Every time I come across a train song in my collection I think to myself "I really need to make a mix CD for Audrey" who is the biggest train geek I know. Finally got around to it , abetted by iTunes (I can search on the word TRAIN) and memory (a bunch of these were on CD, not MP3). I avoided a few "easy hits" (Springsteen, Johnny Cash) and I am sure I missed a bunch. But it's a pretty eclectic mix, IMHO.
Are you particularly unhelpful and condescending to all your customers, or just the women? Here's my story.
I get a call this afternoon from the yoga studio. A national yoga teacher is coming in to town, and a week after I inquired as to his A/V needs (and being told "some place to plug in an iPod"), I get the word - he needs a lavalier mic. For tomorrow. Too late to order something online - we have a very high end wireless headset (one of those thin wire systems they use for theater) but hey, we can get him a lav, no problem. The studio owns an Electro-voice wireless rig, I hoarded (from the "to be tossed" pile at the studio, that's how I roll) an Audio-Technica rig, and I own an el cheapo NADY rig. If I could score a lav mic for any of those, I'd be set.
I wander over to the Guitar Center website, and find a whole pile of low cost wireless lav set-ups - a good 10 or so under $200. So I decided to truck over there, might just be easier to buy an entire rig. Called en route, and was told by the dude $300 - $600, and when I asked about the lower cost ones from the website, was told "too much trouble to stock those". OK, I'll ride over to Manchester anyway, see what they got.
When I got there, I said "I have three wireless belt packs from three different vendors, do you sell mics?". "No, they are device specific, we don't stock those", and then proceeded to show me a Shure system for $300. As I scanned the display rack for options, I see an Audio-Technica lavalier mic hanging there for $99. "What about the Audio-Technica mic, right there?" must have been a blind spot because the guy refused to see it at first, then when he did, worked hard to convince me it would not fit my Audio-Technica belt pack.
It does, however, fit, and works just fine.
That did not stop him from offering me the $17 service contract (no thanks, I know those things are gravy for the shop) and then cutting that it half (again, no thanks, its a mic we'll be lucky to use 4x in the next two years).
::sigh:: this seems to happen every time I walk in the door over there. GSWF - Guitar Shopping While Female. Never mind that I was patching together MXR effects boxes before the kid at the desk was born.
Just checked, and I guess the Guitar Center has opened a shop in Southington (sad for the Music Shop, one of my favorite little gems). With any luck the staff there will be a bit more helpful, or at least I'll burn less gas to get annoyed.
Took a few hours last night to go see Robin Lane at Whole Foods Glastonbury.
Now, I last got to see Robin Lane perform around 1981. I was a student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) which had a pretty decent rotation of musicians and performers in my four years there. Robin Lane and the Chartbusters was a regionally hot, on the verge of breaking through kind of group, along the lines of Blondie or The Pretenders. I picked up their self titled debut album on vinyl, which followed me around for many years, until one final vinyl purge (everything went except for Springsteen and the Roches - strange bedfellows to be sure). But a few years back I picked this album up on CD.
Thinking back, I spent many hours with this album cued up on the turntable, figuring out the chords and the riffs. I must have worn that record out because to this day I still remember the lyrics and I bet if I spent a moment, the chords and riffs are still in my fingers. It was perhaps my first experience of connecting to a local musician / band that is perhaps not on the national scene, a habit that has lasted throughout my life.
Here's Robin Lane and the Chartbusters at the Rathskeller (aka "The Rat") in Boston, a venue far cooler than the WPI gymnasium.
So, Robin Lane came to Whole Foods. She's been off the grid for many years, but has a new project called Song Bird Sings, subtitled "Healing Trauma One Song at a Time". Their mission:
It is Songbird Sings mission to transform those silenced by domestic
violence enabling them to give voice to their experiences and emotions
through songwriting and creative collaboration in a safe, enjoyable, and
structured environment. To help participants to learn inner strength
and resilience as they come to trust themselves, and others, while
building support systems between those with a shared history of trauma.
It was such a pleasure seeing and hearing Robin. She lives in Western MA and plays house concerts and small gigs, and I hope I'm able to attend (or perhaps even held to arrange) one in the future. She did a mixture of old rockers and newer, folkier numbers, as well as some songs from the A Woman's Voice album. (which I picked up at Whole Foods but the CD was not in there.....grumble). Abetted by bass player John Pfister, a couple of Whole Foods percussionists (Callem and......?) and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Chen from Them Damn Hamiltons (on keyboard), she was...in a word, delightful.
