Monday, October 30, 2006

Remembrance of Wigs Past

In honor of the closing days of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought I might say a few words about the whole "being bald" thing.

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, the very first thing I thought of was not "will I die" but "will I lose my hair". I do not delude myself into thinking that this makes me in any way uniquely vain or, for that matter, unique in any way. I believe that this is where most women (and maybe men?) reflexively "go to", rather than the more dire thoughts of pain, debilitation and death.

Not all therapies for cancer inevitably lead to baldness. However, nearly all therapies for early stage breast cancer (which is to say, non-metastatic disease) cause total hair loss (metastatic disease is often treated with hormone therapy or biologically targeted therapy before turning to the chemo big guns because, among other things, when cancer is detectable in the organs, it is easier to determine its responsiveness to these less debilitating therapies such that if the cancer does not quickly respond, then the bigger guns can be brought out; this is a little-known "benefit" of metastatic cancer). So, essentially, it was non-negotiable. I had breast cancer, I was going to lose my hair, and it was going to happen on a specific day, namely day 15 after my first treatment. On that day, my long hair would simply detach from my scalp, piece by piece for about five minutes and then in huge clumps.

I remember the feeling of pulling the clumps of hair from my head as something akin to pulling the little, sharp, hair-like fibers out of the bowl of an artichoke bottom. My scalp tingled and ached, and pulling out clumps of hair gave me some measure of relief. It actually felt kind of satisfying, kind of good.

When I had thinned my hair down to about half of its thickness (I have very thick hair), I realized that I could actually have some fun before I went totally Kojak. And so, I wielded a pair of scissors and went from Lauren to Anna Wintour to Madonna (circa 1983) before it became clear that my hair wasn't just falling out: it was dead. The follicles had shut down production, and whatever "hair prana" that flowed therefrom to make my hair look vibrant and lush up until that point in time was now gone. Poof. No life force to be seen. And without life force, my hair looked scary and sick.

That is when I brought out my very first wig. I had purchased it at Bits and Pieces in Columbus Circle before I began chemo, while I was still recovering from my double mastectomy and (unbeknownst to me, doomed) reconstruction. My friend Kim had gone with me. The goal was to find a wig that looked like my hair, only better. And what we settled on was really quite good. It was a strawberry blonde (which was my haircolor at the time), long layered cut, with bangs that I could brush to the side. I took it home that day, but I was to bring it back after my hair fell out for a "fitting". Since it was late on a Friday afternoon when I took scissors to my dead hair, there was no way to get my wig fit before I was seen in public. And I had plans that night, as I did many a night back then when all I wanted to do was go out so that I wouldn't have to look within.

With the wig kind of slipping around on my head, I had no choice but to wear a hat in order to hold it all together. I had chosen a sky-blue leather newsboy cap for just this possibility. And I debuted it that night at the Lenox Room on Third Avenue in the 70's. I am not afraid to say that I looked totally chic. At that point, my face had not yet taken on that distinctive chemo pallor, where the eyelids turn reddish and the undereye circles turn blueish, and there's a boniness where there should be flesh and a bloatedness where there should be sculpture. At this point, I actually looked quite good. The steroids they give you with your chemo cocktail can make your skin look quite dewy and young, can plump up the apples in your cheeks. Not to mention how they make you feel: wired, almost manic.

Okay, much as I would like to continue this, Lewis the Bagle is crying desperately to go out, and I must take him. So I must continue this later.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Boob Update

Because I know you're all dying to hear about my boobs.

No, I got no pics to show you...too shy...but I will say that these babies are SOFT! Not soft like natural breasts, no. That is simply too much to ask for (and would I want to HAVE to wear a bra?). Rather, they're soft the way good a pair of actual breasts with silicone implants are supposed to be.

And as for my mobility? I cannot only feel the difference, I can see it. Last night, as I was getting ready to take a nice hot bath, I leaned over the sink towards the medicine cabinet, and I saw something I haven't seen for years, which I hope I can describe....there was a hollowness between each shoulder and the adjacent breast, where previously there had been tight, rock-hard, cord-like or tendon-like tissue connecting the space between breast and shoulder. It is absolutely amazing. After my shower, I did a little mild stretching. And by mild, I mean that I didn't force anything; I just lengthened out. And that's how I found myself in Kurmasana. I just sort of slid into it, and let me tell you, anyone who tells you it's only about the hamstrings never had the "before" and "after" I've had. The reduction in chest tightness changed the pose dynamics completely. And remember, I was doing it without having done any preparatory postures.

Then, just out of curiosity, I decided to try my most recent nemesis: Mari A. That posture had been really getting to me in the last couple of months...I could "do" it, wrist bound, chin to shin, but it felt awful, and it never got any better. Until now. Without any warm-up, as I said, other than Kurmasana, I bent my knee, reached back and grabbed my wrist. Voila.

And now, I need to NOT do anymore of that. At least until I see my doctor on Tuesday. He did say that he did think that some stretching would be good in my particular case; however, he NOT like the way Ardha Badha Padma Paschimotanasana looked when I demonstrated it for him in the exam room. He said it distorted the breast. So, I will wait until Tuesday and see how things look then.

As for the nose, the swelling goes up, the swelling comes down. Sometimes it looks to me as if there is still a bump. Then I massage out the swelling and the bump is gone. And then two minutes later, it's back. It's going to be a long road. But one thing is true: it's better than it was before.


Friday, October 27, 2006

A living legend pays a visit to the unhip part of town

According to Wikipedia, David Williams was the first non-Indian to learn the complete Ashtanga yoga series and is credited with having brought Ashtanga yoga to United States. In any event, David Williams, whom most of you Ashtangis out there have heard of, is a teacher's it turns out, the soon-to-be houseguest (!) of a close friend of mine. And by close, I mean not only someone I talk to regularly about topics that are deeper than the weather, although we are perfectly at ease with each other when talking about the weather, but ALSO someone who lives a mere four city blocks from me, and a mere ONE city block from my kids' school.

No, no, it's not a love connection or anything like that. It's just that David has grown kids, one of whom, a son, resides here in NYC. David decided that he wanted to pay his son a visit in between teaching/conferencing gigs here on the East Coast. Since in the apparent tradition of Ashtangis, the doors of our homes are always open to our fellow students and teachers, my friend decided to open hers to David, whom she met when she spent a week with him at Kripalu, along with another Ashtangi named David (as in, Swenson), another Ashtangi by the name of Danny Paradise and a host of students and teachers (including the Dark and Scary Forrest and B-Cubed) who hung on the every word of the Three D's as they took turns revealing the folklore and the deep, not-so-dark secrets that go with having learned Ashtanga from source, one Sri K.P. Jois, many a many a many an era ago. Whew, that was a mouthful. I hope it made sense.

So, David Williams will be here next week, and hopefully, assuming that my friend's work schedule permits (!), I shall be dining with them on Wednesday evening. Caravan of Dreams? Nah, this is Uptown Ashtanga. I am sure we will find an adequate substitute here on the Upper East Side.

The day before that, Halloween, I shall be hosting a pagan ritual at my apartment, which is to say that I will be creating a real, live replica of a haunted house out of my apartment, using scraps of fabric I bought at Joes' Fabric Discount on Orchard today (to throw over every piece of furniture, for that abandoned ghost house look), many many cotton spiderwebs (especially in doorways, so that you have to move them out of the way to pass through), lots and lots of ghoul faces and homemade ghosts (these will hang throughout the apartment), colored lightbulbs, black lights and a box full of Yartzeit (Jewish memorial) candles (I chose them because they are pretty fire-safe, enclosed as they are in glass) for creepy atmosphere. Last night, my kids and I took Sharpee pen to old sheet and created a huge mural that will demarcate the line between my foyer and my living room: "You enter, you DIE," it says, and for emphasis, it shows numerous scenes of fearsome creatures (vampires, Frankenstein's monster) and bloodshed (a decapitated body impaled on a stake) and lots of blood spatters. This not only will contribute to the creepy atmosphere, but will also serve to save my sanity - no kids in the living room or my bedroom!

I'm planning a Mummy-Wrapping Contest, where the kids break up into teams and work to wrap one of their teammates in toilet paper, with the timer set to five minutes or something like that. The team with the best mummy wins. I haven't decided what the prize is - perhaps escaping with their lives....heh heh heh....cackle cackle....

Not that I will be cutting a frightening figure, myself. My costume is...Elastigirl!!! Also known as "Mrs. Incredible". I don't know if I'm going to add the Holly Hunter accent. But I thought that playing an aging, chicken-thighed, formerly triple-jointed super hero would be pleasantly appropriate and appropriately ironic. I assume I will be the only mom dressed up. I always am. A couple of years ago I was Princess Leia. This was when I still had a lot of wigs, and so I twisted one up into a couple of ear-hugging "cinnamon buns" and threw on a bathrobe. Voila. The next year I was a green-faced Wicked Witch. Last year, a pasty-faced Willy Wonka. Both times, I found myself really disgusted with the makeup removal process. Thus, I made the decision to go makeup-free this year.

Oh, and here's some news: my apartment's on the market. Anyone who checks my flickr account will know that something like that was afoot. But right now, the ad is up on the New York Times Real Estate Classifieds Website, and I am pumped! Although, I know that my emotions will quickly go from excited to demoralized. It's always that way when you open up your home to potential buyers.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Hermione Granger's all grown up

Ah, YouTube, what would we do without ye?


For Lost fans only

So, last week's episode of Lost was so boring, I couldn't bring myself to even mention it. I was downright embarassed to be a fan. I just wanted to sweep that fact under the rug and move on. However, after last night's Sawyerific epi, I am once again proud to be a Lost maniac. I'm even inspired to put some thoughts to keyboard on the topic.

First off, any episode that is 80 percent devoted to following Locke (or anyone) through the jungle as he hunts a polar bear is simply not worthy of being aired. What is there to say about Locke's hallucinogenic trip through an airport filled with storylines we already know? What is there to say about yet another disappointing relationship for Locke? Or about the fact that Locke likes shooting but doesn't like murder (a la Fannee Doolley, for all you 1970's Zoom Fans out there, box 350 Boston Mass 02134)? What IS worthy is an episode devoted to action, especially Other-action, especially Sawyer and Kate action.

