Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Party with 900 international types

A World Bank evite has spun out of control ... so I figured I'd add to the madness. Tonight, in Georgetown on the waterfront.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Refuse a police search on the DC metro

From my friend Steve, founder of If you are stopped for a random bag search, Flex Your Rights has an excellent primer on how to refuse on their blog. Incidentally, another fun thing to do in DC is host a screening of Busted, Flex Your Rights' guide to handling police encounters more generally. It's a great excuse for a party.


Dear Just About Everyone I Know in DC Who Might Take the Metro:

Any day now Mayor Williams might cave into pressure to implement New York style random bag searches on the Metro. All I know now is that they are considering it but wouldn't be surprised if random searches go into effect within the next few days.

I also wouldn't be surprised if Metro police were to begin random searches this week -- perhaps before an official announcement is made. That's why I need your eyes.

Specifically, I need you to CALL my cell immediately at 202-607-9501 if you see random police searches happening in the Metro. I imagine that the first day of DC Metro searches will be greeted by lots of media cameras. As such we want to get in or near that Metro where searches are happening to pass out Flex Your Rights literature reminding people that they should refuse police searches.

We're staying on top of print media stories, so please don't forward me articles. But please call me if you have information from officials who might know if and when random searches will be starting and, of course, if you see searches happening.

Thanks for your help,

Trance dancing with Neva

Neva, the wonderful teacher at the Hot Yoga studio, is having a trance dance workshop on Friday night at 7:30pm, which will be absolutely magnificent.

To register in advance ($15) click here.


Since recorded history of mankind there has been a striving for something beyond the limited, physical and mundane. Great devotees of this quest developed yoga, which means fusion between the physical and the divine. The understanding that this divine spark exists within the temple of the human body has lead mystics to delve into the science of body, mind, and spirit integration. Sacred or divine dance has been esteemed as an expression and a striving towards, the human-divine connection. Ultimately this striving is for the joy of complete union. Today the longing for inner fulfillment continues to inspire us. Through Chakra dance enjoy connecting with tribal rhythms, elemental imagery and archetypal expression. In 21st century terms explore this organic process of renewal and healing in an evening of rejuvenation & empowerment, stillness & ecstatic movement, silence & celebration.

3408 Wisconsin Avenue, NW (Suite 205)
Washington, DC 20016
(202) HOT-YOGA (468-9642)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Yoga class reading, 7/21/05: Things to Think by Robert Bly

Things to Think

Think in ways you've never thought before.
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you've ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.

Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he's carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you've never seen.

When someone knocks on the door, think that he's about
To give you something large: tell you you're forgiven,
Or that it's not necessary to work all the time, or that it's
Been decided that if you lie down no one will die.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Another paean to music to eat cotton candy by

What a great website.

Previously, rainy day music.

Black Box Recorder:

"The Art of Driving" is a damn sexy song. And the next time I'm making out with an aggressive cutie, I'm gonna start warbling "Because a heart-felt seduction lasts a lifetime...You've been driving way too fast..."

Call and Response

It's an incredibly catchy song about rollerskating, suitable for singing as you ride your bike fast downhill with no hands. "You've got to learn how to stop/Before you do the bunny hop."

John Vanderslice:

In particular, the first MP3 listed ("Me and My 424"). It's just a damn good song, suitable for enthusiastic waltzing with a teddy bear, alone in the bedroom.

Mull Historical Society:

Sweet and happy. I wouldn't write an arts thesis on it, but this would be fine for a soundtrack for a montage scene from an indie romantic comedy film.


Especially the song "I Love the WB."

Monday, July 18, 2005

XXX-treme yoga

Teaching a last-minute substitute class on Friday, I miraculously made it to the studio half an hour early. I decided to take advantage of my extra time by setting up an extra-nice atmosphere: tea light candles everywhere, incense, sprays of room freshener, carefully-calibrated lighting, etcetera.

The class started very well. Then, as I was demonstrating a chataranga (slowly lowered pushup) I smelled something harsh and sulfurous - and looked up to see that a lock of my hair was burning: big, flickering flames like a candle. "Oh my gosh, your hair's on fire!" said Chaka, a student in the front row. I reached quickly to bat it out. "Okay, hang in a forward fold for five breaths," I told the students to give myself a chance to regain composure. There were little pieces of hair ash all over my yoga mat.

At the end of class Chaka teased me, "Your crown chakra was really on fire tonight..."

Tea-lights go on the windowsill from now on.

Saturday, July 16, 2005


I was trying to be pretty funny in my last post, but I hope I made it clearly that I'm totally disgusted with myself. For heaven's sake, how immature can you get? I went to a wonderful Durga Das kirtan last night, and met so many happy glowing yogis who were all, "I went to see Amma last night - it was so amazing!" I didn't mention to them that I spent the bulk of my evening sulking.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Hugging a saint is harder than it might seem

I'd done a lot of fun things in DC before, but I'd never hugged a saint, so I had no idea what to expect.

Martin was coming with me, with special expectations for Amma all his own. In the year 2000 he was taking a road trip with some friends. They got into a terrible car crash in a small town far from home - nobody was hurt but the car was totalled. While waiting in the wrecking yard watching the old car get crushed, they called up a newspaper ad for a beat-up used car and explained their plight: they were broke college students, with no way to get home. The owner of the car in the ad drove an hour and a half to show the car to them, dropped the price by three hundred dollars, invited them to her home for the evening, cooked them dinner and let them sleep there that night. Martin and his friends drove away the next morning, overwhelmed by her generosity. The car she'd sold them was a fantastic old clunker - and covered, windshield to bumper, with "Amma" stickers.

