in a maze, and instead of slowing down and thinking I panicked and kept moving faster and faster as time ticked away. Finally a security guard pointed me in the right direction. Lake Shore Drive was at a standstill. I called the club to tell them I'd be late for class and to tell the members to stretch and do sun salutations -- which is what they were doing when I arrived. I apologized profusely, and we proceeded to do half primary series. They were incredibly understanding, and I was grateful.

Despite all that I could not miss the weekly potluck at the Holmes House. On the way up I stopped by Stanley's -- which was packed -- and picked up salad fixings.

In the morning I taught at 6:30, 8AM and noon and practiced from 9:45-11:45. The noon class was a no-show so I had a long, leisurely $4.50 lunch down the street from YogaNow at Baba Palace, a cabby hangout that boasts halfway decent chai and very loud Pakistani soap operas on the TV that made me think of Aunty's.

Then it was back to YogaNow for a vedic astrology session with Bhagavan Das. More on that later. Suffice to say that among other things I'd make a great dominatrix and need to take the 10-day Vipassana meditation course (which I've known for some time but did not want to admit).

After teaching my evening ashtanga class at the University I went home, ate and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep....

only to get up, practice, teach a class and hit another deadline.

Yet it still feels like rest, compared to the busy weekend.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


The Earth Festival was good fun and continues today from 10 to 6. If you're in town, you should go. You can ride all the way down to McCormick Place on the lakefront bike path, and either can lock it outside or use the free bike valet inside. Bicycling also gets you a discount on admission.

These shots are from Miss Y's packed asthanga class in the movement room yesterday. It was an oasis in the verycrowded, fun expo. 'Twas a treat to be around so many likeminded souls...

....where there was louder applause for Amy Goodman than for Mayor Daley.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


The first Earth Day celebration I remember attending (outside of elementary school) took place in 1987, in Chicago's Lincoln Park.

It wasn't quite what I'd expected. A small group of hippies stood around an even smaller group of tables. There was a no-nukes table (which was what had attracted me in the first place) and tables representing various causes. The gray-bearded man behind the solar power table thrust a yellow flyer at me and started to talk. He said that Commonwealth Edison was buying up the small companies like his -- which made solar panels and related parts -- and consigning their inventory to the dumpster in order to retain their monopoly on electric power. I remember nodding in agreement and buying an Earth Day '87 button, which I still have around here somewhere...

If you'd told me 20 years ago that I'd be teaching yoga at the Chicago Earth Festival in 2007, I would not have laughed in your face.

No, I would have punched you.

And if you'd told me I'd be teaching it in the movement room , I would have kicked you, too.

And you would have felt it; my combat boots in those days had steel toes.

And if you'd told me that the festival was taking place in the indoor civic monstrosity called McCormick Place, I would have spat on you, too.

And if you'd told me that I'd have a friend named Gridlife who would tease me mercilessly about teaching in "the movement room" (which does indeed conjure up an image of a group of longhairs, squatting pants-down and enjoying a collective bowel movement), I would have gotten out my Mace and really kicked your ass.

On the other hand, if you'd told me Greg Palast and Amy Goodman would be featured speakers, and that my two favorite editors would be there, I may have given you a break.

Then again, maybe not.

For details on this weekend's festival, click here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


I was in Gridlife's kitchen recently when he yelled, from the other room,

"Do you want to watch Manchester United?"


"Do you want to watch Manchester United?"

Huh? Since when did you start liking English football?


He came into the room.

"Don't you want to watch Bands Reunited?"

Oh, that. Sure!

On that night we watched a few episodes, in which members of long-defunct 80's bands are chased down by a handsome, gregarious Subcontinental-American man and coerced into playing a concert together. Many are bald or fat, and are usually caught doing something mundane. As each member agrees to do the show, they sign the cover of the band's best-known album. Then the host runs off to chase down the next one.

