Who’s That Cute Girl?

posted in: Day In The Life 13
Day & Son lithograph, Gayatri Jup, 1851. Image: Wikipedia.
Day & Son lithograph, Gayatri Jup, 1851. Image: Wikipedia.

 

I’m halfway through my 30-day yoga challenge!

Well, tomorrow will be Day 15, so I’m a little ahead of myself. But for all intents and purposes, I’m in the middle of this thing. Let me tell you some things I’ve learned.

1) Coming back to a yoga practice — or really anything you used to be really good at and then you stopped doing — is really hard. 
Because you used to be good at it. And now you’re not. You used to be able to stand on one leg and kick the other leg out while sweat dripped into your eyeball and you could hold it there and breathe and go deeper and deeper but guess what? Not anymore, toots. Well, not right now, anyway. The frustration floods in and you despair. Why did I stop practicing? How much better at this could I be right now if I hadn’t drifted away? How long will it take to get close to where I was before? Have I gained a lot of weight or just a little weight?

2) Coming back to a yoga practice — or really anything you used to be really good at and then you stopped doing — is a gift. 
Every yogini has bad habits. A bad habit in a yoga practice would be something like cheating out of a posture a few seconds before the teacher calls to release it, doing lazy sit-ups between the postures on the floor rather than really trying to make them crisp and intentional. (I just said “crisp and intentional.”) Everyone has bad habits, including me. Well, coming back in and feeling totally new and raw again, I have the opportunity to change those bad habits. I’m so open to everything, you know? I know how badly I need to be in that room and I’m putty, baby: Change me.

3) I missed this Mary.
There are many Marys. There’s Mary Sewing At Midnight. There’s Leading The Class Discussion Mary. There’s Mary On a Date. There’s Mary on TV. There’s Bookish Mary, Flirty Mary, Mary The Sister, Mary The Daughter, Shy Mary, Mary The Fool, Mary The Selfish, Flirty Mary, Goofball Mary — and on and on, just like anyone else. But you know which Mary I really dig? Athlete Mary. Now, if you would’ve told me in the sixth grade that Athlete Mary existed, I would have said something like “Gag me with a spoon!” because it was the early ’90s and I loathed and despised gym class more than anything in this universe or the next. But it turns out that I’m super athletic in the stuff that I like, like Barbie dance aerobics* and Bikram yoga. The other day in class I was pouring sweat and very intent on my posture; I looked incredibly determined (remember, Bikram yoga is done while facing a wall of mirrors, quelle horror) and I had a pang of love and longing. Because it was like, “Oh! Hi! Hi! Oh, wow! I know you! I missed you. You are such a bada*s, Athlete Mary. Okay, now don’t lose your balance.” It’s been too long since I hung out with that Mary and it feels really good.

4) If it was easy, it wouldn’t be hard. Or worth doing. Or… Just go to class, kid. 
I didn’t want to go to class tonight and I drank too much water halfway through and felt like I was gonna spew. Yesterday’s class was so hard and awful and I had to go across town to the other studio to make it work with my schedule. My challenge means that I will do a class on Christmas Day (not a huge deal, but it impacts the day with family, nonetheless.) All of these things are annoying and nobody likes spewing or making a workout a priority when there are so many other awesome things one could prioritize, like chocolate pretzels, for example. But enough. Do you want this or not? Remember why you do. And go to class.

Happy Holidays, everyone. I’ve got sad news to post tomorrow and a big, ugly topic to tackel here on the ol’ PG that I’ve been procrastinating about. That’s all coming this week. Maybe I’ll get the gumption to write it all because I’m meeting my yoga challenge, day by day, pose by pose.

Differently Abled.

posted in: Day In The Life 1
The Gallaudet Cheerleaders, 2013. Photo: Gallaudet University.
The Gallaudet Cheerleaders, 2013. Photo: Gallaudet University.

 

I’ve returned to my Bikram yoga practice and it feels great, except that the first time I walked into the Capitol Hill studio on New Year’s Eve day, a real cruddy memory came flooding back.

In 2009, I was here in D.C. with the Neo-Futurists, performing for a month at Woolly Mammoth theater — which is just a few blocks from my new home, incidentally. It was that trip that caused me to fall in love with D.C. At the time, I was extremely committed to my yoga practice and would get up at five in the morning to walk to the Capitol Hill studio to take the six a.m. class so that I could be showered, fed, watered and at the theater by nine o’clock rehearsal. I kinda can’t believe I did that.

I had an ostomy bag for many years. I had my first bag for about a year and then the surgeons poked my intestine back into my body. I got sick again right away, so I had to get an ostomy again. The second time, I had it about two years. When I was well enough during both periods, I kept practicing yoga. Bikram yoga is 90 minutes inside a room heated to 105 degrees. An ostomy bag is attached to the body with a wax seal and a sticker. Before every class over those years, I would have to tape up my bag with athletic tape so it wouldn’t fall off, then empty it, and then explain to the teacher before class that in between the standing series and the floor series, I would probably have to go empty it again. I usually did; the second half of a Bikram class is done largely on your belly. A bag full of… Well, you can imagine. Typically, it’s not cool to leave a Bikram class at all, so it was my responsibility to apprise teachers of my special case.