Amma's website was fairly uninformative, just requesting that you collect your token an hour beforehand and bring a pillow to sit on. There would be a spiritual ceremony at 7:30, after which Amma's followers would get the chance to line up for a "darshan," or hug. The website had one little section describing the age-old concept of a "pilgrimage": once upon a time, people were willing to travel for weeks or even months, just for a brief visit to a holy site or to catch a glimpse of a saint. Now, the website said, we just have to catch the metro and sit in line; however the reader was implored to bring the same patient attitude as pilgrims past. There was a rather ominous mention of Amma's endurance, how she often worked all night hugging her crowds of followers until 4 in the morning. I'd been invited to a barbecue that same night, and had breezily assured the host that I could definitely make it, on the late side, after I'd gotten my hug. Perhaps that was false confidence, I decided. I resolved to let go of any expectations of the evening, and, although I am skeptical of cults of personality, to simply open my heart to the experience of waiting in expectation with my spiritual brothers and sisters. It was a very nice, and - in retrospect - an insanely ambitious resolution.

I agreed to meet Martin at the corner of 21st and K after work, when we'd bike the Mt Vernon trail to Crystal City (an exercise we'd done previously, when going to see Krishna Das perform in Alexandria, and thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful trail with views.) By the time I met him, around a quarter to six, the raindrops were fat and heavy.

"Let's take the metro," I suggested. "My brakes aren't very good and I need to take my bike to the shop."

"It'll be fine," Martin said. "We can just ride slow."

"But it won't be very enjoyable right now. What's the point in killing ourselves?"

"It's rush hour. We can't take the bikes on the metro."

"Well, we were planning to take the metro home in the darkness anyway," I said. "Why don't we just leave the bikes here in the city? We're going to get soaked and I bet the hotel will have the AC blasting, we're gonna be freezing."

"No way," Martin said. "I'm biking over. This is supposed to be like a pilgrimage." And he began riding away. As I followed him, my brows were already knotting together, almost as stormy as the sky over our heads - and I wasn't sure if the growling rolls of thunder I heard were real or just my own internal soundtrack.

(You probably need some backstory for this argument: two weeks ago, I'd joined Martin and two of his visiting friends for dinner at Dukem. I took Neva's yoga class first, got myself hot, ridiculously sweaty, and tired, and then stepped outside into a rainstorm. I took a bus to the dinner, still in my skimpy yoga clothes, and shivered in its intense AC. I was freezing by the time I arrived at the restaurant, only to find that our table was right underneath an AC vent - and I was still soaking wet. By the end of the evening my bones felt cold and my teeth were chattering, only to get into an air-conditioned car and wait around while Martin showed his friend a few sights. It was ridiculous - Washington D.C. in the middle of July, and I haven't felt that cold even when I was living in Moscow in -30 C weather. I should have just excused myself from the dinner, gone home and taken a hot bath - but idiotically, I decided to try to be a martyr. Dear reader, take it from me: there's no point in being an insincere martyr, because nobody else is ever going to appreciate the depth of your suffering and you won't get any credit for it. Mine was a profoundly insincere and ineffectual martyrdom, because I spent the entire evening internally lamenting how miserable I felt, and resenting Martin for not noticing how unhappy I was and sweeping me away to somewhere warm. How dare he ignore my suffering? Look at him over there, warm and dry and laughing and having a good time, while icicles form on my eyelashes. Etcetera, etcetera. I am frankly too embarassed to tell you any more details.)

Anyway, as we began riding through the torrential downpour, I had a sinking suspicion that my resolution to maintain inner calm and receptivity was going to be tested pretty damn quick. The rush hour traffic whizzed past us, car wheels splashing through puddles and spraying solid sheets of mud in my face, and the rain was stinging my eyes and blinding me, so that every few seconds I'd have to wipe my eyes, making my bike swerve precariously and occasionally forcing me to slam on my nails-on-a-chalkboard brakes: KKKRCKKKHH!!! And yet I was going to see Amma, damn it, I was going to get there, it was the last night of her visit to DC, and it was important to get a ticket as soon as possible to avoid waiting around until 3am.

Zzzzoom, splash, KKKRCKKHH! Focus on the breath, I thought to myself. The mind can make a hell of heaven, heaven of hell - or, in Hamlet's words, 'I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams...' You're riding your bike in the rain, that's a fact and you're stuck with it, but your attitude about it is your choice. It can be a painful drag or it can be an exhilarating wrestling match with Nature - the difference is only in your perspective. Remember your lucky life, your good health, your love, your amazing fortune to meet a spiritual leader. Try to focus on your anticipation of Amma.

These things were all true, but nonetheless the actual thoughts in my brain were a surging, meanspirited jumble that went more like this: This is terrible. I'm going to be so cold in that hotel. Why did I let Martin push me around? He totally didn't even care that I was going to suffer! Look at him riding over there with that smug look on his face. Oh, the rain is hurting my eyes, I can't see. Fuck that car over there - yeah, you, you're an asshole driver. Oh, shit, I'm the asshole. Why am I getting so angry about this? I'm so cold. My shoes are squelching and I'm dirty. Why did I let Martin push me around - just like my mum let my dad push her around... And repeat, for the duration of the half hour bike ride.

At one point Martin called over to me, "You doing ok, babe?" and I yelled back, "No, this fucking sucks!" The witchy, ugly screech of my voice in my own ears startled me.