Here's Robin in the 21st century:
It was a wonderful look back into my past, fondly remembering my misspent youth. Robin and I - we are aging well. As a bonus, my fellow Guinea Pigs Sandy and Dan dropped in for a listen - it was sweet of them to come share the music and my passion for this particular artist.
I recall a moment watching the world trade center towers falling and thinking "50,000 dead". That was my mental calculation of the number of lost souls on that horrible day based on a quick web search of the occupancy of the buildings and the timing of the attacks and subsequent collapses. And so when the lost and missing were finally tallied, and the number was well below 10% of that, there was a part of me that was kind of relieved.
I feel a little bit that way about Boston right now. It could have been worse, much worse. Not to say that the deaths are not tragic, that the injuries, so like those experienced by US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are not horrific. But the scent of a greater tragedy averted are in the air. A person of interest was reportedly stopped at a security checkpoint, perhaps attempting to get a bomb into a more densely packed and damaging area. A Penske rental truck was turned away at a checkpoint - part of the plot or not, the security was doing its job. And the choice of targets was about as densely packed with first responders, with police and EMS waiting for the finishing runners armed with supplies, wheelchairs, and stretchers, as one could image.
I've never lived in Boston, but it is my "home town" as much as anyplace - I did the morning Red Sox game / marathon thing once in high school, I've gone to games, gone clubbing, done the tourism thing, visited yoga studios in the neighborhood of the bombing. I've worked right downtown doing freelance work, I've got friends who live in the city.
It's time to sit back and wait. The crime scene folks will find stuff - surveillance video, spectator photos and videos, pieces of the bombs exploded or no. The threads of a narrative will come together in this social media and security conscious age, and we'll know the story soon enough.
I am most disturbed by the "you messed with the wrong city" meme, knowing how easily such righteous anger can translate into jingoism, bullying, racism, xenophobia.
Remember that time we went to war with a country that had nothing to do with the terrorism attacks on our country, based on anger, stupidity and manipulation? Remember how much that war has cost us in lives, in treasure, in reputation?
After a full week of being down for the count (flu / head cold / chest cold / laryngitis), I ended up getting a burst of spring cleaning / home renewal this weekend. I'm a list maker, and the chore list got worked over pretty well, with a lot of added items as the spirit moved me.
Living room completely cleaned including carpet stains, carpet edges and corners, tore apart the leather couch with the vacuum and then treated the leather, and move, dusted and cleaned all the electronics (tv, stereo, cable box, DVD, etc.)
Kitchen cleaned, floor swept and mopped, and a new pendant lamp fixture and dimmer installed, replacing a never-used ceiling fan.
Bedroom and yoga room completely cleaned, including the dreaded flat surfaces atop dressers and bookshelves. Assembled a wire shelf for the bedroom, reorganized a linen cabinet.
A myriad of small projects - planted four pots of Pansies for the front stairs, bought a new doormat, moved a few pictures, organized CDs, bills, installed a digital thermostat in the bathroom.
Still a good sized list remains, which I will continue to pick off. But spring cleaning, yeah, I've got that covered.
For whatever reason, this has been the winter of my discontent. I've been sluggish, malaise-filled, depressed, down, dour, cranky, stuck - you name it, that's been me. There's a lot in there - financial stress, aging, feeling the loss of being childless in a community that is spilling over with infants and toddlers, feeling the lack of relationship amongst so many coupled friends, feeling the lack of a queer community.
And suddenly, April 1, for no good reason, I've felt my load lighten. Maybe the trickster spirit of April Fools has come along to give me a boost. Maybe the warmer weather, and promises of more to come, have freed up some space.
I've decided to make April a month of change and commitment - committing to tweeting 30 days of gratitude (and using that in my practice and meditation throughout the day), committing to 30 days of practice at the studio (starting with Barbara's power class this evening at 6:00 pm). I've opted out of directly and specifically changing my food / eating, because, frankly, I've done that, over and over. I think I'm too resistant, and too savvy to buy in to any sort of eating change - I've done weight watchers (multiple times), 21 day detox, fasting, mindfulness based eating awareness (an eight week series), a week retreat at Kripalu, six months of teacher training with a heavy whole food component. Nothing changes. So.....maybe it's time to distract myself, to look elsewhere for change, and hope the food / eating component comes along.
It's hard to say if things will stick, but it's been a good day. I've cleared up a few financial messes (having misplaced or lost a few key credit / debit cards, now replaced. I've got my April 1 billing out promptly. I've cleared out a whole laundry list of little website issues that have plagued my big web client: a drop down menu that was not touch / ipad friendly, a pile of little encoding issues, some CSS that was wonky across platforms, a couple of page features that clients wanted but I had not figured out until now.
