December 18, 2010

2nd Annual Santa Flight in Memory of Mike Bollea

Eleven hot air balloons rose from the back lot of Southington's Aquaturf Club this morning. The CT Lighter than Air Society (CLAS) sponsored a holiday balloon rally in memory of Mike Bollea, who passed away in March 2009.

Each year in December, Mike would don a Santa suit and fly his balloon, he and his crew handing out candy canes to the kids they encountered on their flight. In his honor, we recreated his flight this morning.

Most of us wore hats and festive garb, although we did manage to field two Santas and one Mrs. Claus. It was a beautiful day to fly, with most pilots heading northeast toward Camp Slopers and Timberlin Golf Course.

After the flight, a toast to our friend Mike, and a meet-up at the Plantsville truck stop for breakfast (not exactly haute cuisine, but a big enough space for the 30 or so pilots and crew)

At left, student pilot Kristen on the burner, initial ascent. Kristen bought a small basket a while back, with room for just two passengers. The propane tanks are suspended outside the basket, and the burner is affixed to a ring connected via cables and carabieners.








Below, the Berkshire Balloons team - pilot in training Kristen, pilot Robert, and crew Jude. The most entertaining balloon team in the state, bar none!



December 10, 2010

The Only Thing We Have to Fear.....

I'm going to break one of the cardinal rules of this blog.....

A young transwoman killed herself recently. You can see a video from the local ABC affiliate here, and read a news story posted on a local news radio site, here.

The flavor of the month, from the GLBT community, is bullies, and this story drops right in there. I posted a few things on Helen Boyd's message board, My Husband Betty, and this has gotten me torqued up enough to repost out here in public, which I usually avoid, ironically because I fear a different sort of bullying, coming from within the queer blogosphere.

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I watched the video. And nowhere in there did it say that Chloe was actually, you know, bullied. Over and over, the refrain was repeated....she FEARED being bullied.

"Overall, her peers accepted her for who she was....but she was still terrified of being bullied for coming out."

"She struggled with fears of harassment and abuse."

"Who wants to see a young man walking down the street with a dress on.....in his eyes that was the worse fear...."

"Her family said Chloe's death mirrors that of other teens who have committed suicide due to bullying...."

And some wisdom from step-dad "...that's what we are creating as a society, we are creating this incredible cloud of fear for these individuals..."

And going back to the print article:

"And while he wasn't outright bullied, Murphy says the pressure to fit into society grew increasingly heavy for Justin."

The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself - apparently.

Look, I get bullying. I was not out as trans, but I was the smart kid, the nerdy kid, the unathletic kid who lived in fear for most of my youth. Fear in my case meant occasional incontinence - so you can imagine how popular I was when I was young. I guess I had the wrong roles models; it never entered my mind to kill myself. Or maybe I grew up so marginalized and used to being on the fringes that gender transition was not that big a deal.

And I get fear too - I was raised with fear. Thankfully, by the time I needed to transition, I had dealt with my fears - "I do not want you to get hurt" was fairly debilitating throughout my youth and young adulthood. Dating = fear. Moving out of state = fear. Marriage = fear. Taking career risks = fear. Flying overseas = fear. Stepping into a hot air balloon = fear. Visiting NYC = fear. By the time I decided to transition, I guess I had enough practice dealing with fear that I could ignore the internal messages.

Getting back to the whole idea of suicide contagion, let's look back to the print version of the story:

Dempsey says Justin "Chloe" medicated with marijuana, but that, unfortunately, fed the depression rather than eased it.

Following graduation from Buchanan High in 2009, Justin moved north to Eureka, where Dempsey says he found a close-knit circle of loving and acceptance and "was able to become more of 'Chloe'."

And the difference in perspective was remarkable when "Chloe" was able to express herself more freely. Dempsey says, "There was friendship, there was peace, there some happiness, and she loved that."

Justin slowly began to dress as "Chloe" while living in Eureka but lacked the confidence to do so outside the safety of home. Murphy says the process to fully transform into "Chloe", which could take 10 years or more, began to take its toll which became "really overwhelming" with regard to the already prevalent anxiety and depression.

So, Murphy proceeded to set up therapy sessions for "Chloe" but despite seeing several therapists, her outlook grew more grim. Murphy says she was completely hopeless "...like there is no way this is ever going to happen for me, so why am I here."

Seems (to me) like a kid already struggling with depression and addiction, faced with a pretty daunting life project, decided to end it. But instead of facing that reality, we blame bullies - it took about 24 hours for this sad story to be spun into the flavor of the month, bullies did it.

What is really sad is (a) that, looking at her photo, she seemed to have nothing to fear. Really quite beautiful. And (b) her family and the media seems to have ensured that he will be remembered as the son they lost (photographs, names, etc.), not the daughter she was becoming.

Look, I want young people to stop killing themselves. But my fear (there's that word, again) is, that the more we honor and mourn these kids as helpless and powerless victims, following a logical pathway in response to external stimuli, the more they are going to follow that script.

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November 28, 2010

Social Media

Social Media has been on the table the last few days.

At Thanksgiving, my sister's use of Facebook to keep tabs on her eldest (1/2 a country away as a college freshman) was bantered about - her son refuses to friend her, although has let in an uncle. So she keeps in touch via text message and skype. We were teasing her as a "stalker" although my niece used the perhaps trendier word creeper. She's not really that much of a helicopter mom, but a mom cannot help herself. We were laughing at what our mom would have done had she had access to such technology when we were in school - no cell phones even back then, and no land lines in the dorm, so we had to rely on the catch as catch can payphone in the dorm hallway.

Then at the reunion, a clear line of demarcation between those who have embraced social media (a handful) and those who have not. Interesting. I'm on the cutting edge, I suppose, at least for my age group (surely not in general) - part of my work involves staying abreast of such things for tourism and small business concerns, I've been blogging in one for or another since 2002, and have had an online presence (personal essays, business) long before that. And my social network skews younger and hipper - folks without land lines, who text first rather than call, who have less concern about privacy.

Being self employed helps - my clients come and go, but I am not wholly dependent on one entity for financial survival. So a lot less concern about propriety and discretion. And in some ways, all of my online presence is a marketing campaign for my brand - my self. My music, my balloon chasing, my yoga teaching, my writing - all of these little bits of renaissance me stirred into one gumbo.

In some ways perhaps I am a bridge figure, between we oldsters coming to terms with the new media, and the young guns who do not know anything different. Not fully embracing the technology but exploring it's capabilities and seeding the potential within my generation.

Reunion

Last evening was an overdue (31) reunion of the Marian High School class of 1979.

We've been reuniting sporadically over the years. 5 and 10, surely. Not sure if we had a 15 - if so I did not make it. We did a big deal at 20 (I was in attendance, probably right on the cusp of my big life change). And now here we are at 31. Can it have been that long?

A reasonable turn-out, 45 or so pre-registered out of a class of 160 and a few dropped in, but that (I think) includes a handful of spouses and SOs. Kudos to the folks who planned this (Dawne, Eileen, Jacqui....you rock!). It was nice to see old friends and schoolmates.

Always a little disappointing regarding who did not show - a lot of what might have passed for my posse (or at least the clump of kids I knew best, by dint of taking similar classes) were absent. Going through the yearbook now - Nancy, Keats, Mary, Jeff, Winifred, Claudette, Joyce, Rich, Kevin, Mike, Andrea, Cheryl, BJ, Maura, Jim, John. All you guys were missed, by me at least.

A few random observations. A couple of my classmates could have walked out of their yearbook photos and into the reunion - Dan, Kevin, Lisa, Marcia - you guys are timeless. Pushing 50 and you look like kids! Others seem to have grown a few inches - almost as if high school was diminishing and somewhere along the line they figured life out and grew into themselves - people you want for friends. Others have aged a bit but still bringing their spirit and energy forward from high school to now. And a handful changed quite a bit - often for the better. The women especially changed hairstyles and fashion, or grew into themselves.

All in all, the class seems to have done very well - lots of kids, interesting careers and lifestyles, lot of great energy. One might suspect a bit of selective filtering (the folks who made a point of coming were happy to be seen) but on the other hand, perhaps those missing have amazing lives that they were not willing to step away from for the reunion. So let's just call us a typical cross-section and say "bravo!"

Although "Most Changed" was not one of the class superlatives to be elected (thanks for trying, organizers!), I nevertheless accrued a significant write-in vote. Kind of hard to top my journey in terms of changes. Tee hee.

A lovely time. Thanks for your kind words everyone. I'll try not to be a stranger going forward.....

November 12, 2010

Long Time No Post

Yes, I am still here. No I am not posting much. Quick updates:

1) My engineering work has been a bit too busy (overloaded) which has kept me from too much recreational web geekery (including the blog)

2) My yoga teaching / practice is still chugging along. Teaching 2x a week at the studio, 1x a week at Bristol adult-ed, and subbing regularly. I am working with a fairly chronic shoulder / upper arm issue that has kept me out of full chaturanga, of late, but does not impact my practice too much other than that.

