Saturday, April 11, 2015


The ride from Durango to Albuquerque was beautiful in parts. I drove through some pretty impressive red rock formations.

At the Motel 6, the young guy checking me in had his arm in a sling so it was a struggle for him to do the simplest things. I found out that it was a snowboarding accident. This is the second time on this trip that I had this happened to me at Motel 6 (and only the second time ever in all the many years I’ve been staying in them, so it might be a new policy) but for guests paying with cash, they ask for a cleaning/damage deposit.

The first time it happened, I thought it was because of it being a Studio 6, and maybe people take off with or damage the pots and pans or the kitchen. But this time it was a simple, no-frills Motel 6 room. Since I had arrived after 6pm, they had already charged my credit card for that night, but I was staying two nights, so I still owed them for the second night. If I wanted to pay cash, I had to leave an additional cash deposit. I said to go ahead and run my credit card, but he told me he couldn’t; he had to swipe it. I thought it was odd because just about half an hour ago, they charged my card for the room, and I know I have a credit card on file with them. But I went out to my car and grabbed the card to pay that way and avoid the cash deposit.

Funny thing about this property asking for a deposit. Because the desk clerk’s shoulder wasn’t the only thing non-functional. Fortunately I was able to use the laundry room, but the ice machine wasn’t working. And the art work that was hanging above the beds in my room were missing, with not a lot of effort made to cover up the fact that they had obviously been hanging there for quite a long time.  On the upside, they did have a working microwave oven in the lobby, which is a big deal for me as I don’t much care for eating cold sausage.

The next day I lazed around a lot. I took River on a couple of long walks in some parks and we went to the grocer and the pet store to stock up on food for both of us.

Class was that night at Studio Sway. In the past, the management has balked at having River in the studio, and in fact, one year I almost didn’t include a stop in Albuquerque because they weren’t going to allow River to come inside. But he and I have both made great strides and progress toward him being a real, independent dog. And the last class I taught, in Durango, was with him waiting in the car. So I decided that I didn’t feel like bringing his crate. It would have required breaking it down in the room, loading it into the car, loading it into the studio and setting it up, then breaking it down after class, loading it into the car and then loading it back into the motel room and setting it up again. I opted, instead, for leaving him in the car during class. I knew that there was an open air, covered parking garage so even if the temperatures were higher than they were (low 70’s), he wouldn’t get too overheated in just an hour. 

Class went great. That group is so much fun. As my host, Erin, described it, ‘we have a lot of five-year-old energy here.’ It’s true. They love to play and make a lot of noise. It makes my job as a teacher so easy when I’m in front of a group so easily excited.

And River was fine in the car. After class, I went out to get him and brought him to the steps outside the studio where he could meet some of the students who were interested in seeing him.

That night I had a burger. I saw a sign at Bob’s Burgers saying they served Santa Fe style “Ranchero” burgers so I wanted to experience that. It was so good; loaded with spicy green chilis. Next have to have something with red and then something 'Christmas style' with both red and green.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Spontaneous Double-Header in Durango

The motel in Farmington, NM was super no-frills. No microwave anywhere on the premises so I couldn’t heat up my sausages. I went instead to get a burger from Blake’s Lotaburger. I put my own fermented pickles and red peppers on it.

I woke up and drove a bit over an hour to teach a class in Durango, Colorado. It’s a cute, historic town with lots of outdoorsy type people. I had never been there and in fact had never even heard of it until a few months ago. When I heard there was a Nia community there, I contacted them and set up a class. 

I had a bit of a challenge finding the place. The address was on 3rd Street and I kept entering Third Street into my navigation but it was saying such a street didn’t exist. Finally, when I used the number instead of spelling it, I found it. 

And then when I got there, it was the longest walk from the car to the studio that I’ve ever had in all my years of teaching on the road. I took the crate and the dog in two trips, because of it. I left River in the car until I found the studio and had the crate set up, then went out and got him.

It was super fun to present Frankie Say Nia to the dozen students who were really energetic and loved the 80’s music. I learned a few more things about the routine, as well. It gets tighter every time I teach it.