So....looking ahead to a good month. I feel a lot like little Jessica!
I have this issue with people. I'm pretty sure I have exceeded my mind's capacity to retain and remember all the people in my life.
Let's see - I teach yoga. There are perhaps 60-80 people I see each week, some weekly, some occasionally, some just once or a few times. I never really get to know their names; when a regular comes in early and I can sneak out to the desk I can match a name to a person, but I'm not all that good at keeping it all straight.
Then of course, there are all the yoga teacher trainees. 48 this year, 35 or so in 2010, 2011, 2012. That's a good 120 folks to remember - and I really do struggle with many.
I move through other worlds - music (my other members of my band, the Guinea Pigs, belong to the same UU church and many of our fans come from there), ballooning (probably 50-60 people), camp (250 or so, with a broader community of past campers), and my folk festival (perhaps a core of 40 key volunteers, with another 100 or so I ought to remember but usually do not). Add in musicians I meet, folks in the local arts, cultural and GLBT worlds, folks in the greater spiritual / yoga world. And of course, my extended family - a child of two roman catholics, I have close over 50 first cousins, and now they are breeding. It's way too much.
I have (as of this morning) 466 Facebook friends, and that's even a bit low, since I (a) almost never reach out to friend people myself and (b) accept friend invitations only from folks I have actually met in real life.
Last night, at our gig, a woman who clearly knows me came up, grabbed a hug. I had no idea. Turns out she is a friend of the other band members (goes to UU church), has a yogic name (shakti) and is on the merch crew at Falcon Ridge. I had no freaking idea.
This is a problem. Not sure how to deal with it, but it's annoying, inconsiderate, and kind of rude.
Casting about for something to watch on Netflix streaming, I stumbled across this 2011 gem. How I missed it when it came through theaters, I am not sure, but so happy I found it. Movie website here. Kumare (the guru, not the movie) website here. IMDB page here.
Was not sure what I would get. The premise - american born, Indian heritage film-maker Vikram Gandhi, who appears to have done a bit of searching (and yoga) in his life, decides to do a little social experiment. Creating a spiritual teacher or guru, Kumare, out of thin air - he begins to move through the world (and more specifically, through the Phoenix AZ area) as Kumare and see what happens. Along the way he encounters a fair number of yoga studios, seeker, followers.
Now, as a yoga teacher, I find myself surrounded by gurus and spiritual seekers who sit at their feet. It was *very* close to home on many fronts - the many yoga studios, the festivals and events, the various ashrams and communities. There's even a kirtan. Hey, that's me up there, playing guitar.And when a quite beautiful adherent in an unhappy marriage practically offers herself to him (he makes a reference to his bedroom) you can quite see how so many purportedly real gurus give in to the power. It's never quite stated, but one is left with the feeling that Vikram did not give in to this temptation.
And there is a lot of pretty sharp commentary and laughter here too - when one guru confesses that he sees nothing amiss with sleeping with beautiful young followers, yeah, we get that. When someone working with sound starts working over Kumare with a car buffer - it's a WTF moment. And yet, when Kumare visits a community of believers along the fringes (alien abduction and interplanetary channeling) he (Vikram) seems respectful.
Eventually, Kumare finds himself in the center of a circle of disciples or followers, and he begins (in earnest) the task of preparing his followers for his eventual "un-masking" - that is, to reveal himself and his deception.
It is a fascinating and amazing piece of legerdemain, and film-making. Abetted by two attractive assistants (and what guru does not have his/her close associates or confidants) and adopting an amazingly on target guru personna (simple clothing, long hair and beard, an ever-present staff, and a little woven suitcase that was adorable and ludicrous), "Kumare" teaches his truth - that he is not who he says he is, that there is an inner guru, that there is no guru, no buddha.
It's deep, metaphysical, and self-referential. It's funny, and sad, and heart-warming, and scary. I loved it. Loved it.
The most amazing thing was the transformation of Vikram himself - who begins to realize that he is a much happier, better person in his Kumare personna, and begins to truly care for and love his followers. He's not going to step out lightly - but agonizes over if and how to end his project. At one point he confesses that he actually sees and feels the "Blue Light" (a conceit he knows that he has invented). And when he orchestrates a "great unmasking" where he hopes to reveal his true identity, he's unable to do it.