3) Guinea Pigs are also making some progress, with a few gigs this month, and a soon to be available EP / CD with 7 original songs.

4) I'm clearly in a bit of a writer's block (or whatever the engineering equivalent of that is) with a few projects overdue and hard to get cranked out. However, I find that when I am stuck with something, I tend to get a lot done. A lot, in this case, means a complete cleaning of my office (it has become an almost civil place to work, it was turning into a bit of a cave) as well as the rest of my domicile. I've actually had folks over to hang out and visit - almost unheard of.

5) Went to The CT Forum last evening (Education) which was enjoyable. Even if I went with a teacher...

6) Have gotten a bunch of movies in recently - between Real Art Ways (Freakonomics), Bowtie / Cinema City (Waiting for Superman, A Social Network), and Netflix (The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, among many others).

7) Getting regular walks in nature with the dog. Getting out balloon chasing pretty regularly. Finding it hard to believe that it is mid November already. The weather, remarkably, remains quite temperate.

Will post more regularly, I promise. For now, off to bed.

October 12, 2010

And another untimely death....

This in relation to a story about a 19 year old gay male who killed himself after attending a city council meeting, where a gay pride proclamation was approved. Gay Teen In Oklahoma Takes His Own Life. News story on the Dallas Voice, here. The city council meeting, all 4 hours, here.

A member of the community exhorted us to "...write about it on your blog or Facebook page...."

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Anyone actually sit through the 4 hours of council meeting, posted online?

I scrolled through, and seemed like there were a lot of folks in favor of the proclamation - it was far from an overwhelming shit-storm of hate. One of the comments on the linked Dallas Voice website notes:

The council voted in favor of supporting this proclamation and 24 out of 40 citizens stood up and spoke in favor.

24/40 = 60%; if 60% of our congress were in favor of ENDA or gay marriage or repealing DADT, those things would all be law.

It sucks that a young gay man chose to kill himself. But I personally believe that the media spotlight and canonization of these young people makes it MORE likely, not less, that the next suicide victim will choose death over life. If one is feeling particularly worthless or empty, knowing that one will find fame and purpose in death seems to me as good an incentive to die as any.

I've noted before the phenomena known as suicide clusters, and although these generally happen in a geographic area (a city or school), I see no reason in this connected society why they do not happen in subcultures rather than geographic communities. There is a lot of information out there about this issue, but some quotes from the piece linked above:

"We know from studies that have looked at the impact of the media that there is something called the 'dose-response association.' So the size of the increase in suicides following a suicide story is proportional to the amount, and the duration, and the prominence of the coverage."

There are ways that the media can cover a suicide that can actually help mitigate the risk of additional suicides, says psychiatrist Paula Clayton, medical director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, who regularly advises the media on how to report on a suicide. For example, they should report on the many complex factors that may have led up to the suicide and emphasize that 90 percent of people who kill themselves have mental health problems.

Clayton cautions, though, that using details about a suicide can increase the risk of suicide clustering. "Don't talk about the method, or show the place where the suicide occurred. And don't glorify it," she says.

It's a pity this young man did not find a reason to celebrate 24 people standing up for the proclamation, to celebrate the city council approving the proclamation, and have a social network to go have celebratory pizza with and rip the haters apart.

So no, I will not blog or post to facebook or increase the media footprint of this sort of event. Because there is another GLBT youth sitting out there right now feeling unloved and unimportant, and that young person might just decide that, like this young man, he or she is worth more to the cause as a beloved martyr than as an obscure, lonely youth.

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Yeah, I know, I lied. I just blogged about it. But I do so in the hope that the community, the activists, the people working with queer youth stop turning these kids into martyrs, into saints, into beloved, admired, role models. We're making it easier for these kids to decide to pull the trigger, folks. As John Gorka once noted "...people love you, when they know you're leaving soon....." (Gypsy Life)

I do admire the It Gets Better project, started by Dan Savage and his partner, Terry. Because it does get better.

October 11, 2010

Unfortunate Icongraphy

I've been watching (for reasons as yet unknown) Ken Burns' Civil War series on Netflix. The other night, watching the first episode (The Cause) I stumbled across two resonances with the present climate of political unrest.


An illustration of a southern protest, where "...Lincoln was burned in effigy...." is focused on a monument bearing a familiar flag.


A few minutes later in the episode, this quote, from the Charleston Mercury "The tea has been thrown overboard, the revolution of 1860 has been initiated."

Whatever one feels abut the Tea Party, I find it interesting (and somewhat unfortunate) that the iconography that has grown up around this movement is rooted (wittingly or not) in the images and language of the secessionist south.

September 23, 2010

A Beautiful Mind

There is a scene in the Russell Crowe flick A Beautiful Mind where Crowe's character John Nash is portrayed as being enmeshed in numbers. I feel like that right now.

I'm digging in to a new project - setting up a ticket ordering system for website clients. There are a LOT of ticket combinations / permutations - 100+ operating days, 7 departures per day, and lots of options: class of service, type of passenger, etc. Right now we are at 5000+ "products" to be sold, organized by type, month, day.

It's becoming quite a project. It's not physically possible to load up all that data manually so I am cranking into a spreadsheet to make it all happen. So my mind is buzzing with formula, spreadsheet functions, and little tricks and bits of cleverness to make it all happen.

I could actually do this full time - my mind gloms onto this stuff like a piece of chewy fudge - tasty, tactile, irresistible. So if I'm a bit distracted for the next few weeks, you'll know why.....

September 17, 2010

Pterodactyl


Walking Elo at Deming-Young Farm this afternoon, a winged creature swooped across the field. I though canadian goose at first, but the profile was wrong - seemed almost prehistoric with a long thin tail. Turns out it was a Great Blue Heron. Beautiful and awesome.

September 16, 2010

Becoming a Teacher

Yesterday, I taught my final Wednesday morning All Levels class. I took over this class last winter, as one of the studio rock star teachers needed to give up the class. Class numbers immediately dropped, and those who remained were palpably dubious - who is this woman; she's not the teacher we want. For weeks, I felt on the verge of losing the class. But yesterday was nearly a full room - 20 bodies and spirits, I have built that class up slowly over the past 6 months, even through the traditionally slow summer. My students were cranky again - not because I was stepping into the room, rather because I was leaving. It was a very affirming experience.

I'm trying not to be attached - I'm simply slipping over to a Monday morning class, a shift planned last spring before I seem to have hit my stride, making room for another teacher on Wednesday. I'll build up Monday as well, I am sure.

As I look at my calendar this month, I see a string of yoga classes that I have taught or am teaching. Between my own classes, a string of subbing for others, a free intro class, and my Adult Ed class starting up, I've taught 9 out of 10 days in a row this month. I've also picked up a private session this week.

I've been teaching for over two years now, and I seem to have turned the corner on something this summer. I'm not the new kid on the block anymore, or the novelty - I seem to have grown into my teaching, to have seasoned.

It's a good feeling. And also something to be wary of - hoping to retain my freshness, stay out of pride and not take the privilege of teaching yoga for granted.

September 02, 2010

Slabs of Cheese

Last night, taking Elo out for a quick bio break after coming home after a Guinea Pigs rehearsal, I discovered in the yard between my place and the apartment building next door, two slabs of cheese.


These were unwrapped - one looked like a Stop n' Shop slab of sharp chedder, the other some sliced swiss. I picked them up and tossed them last night, but pulled them out today to recreate the scene of the crime, for my Facebook friends. Hard to wrap your mind around slabs of cheese appearing in your yard.

I'm befuddled about this cheese.

I could understand wrapped cheese - someone bringing home the groceries and things fall out of the bag. I could understand rough chunks of moldy cheese - an animal gets into the trash and drops some cheese. A few slices - somebody is decheesing a sandwich or grinder. But these looked remarkably fresh and almost as if they were dropped into the yard deliberately.

My theories:

a) Some domestic dispute next door that resulted in cheese being tossed out the window. Dammit, I wanted provolone!
b) The cheese is poisoned, and placed to take care of vermin, feral cats, or perhaps even Elo (he's a pretty good dog but who knows what might piss off somebody - his barking antics when we get ready for a walk, or perhaps a pissed off dog walker who Elo terrorized one time when he got off the leash.

In any case, I'll be keeping an eye on the lawn looking for future foodstuffs....

August 12, 2010

Dear Random Facebook Person....

.....who is now Facebook friends with 1/2 of my Facebook friends, but who I have never met. Here is my Friending Policy: At least one meaningful, in person encounter before I Facebook friend, please.....

It's a little like a wave....you watch this heretofore unknown person "friending" your friends, first one, then two, then 6 or 10. And then they decide that I am worth friending. Almost invariably, this is a person who is trolling for a network to sell or promote something. No thanks....

