Friday, December 31, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Straightedge is a floating ethos. It doesn’t stop at drugs, but extends the ban to cigarettes, alcohol and in its extremes to meat-eating and casual sex. Practiced with humility, I can see how the Straightedge movement is easily more constructive than most contemporary alternative youth cultures. With their strict and puritanical rules, one can even draw similarities between an austere monk and a Straightedge punk. If you group all these aspirants, monks and punks together into one, you can better divide them not by way of ideology, but rather by underlying intention. One group is thoughtful, gaze introverted, with personal growth and service to humanity at its core. The second hides behind dogma and uses the alliance to foster feelings of exclusivity, superiority and ego-based power. No mortal is wholly innocent or diabolical. Neither the faithful nor the revolutionary is exempt from the dualities of human nature. All subcultures are microcosms of the macrocosm called humanity. At the end of the day and on no matter whose team you play, many people are good, a few are bad, and a couple are just downright f-ugly.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Excerpt: Gurus, Rock Stars & the Men In Between - If my boobies are to have a fighting chance they have to be delivered with absolute conviction.
Like any romance, it’s hard to know when it moves from fantasy to reality. Is it the acceptance of the walk? Was it the conversation late last night in the studio while I worked? From a woman’s perspective it’s the moment we lay eyes on our prey. The rest are mere markers along a path already paved in anticipation. But when does the prey begin to participate as co-predator? Five minutes into our walk on a brisk spring afternoon along a desolate trail, the Devotee pulls me off the path, through brush and into a clearing cushioned with hay. It’s too perfect. He clearly knows about the haystack and planned it all along. We lay looking at the sky, talking for ages about what I don’t know. But I do know the feeling; the exquisite feeling that can only be felt when your heart is broken. When you believe you’ll never love again, only to find that on the contrary, you will… and it will happen here, on this field, in this late afternoon sun… with this man.
Quietly and confidently he leans in and kisses me. It is slow and gentle and everything I need - easily equivalent to five Hassidic therapy sessions. After that it gets hazy. I know we roll around in the hay literally and innocently. I gaze into his smiling eyes. I can see his soul. I pull back. I don’t want him to look at me. If he gets a really good look he’ll come to his senses and realize I’m not pretty, or at least that I’m older than him… whatever that implies I don’t know, but I’m sure it isn’t good. No matter how much he looks at me, he doesn’t see the faults I find so glaring. As the minutes come and go he remains stubborn. In the face of all logical reasons why; he likes me.
We plan to spend time together later tonight at the studio. At first we toss around the lackluster idea of watching a movie. For some reason and with an intensity of feeling I can’t explain but know to be true I say, “Our time together is so precious. Let’s forget the movie and get to know each other.”
We rendezvous at ten p.m. Everyone has left and I enter his office where he often spends the night working. I finger the books on his shelves, opening them at random. We choose poignant words and discuss what they mean personally, and in our life. He shows me photos of his brothers and sisters, and his Mom. He shares how his father left when he was a baby, and how his mother raised him in a rural Hindu ashram. I touch his hands. They are beautiful and kind. I look into his eyes. I feel safe. I am in the presence of goodness and I feel it to my core. I sit on the couch and he on a chair, close but opposite holding my hands in his. As he looks into my eyes he pulls me forward, and gently kisses me. I have never met a man who so perfectly embraces the feminine and masculine at once, a man whose gentility and kindness are balanced by absolute strength. I am embracing art itself.
“Take your top off” he orders matter of fact. “I want to give you a massage.”
Smoke billows out of my ears as millions of synapses go off in an attempt to figure out how to get the top off, hide my boobs and look blasé all at once. I still believe that at any moment he is going to come to his senses and realize, “Oh this is not what I purchased… look at her little boobs, what was I thinking?”
