So here I lay... on my back propped up with my pillows, staring into the light screen of my Apple, wondering why I just cant seem to sleep any more.
I haven't editted my website in half a year... opps ... and now, suddenly ... tonight, I JUST HAVE TO DO IT! Right?
OK world.. Here is what I think is happening.
I am turning 65, the calendar tells me. I have lived, and I have lived large and loud most of my life. Of course I can't just quietly turn 65, I have to fly across this round planet through time and space in a little metal can propelled by highly flammable jet fuel, over vast dark oceans, and hhhopefull arrive safely in Australia for some happenings being arranged in Noosa Heads, north of Brisbane.
Please don't judge me as a jet setting trust funder or anything. I'm not even middle class according to the stats, and I manage to travel extensively because of Yoga Karma...
Yoga Karma is what propels my world. I meet amazing people, and am on the go, staying fit and breathing, and learning non-stop. I love this world of yogis and weirdos. I love popping into a room and practicing asanas from here to "Jabib," ( a fictitious place my mom always refered to) and know that we each share this love of moving in specific ways, and probably can't ever stop doing it.
Oh, and I've tried to stop. It takes about two weeks and I am lost, sad, scared, depressed, and angry.... Gotta get back on da mat. And then, within hours I steer myself, or it steers me and something alchemical happens and all is right in the world again. How is that?
My enthusiasm and many experiments leaving and returning to yoga practice has taught me much. And that is what I love to do; teach the "much" I think I've experienced... and that is called Yoga Karma.. 40 years worth.
So Australia, here I come again. And then "Hello New Zealand" for the first time. I cant wait to meet you! I have the yoga tentacles connected to another studio there to appear and do the yoga thing. I love to just appear and give the gifts... and this is my Bliss, this is my Bliss.
I have other Bliss too; but for now, as as my eyes dry up and my body is aching to sleep, I am saying goodnight. It's been a long day of teaching.
I got some stuff done tonight. I sent flyers, and emails, and photos and and and and..... all I want to do is relax and breathe and become utterly present.
Don't we all want that..?... some mastery over the monkey mind, some mastery over that part of us that isn't quite good enough yet? Don't we all want the roar of all the things to do and accomplish to subside? I want, for one day to not feel like I am slightly behind answering my emails, snail mail, and all the tasks to get done..
Caught up.. hmm..what the hell is that anyway?
I never was comfortable with the little messes of living.. I'm beginning to see though that its always a little undone, or coming apart constantly, and to fight entropy takes a lot of energy..
On the mat, it all goes away. I have these neat little postures to focus on. I breathe and feel my pores sweating and my feet on the ground. I have mercy on myself for all the mad thoughts, desires, judgements and analyses my mind manufactures, non -stop.. I somehow through practice, practice allowing them to be while this other part of me enjoys the NOW.
So NOW .... Good night!
A rambling travel blog…a long winding one! Enjoy!
In the shadow of the cyclone and destruction in Fiji, it is a powerful lesson in Anicca (impermanence) to write this blog.
As we bask in our good fortunes, sometimes, boasting about the good times on FB, and distinctly hiding the shadow side to things, life occasionally slaps you awake when paradise takes a turn to the hellish side of life. When Mother Nature whips up a storm and people lose their villages and homes, and sometimes lives. We suddenly don’ t talk so loud; nor do we get any pleasure in being so proud.
I pray my new Fijian friends are OK and that their villages and lives are in tact.
Feb 5, 2016 6am
If you remember a few blogs back, I was dreaming about Fiji and spending hours on internet travel sites cruising all places and deal as the temperatures fell below zero just outside of my windows. And, voila! ... Here I sit, actually inside the pictures I so carefully studied. I’m living it all and much more …
“People travel to far away places to watch , in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” Dagobert D Runes
Magic happens, people connect, … this is a God thing... I got connected with some recent graduates of the Mark Whitwell advanced teacher training while in Nadi, Fiji; via Collectivo Cafe in Madison, Wisconsin.
As I wait for my friend I overhear a woman at the next table mention Mark’s name just as I was checking my emails to see if he was, in fact, at his home base in Fiji. Since I have never emailed Mark Whitwell, I found this synchronistic event odd and irresistible. I excuse myself and break into their conversation, slightly startling the two women. The woman adjacent to me spoke about being a yoga teacher and assisting Mark in Fiji several times. We exchanged emails. The conversation was economically short, but effective. The next day I receive n email with an introduction to a “Maddie,” and over the miles I am instantly connected to the Fiji Yoga community.