The Romeo Void episode was incredibly poignant. The singer lives in the desert and teaches art -- and looks the same age she was when the "Never Say Never" video was released. In other words, she still looks like Bettie Page, albeit a bit larger. During the episode, it came out that the record company wanted the rest of the band to split away from her because she wasn't pencil-thin. The band wasn't having it, so bye-bye record deal. Bye-bye music career. Not only that, but the saxophonist is now pretty much deaf (from doing concerts) and could not play the reunion show. He had to watch it next door, on close-circuit TV. But he had the best outfit of all.

Last night we watched the Haircut 100 episode (their big song was "Love Plus One"). Even though I was Ms. Mohawk and hated anything pop or meaningless and gutless I still liked that band. While they were recording their second album, the lead singer disappeared. The record company told the band that he was on holiday in Spain. That made them angry, and the smarmy conga player stepped in to sing lead. The album flopped and the band disappeared into the ether. Until this show, the other members seemed to have no idea that the singer -- Nick Heyward -- had disappeared because he'd had a breakdown from nervous exhaustion and checked himself into a mental institution. Again the evil record company destroys a band.

When the show found Heyward, he was in his backyard enjoying the rare sun with his family. He agreed to do the reunion immediately; he seemed to embody that yogic ideal of accepting everything and embracing nothing -- something I'm working on. And on. And on. Heyward has a huge Buddha smile, and flashed it throughout the show. He kept saying things that sounded yogic to me. When he spoke about being hospitalized, he said that the record company had had the band on a crazy record-tour-record-tour-record-tour schedule with no breaks and that, "I wanted to go somewhere and just be." At rehearsal, the smarmy conga player even apologized to him, and called his opportunistic move "the worst mistake of my life." It was all very yogic -- to me anyway. Plus you have to like that the guitarist is now a tree surgeon.

Yet they played together like it was meant to be. I couldn't help but think that they have unfinished business, and need to re-record their second album the way it should have been done in the first place.

So I devoted my yoga practice to them today.

How lame is that?

It was a good practice, though.

Thanks Nick.

Monday, April 16, 2007


They're burning effigies of Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty in India.


Because he kissed her hand and then repeatedly kissed her (face) cheeks at a public AIDS awareness press conference in Dehli.

In the Daily Mail photos above, it looks as if he's mauling her.

Apparently he did it right before or after yelling in Hindi "No condoms, no sex" to thousands of male truckers who screamed the words back to him.

Demonstrators say Gere's kissing of Shetty goes against Indian culture.

It is all the worse when the pair in question are unmarried. And a further aggravating factor is that Gere is a non-Hindu foreigner.

It could have been even more dire; what if someone's breast had popped out?

More here, where you can also read about Bryan Ferry's newfound admiration for the Nazis.

One can't help but wonder if they're burning effigies of the sleazy "American Gigalo"-era Richard Gere, which would be fitting, or the dignified, Tibet-saving Gere of "Dr. T and the Women."

The real crime of course is that he is 57 and she is 31.

It should be the other way around.

Thanks to Catesey for the hot news tip


I was looking forward to teaching my free lunchtime Level I Dharma Mittra class on Friday. Eight students had come to the inaugural class the previous week -- and only one of them was a plant. But when I arrived to teach my 10AM class I learned that a week-long teacher training was taking place from Noon-5PM -- during my class. I had to think fast. A 10AM student was able to get the message to her daughters, who'd come the previous week. The five people I had to turn away at 12 received gift certificates for a free class and thankfully didn't seem all that annoyed. I was able to go home and eat lunch before spending the afternoon shuttling back and forth between banks taking care of SEP stuff and IRA BS (never, ever attempt to move an IRA from one bank to another -- even if they're a block apart and both CD's are in grace and your banker has correctly filled out the proper form and you have a couple of hours to spare).