Challenged by the seeming innocence of his request, I follow suit. When I feel trapped with no way out, I take on a go for broke attitude and give it all I’ve got. With head held high I strike my best pose, and with the posture of a dancer sitting tall I look him square in the eye and slowly peel off my shirt, giving most strippers a run for their money. There in their naked glory exposed to the world are my beautiful compact, ever-erect breasts. If I am going down, I am going down in a blaze of gunfire. If my boobies are to have a fighting chance they have to be delivered with absolute conviction. I raise my chin, cock one eyebrow and slightly smile meeting his gaze defiantly as though, “There you go! My boobies… aren’t they gorgeous?”
He smiles in appreciation, and in this moment they truly are. I lay face down, soothed by his warm, strong hands as he rubs oil over my back in long sensuous strokes. Without word or interruption he worships me for what seems hours, knowing exactly where to venture and when to retreat. I can’t understand it. My whole life I’ve spent every ounce of energy trying to stop men from getting down my pants, and here is one that is allowing me to simply enjoy his company and relinquish my title as chastity belt keeper. He is either the kindest man I’ve ever met, or the most diabolical. It seems impossible that he can be anything other than a very experienced, and therefore untrustworthy lover. He laughs when I share my opinion, impressing upon me that I am merely number three in a very short list of women.
My notion of love, intimacy and sexuality has been off my entire life. As much as I crave authentic, heart wrenching experiences, I was in danger of never having them. I have been external and superficial. Of course he saw my small boobs, and yes he probably saw my extra years. He also saw my elbow, my big toe and left eye. That’s the point. He saw me, inside and out. It isn’t that he likes women with big boobs or small, he likes my boobs because they are mine. If I had big boobs he would like those too. Oh my God, I have met someone who likes…. me. I spend the entire night topless, with helpful suggestions that I get a boob job thankfully a distant memory.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Fighting and jostling like a pro I find a seat in the ladies-only carriage of the train. I love this particular Indian custom. As a feminist it should offend me, but in such an intense culture to be able to travel free of male harassment it’s a welcome relief. I get to bond with women who in the company of their husbands might not be so forthright and candid. Still, at every stop small children reach their hands through the window bars begging for ‘Ek rupee!’ and the ladies carriage is given no immunity from beggars. I’m traveling with a group of women, and one who is about six months pregnant. At the train stop she sees something and quickly covers her stomach with her shawl and handbag, concealing her pregnant state. I shoot an inquisitive look.
“Number sevens! If they see I’m pregnant they will curse my baby unless I give them a donation.”
Just when India can’t get any weirder, Number Sevens is the name given to hermaphrodites and the gender ambiguous. In India or at least here in the north, when a hermaphrodite child is born parents can choose to give them up to a tribe of fellow hermaphrodites to be raised within a community. I’ve noticed these sometimes stunning women in ostentatious saris and costume jewelry making a great fanfare wherever they go, but they’re exaggerated gestures and large hands and feet always hint at some variation of trans-gender persuasion. Maintaining themselves by singing, dancing and begging, they’re notorious for turning up at weddings, funerals or any other auspicious occasion demanding donations in exchange for their blessings… or rather to avoid their apparently devastating curse. After they passby without incident, she elaborates that the real term for them is “hijra” in Urdu, or "khusra" in Punjabi. Why she's calling them Number Sevens, I don’t know. These days nothing raises my eyebrow.
I’m making good distance. I’ve been on the train for over twenty four hours, which means little to nothing given that in India trains have no qualms about stopping in the middle of nowhere, and simply sitting for hours at a time. But this train’s been moving non-stop and my carriage has seen its share of characters come and go. I am now alone. The landscape is quite barren, almost scorched. I can tell I am in the middle third of the country, and no longer up north. Every now and again in the distance I can see a solitary man sitting in a field. Squatting. No doubt taking a dump. I have not been more dump conscious anywhere on this planet than here in India. It seems everywhere I look someone is pooing in public. And nothing can prepare for the toilets on an Indian train, not even Morocco. Quite literally it is a feces-smeared hole in the floor with the mesmerizing passage of railroad tracks whizzing by underneath. One might become hypnotized if it were not for the gag-inducing stench of excrement. I might be giving myself colon cancer. I absolutely refuse to go. It’s bad enough peeing, but at least it’s almost possible to hold my breath. But poo? Forget it. I would rather die.