4 AM, it's me again, except this time I'm above the South Pacific about 40,000 feet. I've connected with two people to play with on this mysterious island out in the middle of the sea as I sipped coffee at Collectivo the week before. I’m planning Hot Springs, mud baths, snorkeling and sunbathing. I’ll bide my time and open myself to meeting people and connecting on as personal a level as possible. Hindus, Christians and Muslims, the mix of this country interests me as they co-exist peacefully.
I look forward to a variety of new foods, colors, sounds, sights and smells; and a vast ocean on all sides. These are the things I dream of squashed into my airline seat, blanket on my lap, light down coat zipped up, and an omelette in my belly. I'm still cold. LA was colder than I remember ever. Light down coats at night where a must.
Meticulously planned this time, after so may long solo journeys, I buy my dollars ahead of time for both Fiji and Australia, and began lining up a house/dog-sitters two months earlier; interviewing about 6 possibilities.
And even with my meticulous planning, it is a last-minute upset with my apartment sitter and care for my dog Cosmo falling through because I of series of faux pas…leading to desperate last minute calls, all hours of day and night, scrambling, trying to get help. My departure anxieties heightened to near hysteria throws a huge monkey wrench into my smooth plans. All this drives me insane. Seven people later I finally mange to get one 12-lb. sleepy dog settled, and 5 plants to kept alive, a last minute fridge clean out, and all kinds of closing up a now empty apartment. I feel overly indebted and exhausted...
Add more exhaustion from my flight to Los Angeles; I grapple with this now huge financial hit I didn't anticipate; starting my trip deeply in the hole instead of having all the expenses covered. And this too shall pass, and it did.
Anicca: Impermanence is one of the essential doctrines or three marks of existence in Buddhism. The term expresses the Buddhist notion that all of conditioned existence, without exception, is transient, or in a constant state of flux. The mutability of life, that time passes on no matter what happens, is an important aspect of impermanence.
I thank my beautiful and patient friends in Los Angeles who are so sweet and settled in their comfortable gorgeous homes which they opened freely to me to enjoy. I experienced great food and love for the five nights I spent there, and I thank you all!
Restless leg syndrome haunts me, and it keeps me up all night the second night in Fiji. I pray no one becomes my roommate and hears me thrashing around, legs up-and-down as I slap at my calves, and punch my thighs, trying to beat them into submission! It's crazy. I wonder what causes such a disturbance in this extremity. I hear a knock at the door and I say weakly, “I’m awake; Thank You,”as my morning wake-up arrives way too soon. That empty slightly nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach after a sleepless night is all I can feel.
I push on and get up, strolling out to the lobby. I close and lock the door to Room 7, and enjoy my simple breakfast facing the endless glass-calm sea; three kittens and mom cat are lined up next to my chair. My trusty aging iPad actually manages to get me online, and up pops a great photo of dear friends of mine from LA; a very handsome couple I had the pleasure to be cast as their “maid of honor” for at their wedding almost two decades ago. It has taken my my friend five or six years to finally get a Facebook account, so from my oceanfront breakfast across the world, I sent her an instant photo and say hello. And to think in college we had to wait in line with coins just to place a phone call.
Later this day I actually went to a real working phone booth and placed at call to the mysterious Mattie. In a few hours I am driving away with two young yoga students, Mattie and Lou, and brought out to a local lunch spot to enjoy a luscious, nose-running-hot, made-on-the-spot curry. Bonding unfolds. New friends, and the "heart of yoga" in common; we quickly brain storm a pop-up Yin Immersion on the island. Mattie volunteers to be my super-assistant, and within day or two, it happens at the Vivekananda Education Center in Nadi. Yin is scheduled for the night before I leave this Island paradise.
My 4th day soaking in the beauty and culture of FIJI I find myself in a air-conditioned Jeep sitting next to a local Fijian man talking about life. We are perched at the top of a long jungly, rugged driveway, idling as we wait for the bus to arrive to deliver me back to city central after a glorious 24 hours at this Coral coast resort. The side of this vehicle has a colorful panted logo which describes accurately Mango Bay Resort, “The Happiest Place in Fiji.”
I woke up at dawn in my lovely jungle hut/cabin surrounded in a soft white mosquito I did not need. I did not receive a single mosquito bite the five days I spend tooling around the island; nor did I use a drop of sunscreen. I am more afraid of sunscreen than the sun; just me. I avoided a burn (sort of) and escaped without one itchy bump.