I arrived an hour or so early to sub a 9-11 Mysore class on Sunday, thinking that I could practice beforehand. Partway through Surya B I learnt that I was meant to be subbing at the yoga shala's other location, 50 blocks north. I had ridden my bicycle five miles south against the wind to get there in the first place, so the owner offered to pay for cabfare. After flagging down a giant taxi-van, I was unable to remove the bike's front wheel. Nor would the driver lift a finger to help me. Annoyed, I rode east towards Michigan Avenue and the lakefront bicycle path. The wind was incredible, so I stopped on Boul Mich and looked around. I noticed a bus stop and looked up the street. A 148 bus was approaching. I flagged it down and tried to open the bike rack attached to its front bumper. After pulling several levers I could not figure it out. The driver, who was not quite as livid as I, stormed out of the bus, pulled down the rack, and strode back in. I lifted my veryheavy bike into the rack, tried to secure the front wheel, and skulked inside to pay. When I looked up, everyone on the bus was staring at the crazy white girl in the helmet and day-glo orange jacket -- and not because they wanted to get to know her better. I sat down and watched my orange bike bounce up and down up and down in front of the windshield all the way up Lake Shore Drive, praying it would not fall off and cause a multicar pileup (see photos above). I arrived at the shala with barely enough time to sweep the floor. No asana practice for me. But I was able to teach and catch up with a delightful couple who met at Miss Y's Mysore class and later married.

Surfer Girl came to my noon ashtanga class on Sunday and told me about an unannounced appearance by the Dalai Lama that afternoon at a temple in Evanston. Her ex had just texted her about it; apparently only those in the know could go. You know, like when the Rolling Stones play a secret dive-bar concert with Muddy Waters. Despite the fact that I had loads of deadlines and Surfer Girl was slated to take the same workshop that had caused the confusion on Friday, we shirked our duties and loaded my bicycle into her SUV. On the way to Evanston we ate granola bars so we could make it through the Dalai Lama's talk without fainting from low blood sugar. Then we picked up her father, who is recovering from cancer but was feeling well enough to see the DL. When we were almost there, her son called and told us to bring dollar bills because the Dalai Lama was signing them. Huh? As we were parking we learned that the Dalai Lama wouldn't be appearing after all. Instead, they were showing a movie about him. A few minutes later we learned it wasn't an actual movie, but a video about various religious leaders being shown on a small screen. "There are five people in there," said Surfer Girl's son, gesturing towards the Masonic temple. By now the wind had changed direction, and riding my bike home took a good 45 minutes. That was my practice yesterday. That, and catching up with Surfer Girl and her father -- and, of course, teaching.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


The U.S. Olympic Committee today chose the Chicago over LA as the U.S. bid city to host the 2016 Summer Games.

One can only pray that Tokyo, Madrid or Rio de Janeiro will beat us in the next round.

At least there will be plenty of time to pack.

Friday, April 13, 2007


Henry the PuNk and I went to see a live taping of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me on Thursday.

I was never a huge fan of the public radio quiz show; there always seemed to be something slightly smarmy and off-putting about it. Not only did they seem to appropriate elements (OK, steal directly) from Michael Feldman's long-running Madison, WI-based live show Whad'ya Know, but it also pushed that program out of its 9AM timeslot. Unlike WWDTM, WyK is done live, with so few flubs you'd be amazed. It's also two hours long. Their stage is cluttered, they give coffee and donuts to the audience, and perform in a building allegedly designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (parking is just $3). Anyway, Chicagoans no longer get to hear "Whad'ya Know" live and call in and win prizes. WWDTM is taped on Thursday and airs on Saturday.

Funny, how the big public radio shows all come from the Midwest - including my least favorite of all (next to the excruciating and truly smarmy "The Story"), "A Prairie Home Companion."

Of course all of the great comedy comes from the Midwest. Letterman is from Indiana, Johnny Carson was (is?) from Nebraska, etc. So does the great pop music; Madonna is from Michigan, Prince is from Minneapolis, Michael Jackson is from Indiana. But I digress.