New Media vs. Old Media

A not so happy story from down in Essex - there was a fire at the CT River Museum last night. The Middletown Press seems to have the best coverage so far: Fire at Conn. River Museum may have destroyed historic artifacts

One of my clients is the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, so I'm familiar with the CT River Museum as a tourism partner - which drew my attention last night. I did a bit of web surfing, dropped by Twitter, and watched the 11 pm news. WTNH's Jamie Muro was on site, but was not able to get close enough, quickly enough to catch the fire on video.

The Middletown Press, on the other hand, rocks it in terms of integrating text, photos, and video, and really documenting the heck out of this story better than anyone else on the web. Their coverage seems to be entirely generated by one reporter (Lauren Flaum), with a camera that captured video. WTNH - needing to set up a Sat Truck and Camera Crew, was unable to get close enough to really cover this as it happened (Mr. Muro noted in his first stand-up that he would have to walk over to see what was happening and would be back later in the newscast) - but Ms. Flaum (on foot, light, and mobile) from the Press got right in there, got some photos and video of the fire itself, and some eyewitness interviews.

Just an interesting example of "how the new media works vs. how the old media is limited"

And from the Press article: ‎"At one point as firefighters hammered away at the roof, a cluster of bats was disturbed and fluttered away into the dark night sky."

It's the little poetic touches....heh.

August 11, 2010

Staining the Deck

Spent a couple of days working outside - staining the deck on the back of my condo. As I came back from folk fest and was washing yoga mats, I noticed the deck was not particularly well suited to bare feet (rough surface, popped nailheads) so it was due.

Just the right size project - not too many hours, not too much major work. I pulled a warped bench apart for scrap, I drove in all the loose / popped nailheads, I scrubbed the deck down with prep solution. The railing was a bit challenging (lots of vertical poles / risers) and the outside needed a small ladder (borrowed from Zippy). One coat on most of the deck; two coats on the top of the railing and the deck itself. I stained the underside risers and supports but not the underside of the deck itself.

Although I live in a condo, it's sort of a hybrid (four units, the condo fee is minimal) so we do a lot of the little outside projects ourselves. I've noticed that the three other decks are in various states of stain / paint, so figured this was a "do it yourself" project.

Felt good to be doing physical work - although the engineering work is queued up. There is something to be said for having a project, digging in, getting sweaty, dirty, and a little sore - and then being finished. Hopefully, I'll be motivated to use the desk a little bit more....dining, cooking, hanging out.....

August 04, 2010

A Real Job

It's been a LONG time since I had the sort of job where one drives to the office in the morning, sits at a desk for a more or less traditional workday, and drives back home at the end of the day. December 7, 1995, if I recall correctly.

Wednesday and Thursday, I headed down to work with a client as they launch ticket sales for a big seasonal event - traditionally the first few days of sales are pretty crazy (we sold close to 10,000 tickets today) and there are lots of opportunities to muck it up - overselling, not cutting off sales fast enough, losing orders, pissing off customers. Near as I can tell, today was a huge success, in part because of changes made this year vs. last, one of which was that I was onsite keeping a very close eye on internet sales, updating the website, tracking ticket sales, etc.

But goodness - is that what work is? Going in for 8-9 hours, sitting at a desk, taking a quick break now and then, framed by a 45 minute commute on either end? Yeah, there was some lovely banter and fun with co-workers, but we had the excitement of an "event" to keep things fresh - a 2-3 day push to answer the phones, move the tickets, and make things happen. I'm certain that a regular workday is far less engaging.

In any case, it's a nice change of pace (and I'll get to bill for my time) but you can keep that 9-5 workday, the organization gig. 15 years of self employment have spoiled me for corporate work.....

In the meantime, I'm off the grid again tomorrow.....

A Beehive of Activity

I'm camped out (figuratively, I better add that considering how many nights I slept in a tent in July) in Essex CT for a couple of days. We've starting selling tickets for the 2010 North Pole Express down at the Essex Steam Train, one of my clients.

My job:

a) Monitor online ticket sales, using some extensive email filters that drop individual orders into a folders by departure date and time

b) Shut off online ticket sales as needed

c) Keep a tally of online sales plus group / walk-in sales

d) Monitor the Facebook page for customer feedback and to post updates

e) be here "just in case" we have issues with the ticket sales, website, etc.

Last year, the ticket sales could best be described as a FIASCO - with the railroad folks unable to keep up with the flood of online orders. This year, by pulling the most popular Saturday sales offline (phone orders only) and bringing me in to track the remainder of online orders, things are going much more smoothly.

August 02, 2010

Digging Out

I am not a neat and tidy person. At my best, my living quarters might be described as functional, with an emphasis on efficiency as I stack yoga mats, musical instruments, and various other props for hobbies within reach.

But during July, my abode dropped off into utter chaos. Between a bunch of Guinea Pigs gigs, a week in Montana, and a week at folk fest, I had a lot going on. I headed out to Montana hustling to finish up work, not a lot of time to clean the house or pack thoughtfully. When I got back from Montana, the bags hit the floor, the laundry hit the machines, and I scurried to catch up on work in the 4 days before Falcon Ridge. Once more, I packed in a hurry and scampered out the door without much organization, and returned with a packed car full of camping gear, clothes, yoga props, and miscellany that was again dumped onto the floor. So as of last week, I had officially moved from clutter to squalor.

I've been slowly digging out. Last might, in between Mad Men commercials and afterwards, I slowly cleaned the kitchen - the table (a horizontal surface, fiar game for piling) is now bare save my coffee mugs and a vase of flowers. The dishes are caught up, the counters and stove clean, the floor swept and mopped. A few spots could use some organizing (the tupperware drawer, the spice bin) and some cleaning (the fridge) but in general, I have a livable kitchen.

I scrubbed the tub as well; and ran some drain cleaner down there (not sure if the slow drain was a clog or just the drain being flaky). The bathrooms are on the list for a thorough cleaning, as are stairs. I vacuumed the basement steps for the first time since I moved in, the stairs to the second floor get more attention but are still overdue. Living room, bedroom, yoga room. The whole place needs a good straightening up and cleaning, and I'm starting to nibble away at it.

I also tore out a useless (warped and too low) bench on the back porch in preparation for a good cleaning and staining; need to pick up a scrub brush and ladder from Zippy. Picked up a can of rustoleum as well for the porch railing (with $100 a month condo fee, we do a lot of the little upkeep ourselves, which is an OK trade in my book)

After a month of fairly frenetic activity, August seems to be a bit more quiet - a good month to get my living space neatened and cleaned, and perhaps think about painting, redoing the rugs, etc.

Haying the Field

Elo and I headed over to Deming-Young farm this afternoon for a walk, only to find three vehicles moving through the fields. Two mowers, and a hay baler, were making short work of the season's growth of grass.

It felt kind of sad - a visceral transition from the hopeful new growth of spring to the inevitable harvest. The long grass which had all season sheltered nesting bobolinks and red-winged blackbirds was now close shorn. Two opportunistic hawks circled the field, perhaps looking for unfledged chicks or small mammals left vulnerable in the hay piles, as barn and tree swallows swooped across the fields, perhaps feasting on insects shaken into the air.

The place seemed suddenly different, more civilized and less wild. AS the summer wore on, it was easy to get lost in a corner of the field, hidden from other dog walkers by waist high grass, the dogs restricted to a narrow pathway. Now, suddenly, the entire field seems accessible.

Still, some beauty and color in the midst of human endeavor.

July 27, 2010

Having Enough, Giving It Away

As an occasional customer of CD Baby (which has done a nice job of selling produce for the sort of independent, unsigned, musicians I listen to), this is both very interesting and inspiring.

Why I gave away my company to charity by Derek Sivers

July 26, 2010

Much Life, Bad Blogging

I find myself in the embarrassing position of not having blogged one bit in July, to date. Aack! Bad blogger!

I have excuses, however. I was in Montana from July 10 - 16, on a Yoga & Ceremony retreat at the Blacktail Ranch, with Heather Tiddens and Cheri Clampett. An amazing week - the land, our hosts, and these two amazing yogis, healers, and spiritual catalysts. I'll blog in detail in a bit. But while I was there, I was 100% deprived of cell phone and internet service, so it was truly a "get away from it all" kind of weekend.

In the days proceeding the Montana trip, I was scrambling to get ahead on work. And similarly, right after the trip I had a backlog of things on the to-do list that I needed to plow through. Then off to my second "getaway" - 5 nights in a tent on a farm in Hillsdale NY for the annual Falcon Ridge Folk Fest. As usual, I had a blast, and the weather was much better this year than in previous years (we got some rain, but only SOME rain, and no tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, day long monsoons, etc.) I shall blog as well about the folk fest.

On top of all that, Guinea Pigs stuff - a gig at Billings Forge on July 8th, and another coming up at Manchester Community College Farmer's Market on Wednesday, July 28th. Some rehearsals in there as well as a visit to the recording studio to tweak the bass tracks.