I can't help it - I just like to watch Sawyer and Kate, together, not together, doesn't matter. Josh Holloway is just plain hot, and by hot, I mean gorgeous and witty, because in hotness, neither can exist without the other, at least in my opinion. As for Evangeline Lilly, she is not only gorgeous, but (a) she looks better without makeup, (b) she rocks wavy hair, (c) she has a compact, muscular physique, (d) she refuses to lose those last 15 pounds that she doesn't actually really and truly need to lose in order to be gorgeous (according to her interview in the issue of Self Magazine on which she graces the cover this month), (e) she stays fit through play (surfing, most notably), rather than grueling personal-trainer-imposed work and (f) she's dating a hobbit, and she don't care. Oh, and she's a terrific actress. And she plays a super-charismatic, seriously flawed, yet truly sympathetic character on Lost.

I also relish the moments on Lost when we learn more about the Others. So, Colleen was married to to Danny (aka Pickett), and he loved her very much. That sheds light on why we saw him tenderly kiss her in the middle of the jungle - it was a set-up for her death (by Sun's gun) and Danny's subsequent rage. And Juliet is a fertility doctor! I have no idea what to make of that, but it raises some interesting questions: where are all the children? why no pregnant Others? Is Juliet a really BAD fertility doctor? We also know that Others tend to not get sick very often, because their crash cart is on the fritz. Except that someone, and it isn't clear yet who it is, has a big tumor on his spine and is going to need Jack's surgical expertise. Is that the reason Jack was brought to the island? And if so, why was everyone else brought to the island? Why Sawyer? Why Kate? Why Sayid? Are they just minor players in a drama that really revolves around Jack and Ben?

As for the romance between Kate and Jack or Kate and Sawyer, it seems that Kate may or may not love Sawyer ("I only said [I love you] to stop him from hitting you"), but that Sawyer definitely loves Kate (he basically sells himself up the river in order to spare her the danger that he believes he, himself, is in). Where Jack fits in, I don't know, but I'm going to guess that it's with Juliet, not Kate.

And lastly, we have Desmond, who can now predict the future.

Two more episodes until the big hiatus-til-February. Cuse, Lindeloff: Please, please, give us more episodes like last nights and never ever again an episode like last week's.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Counting Scallops

New York Magazine had a fascinating cover story this week on the practice of "CR", or "Calorie Restricting". The idea behind CR is that if you reduce your calories to some bare minimum (I am still not sure what that bare minimum is), you will be able to (something like) double your life expectancy. This is based on studies of lab mice (Ahimsa?) and anecdotal evidence provided by the practitioners of the CR lifestyle. Among these practitioners is April, a 31-year old woman and blogger, who looks fairly normal, and not particularly gaunt by Ashtangi, or for that matter, Hollywood, standards, at least.

In a strict CR lifestyle, every, and I mean EVERY, calorie is counted. Meals are prepared using digital scales, calculators and even software. Arugula leaves are counted. Four scallops are placed on a plate, and then one is removed when it is remembered that the meal will include a 45-calorie serving of cheese. One practitioner of CR eats exactly 639 calories for dinner each night. Each. Night. Ad infinitum. This particular guy stands approximately 6 feet tall and weighs approximately 137 pounds.

The obvious question: What is the difference between CR and anorexia? From what I can tell, it would appear that there are more similarities than differences, particularly when you factor in the high level of obsessiveness with food that both CR and anorexia involve. However, CR advocates maintain that anorexia is about appearance, while the CR lifestyle is about health, that anorexia is about deprivation, while CR is about what you put into your body (i.e. the nutrients, which are as carefully counted and measured as the calories). To wit, April does not have a single photo on her blog, from what I can tell. There is not even a hint of "thinspiration" to be found.

The CR lifestyle and the Ashtangi lifestyle appear to have quite a bit in common as well, namely eating efficiently (in order to absorb the most nutrients from the least calories), the exertion of a great deal of restraint, employing methods of fasting and cleansing, reliance upon meat substitutes for protein (CR-adherents use something called "Quorn"), as well as the begging another question: Is this actually just another manifestation of an eating disorder?

I have to admit, I am intrigued. I already am fairly restrictive in my eating. It's a way of life that is so engrained, I hardly notice it. Last night, while watching a rerun of Sex and the City, I was shocked and appalled to see a commercial for KFC (I think that's what they are now calling Kentucky Fried Chicken these days, which I have NEVER eaten in my entire life, I kid you not), which, get this, has created a "salad" composed entirely of fatty, starchy, kill-you-within-an-inch-of-your-life "favorites". Imagine, if you will, a bowl into which is slopped a big ole mountain of mashed (and I am sure, reconstituted) potatoes and melted butter (or, more likely, the cheaper and more trans-fat loaded substitute therefore, margarine). On top of that, a thick layer of creamed corn. Layered over that is a layer of fried chicken "tenders" (which I am pretty sure is a euphemism for a reconstituted, extruded mixture of white meat, dark meat, organ meat, soy and breadcrumbs). Over that, I don't know, you tell me: what's your favorite side at KFC? Coleslaw? Potato Salad? Buttery Biscuits? It's your choice!

This advertisement appeared twice during the Sex and the City episode. The first time, it merely skimmed the outer layers of my consciousness. The second time, my eyeballs bulged. It seemed like one of those fake commercials they use as filler on Saturday Night Live, like "Mom Jeans" or "Colon Blow". But it wasn't. It was real.

My mind was reeling. Do people really eat like this? If so, why? Why would anyone want to eat a gloppy mess of disgustingly fatty foods all thrown together in some satanic version of a composed salad? Then I began to wonder, a la Carrie Bradshaw (who is ALWAYS depicted scarfing junk food - strawberry milk shakes, McDonald's apple pies, big slabs of Ray's Original - notwithstanding muscles so shredded that my dog cowers from the t.v. screen whenever I have the show on, and whose scapula are so sharp that one time they cut a slice right through my flat-screen TV - okay, that part is not really true - I don't actually have a flat screen TV): Am I thin because I find that sort of food repugnant....or have I merely coerced my mind into believing that that sort of food is repugnant so that I can BE thin?

All of which begs the obvious question: could I pull it off? Could I partake in the CR lifestyle? Today I saw that Yogamum is planning on participating in a Write-a-Novel-In-November event. I certainly don't have any faith in my ability to pull THAT off. But eating less? I could DO that. Obsessing about nutrients, calories, input and output? Totally. I wrote the book on obsessing. Or one of them, at least. Many of you out there have also written quite a bit on the topic!

To tell you the truth, I would much rather write a novel in November than start counting arugula leaves and weighing Quorn on a digital scale. But what would I write about?

Nothing EVER happens to me.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

All this talk about shopping...

(See, e.g., Sweaty Brain, Second Trip to Mysore, to name a few) has made me feel a bit of shopping lust. Unfortunately, I am bound by legal contract (I kid you not) to not shop until December 4, my birthday. And by "not shop", I mean NOT SHOP. I mean, not shop for the obvious clothing and shoes and outerwear, but also not shop for household items like sheets and candles and bookends, and not succumbing to my addiction to beauty supply stores like Ricky's and Essentials, where I can pack up a little shopping basket with nail polishes, hair gels, hair deep moisture packs, hair thingies to tie my hair back away from my face, lip glosses, face creams, iris-scented serums....Oh...I could go on...but it pains me.

In truth, it's easy enough to stay away from handbags. I am kind of over them finally. They all start to look the same to me, and ultimately, the only bag that really works for me is a big giant one that I can sling across my chest like a messenger bag. For a while, I accomplished that with a black nylon Prada Schoolbag. But alas, it really wasn't serviceable enough. It wasn't large enough for all my gear. I replaced it with a Capezio dancer's bag. For like a tenth of the price, I had a much bigger black nylon bag. Unfortunately, that one was TOO big. I could never find anything I had stashed in it. Recently, I acquired a Kooba messenger bag in gold leather. It manages my stash quite nicely, and it's designer, and it's comfy. So, what other bags do I really need?

It's also easy to stay away from shoes. I already own them all. Seriously. How many more pairs of black boots and brown boots can a person have? When one gets overly worn looking, and can't be rejuvenated at the shoemaker, I replace it. But I've got the spikey heels, I've got the platform heels, I've got the wedges. I've got the cheapies from Aldo, the designers from Stephane Kelian and Michael Kors. And ultimately, I spend 9 out of 10 days walking around in my Steve Madden Dutch shoes - vegan shoes with a four inch but incredibly comfortable platform.

Same thing with jeans. I'm over it. I got my ridiculously embroidered True Religions with the big slouchy buttoned pockets that hang well below my butt. I have the Hudsons that do what True Religion does without all the unflattering low-hanging pockets. I've got the serviceable Blue Cults, Citzens, Sevens, and I recently purchased my first pair of Levi's Skinny Jeans since I threw out my 501's a few years ago. What left is there to buy? $300 Deisels? Nah, I'll let Linda corner that market...

Outerwear is easy - an Andrew Marc forest green hip-length peacoat was added to my selections, and now my taste for outerware has been slaked.

Shirts in general are easy. I pretty much wear a uniform of SweetPea layered mesh shirts, Michael Stars long-sleeved t's, a few wrap sweaters and a v-neck cashmere thrown in for days where the vibe is "comfy".

But there is one thing. What I really am lusting after, more than anything else these days, is far from the mundane, and yet incredibly plain, pure and simple. It is the perfect crisp white shirt. I know where to get it. I pass by the store every time I meander up Madison Avenue. I saw it on Saturday night walking home from Carnegie Hall. The store is Anne Fontaine, and pretty much all she sells is perfect, crips white shirts for women. Of course, the problem with me, the very obvious problem, is that I am a complete slob. Give me a crisp white shirt, and I will promptly dribble coffee on it. Or back up into a chalkboard. Or wipe my fingers on it, unconsciously, of course, after reading the New York Times.