I'm a sucker for live radio - even if it ends up being live taped radio, like WWDTM.

Henry the PuNk likes the show but is also a skeptic, so we sat down and folded our arms over our chests with a superior "Here we are now, entertain us" attitude.

At first it seemed the audience was just a little too eager to laugh; were they really that dumb? They seemed a little Prarie Home Companion-y.

But soon we were laughing too.

Panelists Roy Blount Jr., NPR's Luke Burbank and Roxanne Roberts (who is quite the looker) were all quick and clever, as were the host and announcer, Carl Kassel. Yet all they were drinking was water. This confused me. There was no coffee to be found. Yet the repartee was flying.

The "Not My Job" guest was Julia Sweeney (aka "Pat" from "Saturday Night Live"), who had to answer questions about carneys -- and got all of them all right.

She told a story about when she played first daughter Chelsea Clinton on SNL. "All I did was take off my makeup and wear braces and a wig that looked like her hair," she said. The sketch generated a letter from Hilary Clinton, asking how they dared portray her daughter in such an unflattering light. "But it was just ME, without makeup" said Sweeney. "Am I that awful-looking?" After the letter there were no more Chelsea Clinton sketches.

Sweeney is performing her live show here this weekend. Called "Letting Go of God," it "humorously describes her conversion from Catholicism to atheism following her brother’s tragic early death." I think it also had something to do with her own cervical cancer. Anyway I just looked it up and learned that the local atheist meetup group went on an outing to see her do the radio show. Infidels.

I can't remember anything else, except that Roxanne Roberts was laughing so hard that despite numerous takes she could not read through her fake news story about the British Lakes District tourism board launching a hip-hop video of the Wordsworth poem "I wandered lonely as a cloud" rapped by a squirrel named MC Nuts.(SPOILER ALERT: her story turned out to be the real one).

Audience members asked some fairly clever questions afterwards. I was impressed by how witty they were and wondered how much smarter they'd be if they found something better to listen to than public radio. Looks-wise, they straddled the line between fans of "This American Life" and "Whad'ya Know". They're slightly thinner and less gray and have slightly newer glasses than the more corpulant-but-happy (because they're hopped up on caffeine and sugar) WyK audience and their 90's glasses. But they not as young and thin as the TAL crowd, which has the hippest specs of all. The audience for the rock 'n' roll talk show "Sound Opinions" is similar in age and skin color but more corpulant and with better hair and vision. .

I don't know and don't want to know where the Prairie Home Companion audience falls on the spectrum. My arms are folded on that one. The show just seems so, well, manipulative.

Although I did kind of like Garrison Keillor's novel WLT: A Radio Romance.

But him I could do without.

And don't get me started on Don Imus.

All of the white talk show hosts here are asking "Why now?" and acting like he's some sort of victim of some black conspiracy. HELLO -- political power brokers who abuse platforms like that are not victims.

These white hosts get that high-pitched, self-righteous (read; racist) tone in their voices, like they had when Harold Washington was mayor.

They attack Jesse Jackson and Don King, as if they were the problem.

What they sense, but don't understand, is that the reason Imus got fired was economic; sponsors starting leaving.

And some of those sponsors were African American, who little by little are gaining in power. Finally.

He's one to talk about hair anyway...

Now the question is, when are women across the US going to get a clue and demand that people stop calling them bitches, etc. and demand equal representation in the media?

Even at the WWDTM taping, only one of the five regulars was female (all were white), and the brunt of jokes included overweight women and older women. Apparently ladies are still fair game.

But are they up in arms about it?


Thursday, April 12, 2007


The first story I ever remember penetrating my small mind and making me think -- really think -- was Harrison Bergeron, which for some reason we read at the totally mediocre elementary school I attended. I still think about those buzzers going off; it reminds me of some men I've dated. You know - the minute you start to form a thought it's interrupted by them opening their big yap, and then you lose the thought and go back to being a moron again. I suppose children and stepmothers serve a similar purpose (I actually used to get in trouble for reading: Get your nose out of that book and join the real world).