After class, I took River out to the car and then made my way back to the studio to get the crate. As I was folding up the blankets, the students for the next class started to come in and we all got to talking. Turns out it was another Nia class and when the teacher found out who I was and what I was doing, she asked me if I wanted to teach her class. I decided to do it, while River waited in the car.

I didn’t teach Frankie Say Nia, though. That would’ve been weird. So I got out the Rock & Roll class I was working on in Sedona, and taught that one. They loved it! 

After class, I took River to the river front and we played for a bit. I got a few really good barks out of him in the context of our playing. It seemed to flow easily from him, even though I didn’t have any food. I forgot to bring my camera with me.

We finally hit the road for Albuquerque by about 2:30 pm. The trip had some incredibly scenic rock formations. I tried to capture some on camera, but the pictures can't do it justice. The size of the rocks are part of the beauty, and the deep, rich red color of the dirt doesn't really show up as such on these shots.

I got to the motel by about seven and ate some food. They have a microwave in the lobby, so I was able to eat out of my cooler. I had some sausages and corn chips and some of my fermented vegetables.

I think I’m going to have to throw some of them away. The flavor doesn’t seem right on a few jars. One tastes a bit like mildew and two others have that weird diaper smell I don’t like. What’s weird is that just two nights ago they were delicious. I think I may have been a bit too light on the salt in those jars. And without the refrigeration, the salt is even more important. 

So I’m going to chuck a jar of asparagus, a jar of celery and one with a mixture of carrots, broccolini, fennel and celery. I made three jars of the latter, so hopefully the other two jars aren’t also nasty. I’m not too upset, though because this frees up some jars for me to make some more. I might wait until I’m staying at someone’s house so I can use a proper kitchen. That will be in two more days. Tomorrow night I will teach in and stay the night in Albuquerque.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Arizona Adventures

In Tempe I had a room in a Studio 6  as opposed to my usual Motel 6.

The Studio includes a kitchen, which I like to have access to every week or so. I used the kitchen to boil some eggs and cook up a pork chop, but other than that, I didn’t really need it. Most of what I did was chopping and putting more vegetables in jars, which I could do in any motel room. It was nice to have the sink, but often I can make it work in the little bathroom sink. The pork chop, which was quite delicious, is something I couldn’t have done in the regular motel room with a microwave, so maybe that was worth the stay.

Tempe was hot and dry. I stayed there for two nights. In the evening of the second night I was scheduled to teach a class at a new-to-me space in Phoenix. I had never made it into Phoenix in all my past trips. Not for lack of trying, but the situation never worked out before. Finally this year, it all came together and I mad my debut at Village Athletic Club in Phoenix thanks to the gracious hosting of Casey Fernandez, who is a bit of a dog lover and talked to River a lot. She would use a high voice and say. “are you ready for Nia class? huh? are you ready for a Nia class today River? Huh? Is River ready for a Nia class? Huh, River? Are you ready for class?” which is very difficult for River. He doesn’t know how to answer, but he handled it great. He sort of looked at her and then looked away. I thought I’d be clever and ask her to ‘play bodyguard’ and make sure none of the students come up and tried to talk to River while I’m setting up his crate in the room. But her tactic for that was to monopolize him. She spoke to him the whole time I was setting up the crate. Afterward, she explained to the onlookers that she had been chosen to run defense for River. I added, ‘yes I was hoping you’d prevent other people from doing what you just did.” We all laughed.

Class was great. It was my first time teaching Frankie  Say Nia in a room with no mirrors. It’s easier to follow along with the teacher when we’re all facing in the same direction. But then I can’t see the students and I love to see them. So I need to flip around mid-class without missing a beat, and then start reversing all my cues by saying “right” when I’m going left so that it still makes sense to them. It’s tricky; and it’s fun to find the places where I can flip around without being too distracting.

Also I didn’t have a microphone, and I had the music really loud so I found  that I couldn’t use as much dynamic emotion in my voice as I like. And I ended up being sort of monotone loud.
After Nia class in Phoenix


Then next morning I got up early and drove about two and a half hours to teach a class at the Flagstaff Athletic Club. This was my third time in this facility. This is the infamous location where my precious hoodie went missing last year. (If you don’t know the story, it had a happy ending. I called the facility the next day and someone had turned it into lost and found.)