By the time we'd reached the Hyatt hotel, the rain had stopped and I'd calmed down a little bit. There were crowds of people streaming through the entrance who, I'm pretty sure, didn't make it a habit of visiting Hyatts in Crystal City: Indian families in brightly colored silk; hippie couples with dreadlocks and beads, clutching prayer cushions; Rastafarians in tall turbans; and groups of freshly-scrubbed people with glowing, angelic faces, wearing white robes. They all looked very comfortable, clean, warm, and dry, I noticed, as I reached up to brush some of the road mud off my cheek.

The Amma organizers had rented out one of the big conference rooms and lobbies in the second floor underground of the Hyatt; there were groups of smiling people in white robes and red sashes to direct the crowds down to the entryway where you were to take off your shoes. It was the kind of space I'd never imagine even on the craziest acid trip: imagine a vast, underground hotel conference space in a 100% dull corporate motif: from the boring blue and grey abstract designs on the acres of acrylic carpet, to the grey ceilings and nondescript tables, and random cluttered piles of podiums and conference equipment in the corners. Layer on top of that an occasional attempt at decoration: silk saris pinned up on pillars, posters with Amma's smiling face - colourful drops lost in the carpeted ocean. Then fill this huge grey space with kiosks selling Indian snacks; tables with home-made posters and flip-books with information on Amma's extraordinary array of charitable projects; long tables covered with photographs of Amma, mostly close-ups of her smiling face; tables selling Tulsi, or holy basil potted plants ("Personally blessed by Amma!"); sandalwood bracelets or malas ("Worn by Amma! In her room for three months!"); incense; essential oils; crystal beads ("Personally blessed by Amma!"); racks of Indian clothing; silk and wool shawls ("All proceeds from sale go to Amma's charitable works!"); and piles of Amma dolls. And, finally and most importantly, add huge crowds of eager pilgrims: Indian families, hippies, eager laughing children, huge throngs of white-robes, of all ages and colours. Interestingly, most of the people I saw were very physically attractive, whatever their ages: in good shape and health, bright-eyed and vigorous. Probably a lot of them did yoga.

The energy was almost overwhelming, but I wasn't so overwhelmed as to not notice that I was becoming extremely cold. My cotton pants and top were completely soaked and, just as I'd suspected, the place was air-conditioned and drafty. I'd brought a change of clothes in my bag, but everything in my bag was sopping wet. So my thoughts were an interesting mixture of: This is wonderful...feel the positive energy...listen to the Indian musicians...I'm so lucky to be here with the man I love...Fuck, I'm cold...I'm going to be cold for hours...Oh, if only I could be dry...Oh, this is all Martin's fault...Wow, this Amma has a lot of energy...It's inspiring to see what she has accomplished...I like her speech to the UN 50th Anniversary Celebration...although those huge piles of dolls are a bit creepy...Fuck, I'm cold....

All the pilgrims in the huge room sat down to meditate and smiling Amma followers came round with little plastic cups of holy water. "This water has been personally blessed by Amma," the announcer told us. "It has great healing power and you can keep it and sip it slowly over time and share it with your family and friends." He had a strong Indian accent, so the booming voice sounded more like a sing song "Share it with your fam-i-lee and friends."

We sat in meditation and Amma delivered a series of spiritual parables, translated into English by the booming, sing-song announcer. They were heavily laced with amusing stories and aw-shucks jargon: "Love is a funny thing. One day your lover will say to you, I cannot bear to be away for you even for one single moment. Oh darling you are my everything. The next day he might say, Oh, I cannot stand to be near you, even for one single moment. I must run away from you now! This is why we must come to understand a more spiritual type of love. This is illustrated by the story of the man who was sitting in the farmer's house eating a bowl ("bow-ul") of delicious vegetable soup. There was a little pig who was very affectionate to the man: running around his legs, wagging its little tail. The man said to his host, 'Your little pig has really taken a liking to me. I'd like to take one of his relatives for a pet.' The farmer replied, 'I wouldn't judge too quickly - he's acting like that because you're eating out of his bowl.' " Gusts of laughter billowed through the conference room at this tale - proving that there are all types of senses of humour in this world.

For much of the spiritual lecture, I was shivering, and Martin sat behind me, hugging me and rubbing my shoulders for warmth. A middle-aged woman in flowing robes drifted past us and murmured disapprovingly, "Remember that you're in a temple."

After the spiritual lecture, everyone chanted "OM" together several times, and let me tell you that I've rarely experienced anything as powerful as a room with thousands of fervent people chanting OM in unison.

We'd all received tokens for the darshan, to let us know when to get in line. Martin had numbers 800-900, while I had 1300-1400. "How come you're so far ahead of me?" I asked.

"I don't know," he said. "But I want to get the darshan with you."

"OK, are you going to wait for 1300 with me?"

"No, get into line with me, I'm sure they'll let you."

"Nuh-uh! I'm not skipping in line to see the saint!" I exclaimed. "That's so wrong!"

"Why? It doesn't matter."

"There's plenty of other people who are going to wait just as long as us." I was feeling particularly self-righteous, because I was still pissed off about the rainy bike ride - and steadily getting colder.

A buffet vegetarian dinner was being served in an adjoining conference room for people while they waited for their numbers to come up. As we were standing in line for the dinner I found myself casting a longing eye at the tablecloths. Perhaps I could take one from the tables and wrap it around my shoulders for a bit of warmth. As Martin hugged me from behind and I leaned into his body heat I found myself gazing around at the other pilgrims, wondering if anybody else was going to remind us this was a temple.