Another night on the train and I’m shaking, woken by a violent storm. I am most definitely no longer in the middle of the country but moving toward the sultry south. We seem to be crossing rivers, yet the train appears on par with the water. It’s pitch black and impossible to see, save for lightening strikes that illuminate the sky for several seconds followed by vicious claps of thunder. This is long enough for me to see small clay homes and palm trees being slapped around by torrential wind and rain almost as loud as the sound of the train. It’s scary. I already have little faith in India’s railroads and their safety. Now it appears as though the tracks are disappearing in the flood waters. It is however, strangely beautiful. I watch out the window for an hour alone in my delicious ladies carriage, but I must be drifting to sleep. It isn’t until I hear the familiar “Chai, chai!” that I wake with sun beaming through my barred windows. I am in tropical Kerala.
The people in Cochin seem much cleaner and more traditional. The ladies are all wearing saris as opposed to the Salwar Kameez. They look lovely, slighter in frame than their Northern sisters and making jingle-jangle noises with bangles and ankle bells, making them possibly the world’s least likely cat burglars. In order to get to Mata’s Ashram I have to take a bus, then a boat through the backwaters that separate a small strip of land from the mainland. Out of my bus window I can see young and old women building asphalt roads. Now that’s women’s lib! What’s more liberating is that some of the women are not wearing choli tops, yet they are so expert at keeping their breasts covered. I continue pointing this out until someone puts me out of my misery and explains that cholis are an invention, the result of the Mogul invasions in the Middle Ages. Indian tradition is very suchi (clean), and by having no seams in the fabric such as a sari, one can keep the cloth impeccably clean. Not all northern habits make it south, especially not to the poorer classes.
I hop a boat to cross the backwater. It resembles one of those flat-bottomed crafts you might see going through shallow swamps to catch crocodiles. As we pass another boat in the opposite direction I notice it’s full of Indians except for two Western girls stripped down to bikinis. They are just laying there, sun baking on deck. The locals are bunched together leaving a good three feet between them and the bikini babes, staring aghast. Culturally it’s the equivalent of being naked on the London Metro. This cultural obliviousness pisses me off. A slap in the face of "when in Rome" it only serves to make traveling alone all the more difficult for women.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
I don’t profess any one spiritual path superior to another. I’ve always had a soft spot for Jesus, and my schools were denomination based in a saccharin-vanilla Christian sense. Regardless of cultural origins we remain unique. The innumerable available spiritual paths exist to accommodate our many flavored needs. Though raised on a blond, blue-eyed Savior, I’m finding my flavor, my reason, and my answer to life’s question in a saffron-soaked India. I don’t want to be a monk for the rest of my life. I do want to learn about the one thing I consider important, the one thing my religious school never taught. I want to learn about the elephant in the room. I want to learn the meaning of life.
I spend months traveling around the subcontinent. I hear of one Saint in the north, stay at that Ashram for a period where I hear of another, and travel thousands of miles south to stay with and learn from a new Guru. They are all great personalities and meaningful personal experiences, but it’s only the philosophy and tradition of Vaishnavism* that’s capturing my heart.
Each tradition is essentially a branch of Hinduism†, and as a whole they enjoy many similarities. The defining difference for me is that while the tradition of Guru exists in Vaishnavism, there is equal if not more importance given to God and philosophy. I’m not OK with a room full of people worshiping in a personality cult. I’m not saying that’s exactly and always what I experience at other ashrams. Though at times enough elements combine to send my spidey-sense off the Richter scale. What attracts me to Vaishnavism is the emphasis on studying ancient Vedic scripture, beyond simply listening to a mortal seated on high. God or self-realization is placed as most important, while the worship of Guru is in relational reverence and gratitude for a teacher revealing esoteric knowledge, and facilitating connection with the Divine.