Vonnegut attended to the University of Chicago and honed his chops at the City News Bureau. He called Midwesterners "fresh water" people, and East and West Coasters "salt water" people. Fresh water people tend not to think or care so much about other countries. Read more in this recent interview.

What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


People are generally quite upset that it snowed today -- and of course they've completely forgotten how to drive....Again.

Naturally I'm concerned about the birds, animals, homeless and plants.

But snow is awesome....

....Especially if you haven't yet put away your winter clothing.

Gridlife and Enelle hang their khaki shorts on a hook near the door year-round, so they can throw them on the minute the temperature rises above 40 degrees.

I keep my faux-down winter parka there.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Proof again that things really are funnier in threes -- especially when you're in your terrible twos and come from a long line of obsessive-compulsives.
And yes, that would be Dreyfus in the background egging her on.


1. The new baby Gabby making such massive cake at the Easter dinner table that she leaves a fresh green skidmark on the pant leg of her father, who takes it in stride (this is the same nephew who did not flinch when the Christmas raisin he held in his hand last December turned out to be Windy City dog poop).

2. Dreyfus accidentally flooding his salad with Italian dressing and creating a salad moat and being mercilessly ribbed. "I thought it had one of those [regulator] things on it!" he keeps saying.

3. Hurricane Layna saying "Grandpa DREY-fus." She enunciates incredibly well for one so young and new to speech.

4. Dreyfus and Caca falling asleep on the easy chair couch thing (each section has its own reclining mechanism) during golf on Sunday afternoon... until Hurricane L. awakens from her nap and starts "making DRUH-ums."

5. Dreyfus and Caca making the traditional pilgrimage to Meijer, where Dreyfus admonishes Caca not to wear "that stupid hat with the f-cking cat ears" inside. Once in the store, he ceaslessly scolds Caca for repeatedly abandoning the shopping cart and running off each time something new strikes her fancy. Apparently it's just not done. Dreyfus shows extreme embarassment when Caca pulls out her nylon shopping bag and asks the cashier to bag her groceries in it.

6. Dreyfus inspecting Caca's reusable water bottle and sniffing it over and over -- and then asking everyone else to sniff it and passing it around as if it were a bong. "Ewwww! It SMELLS! There's green stuff in the lid!" After this high-pitched exclamation, Mrs. Dreyfus immediately jumps up, takes the bottle to the kitchen sink and bleaches it. Later, she runs it through the dishwasher. The next day Dreyfus tells again and again the story of how he "had to use a toothpick to get the green stuff out" and says "No wonder she's been throwing up all the time. It's that bottle!"

7. Hurricane Layna's parents returning from the Cubs game in Milwaukee and giving a full report. Only one entrance to the parking lot was open, and it took them an hour to get in and park. You could not get a hot dog -- nor did they have brats -- and beers were $7.25. The idiots could not make change. You'd give them $10.25 and they'd look at it, stunned, and then disappear and not return for a long time. It took the nephew an entire inning to get his food at the concession stand. They were seated near a-holes. Well, not entirely. Some people in front of them were eating flatbread, and during the Village People song they sang "Matzo matzo matzo man!"

8. Caca and Dreyfus realizing that they like playing with cat toys as much as Mr. Bigglesworth (the cat) and Hurricane Layna, and laughing so hard over a new made-up game involving cat toys and Layna's easel that they almost wet their pants. Even Layna does a few slam-dunks, which brings on new bursts of laughter.

9. Mrs. Dreyfus admonishing Caca and Dreyfus for lobbing a heavy dodgeball decorated like an Easter egg at the easel and almost wrecking it. They can barely stop laughing long enough to apologize and promise they won't do it again.