I opened up my bright red door, and before me a paradise dream unfolds before my eyes, greenery, chirping birds, a lovely patio and a small winding path leading to the restaurant (without walls) facing the ocean. It is quiet, sunny, and hot already at 7 am. I think briefly, “Where is my companion, my partner, my lover?” And like a dozen natives asked me over five days, “Where is you husband?”
At breakfast, the waiter asks, should we wait for your husband? I say “Better not…”
In the town of Nadi the day before, I hoped a local bus and jumped off city center, cruising the dirty hot city streets stopping in shop after shop; not for shopping which I have very little interest in, but to overhear conversations, and strike up new ones. As one proprietor opens a case to the pearls, I am dazzled by one single pearl on a diamond clasp… He spots my interest and he says, “Maybe show your husband this and he will surely buy it for you; such a beautiful woman needs a necklace like this..”
Women, my age, don’t really travel alone and cruise around cities in paradise islands alone apparently. This middle-aged Indian man is astonished when I tell him I have never been married. I made a joke that “I forgot to get married” but he did not get it and just looked confused.
Pua my driver at Mango Bay, a well-built young man of 27 is making chitchat with me telling me about his family history at my prodding. He writes down his surname, and explains what it means. “My ancestors were boat-makers,” he tells me in his perfect English accent explaining the meaning of his Fijian surname; the one he had before being given the English name. Most Fijian tribal names were replaced when the island was colonized by Great Britain. He tells me he lives close by in a small village. He is articulate and clean-cut wearing the blue floral shirt stamped with the logo of the resort. I somehow feel sad. The world continues to shrink as smaller tribal cultures dissolve into the machine. Customs, language, and the delicate organization of a smaller group of people living out their lives together is fading.
Pua drives people up and down the long driveway to heaven day after day, among other things he does for Mango Bay Resort. He expresses gratitude to the English for helping civilize their culture, infamous for their fierce warriors and cannabilism less than 150 years ago.
Somehow we get to talking about yoga and the possibility of my having a retreat at the resort. He takes my name and email quickly as the bus rolls towards the stop. I try to give him one single dollar as a tip, and he refuses. I place it onto the dash and dash! I found out earlier that day in my snooping around and talking to the staff that the cook who made luscious food for me earns $3.00 an hour, Fijian dollars.. About 1.35 US.
I hop into the local bus, at first on the wrong side.. Oops, yes, they drive the opposite way and I am always jumping into the wrong side of cars, taxis and buses. My chariot is packed with all locals; me the single tourist, and the rest a mixed bag of Indians, Fijians, and Asians. I find a small wedge of an opening between two middle-aged women, one in full sari, and the other a local Fijian wearing a skirt and starched shirt. I am impressed by the personal cleanliness of the people of this country, stain free clothing, very conservative and colorful, nice practical simple shoes; mostly sandals, and well-groomed nails and hair. Unlike the ex-pats who are the smellier humans extolling the virtues of giving up daily showers and simply squeezing lemon under their armpits instead of deodorant; (bless their souls!) Life is a fun house no doubt!
As I snuggle between these two sleepy women in this large air-conditioned bus, I have the surprise of watching Robin Williams on the screen at the front of the bus in the movie, Jumanji. Yes, movies and TV series are screened for the entire 2 1/2 hour ride to Nadi, ... and I bet you all were thinking chickens and goats. Yeah … Nope... Jumanji; Robin Williams.
I can't help but wonder what Robin would think if he knew he lived on inside of this local bus on an island in the middle of the South Pacific rolling back-and-forth from the resorts and small villages along the sea and through the jungles each and every day as children sit delighted and frightened clinging to their dads or moms; as his Jungle curse unfolds on the screen and as the Real Jungles roll past just outside the windows. He’d grin ear to ear no doubt.
When the screen finally goes dark, on comes the music. "Born in the USA,” John Mellencamp is the first in the line up, then Reggae, Beyoncé, and finally Adele; as both women doze off at each side of me, my thighs touching theirs, and our chubby, warm arms press one against the other.