I brought up the object of my lust at dinner the other night with The Husband, the kids and my parents. Since my birthday is coming up soon, my mom asked what I wanted. I usually have no answer, since I tend to buy everything I want, myself, as soon as I want it. But now, being under legal contractual obligation to not shop (is a contract between a husband and wife that hasn't been vetted by actual legal representatives or signed in front of a notary even binding?) until December 4, the moment seemed ripe with possibilities. I told my mom about Anne Fontaine.

Mom: "What would you were this for? Where would you wear it?" Yeah, I thought of that. I don't exactly have an answer. But I think that the answer will be related to how I deal with the next issue.....

Husband: "You can't wear white. You'll get it filthy within five minutes."

See, I knew that. I have pondered that ever time that I have walked past Ms. Fonaine's store. And I have finally come to the conclusion that just because I have a tendency to be a bit of a slob doesn't mean that one day I can't put on a perfect, crisp, white shirt and manage to focus on keeping it clean. That would mean wearing it on a day when I am not going to the dog run. That would mean wearing it on a day when I am not walking around with a cup of coffee-to-go. That would mean wearing it on a day when I am not engaged in shuttling the kids from place to place. I'd have to carefully apply my makeup. I'd have to stay away from my children's pencil shavings and erasure dust. But I believe I could pull it off. I do. I want to. I think I owe it to myself to try.

I want that Anne Fontaine. I want to wear it untucked over a tailored black skirt, black tights and black knee-high, nylon boots that I bought at Martinez Valero a few years ago. I want to wear it on a day when I don't need a jacket. That might be challenging if I am not getting it until December. But if I do need to wear a jacket, it will have to be cropped - shorter than the shirt.

I can do this.

And this will be happening right about the time I will be (hopefully) cleared to begin my Ashtanga practice again! So many exciting milestones! Ashtanga, a crisp white shirt. My life is filled with excitement, isn't it?

But I prefer, no, need it, that way.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Electric counterpoint

Saturday night, I went by myself to see a very special concert at Carnegie Hall - a celebration of the work of the legendary contemporary composer, Steve Reich, on the occasion of his 70th birthday. Reich has his own eclectic, multilayered trademark sound, but I have to admit that I was there first and foremost to see Pat Metheny (playing Reich's Electric Counterpoint), my favorite favorite favorite musician and composer from as far back as high school. Pat Metheny is the only musian to whom I have consistently enjoyed listening since my teens. He is the musical thread that holds all of my many lives together.

If you aren't familiar with him, Pat Metheny is a jazz/classical/rock fusion guitarist with an unmistakably distinctive sound that has shades of otherworldliness while being poetically grounded in the natural world, twangs of mountain country folktunes, scattered Hawaiin high notes, echoes of dark jazz halls. With sounds of India interspersed throughout his oevre, as well as sounds of Native America and soft almost hallucinogenic chanting, in my opinion, Metheny was a pioneer of "chillout" music, quite possibly without even realizing it. If you want to understand the essence of Metheny's draw, have a listen to Daybreak on New Chatauqua. This tune carries such emotional resonance that I would advise you to think carefully about what you want to be doing while you play it. A few notes can instantly bring me back to a cold autumn afternoon when I was 17 years old, a freshman at Tufts, walking around Harvard Square, checking out the vintage record stores, thinking about the boy I thought I loved, who did not love me back, and the boy who thought he loved me, whom I did not love back.

Of course, Metheny was only one musician who played Reich last night at Carnegie Hall. There was also the Kronos Quartet, which played "Different Trains", another piece by Reich, and a piece so incredibly complicated and moody that I felt tired afterwards and welcomed the Intermission. It was as if Kronos' rendering of "Different Trains" manipulated my emotions, perhaps mirroring those I might have as I waited for a train, and then sat motionless on the moving train, passing through place after place, each one sparking thoughts and memories that may or may have had nothing whatsoever to do with where I was, where I was going to or where I was coming from. I remember sensing my face redden at one point near the middle of the piece; the music was filling me with anxiety, a touch of anger. And then it subsided, and I was filled with calm.

Later, reading the notes on the piece, I saw that Different Trains was inspired by Reich's experiences traveling from New York to Los Angeles and back, by train, after his parents separated and moved to opposite ends of the U.S. I believe that Reich wasn't even five years old when his parents went their separate ways, putting him the uncomfortable, anxious, chaotic position of having to travel from coast to coast with his governess in order to see each of them. Aha, I thought. This is a compose who can truly put emotions into abstract sound.

The piece de resistance (I wish I could say it was Pat, but alas....) was Reich's Music For 18 Musicians", performed by the Steve Reich Musicians with a cello, violin, two clarinets (both players doubled on bass clarinet), four pianos, three marimbas, two xylophones, a metallophone, maracas, and four women's voices. The music, with its melody line often carried by floating wordless notes created by the four female vocalists, had an ethereal quality that brought to my mind Baird Hersey and Prana, while at the same time, being driven heavily by a pulsing percussion sound (did I mention there were FOUR grand pianos onstage, all being played simultaneously, some being played by more than one set of hands?). The structure of the work reminded me, at times, oddly enough, of Pachelbel's Canon in D Major (you know, the ubiquitous wedding song, "um dum dum dum, dum dum dum dum"), with musical phrases beginning slowly and quietly (for example, with just two notes being played repetitively on the metallophone) and then slowly building and swelling to include more and more instruments and more and more players.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of Music for 18 Musicians was the "dance" of the musicians on the stage as they traded places, took over for one another, quietly making their way around the room, a soprano vocalist taking her place at the piano, a man seated at the back slowly getting up, meandering (or so it seemed) around to one of the Xylophones and quietly waiting for the moment when he seamlessly took over for the man who had already been playing the Xylophone. I would often close my eyes for moments at a time, attempting to guess which instruments and which players were being featured at the moment or how particular sounds were structured. I can't think of a single time that I got it right.

When the music ended, the audience flew to its feet (there were already many people standing in balconies because, as I said, this was quite a visual as well as an auditory experience). The musicians took bows, left the stage and came back with Pat and the Kronos guys. The audience continued to clap and scream. The performers left the stage again, only to be called back by the continuing thunderous applause.

Three curtain calls later, we reluctantly let the performers go.

And then I walked out into the night and kept walking until I arrived home.


Brice Marden likes Bounty too

Ah, the joy of vindication. It seems I am not the only one who sees Bounty as a godsend, and who will not settle for any lesser paper towel.

The modern artist, Brice Marden (“Plane Image,” a 40-year retrospective of his work is about to open at the Museum of Modern Art) is a sucker for the "Quicker Picker Upper". In fact, it might be accurate to say that Mr. Marden cannot live without his Bounty. “What I love is that it does what it’s supposed to,” he said. “It absorbs and it’s strong and it doesn’t fall apart and it’s worth the money.”

An article in the Style Section of the New York Times today is devoted almost entirely to Marden's steadfast devotion to Bounty. It tells us, "His studio assistants learn fast: there is no substitute," and that "[w]hen Mr. Marden goes to Greece for the summer, he has to make do. 'I take a big wad of Bounty in my suitcase, and it lasts the whole summer,' he said. 'The E.U. paper towels are in no way comparable to Bounty. Otherwise I have to use rags.'”

Mr. Marden puts Bounty to many uses: a napkin, a handkerchief, to clean up after the dog, to peel oranges, to clean the car. He doesn't mention anything about using Bounty for the purpose of mopping up flop sweat during Ashtanga practice. I can only surmise that this is a failure on his part in regards to discovering Ashtanga, as opposed to a failure in discovering the usefulness of an absorbant paper towel for wiping up puddles of purifying perspiration.

In any event, about five rolls are in constant use in his house. However, we are to be assured that "this is not some profligate Bounty spree". “The great thing is that it doesn’t instantly become disposable,” he said. “You can use it over and over.”

Singing the praises of Bounty, Mr. Marden shows us a bit of his softer side: “You feel alone when you don’t have it,” he said. “You feel a little vulnerable.” Awwww....don't comes in18-packs now on Fresh Direct. You'll never be Bountyless again.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Ford DOES care

I wanted to update Pink is the New Blech,
to be fair to Ford whose Ford Cares program
donates 100% of the net proceeds of sales
of its Warriors in Pink Merchandise
to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

So, let's see:
They donate 100 percent of their net proceeds (I am assuming, and hope I am right, that they don't play fast and loose with the definition of "net"), and in return they get publicity and good will.
Sounds like a win-win.

I still prefer Swedish automobiles...
but, what the hell...GO FORD!


Friday, October 20, 2006


Dinnerland is my sister, Vanessa. Or rather, her blog. When she sent me the link, I have to admit, I wasn't sure how interested I would be in a blog that obsesses over eating the way that this blog obsesses over, well, everything that it obsesses over. However, upon checking out Dinnerland, I was surprised to find that ALL obsessions are fun (and here I was thinking that only MY obsessions are worth talking about), particularly obsessing over feeding a family while feeding one's soul while keeping one eye fixed on the scale. If you are interested in or inspired by such things, then check it out...


Before and Very Soon After

This was me in August....

This is me 9-days post-op. There is still quite a lot of swelling, especially at the tip and the bridge, where the work was done. But there is definitely some progress going on...


Pink is the new Blech

Yes, it's that time of year again when blatant consumerism wraps itself in pink and runs amok throughout the media and popular culture. It is certainly commendable to raise breast cancer awareness by selling pink platform shoes, pink handbags, pink Mix Masters. However, if the goal is to generate awareness, then why not donate ALL or at least a significant portion of the profits from the sales of the cotton-candy colored crap to breast cancer charities? If those who sell pink merchandise in the name of awareness retain the bulk of the profits from their sales, then it begins to look an awful lot like the name of the game is opportunism, and the goal of generating awareness begins to look a lot like an also-ran. My wish is that the companies that flood the market with pink throughout the month of October in the name of "breast cancer awareness" would realize that it is distasteful to boost their bottom line through the sale of pink items and would choose instead to direct all of the direct profits (i.e., dollars earned over costs) from their pink sales to breast cancer charities. Until that happens, I'm boycotting pink and grassrooting my efforts to increase awareness and accurate information about breast cancer to the people.

