Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Part of our homework for Dharma Mittra's teacher training involves teaching free yoga classes.

Last Tuesday I started a series of four Dharma Mittra Level I classes in Oak Park.

During the class, I play a CD of Sanskrit devotional music - just as they do at Dharma's NYC studio.

Ten people came; one was brand-new to yoga, while others were hardcore ashtangis who'd taken the previous primary series class.

Apparently the ashtangis liked the chance to slow down, if you believe their feedback forms.

Among the things they liked:

"Slow moving"




"Being able to close eyes"

"The fluid nature of the movements"

"Holding the poses for longer"

"Different poses from my usual class"

"The simplicity and ease of each pose"

"Could do poses at whatever level you were comfortable"

"The opportunity to close my eyes and focus inwardly."

One of the newbies actually blogged about it; her post is here.

For more info on the free class click here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Thank G-d for hairdressers.....

This vegetarian restaurant reviewer for YOGA/Chicago recently learned that Evanston is home to a new vegan soul food restaurant, which opened at the end of last month.

It's by the wonderful people who do Soul Vegetarian East on the South Side - which means they're serving some of the the tastiest, most comforting vegan food in the whole wide world.

(In fact the title for my review of the old place was Soul Vegetarian East; Decadent Vegan Cuisine (That’s not an Oxymoron) .

The new place is called Life, and it's at 1601 Simpson St. in Northweast Evanston (847-869-6379). They're open Sunday - Thursday 6AM-9PM, Fridays from 6-3 and Saturdays from 6PM-12AM (it's run by the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, and hence they're closed on the Shabbat).

I can't wait to go.

More here and here.


The image is not their menu, but that of a similar establishment.

Friday, February 22, 2008


Yesterday would have been my mother's 78th birthday....

Today I heard through the grapevine that Guruji has not been seen in the shala, and may be on around-the-clock care....

My cat-activist friend Deb recently dug up the following obit, which I wrote seven years ago....

FRITZKA T. KATZ (nee Cacananda), August 1987 to June 7, 2001

Fritzka T. Katz, 14 (that’s 70 to you and me), died in the hospital on June 7, 2001 after fluid in the lungs, most likely the result of a tumor, cause her to go into respiratory failure. Her cat mom was holding her when she passed.

Fritzka was the sweetest, softest, best cat in the world, and many songs were written in her honor. If more people had known about her, there would have been long lines to see her. On her second-to-last trip to the vet, several strangers peered into her carrier to inquire about the “beautiful, wee cat” and were surprised to learn that she was a dowager with only four teeth to her name (although more discerning fans, including performance artist and filmmaker Brigid Murphy, knew right-off that she was a grand dame of the old school).

Fritzka was born at Tree House in Uptown, where she was known as Franzia and lived in the office with her late, great littermate, Snarfee (nee Spumante) and an unnamed sibling whose whereabouts are unknown. After climbing onto prospective cat-owner Tim Hurley’s shoulder on March 4, 1988 and chewing on his hair, she was adopted by the rock star-to-be and her cat-mom, Caca.

Her many nicknames included Kitskin, Birdsong, Songbird, Eena, The Fritzkinest Kitzka, Little Miss Cat-Food-Naow, Toe-Cute, Princess Stinkybottom, Blackmouth and Kitty-Cat Mauser.

Although she liked to make guttural mewing sounds at birds and flies, Fritzka was not enamored of the great outdoors, and when she ventured forth it was with great crouching, sniffing and hesitation. She craved heat and enjoyed sitting in the sun. In the early days, when it was cold, she would sit with Snarfee on the stove above the pilot light. In later years, she would take a seat under the desk lamp, next to the computer; or on the modem or VCR. On particularly bitter winter days, she sat in front of the radiator and waited patiently for it to come to life.