Dinner was delicious, fresh and well-spiced vegetable curries, and by the time I'd polished off two heaping plates of food I felt momentarily better. We went back to the main conference room - where it was up to number 500.

At some point I lost Martin in the crowd and wandered around looking for him. You know, I'm sure there's a principle in physics that has to do with feedback mechanisms in finely balanced equilibriums. I'm thinking of a spinning top that starts tipping more and more, or a wobbling person on a tightrope whose wobbles begin to spiral out of control. Something like that was happening to my mood at that point: ecstasy and despair chasing each others' tails in an ever-tightening circle, burning momentum from the spiritual energy fizzing from the crowd. Fuck I'm cold it's Martin's fault - Beautiful Amma an inspiration praise God - where is he, he's got my bag with money and I want to buy a Tulsi plant - All these people here to praise a saint, they really love her - These people are kooky and what's with all the Amma dolls - fuck I'm cold...

And then Martin tapped me on the shoulder. "Where were you?" I said shrilly, again becoming aware of how ugly my voice in my own ears sounded.

"I'm here - I've been meditating."

You've been meditating while I've been freezing my ass off and panicking?

I sat down and sank into my all-time least peaceful yoga Child's pose. Martin came close: "Can I get a hug?" We enjoyed a dramatic and angsty embrace, teeming with love and anger and yearning.

But it didn't take long before a white robe came and tapped me on the shoulder. "Excuse me, but some people were complaining about your behaviour with your partner. Please remember that this is a temple."

Although my sins of the evening were so juicy and numerous that it seems unfair to try to pick a winner, perhaps the gold medal should go to the way I rolled my eyes at the white robe guy, channelling generations of rebellious, be-pimpled teenagers getting kicked out of movie theaters for necking.

Shortly thereafter we realized it was 11:20, the metro closed at midnight, it was still raining, the Mt. Vernon bike trail was pitch dark, and Amma was only up to hugs in the 1000's. We approached the lavishly-decorated podium where Amma was receiving her followers, and explained our plight to one of the organizers. He was a snappy, fiery man with a clipboard, and he asked, "This is your first time to see Amma?"

We nodded pathetically.

"OK, I'll see what I can do. There's just one family of seven left to go up there, and then we're clearing the stage for the next group, but there's a few more to go. It's gonna be tight, gonna be tight." He rushed off with his clipboard and rushed back. "Good news, things have changed. Looks like I can get you on after this family. Are you taking the darshan as a couple?"

We looked at each other. My eyes were still puffy with spite. "Do you want to?" Martin said.


We climbed up the little stairs to the stage and shuffled on our knees towards Amma's chair, behind the Indian family. A follower met us with a bag of tissues. "Please wipe your faces off. Are you taking the darshan as a couple?" We nodded and she said, "Ok, he comes to the left and ahead of you." She gave us a little nudge on the small of our backs to direct us forward. I suppose this is all essential organization if you want to be efficient enough to give 21,000,000 hugs.

And then the people in front of me parted, and I saw Martin resting his head on Amma's breast, and there was a hand pushing me forward, and I was in her arms.

The whole evening had been a prelude, a pilgrimage for this single moment, and yet I'd hardly been anticipating it, so distracted had I been by my rush of self-righteous internal drama. Suddenly there were a pair of impossibly bright and knowing eyes twinkling at me, and I was hugging a saint.

I closed my eyes and for a second felt that I was floating through an eternity of stars. I felt surrounded by a vast knowing compassion; a compassion that instantly perceived and understood every scrap of my ridiculous pettiness, and loved me anyway. I realized that Amma was chanting something in my ear: ", ma, ma..."

Pardon the cliche, but the moment really did seem to last a million years. And then it was over, and Amma pressed something into my hand with a wink, and white robed followers were urgently pulling me away to make room for the next hug. As I dazedly descended the podium, I opened my palm and saw a yellow flower petal and a Hershey's kiss.

Then Martin and I began sprinting towards the exit. It was 11:44.

We dodged the followers grabbed our bags, put on our shoes (still soaking wet) and ran up the escalators and outside to where we'd locked our bikes. "Excuse me, which way to the metro?" I yelled to a bellhop.

"That way," he said, and frowned. "But you know, the metro closes at midnight."

"Yeah, I know..." I said as I jumped onto my bike in a single movement.

We raced to the metro, dismounted, and carried our bikes down the metro escalator (illegal - you're supposed to use the elevator.) I could hear the rush of an approaching train as I fumbled with my wallet to pull out a dollar for the ticket counter. The dollar was wet and the machine spit it back out.

Martin, who had a Metro pass, was already inside and called impatiently back to me, "The train's here! What are you doing?"

"The machine's not taking my dollar because MY FUCKING BAG IS SOAKED!!!" I shrieked back at him. I abandoned the machine and ran with my bike through the handicap gate, yelling at the attendant, "I'll pay on the way out!" As we approached the platform, the train doors closed and it zoomed away.

Martin and I looked at each other in disgust, mutual recrimination scarring both our features.

"Let's ride our bikes home," Martin said. "I'm not leaving my bike here."

"No fucking way!" I shrieked. "It's raining, I'm cold, I'm tired, and I'm not riding on the fucking highway in the middle of the night!" (Apparently my vocabulary had not been washed clean by the sparkling river of Amma's pure love.)