And now, back in my life for the first time in a few weeks. Work to catch up on, laundry as well, airing out the camping gear and stowing it. I got in a good practice with my teacher Barbara tonight - wonderful to be back in my body after so much rough service. Just puttering tonight - folding some laundry, straightening up, listening to my folk fest music purchases, looking forward to This American Life at 11....

I'll leave you with this snippet of folk fest life:

June 30, 2010

Summertime

The guy who plows the small parking area of my condo planted some stakes in the ground at the edges and corners - so he could see where to plow (and where not) in the snow. These hung around all winter, around the middle of April I pulled them out and piled them up near the trash cans. They've never quite made it out to the garbage.

Today, heading out for an ice coffee, I watched as three young boys (maybe 10 - 12 years old) collected the stakes and headed off down the street. One was on a bike, one had a few gathered in his arms, and the last boy was dragging his armload behind him, no shirt and his baseball cap askew on his head. It was a quintessential summer scene, right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

No idea what they were going to do with the stakes - play weapons? building materials? just something to mess around with? Regardless, this was a treasure trove to these little guys....

Oh, to be 12 years old, on a summer's day, with nothing to do but hang out, collect wood, and walk the fine line between entertaining oneself and getting into trouble.

June 28, 2010

Territorial

The farm where I walk Elo is patrolled by red-winged blackbirds, who are apparently nesting at the moment. As we walk by a nesting are, hidden in the tall grass, the male flies up to an overlooking tree, and quacks disapprovingly. And fairly often, they swoop down behind Elo or myself, at the last minute flaring the wings to brake and squawking loudly, driving off the potential threats. Per Wikipedia:
The Red-Winged Blackbird can be very aggressive while defending its territory from other animals and birds. It will attack much larger birds, such as crows, ravens, magpies, birds of prey and herons if they enter.[12] Only on a very few documented occasions have they been known to attack humans who encroach upon their territories during mating.[13]

Even when I am on the lookout for them, one of them will scare the heck out of me on a typical walk. Never seen them strike Elo or myself, and they tend to swoop in from the rear as we depart their territory, so it seems to be more of a show than anything. However, I did see one chasing, harassing, and driving off a hawk a week or so ago.

June 25, 2010

The Bulletproof End of the Spectrum

It's a little thing, I know. And I'd hardly notice it except that I am an NPR junkie who listens pretty much non-stop.

There's a promo running right now about WNPR environmental reporting, and the interviewee in the promo is talking frogs. Not exactly a direct quote, but he says "....frogs are on the bulletproof end of the spectrum; they spend part of their lives on land and part in the water, so they are exposed to lots of toxins and are at high risk as a result."

Now, Frog Mutations are a pretty well known (if not fully explained) phenomena. Frogs are pretty sensitive to environmental issues. So I would not exactly refer to them as "bulletproof".

Call me Miss Cranky Pants, but wrong word, dude! And "boo" to WNPR for putting that particular clip in their promo so we're subjected to the improper usage repetitively....

*** End of Rant ***

June 21, 2010

Who Needs a Webmaster?

I've recently started playing with a small musical group, the Guinea Pigs. The group has had a minimal web presence, so I've been slowly setting up a website. Instead of a formal website, I decided to simply set up a free blog, using Blogger technology. Here.

Pretty please with the blogger technology (this particular blog dates back to 2005, and I have not done much updating to the format or template). But nowadays, blogger lets you set up a text boxes, additional internal pages, a host of layouts and color schemes. It's all very easy to use, flexible, and powerful.

Would encourage any of my friends looking into a small website to promote a group, a small business, etc. to consider using blogger. It's fast, it's free, and it's pretty powerful!

Coventry Regional Farmers Market

The Guinea Pigs played the Coventry Regional Farmers Market yesterday. It was a totally fun gig!

I saw local friends - Jane (one of my yoga teacher friends), and also from the studio, Dayna aka the Crafty Scientist. She had a booth set up and was selling various soaps (and handmade fabric objects especially in skulls). Her logo looks like her, only evil - she seems rather angelic in person.

Another posse of friends wandered by, surprised to see me playing. Not sure why they missed the news (I was rather annoying at spamming my Facebook friends list with the gig). And when I asked them what brought them to Coventry, they informed me that it was a lesbian meetup or womyn's gathering of sorts. (Not sure if its formal, through some organization, or its just something that has organically developed). So I was amused and delighted that by the end of the afternoon, there were small clusters of earthy women hanging out - listening, chatting, occasionally dancing or singing along.

Feedback was very good from the patrons, vendors, and staff - we do a nice mix of music. People stopped to listen, danced a little, applauded. We only were asked to "turn it down" once.

Pictures here (my flickr account, I handed my digital camera to some friends) and here (drcope's flickr account, fewer but much higher quality photos)

Again, a total blast, hope we get out there again this season!

June 16, 2010

Showcase Preview

Got the list of showcase performers; and decided to do a little pre-fest screening and listening. A bunch of them have music on eMusic so I burned through my monthly allotment (and added a 50 song booster pack) to grab the latest from the following groups:

* Pauline Pisano
* Chris O'Brien
* Rachael Sage
* Wiggins Sisters
* Anna Vogelzang
* Tripping Lily
* Shannon Wurst
* Chris Velan
* The Folkadelics
* Wiggins Sisters

Got me a lot of listening to do pre-fest! It will be nice to have some familiarity with the artists - I'd be pretty stoked if, upon check-in, the merch person says "hey, I really like your stuff!"

June 15, 2010

Falcon Ridge!

It's that time of year again. I'm knee deep in Excel again, setting up a spreadsheet for the performer merchandise for the Falcon Ridge Folk Fest.

I took on the mantle of performer merchandise crew chief back in 2006, and spent some hours assembling a magic spreadsheet that tracks merchandise sales. Each artist gets a worksheet, into which I preload all the CDs and merchandise I can find. I've pulled the performer list from the website, and have just gotten a copy of the 24 new artist showcase performers.

Once on site, we update the spreadsheet as the artists come in, and then afterwards as they check out. It's all very efficient (and technologically a bit off base, in terms of the spirit of the fest) - but it's helped the festival organizers really get a handle on merchandise sales, help us get the artists paid and on the way after the fest, and makes everyone's life easier.

Will be a little bit of a crush for me this year - I'm heading to Montana the week prior to the folk fest for a yoga retreat. So trying to get a jump on things now.

No rest for the weary!

Certifiable

Buried in the busyness of the past few weeks is a milestone of sorts. On May 21, 2010, I was awarded my certification of having completed a 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training, recognized by the industry group Yoga Alliance. I'm officially a yoga teacher!

The certification itself is not so critical - I've been teaching for almost 2 years, I've never actually been asked for my credentials. All that being said, I teared up a bit as I picked it up. As I noted back in 2008 as I started my training, "It's By Far the Hardest Thing I've Ever Done". In a life of getting by, nibbling at the edges of things, taking the easy path, yoga teacher training was a real stretch.

So to have that piece of paper, to have official sanction and certification - pretty amazing.

June 14, 2010

Giving Away the Store

Finding a decent (and relatively simple, and oh by the way, cheap) CMS editor for my web clients has been a bit of a bugaboo - I used to use blogger which I hacked slightly, but they discontinued FTP support.

Finally, I sat down and did some digging, and came up with http://www.cushycms.com/ - which provides for simple CMS updates.

Took me about 1/2 an hour to set it up at my client's site: www.pflaghartford.org - both the calendar page and the news page are now editable, and I hope to resurrect a front page news bar which has ceased working.

Bout time...I've been kicking this particular can down the road for a few months.

June 13, 2010

Don't It Always Seem To Go....

....that you don't know what you've got ‘til it's gone....

Or perhaps, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder". I've finally returned from a week out of town. Much travel annoyance (check my twitter feed for the blow-by-blow) culminating in a not getting home Friday night and traveling Saturday. Did not really get much in the way of sleep on Thursday or Friday, so I've been pretty much zonked all weekend. Apologies to everyone who I've been out of touch with.....

But being away make me appreciate that which I have here....the condo, my dog, my bed, my fridge full of my food, my sink full of dishes, even the mess and the clutter. Hopefully it will encourage me to be a bit more mindful and thankful about it all.

The work went well; a week of equipment testing made for long days on my feet. But I snuck in three nights of yoga at Inner Fire Yoga in Madison, as well as a side trip up to Appleton to see some old friends. So all in all, a good trip. And I am not even too far behind going into Monday.....