I grow pensive and philosophical as I study the side of each of their profiles, each so different; Indian and Fijian, their jewelry, clothing, hair, eyebrows, and make-up stem from different esthetics. I wonder about each life and assume they have children. I wonder if the people they love are at the end of this bus route. I sigh and imagine all the losses and struggles, all the laughter and love, and I'm suddenly holding back a flood of tears, my eyes stinging. I miss my parents, my brother, all the people I have lost. I am overwhelmed by our sandwich here on these worn seats...three women each around the same age, from three divergent cultures. We three exhausted for different reasons, and for this one and only moment in time, joined at the hips and shoulders. I take a deep breath and try to imprint this sensation of human coziness into my cellular self. I am emotional and full of love. I wish my son were with me.
I pray for world peace, equality, and a New World order. I study the gold and diamond earrings on the very dark skinned Indian woman to my right and wonder if her husband indeed bought her these earrings when they were courting. I see the skin scars from bug bites and the dry scalp of the older Fijian woman and wonder if she is as old as she looks, as I study her well worn hands. Each life unique and precious. Three rare human births in their individual wrappings of culture and biology is a wonder. It is so good to slow down and see the people when traveling.
The bed bunk room is intact when I return. My AirMac, my iPhone, my passport, and my money all where I tucked them. A new person is in the room. I see his stuff and he's taken my lower bunk while I was gone. I’ve been so happy not to have a roommate in a room with a private bath, and now, dang, someone strange … a man is now living with me.
I go to the front desk and tell them apologetically I need to change the room. Eventually I am moved to the same type of room (the budget traveler room) with a private bath and air con for $17. a day.) I grab the lower bunk. It's spotless and clean, crispy sheets, and within an hour there's a knock at the door. I open it, and a woman bursts in with a shiny main of long thick black hair, and a big red lipstick smile, a voluptuous body, and appearing well over 40. She stands before me holding out her hand and says an exuberant "Hello," in an accent I do not recognize. She is an exotic womanly woman, very beautiful and, unlike the other tourists in this funky beachfront compound who are a little travel weary looking and scruffily dressed, she is wearing a very attractive dress.
I apologize for having my bags opened as I re-pack, leaving her almost no room to walk in. This room cannot be more than 10+10; designed only for sleeping, not for hanging out in. There is no where to go except onto the bed to rest.I actually prefer this to 5 star travel which I am no stranger to. One time I was at a resort in Kona, Hawaii and at least three uniformed men bothered me with fresh towels, constantly emptying ashtrays and asking me constantly how I was, and did I need anything, I almost went insane.As my friend and I went out in the fake pool with plastic pedaling rafts, she looked at me and an sarcastically asked, “Are we having fun yet?”
"Oh I travel light,” My newest roomie explains in her perfect English with the mysterious accent. “I’m always going from country to country..” She declares. “I'm easy!" She continues explaining this stop. “I wanted a WOW experience on my way to Australia and figured 5 days in Fiji was the thing to do.” Ah, I think, a woman after my own heart.
I tell her I did the exact same plan...and we bond instantly. We giggle and she tells me a bit about her life...born in Bulgaria, living in both Malaga, Spain,(a place I have visited) and keeping a small apartment in Germany for access to all European countries. She shares her love of being single and traveling as she pleases. As fast as she burst, she was off to meet a handsome man friend and to explore the downtown night life.
I leave at 5 am and slip out without even her name. She is polite enough to wish me safe travels from her bunk above me. Two women passing through life.
I walk outside towards the beautiful pool and calm dawn dragging my two bags. The sea is lit in pastels. I get my complementary last breakfast; one cup of coffee, scrambled eggs, two slices of toast with jam. I share my eggs with all the local kitties who gather around my table for the last time. The cab arrives and I am off for Part 2 of my trip: Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Noosa, and perhaps Perth, Australia.
Relentless sunny-skies, temperatures of 92° I am in heaven. Of all the hats I own I failed to bring a single one. I also failed to bring sunscreen and am hoping the kindness of strangers will save me from sunstroke while visiting an Island for a day of swimming and snorkeling. I guess my plans weren't so seamless after all. Funny thing about traveling there's always the unexpected no matter how carefully you set your plans something always throws you a curve ball and as irritated as one gets in the moment it happens, you quickly realize that plans are just lans and life has its own momentum. Travel forces you to loosen up, flow more, and realize life isn't perfect.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor. Cath the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain
I decided to splurge and take a day trip to an island I went to South Seas Island on a cruise to snorkel and kayak I'm squeezed into two rows with four people across with about four nations represented. Fiji is a playground to Asian countries, Australia, Canadians, and Europeans as well, but surprisingly very few Americans. The few Americans I encountered I overheard complaining about “having too much chicken” on every menu, but mostly being frustrated because they couldn’t watch the Super Bowl; and no one cared a drop about the Super Bowl here, or setting it up for them to view.