10. Drey and Caca getting Layna to say "slap happy." By now she has been downgraded to a tropical storm.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Thusday night's dream:

The yoga center held a big party across the street; the Beastie Boys were there, and plenty of handsome single male yogis and older wise women (one of whom actually ran the center). We were all smoking cigaretes. But I had to teach. The Beastie Boys came to my apartment (downstairs from the yoga center) and admired my track shoe collection in rainbow colors. I was supposed to teach at 10 but could not rouse myself from bed. My brother came, carrying my mother, and put her down on the bed. I was annoyed. Then I was worried about her, and got out of bed and fixed her pillow. Some women came to my door asking me if I was the teacher. The studio was enormous and a band was set up in back. It was the 80s band, The Producers. They still had the skinny black ties and keyboard-guitar. Guruji sat in front on a big, fancy chair. I touched his feet and said how happy I was to see him. Sharath said, Look how good he looks -- his skin is like a baby's; like your skin. And Guruji held my hand to his cheek and it was soft. His bald head was even softer. You teaching today? he asked. Yes. Why teaching Saturday? Oh, it's not ashtanga -- it's classical hatha yoga. Guruji nodded but seemed confused/disappoitned. Then the band started to play. Guruji got off his chair and started playing lead guitar. He had a huge smile on his face and was GOOD. I looked in my bag but could not find my camera.

Last night's dream:

I was trying to touch my feet in Kapotasana and my hands kept slipping. Whoever was helping me (Dharma? Guruji?) transmitted to me, without speaking, that I should slow my breath and stay a long time. They got my hands to my heels like it was nothing.

Today's dreamlike reality:

It was like I had someone else's body. Instead of the 60 year old who usually visits, it was someone ten years younger, ten pounds thinner and ten inches shorter. I did not touch my feet in Kapotasana (it's overrated anyway) but did have unusually good balance, esp. in Pinca and the seven headstands I shouldn't be doing. Perhaps it means nothing; I was next to the radiator after all.

And now:

I'm off to McHenry for good food, bad TV, and clean air. The younger nephew has tickets to tomorrow's Cubs game -- IN MILWAUKEE -- and hence our Easter practice takes place on Saturday. For the drive I have on cassette, from the library: The Tibetan Book of the Dead (read by Richard Gere) , The Road Less Traveled and Wherever You Go, There You Are. You know, to offset the overindulgence. I've also threatened to treat Dreyfus and Mrs. Dreyfus to a Level I yoga class tomrorow. This will be our first holiday with not one but two grandnieces; the new one, Gabriella Paige Dreyfus, and the terrible two-year-old who looks exactly like me, Lilayna Isabell Dreyfus. If nothing else, the Cacananda family is good at naming their children.

Thursday, April 05, 2007



questions for consideration:

1. Does global warming exist?

2. Is it possible to practice yoga without Yama and Niyama?

3. If the yogic idea of ahimsa (non-harming, the first of the Yamas) applies to all living beings, does that include the Earth?

4. Are yogis (Ashtangis, Hatha-heads, hot yogaists, Forresters, Friendlies, etc) who practice in a space where the temperature is heated above 72 degrees practicing ahimsa? Or are they contributing needlessly to global warming just so they can have a more intense practice (which tends to feed, rather than diminish, the ego)?

5. Are these things (ahmisa, yoga in a warmed-up room) mutually exclusive? Is it OK to practice in a warm room if one rides a bike or walks or carpools to class instead of driving an SUV?


Venice Beach Surf by Caca (c) 2005

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


My mother died of cancer ten years ago today.

It's because of her that I do yoga.

Yoga was something I had always wanted to do but never had the time for; but after caring for her for seven months, I finally had the time.

Actually, it was a miserable time. As the executor of her will, I was trying to take care of her affairs and empty and sell her house -- all the while fighting with Dreyfus.