In that spirit, let me just clear up a few misunderstandings that were fed to millions of American women last night via the WOMAN-produced blockbuster television hit, Grey's Anatomy. Shame on you, Shonda Rhimes, creator and heart center of Grey's, for having the handsome Dr. Alex Karev characterize his patient's Stage II breast cancer as ADVANCED. Stage II breast cancer is EARLY STAGE. I repeat, Stage II breast cancer is EARLY STAGE breast cancer, whether or not the cancer has "metastasized" (and I shudder to use that word in this context, but it actually is the medically appropriate way to say that cancer has moved from one sight to another, even if it does not mean that distant organs are involved) to lymph nodes in the breast and armpit.

Since Grey's Anatomy failed in this regard, I think now would be a good time to briefly outline the stages of breast cancer, for anyone who might be interested:

Stage 0 - breast cancer that is entirely contained within itself, which is to say that it is non-invasive in nature, and not likely to spread or even to become Stage I. However, there have been cases where a Stage 0 patient ends up with with metastatic (i.e. Advanced) breast cancer.
My personal belief is that women who go from Stage O to Advanced breast cancer probably had an undiagnosed invasive cancer. And this is one reason why I believe so strongly in mastectomy after a breast cancer diagnosis. Who knows what is lurking in a diseased breast? Clean up the disease - get rid of the breast. That's just my opinion, of course.

Stage I - invasive breast cancer (cancer cells are breaking through to or invading neighboring normal tissue) in which the tumor measures up to two centimeters, AND there are no lymph nodes involved.

Stage II - invasive breast cancer in which the tumor measures at least two centimeters, but not more than five centimeters. In Stage IIB, the cancer has also spread to the lymph nodes under the arm on the same side as the breast cancer, but the lymph nodes are intact, have not yet stuck to one another or invaded into surrounding tissues. The patient in Grey's Anatomy last night was a Stage IIB patient. I was a Stage IIB patient, with two (or three, depending on whom you ask) positive lymph nodes under my arm.

Stage III - invasive breast cancer where the tumor is larger than five centimeters OR regardless of the size of the tumor, there is significant lymph node involvement where the nodes are stuck to one another or invading the tissue surrounding them. This is Stage IIIA. In Stage IIIB, the breast cancer, regardless of size, has invaded the skin, the muscle or the internal mammary lymph nodes. Stage IIIB refers to a rare form of breast cancer called Inflammatory Breast Cancer, where at least half the time, there is no actual tumor; instead, the cancer cells are ubiquitous to the breast, the skin and underlying muscle.

Stage IV - invasive breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast, armpit and internal mammary lymph nodes. Stage IV breast cancer is usually found in the lungs, liver, bone, or brain. Sometimes it is caught while the cancer is not detectable in these organs but is detactable in the mediastynal (mid chest) or supraclavicular (above the collar bone) lymph nodes. Stage IV is ADVANCED breast cancer and is the ONLY "ADVANCED" breast cancer.

No one dies from "Early Stage" breast cancer. The breast is a non-essential gland in the human body. No one dies from breast cancer that has spread only to the lymph nodes in the collar bone. People die when their breast cancer progresses beyond Early Stage to Advanced Stage -when the cancer spreads to the brain, the liver, the lungs and other distant organs that ARE essential to human life. The spread of cancer to the bones is not, in itself, going to kill a patient. But it is a sign that the cancer is serious, spreading and is putting the life of the patient in danger.

So, Alex Karev's patient had Stage IIB breast cancer, which she found while breast feeding her baby. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence amongst young women with breast cancer. Pregnancy is a time of cellular growth and decreased immunity. If one had a propensity to grow a breast cancer, pregnancy would be a really great time for the body to get going with it. Pregnancy is also a time of increased hormone levels. So, if a breast cancer has estrogen or progesterone as its growth factors, then pregnancy will really get it going. Nursing continues the hormone surgers and also can mask the palpability of a tumor.

Alex Karev's patient withdrew from her baby and exhibited all of the symptoms of a serious, profound, clinical depression. None of that is earth-shattering. It is not uncommon to withdraw from one's friends and family when diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. It is a psychological defense mechanism. When Dr. Miranda Bailey scratched the surface, it became apparent that the patient also harbored some anger towards her baby for contributing to the cancer and then a hefty helping of guilt for that anger. All of this is textbook, and I have to admit that the Grey's writers did a fine job here. It was also fine that Karev's patient expressed a fear of dying. Totally to be expected in a cancer patient.

The problem was that the writers/editors/whomever did not then allow the characters to accurately convey that the fear of dying from cancer has little to do with the stage of the cancer. Everyone who gets a cancer diagnosis is afraid that they will die from it. In some cases, the fear is more emotional than fact-based. In last night's Grey's Anatomy, the fear was far more emotional than fact-based.

Here's how the facts were stacked for Karev's patient: A Stage IIB breast cancer patient who receives NO treatment at ALL will have about a 60 percent chance of surviving the disease outright. Each treatment the patient has - surgery, chemo, radiation - adds to those chances by a certain percentage until with a full battery of appropriate treatments, a Stage IIB breast cancer patient is looking at a greater than 80 percent chance of surviving the disease. (These facts came to me from my own oncologist more than four years ago, so they may be slightly outdated, but if anything they are more bleak than they would be today).

Did anyone tell Karev's patient that she was going to lick this thing? Uh, no. But all of my doctors did. Here are some of the things my doctors said to me in the first two months of my diagnosis and treatment:

  • You will be fine...this will be a really hard time, but you will do what you have to do, and you will be FINE!
  • It's not like it's an advanced form of the disease - that's a whole different disease entirely. You're early stage. You're looking at surgery and chemo and then moving on with your life.
  • This is going to be an annoyance in your life, and then you will have your life back.
  • You will be FINE.
  • It's early stage. You will be FINE.

Get the picture?

And sure, maybe they might have been proven wrong. But to say that an 80-something percent chance of surviving a disease is a good prognosis is perfectly within reason and perfectly appropriate. And for the sake of the viewing public, it would have been a really, really good idea.

I know that if I were watching Grey's without having had breast cancer, I would be in a terrible mood today, worrying about breast cancer, seeing pink everywhere, worrying about breast cancer some more, remembering that on last night's show, a patient with a mere STAGE II cancer was not being given hope for a full recovery, seeing some more pink, reaching for some pink Pepto Bismal. It's downright irresponsible of Shonda and the Grey's gang to have put this storyline on as it was - exaggerated, overly melodramatic and gaping with holes.

I don't know why I watch Grey's other than to see what the hot, big-bodied, totally awesome Dr. Callie "Bonecracker" Torres will get into next.

Off I go. May the pink be with you, but not too much.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Belated Lost Synopsis: The Glass Ballerina

But first, a word from our sponsor:

Scene 1: (cue the Nip/Tuck theme music) "Rhinopasty: $4,000"
Scene 2: (switch to the theme from the original "Mission Impossible"). "Capsulectomy/Implant Replacement: $750 (represents insurance deductible) "
Scene 3: (cue "Money" by Pink Floyd) "Cab fare to hospital: $57 plus tip and tolls"
Scene 4: (switch to the weird opening music for "Lost") "Being able to watch Lost in the hospital with NO interruptions from the Husband: PRICELESS"

Episode 3:02, "The Glass Ballerina" opens with a Sun flashback, and what we see quickly enough is that Sun is a lying little liar, and has been that way since at least as far back as the age of eight, when she sold her maid down the river over a glass ballerina that she, herself, had broken. Granted, Sun's dad appears to be so incredibly menacing and threatening that perhaps anyone would be driven to lie to avoid his wrath. But the point is, we're establishing a history, and the history has "liar" written all over it. The flashback ends, and we move immediately to the shark tank, which is Jack's tank, which we discover to be bugged, as Ben is privy to all that goes on there. Currently, what is going on there is that Juliet has brought Jack a nice bowl of homemade soup.

"You never made me soup," Ben snarks to Juliet as she exits the tank.

Juliet's about to be all "But Benny, you know that I'm not the most gifted chef, what with the burnt muffins and groty grilled cheese....and besides, I didn't know you wanted your soup to be mmm mmmm good, Benny" when the entrance of Juliet's sexy doppelganger, a sexy blonde with tight jeans, curly hair and a ferocious alpha female attitude, interrupts the moment. The tension between Ben and the baggy-clothed, straight-haired, beta female Juliet immediately transforms to tension between Juliet and the Sexy Blonde, whose name we learn is Colleen and who is all, "Am I interrupting something [as of I cared]?" Juliet is all, "Would it matter if you were [you curly-haired ho]?" Seems that aside from this (oh dear God, NO!) love triangle thing between Colleen, Juliet and Ben, there's a "situation" with "the Iraqi" having a sailboat and having discovered the "decoy hut village". Even as Juliet is all, "Chill out, so what's the big deal?" Ben's giving Colleen free reign to come up with a plan to wrest the boat from "the Iraqi" and to move ahead with said plan on an asap basis. That's "stat", if you're Jack.

Obvious question: How is it possible that the Others had not known about Desmond's boat, The Elizabeth, seeing as it it had been docked somewhere on or near the Island for at least two years while Desmond was in the hatch inputting the numbers and slowly going insane?

Moving right along, Kate wakes up to Sawyer's amusing himself with his Fish Biscuits. Despite that he offers Kate a nice Fish Biscuit to get her morning going, you must now get your mind out of the gutter. Please. Kate doesn't have a chance to get her fill of Sawyer's Fish Biscuits before a group of Others arrive to move them out of their cages. On their way to wherever they're going, they are intercepted by Colleen, who receives a sweet and flirty cheek kiss from the big scary guy carrying the rifle who goes by the name of Danny. Or was that Daddy? Well, let's just go with Danny for now. Sawyer takes this in with a snicker, which does not go unnoticed by the big scary guy with the rifle: "What are YOU lookin' at?"