That being said, the week ahead is a full one. I came back home to a Guinea Pigs (in future, GP) rehearal last night, and this afternoon, a few hours in the studio with Tim Mayock, recording GP originals. We prepped 7 numbers and were able to move through them all, recording two good versions of each. While I am sure there are lots of hiccups and oops moments in there, we all seemed pretty stoked about it. Hopefully the music will make it's way into the world sooner or later - not 100% sure how we plan to use these. It was pretty sweet to be in the studio (Northfield Music, in Granby) which is a lovely space, Tim was pretty wonderful. Looking forward to going back to clean some things up and see how the songs flesh out.

The rest of the week if pretty GP intensive - rehearsal tomorrow night, a gig on Tuesday (the Billings Forge Hog & Grog fundraiser), as well as Wed (a Park and Rec thing for New Britain), and finally, next Sunday at the Coventry Farmer's Market.

June 08, 2010

Bikram - Sort Of

Having taken it mellow yesterday with a pseudo-yin / gentle hybrid, I thought I'd check out a hot class which was for all intents and purposes, Bikram. Pretty much kicked my ass....

The good: a strong hot practice, 90 minutes of bad ass yoga. A lot of familiar postures (I have a secret crush on Bikram's triangle). With my cranky shoulders, the bikram sequence is not so bad - no chaturanga, no deep shoulder opening (like ostrich, archer, bridge). The balancing work was very challenging. The mini-savasana between poses was kind of nice.

The less good: Really a struggle to keep eyes open, use the mirrors, and keep my head in the right alignment after years of a different discipline. A number of the postures were difficult for my body. And I could see getting bored with the practice quickly; part of my yoga fix is turning off the mind and listening to the teacher - Bikram is a bit too measured and engineered; I'd be looking ahead, counting asana's, etc. once I became familiar with the sequence.

I think I'd also miss a lot of the variety of my present practices. No inversions. No arm balancing. No ab work. No vinyasa. No laying own twists, no deep hip openers. And no dance of sequencing, no teacher-student dialogue, no delightful discoveries of new postures, new sequences, no challenges.

But, a good practice once in a while, certainly a great chance to detox. I probably do not want to do that practice every time I hit the mat, and the different head and neck holdings would challenge me.

I'll probably hit Inner Fire Yoga one more time this week. Three nice practices while traveling for work is not bad at all!

Madison, WI

Out of town all week, working with a client in Madison, WI. Of course, I've been here since yesterday at 1 pm and we have not done much work yet - lot of hurry up and wait (in this case for access to the system we will be testing). I've caught up on email and facebook and various message boards; might as well blog.

Staying at a fairly low cost ($60 / night) Extended Stay Deluxe property - about 1/2 the cost of the regular place I stay in and fine for me. I like the kitchen; I went out and picked up some fruit and cereal for breakfast, some yogurt and pretzels for snacks, and some water and skim milk - a lot healthier than the typical morning continental breakfast (I never sem to be able to resist the eggs or a waffle now and then). And since I am here all week, having some space (couch, lounger, desk, kitchen) is nice.

Some would say "hey, your client is picking up the tab, why do you care?" but that's not how I roll.....

While standing in line getting peeved at the rental car place (which I will not name for fear of earnest follow-up, see below), I tweeted a few times of my crankiness, specifically about the desk clerk who was a little too chatty with customers given that he was the only one there and had a line of folks waiting. So you need to bump the dude up to a pick-up, fine. Do you really need to know that he drives a truck and what kind and does he like it? Oh and do you think I did not notice you selling me (woman) hard on the coverage while you barely mentioned it to the three dudes in front of me?

So anyway, later yesterday my tweets were apparently scoped out by the director of social marketing for this particular company, who wants to follow up. Oh fine. Censorship comes not from the iron fist of big brother but the velvet touch of a caring marketing department wanting to make things right. I'll avoid brand names in the future just to not have to subject myself to "making it right"

While I am in general cranky about being away, and also cranky about being in the belly of the corporate beast (truth be told, its a good company and not at all annoying) - I do have a local yoga studio nearby that is pretty good, and might take an evening's drive up to Appleton to visit with some friends one evening this week.

June 06, 2010

Good For The Gores

In this morning's Hartford Courant, a piece by Irene Papoulis

Good For The Gores: Facing Reality Of A Romance That Ran Its Course

Loved this piece.

Still, at times, remaining married can be a result of cowardice or the reluctance to deal with the upheaval that divorce inevitably brings. People sabotage their true spirits in the name of maintaining a false, happily married facade. Or they pursue their real interests in private, sometimes risking humiliating their spouses if they're found out.


I guess I've witnessed too many folks clinging to a marriage that no longer serves either partner, where the inertia or legal entanglement or dependency of the marriage keeps couples bound in discontent. Where the specter of social or cultural disappointment and disapproval prevents the individuals from growth and fulfilling their potentials.

One of the reasons I've never been too excited about gay marriage; I think many relationships do better without the ties that bind....

Pride (Not) and Gay and Lesbian Film Fest

Stopped by the annual Pride Fest yesterday at Bushnell Park. A quick circuit around the sundry booths and vendors, a stop by the bandshell stage (a band was playing, nobody seemed to be listening), and I was out of there.

I did see a handful of old friends and stopped to chat with a few. But for the most part there was a feeling of alienation and disappointment, that this did not seem to be a place of connection, support, or community for me. It feels like, if one has been around enough, one has had a falling out or a drifting away from pretty much every organization in the park. Bleah.

About the only significant interaction was an eager young woman with a clipboard, fishing for HRC members. I felt rather old and cranky as I explained that I had been an HRC member / supporter for many years but that I was unable to support them anymore due to their policies vis a vis trans issues. Interesting that her canned spiel described HRC as "the largest gay and lesbian advocacy organization" - clearly HRC is not even pretending to be GLBT or trans advocates these days.javascript:void(0)

Later, I headed to Trinity College for the last night of the "Gay and Lesbian" Film Fest (again, no inclusiveness in terms of the name of the festival, although there is usually plenty of diversity in the films). Some interesting shorts (several fairly dark, several funny) including the amusing 25 Random Things I Did During My Big Fat Lesbian Depression which felt WAY too familiar. I joked that I was up to #17, but come on, one of the random things was getting into Kirtan, and another was yoga! Sheesh.

However, the film-maker seemed to plow through her 25 things in the course of a year; it seems to take me a decade to get through the same ground. At this point I'll find a relationship sometime around my 60th birthday.

The final short was my perennial favorite U-Haul: The Music Video, which makes me smile every single time I see it.



The feature last night was a bio-pic of the Topp Twins called Untouchable Girls. Really an amazing story about New Zealand twin sisters who are lesbians, folk musicians, and have evolved into commediennes.



A very well done film which incorporated a lot of archaival footage - Jools and Lynda as young buskers playing the streets (in 70's and 80's lesbian drag, denim and mullets, looking so delightfully dykey and at times reminding me of the young Roches in their harmonies and playfulness) and then aging into a beloved performing duo that has been engaged in NZ issues - anti-nukes, indigineous rights, and of course, gay/lesbian rights.

They are playing Northampton next week (June 12) at the Academy of Music - I'm gonna be knee deep in Guinea Pigs stuff or I'd take a trip up!

June 05, 2010

Fauna

Critters spotted at Deming-Young farm in Newington, over and above the omnipresent birds.

Rabbit: Elo is particularly interested and gives chase, the rabbits are descendants of El-ahrairah and soon lose the doltish dog. But he does so love to give chase. It's the beagle in him. We've seen them on the paths in early morning and late afternoon....feeding time no doubt.

Turtle: Think it was a painted turtle (the shell was a bit shallow for a box turtle) sunning itself in the short cut path. Elo tore up the path and sniffed a bit but did not bother it otherwise. Nice to see a turtle....it feels lucky.

Groundhog: Today, up by the barn. Elo was on a leash at the time, and did not see it, fortunately, I think he might have caught this critter given a chance. The ground-hog knew it was at risk and scampered into the underbrush. The ground hog must have some escape skills, given the number of unleashed dogs that walk at the farm.

June 04, 2010

Crockett

Among the life mementos that I have carried with me is a 45 RPM record by a Worcester MA group called "Crockett". The A side is a bit of bawdy innuendo called "Judy Grew a Wildflower" and the B side is the something called "Some Kids". Circa 1979.

Crockett (led by Walter Crockett, with his wife Valerie and I believe featuring a young whipper-snapper on guitar named Duke Levine) must have played the coffeehouse at WPI and I liked them well enough to buy the record (the sleeve of which bears a price - 49 cents - although no idea if the sleeve is original)

For some reason I thought about Crockett this evening, and hunted them down online. There is a self described primitive website and sadly, an obituary for Valerie Crockett who passed away in October 2009.

Walter Crockett is still out there, playing music. I dug up a few videos on Youtube. First, a 2008 reunion of the band Zonkaraz (which I vaguely remember playing WPI, probably some concert or another).


And more visible adding some leads to a folkie duo called "Chuck & Mud"


I ought to email Mr. Crockett and see if the 45 is of some interest to him as a bit of history that he may no longer have a copy of....