The only time any Bikram teacher ever made me feel bad about my ostomy bag was at the Capitol Hill studio, and I’ve practiced in Bikram studios coast to coast.

“Hey, hi,” I said to the teacher with a smile. “I just wanted to let you know, I have an ostomy bag, and I usually have to go to the bathroom between the standing and floor series, so if that’s cool with y—”

The teacher looked at me like there was a bug crawling across my face. “Oh. Well… Is it…visible?” she asked me, her lip kind of up by her nose.

I blinked. No one had ever asked me that before.

“Uh… No, not… No. I mean, you can see a little bit of the appliance and the tape, I guess, poking up over my shorts…” I trailed off. I felt so lousy. It’s amazing how the differences we have become our “normal” until someone makes them bizarre and therefore wrong.

The other day in the changing room, I heard some very unusual sounds. Two girls were making the sounds, which were kind of breathless squeaks. I turned to see two young ladies smiling and jumping up and down and signing to each other like crazy. Either they hadn’t seen each other in awhile or one of the girls was having a really great day and telling the other about it. One of the girls had a Gallaudet sweatshirt on and I remembered that the prestigious college for the deaf, Gallaudet University, is here in D.C.

Bikram yoga is a class that is taught by one teacher who has a 90-minute “dialogue” that he or she recites. It’s the same every class. You listen to the words, you do the poses. Those girls come to yoga, but they can’t hear the words the teacher is saying. But Bikram yoga is also — and always — taught in a room with a floor-to-ceiling mirror in the front of the room. So you don’t really have to hear the dialogue, I realized; you can just watch what the class is doing and keep perfect pace.

I understand why “disabled” is a term that a lot of people don’t like. “Differently abled” is a far better choice of words.

5 Haiku for NYC.

posted in: Art, New York City, Poetry 2
Taken at the 25th Annual Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival, Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, 2006. From NYC.com.
Taken at the 25th Annual Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival, Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, 2006. From NYC.com.

I made up a haiku the other day to amuse Yuri and boy, did it work. He is an almost frighteningly intelligent fellow, but he looked at me and said,

“How did you do that?”

Here now, a few haiku for New York City. They keep coming to me. I’m not saying they’re any good, but they keep coming to me.

The laundry service
Shrunk everything. So begins
The New York diet.

That man is sleeping
On a bottle of urine.
Hey, it’s a pillow.

The Lower East Side
Is a crowded crackerbox.
See what I did there?

I’m back in yoga.
Sweaty togs hang in shower.
(Yuri still loves me.)

Manhattan lemmings:
You are all completely nuts.
Now I am, too. Balls!

 

ArtSpy #071862: George B. Luks, Allen Street, c. 1905

George B. Luks, Allen Street, c. 1905.
George B. Luks, Allen Street, c. 1905.

I was there today, right there to the left of the red chair. You can still see my imprint! I have a yoga mat on my back and I’m wearing really insane winter boots with saw soles.

My NYC yoga studio is in the Lower East Side at the corner of Stanton and Allen, the very same Allen Street George B. Luks captured so brilliantly in his painting. His version of the scene in oil and the handful of versions I snapped of it in Instagram aren’t dissimilar. These days, there are fewer bonnets — or are those burkas on Luks’s women? — on Allen Street, but there’s just as much stuff for sale and there are dress shops and people stacked on top of one another.

Luks was an artist of the Ashcan School. If “The Ashcan School” sounds fancy, that’s just what the Ashcan painters want you to think, but the name comes from the actual object: the ash can.

These guys were a belligerent bunch. It was around the turn of the 20th century they were doing their thing. The grand poo-bah of the (loosely affiliated) group was a newspaper illustrator named Robert Henri. He said he wanted art to be more like journalism: hard, honest, unflinching. The John Singer-Sargent stuff was starting to rot everyone’s teeth out, and Henri and his band of super grumpy painters wanted to portray the real people they saw in the cities where they all hailed from, New York City and Philly. Down-and-out beggars, rag-pickers, elderly indigent women, the unwashed masses — these were the subjects for the Ashcan guys. They painted on wood panels they found, on boards, on window shades. They got into bar fights. Luks was such a bad boy, he actually died in a bar fight in 1933.

In New York, on Allen and Stanton, I can feel the past bear down so hard on me, I actually tend to walk a little faster. I love it down there on the Lower East Side, but the air has an edge and it ain’t the rock clubs. It’s the tenement houses, long burned down. It’s the rag-pickers. It’s that Allen Street was Asylum Street for a good while — why? Because it was where the New York Orphan Asylum was, of course. There’s something in the grime that produces slides in my brain: hungry faces and brawling drunks; the smell of boiling meat, boiling clothing, boiling hot days in August.

Yoga was good. I’ve returned to my Bikram practice. It wasn’t so rough today, but I’ve been in class when there were forty or fifty people packed into that room. It’s no more than 450 sq. ft. and it’s heated to 105 degrees. I’ve been in classes so packed that when I did my forward standing bend, I’ve hit the butt of the girl in front of me with my forehead.

And the grime becomes you.