And so we eventually decided to lock up our bikes near the metro entrance, take a cab home, and pick the bikes up the next day. As we huddled for warmth in the taxi together, I looked up at this person who provoked me into such fits of uncontrollable fury and joy. "What was it like for you...the hug?" I asked.

Martin looked a bit dreamy. "She's so sweet..."

"What does it mean that we took darshan together?"

"Whatever you want it to mean."

Thursday, July 14, 2005

BORF is dead; long live BORF

From the Washington Post:

The Mark Of Borf
With Graffitist's Arrest, Police Put a Name to the Familiar Face

The mysterious, ubiquitous and eminently destructive graffiti artist known as Borf was arrested yesterday after waging a months-long campaign that may have been intended to enlighten Washington, but mostly just confused us.

The man primarily responsible for Borf is, it turns out, an 18-year-old art student from Great Falls named John Tsombikos, according to D.C. police inspector Diane Groomes. He was arrested along with two other young men in the wee hours of yesterday morning after officers received a tip that graffiti artists were spray-painting at Seventh and V streets NW.

Approached by a reporter at D.C. Superior Court yesterday, Tsombikos refused to comment. One of the other men arrested, Richard Lee, 18, said, "Borf is dead."

Well, yes and no. According to Tsombikos's mother, Kathleen Murphy of Great Falls, Borf was the nickname for a close friend of her son's who committed suicide about two years ago....Murphy suggests that for her son, the Borf face and moniker came to stand for all that he felt was wrong with the world.

Many who saw Tsombikos's graffiti -- including a huge five-foot-high Borf face that appeared on a Roosevelt Bridge sign this spring, and a 15-foot "BORF" above a Dupont Circle cafe -- might suggest that, far from making the world better, he cost the city of Washington a lot of money.

Dennis Butler of the D.C. Department of Public Works said the Borf tag prompted almost daily phone calls to the city call center. "He's just all over the inner city," Butler said.

"Citizens are ecstatic about him being caught," Groomes said.

Yeah, we're "ecstatic." We want all of our public spaces to be completely bland and featureless and uninspiring of thought. We far prefer a blank wall to one with a piece of art that might provoke a thought or a giggle or a shared joke with a friend, or even a bit of secret solidarity with the chutzpah of an anti-authoritarian rebel. We don't want any challenging shared public spaces for public use; we want shopping malls. Thanks for protecting our interests. Thanks a lot.

From the words of a colleague at my think tank: "I think the people who work here are generally Borfers who just express themselves in a different type of graffiti."

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Yoga class reading, 7/13/05: A Place to Sit, by Kabir

Six students this morning, mostly regulars - very reassuring that attendance is picking up. It was a nice flow - I put in the Warrior II -> Garudasana balancing transition and the standing split -> seated twist transition. I think I'm getting better at sensing when people's energy is losing focus and either making the poses more challenging or more restoring in response - although there's some virtue in pushing people past where they think they're tired, like Darren John Main does. Anyway, the reading for the morning:

by Kabir

Don't go outside your house to see flowers.
My friend, don't bother with that excursion.
Inside your body there are flowers.
One flower has a thousand petals.
That will do for a place to sit.
Sitting there you will have a glimpse of beauty
inside the body and out of it,
before gardens and after gardens.

translated by Robert Bly

Monday, July 11, 2005

Last minute Dinosaur Jr, also an Ode to the Hill

My friend Matthew called me at 8:30 tonight and said his friend had cancelled on him and he had an extra ticket to the sold-out Dinosaur Jr reunion concert at the 9:30 club. "I'm planning to head over in about an hour, would you like to come?"

I was sitting in my red velvet armchair with my feet up, staring at leafy trees rustling out my window, drinking tea, and brimful with inertia. "Thanks Matthew, but I'm a bit tired."

"No problem. Give me a call if you change your mind."

Immediately after I hung up I realized that I'd broken a solemn vow I'd made to myself: never to turn down a potentially fun invitation, just because I'm feeling lazy (unless I have a good excuse like sickness or an important appointment to rest for). Just like the True Love Waits teen chastity movement, I believe a good vow is meaningless if you break it the first time it's a little inconvenient. So I called Matthew back and told him I would come.

At nine thirty I jumped on my bike and zipped down the hill* to the club. While I was waiting outside for Matthew, a guy came up to me and handed me two of his extra tickets. "Here you go, take these," he said, and dashed inside.

It seems that Dinosaur Jr tickets have a habit of multiplying like rabbits. Just an hour ago I hadn't had any, and now I had three of the little creatures in my possession. I gazed warily at the tickets in my hand lest they multiply again.

I had the curious problem of unloading two $30 tickets to a sold-out rock concert, at 10pm on a Monday night. I called around to all my friends who lived in the area but didn't get in touch with anyone except Marcella, who was already at the Black Cat.

When I'm trying to decide whether to become friends with someone, I usually apply the following mental test. I imagine being shipwrecked with them on a desert island. When we begin to seriously starve, will the person pick up an axe from the wreckage and murder me for food? If I am pretty sure the person would never do such a thing, I know they'd be a good friend. Although this is the most important test, I suppose a good auxiliary would be to imagine how the person would respond if contacted at 10pm on a Monday night with an offer of free tickets to a Dinosaur Jr show.

The concert was rockin', by the way, and Matthew and I took it in turns giving each other piggy-back rides so that we could see better. J. Mascis shook his grey ponytail all around, and pounded his guitar, although he kept spelling out the band's name: "D-I-N-O-S-A-U-R Jr." I have no idea why; perhaps he's started a family since the band broke up, and he's in the habit of spelling things in front of kids.