Finally, there is a "tribal council" type reveal - in a large room all the followers watch a farewell video from "Kumare" and then meet the newly shorn, shaved, and westernized Vikram. You watch one follower run to hug him, another sneak out the side door, never to return. Out of 14 followers, 10 have remained in contact and friendly.
It's such an amazing look at the world of yoga, of spiritual seekers, of gurus. And I loved the way the films focus shifted from the perspective of perhaps attempting to unpants the false gurus to respecting communities, belief, and the path. One comment I found on Facebook discusses "The Trickster" face of god, and yeah. Trickster energy, in spades.
So, this is largely a rhetorical question
without answer but I feel compelled to ask it anyway. Why are there so
many people, myself included, with good hearts and souls who have so
much trouble finding someone with whom to walk on this journey of life? I
find it to be very frustrating.
Instead of responding there, I decided to spend some time mulling this over on the blog - part of my conscious attempt to keep social media from sucking the life force out of the blog!
First off, I think that some folks are simply incomplete without a partner. That incompleteness may be emotional, may be psychological, may be financial. But some folks are simply unsuited to live alone - and that both raises the incentive to couple, partner, and perhaps lowers the standards. Not that the found partners are substandard, but that things that might be deal-breakers or barriers for some are overlooked or minimized.
And I think that, for folks who truly need a partner to survive, who are incomplete uncoupled, there's a subtle signaling (similar to pheromones or color attractants) that gets put out there in a way that others do not. I have another friend who has had multiple relationships in the years that I have known her - and she rides the roller coaster of attraction, pursuit, commitment, and dissolution. It makes me kind of nervous to watch or listen, not sure I have the stomach for that. Yet she puts out a very honest, heartfelt "I'm available, I'm approachable" vibe that gets her noticed and gets her attention (from both genders, even though she is straight)
On the other side, I think there are folks who are pretty much OK alone. I'm one of those folks. I fill my life - with work, with causes, with hobbies, with interests - in a way that does not leave a lot of room for another. And the life I have created is valuable to me - I'd have to think long and hard about picking up and moving (for a relationship) or clearing the decks of enough things to make room for a relationship. A potential partner is competing not so much with all the others out there, but with the busy, vibrant life I've crafted alone. My last counselor asked "...what are you prepared to give up to be in a relationship..." and I have to admit that more often than not, the answer is "nothing"
I have what I call the aircraft carrier model of relationship - wherein the partners travel together on the big boat, and each flies off to their own missions and tasks, returning to the ship to refuel, recharge, unwind. I do not think I could couple with someone who was not as busy and engaged as myself - I'd be less available than such a partner might want; I'd be bored by someone without a vibrant solo life. The downside of that is that neither of us is putting all that much effort into finding the other; and neither of us has a lot of time to hang out in spaces dedicated to meeting and mating.
So...I need to just chill out on the whole relationship thing. It will happen. Or it will not. But in the meantime, much life remains to be lived.
Kate Bornstein has cancer. The good news, direct from the team of skilled doctors on her case, is that the cancer is curable. However, the treatment plan that gives Kate the best chance of beating cancer is incredibly expensive. Kate has spent the past thirty years helping the rest of us Stay Alive—now it’s our turn to give back. Let’s HELP KATE BORNSTEIN BEAT CANCER AND STAY ALIVE!
There's a GOFUNDME site established, here with the goal of raising $100,000 to help Kate pay for the treatment.
Kate has been a pretty formidable influence in my life, journey, and understanding of "the trans" - I, inexplicably and against all odds, went to see her reading from the newly released "Gender Outlaw" on Sept 29, 1994*. (who has a first edition hard cover version that Kate lovingly inscribed in crayon? This girl) It was the first time I met a trans person, in fact I was seated in a room filled with transfolk. It was terrifying and inspiring - I'd have to say that was the day I turned around and hugged the dragon that had been haunting and hunting me throughout my life.
I've gone to see Kate speak, read, perform perhaps a dozen times in the intervening years - and though I've occasionally disagreed with her on issues of tone as well as the details of traversing the world while trans - she's remained an inspiring and beloved figure in my life.
I could not give much, but I gave some. If Kate has touched your life, and you have a few bucks to spare, consider passing a few along.
* Where? Real Art Ways, in Hartford, of course. Is it any wonder this space remains one of my favorite places in the area?