Unfortunately on this one hour boat ride there squirms one undisciplined brat about the age of three punching onto the table relentlessly screaming for things while his parents seem oblivious to the disturbance he's creating for everyone. This new “parenting style” of non-discipline and lots of choices extends world wide apparently... give them everything and anything they want..never criticize or use harsh words or the Rod.. ever… Go Ahead, put a three-year old in charge of a boat of people …insanity: of course he is enraged! These parents are run ragged by their little darling boy. God help me, I hope I'm dead by the time all these entitled monsters are adults.
I stare at two older Chinese women who are studying the behavior of this child and I try to imagine what they are thinking as he screeched at the top of his lungs slapping the table demanding a biscuit his parents didn't have. "I want it, I want it now" he screamed as his mother smiled weakly and faintly staring blankly out the window holding her cherubic younger daughter. The father kept bringing goodies out from his bag on after the other explaining in detail the tastes of each and how "yummy" they were as his three year old son spit, threw or pounded them to oblivion spraying his crumbly venom across our communal table. Never once did this English gentleman apologize or try to get his boy under control. I felt murderous... And had to breathe and practice “loving kindness” … like crazy...
Everyone else had frozen, lying, smiles that appeared to say “Oh, how cute,” through gritting teeth, or “kids will be kids…" Little Napoleon had no fans on that hour ride to paradise.
Arrival. Depart big boat. Get onto small boat. Walk to community gathering on tiny island. Snorkeling, pool, beach, hammocks, bean bags, a BBQ lunch all await. BULA BULA BULA is the non -stop and often annoying word of the island. Much like Aloha but more relentless.
I enjoy a lazy delightful day. I see blue starfish and sharks, and colorful parrot fish, huge hunks of coral and a vast living sea bottom. I hold coral, and a starfish, and splash around underwater way out on a remote coral reef. The water is very warm and crystal clear.
Beached, I lay back onto the two bean bags and watch the palm fronds twirling and swaying. Later I pickup shells. I breath and do little. The suns warms my bones. FINALLY NOTHING TO DO and nowhere to go. I love this feeling.
I am enough as I am. I am free and relaxed and breathing in nature and beauty. The birds delight me with their endless chirping. A simple glass of water is a gift to my cells.I am in the NOW… for now..:)
“Your true traveler finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty - his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.” AlDOUS HUXLEY
At breakfast at the Mango Bay Resort I am joined by Sunny, a man in his 30’s, scruffier than the others but ready to talk. I notice horrendous scarring on his arms and legs and ask about that. Sunny was driving with an Australian tourist when the driver crashed head on into another car; he could have been drinking. Sunny spent a year in the hospital. His driver paid about 50 thousand in bills but Sunny has a $40,000 debt he still pays. He also tells me about his child and child support. He says maybe what tourists see is not what its really like to be an islander. He asks is I would ever consider having a boyfriend or husband from another culture. I tell him maybe if I were younger but not now. He is puzzled. He thinks I am in my 40’s..maybe 47-48. I tell him the truth and he is shocked. He says 64 Fijian is a very old lady. We say goodbye.
I stroll over to the cook to thank him for such delicious meals. He is surprised. I look around at all the rich young couples in their 20’s, Germans, Chinese, Australians and New Zealand tourists, all staring down at their cell phones scrolling and looking bored. Some just sit in the pool staring..I realize no one thinks to thank the chef; at least in this group, even after so many $50.00 meals.
I think about my yearly income: poverty level in US standards. I realize how rich I am once again.
As we roll along passing villages and small towns, I peek into windows and doorways and see no furniture, no dining table and chairs. I see mats on the floor and sometimes people sleeping out on a cement slab porch. This imagery reminds me somewhat of the drive from Newark airport to my parents apartment; through Paterson and lower Haledon Avenue where people are hanging on porches on filthy couches sitting in the hot sun; babies, men, women, the elderly; all outside on littered street corners; a scruffy stray dog here and there. I remember locking my car door as we pass the dilapidated housing.
I sigh. I think about the luck of the draw, and my good fortune to have such an abundant life from such humble beginnings. Post WWII, when the economy boomed. City schools had good funding and college was accessible and affordable. A working man made living wage, and a simple laborer could buy a house. I always felt rich. I was taught gratitude every day from my dad. I think about Karma and ask myself now, “How can I serve?”