Dear Columbia Heights Hill,
I have been riding my bike up and down you at least once a day
for more than a year.
Like my former roommate Jamia you have a lot of different outfits:
Connecticut, 19th, 18th, 16th, 14th, 13th, and 11th.
Every street looks a bit different on you:
Connecticut is wide and full of cars,
19th is short and steep and passes by Mehr's house,
18th is longer and more gradual, studded with restaurants and evolutionary experiments.
(17th doesn't go all the way.)
16th is steep, borders Meridian Hill Park, and is full of zooming buses, so after my accident I've always ridden my bike on the sidewalk.
(15th doesn't go all the way).
14th is not so steep...
but 13th, right next door, is vertiginous, with a downhill slope after you get up to the top (what a waste!)
(12th doesn't go all the way)
11th is about as steep as 14th, but has more potholes.
I usually ride down you in the mornings and what a joy you are then! My bike picks up speed until there's no traction on the wheels even on the highest gear, and I lift my arms in the air and grin against the wind in my face.
But unfortunately in life it seems you cannot zoom downhill all the time.
I have ridden up you in all weather: crisp spring, humid summer, pouring rain, snow, windy cold with lashing leaves.
I have ridden up you in all moods: happy energetic with legs pumping, sick and crabby feeling heavy, lamenting too-sore muscles from a yoga class, enjoying the rush of blood to work-dulled muscles, with an empty belly anticipating the meal I'll cook at the top of you, with a too-full belly from a happy hour, tipsy and swerving, heart pounding on the way to Martin's house.
I have ridden up you in all accoutrements: work clothes, yoga clothes, frilly dresses from going out, with shopping bags from Whole Foods dangling from the handlebars.
When I first climbed up you while shopping for apartments I didn't know you were going to be there (my MapQuest printout hadn't labelled you) and you seemed unreasonably long and steep.
Now you just seem like a little hill.
Sometimes I resent you, sometimes I dread you, but mostly I love you.
Going up and down you is part of my yoga practice.

Be the 20,000,0001st hug

Amma will be giving hugs to her followers at the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening. Here's the schedule. From her bio:

Her name is Mata Amritanandamayi, which translates into "Mother of Immortal Bliss", but to millions around the world She is known as "Amma" (mother) or "Ammachi" (beloved mother). So approachable is She that many have to come to realize in Her a love that is archetypal of "everybody's Mother".

When invited to speak at the United Nations, She is recognized as a "preeminent religious leader". The news media have dubbed Her "the Mother of Compassion" because of the extensive humanitarian charities She has launched. The press have also nicknamed Her "the Hugging Saint", because of the loving embraces She has given tirelessly to thousands everyday for the last 30 years. It is estimated that Amma has already hugged over 20 million times!

Around the world She is identified as "a living Saint". Wherever She goes the crowds that flock to Her only seem to grow as people experience something unique in Her presence. To observe what Amma does, it becomes obvious that She exhibits nothing of what we would call "a personal life". Sleeping less than two hours per day, She is the untiring servant of all people, dedicated to removing human suffering. Her outreach takes two principal forms: 1) Her darshan programs, where She reaches people individually, and 2) Her charities, designed to improve peoples' lives on a broader scale.

So, who is Ammachi? There are as many answers to that question as there are people asking. Indeed, She is almost impossible to describe—She needs to be experienced.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Join me for late afternoon beats & beers next weekend

Dear reader,

My friend Matthew is having a party next Saturday. Here's the description from his invitation:

"Join us for a lazy late afternoon of beats and beers on Peter's roof deck. Bonepony will spin his quixotic -- and sometimes salacious -- mix of tech, breakbeat, and downtempo. Kegs will be provided; additional drinks are welcome.
The roof deck has space for at least 300 people so feel free to forward this invite to others."

Matthew's also planning to post an invitation on Craigslist, just asking people to drop a note with the reason they'd be a positive addition to a party.

It should be a great time with a lot of VERY DIFFERENT types of people! I'm planning to teach a free yoga class in front of the White House that afternoon (more on that later) so I'll invite everyone in the class as well. And, dear reader, if you'd like to come just drop me a line at and I'll forward you the Evite.

Best wishes,

P.S. For fans of Australian beer I expect there will be some VB involved....

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Citizen Cope at the 9:30 club

WHEN: Saturday, July 9, 9pm doors WHERE: 9:30 club EQUIPMENT: $18, earplugs (if you're anything like me).

Cosimo was the person who introduced me to Citizen Cope's Clarence Greenwood Recordings - it's an amazing CD, every single track. It's also the perfect soundtrack, I discovered, for a sunny afternoon outside playing boules at a group house near the beach with a bunch of psychedelic philosophy grad students.

Well, the ambiance won't be quite as good, but Citizen Cope is coming to the 9:30 club! I have no doubt it'll be an splendid show.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

"We LOVE YOU! Share the experience!!!"

I rode my bike down to the Mall on Saturday and my delightful day was an example of the joys of public spaces (and the usefulness of having a bike in DC).*

Winslow Homer Exhibition at the National Gallery of Art

First I stopped by the National Gallery and looked at the exhibition of some Winslow Homer paintings and watercolours - he's considered to be a classically "American" painter, whatever that means, and it's not a description that ever inspired me to learn more about him.