June 01, 2010

Un-Facebooking

I've decided to unlink my blog feed from my Facebook account.

I guess I feel like I'm putting myself out there a bit too much. I do not mind sharing my thoughts on a public sphere (I've been blogging since 2002) but Facebook is a little too public - writing here, and a handful of frequent readers will see it, along with those who stumble upon the blog via search engines or links, and those who consciously seek it out.

But Facebook - just too many people reading, and I've found myself filtering what I choose to write about because I am concerned about, or conscious of, the ripples that my words might cause among an increasing large circle of "friends". I've been reading Donna Farhi's "Teaching Yoga" and there is a lot in there regarding boundaries between students and teachers that is making me think a bit, and consider pulling back a bit.

Still linking to Twitter; which is (if anything) even more impersonal, but at least there, readers need to click through to get to the actual blog / post.

Apologies to those who enjoy my writing; stop by the blog once in a while and you can keep up with me.

May 29, 2010

Holiday Weekends

These summertime, long weekend holidays - Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day - are toughies. I am typically fighting a low grade depression as these things come round each year.

Part of that is, as a single person, not tied in to a traditional / local family unit, I rarely have someplace special to go or big plans. While much of society is off to the beach, a family cook-out, a barbeque, or the like, I'm often at loose ends. This year, I got an invite to a cookout with friends on Monday; I'm also teaching yoga Monday morning. Today was balloon chasing and then a day of vegging and cleaning; hit the GLBT film fest tonight. Tomorrow I hope to hit the mat, and perhaps find myself on the trail in the afternoon. So my weekend has filled up. But I still feel somewhat disconnected.

Another aspect is, as a single and self employed person, I'm fairly disconnected from the cultural shift towards summer mode. The end of the school year does not really impact me. Nor do I take much in the way of formal vacation. So the way these holidays are seasonal milestones for many is less meaningful to me.

I guess there is a nagging feeling that, were I to stop trying to stay connected, I could easily drop out for the 72 hours of this particular holiday, and I'd not be much missed. And even as I do find places to be, I feel very much like a 5th wheel, a spectator, a hanger-on. The undertow of these feelings is not particularly healthy or helpful, but it needs to be acknowledged.

Mostly, I just try to hang in there and not sink into too much lethargy. Tuesday will come and with it, a drop back in to the normal and comfortable rhythms of life. Just kind of weird to realize that while much of world lives for these breaks from the routine and the ordinary, I seem to flounder in these spaces.

May 24, 2010

Breaking Silence

I spent the weekend supporting the 2010 teacher trainees. It was their 5th weekend of training, and this was "silent weekend". They were asked to keep to functional silence all weekend - no chatting, no socializing between sessions. And to extend that to their friends and families, as well as to communications tools - phone, internet, facebook, radio, tv, etc. Quite the challenge for most of us in this culture, myself included.

While I was not within the cone of silence (I'm on staff) I did respect that as much as possible, and kept my radio off in the car and at home, stayed off the internets for the most part, and avoided TV. So this morning, I'm continuing to enjoy the silence; keeping public radio off for a while as I ease into my day.

Assisting at teacher training is an incredible honor and opportunity - I entered teacher training myself 2 years ago because my enthusiasm for and joy surrounding yoga was spilling out of me; and this is just one more chance to share the love. These folks are working so hard and it is so amazing to watch their growth as yogis and as people in the pressure cooker of a teacher training program. I am in awe, most of the weekend.

While I was on duty most of the weekend, including assisting at the practices, I was able to unroll my mat on Sunday morning and practice with the class. The teacher training practices are incredibly challenging; yoga boot camp. And we started with a yin practice that took me down into grief and tears pretty quickly. So a good time on the mat....

The teacher training weekend is long - 5 hours Friday, 9 hours Saturday, and 9 hours Sunday. I also worked at the studio Saturday morning. So not a lot of unwinding and chilling going on this weekend. I missed out on a Falcon Ridge weekend - crew chiefs meeting as well as a concert with the most wanted song swap artists, and the chance to catch up with friends - but what can you do?

I'm back at it this morning, although consciously taking it easy. I have a few small projects to take care of, and an intro to yoga class to teach this evening in Meriden. But I'm hoping that today is a chance to reintegrate and catch up.

The teacher trainees were left with homework, as usual, and this month, one of their tasks was to come up with an "Unreasonable" - something that would challenge them, break old patterns, move them into a place of discomfort or out of habit. As this was being assigned, I thought back to my teacher training. I had no remembrance what my "unreasonable" was (although upon reflection, it involved getting body work; I had up until then never had a massage). But I think back on the past two years - I ended a relationship, purchased a home, began teaching yoga, started playing music in a band. On the whole, my entire life borders on the unreasonable, these days. Pretty great, all in all!

So kudos to my teachers, for the practice that has changed my life. For the teacher training that has helped me to grow. And for the community that continues to challenge me, to nurture me, and is my family.

May 17, 2010

The Under Toad

From 'The World According To Garp' (and cribbed from Currently This):

"Duncan began talking about Walt and the undertow- a famous family story. For as far back as Duncan could remember, the Garps had gone every summer to Dog's Head Harbor, New Hampshire, where the miles of beach in front of Jenny Fields' estate were ravaged by a fearful undertow. When Walt was old enough to venture near the water, Duncan said to him- as Helen and Garp had, for years, said to Duncan- "Watch out for the undertow." Walt retreated, respectfully. And for three summers, Walt was warned about the undertow. Duncan recalled all the phrases.

"The undertow is bad today."
"The undertow is strong today."
"The undertow is wicked today." Wicked was a big word in New Hampshire- not just for the undertow.

And for years, Walt watched out for it. From the first, when he asked what it could do to you, he had only been told that it could pull you out to sea. It could suck you under and drown and you and drag you away.

It was Walt's fourth summer at Dog's Head Harbor, Duncan remembered, when Garp and Helen and Duncan had observed Walt watching the sea. He stood ankle deep in the foam from the surf and peered into the waves, without taking a step, for the longest time. The family went down to the water's edge to have a word with him.

"What are you doing, Walt?" Helen asked?
"What are you looking for, Dummy?" Duncan asked him.
"I'm trying to see the Under Toad, " Walt said.
"The what?" said Garp?
"The Under Toad," Walt said. "I'm trying to see it. How big is it?"

And Garp and Helen and Duncan held their breath; they realized that all these years, Walt had been dreading a giant toad, lurking offshore, waiting to suck him under and drag him out to sea. The terrible Under Toad.

Garp tried to imagine it with him. Would it ever surface? Did it ever float? Or was it always down under, slimy and bloated and ever watchful for ankles its coated tongue could snare? The vile Under Toad.

Between Helen and Garp, the Under Toad became their code word for anxiety. Long after the monster was clarified for Walt ("Undertow, dummy, not Under Toad!" Duncan had howled), Garp and Helen evoked the beast as a way of referring to their own sense of danger. When the traffic was heavy, when the road was icy- when depression had moved in overnight- they said to each other "The Under Toad is strong today."

"Remember," Duncan asked on the plane, "how Walt asked if it was green or brown?"
Both Garp and Helen laughed. But it was neither green nor brown, Garp thought. It was me. It was Helen. It was the color of bad weather. It was the size of an automobile.


I'm conscious of the Under Toad at the moment.

Last week, I got news that a friend, teacher trainee, and one of my regular students down at the yoga studio got hit by a car on her bicycle. Not one of these little brushes or scrapes (which can be bad enough, given the relative size and speed of the vehicle compared to a biker) but a full on collision that involved the neck, concussion, pelvis, ribs, ankle. Pretty scary. She seems to be doing OK, and will recover although I suspect it will be long and difficult.

On Friday, my former partner Zippy called. A mutual friend P was in the hospital - had been for almost two weeks with what appeared to be a stroke. Lots of drama there - Zippy upset that he had not checked up on P (who had not been returning calls), Zippy upset that the way P compartmentalized his life meant that family and friends were not in contact. But two weeks later, P is still barely conscious, in hospital, and they are not exactly sure what is going on. A week or so of testing and observation led up to a brain biopsy last week; results still unknown. Zippy's been over to visit P every day since; and he (Zippy) is pretty shaken up by it all - he and P have been very close.

In the background, some issues at the studio that do not directly affect me but results in my being pulled in to the teacher training (long weekends) - I love and am honored to be part of the training, but it will mean a long and tiring three days, last month and again next weekend.

Meanwhile, my home has descended into a level of mess and clutter heretofore unseen; musical instruments, yoga mats, clothes, shoes, newspapers, mail, you name it. I'm not exactly a neat freak but it's past the point of simply feeling comfortable and lived in. Just a bit too busy to spend the time keeping up around here, and in this place of frenetic activity, things like healthy eating, keeping my living space ordered, etc. go out the window. I've made a list and am starting to pick away at it; my kitchen table is cleared and I bought myself some flowers this weekend to draw myself back into the world of beauty and order.