She also loved affection, and enjoyed strewing her food all over the place. Sometimes her waste stuck to her bottom, which caused vigorous kicking of the hind legs, not to mention many artistic creations (including one particularly elusive and odiferous installation on the refrigerator door). She invented poo strings and poo poo paw printing and could clear a room with her output in less than 30 seconds.

A letter of hers was published in NewCity in 1994. She had her own E-mail address, doorbell and mailbox, and was admired by not one, but two of Nick Cave's Bad Seeds. She occasionally did consulting and voiceover work.

She was a paper-sitter who liked to rub her lips on plants and bike spokes, play with dental floss and roll on her back in the bathtub. Her favorite snack items were basil olive oil, soy margarine, macaroni and cheese, pancakes and certain baby food. She drank exclusively from the toilet.

When she liked a song – such as the Velvet Underground’s slower anthems – or a person, she’d roll on her back as if she were a grub, and sometimes would get so carried away that she’d smack her head on the floor. She was a top-notch player of Get Caca, Fake Bird and The Door Game, and could jump two feet in the air. She spent many a happy hour burrowing her nose into the elbows or armpits of the lucky few she allowed to get close to her. She did not like children.

Fritzka is survived by her cat-mom Caca, who is devastated by her loss; her beloved surrogate parents Doug and Natasha; her estranged cat-dad Tim, and countless friends and fans.

According to longtime yoga teacher Suddha Weixler, who knows about such things, she has already come back as “something even more beautiful.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Eat it and weep.....

This is the full-length version of the undercover Humane Society video, which shows the unspeakably cruel treatment of cows at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company. It's the long version of the video that's been making the news, and which prompted the recall of 143 million pounds of beef.

What the media doesn't say is that the downed cows in the video had already spent their entire lives in awful conditions - why do you think they can't stand up? - giving milk and producing calves that stayed with them a single day before being shipped off to live out their entire lives getting fattened up in a tiny box before they, too, were slaughtered.

In the video, one of the cows had massive streams of water sprayed up its nose, so she (all of these were females, by the way) would think she was drowning and muster all her remaining fight-or-flight energy and stand up.

Others of course were shocked with cattle prods (which really, really does hurt; these very same cattle prods were used on humans by both Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard and certain stepmothers** we know).

I grew up on a farm with cows - and never, ever heard them scream like they do in the video.

It's hard to believe that so little has changed since Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle in 1906.

Even sadder is the fact that people are more upset about the prospect of children getting Mad Cow-burgers in their school lunch than the cruel treatment of their fellow creatures.

But at least they might think twice now about eating meat.

And maybe they'll finally realize where it comes from.

Kudos to the Humane Society.

You can make a donation to them by clicking here. There's more video here.

The Humane Society is also spearheading a campaign to stop the US Department of Agriculture from adopting a horrifyingly low standard for meat products that carry a "naturally raised" label. The standard appears to be a marketing gimmick that would not address housing, diet or physical alterations such as branding, dehorning, and tail docking. You can learn more, and fire off a letter (before Feb 27), by clicking here.


*In America, we think cows say "Moo!" In India (or at least Mysore) - where cows are treated with less cruelty - they think the cows say "Ambaa!"

**Ours was kept in the corner next to the china cabinet - within easy reach in case someone misbehaved.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Chocolate was everywhere on Thursday - Valentine's Day.

Trader Joe's was giving away three types of rather excellent dark chocolate truffles - I limited myself to just two - and later in the day Mr. Kotter and I shared Mohr Im Hemd (Hot Molten Chocolate Cake) at Julius Meinl (Austrian desserts are particularly dear to me because they're not oversweetened).

Chocolate was also all over public radio that day. Marketplace aired a wonderfully riveting piece about master chocolate taster ChloƩ Doutre-Roussel.

From the start, it was clear that she is more than just a globetrotting chocolate whisperer with an exquisite sense of smell (she was born in South America and raised in France, which explains her rather charming turn of phrase):

"When I was 14 I started to taste chococolate to find the best pleasure out of my pocket money...and I realized that when I was concentrating into the tasting of one chocolate, I felt the complexity, the intensivity, and that it was much more interesting than watching TV."