Classics are classics for a reason, though, and of course there were some very powerful pieces there. Watercolour is one of those mediums that require not only technical expertise but a shaman-level of wizardry with the free-flowing coloured liquid that (perhaps bearing a distant memory of its molecular kin the Niagara waterfall), constantly threatens to splash and crash over your delicate composition: it's picky, tricky and totally unpredictable. Yet Homer coaxes some heart-breakingly subtle effects out of this diabolical medium.

His paintings are also very narrative-ly pleasing - the grim-face sharpshooter in a tree or the wistful school-teacher holding a book or the gang of boys building model ships are all fertile subjects for your imagination to wander, filling in their personalities and musing about their social contexts. Not to mention what he's most well-known for: the vivid sea-scapes that almost have you licking salt off your lips.

But I've got to say, some of his stuff is cheesy. One painting that was apparently extremely popular and widely copied in magazines is "Cracking the Whip," showing a bunch of enthusiastic young boys playing outside. I looked at it and thought, "Yeah...rosy cheeks...the vitality of youth...the wholesomeness of these nature American as apple pie..." It just seemed like a technically skilled Hallmark card to me.

If you do go to the exhibition, please take a moment to enjoy the exquisite potted gardenia tree just outside the entrance, which you can smell from twenty feet away. As I was leaving I noticed an old man stopping to admire one of the flowers; he inspired six other museum goers to pause and start chatting with each other about the rapturous smell, and then the exhibit. It could have been a moment out of a Winslow Homer painting.

Brutal death sends toxins into meat Brooke Shields soy protein karma environmental sustainability clogged arteries digestion vitamin B12

I left the National Gallery and wandered over to the Mall to look at the Folk-Life Festival, which, I was surprised to discover, appeared to be a paean to the moral virtues of vegetarianism and the spiritual implications of reincarnation. There were all these kiosks with pro-vegetarian fact-sheets and a diorama of the Bhagavad Gita with wax sculptures of the ages of man. There were colour photographs of lavish gourmet vegetarian meals, side-by-side with garishly lit photos of huge greasy slabs of steak that reminded me of certain illustrations of surgery in the anatomy textbooks I bought for my yoga teacher training course. Then I came to a kiosk with lots of information about a Hare Krishna food donation program in Russia and it all made sense. Those tricky, tricky Hare Krishnas! Obviously their vegetarian brains have a keen marketing sense, because there were many confused tourists wandering around reading all the kiosks, clearly believing this was the Folklife Festival everyone had been talking about. They're going to go home to Wisconsin and tell all their Republican friends that their tax dollars go to support vegetarian cult propaganda, instead of war-happy paranoia police-state propaganda, as is actually the case.

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival

however, was just another block further away, and the first thing I saw was the "Slow Roasting Meat" section where you could buy a sloppy piece of a whole goat to chew on. Fear not, Wisconsin taxpayers! The American government supports meat!

The Festival seemed a bit disjointed this year. There was a vegetable garden for schoolchildren, and South American food stations, and this whole section on Oman with arts and crafts and dancing. If there was a unified theme I couldn't identify it.

I remember, a few years ago, they set up the Festival to honor the Silk Road trading voyage of Marco Polo, with booths echoing the geography of his trip, and I saw the rockingest performance of a philosophical debate by actual Buddhist monks from a tiny village in Tibet (it's an action show! They've got this whole sign language/musical collaboration of stamping feet and waving fists to respond while each debater stands up to proclaim, and then they jump up to interrupt each other and yell and giggle - it's like a slam poetry gig/drum circle/philospher's meeting all in one, and supposedly completely untranslatable.) Anyway, this year is nothing like as cool as the Silk Road was.

But I bought some tasty date juice with rose water and stopped to watch an Oman dance performance, with ridiculously happy and energetic dancers the like of which I've only ever seen at Dukem**. At the end of their dance, the leader grabbed the microphone and implored the audience, "Come to the stage! Join us! Share the experience!" The crowd shared a collective pause and he repeated, "Share the experience! We love you! SHARE THE EXPERIENCE!!!" Then a bunch of people clambered onto the stage (yes, of course I did too) and we all danced around experimenting with ridiculous improvisations of the Omani dance steps. I noticed that Share the Experience Man quickly found a beautiful hippie girl to waltz around with; occasionally they traded twirls, and I think he pinched her butt once.

We all went back to our seats for the next show and a man came to sit down next to me, a little closer than socially acceptable. I didn't look at him though, since I was riveted on the dancers. "That looks like a nice drink," he said and when I glanced at him in annoyance, my frown melted away when I saw that it was George, the father of my first boyfriend Ben (and passionate love and four-year relationship). "It's so funny," said Angela, Ben's mother, coming up. "Everyone was jumping on stage and I was thinking to myself, That's just the sort of thing that Zoe would do. And then I saw you!" George and Angela are among the sweetest people on the planet and I hope to keep in touch with them.

Monkeys Grasping for the Moon at the Sackler

As I wandered away from Oman, my friend Cosimo, who was visiting from New York, called, and I agreed to meet him in the Sackler museum garden. While I was waiting I wandered into the museum; they always have superb modern art exhibits in the main lobby and right now it's half of Cai Guo-Qiang's Traveler: a breathtaking ruined ship filled with broken ceramics, visually smashing*** and poetic and moving. Their permanent stairway exhibit, "Monkeys Grasping for the Moon," is also extremely clever.