I have a relatively clear schedule today and will be sneaking in some household chores in between my work projects. Might even sneak over to weight watchers and try to kick start that.

May 13, 2010

Into the Woods

Spent the day up in MA, visiting my brother's workplace. Can't say too much but it was interesting, thought-provoking and more than a little sad. He was excited for my sister and I to see the place though, and it was nice to see where he works, etc.

Got back in time for some power yoga - but Elo the dog was so whiny and needy, and truthfully has bene neglected (due to yesterdays rain) so I opted out of yoga and we hit the farm for a hike. Felt good in my body and Elo needed the chance to run.


I am happy to report that the much anticipated (and endangered) Bobolinks have arrived - their plumage is quite distinctive (kind of a backwards tuxedo) as is their call (a particularly tuneful trill, almost carnival like). They keep the field uncut to permit nesting, so I expect they will be a frequent site in teh coming months.

Also, saw two rabbits on the mown lawn. I wondered how Elo would react (he ignores the birds, robins poking around all over the place) - and true to his beagle heritage, he took off after the rabbit who quickly shook him (must have been Hazel-rah, smart bunny). So it was an exciting day.

In other news, I got a package from Amazon.com today - "Teaching Yoga: Exploring the Teacher-Student Relationship" by Donna Farhi. There have been some issues bouncing around the studio of late (not directly involving me, but I am caught in some of the fallout) that warrant a closer look at teacher ethics - one of my friends had a copy of this amazing book, so I picked up my own copy.

Out Film Fest

Headed off to Cinestudio this evening for the Gay & Lesbian Film Fest. Seemed to be lesbian night.

The first piece, Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement, was a sweet bio-pic of a lesbian couple whose relationship spanned the past 40 years of GLBT progress. It was well done, and a compelling story that left me teary in places. The archival slides from their past were fascinating, with the elderly women sitting and watching, and commenting.

But I was also very conscious of the privilege of these two individuals (one employed by IBM as a system architect, the other a PhD Psychologist). They were able to move through the NYC lesbian circles, and insulated by their good fortune, their struggles seemed less about their sexuality and more the normal struggles of a relationship, especially Thea's battle with MS.

Reminded me a bit of how I felt hearing one of the CT gay marriage plaintiffs complain about the economic ramifications of not being able to transfer large retirement accounts to each other; I realized that for the most part, gay marriage is an economic issue for people who don't have a lot of other needs unmet. Me, I'd just as soon have universal health care.

May 08, 2010

Hugh and Lucy

My friend Kim and I trekked out to University of Hartford to see Hugh Blumenfeld, opening up for Lucy Kaplansky last event, part of the Music for a Change series.

First Hugh. Lovely to see him again, although Kim and I also headed out to see him last year at the Coventry Farmer's Market (where the *cough* Guinea Pigs will be playing in June!). A short set; but filled with goodness - opening with Raphael, doing the song about his brother from Strong in Spirit. No "Good Humor Man" (not quite summer enough) and no "How Long (Will the Mill Wheels Turn)" although thatt's probably not the name of the song.

However, extra special bonus, Diane Chodkowski (who I spotted in the house along with long time folkie Cyd Slotoroff) came up on stage to help out with "Friend of the Traveler" (she is the Diane who has "...been from Equador to Cracow, singing like an ambassador from heaven....", and sang with Margo and Adrienne as part of "Madwommin in the Attic" for a time). A fun treat; I was hoping she might join Hugh on stage.

For the Hugh fans - a new album entitled "Father" is coming out in June (in time for Father's Day) and he graduates and puts up his shingle in June also. I'm assuming he's going to be practicing pediatrics; not sure where.

Lucy is also an old favorite of mine; Kim never quite caught the bug. She played a cover heavy set - opening with Lyle Lovett's God Will, closing with Springsteen's Thunder Road (!), and sprinkling in Cohen (Hallelujah), McCartney (Let it Be), and Cash (Ring of Fire) - along with two by her father.

I'm a Lucy fan for a lot of reasons. I've heard her harmonizing on my favorite folk artists for literally decades - perhaps first on John Gorka's tracks. She has written and performed some amazing songs - her cover of Broken Things (Julie Miller) is a staple on my yoga disk, often setting up for Savasana (and often bringing tears). And one year, getting ready for Falcon Ridge Folk Fest she must have called me 1/2 dozen times to be sure her CDs got there; and she was so personable and engaging on the phone that I fell in love with the person to match the voice and music. Having a beloved performer call you on the phone is always kind of an E ticket experience....

But I think I hit on why some folks do not get her - she steadfastly refuses to sing the melody, live. She performed many songs that I know well (her own and covers) and invariably, she sang all over the place. Consciously, deliberately, and beautifully, mind you. But the "hook" of a song is almost always in the melody, and so it's hard to really get the song without that. It's almost like her performances are for the true believer, who has the song's melody in their head (from listening to the track) leaving her free to play around with harmony. She is, as she confessed to having been titled by Gorka "The Dominatrix of Harmony"

She's not on the Falcon Ridge roster for this year, BUT she noted that she, John Gorka, and Eliza Gilkyson are working on a trio project (think "Cry Cry Cry") entitled "Red Horses", and due out in July. Since 2/3 of the trio will be at Falcon Ridge I would not be surprised to see her make an appearance.....

Afterwards, Kim and I grabbed a bite at Gold Roc, a pack of high school theater geeks descended, some in greasepaint and hairspray. Kim guessed "Godspell" based on some of the makeup and I guessed the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts (they are performing "Urinetown" this weekend and next, which I would love to sneak over to see). Having watched one too many episodes of Glee, I half expected an over the top production number. But we let before they got rowdy and tuneful!

May 07, 2010

Flashmob. Or Not.

Apparently, the Greater Hartford Arts Council organized (or, to use the word that I saw on Facebook today regarding this, choreographed) a "flashmob" today at State House Square. It looked kind of fun....



A small slice of uneasiness here....does something cool cease to be cool (or perhaps, become less cool) when it's used as a tool by an organization (regardless of how worthwhile)? When people are invited to come watch? When it's pre-packaged and marketed?

I think back to that staple of arena and stadium fandemonioum, The Wave. Wikipedia has a few alternate versions of how this got started, but as I recall from those early years, the coolness of The Wave was its grass roots origins, how one fan, or perhaps one rowdy section, would work to get it going, how each section in turn figured out that it was happening, and how the stadium sort of caught it's breath and watched, hoping it would make it around. No organization or marketing needed.

Today, with a mascot leading the charge, a video screen, announcer, and theme music proclaiming "It's Time for the Wave!" - it is simultaneously simple to get a wave going, and a lot less cool. It was plucked from the realm of "self entertainment by the masses" and co-opted by management.

So, an organized "flashmob" set up by marketers and with full sanction of all parties (official or no), with an invited guest list. Kind of cool. But only "kind of".

Addendum: A follow up tweet from GHAC. "Clear Channel Radio was at today's hARTfordFlashmob...were you?" 5 points from Gryffindor. Clear Channel? The bane of independent, local radio? Might as well announce that Walmart, Monsanto, and BP were there as well....."

Addendum II: And ctnow.com (Courant, FoxCT, WTXX, Advocate, etc.) describes this as Spontaneous Dance Breaks Out In Hartford. Sigh. A quick foray over to Merriam-Webster online provides several definitions of the word spontaneous, including:

5 : developing or occurring without apparent external influence, force, cause, or treatment
6 : not apparently contrived or manipulated : natural

Au contraire. This appears to have been completely contrived or manipulated. IMHO.

Jude = Arts and Tourism Crank and Marketing Curmudgeon. Guilty as charged.

May 05, 2010

Dear Susan Bysiewicz:

(a) You won your case. Good for you. But this is not ".... A MAJOR VICTORY FOR CONNECTICUT VOTERS...." (as your recent email proclaims) nor do I feel that "Connecticut voters won a huge victory" as your email proclaims. Rather, an ambitious career politician (i.e. - you) won a victory. At last do us the favor of owning your own gleefulness at wining this decision.

(b) How *did* I get on your mailing list? Each email irks me somewhat - not enough to actually unsubscribe, but enough to make each of your mailings a small incentive to vote for your primary challenger.

Bleah. Politics. I've always kind of liked Ms. Bysiewicz as Sec of State. But this sort of ambition just sticks in my craw.

For the Birds

Elo and I have been hitting the fields and woods of Deming-Young Farm in Newington pretty regularly. On quiet days (weekdays, off hours), I let Elo off the leash - he trucks ahead on the mown path until I call him back, at which point he backtracks and then trots ahead. We walk to the end of the field, take a short hike up the hill and into the woods, emerging at a soccer / lacrosse field of a nearby middle school. If the field is empty, we play a few rounds of fetch the tennis ball (which I can really toss with the Chuck-it) and then back through the woods and into the fields, circling the field back to the car.