Worship of the Guru personality alone is a dangerous cocktail. And I’m a cheap drunk. I want to be careful. I’ve come to India to learn the meaning of life, not find a new celebrity before which to fall prostrate. I see many Westerners fall into the Guru-worship trap. While the presence of Guru in Vaishnavism will inevitably produce fanatics, the scriptures offer a constant reminder this is an aberration.
The Sanskrit word ‘yoga,’ means to yoke or reconnect. Vaishnavism is the practice of bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion. In bhakti yoga one can incorporate the other yogic disciplines such as hatha,* but these are not offered as the goal of spiritual practice. They are seen as favorable breezes on the path, designed to quiet the twitching mind and body, so one can practice spirituality peacefully.
The goal of bhakti yoga is to awaken perpetual love of God. It is the yoga of love, the simplest and yet most difficult form of yoga, because it requires saranagati: complete surrender of the heart. We are blessed in Western culture to have the life of Jesus as a wonderful example of saranagati. Rightwing Christians would nail me to the cross for that statement.
In fifteenth century India, a famous Saint ignited a mass movement of the bhakti faith across the continent. While the West was going through its Renaissance, rejecting the shackles of the Church in order to embrace art and science, India as usual, was doing the complete opposite. India was experiencing a spiritual reawakening. This Saint, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, reintroduced the ancient art of kirtan, otherwise known as congregational chanting. The first obvious glimpse in the West was in the 1960s with the Beatles and the Hare Krishnas. So if you’d like to sue someone for the clanging symbols and exuberant dancing mob, that would be him. The inability of the Krishnas to gently proselytize or keep over enthusiastic devotees in line has at times overshadowed an otherwise beautiful, surprisingly widespread and conventional spiritual path.
Decades later, in cities all around the world, kirtan can be heard from yoga studios loud and unapologetically. Considered the chic of the über chic, it’s not uncommon to spot celebrities and professional juggernauts sitting crossed legged, eyes closed, thumb and pointer-finger joined, swaying in ecstatic throws of chanting. Hare Rama!
* A monotheistic, devotional faith
† A misnomer and legacy of colonialism. The real term is Sanatana Dharma.
* A prescribed set of physical exercises often simply referred to as ‘yoga’ in the West.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
It's a crack. I'm back. Yeah I’m standing on the rooftops shouting out.
Baby I'm ready to go. I'm back and ready to go. From the rooftops shout it out.
Ready to Go - Republica 1996
Not the most brilliant lyrics. They don’t have to be brilliant to make you feel brilliant. Though less accommodating with my own lyrics, when listening to other's music I’ll take simplicity over genius any day if the result is bliss. And right now, I’m in bliss.
I came over as soon as she called cause she’s a living doll. And she’s famous for nothing at all. She’s living life like a dream with a false sense of self-esteem.
I wish she’d trade places with me.
Five thousand dollars a day is what they pay my baby for her pretty face.
Supermodel - Juliana Hatfield 1993
I am officially having the best day of my life. Don’t ask me for a loan. I haven’t won Lotto. Haven’t even bought a ticket. Money can’t buy my bliss. Well that’s not true because it did. On Itunes. I finally got around to downloading a bunch of my favorite songs from the 90s. I already had some but was missing a key player – the goddess Juliana Hatfield.
Cut to today. I’m on Park Ave in New York City. Bloomberg has closed the road to traffic from the BK-side of the Brooklyn bridge up to Central Park South. Pedestrians, joggers, skaters and cyclists own the asphalt – as it should be. It’s one of those days that can only be described as perfect. The sun is warm but the air has a slight crispness, urging the sentient to hurry up and take that beach vacation because fall is only weeks away.
I am, well there’s not other way to describe it… strutting down Park Ave. Tall buildings either side give me a choice. Take the shade, or walk on the sunny side of the street? Lyrics to an old Broadway number whose purport I truly never grasped until I lived in NYC back in the 90s. It's a no brainer. Sunny side.