Flashback time again. We see Sun has upped the ante on her childhood deceptions: She is now sleeping with Jae, the dude who taught her English, whom we soon learn is a particularly bad choice as an affair partner, considering that he is the son of one of a business associate of Sun's dad, no less mean and scary than he was 20 some odd years ago. Said mean and scary dad catches Sun and Jae in flagrante delicto, and we just know that there will be hell to pay. And it's not that Sun's dad is going to tell Jin. It will be far worse than that - you just know that. And sure enough, in the next flashback, we see Sun's dad ordering Jin to kill Jae. Dad doesn't exactly tell Jin that Jae is Sun's lover; however, it seems that the implication is there. Sun's dad talks about it being a matter of honor, and my shame is your shame kind of things. Jin takes this information back to Sun, and again, without ever mentioning Jae, the affair, or even the word, "kill", asks Sun for her thoughts on "delivering a message" for Sun's daddy. Again, the large, pink elephant in the room (Jin's affair with Jae) is ingored as Sun begs Jin to leave the country with her, to get out from under her father's influence. Instead, Jin goes off to "deliver the message", one that FedEx would not be legally permitted to deliver the next day or ever.

When next we see Sun and Jin, they are with Sayid, and they are discovering the Pala Ferry dock, where Michael and Walt were sent on their merry way at the end of last season. Sayid shows that he too is a fairly skillful liar, claiming that the dock appears to have been long abandoned. Sayid "hatches" a plan to dock the boat, build a signal fire and attract "Jack"'s attention. Of course, it is especially easy for a lying liar like Sun to see right through Sayid who begs Sun to keep the "real" plan (i.e., to attract the Others, ambush them, capture two so that one will make the other behave...hmm....funny how much Sayid thinks like the Others) from Jin until the fire is built (i.e., when there's no turning back). Since Jin is comfortable being lied to and pretending he is not, it all goes according to plan for the time being. Sun takes cover on the boat, where Sayid tells her there is a gun, which she implies to Sayid that she may or may not use to defend herself (or to off herself) in the event that the Others come on board because "If they get past you, it will mean my Husband is dead, and it won't matter anymore." There's the way to think outside the box, Sun! It's a good thing for the Others, who later board the boat without offing Jin in the process, that they are a bit more creative in their thinking. More on that later.

Meanwhile, Kate and Sawyer are led to what appears to be a Craphole Island construction site (perhaps a new housing development in Other-burbia?). We see that there are Others already at work. Kate and Sawyer are ordered to break rocks and haul them, respectively. "In this dress?!" Kate asks Danny with an appropriate measure of righteous indignation. "You can take it off it you'd like," is the predictable answer, which first draws another snicker from Sawyer and then the appropriate righteous indignation from Sawyer. When Kate curls her lip and says, "I'm not doing anything until I see Jack," Sawyer's the one who receives an electical shock of some sort. Sawyer and Kate are warned that there's plenty more where that came from if they don't fall into line and stay that way.

Work commences, but it doesn't go well: Sawyer has trouble staying focused on his work, what with Kate's dress failing to properly cover her lady parts as she drives her pickaxe into a pile of rocks. And Kate is having trouble staying focused on her work what with Sawyer's drooling all over the place and what with the teenage girl hiding in the bushes and whispering, "Psssst......Where'd you get the dress....because, you know, it's mine....although it looks better on you....and have you seen Carl, the guy who was being kept in the cages? No?????!?!!!!!" The teenager is Alex, whom we have seen in prior episodes, seemingly reluctantly taking orders from other Others and saving Claire's life by helping her to escape from Ethan. Alex may or may not be the French Woman's long-lost daughter. Alex may or may not be on the outs with the Others or with THESE particular Others. This all remains to be seen, perhaps in a year or two or three or never.

Juliet and some cute Other guy are flirting, after which she takes a swig of water from her Dharma canteen. Seeing Sawyer eyeing her, Juliet flirtatiously throws Sawyer the canteen. Then they proceed to eye each other in a way that makes me have absolutely no clue what they are communicating. I so wish that they would use their words. But it is not to be. Instead, Sawyer proceeds to empty the canteen onto the ground, which looks and sounds very much like Sawyer is pissing all over the Others and their sexed up work ethic. More metaphorical pissing ensues as Sawyer decides that what with all the Otherly flirting, he will not be outdone, and so Sawyer marches over to Kate and gives her a giant Hollywood kiss. This doesn't go over well with the Others as Danny proceeds to plant a rifle butt in Sawyer's head and Juliet holds a gun to Kate's. Sawyer somehow then manages to wrestle possession of the taser as well as the rifle, but he quickly realizes that Juliet is a cold-blooded killer who wouldn't think twice before blowing Kate's head off. Sawyer surrenders the weapons and gets a big shock from the taser.

Back in the not-too-distant past in Korea, Jin drives to Jae's hotel to do his business, but Jae's anguished begging and apologizing gets to Jin, who orders Jae to leave the country and never return or else Jin will "finish the job." Jin goes down to his car, where a moment later, he sees that someone else has finished the job already: Jin's body hurtles from the hotel above and lands right on the hood of Jin's car, clutching the string of pearls he had wanted Sun to have. Was it suicide? Or murder? Did the taxi that had followed Jin into the hotel parking lot have anything to do it? A moment between Sun and her dad at the funeral raise the question, at least in my mind, as to whether Sun had anything to do with it. But don't worry, I am sure that no questions will be answered. So, it may be best to forget this ever happened other than with regard to the take away message: Sun is a lying liar who lies.

Speaking of which, did anyone really think that Sun would find that life was not worth living without Jin? As the Others board the Elizabeth, Sun cocks her gun and waits, even if she thinks that her husband MUST be dead for the Others to have gotten past him and Sayid. She and Colleen have a rather unpleasant tet a tet, in which Sun demands to be let off the boat, and Colleen not only refuses but taunts Sun, "I know you, Sun-wa Kwon! And you are not a killer! And we are not the enemy, unless you shoot me, in which case we will go from being your friends who steal your boat and kidnap your friends to your friends who are enemies!" Needless to say, Sun shoots Colleen in the stomach, manages to avoid Mr. Friendly's fire and dive overboard, where she is met by Jin, who surprise, is not dead despite that the Others actually boarded the boat without going past him and Sayid.

Sayid is mortified. Let's hit the long way home, he tells Jin and Sun. What he should have told them is, "From now on, you must listen to everything I say. And then do the exact opposite."

Meanwhile, back at the chain gang, Kate and Sawyer are led back to their cages, where they recap the events of the day. In short, Sawyer tells Kate that the Others are sorely lacking in experienced fighting manpower, that Juliet would have been more than happy to have actually put a bullet in Kate's head, and that (awwwww) Kate tastes like strawberries; Kate asks Sawyer if he saw the look on their faces when he got hold of the rifle and tells him he tastes like (awwwwww) Fish Biscuits. Kate asks what they should do now. Sawyer tells her that they just need to sit back and wait for the Others to make a mistake. Ben is, of course, watching all of this on his monitors back at the Jack Tank, so I wouldn't expect any more mistakes to be forthcoming any time soon.

This apprently is rather tedious for Ben, who decides to entertain himself by beginning his campaign to "Stockholm" Jack, you know, get Jack to identify with his captors. He tells Jack that if he makes an attitude adjustment, he will deliver Jack back to his home. I assume that by home, Ben means the charted earth, and not the other side of the island. Jack needs some convincing as to Ben's connection with said charted earth, and Ben spews some current events to prove that he knows what's going on in the world. Since one of those current events is the Red Sox winning the pennant, Jack is quite certain that Ben is lying. Ben shows him the footage, which oddly, convinces Jack that Ben is telling the truth, that Ben has access to planet earth and the ability to get there from here. If it were me, I'd be a bit suspicious of anything concerning a Red Sox win, video or no video. I mean, they can do all kinds of things with editing these days, no? But apparently Jack is ever the optimist and may choose to believe in "Henry Linus" who has "lived on this island all my life." Well, so much for the theory that Craphole Island is populated by Dharma refugees: Ben is far too young to have been a Dharmite in the 70's, when he would have been, at most, a teen.

So, there you have it. Not the best work I've seen on Lost. But a good diversion nevertheless.

Next week, Locke stars in "Honey, I'm home."


Jeffrey won!!!!!!!!

OK, so I admit it - I'm a heretofore closeted Project Runway fan. But I'm here, I'm ready-to-wear, get used to it. It's not that I've chosen to out myself at this point, it's just that after a string of sad-sack, cry-for-help blog entries, I find myself far too exhuberent over Jeffrey Sebelia's triumph to keep hiding under a the guise of a strict diet of thinking-person's television dramas. I don't love reality t.v., and in fact, for the most part, I find it to be mind-numbing, intelligence-insulting, anxiety-provoking, values-mocking drivel. But that was before I accidentally discovered the magic of Season 3 of the Runway.

Ah, Heidi Klum. Such the uber-bitch that given her German sensibilities, I can safely say that "uber-bitch" is a term that would be defined in the Dictionary of Abstractions with nothing more than a photo of Heidi. Off scene, she was scrapping with Elle Macpherson over who is the real "The Body". On screen, she's taunting her contestants in alpha schoolgirl mode: One day you're in, one day you're out. Kayne (or whomever), you're OUT." OOh, Heidi, can you say Aufwiedersein again...please?

One day, boredom left me channel surfing, which usually means that I click haphazardly between Bravo, HBO, IFC, TBS, AMC and Encore (okay, and sometimes Lifetime, fine, I admit it). And I kept finding myself clicking back to Bravo, on which I repeatedly heard the nasal voice of the fleshy-faced Vincent talking about this dress or that jacket "getting him off", to which I saw the sleekly red-headed NYC snot-nose, Laura, respond by rolling her aristocratic eyes. I found myself clicking back to watch for the curly-haired, large-nosed Angela, who incongruously hailed from Ohio and yet possessed a distinctive New York downtown AND Jewish sensibility. There was something about this depressive underdog that I just utterly identified with, and it wasn't just the hair, the nose and the Jewishy thing. And it was easy to keep clicking back to this show because it was on for like eight hours straight.