I've been watching the Newington corner of the Berlin Turnpike and Rowley Street (heretofore the location of a kind of slimy bar / gentleman's club, adjacent to Stew Leonard's, LA Fitness, Toy's R Us, among others) - and this afternoon I noticed the signage going up for two new retail shops: Starbucks and Chipotle. A quick web search uncovers the contractor, JLN Contracting
Kind of excited to have a better quality mexican food alternative so close (Taco Bell, right across Rowley Street, is probably less excited).
Being something of a lone wolf without a lot of local dining out companions, I tend not to frequent the myriad of sit-down restaurants that line the Berlin Turnpike. Despite driving by several times a week, I have never actually stepped in the doors of: TGI Friday, Chili's, Outback Steakhouse, Ruby Tuesday, Plaza Azteca, Joey Garlics. I've eaten at Bertucci's, Puerto Vallerta, and the Olympia Diner in years past, but not in this recent memory.
But Chipotle is definitely some place I'll visit now and then. So yay!
So, we have a new pope. Or rather, THEY have a new pope.
A little background. I'm a former Roman Catholic. And my family was not simply cafeteria catholics, we were in, deep. I spent 12 years in catholic school, I served alter, I taught CCD, I played folk mass for years. My father was a deacon whose bridge partner was the monsignor, I was a lay eucharistic minister. I met my ex on the altar (she was playing music, and noticed me singing in the congragation), I was married by a bishop. I spent my honeymoon in Medjugorje, stalking the Blessed Virgin Mary. So yeah - hard core.
More to the point, I was the sort of little kid that the catholic church targeted for priesthood - bullied, learned, fey, gender non-conforming. Over and over throughout my life, I was approached - by priests, nuns, adults - with the question "have you considered a vocation?". Which is what the catholic church did with little proto-queer kids back in the day. It explains a lot of the sex abuse scandals, IMHO, with a bunch of repressed gay men in positions of power and access to young men. On the other hand, I suspect had I been born in the gender I now inhabit, I probably would have made a fine nun...I had mad crushes on most of the nuns in my life.
So.....fast forward to today. I'm adamantly non-catholic; I've been officially uninvited from partaking in the sacraments (thanks to an annulment that my ex sought, which resulted in the church peering rather closely at my gender transition). My issues extend past my own stuff - I would support married priests, women priests, LGBT priests, LGBT marriage, birth control. Pretty much the full litany of women's issues (although I'm not a fan of abortion, if I ruled the world it would remain legal but we'd track and reduce the number through birth control, education, and support for unplanned / unwanted pregnancies. And truthfully, my own spiritual quest has taken me way beyond christianity - not sure I can or will ever believe in the "one god, one savior, one path" aspects of most christian sects.
However - I am quite delighted to see this pope elected. A humble, man of the people (reportedly, he got on the bus with the other cardinals last night, rather than take the papal limo / motorcade) - he's most recently lived in a humble flat, taken mass transit, cooked his own meals. And today's news, he swung by the residence / inn where he had been staying to settle the bill and pick up his luggage. There is something of the buddhist in this new pope....and humble spiritual seekers of all flavors are welcome in my world.
And to my facebook and twitter fans / friends wailing and gnashing teeth about women's issues, GLBT issues, etc. - well, what do you expect, he's a faithful Roman Catholic and that's the church's policy - they would never elect a pope who believed otherwise. If you identify as Roman Catholic and those issues are important to you, get out. I believe the church will change only if / when it loses all the cafeteria catholics whose hypocrisy allows them to pay lip service on sunday and then go vote and live the way they want. If you are not Roman Catholic, it's not your problem. Get over it.....
Snuck over to Real Art Ways this evening to catch the Rob Lowe indie vehicle Knife Fight.
OK, I'm a big West Wing geek, recently Netflixed the entire series, and kind of missed Rob Lowe - his character Sam Seaborn disappeared without a very satisfying plot explanation (yeah he ran for the house on the West Coast, yeah, he lost....did he lose his return ticket?)
So here he is, looking not a lot older, a bit funkier and frayed (Lowe's character Paul Turner has more of a Josh Lyman vibe here than a Sam Seaborn vibe, witness the knapsack over the shoulder, as well as a pair of worn sneakers rather than italian leather loafers) - as a shoot from the hip political strategist with a small staff. Icing on the cake - Richard Shiff as a darker political operative. I was happy to give it a whirl, just based on these two.
The trailer for the film was a bit scattered and confusing. What's not clear there is that Paul Turner is working with three politicos - a Kentucky governor (was that really Erik McCormack?) - with an intern problem, a California senator (less sleazy, but with a massage therapist problem), and a CA doctor (Carrie Anne Moss) running an outsider campaign for governor. Somehow one gets the idea via the trailer that at least two of these are running against each other and it's not clear which side Lowe's character is on.