I was surprised how cold it was in the morning when I got out of the car in Flagstaff. I had acclimated to the dry, hot, low desert and now I was at 7000 feet, which made a big difference in the temperature and the feeling of my breaths. I had to pace myself a few times in class as I was feeling winded by the lack of oxygen.
River didn't quite know what to make of the cactus.

There were quite a few students that had taken class from me on prior visits and were excited to learn I was coming back and to take class from me again. I was surprised, because I never got the feeling that I was going over that well, but it just goes to show, you can never really tell how you’re being perceived.

After class, and after a long chat with my producer, Stephanie, I hit the road for Sedona. I was supposed to text my friend, Alba, whose home I was staying in, but I didn’t have cell phone or internet service in Flagstaff or anywhere along the route to Sedona. I set the navigation for the city of Sedona with no address, hoping I could contact her once I got into town. But still I got no service. So I just drove blindly through town, following my trusty sixth sense of direction and after taking some turns that were surprising to my conscious mind, I found myself in her driveway without ever knowing the address, the name of the street or what part of town she was in. I had stayed there once before; a year ago. But my physical memory is kind of uncanny that way. I drove for a while, not knowing where I was. Things didn’t necessary look familiar, but the direction just ‘felt’ right. At last I pulled into a private drive, fully expected to have to turn back but eventually I realized I was there. I had found it.

Alba made me a lovely dinner and we chatted all night until it was time for bed.

The next day another Sedona Nia teacher came over and I taught both of them all the moves to a playlist we put together out of some of my classic rock & roll Nia songs. My hope is to come back in a few months and let them teach my routine to me!

In the meantime I had left River crated in the room where I sleep, while we worked on the routine in the living room. His crate has a plastic bottom liner which I cover with a cushion and then I had some blankets over the top to make him a cozy den. Hours later, I come back and the plastic bottom was outside the crate and all of the blankets were inside and he was on top of them.

So I left him that way, if that’s how he wants it…

After we were done, I took him for a walk to the creek near Alba’s house. I fed him and we played with the tug toy a little bit. There was no one around so I let him explore the water a little bit as I sat back and watched.

When it was time to go, I had him on the leash and got him interested in the toy buy playing keep away for a while until he was really desperate to get it from me and I let him grab it. We took off briskly, and he was going over the dirt trail and over rocks and leaves and wasn’t letting go of the toy. 

Then we heard a small dog yapping and running toward us. We were almost going to clear the path of the little dog, but she emerged from behind some dry grass just as we were passing. River dropped the toy and stood and watched the dog bark furiously at us and show us her teeth. River moved in closer to sniff the dog and as he got closer, got swept up in her frenzy. He kicked up some dirt and did a little hop, like he wanted to engage with her, but she wasn’t having it. This flummoxed him and I could see him looking around for a way out of the situation. I picked up the toy and held it out for him to see, a few feet away, but in his peripheral vision. He caught sight of it and immediately bit it and took off with it, dragging me behind. We ran and ran while the bitch chased us yipping all the way. I could hear her owner calling her name, but that owner’s voice was growing softer and softer as the three of us ran down that trail. River kept a strong hold on that toy, even after the yippy dog backed off and we slowed our pace. At one point we came to a crossroad in the path and he looked up at me before making the choice. Still with the toy in his mouth, we came to the spot where he had pooped. I had scooped in into a bag and left it there to pick up on my way back out of the creek. When i picked it up, he seemed sheepish, but I put it in my pouch and played with his toy without him until he was interested enough in it to bite and carry it all the way back to the house.

When we got there, he was hesitant to go back in the house, and visibly shaken up and still a bit anxious, so I took him to the car and had him sit in the boot while I gave him a massage. He seemed to like that.

Then I had a great homemade dinner with Alba and her husband, Fitz before heading to bed.