I quickly learned the personalities and styles of the big personalities on the show, and those who stayed the longest: Vincent (everything good "got him off", but the man had no sense of proportion), Laura (mother of five, going on six, sleek red hair pulled back in a tight low pony, her architectural background paving the way toward her distinctive, clean, Prada circa 1997 meets St. John circa now style, Angela (she of the fabric rosettes and the questionable ability to follow directions or act even remotely adult-like), Kayne (red-headed seamstress boy with some issues regarding his "taste level", as the judges often said), Michael (the perfect boy, sweet, talented, visionary, although woefully inexperienced, although inexperience can be cured with...experience), Uli "I am from Miami Beach" Herzner (she of the repetitive prints, fabric rolls, and flowy sillouettes), and Jeffrey (ah, Jeffrey, with the scrolling neck tats, but most importantly, with the serious ability to think outside the box, to take risks that make good sense, and damn, the ability to execute his ideas when given a proper amount of time in which to do so).

After Vincent and Angela left (for the second time, in each case...ah! the drama!), I found myself drawn towards Jeffrey. Michael was just too goody-two-shoes for me. Uli's outfits are far too unstructured for my taste. Laura's designs began to steer away from the structure that I adored about her initial works and replace them with stupidity, like chartreuse sashes and long sleeves on an evening gown. And feathers! And a ridiculous white-white Collar That Ate Manhattan. More than anything, it turned out that Laura was a jealous, back-stabbing beeyotch, who accused my Jeffrey of subbing out the actual sewing of his line. Uh, sorry Laura. He just works faster than you. He doesn't have five kids. He's not pregnant with his sixth. And he actually works as a designer already. So, is it any wonder that he was able to get his line done in the time allotted, and with the quality appropriate for a stroll down the catwalk at Bryant Park?

Whatever. We'll likely see Laura again, perhaps designing for older women who shop on the designer floors at Bergdorf. Uli will definitely be a force in the summer and in resort-wear. I can see her opening up a shop in South Beach. I can see Michael scoring a gig designing for a bigtime designer, getting the experience he needs and THEN going out on his own. But Jeffrey is the one who will have the spread in Elle Magazine. And Jeffrey deserves it, for his designs, for his charisma, for his truthfulness to his own aesthetic and finally, for his ability to handle Laura's attack with grace and calm.

And if Jeffrey's yellow-plaid-cotton evening gown ever is up for sale, I want to know about it. I want that dress.

You do NOT have to care about Bryant Park or what Katie "Free Katie" Holmes and Scary Skinny Spice buy on their jaunt to the Paris shows to love Project Runway. You simply have to love watching creative types letting their personalities leak out as they do what they do best. It's not the Apprentice, with it's sexed up, greed-is-good, fake-glitzy NYC aesthetic. It's not Survivor, with its Corporate Politics without access to food or a razor aesthetic. It's not American Idol, with its viewer-voting and star-MAKING point-of-view. Instead, it's a dramedy starring people who are already sort of stars in their own right, who are not expected to change and grow, who do not need to backstab anyone to prove their worth (paging, Laura, can you hear me?), who operate without any internal need for censors, who don't need to (and usually DON'T) look good, themselves.

And it helps if you enjoy watching grown men acting like bitches because Tim Gunn and Michael Kors are those guys. Tim Gunn, the Parsons School of Design Director of Fashion, with his "I don't understand what you've got going on here....okay, make it work!" is just so bitchy! And Michael Kors....if he ever were to read this, I hope he would catch the fact that I think that his shoes are the coolest, but they hurt my feet like medieval torture, and then I would hope that he would say something appropriately bitchy back.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Well, it's official.

My plastic surgeon told me that my chest wall (the muscles and skin that comprise the chest) was the tightest he has ever encountered. This is not a good thing. Is it any wonder Supta K was literally out of my reach? I consider it a minor miracle that I could touch down in Prasarita Pado C, that I could get a reverse prayer going in Parsvotanasana, that I could bind at all in the Marichyasanas. How was that even possible? I guess it's a testament to the power of determination, and practice practice practice. It's no wonder that the story of Hanuman is my favorite story from Hindu mythology.

I am less grumpy now that my nose cast is off, but I am so swollen that I am quite sure that most people look at me and wonder, "Now, wait, what did she have done again?" I guess my nose looks a bit smaller and smoother than it was before. But right now, and until the swelling goes down, the actual results are very much anyone's guess (except for my plastic surgeon, who tells me it looked beautiful while I was on the table, before the cast was applied, before the swelling and bruising set in).

As for the breasts, the jury is out on whether the Alloderm will "take". Now, I know that Julie's experience was somewhat different...but in my case, it really is very much like a skin graft in that the Alloderm acts not just as padding but is literally replacing and replicating damaged tissue (tissue that was damaged by radiation). The Alloderm must develop vascularity on its own and must be incorporated into my own skin for a good result. This takes about six weeks, but in my case, it is possible that it won't happen. This makes me sad. No, to be honest, it makes me more than sad. As I did a google search before on "alloderm radiated", my heart sank. I couldn't even finish reading the stuff my search turned up. The little out there that seemed pertinent to my specific facts did not give me a lot of hope to hang onto.

Despite at least four layers of Alloderm placed under my radiated breast, tight now, the scar line is dented in. And there is another dent as well - the one that was there before, although it is far less dented in. Perhaps it will stay only minorly dented in. Also, the Alloderm has been slipping out to the side toward my armpit, but a little bit of massage pushed it back to where it belonged. This is so high tech, and yet so low tech at the same time. It is disheartening to feel so responsible for my own result (granted, my doctor did the HEAVY lifting...but I feel the weight of my world on my shoulders with regard to ensuring that this surgery turns out to have been a succes). I am now wearing a big-ass Natori underwire sports bra 24/7 to keep things from moving around.

I hate to sound all sorry for myself. I have to keep remembering that my most important hope for my breasts is that they are comfortable and soft and no longer impede my progress in yoga, or worse, destroy my posture (my ACTUAL posture, not my asanas). Somehow, I got caught up in the vanity thing. And yeah, I know I have the right to be concerned with my appearance and with feeling like a "woman" and all that. But I want to keep my hopes in line so that I don't end up sorely disappointed and bitter about all this.

One thing I have NOT been throughtout the past four years is bitter. I don't want to start shooting for the moon and the stars now and feel bitterly disappointed. I need to get my perspective back. I just want to feel comfortable. Maybe even ONE good breast would be a good thing! I am pretty sure that I can end up with ONE good one....the non-radiated breast is totally fine, a non-issue, I believe.

It's funny...when I set out to write, I have no idea that all this bad stuff is going to come out. I just start writing, and there it goes. All angst, all the time...the Angst Channel! Perhaps for the next six weeks, I ought to change my blog's name from Yoga Chickie to The Angst Channel. Or maybe Planet Angst. All angst, all the time....



Monday, October 16, 2006

I hate to complain

at least when it comes to the things that go beyond the mundane - the poses, the homework blues, traffic on the FDR. When it comes to more important things - my general wellbeing, for example - I tend to withdraw, rather than commit it all to memory via blog or journal or even via phone calls to friends and family who might remember it all later.

Right now, I am coming out of my cave to say: I feel like SHIT. Please allow me to count the ways:

  1. The cast on my nose feels like it weighs several pounds. It's slippery from my massaging arnica gel on my bruised cheekbones, and as a result, it's kind of falling off, which makes it feel even heavier. The good news, because there always is good news, is that I caught a glimpse of my doctor's handiwork, and it is GOOD! Nice, straight bridge, not too narrow, not at all ski-slope-like. I look like me, jonly just a little less so.
  2. I am soooo over these damn JP drains. Surgical drains are never fun. Never even remotely acceptable for that matter. But this time, it is worse than usual. This time, they are irritating the surrounding skin. I have oozing chafing sores, which I have covered with extra durable bandaids, which only creates more annoyances. I can't even imagine what it will feel like when I have to pull those babies off (the bandaids, not the drains, which my doctor will remove sometime between tomorrow and a million years from now, or so it seems). The good news: this is really stretching it, but here goes...when I had my initial surgery four years ago, my drains didn't bother me nearly as much, so perhaps there is an inverse relationship between drain-related annoyance and aesthetic results?
  3. I am anxious over how the breast surgery is going to turn out in the end. I know that no matter what, it will be better than it was before. However, I have no idea where the results will be on the scale of "better than before" and "normal". And that's not even setting the bar very high, is it? I guess all I ever really "wanted" from this surgery was to have increased mobility and decreased tightness and discomfort. But somewhere along the line, I think I kind of started hoping that I would have nice, teardrop shaped breasts at the end of the day. And truthfully, I don't think the odds of that happening are very good. I can already see a slight ridge under my right breast - the same way it was before. I just think that my skin was compromised by radiation, and that's the way it's going to be, no matter how many sheets of Alloderm are placed there, and no matter how talented my surgeon. The good news: even with the slight ridge, the breasts are SOFT! YAY! And even if the Alloderm doesn't take (remember - it's essentially a skin graft, and like all skin grafts, you hold your breath and hope it takes), I still have silicone in there, as opposed to saline, and that is a guarantee of softness as long as I don't develop capsular contracture. If I do develop capsular contracture, like last time, I will have to have another surgery to reverse it. That would suck. And so, my mind spins in circles. We all know that doesn't help. But it is what it is.
  4. My stomach is not tolerating the antibiotics I am taking. No suprise there. Yeah, I know, acidophillus. But still. I am craving protein, for healing I guess, but my stomach really only feels good when I eat bland, carby food. Basically, my tummy is bloated and upset, and I can't find any foods that feel good and satisfy my nutritional nees. The good news: this too shall pass. When all else fails, that's always the good news.
  5. I have to teach a yoga class tomorrow, and I hate the fact that I didn't plan better and get a sub when I could have. But the thing is, bad planning like that is usually the result of ambivalence, and truth be told, I probably didn't want to NOT teach it more than I didn't want to teach it, and so, I am teaching it. It's my private class at Yoga Sutra in which all the students are personal trainers, and they love to do inversions and arm balances, and they're great and they're fun. So, I guess I wanted to teach it. I just didn't want to feel so crappy the night before.
  6. I have to have the packing removed from my nose tomorrow morning. That should be a good thing - a very good thing. But I am terrified. TERRIFIED. I have heard rumors that when they pack your nose, it goes all the way up to your sinuses, and when they remove the packing, it feels like they're unraveling your brain. This is a scary and disgusting thought. Add to that the fact that it feels as if the packing has been surgically sewn to the inside of my nostrils, and you've got one scared chickie here.
  7. I can't keep up with my housework. I know, how much housework can I possibly have, right? But my two boys can walk into a perfectly clean room and within minutes, toys are everywhere. And then they unpack their backpacks, and they each have five handouts to hand to me, and I have to get through each one, write things in my calendar, throw away the stuff I don't need, sign my name to the ones that require a signature, blah blah blah. I feel overwhelmed. This sounds so lame. I am a mom. I should be able to do this. But it's hard when you don't feel good physically.
  8. I think I am having trouble getting off the Vicodin. Yes, I know, I do have a really hard time with pain meds in general, and I like them a little bit too much. But the Vicodin is like this magic fairy dust that you sprinkle on yourself, and suddenly, not only do you not hurt, but you also feel energized and happy. What's not to like? Oh, yeah, the possibility of addiction. There's that. That's kind of unlikable. And so, it's been two days of no Vicodin. Until this evening. I just had to take one. I still have like six left, but I would like to not take them. I hope that I start to feel well enough soon such that I don't feel any pull toward taking any more of them.
  9. I feel horrible without my practice. I hope I feel well enough to start walking around more soon. I need to get some endorphins going.
  10. My head is foggy. I think this might have something to do with the packing in my nose. I feel a bit off balance. I feel groggy, scattered. I hope this passes soon.