Confused that Carrie-Anne Moss seems to carry co-billing (at least based on the poster); she's kind of in the background through much of the film, and Jamie Chung's young operative in training character (Turner's assistant) is a lot more prominent in the film. And that energetic soft focus seems to carry through a lot of the film.
There's a lot going on here - perhaps too much for one film. The sleazy but on the right side of the issues KY governor's "stand by your man" wife is an old friend of Paul Turner, the CA senator is "the real thing" - a war hero and family man who is flawed but solid. The doctor / wanna-be CA governor spends 1/2 the film on the outside, pleading for a shot until Turner has a "come to Jesus" moment around a political strategy that went too far, and suddenly she's right up front. And Chung's character is in a lesbian relationship - there's a scene or two of her with her GF, it's clear she's in the closet professionally, and that little plot is left hanging out there unresolved. Why fold that in to an already thick and interwoven plot?
At the end, things wrap up, the spin doctor is back in business, albeit a little humbled and perhaps less sketchy in terms of tactics, and Chung's character decides she's gonna stay in the business. The resolution seemed a little unsatisfying. The lessons learned were slight, the repercussions as well, and whatever lines got crossed in this film will probably be crossed at some future election cycle.
Worth seeing? Definitely, with enough West Wing vibe to satisfy - but I'm kind of sad to say it looks like a short run - stopped by Real Art Ways for a short week and there were only a handful in the house on a Tuesday night.
One of my recurring dreams has been of high school. Invariably, I am walking the halls, struggling with my locker (unable to find it, forgetting the combination), struggling to remember the schedule (one of those "different class times every weekday kind of things"). A recurring element is that I have been skipping religion class (Catholic school) all year.
Last night's version was different. I seemed to be heading into Junior year, and I had transitioned over the summer. Found my locker, I had a green lock on it (a bleed over from my waking life) and I was putting a sticker on the front with my present name. I considered putting the trans symbol on the sticker, but thought better of it. The locker was unusual, larger size and configuration, and I had a pile of yoga blocks stashed in the bottom. The previous owner had been well organized and left me a small organized case with pens, binder clips, paper clips, etc.
Other parts of the dream included walking the halls, a little bit of flying (or rather, the ability to move by taking long, floating leaps that took me to the ceiling of the gym and auditorium). I recall meeting a few individuals, not sure if from high school or not, we were older and they had some struggles. And I remember it was the start of the year and I vowed to never miss a religion class.
Not sure what it all means, but it felt positive, as if I were making some changes, getting a chance to do things over again, correcting some past mistakes.
There are moments in ones life when a single act, a single coincidence, a small bit of serendipity can be seen to profoundly change the course of the future. If one is wise, one can look back and recognize these in the rear view mirror. If one is in tune to the grander cosmic consciousness, one can become aware of these moments in the present.
I had one such moment back in 2005. I was a bit adrift - having completed my Big Life Project, and looking for the next thing. My then partner, Zippy, and I were bike-riding through the industrial back roads of Hartford, West Hartford, and Newington, and I stumbled across a small building on Jansen Court - West Hartford Yoga. I was never particularly drawn to yoga; although several friends had suggested it over the years. And I had seen ads for West Hartford Yoga in the Hartford Advocate and other publications; but I had assumed it was somewhere over by the center, and way too toney for me. But here's this little building, a shack really, that was closed but seemed very approachable.
I picked up two pieces of paper that afternoon. First, a brochure for The Enlightenment Intensive (led by Shankara Newton) - I was drawn to a quote from the gnostic Gospel of Thomas (I had been reading Elaine Pagels) and eventually I made my way to an Intensive (well, to be honest, six) led by Shankara and others. The other piece of paper I picked up that day was the West Hartford Yoga brochure and schedule. And I noticed an Intro to Yoga series led by Kate Callahan.
Now, I had run into Kate in the acoustic music world - I think Colin McEnroe had her on his afternoon show on WTIC 1080; and I had gone to see her at the Pine Loft Cafe in Berlin. Her beautiful spirit and gentleness was enough to get me to my first yoga class.
Kate did not end up completing the series; she had to step back and my friend Carissa picked it up. But I did not need more than one practice to get it - I was hooked. So in a lot of ways - my yoga practice, my community, my spiritual growth, the many teachers, friends, and students I have encountered, and the many lives I have touched, are rooted in the seed planted by Kate.
So yeah, I was there last night when Kate and Friends played a special concert at West Hartford Yoga, now relocated to new digs on Brook Street.