That I used to live in New York in the 90s is part of the reason why I am having the best damn day of my life. These were the days of Baby Gopal. We had a particular sound. The 90s had a particular sound. This particular sound was inherent in the bands of the day and right now I’m listening to some of the best female-fronted, what used to be called ‘college/alternative’ back in the day. Hatfield. Republica. Letters to Cleo. I apologize to no one. I’m singing out loud. These girls rocked my world then and they’re rocking it right this second.
The best days of my life (and yes I have many) are usually the result of a magic but simple cocktail of circumstances. August Bliss Martini: Gorgeous day. Strutting. Asphalt. Park Ave. College chick-alterna-rock. Singing out loud. Me. Alone. With. The. Universe. I like God again. I was pissed of at Him for a while.
I’m reliving the 90s. I’m blissfully happy. I am so happy that for some reason I want to call my ex. What the hell am I thinking? I can’t help it. He was part of it… until he wasn’t.
Wait it out. Don’t “drink and dial.” Don’t mistake a few sonically-induced errant endorphins for an intelligent idea. And stop being so damn sentimental.
Just living on a Sunday morning, got my toast and tea and I'm warm and I just thought I'd think about… all the things to get and keep getting, never enough, not enough and never ending. I just thought I'd think about....
And it might be...
The comfort of a knowledge of a rise above the sky, but could never parallel the challenge of an acquisition in the here and now, here and now.
Here and Now – Letters to Cleo 1994
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Strangely I am getting some of my sexual needs met through my classical Indian dance. OK, so that statement warrants elaboration. After my return from India and throughout my meltdown I continued my private studies in Mohini Attam and Odissi. This last year I added Kathak, a style from Northern India which is more upright, Mogul-inspired and features intoxicating fast turns that look like Sufis on crack. Clearly a naughty yogini in many ways, these post-Ashram years I’ve been getting my spiritual juice less from those aforementioned rules and regulations, and more through my dance and music. Particularly with dance I am satiated and lost in the sensuality and nuance of the different styles.
Classical Indian is part pure dance and part abhinaya (story telling). Through the use of gestures and mudras (hand movements), one recants stories of Gods and Goddesses that more often than not include the loving pastimes of Divine couples such as Radha and Krishna, Shiva and Parvati and so on. As a dancer matures the emphasis on the storytelling component increases to the point where it is possible and desired to lose oneself in meditation of the story being told. Between private lessons and my dance company’s choreography and performances, I lose myself in dance. This deep connection with my body, contemplation and active expression of esoteric subject matter helps me access and develop a deeply feminine side. Especially with the cutthroat business of real estate, this connection with the feminine is essential. I never want to become a high-powered super-bitch broker. I’m more than happy to let my job be the silent patron of my arts and nothing more.
New York City in the summertime… I can’t quite tell if it’s heaven or hell. A bit of both I suspect. Hellish because of the extreme noise all the time, this place never shuts the hell up. After living in Los Angeles and by the water I realize what a luxurious necessity peace and quiet are. New York in the summer is also hotter than a lumberjack's armpit, and just as smelly. I don't recall it being this stinking hot when I lived here, but I guess the mind forgets.
On the flipside NYC is wonderful because it absolutely comes alive in summer with awesome free events throughout the city – perfect, because none of us are getting any sleep anyway. Thursday night I watched Hitchcock's Rear Window with Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly in Brooklyn Heights on the water's edge, overlooking lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. These moments in the city are simply sublime. Last week I caught the Antlers and Dinosaur Feathers at Pier 54 on the Hudson River, and followed that with outdoor Salsa at 14th and 9th Ave, then a romantic walk on the High Line. Sweet stinking lumberjack, I’ll take the heat, the smell and raise you twice the noise. I want to do the free Shakespeare in the park, but not even the Bard can get me out of bed to line up at 6am in Central Park for tickets, which is what I hear it takes these days.