But I was able to enroll in a super-easy Wednesday night hatha yoga class at the Lincoln-Belmont YMCA. I was immediately hooked. Not only did I feel peaceful after class – but during class I did not think about my problems. It resonated like nothing else I have ever done.

I used to drive to class after working on my mother's house, which was 50 miles away. One day I arrived late. I cracked open the door and heard what sounded like a dozen people hyperventilating. I cracked it a bit more and saw their chests heaving. I slammed the door and ran.

The following week, everyone was complaining about the substitute teacher they'd had. "You were lucky you missed it," they said. The class had been too hard; she'd been "too aerobic."

I found out her name and immediately signed up for her class. She was a Sivananda teacher, and she was terrific.

Soon, I was taking class three times a week at the YMCA.

But it still wasn't enough.

I looked in the phone book and found my way to the N.U. Yoga Center and the ashtanga vinyasa yoga classes taught by Suddha Weixler and Eric Powell (who now teaches ashtanga in Istanbul). I bought a monthly pass and went to class every day – and sometimes twice a day. I felt like I had come home.

In 1998 Eric told me he was leaving Chicago. He suggested I enroll in Suddha’s teacher training and take over some of his classes. I was appalled. But both Eric and Suddha encouraged me to do it – so I followed their advice. By the end of 1998 I was teaching. Unlike, say, journalism, it was one of the easiest and most natural things I have ever done (well, until recently anyway).

And I have my mother to thank for it.

She's also responsible for getting me out of the small town where I grew up.

She got royally screwed in the divorce settlement (she didn't even get a piece of the business that had belonged to HER father), but she insisted that my father agree to pay for college educations for my brother and me.

I graduated from the instutition she had attended but left after two years because her father ran out of money.

She was popular at that college; she belonged to the best sorority and had all kinds of fun -- although she was also quite scared.

One day her father drove to campus, took her out of class, put her in the car, drove her downtown, got some pictures taken and took her to a modeling agency.

It was the end of her college career, and the beginning of her modeling career.

Because of that career, she met my father at the Railroad Fair, and got married, and had Dreyfus and me ....

Which was followed by nervous breakdowns (probably early menopause), my father's ditching her for the neighbor, having her daughter (me) taken away from her, her sister's suicide, losing her entire savings to con men, the drinking, her own suicide attempts, the 21 cats, being beaten and nearly killed by a man named Newt, etc.

She must have inflicted a lot of pain in a past life.

She suffered a lot in this one.

But she kept going.

She never knew her own strength.

Many people tried to take her house away from her over the years.

But she wouldn't let them have it.

It was all she had left, and she wanted to hold onto it for my brother and me -- so we'd have something when she passed away.

Because of her, I got to go to India.

Because of her, I learned compassion.

Because of her, I didn't end up with someone like my father.

I hope she's in a better place now.

She deserves it.

My mother who lived through a thousand Newts
Who never knew she was popular, only that she was scared.

City girl, stuck in a cowtown for so long,
Her face falling with her hopes.

The house falls down around her while the dog goes deaf
Still she goes off to work, smoke trailing behind her.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Earlier this morning, the behemoth Chicago Tribune Co. was sold to local pottymouth real estate mogul Sam Zell.

The Tribune's massive holdings include 11 leading daily newspapers, 23 television stations, and popular news, information and entertainment websites.

Locally, the Tribune owns The Chicago Tribune newspaper, cable network Superstation WGN-Channel 9 and WGN-AM radio – which isn’t a conflict of interest at all. They also own the Cubs baseball team, which is also slated to be sold.

From today's Chicago Tribune newspaper (I know, I know):

Early Monday, following a weekend of heated negotiations, the company's board accepted a revised $34-dollar-a-share proposal from Chicago real estate magnate Sam Zell to take the company private in a complex, $13 billion deal structured around an employee stock ownership plan.

In addition, the Tribune said it intends to sell the Chicago Cubs and its 25 percent stake in local sports cable channel Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

Despite Saturday's post, I hope whoever buys the team doesn't move them to the suburbs.