Other than dogs and their owners (the place is a real dog walking magnet) the fauna most evident are the birds. The field is reportedly kept long to abet the nesting of the endangered Bobolink, although I have yet to catch glimpse of one of these. But I have seen many common robins, a surprising number of beautiful red-winged blackbirds, an occasional cardinal, and swarming tree swallows, which make me think of the embattled bat as they hunt insects in the late afternoon.

I have yet to start working to identify the bird calls, but it's only a matter of time. It's quite peaceful and wonderful walking in the mornings and evenings as the birds are most active, but there are calls and flashes of wings pretty much all the time.

This afternoon, on our walk, I pondered the concept of birds as the survivors from the age of dinosaurs, and imagined this world in the next era - we homo sapiens having burned ourselves out and those patient birds, waiting in the wings, and perhaps returning to their past dominance.

May 04, 2010

2nd Annual Hog and Grog to benefit Billings Forge

Fully Unexpected

Finished up my last yoga class tonight in Bristol. I've been teaching an adult ed class - six week series, one hour classes, in an elementary school gym.

To be honest, it's a difficult class to teach. The space is a big gym that has been, until recently, pretty cold. If the heat does come on (fairly random) then the blowers are loud and it's hard to teach over them. The overhead lights have two levels - full blast or off. The class tends to spread out to the far corners of the room. And it's just an hour - difficult to get a full practice in when one is used to 75 - 90 minute sessions. I put classes together, I teach, but it's often hard to really feel like I am bringing it....

And yet....this evening as I finished up I got a hug from one student who said her practice has really grown this past year. Another was thrilled to get into an inversion. I left feeling I was doing a decent job, making a difference.

An unexpected bit of affirmation and inspiration. Was on the fence about taking on this class next year, but now.....I think I'm going to re-enlist....

April 21, 2010

Deming-Young Farm

So, Elo the dog and your faithful blogger have discovered the Deming-Young Farm, on Church Street, in Newington. Two miles from the house, 5 minutes by car. And although this 1784 farmhouse is an historic structure, it's primary purpose these days seems to be a de facto dog park and town garden.

The town mows a path through and around the field (left long to abet the nesting of birds) and a loop around the main field is a bit over a mile. Add a jaunt through the woods that end up at John Wallace Middle School, and it's a nice little walk. We end up there 3-4 times a week, depending on weather, other adventures, etc.

Depending on the day and time, I can let Elo off the leash and work on training....although the field is well used by other dog owners and Elo is way too interested in other dogs (and not quite predictable as a friendly dog, his alpha nature makes him a bit of a jerk). I picked up a 30' training leash (a nice compromise between letting him run and keeping him on a short leash, he does not pull on the longer leash the way he does on a shorter one) and also one of these plastic Chuck-It handles that allow me to toss the tennis ball without aggravating my shoulder crankiness.

We've had some lovely times...met some nice people and nice dogs (and some that just let their dogs run up to us, Elo predictably gets aggressive when he is on the leash....). People mostly pick up the poop (not all, though.....). Last night, as I walked in the late afternoon, the bird population active in an adjacent swamp, the trees budding and flowering, the sun dropping to the west and making the clouds pop....it was just amazing. I had an awareness of being blessed for having been born into this life, into this creation.

A lovely little find in my new neighborhood....

April 19, 2010

Dad

Mom sent an email last night. "APRIL 19 IS DAD'S ANNIVERSARY. PLEASE SAY A PRAYER! LOVE, MOM" - I so often forget, although I often hit a bit of a sad spot this time of year.

April 19, 1979, my father, William Joseph Russell, passed away. He was at (then named) Framingham Union Hospital, in the midst of an angioplasty attempting to repair a heart damaged by a series of heart attacks. He was not yet 45; missing his birthday by a few days - I'm older now than he ever was; if one were to believe in a corporal afterlife where one retained ones age at death, my dad would be my junior when next we met....

It is perhaps indicative of where we were at the time that none of us were at the hospital - Dad had been in and out of the hospital repeatedly over the past year or so; my sister and I had grown used to stopping by to see him after high school (right now the block from the hospital) and later finding him puttering around the house as he recovered. On some level, his infirmity had become an annoyance; we wanted to ignore it and hope it would clear up, and let us get back to our lives. So on some level, this procedure and his passing were just one more thing in a slow but seemingly inevitable slide that we had grown accustomed to.

I remember driving the family in his 1973 AMC Hornet to the hospital to see him - as the eldest child who had just turned 18 myself, I suddenly assumed a heavy mantle of family responsibility; Mom seemed in no condition to drive. At the hospital, I went in to see him; not sure if they kept him alive via machines until we got there or not, but it was clear that he was gone. I had learned well his lessons regarding torquing down on my emotions, and I did not cry even as I stood over my father's lifeless body.

I don't remember a whole lot about the next few days. I remember a little black humor with my family at the funeral home regarding caskets (Dad wouldn't want something too ostentatious, dad won't care, that sort of thing); I remember tucking a guitar pick into Dad's suit pocket; thanking him for my music. I remember a reception following the funeral at the house; not quite an irish wake but with some lightness and spirit. At my graduation a month or so later, mom presented me with a typewriter that she and dad had picked out together.

Not too long afterwards, I left for college, beginning the slow pulling away from family. My brother took over my bedroom soon thereafter and I slept on the couch or an empty bunk bed when I came home for vacations and summer. I kind of missed the mourning and getting used to a house with one less person in it. My family got a dog soon thereafter - Kyla was a mix of Coyote, Labrador, and Samoyed, she was a companion, protector, and friend - and came to live with me in CT in her dotage. I was with her when she died....

Dad has been in my mind to a greater and lesser extent over the years. I think we miss him most at those times of ceremony and ritual - holidays, graduations, weddings, births. Mom has watched over us kids in the years since - at this point she has lived as a single mother and widow much longer than she lived with her husband.

I certainly I have danced with his ghost in my therapy, on the mat, at various retreats, workshops, and ceremonies. I have moved from numbness to anger to grief; from resentment to pity. For many years I assumed I might follow his lead and expected an early death; my various transformations and personal growth has effaced that surety; I feel like I have a lot of life ahead of me. Death has not touched me much in the years since; having taken Dad, the reaper has been mostly silent these many years save for grandparents and an aunt.

Rest in peace, Dad. Miss you and love you. Not sure I have a prayer today, but you remain in memory; tears have been shed.

April 12, 2010

Tell Me What Another Is

Back from the Intensive. It was NOT exactly a gentle re-integration day. I did spend an extra night up at Kripalu - which helped a lot. But after five go-rounds with these amazing weekends, one sort of gets accustomed to the spaciness and just rides the re-entry.....

In terms of mechanics, I hit a 6:30 am "Moderate Yoga" class up at Kripalu - very sweet to be back on the mat and just right. For those calibrating their Yoga, Moderate Yoga up at Kripalu is about the same intensity (maybe a wee bit up-level) as Gentle Yoga by Jude. After that, breakfast with Intensive friends, a bull session in the lounge, and back to the dyad room for a few hours of sharing circle. From there, headed home. Picked up Elo the dog, did a few hours of work, and then off to Bristol to teach yoga. Finally chilling out....looking forward to my own bed tonight.

Working on "another" was both a wonderful treat and incredibly challenging.

Wonderful: each dyad provided a different participant seated before me for contemplation. As opposed to contemplation "who I am" or "what I am" (where the object of contemplation is oneself, and where one falls tends to fall into some ruts or runs out of things coming up) "another" was always new and fresh (at least during a three day intensive with a lot of participants, assuming one used a dyad partner as an object of contemplation). I commented to one of the staff - "it's like I am at a buffet, always something new to explore".

Challenging: Another is difficult because it is wholly outside of oneself. Not as many hooks, at least in my experience.

On the other hand, I quickly latched onto the fact that during a series of dyads, I could continue to contemplate "another" during my time as listening partner. And some of my partners picked up on the fact that as I contemplated them during my turn, they could as well. So I got a lot of really wonderful work done.

I comented afterwards that I did not really dredge up a lot of my stuff - which was different. But that did not stop me from dropping into some pretty deep tears at times - but these were not unassuaged grief or bringing up old wounds - but rather tears of joy at the realization of my love for many of the "anothers" in my life, mingled with some sadness for those places of loneliness and lack of a relationship.

No Direct Experience (not a surprise) but amazing work nonetheless, and a few dyads as the weekend wore down that were among the most precious of my weekends to date. I'm really coming to a good understanding of the technique, and I spent the weekend working on staying out of the easy fix of an emotional release (I love my emotions during EIs), staying out of stories, staying out of attachment to the direct experience, and sticking to the technique.

So a very difficult weekend (they all are) and a lot of good work. Someday I will have that direct experience during an EI.....

Back to life. A life filled with "anothers" that I love just a bit more deeply and openly.