I think about how America has changed. The poor are so poor now. The rich are too rich, despicably so. I hope BERNIE SANDERS whose heart and vision I know would make a big difference in our country, maybe set an example for the rest of the world, gets the nomination; but all that seems so far away now as I walk to the beachfront and watch the calm seas for awhile more, enjoying a coconut, enjoying its savory insides; and at the "bargain" price of $4.00! “The end is nothing, the road is All.” Willa Cather
WRITING MY MEMOIR,
It is Christmas Eve and I find myself alone for the first time in my life on this oh so quiet night. My son went to visit a friend in Kansas, and my mom, dad and brother are all passed; leaving quickly together over 14 short, numbing months.
The trips back east have ceased, and my nest is empty. The delights of my early Christmas nights with them are a twinkling memory, and sometimes I wish I could have just one hour with them again; just one hour to inhale all the love and joy of our unique bonds.
Today, at the end of a challenging hot power flow class, I lay back onto my mat and my chest heaved with sorrow, as I cried under my facecloth. I miss them. Them: My dear ones I miss you each so so much.
I’ve been journaling all of my life, perhaps for as long as I could hold a pencil. Carrying a little flip-top mini spiral notepad with shiny inviting covers in four primary colors; red, green, yellow and blue, I’d document, exaggerate, and fabricate all kinds of stories while roaming the neighborhood. A man on a porch swinging gently on a glider would, in writing ,“have his heart mysteriously hanging outside of his shirt,” for instance… and so the story unfolded.
I also kept journals (then called diaries;) small leather, gold embossed pink, or blue books filled with drawings, songs, and pictures of my dog; locks of young hair taped to the pages, and all kinds of delightful pre-teen goofy things; gushing hearts and lipstick kisses for all the crushes I was captive to. A small key slipped into the lock and opened my private hideaway each and every day.
Writing letters to friends, and pen pals delighted me as well, and I found pals to exchange colorful painted letters with in many foreign places, like Kansas and Utah. These ornately decorated envelopes slipped into their postboxes like clockwork, and in a week or two I would find one in mine. What a thrill!!
It was exciting as hell to send postcards to TV and radio shows entering any and all contests. I once took a 3 x 5 notecard and drew all over it, and sent it to WMCA radio station in New York City and actually won the Top One Hundred hits on 45’s which came direct to my doorstep in a brown box! I was picked out of thousands of entries. Somehow with this single postcard I touched the glitter of the big city, whose skyline I could see from my tiny bedroom window. Night after night I’d turn and adjust my transistor radio in the windowsill facing the Empire State Building (way across the Hudson River) hoping to get good reception and hear a new tune, a new band, the music of the times; rock and roll, Motown, pop…, the famous DJ, Murray the K, read my name on the air; and Wow … I was connected to something big; way big! That moment was my first tiny bite of the apple which intoxicated me with hints of things to come; much bigger and better things to come…
I prided myself on my excellent penmanship, and loved the smells and texture of paper, pencil and fountain pen. The odor and feel of magazines like High-Lites, and Teen Beat thrilled me. Many an evening I’d tuck under my covers with a small reading lamp devouring all kinds of autobiographies, imagining what it would be like to actually be Amelia Earhart; and once constructed a huge slide out of scrap metal and cardboard, sliding down the side of my best friends backyard shed … playing out Amelia Earhart flying scenes replete with scarf and goggles. Each month the event of my teen magazine arriving sent me giddy to my room lost in a fantasy world of boys and clothes and concerts as I drank in each image and page, like a good teenie bopper!
After telling my Jack Nicholson story umpteen times, or the story about how I met and dated Richard Gere, or the night Al Pacino performed Richard III for me at 3 am, on my cement steps on W 68th St and Central Park West, it is clear I actually must write about all this. As a co-ed stripping in Wisconsin for extra cash, and getting many of the other dance majors to join me in the amateur contests at Diamond Don’s out in Middleton, is a part of history that must be documented. We dancers from Lathrop Hall imagined we were making a statement of liberation and new women’s freedoms as we gyrated with army boots and unshaved armpits and legs to “Jack the Knife.” Now that’s a story!