I do feel better now, having written all of that. It's a weight off of my shoulders. I really don't think it's just the Vicodin. I think that expressing myself has a calming effect.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Seated Practice

Yep, I practiced. Sat in lotus for, I don't know, maybe 15 minutes. Then sat in virasana. External rotation, internal rotation. I felt pretty good most of the day, mainly because I pretty much did nothing, and I was lucky enough to have my kids' former nanny, current housekeeper and sometimes sitter come over with coffee and, a desire to care-take and a willingness to walk Lewis. It was good! Now, notwithstanding doing nothing, I am beat. BEAT. But I have to take Brian to his Travel Basketball practice....


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Extreme Makeover: Yoga Chickie Edition


I am home from the hospital (or as the Europeans say, "home from Hospital"). I am down two unfabulously granite-like saline implants and one rather unsightly bony protusion on my nose. I have gained two silicone implants and a whole bunch of cadaver tissue, strategically placed, to cushion the space between my muscle and my skin, since there is precious nothing there, nor has there been for four years plus one month now. I also have two black, or more like purple, eyes. But damn, the nose looks GOOD. The breasts are muchly improved as well, but I know they will never be perfect, and I need to accept that. What I can hope for is breasts that remain soft (yes! they are SOFT NOW!!!!!), remain centered on my chest rather than careening out towards my sides, and mobility, mobility, mobility.

Immediately after a plastic surgery, you can see exactly what the doctor did. As the day wears on, it becomes less and less visibile, as swelling sets in. Even so, even now, I am thrilled.

My surgery experience was different from the ones I have had in the past. Different hospitals do things differently, I guess. In this case, I was given a room immediately and a bed that I stayed in for every moment that I was conscious (they took me off it for surgery but put me back on it afterwards). Funny thing: the bed was plus-sized and had a scale. It was meant for the bariatric band patients. Funny that. I looked like a small child on that big big bed with the big, giant rails. But I kind of liked it. I appreciated the irony, and I always can use a laugh.

I was taken to a pre-surgery waiting area at exactly the moment I was scheduled for surgery. THAT was quite different from anything I have experienced previously. No surgeon is ever on time in New York City, I am quite sure of that. There I was met by Julie's Best Doctor In the World (and mine too) and a couple of anesthesiologists who looked exactly alike and then became one anesthesiologist (not sure if I dreamed the second one, come to think of it). There, I was given an IV and the Versed began aflowing. I asked if this was the beginning of my anesthesia, as in, would I even remember being taken to the operating room? The anesthesiologist said, Versed is pretty strong stuff, most patients have no memory of getting on the operating table. THIS was VERY different from my previous experience with surgery, where I always climbed onto the table myself, was awake to see the flurry of activity around me and all of these amazing people dressed in white who were there to care for me, where I was given an IV with a sedative, but where I always felt the gas mask going over my face and where I always got to count backwards from 100 ("100, 99, ninety-ayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy....zzzzzzzzzzzz").

I decided at that moment, "Nothing doing. I am going to be awake when I go into that OR, and I am going to enjoy watching all the folks scurrying around to take care of me, and I am going to listen to my vital signs being monitored, and I am going to count backwards from one hundreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee....zzzzzzzzzzzz"

Needless to say, I woke up four hours later in the recovery room with no memory of anything beyond that prep room. I never saw the inside of the OR. Bummer.

I have little if any recollection of my doctor talking to me after surgery, except I believe he told me to stop moving my arms around so much - that part was EXACTLY like all of my surgeries in the past. Always the flibberdigibbit, I am. I really didn't know if the breast surgery was a success. For all I knew, he wasn't able to even get an implant into the right breast, which is the one that has the most contracted skin. I don't remember anything that he said about it. When I got back to my room, I took out a mirror and looked at my nose. I wish I could botle the emotions from that first look. I was surprised to see that my nose was shorter now. I didn't remember that being a part of the procedure that we had discussed. But I LIKED it. I was thrilled and so the surprise was a pleasant one. I could see that my profile was straight and smooth. Kind of like Drew Barrymore - that's who it reminded me of. And there was no swelling, no black and blue. Now there is major swelling and bruising around the nose. But the nose itself, as far as I am concerned, an unqualified success.

At this point, I still had no idea what the deal was with the breasts, and I felt a bit concerned, like perhaps my doctor didn't want to break bad news to me or something like that. My mom called me and told me that she had talked to him. He didn't use words like, "The surgery was a success." And he did say, "This was one of the hardest reconstructions I have ever done. Her skin was rock hard." But I got the feeling from my mom's report of my doctor's report that it was at least going to be an improvement from before. As far as I am concerned, if it is one iota different from before, then it was worth it.

Damn, my nose itches. It's in a splint. I look like a boxer after a fight. Itch itch itch. Nothing I can do about it. That splint has to stay on until at least Tuesday. Same with my drains. Yep, got the old JP drains. No surprise there. I have no problem with that, although they tend to gross other people out. I guess seeing one's blood and lymph dripping out of them down a tube and into a little plastic bulb can be a bit disconcerting to an observer.

So, back to the breasts. My doctor came to see me this morning, and he told me that when he opened up the right breast and removed the saline implant, the skin around the implant stood up on its own, like a volcano. A ring of hardened flesh, just standing there. UGH! I don't know how he dealt with that, but I was glad to hear that he did. And from what I can feel, it is soft. He de-scarred the area (this is called a "capsulectomy", I believe, where the implant capsule and the scarring is removed). He placed cadaver tissue over the places where there had been dents and adhesions. The other side was more straight forward.

But for now, they are soft. They do not stick out past my ribcage like they did before. They may even make some cleavage! I do not have striations of muscle visible under my chest skin anymore. It would be wonderful if this all stays like this and that time does not undo the good results. Sadly, some reconstructive surgery seems to be successful at first, and then over time, the results deteriorate - skin grafts fail, tissue gets fully reabsorbed. But let's remain optimistic.

I have to stay relatively quiet with my arms, but I should be out and about walking almost as soon as I want. I haven't much of an appetite yet. But I know that will come back an minute now.

I am very very happy.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Which Celebrity do YOU look like?

This site will analyze a photo of you and tell you what celebrity(ies) you look like!

It is way too late for me to be up, but I am too excited to sleep!

Oh, and for me, it came out as Katie Couric. Odd. I never ever would have made any such connection.

Curious to see if Linda turns up Meg Ryan and if Julie turns up Julia Roberts.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The last seduction

My last pre-surgery practice was today. I had low expectations, but from the moment I stepped on the mat, it was pure bliss. It was sweaty-hot in the room, but I liked it. I took extra-long breaths to prolong the experience. But in the end, I found myself in Kurmasana. Where was the stiffness I had been enduring? Where was the disconnection? The concentration problems? Where was the whole Lauren vs. the Flop Sweat battle?

I stayed in Kurmasana for so long, I lost count. And it was a good Kurmasana too. Nice and flat. Legs no wider than my mat. Butt up, heels up. Steve from Santa Barbara doesn't rush to put folks in Supta K, which is kind of cool. It gave me the freedom to attempt it myself without stepping on my teacher's toes. It went fine, but I felt like I could have gone so much further if someone just pushed my elbows together from exactly where I was when I got myself into the deepest expression I could achieve alone. It was not to be, however. When I got out of it, I flagged Steve down and asked him if he could help me in Supta K, and he did. Fingers touched. But instead of working with the arms, he suggested that we work to get the legs higher up over my shoulders. Sure. I could use help with that. And so he pulled my legs up higher, tighter. And what did I feel?


"Let me know if this is too much."

"Too much? No! I don't feel anything at all."

"You're kidding! I'm using all my strength."

What is it with my hips? They feel no pain, and yet the don't seem to move beyond a certain point. Well, there's never been a part of my body that hasn't yielded eventually. So, I assume the hips will follow suit in time. As Steve says, "No rush."

Then came the backbends. I had heard that Steve from Santa Barbara gives the world class drop-backs. But I never really thought that I would get a chance to experience them. And, he saw me dropping back on my own and he called across the room that he would be there shortly to help me out. I have no idea what we did. All I know is that by the last one, I was standing up with a fairly large portion of my own leg strength and with my head really and truly coming up last. If I could have bottled that feeling!