When I heard the next bit I sat up straight and thought, "OhMyGawd, she's also a yogi!"

"I have applied this theory of listening to my body to listening to my needs for rest, or where I want to go for holiday, or if I want to be with this person or not.

"When you do things that are not in tune with you, not only is it a waste of time, but you also harm yourself."

Jon Miller, the reporter, also stated that, "She told me about her desire to have a family and about the toll her constant traveling was taking on her body. We talked about her ongoing effort to reconcile her love of luxury with her arguably stronger love of austerity and quiet. She said she knew that chocolate isn't the most important thing on earth. But it's something she cares about, and something she knows about, and somewhere she can make a difference."

Definitely a yogi.

Her website is here.

Friday, February 15, 2008


Thursday's New York Times has a piece about couples whose eating habits just aren't compatible.

You know - he eats meat, she's raw-vegan.

They're called "interdietary couples" -- which conjures up images of multicolored aliens.

The topic has allowed the writer to employ conceits such as "vegangelical" and "Man does not love by bread alone."

Some excerpts:

Ben Abdalla, 42, a real estate agent in Boca Raton, Fla., said he preferred to date fellow vegetarians because meat eaters smell bad and have low energy.

Lisa Romano, 31, a vegan and school psychologist in Belleville, N.Y., said she recently ended a relationship with a man who enjoyed backyard grilling. He had no problem searing her vegan burgers alongside his beef patties, but she found the practice unenlightened and disturbing.

Her disapproval “would have become an issue later even if it wasn’t in the beginning,” Ms. Romano said. “I need someone who is ethically on the same page.”

While some eaters may elevate morality above hedonism, others are suspicious of anyone who does not give in to the pleasure principle.

June Deadrick, 40, a lobbyist in Houston, said she would have a hard time loving a man who did not share her fondness for multicourse meals including wild game and artisanal cheeses. “And I’m talking cheese from a cow, not that awful soy stuff,” she said.

The full article is here.

I prefer not to date meat-eaters - especially if they consume it in my presence.

And I certainly won't buy dinner if it includes something dead on their plate.

Even worse are those who attack my reasons for being meat-free since '87. Do I attack you for believing in Jeebus?

(Those of you who call yourselves yogis and still eat meat should read this article, called "No Yama, No Yoga." Yoga students who are not making "progress" or feel stuck in their practice should also consider cutting back on the meat intake. Fish, by the way, is not a vegetable. Nor are eggs.).

By the way, being meat-free has a long history even in the West:

The Greek philosopher Pythagoras, famous for his contributions to geometry and mathematics, strongly believed in the reincarnation of the soul and preached an ethical lifestyle that included injunctions against killing living creatures, whether through animal sacrifice or for the eating of meat. His proscribed diet was very close to today’s vegan diet, and attracted two different classes of adherents. One group, an elite group who studied directly under Pythagoras called mathematikoi ("mathematicians" followed an extremely restricted regimen, eating only cereals, bread, honey, fruits and some vegetables. A larger group of followers called the akousmatikoi ("listeners" who attended lectures by the philosopher were allowed to eat meat and drink wine, but were required to abstain on certain days.

According to historical documents, Pythagoras told his followers, "Oh, my fellow men! Do not defile your bodies with sinful foods. We have corn, we have apples bending down the branches with their weight, and grapes swelling on the vines. There are sweet-flavored herbs, and vegetables which can be cooked and softened over the fire, nor are you denied milk or thyme-scented honey. The earth affords a lavish supply of riches, of innocent foods, and offers you banquets that involve no bloodshed or slaughter: only beasts satisfy their hunger with flesh, and not even all of those, because horses, cattle, and sheep live on grass." His biographer, Diogenes, wrote that Pythagoras ate millet or barley bread and honeycomb in the morning and raw vegetables at night, and that he paid fisherman to throw their catches back into the ocean.