One last shout-out must go to the yoga studio winner YTTP. Yoga to the People is a donation-based studio with three NYC locations whose credo sums up what has been lost by corporate-run yoga studios, and what YTTP strives to maintain, i.e. yoga tuition that is accessible and available to all. All bodies rise! http://www.yogatothepeople.com/
Check out the links for just a few of this summer’s events:
Movies in parks, on Piers and rooftops
Concert series at Pier 54 http://riverrocksnyc.com/
The High Line is a park built on a section of a former elevated freight railroad spur, running along the lower west side between the Meatpacking District and the Westside Highway, starting at Ganesvoort St (approx 12th St) running north to 20th (eventually 34th St). It’s gorgeous, low-key, and tastefully landscaped with flora native to the New York. I love it when a city gets it right! http://www.thehighline.org/
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Our relationship has never been based on sex alone. Perhaps if our partnership started as most do, on the basis of sexual chemistry, this sacred bond that has been shattered would be enough for me to call it quits. It’s not like that for us. Sex entered the relationship so late that the physical is just another aspect of our deeper connection. A complex history with the shared nuances of our sabbaticals, the almost fate-inspired way in which we came together, and the work we’re currently doing creates a partnership that is about camaraderie first and foremost. With extreme poetic license, we are Bill and Hillary Clinton. I love my scoundrel. I imagine she does too. My Rock Star's affliction is his karmic burden in this lifetime. Every person is faced with a unique set of challenges to overcome in their life, and this is his. He could be an alcoholic or obese or suffer from cancer, all afflictions of the mind and body. As his spiritual well wisher and life partner, my role is to support him traverse and transcend a condition, which he sincerely appears to want to overcome. Of course cancer and obesity are not defects of character, but my naïve faith in the power of personal growth contributes to an unreal expectation for the possibility of change.
If he was showing no remorse, if he had snuck around and was only caught and had not candidly confessed, like ah… Bill, things might be different. His congenital Catholic guilt, and my codependent delusion that he can change are like a hand that has met its glove. I don’t think it’s diabolical, but somewhere in his life he has learned that confession leads to absolution. Clearly with me it does. But confession alone, without change, is like a dog barking at passing traffic. It has no impact.
The intimacy of disclosure is followed by great sex. Everyone knows makeup or breakup sex is better than mid-week doldrums sex, and we enjoy the same sick, heightened pleasure after his latest confession. It’s the only time I feel him emotionally present during our lovemaking, the only time when I feel our connection and his sincerity. Or is it the only time I feel mine?
Thinking of a million ways to help remedy the situation, and freshly inspired by my time out west, I introduce the concept of moving to California. Perhaps new surroundings and a healthier lifestyle can help us beat this demon. After six years in New York, the biting cold winters are becoming less quixotic. For an Aussie girl raised with surf and yearlong sunshine, the chilly winds find their way through my dozen layers of clothing and pierce me to my core. While I love the seasons, I’m almost certain winter hogs half the year. My retinas need more sunlight.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Bravo! to Bravo Network and Executive Producer Sarah Jessica Parker for "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist. Critics are worried it might prove too highbrow for a network whose audience enjoys the many incarnations of the "Real Housewives" of wherever. I hope they're wrong. Art is always subjective. I find myself arguing with the resident judges as they at times massage their critique to suit a certain modus operandi.
Last week the competitors were grouped into two, their mission, to create a piece of public art for a vacant lot in lower Manhattan. The "blue" group consisted of boobalicious Jaclyn, OCD-brilliant-heartthrob Miles, anger-issue Eric and perpetually-in-a-crazy-hat Peregrine. Their work was superior, far superior to the "red" group, but infighting between Eric and the others cost them the challenge. It's funny because resident judge Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn was frank about the red group's neophyte installation calling it bad 70s art, but then backtracked in an attempt to prove the blue team the losers. The challenge was to create a compelling piece of art - something the blue team succeeding in doing. Why should they be punished for a lack of team cohesion? It's rare for true artists to be able to work in a team and under such extreme pressure. Regardless, I love this show!
August 14th is the date of the exhibition, unveiling the show's winner at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. I'll be there rooting for Abdi and Miles. And if Miles can show another flavor besides being the "comfort guy," my money's on him.