I floated through finishing and sat for a long time in padmasana, not wanting to leave. But alas, 11 o'clock rolled around, and that is the witching hour for cars on the wrong side of the alternate-side-of-the-street-parking-regulations, so before I could get hit with a parking violation, I made my exit. Into the sunny day, with my friend S, who was the sole reason I had even bothered to practice today.

Thank you, S!

I now have something to hold onto in the next six weeks. A reminder of what I will be missing. An opportunity to grieve it and then happily return to it.

I floated on my yoga high for the entire rest of the day, which included the heroic (if I do say so myself) task of taking Adam to the Upper West Side to go roller blading while Brian was in Hebrew School, and cooking up a huge pot of tomato vegetable soup.

So, as I prepare for tomorrow's surgery, I unexpectedly find myself happy with my yoga, happy with myself as a mother, happy with just about everything except this damn cold sore. Fucking cold sore. And I don't drop that word casually in my writing.

And now, I better drink about a gallon of Diet Peach Snapple because from midnight on, it's the fasting thang.

Think good aesthetic thoughts, people....


I'm told (and then I'm told something else)

So, just as I suspected......

An anonymous tip came that made me laugh out loud and then feel kind of sad that chain letter are still chain letters even when the internet takes away the need for postage stamps. Read it and weep, or not.

This follows on the heels of...

"I'm told........

that the following comes from the Dalai Lama, that it was his message for 2006. I am not sure if this is true, and the fact that it came to me via email that had "FW" in the subject heading, and which had been forwarded to the sender by someone to whom it had been forwarded to previously tends to detract from its credibility. Still, it's a nice message, and if anyone gets even one good bit of advice from it, then it was worth posting. And by posting it here, I get to totally fly in the face of what the forwarded forwarded email told me to do, which is to forward it on to at least 15 of my friends within 96 hours, and the more friends I forward it to, the more good stuff will happen to me. Such crap. So unfortunate that good messages come wrapped in such crap. So, instead of peppering my friends' email inboxes with stuff they will probably ignore (I can tell you that I almost ALWAYS ignore anything that has "FW" in the subject line, although in this case, I made an exception because the subject line also contained the word "mantra" and thus made me feel curious), I will copy it here for you to read or ignore. Either way, you don't have to bother hitting the delete or the forward button when you're done:

1. Take into account that great love and great achievements
involve great risk.
2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
3. Follow the three R’s:
- Respect for self,
- Respect for others and
- Responsibility for all your actions.
4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a
wonderful stroke of luck.
5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great relationship.
7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate
steps to correct it.
8. Spend some time alone every day.
9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and
think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.
12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for
your life.
13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the
current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
14. Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.
15. Be gentle with the earth.
16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your
love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order
to get it.
19. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.

I know, I know, a little bit trite, a little bit abstract (be "gentle with the earth"), a little bit Nigella Lawson ("love and cooking...reckless abandon"), a little Psych 101 ("In disagreements...don't bring up the past" HA! Easy for YOU to say! Have you MET my husband?), a little too cute ("when you lose, don't lose the lesson"....awwwww), but if you can cut through the giggling in your head, there's some good stuff here, man."


Monday, October 09, 2006

Linda's Boyfriend

If you don't keep up with Linda's Second Trip to Mysore Blog (the First Trip to Mysore was completed, and upon Linda's return, took on a really fun and flip Sex and the Shala kind of vibe before Linda decided to pull it out of syndication in the interest of not alienating one of the topics of her fun and flip blog entries), well, let me give you a quick rundown: Linda is still practicing like the adorable Meg Ryan-looking madwoman that she is, is still rocking her way through Second, is still living the Sex and the Shala lifestyle (Yogarella does go out, but she might go home early sometimes) but has now settled into a relationship with a fellow yogi, fellow Ashtangi, in fact. Let's call this Ashtangi, "A", as that is what Linda calls him.

A is a Jivamukti-trained yoga teacher. As many of you may already know, Jivamukti is an Ashtanga-based vinyasa practice. There are always sun salutations, there is always a shoulder-stand-centered finishing sequence that follows at least three Urdvha Dhanurasanas. In between the Sun and the Final Fish are sequences of postures drawn from Ashtanga. But not just Primary Series. In a Jivamukti class, you may be struggling with Uttitha Parsvakonasana (from the Ashtanga Standing Series), but you still may have the opportunity to float up into Mayurasana (which appears about halfway through the Ashtanga Second Series). And nearly every Jivamukti class includes Ardha Matsyandrasana (which is bound in Jivamukti classes by anyone who can do it), another Second Series posture. Mari A and Mari C sometimes appear, but not many people can bind in C. Mari B and D are never included. Kurmasana is unlikely to appear in a Jivamukti class; however Badha Konasana and Upavishta Konasana are often included. Side plank - or Vasistasana - will usually appear in a Jivamukti class. And Pincha Mayurasana is as likely to be included as Headstand or Handstand.

Jivamukti is a FUN place to practice if you can get beyond the intense vegan dogma and the loooooong dharma talks and sometimes silly pranayama that takes up the first 20 minutes or so of a Jivamukti class. You get to warm up deeply, with lunges often thrown into Sun Salutations. You get to bind in postures that don't have binds in Ashtanga - Uttitha Parsvakonasana and Parivritta Parsvakonasana. You often get to explore a variety of versions of one-legged king pigeon (Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana). The music is rollicking, which dovetails nicely with my musical sensibilities.

In a Jivamukti class, strength matters just as much as flexibility, which is kind of refreshing, given Ashtanga's intense focus on flexibility (remember - in Ashtanga, no one "cares" how you jump back, but they DO care if you can bind in ....Supta K....what else did you think I was going to say?!). In a Jivamukti class, there is a playfulness that simply cannot exist in a quiet Mysore session.

So, with all of that in mind, I urge you to read THIS spirited, spontaneous and fascinating discussion/debate over what IS Mysore practice. Is it about the tradition handed down by Guruji? And if so, which tradition, exactly? Guruji taught different groups of senior teachers differently. While I know that my teacher, Sir, teaches his shala students in the same manner in which he was taught, I also know that the way he was taught is not the way every other teacher was taught. Swenson and Williams were definitely not taught in the same way that Sir was, and as a result of the way they were taught, they have certain biases and ideas about how things SHOULD be taught, with all due respect to Guruji. Tim Miller, Chuck and Maty, Nancy Gilgoff: all different. NOT "California Style", which implies a free-wheeling, rules-breaking, laissaiz faire approach (when I use the term "California Style", I use it to refer specifically to the practice of adding Samakonasana and Hanumanasana into the Standing Sequence). But different.

The blog entry that sparked the debate was Linda's description of A's approach to teaching a brand new student what seemed like essentially, too much of Second to be absorbed in one go. A few of us, via comments or via emails (to me, actually, since I have such a loud mouth on Linda's blog) basically eviscerated A for not doing it the way our teachers do it. I went so far as to say that I wouldn't want to be taught by someone who was teaching in the way A was teaching because I WANT the tradition. Then K spoke up, and it made me go...Hmmmmm.

K made me stop and think: what is tradition? what does it mean to practice in the Mysore style? Are the rules we follow really "rules" or did we just make them up to go along with our idea of what Mysore style SHOULD be? Are we just trying to make up reasons for why our teachers give us or don't give us poses? Who is to even say what the effect of giving or withholding poses may be in the case of one student versus another? I mean, in my case, I love to bitch and moan about how slow Sir is taking me through Primary. But on the other hand, it wouldn't feel right to me to go on to the next pose without mastering the one I am working on. Did Sir's way work its way into my construct? Or did I find Sir because I needed that sort of discipline?

It's interesting stuff. Worth a read. And Linda loves the attention!!!



1. I put myself through elective surgeries in order to gain mastery or control over what I never had any control of: the need for major, life and body-altering surgery four years ago - the double mastectomy and reconstruction - on a more or less whirlwind, out of control (for me) basis.

2. I deal with loss by minimizing the importance of that which is lost. Thus, knowing that I will be forced to give up my practice for six weeks starting on Wednesday, I am already dismissing it, blowing it off, suffering through it when I do it and undermining it with thoughts like, "Eh, what's the point? Why does this matter? I am going to be interrupting it for six weeks anyway..." That's not the way to deal with loss unless you want to experience dissonance and depression, like I currently am. Instead, the way to deal with impending loss is to live in and enjoy what is to be enjoyed about the present, not fearing the loss that is coming.

Tomorrow, I practice.

3. I talk to myself in horrible ways, ways in which I would never speak to a friend or a loved one. I say things like, "Why do I have to be such a wuss, bitching and moaning about not being able to take Advil?" Would I say that to a friend in my position? Hell, no! I would be all, "Awwww, of course you feel bad without your Advil. You have grown accustomed to that feeling of well-being that comes from feeling no pain or inflammation in your muscles and joints. Don't will be over in a couple of days." If someone spoke to me the way I spoke to myself, I would feel pretty shitty. Is it any wonder that I have been feeling shitty lately?

No more self-flagellation. Yes, I have a dependency on non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. I am not able to take them right now, so I am suffering. And it sucks. It sucks bad. It effects a lot of things, including my practice. But I LOVE my practice, and I should practice for the benefits I do get, in spite of the fact that it won't feel as good as it usually does without the Advil.

4. The Husband does not nurture me. And no matter what I tell him, no matter how much sense I think I make, it won't make sense to him. I will be taking a limo to the hospital on Wednesday morning because he doesn't have time to take me. Too busy at work. The Husband thinks I have no right to feel depressed about my upcoming surgery or about any aspect of my preparation for it is elective surgery,'s my bad. Buck up, Chickie.

I have one more day before the big day, and I want to do what I can to make it a good day. And that means allowing myself to grieve my Advil, my yoga practice, the fact that I have to have the breast surgery at all to fix a problem that I never wanted to have. Grieving is hard when you've never really been taught how to do it. I think that knowing that I have the right to do it is a step in the right direction, at least.


Copyright 2005-2007 Lauren Cahn, all rights reserved. Photos appearing on this blog may be subject to third party copyright ownership. You are free to link to this blog and portions hereof, but the use of any direct content requires the prior written consent of the author.

About Me

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Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.


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