It's almost enough to make a girl want to study philosophy - since Hippocrates, Socrates, Plato, Seneca, Ovid and Virgil also advocated vegetarian diets.


Learn more about becoming veg here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


from the BBC today:

India court in moustache notice

India's Supreme Court has issued a notice to a state-run airline asking it to explain why an air steward was sacked for wearing a big moustache.

Victor Joynath De was grounded by Indian - formerly called Indian Airlines- in 2001 for refusing to shave off his handlebar moustache.

He had earlier lost a case in a lower court which ruled that the airline was within its rights to sack him.

According to Indian rules, all crew members should be clean shaven.

A moustache, if worn, should not extend beyond the upper lip, says the rule book.

The guidelines do not apply to Sikh employees who are allowed to keep moustaches.

Apparently his muzzy is a health risk.

Mr De's brush with his employers began in 2001 when the airline argued that his prized asset was a health risk, especially with him frequently handling food.

But wait - there's more.

The spokesman said that some passengers could be unnerved by such a striking facial feature.

At the time of his grounding, Mr De said he was proud of his moustache which had taken 25 years to grow and now stretches prominently across both cheekbones.....

He is a member of London's famous Handlebar Club, which has campaigned against his sacking.

The full article is here

Sparks' "Moustache" lyrics here. The more subtly handsome brother in the band (ie; the one in the video) sported that short, Hitlery moustache for much of his career.

Monday, February 11, 2008


The first weekend of teacher training was amazing. Who doesn't like seeing her guru(s) and doing as many as three yoga classes a day, talking about yoga and the Bhagavad Gita and the Sutras and anatomy and Pranayama and Mantra and Asana and spending five hours five feet away from Krishna Das and meeting a fellow student who goes by the name "Cell Phone?"

But all good things must end (for a few weeks anyway).

Last night my flight home was delayed two hours; I got into Chicago around Midnight.

The windchill was -30.

I greeted the cat, stowed my stuff, took a bath, and went to sleep.

This morning I got up at 5AM and dumped out my suitcase. Then I filled it with clothes for a photo shoot, and downloaded directions to it. I ate and dressed for my 6:30 class.

Despite thw windchill, the car started. It's a Honda.

I taught Dharma's Level I class as usual. But could only remember one of the new changes and made sure to add it; an "easy" varation on Parvritta Parsvakonasana that's a lot harder than it looks (both the Level I and Level II sequences have changed a little bit from last year - in a good way).

Afterwards I headed to the three-hour shoot at Essanay**on Goose Island.

My mother was a model, and this was my chance to feel like it was to be her for a moment.

I liked the shoot more than I wanted to - although I suspect that being a runway / print / TV model for Marshall Field's, et al in the 1950's was a lot of hard work + very little glamour. She used to take the train in from McHenry, and would read science fiction novels to while away the time. When she told the other models that we'd one day be walking on the moon, they thought she was loca.

Funny - the stylist didn't choose any of the outfits I'd brought. It probably didn't help that I don't know what "business casual" means or own a suit with pants. Plus while putting my things away I realized that all of my yoga teaching togs are pilled and frayed.

(Bonus Flashback scene from my Audition:

PERSON WITH CLIPBOARD: Who is your agent?
ME: What?
PC: Your agent. Who is your agent?
ME: There's no agent. There's just me.
PC: ?
ME: I'm an actual yoga person.

Every beatifully-shaped, perfectly coiffed head in the room whips around and stares at the woman with the wild grey hair.

VERY PRETTY MODEL; Ooo-ooh, look out for her)

I really enjoyed being fed and fussed over; it made me re-parented again.

Plus everyone was so nice.

I don't think I've ever worn that much make up at one time.

Or made that much money.