And how my mom picked me up at school in miniskirts and Go -Go boots, with platinum blonde hair, wrapped in a flowing pink scarf, wearing sunglasses, roof down. That long white car with the fins would roll up and I’d be horrified standing on the gritty street corner in Paterson, New Jersey, in front of PS 21, as the kids from the projects froze in their tracks, jaws agape at the sight of us, and timidly they’d ask,“Is your mother a Movie Star?”
I’d entertain friends through the years with stories from my childhood in Paterson, living in the upper corner of a 4-plex, and how my dad would come home from work each night, all covered in dirt and dust and baked on sweat, and scoop me up into his arms before scrubbing his hands with that rough white Borax soap, just to tell me smiling his big white bright smile, how much he loved me and my mother. I’d watch the hand-scrubbing ritual standing on the seat of a kitchen chair next to the sink, as the hub-bub and foreign sounds of all the loud Italians coming back from the "shop" drifted into our kitchen. I love the sound of the Italian language to this day.
Each Wednesday, walking the five,dirty, long inner-city blocks back to 309 Madison Ave, in and around large cracks in the sidewalk, following my nose as I drew near to the Russo/DeMarco family complex, my digestive juices set my stomach growling as those pots of steeping tomato gravy bubbled and led me to my beloved bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, presented precisely at 5pm, right onto that white formica table a few feet from the stove, in that little kitchen with the red rooster wall paper.
Telling stories was the way I learned to survive certain realities in my house, a way to entertain my mother, particularly to fend off her always lurking foul moods, rages and depressions. I told colorful stories as I danced and moved, animating my experiences to bring a smile to her face. She’d slap her side, or throw her head back in a hearty laugh; and I knew all was well and I’d be safe, for a time. My dad looked adoringly at me as he always did in my childhood, and particularly as I crafted my tales.
At 17 I threw myself out into the wild world. The summer of 1969 I deliberately lost my virginity, smoked pot, took acid, attended all kinds of rock concerts at the Fillmore East, Atlantic City, and at various clubs up and down the east coast. I wore flowery dresses and frangipani perfume. Out of high school two weeks, in a hotel room on Rt 4, Rick Deodato and I lost my coveted virginity. This life-changing event occurred over a bottle of Mateus and a bowl of hashish. Rick was a freshman at Villanova and took me to all kinds of concerts and events including the premiere of HAIR in New York City. Once we sat in the back seat of a cadillac with another couple in Totowa, N.J. smoking hashish as the men landed on the moon; radio on, listening to the astronauts, stoned out of our gourds, that hot July night...it was "Wow! Far out man..." The Vietnam war was raging, young people were getting too high, and men were walking on the moon. I was 17 years old.
I acquired every new album to come out, Ten Years After, Led Zeppelin, Doors, Dylan, Cream, Rolling Stones, Big Pink, my beloved Jefferson Airplane whose lead singer Grace Slick was my idol; and I lost myself in music and lyrics which seemed to soothe my adolescent angst. I displayed the LP’s proudIy on the floor against my stereo I set up on my fake green Oriental carpet next to my bed with the Indian bedspread everyone who was anyone had in their room. I left for college two weeks after attending Woodstock, and like a homing pigeon I returned home again and again to report on my expanding life and to relay my wild new adventures, in colorful detail, sparing my parents none of the glory, nor the gore. I delighted in these sessions as much as they did.
I’m more than compelled to write it all as memoir now for anyone to read. But more than anything I want my son to one day see my life in full context so he can understand the forces that are always at play from generation to generation, and to maybe begin to accept his life and the continuum and, to forgive me; his wild uncompromising mom who decided at 40 years old to bring him into the world by herself. The early years with my little boy are some of the most tender, heart-opening years of my life. HIs beauty and brilliance knocks me out still. These years grounded me after three decades of life in the fast lanes of Hollywood, Paris, Aspen, San Francisco, and New York City cavorting with the “in crowd” of artists, actors, musicians, writers, aristocrats, and a wide variety of eccentrics and wild ones. Always pulling my parents into my life, I once even took my mom back stage after attending Saturday Night Live and introduced her to the cast, forfeiting my invite to go dancing with Al Pacino and Robert Dinero at a private club; sending two of my girlfriends instead.
I’ve been putting shape to this kaleidoscopic delightful mess of a journey, and like a splayed dissected animal, am studying all the gory and fascinating details, hoping it all morphs into some meaning, into some healing … if only simply for myself. Right now my life story reads like a Jackson Pollack painting appears; all color and drama, and very large. I circle it and splash at it, add a story fragment here and there, and see no end in sight. This confusion is what stops the momentum, and I become overwhelmed. And I plug on.