Cosimo and his friends were late to meet me in the garden, and when they arrived they breathlessly regaled me with tales of how they went to the wrong sculpture garden in front of the National Gallery, and they were hot, so they jumped in the fountain even though there was a sign saying that you couldn't, and all these onlookers were watching them frolic, and then a security guard kicked them out, except he was secretly sympathetic and just had these bureaucratic rules he had to follow, so he had to tell them they could have been arrested, but he just asked for their names and wrote them down on a scrap of paper.

Cosimo is a philosophy graduate student studying in New York, so he is naturally interested in such anthropologically fertile scenes of passive resistance. In fact, as he told me, he just got funding for a research project in France. He has also fallen in love with a woman he met on the train a month ago, who lives in Harlem and has been taking care of her six younger siblings for the past ten years after their mother died. Cosimo is planning to marry this woman so that she and three of her six siblings can join him in France for the next two years.

Coming from most of my other friends, these would seem like pretty dramatic developments, but with Cosimo I take it all in stride. This is a guy who sells designer hallucinogens to his philosophy professors, after all. He spends about half his life tripping, and seems to have a new epiphany every month. (I believe it's the movie Amelie where some guy worries that there are a limited number of orgasms in the world and so if you have one, it's selfish because you're denying somebody else the chance. Well, I sure hope it's not like that with epiphanies, because Cosimo**** certainly has more than his fair share of them.)

Cosimo and his fiancee took me over to his sister's apartment where we ate some baba ghanoush and they enjoyed some 2CI powder mixed with root beer. I politely declined, since it's become pretty clear to me that with my overactive imagination, an escape from reality is not exactly what the doctor ordered.

Then I rode my bike all the way home.

Total cost for the day: $3 (date juice).


*Yes, I got a new one. It's from Chain Reaction on the corner of 6th and R - they have very good deals, if you're looking.
**The best Ethiopian restaurant in DC (and that's saying something, because there are zillions of 'em).
***Ha! Sorry.
****Of course that's not his real name, and any other possibly identifying details have been removed; in fact, the whole character is my fiction-writing exercise.

Maybe next they'll keep Hermes open for me

I just got the following email:

From: leah morgan []
Date: Jul 6, 2005 12:42 PM
Subject: MUSIC EVENT INVITATION: Leah Morgan @ Iota 7/19

Good afternoon,

I hope you are doing well. I wanted to invite you to my band's next performance at Iota Club & Cafe on Tues 7/19. Our start time will be 10pm. Please let me know if you are interested in attending and I will gladly put you on the guest list. Also let me know if you have any questions about the event.

WHO: Leah Morgan Band
WHAT: live performance @ Iota Club & Cafe
WHEN: Tues, 7/19, 10pm (music starts @ 8:30pm)
WHERE: 2832 Wilson Blvd Arlington VA,

Best regards,
Leah Morgan


It's my first blogger perk - not surprising, considering that I expend zero effort to promote myself or make myself accessible. I can only assume that Leah, on the other hand, is a savvy and efficient self-promoter, did some kind of "dc activity blog" search that turned me up, and quickly added me to her marketing database. If she was familiar with my blog...well, she'd realize that it is focused more on navel-gazing rants about how yoga can save the world, rather than real, live, fun things to do in DC. (For which I apologize, reader. I've been going through a navel-gazing phase. Maybe it's the love, maybe it's the weather.)

Nonetheless her music seems pretty good and I promise to report back.

By the way, on a completely unrelated note, you've got to check this out:

Sunday, July 03, 2005


"To love" is a very peculiar verb, and "I love you" are three very peculiar words. "Love" is one of those words in the English language that is possible to use without the slightest shadow of understanding what it is. Furthermore, it is a word that is almost useless for communication - since I would guess there are as many definitions of love as there are thinking minds.

Yet it is a very commonly used word. "I love you. Do you love her? I love ice-cream. I loved your performance. If I loved it..." It can be declarative, interrogative, in the past or future tense, even conditional.

"I love you." Within the context of a relationship, these words are considered signifiers of the utmost importance. "Has he said 'I love you' yet?" "I'm not sure whether to tell him, because what if he doesn't say it back?" "Yep, he went and dropped the L-bomb." All of this in a world where it's acceptable to exclaim, "I love carrots!"

I have said 'I love you' to people when I had no real guess as to its true meaning in my mind. Would I die for the person? Would I let them have the bigger piece of cheesecake? Perhaps the former and not the latter? Perhaps the latter and not the former? Nonetheless, although I could not have defined "love," I knew it was the emotion I was feeling. And occasionally circumstances gave me the opportunity to test my definition of the emotion. By observing my choices while influenced by love, I could further refine the approximation I had of its secret manifestation within me.

Some of these example decisions cause me sincere regret, and I realize that's because they did not accord with what I would have expected a pure love to produce. These decisions reflect an inner definition of love that is not entirely worthy.

But 'worthy' of what? And from where do I get my notions of what a 'worthy love' actually is? Who or what instilled these ideals in me? Is it a simple matter of a combination, according to some biological alchemy, of all the different theories of love I've been exposed to over my life? Does it spring from my first memories of a huge form leaning over me whispering "I love you" and my subsequent memories of the behavior of that form toward me?

Perhaps these multitudes of definitions of love are all simply reflections, or rather refractions, of one huge, unitary, original love? That 'I love you' and 'I love carrots' and 'I loved your performance' really all are aspects, seen through the looking-glass, of the same thing? And, further, that we are all just pretending not to understand what it means? How else could philosophers have maintained a conversation over this supposedly mysterious concept all these years?