Anyway, I may be appearing in an Aleve advert soon in a magazine near you. As the letter Z or E or B or I - or even Y.

And the photog may be appearing in a yoga class near you.


*Watch the video: Does it not look like these guys are contestants on a game show?

**Chicago's original Essanay Studio is where Charlie Chaplan got his start.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


It turns out that we're in the middle of a full-blown Nor'easter; they're predicting up to 12 inches of snow before 6PM.

In Chicago there are strong winds and freezing pellets.

Dreyfus says there are whiteout conditions where he lives; the snow is actually horizontal.

Neither he nor Mrs. Drey went to work today.

Midway airport is closed, and some 500 flights at O'Hare have been cancelled.

But not my 11:45AM flight.

When it was time to leave for the airport, I could not make myself move. I thought, "Why go all the way there, and then find out the flight is delayed and I can't plug in my laptop because all the outlets are taken."

So I sought the advice of Gridlife the Air Travel Answer Man.

He asked if it was urgent that I get there today. Nope; the teacher training starts tomorrow morning at 11:15. The plan was to fly in a day early and spend the afternoon hanging out with Catsey - and possibly take in a B'way show in the evening.

Gridlife said that when the weather is this bad, and the travel isn't urgent, the airlines sometimes allow travellers to rebook for the following day.

I called AA and waited. And waited.

Finally someone answered.

Calmly and politely, I made my case.

It worked!

The nice lady booked me on tomorrow's 6AM flight, arriving at LaGuardia at 9.

"Now you can put your pajamas back on, and enjoy the rest of your day," she said.

No problem - except I'd never taken them off (Chicago is, after all, the hometown of pajama-wearing Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner).

Hopefully I'll have enough time to take a cab to Manhattan, purchase tissues and a gallon of water (which everyone is requested to bring to the first day of the intensive, along with a box of herbal tea - which I already have), sign in, say hello, and find mat space for Dharma's noon Level IV class.

There's nothing like doing a thousand Forearm Balances (see photo) three hours after getting off a plane....

In the meantime I'm pleased as punch to have an entire day to clean the house, catch up on phone calls and play with Kirby -- instead of spending it at the airport waiting in long lines for burnt coffee and stale sandwiches, and wishing my laptop's batteries had lasted long enough to make it all the way through Chalte Chalte.

Thank you, Gridlife!


Gridlife also recommends taking a three-plug adapter to the airport, so that more people can plug their laptops into the few outlets that are available. I'd actually planned on bringing a six-plug power strip before I changed my flight today.

Photo of Satya C by Amy Dean


I'm supposed to fly to NYC today for teacher training with Dharma Mittra.

There is freezing rain and high winds.

And a new moon.

They're predicting five to 12 inches of snow between now and 6PM.

The plane is scheduled to leave at 11:45.

Five hundred flights have already been cancelled.

But so far there's been no call or text regarding my particular flight.

I think I'll bring the computer and some DVDs to the airport with me.

And leftover Thai food and Paczki.

And a blanket.

Saturday, February 02, 2008


1. If you're out walking and you come across a car that is stuck and spinning its wheels, stop and offer help. Do not keep walking.

2. If it's the day after a heavy snow and no one has shoveled yet and you're a big, strong man wearing big, strong weatherproof boots and walking on a narrow footpath and you see someone coming towards you from the other direction, give way. Do not turn it into a game of snow-chicken.

3. If you are shoveling out your car, do not be a lazy sod and throw the snow into the street. This creates a hazard for everyone and makes you the worst kind of civic bad sport. Even if you are a petite person with zero upper body strength and no hat or gloves and a massive sense of entitlement, the snow belongs between the sidewalk and the curb.

4. If you shovel out a parking space on the street, it is not yours to keep. No matter how hard you worked, the street is public property. No. More. Dibs.

5. If you shovel an extra spot, there will be space for everyone - including the elderly humplimpett down the hall. Plus you will receive extra credit in your karmic bank account.