Or worse, another city.

(The baseball team is slated to be sold after this season ends. Interestingly, next year marks the 100th anniversary of the last Cubs World Series victory).

And can anyone imagine WGN-TV without the Cubs? It would be like ashtanga yoga without ujjayi breath. Yoga without Yama and Niyama. Steve without Garry.

Who knows what will happen. The only thing we know for sure is that new owner Zell is mad -- mad I tell ya:

The transaction will place Zell, the motorcycle riding, epithet slinging multibillionaire, who just two months ago closed the $39 billion sale of his sprawling real estate company, atop of one of the most conservative, buttoned-down companies in America.

It gives a risk-taking financier with no background in journalism control over a set of venerable newspapers that includes the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, and big television stations, such as WGN-Ch. 9. And by dialing up the financial pressure on Tribune, the transaction will force the company and its new employee owners to find answers to questions that have been bedeviling the newspaper and television industries ever since the Internet started stealing their customers more than a decade ago.

Well, at least the Chicago Tribune newspaper will remain local.

Maybe Zell will sell the LA Times to the consortium there that wants to buy it.

And maybe now RCN will be able to carry CLTV News, which, like New York One, does a halfway decent job of covering the extremely local news.

Currently, the Tribune-owned 24-hour news channel is carried exclusively by Comcast because of the Trib's unholy deal with Comcast SportsNet. It requires that only Comcast stations carry CLTV.

In other words, most Chicagoans -- those who who subscribe to a competing cable company or have no cable at all -- cannot get the station.

And who says consolidation hasn't benefitted the consumer?

Dusty Baker billboard pic snapped in front of Wrigley Field just one day after the Cubs manager was fired last year.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Jane Fonda was a guest on Turner Classic Movies the other night*.

They showed her films, and in between she spoke at length about her career (and what a career it was. Is.)

Host Robert Osborne asked her about the making of 1981's On Golden Pond with her aloof, distant and judgmental father (Henry Fonda) -- who was dying at the time -- and formidable costar Katherine Hepburn.

Jane, who produced and starred in the film, had lined up a stunt double to perform the backflip her character does near the end of it.

But then Hepburn cornered her and asked if she planned to do it herself.

"And right as she said that I remembered that dive in Philadelphia Story," Fonda said, referring to the magnificent scene where Hepburn herself -- wearing a gold lame' swimsuit -- executed a perfect swan dive in a single take. "And I thought, oh God, I'm going to have to do it. So I said, 'Yes, I'm going to do it.'"

First, Fonda worked on land with a trainer for a month, using pulleys and mattresses.

Then she graduated to trying to flip from the raft that's used in the film into the actual water.

She practiced and practiced and practiced but could not do it.

But she kept at it.

Every day she tried to do that backflip.

And, finally, one day she did it.

Covered in bruises, she swam ashore and crawled up the beach.

Suddenly, Katherine Hepburn -- who was nearly as aloof as Jane's father -- came out of the bushes.

Apparently she'd been watching the whole time.

"She walks over to me and she says, 'How do you feel?'" Fonda said. "And I said, 'I feel just great.' And she says, 'That's all right. You've earned my respect. You've stood up to your fears.

"'If you don't do that, you become soggy.

"''Don't raise your children to be soggy.'"

Fonda said that advice has stayed with her.

"Now, whenever I'm afraid of something, I just say, man, I'm not going to get soggy."

I used this story the next day in my Dharma-influenced open class, when I noticed that advanced students were staying in downward-facing dog when they had the option of working on forearm balance -- which they all were quite capable of doing.

As soon as I finished the story, six sets of elbows dropped to the floor in unison.

No one wants to be soggy.


*Turner Classic Movies is what former blonde hotties end up watching when they become gray-haired women of a certain age with eyesight so poor they can no longer read the buttons on the remote.