I’ve read twelve memoirs in the last three months, and listen for the tempo, the honesty, the details, and am inspired by my comrades who lived to tell; particularly Pamela De Barres, Grace Slick, Peter Townsend, Keith Richards, and Carlos Santana,… to name a few.
I think way too much, and experience writers block more than not. I must write. I must write. I know it. I wake up in the night with fully formed paragraphs lurking at the edges of my cerebral cortex, and memories of amazing events I’ve experienced, only to fall back asleep and having the vivid pictures and words erased clean by morning.
I have perhaps 20 journals left after losing many in my wild rapidly changing scenarios, having moved over 60 times, always forgetting or losing something in those mad dashes into the NEW. I once lost two years of journals in San Francisco when a friend left the city and tossed my things into a garbage bin without ever telling me. My journals during this time burst with every detail of my days, dreams and desires. Every meticulous page vanished along with a footlocker, and a bright yellow bike, all left in the back hall of the Victorian apartment of Wyatt Landesman, brother of Knight Landesman of New York City, now publisher of Art Forum. Yes I will be,... ut oh, me bad, name dropping like crazy, people… but this is not a story about others. This is not a kiss and tell.. this memoir is about a girl from blue collar America, post WWII baby boomer bliss with freedom and a dream for big things; a thirst for adventure...and the guts to pursue it all.
My journals, post college, documented the tender early 20’s years, meticulously describing meeting “Jack,” our phone calls and the personal stories he shared with me. All this contact with fame instantly ignited my ambitions to move to Los Angeles and “to become a movie star;” and thus changing the trajectory of my life forever.
My everyday struggles in the dance/theater company “Players,” and the drama of communal living in the Haight Ashbury, being on food stamps and serving cocktails in the evenings, fired this dream as I climbed up and down the hills of foggy San Francisco, mostly like a trapped animal, depressed and lost at 23, trying to figure out how to actually get to the “city of angels” without a job or a dollar: trying to figure out just who I was. The structure of school was now gone. I was lost. With $70.00 lent to me, and a Swedish boyfriend to drive down with, I left with three outfits and a pair of boots on Feb 1, 1977; a few names scratched on a piece of paper, and headed for Sunset Strip. I checked into the Sunset Doheney Motel, for a week, and had a whole $10.00 left. I was 25 years old.
As I bobbed in the “pool of sharks” of Los Angeles, navigating around innocently, my nubile, dance and yoga-sculpted body swimming in these new waters, holding but one nostril above the water, I navigated clumsily this jasmine and honeysuckle scented world of stars, fast cars, pools, parties, alcohol and drugs..and the free wheeling sex-capades rampant during the 70;s. My diaries hit the land fill 250 miles north of Hollywood. Oh well...Now I was living my dream.
It was there, in Beverly Hills, I found my lifeline to Yoga at Bikram’s Yoga College of India. Bikram Choudhury was my rock through every affair and madcap trip. We'd talk late into the night and he'd lecture me to stop running crazy with "these people." I’d limp into his studio after ten days on the road with Hunter S. Thompson, 6 lbs thinner, wasted, but ready to become strong and focused again; doing doubles until I got my Self back, only to be called off for another wild adventure with the “good doctor.” Here I was studying yoga, training to teach; one of the coveted few Bikram chose to teach; and running with the Gonzo journalist at the same time whom I was madly in love with. Go Figure.
It was always the yoga practice that steadied me. It still is. After all the glitter faded and changed; (as Bikram predicted it would,) there it is as fresh and available as ever… Yoga. I am so grateful for this gift.
I now have the opportunity and the time to write. I feel 10 months pregnant with story. After 6 decades, life almost makes sense. I can see, feel, taste, and touch the spiritual line, the coherency, the whys, what’s and how’s of it all.
If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my memoir, He will make … putting it into someone’s hands who would be inspired to shape. If I don’t die before I wake, I will craft it… for goodness sake.
How could I not? It’s the only thing I obsess about day after day. I finally have nothing left to do. The New YEAR 2016 is upon us, and my intention is to finish this tale of tales for once and for all. I will produce a first draft this year… and hopefully screaming with vivid and colorful life ready for anyone who is interested to read.
So now to it!
I am planning to release chapters into my blog; a toe in the water. Feedback welcome.;)