Friday, November 20, 2015





What if I asked you to look straight into the sun?  Maybe you would, for a second or two, until the brightness overwhelmed you and you just had to close your eyes. But what if I insisted that you keep looking straight into the sun, no blinking? Would you do it?  You would not. Because you have no desire to damage your vision, and you are not crazy, and if I asked you to do such a thing, I would be the crazy one.

Which brings me to the show I attended the other night at Oakland's historic Fox Theater, a striking art deco former movie theater- turned concert venue that dates back to 1928.  My husband and I had tickets to see Railroad Earth, a country-rock jam band. Being non-boogying boomers with bad knees, we had seats in the mezzanine. The theater customarily takes out the orchestra seats for any act whose music is vaguely danceable so people can smoke pot, crowd each other and jump up and down. Which is fine by me. To everything yada yada.

Anyway, the opening act was pretty loud, but when the main event came out on stage, the sound became unbearable. My husband was covering his ears. You could feel your chair vibrate. Also, your feet, your head and your thyroid. I thought I could recognize a song I knew but it was too loud to know for sure. My spouse, whose hearing is already damaged from attending too many concerts in his reckless hippy days, couldn't take it anymore and moved to the last row of the third tier balcony. I went downstairs to complain. Apparently I was not the first person to do so. The usher directed me to the first aid room where a volunteer was handing out ear plugs.  I grabbed a pair for me and a pair for my spouse.

It was a very long concert, a fact which at a decibel level safe for human existence, we would have appreciated. It's no secret that old rockers get tinnitus and hearing loss. When I've had seats in the orchestra, I have brought ear plugs to concerts - your ears don't ring the next day and you can actually understand the lyrics.  But when it's so loud, you need to protect your ears in the back of the mezzanine, I have to wonder who benefits. Not the band, who are all going to end up deaf as Keith Moon. Nor will they sell a lot of CDs after the show, because who can actually listen to any of the songs at a decibel level loud enough to deafen the nearest dolphin pod?  And not the poor kids in the orchestra, who will end up with hearing damage just like their boomer parents.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Elephant and the Cow



Auspicious Beginnings.  That was my theme to start the new year. I am not going to wring my hands and bore you with the gory details, but 2014 was a little rough. I needed to usher in 2015 on a positive note. So I signed up for a 2-hour New Year's Day yoga workshop at Mountain Yoga, a sweet, small studio in downtown Montclair. The theme was An Elephantine Celebration, dedicated to Lord Ganesh. With his toddler limbs, Bacchus belly and out-sized elephant head, Ganesh looks like an escapee from The Island of Doctor Moreau. Like all Indian gods and goddesses, Old Trunk-Face has a variety of names. “Destroyer of all Obstacles and Impediments.”  “Bestower of Success and Accomplishments.” “ Grantor of Wishes and Boons.”  But what makes him an especially appropriate New Year’s Day deity is his role as the "Lord of New Beginnings."

The workshop was led by studio owner Ann Dyer, an inspired teacher of yoga and sound sadhana. Ann was engaging and fun, as always. The pace was perfect. I got a gentle work out and a good stretch, and I probably untwisted an emotional kink or two. We learned a simple chant in praise of Ganesh. I can't say I felt any closer to the elephant god - I appreciate Eastern spirituality, but in a purely abstract way.  For me, all the gods and goddesses get in the way of the big ideas. But the class was inspiring and enlivening. I stepped out into the sunshine, humming the Ganesh chant and thinking this had to be an auspicious beginning and 2015 just might possibly not suck.

Like a kite skimming the ground on a breezy day, I was eager for uplift. I decided to take a solo meditative hike in Briones, one of our less-visited regional parks. My husband was in a football trance and would never miss me.  I put on leggings, socks and hiking boots, and several layers of sweaters to keep on or take off as needed. Maggie the schnauzer seemed game, so I put her leash on and packed enough water for both of us.

It was ideal Briones weather. The hills were green as √Čire and the sky, a postcard-perfect blue. We passed through the cattle gate at the trail head. A pair of hikers walked ahead of us. Two men and a woman on horseback were coming our way,  accompanied by a pair of herding dogs, a half dozen cows and a couple of calves. The riders and bovines slowed down to a walk to let us pass. One of the hikers got a little too close to a calf and its mother came running.  She lost interest, mid-charge, when the hiker bolted. We left the cattle behind and were strolling along the edge of a tree-lined meadow when out of the forest strode a confident and well-fed coyote. He sat back on his haunches and looked us over. No doubt Maggie would make a fine supper.  Sweeping her up with one arm, I waved my walking stick with the other. "Go away!" I shouted. "Get out of here!" His Wiliness didn't oblige, but came no closer. We kept walking, warning several oncoming dog owners to put their best friends on leashes before rounding the bend.

After a while, we passed one of Briones' inky green vernal pools, temporary ponds that wax and wane with the seasons and rainfall levels. A Great Blue Heron had the whole pool to himself. I stopped to watch him. The landscape glowed in the late afternoon light. Sunshine. Fresh air. Meadows. Trees. Herons. Coyotes. Heck, throw in the cows. Beauty was all around me. Maybe Lord Ganesh was on to something. Maybe this day was an auspicious beginning for 2015. Perhaps that Heron was an omen. Or the coyote. Perhaps...

Shhllllippp....Thwack. That's the sound you make when you slip on a giant cow pie, lose your footing, and land in it arse-first. Did I mention I was wearing leggings? There was nothing to clean my haunches with and I was afraid to get my hands dirty because, well, there would be nothing to clean them with either. The only option was to find a dry patch of grass, roll around in it like a wet dog, and hope to God nobody strolled by. Which is what I did. Thankfully, I only passed three people on the remaining three and a half mile trek back to the car. I tried to look dignified as I walked by, smelling of meadow grass after it's been processed through four ruminant stomachs and a mile of bowels.  I was sure I was getting some kind of toxic rash. I wanted to get back to the car in the worst way. The poor dog could barely keep up.

Minor miracle, I had a towel in the car. It was intended to protect the seat from Maggie the Schnauzer's muddy paws. Sorry, Maggie, I need your towel – poop trumps mud every time.

I fell in a cow pie on New Year's Day. Please, Ganesh, don't tell me that was an omen.