Kate was joined by others. First, singers Cynthia Wolcott and Michelle Begley (also on drums), who were truly amazing. Cynthia and Michelle provided delicate and supportive harmonies for many of Kate's songs - not so much backing up as supporting and lifting Kate with each harmony. Kate's originals, so often reflective of her spiritual journey with themes of spirit, soul, choices, blessing, and struggle, were perfectly suited the beautiful yoga studio. But as wonderful as her originals were fleshed out with harmony, the trio really shined when then sang in more traditional choral harmony - CSN's "Helplessy Hoping" and the Wailin' Jennys "One Voice" were particularly powerful and beautiful. Here's a video of the latter: In addition to Cynthia and Michelle, Kate was joined by WHY fixture (and Little Ugly starlet) Kaia Pazdersky on violin, and percussionist Damon Honeycut, who was Kate's musical partner many years back. So it was a homecoming on multiple fronts.
It was such a beautiful evening of music. The room was filled with family, friends, and fans, many of whom have known Kate or shared her journey over many years. The music was exceptional (Kate has recently invested in a great sound system, run well by her beloved David) which saved me from being the audio engineer. I sat between my Kirtan friends Sharon and Virginia - and just soaked in the music.
Seems like spoken word performance / story telling is all the rage in these parts.
I attended the inaugural "The Mouth" at the Mark Twain House this past month; anything carrying Chion Wolf's imprimateur has got to be good. (and it was....) You can keep up with "The Mouth" on Facebook.
In addition, there's a weekly Urban Storytellers series at MCC on Main, Manchester. This is a great space (and not just because my beloved Guinea Pigs have a gig coming up, March 22.
And a last minute addition, the ongoing Other People's Stories series, held irregularly at La Paloma Sabanera in Hartford.
Finally, the twitter reveals a new series, Speak Up, to be held at Real Art Ways. The inaugural date for this event is Saturday. May 4, at 7:00 pm.
I'm a big fan of The Moth and Snap Judgement - so hopefully these things will do well. The quality of stories told at The Mouth was just steller, IMHO, so hopefully that is a harbinger of some good talent in the area.
Long before the Beatles met the Maharishi and the practice of yoga became a lifestyle choice, the spirituality of India influenced Western culture and thought. It already had made its way into the libraries of John Adams and Ralph Waldo Emerson and forever changed how artists, intellectuals and scientists viewed our world, our minds and our bodies.
This dynamic program, “American Veda” presented by author, spiritual counselor, and meditation teacher Philip Goldberg of Los Angeles, CA will explore this spiritual legacy with the help of videos of leading historical figures. Participants will experience spiritual practices they can take home with them to enrich their spiritual lives. This workshop will take place from April 12-14 and is for anyone intrigued by or interested in Vedic wisdom.
Wisdom House Retreat and Conference Center is an interfaith center which presents programs in spirituality, education and the arts and offers hospitality to the not-for-profit community. The center is rooted in Judaeo-Christian Wisdom tradition which supports the center’s commitment to sustainability and concern for contemporary issues. The Center is a ministry of the Daughters of Wisdom.
While Justice O'Connor's place in history as the first woman supreme court justice is secure, I found the interview to be mostly unsatisfying. Not sure if it's age or personality or what - but Terri was pulling teeth trying to get anything out of Justice O' Connor. There were some interesting bits about restrooms (it always seems to come down to the bathroom for all sorts of social movements), but there were so many opportunities to expound and expand upon historical cases, current issues, the dynamics of a court that has been quite polarized that Justice O'Connor just refused to entertain, could not or would not recount.
Why? She seemed as if she were still in "don't let anything slip out" mode required during the vetting and approval process for the court. Maybe she's got a "circle the wagons" attitude regarding the court. Or perhaps there is a political bias here, with the reliably liberal Ms. Gross (although she is an amazing, unbiased interviewer) pushing Justice O'Connor into a taciturn corner.
I was particularly cranky when Terri, broaching the period on the court when Justice O'Connor was arguably the swing vote, was reproached - Justice O'Connor's take on the phrase "swing vote" was that she "swung back and forth" and she most adamantly did not do that. Terri tried (mostly in vain) to explain the concept and draw her out before moving on. Are the justices (or specifically, this justice) so out of touch that such a fundamental concept of the intersection of politics and law on the Supreme Court is lost to her?