In the morning, Alba, Wendy and I got together and jammed some choreography for an amazing song that will hopefully end up in my Community Synergy routine. After that, I showed Alba how to make preserved lemons. Then I packed up the car and took off, leaving Arizona for now. Next stop, Farmington, New Mexico.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Cali to 'Zona

This first thing I had planned today was to meet with some of the local (Santa Monica) Nia teachers and do some choreography jamming. I got caught in traffic on the way there yesterday and would have been late had I not allowed an extra half hour to get there early. So today I allowed for the amount of time the drive yesterday actually took. But to my surprise the traffic was much thicker and slower and started sooner than it did yesterday, so I ended up arriving about five minutes late.

When I got there the teachers were already jamming so I just stepped in. They showed me a few of the songs they had already created and I liked one of them so we just designated that one as the Santa Monica contribution to my next routine. I showed them the choreography to a couple of my Frankie Say Nia songs and everyone was happy.

They bought me breakfast at Starbucks and I even had an espresso. (I know! Those of you keeping track might remember that I don't typically have any coffee outside of my one morning French press. But it was just one espresso and it was delicious with my egg, cheese and sausage on an English muffin.

In the course of our chatting, I discovered that one of the women used to live in Seattle. Oh, I said. I live there, too. We compared notes. We both lived in the Capitol Hill area; my favorite neighborhood. She gave me the intersection and my jaw dropped. I said, "No way! I also live on 12th and Republican!" She explained how she lived in the town homes on the corner. "But those are the townhomes I live in!!" It was getting weird, but it continues.

"When you drive in the garage, my space was the first one on the right!"  You're kidding! That's my unit! She and I were talking about the same unit! I live in the townhouse that she used to live in ten years ago! I showed her pictures and she confirmed. What a small world!

After the choreography jam and breakfast, River and I got in the car and headed southeast to Tempe.
I took the Pomona Freeway, which I almost never do. It was fun because it's a winding, treacherous road with a really high speed limit. Even though the posted limit was 65, the prevailing speed was less than 60 because of a bit of congestion. Another factor confusing the issue is multiple speed limits. On the same highway, I can go 65 MPH, any vehicle with more than two axles or towing a trailer has a 55 MPH speed limit. On a road with only two lanes, that can cause an occasional bottleneck; especially when the slower vehicles want to pass each other. But no worries. I'm just reporting the conditions, not editorializing. I had no vested interest in any sort of driving speed nor arrival time, so I was Mr. Zen in the traffic. River was pretty chill, too.

The further away we got from the Pacific Ocean the higher the temperature and the lower the humidity. It wasn't long before I could feel the mucus membranes feeling dry. At one of the rest stops we took, I accidentally left River's bowl of water sitting on top of the pile of coats in the back seat area. As I took a U-turn to get back on the highway, it sent the bowl tumbling. I only knew it happened because I heard a distinct splashing sound. I pulled off the road to investigate and learned that the water had ended up in the storage cubby at the base of the passenger door. I guess it's storage for sunglasses and maps etc, but I reached my hand in and felt a puddle of water deep enough to submerge my fingers in up to the first knuckle.

I had a thought. No puddle of water is any match for these conditions. With the windows down creating strong wind conditions with the dry, desert air, I wondered how much of the puddle would survive the trip, so I decided to leave it there and drive on. I had a feeling that the added moisture was actually increasing my comfort as my nasal passage and my throat felt less assaulted on this leg of the drive.

After about an hour and a half of driving, we took another rest break. I was wrestling with the thought that the pool of water would soak into the material of the car door, get into the sound system or something and cause damage. But when I reached my hand into the cubby, it was bone dry. Not even a hint of evidence that there was ever an entire bowl of water in there. It had completely evaporated. Closer inspection of the inside of the cubby showed me that it was seamless and made of thick plastic, so I was convinced than none of it soaked in, but that it all dissolved into the dry air.

I reserved a Studio 6 in Tempe, rather than my typical Motel 6. The Studio includes a fully stocked kitchen, so I am going to make a trip to Whole Foods and get some meat that I can cook on the stove and/or the oven. I'll also buy some fresh vegetables and put them in some of the jars that have been emptied since leaving Seattle over a week ago. While I'm here I can also do some laundry. I have all day on Thursday to do these household chores before I'm back on again, teaching Nia in Phoenix.