When I purchased my condo in the lovely city of New Britain, one of my big concerns was the heating system - specifically, electric baseboard heat. I've been living with gas heat for years - hot water baseboard in Waterbury, forced air in Hartford. I was concerned about comfort, of course, but mostly I've heard much about the high cost of electric heat.
Balancing the cost issues, electric heat brings one big benefit - it's
inherently zoned. Which means, instead of one thermostat for the whole
condo, or at best two (upstairs / downstairs) I have seven thermostats
in the place: living room, kitchen, master bedroom, spare bedroom (my
yoga room), two bathrooms, and the basement. So there's a lot of
possibility for fine tuning the heat - to heat just the spaces I
commonly use, and perhaps save some money.
When I moved in, all of the thermostats in the place were old-school electro-mechanical devices. There was no visible thermostat or feedback, the rotary dial was exceptionally coarse (with a resolution of 10ºF) , the calibration was highly suspect, and the heat control was simply ON / OFF. If the temperature dropped below a set point, the device turned on 100%, the space heated, and the device eventually turned off.
So my first thought was: Digital Thermostat. I found these Honeywell Thermostats at Lowes for about $25 a shot (cheap!) and replaced five of the seven thermostats (I left the bathroom thermostats in place, they are permanently switched off).
An aphorism I picked up in the corporate quality world was "If you measure something, it gets better" and the digital thermostats have a thermometer on them. So instead of simply "feeling cold" I can look and see the actual temperature. It's amazing how much things like my own health / energy / activity, as well as the ambient humidity and outdoor light level, affects my perception of temperature. So with a digital thermostat, I can now see that the room temp is 65 F (my usual occupied setting) and put on a sweater or sweatshirt. I think a lot of "heat creep" in electric systems comes from this lack of feedback.
In addition, the digital thermostats have a much finer resolution (1ºF) which means even if I decide to "crank the heat" I can restrict that to a few degrees. Finally, the digital thermostats use proportionate triac controls - which means that the heat is not simply ON / OFF, but appears to have four setting: ON / LOW / MEDIUM / HIGH. So as the temperature drops, the heat turns on LOW - and if that's enough to warm the space, it never gets past that. So the heat is a lot more even and therefore comfortable.
The electrical installation was pretty simple - easier than changing a light switch IMHO. The only complexity is that the older thermostats are DPST (Double Pole, Single Throw) - which is to say they break both lines (in my case, the heat is 240 VAC, two hot lines). The digital device is SPST - so one of the lines needs to be connected directly.
Now, simply adding digital thermostats still leaves a lot of room for energy waste - if I forget to turn the thermostats down. In addition, when I turn the thermostats down at night, I wake to a cold home. So I added programmable thermostats to key areas: the living room, the master bedroom, and the basement (where I have my office). This device is a bit more expensive: $50 at Loews. It has the same general functions as the digital thermostat, but adds a programmable function. This particular device permits four different timed settings (typically WAKE / LEAVE / RETURN / SLEEP) and can be programmed differently for weekdays (Mon-Fri) and weekends (Sat-Sun).
So I drop the house down to 58ºF at night (I tend to like a cool house to sleep; flannel sheets, blankets, and a bed dog keep me warm) and just prior to my normal wake-up, I heat the house up to 65ºF. During the day, I drop things down to 62ºF (I'm either in the basement working, teaching yoga, or out and about). I pop it back to 65ºF in the late afternoon, and back down at bed time. If I want it a little warmer, or happen to be hanging in the living spaces during the day, I bump the thermostat up confident that it will reset at the next timed change.
In hindsite, I'm retrofitting all the digital thermostats with programmable ones - I often leave the kitchen up at 65ºF by accident, and on more than one occasion, I've heated up the yoga room to 80ºF (for a warmer practice) and left it on for a day or more. So now the yoga room is permanently set to 55ºF and if I accidentally leave the temperature up, it will reset within a few hours. I'm transferring the old digital thermostats to the bathrooms.
Does it work? I think so. My electric bills (which include dryer, hot water, and range, as well as lights and heat) range from $80 (summer) to $250 (winter) - which is not too bad, especially considering there is no gas or oil bill coming. The total retrofit costs ($250 to go 100% programmable digital) - minimal really and I'm guessing the energy savings have covered that in a single heating season. And with electric heat, I do not need to maintain (and consider replacing) a much more finicky gas or oil furnace, fan, pumps, etc.
The downside - need to program the thermostats (not really that difficult, as compared to the timer on my front door light) and maintain the clocks (daylight savings time). But so far no real issues with power outages causing resets - I guess these things have some internal capacitor or battery backup, or store the program in non-volatile memory.