Sunday, July 31, 2016

Idaho: Boise to Chubbuck, via the Moon.

I woke up in my friend, Cheryl's comfortable guest room bed in their super-quiet neighborhood.

I had my coffee and we chatted about life as she ate her breakfast. I never got to see her husband, Chuck, who was always out on long walks, basically keeping their dog, Rigby, away from River while we were there.

After a quick shower, I left for the Dojo to teach Amazing. Boise was one of the communities that contributed to the co-creation of the routine. We did the song that ended up being the opener of the routine: Calling All Angels.

The class went smashingly and we stuck around in The Dojo for several hours afterward, talking about Nia and life and the Amazing routine and stuff. This will be my last visit to the Dojo, where I've enjoyed teaching several times in the past. But Britta Von Tagen, who owns it, is shutting it down in August. I hope she quickly comes up with another place to house her Nia business, so I can come back and teach Orchestra when I pass through Boise again in late September.

River sat quietly in his cage as we did class and chatted afterwards. So as a reward, I stopped at the first rest area I came across heading out of Boise. I found a nice big green patch of freshly watered grass and put River on a 50 foot leash. He ran around at top speed for several minutes, passing by me at most of the time, but once in a while, crashing right into me at breakneck speed.

Eventually, he slowed down and rolled around, massaging his back in the grass. Then we sat in a shady spot in the grass and enjoyed the breeze and the sound it made rustling the leaves.

Back on the highway, I was struck by a lot of amber. It seemed a bit early in the season, but undeniably, the ground cover was dead and brown through most of eastern Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

But things changed when I got to Craters of the Moon National Monument.

I was climbing in altitude and I believe I was well over a mile high when I started noticing the rolling hills were being more and more dominated by lava rock. I found it quite beautiful, but I don't like any of the pictures I got of it.

I tried at one point to get out of the car and take a video, but again, I'm feeling that the scale of the actual place is hard to capture in such a small frame. Something wonderful about it is not coming through in the photos.

It was $10 to get into the park (free with my pass). There's camping there, and a small driving tour through the lava beds. But the bulk of the park, the stuff that would be the most fun, I couldn't do because no pets were allowed. There were several spots to climb on the giant lava deposits and even some rickety stairs heading up the mountain. It's exactly the kind of interaction I love to have with parks, but I couldn't enjoy it knowing River was in the car, dying.

So even though it added about two hours to my commute today, I only stayed for about ten minutes. Still, I think it was worth it.

It was another couple of hours to my final destination in Chubbock, Idaho. In case you don't know where that is, I'll tell you it's right next to Pocatello, so that should clear things up.

I got to the motel room and fed River in the grassy area outside. Then, I ordered up a free pizza. I have earned enough points with Domino's that I got a free pie today. This is the third time in a row that I've gotten a strange look from the delivery person when I gave them a tip.  Like... am I the only one that tips pizza delivery guys?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Woodstock in Walla Walla

 I woke up in Richland and headed to Walla Walla, about an hour away.
I followed the address to an old repurposed library and upstairs they were setting up.
We opted not to use the mirrors and since it was a hot day, opened all the doors and windows. There was no A/C so we were going to sweat.
We had a full group of Niaficionados FreeDancing to Woodstock music.
There was a group of people who road-tripped up from Pendleton, OR and a woman who was brand new to Nia but had heard it would be good for her as she heals from three replaced joints.
We did an extended playlist, almost 90 minutes of dancing, and it was a blast.
One student told me that his sister was going to go to Woodstock, but she got there and couldn't find a place to park so turned around and came back home.
Fortunately there was plenty of parking in Walla Walla.
After class, my host, Sara, took me to a restaurant called Olive and bought me a delicious thin, crispy crust pizza with Adobo marinated steak, jalapeƱos and cilantro.

Then it was a good four hours drive to my friend Cheryl's house in Boise. We've been friends since I was in third grade; it's always nice to see her. She lets River and I stay at her house whenever we go through Boise.
She has a dog of her own, so it's a juggling act to keep the dogs separate, but worth it to see an old friend.
We ate dinner, did some laundry and chatted about life until bedtime.

Winding through Washington

I've been in my own home for about a week. I made a conscious effort not to decompress from the inertia of the road trip. I used the opportunity to leave River in the comfort of home while I did some much needed errands and lightened my carload by several items that I've decided aren't necessary anymore. But I didn't unpack any of my bags. I continued to live out of them, but in my house.
I did this because I know from experience that it takes a big effort to get the inertia going strong enough on these trips that I find myself flowing through it.

So it was much less jarring than usual this morning, as I packed up the car for Act 2. I was ready for it. I was so confident, that I didn't even allow any time for hitting traffic. (when will I learn?). Fortunately, I ended up having enough time to stop for gas and to sit in the small amount of traffic I did run into and arrive at the studio at exactly the moment I was shooting for.

From Seattle, I drove up through Lake City and took US-2 all the way to Leavenworth.

It's a beautiful highway, and I passed so many tempting river access points! I've done this before, too. I keep telling myself to remember to allow a full day to make the 2 hour drive with all the stops.

But I arrived at the space just as my host, Gayle and some of the students were arriving. I went to take River for a walk and gave him his dinner before we went into the studio for class. He stayed quietly in his crate while we took the Amazing Nia journey through the USA.

This was a benchmark location as they were one of the contributing communities to the routine. And they hold the distinction of being the largest group that came together to collaborate on a single piece of choreography. I wonder if that's why I almost never stick to the same plan when I'm teaching it.

It's the FloorPlay song, Weather Storm. And at first I tried to do exactly what we had come up with last year, but it met with lots of resistance, so I kept fussing with it. It's been many things, but I still retain the main themes that the community established. I keep it tight but loose.

One of the students after class told me that he thought Carlos was speaking gibberish when he described the concept of being tight with your choreography but loose with your delivery of it. In Nia we call that concept "Loose, But Tight." The student said that today, in my class, he finally felt what it meant to be Loose, But Tight. I describe it at knowing exactly where I'm going to place my foot or direct my arms, but playing around with some of the things I might do on the way to getting there.

As an interesting side note, I learned the concept originally as Tight, But Loose. Carlos said he got the phrase from a rock band that he didn't want to name. At some point, Nia changed the word order and began using the phrase Loose, But Tight.

After class we went to a BBQ place where we could sit outside with River. I blogged about O'Grady's here. Gayle and her husband picked up my delicious dinner, which was nice of them.

My motel was still three hours away, so after dinner, we said good-bye in the parking lot and I hit the road. I was back on beautiful US-2 and went east so I could go down through Wenatchee.

I ended up in Richland. Tonight was the first night I got to flash my AARP card at Motel 6. And she seemed genuinely psyched to see it. She happily entered my number and offered me free Wi-Fi (usually a $2.99 charge that I opt out of and use my iPhone as a hotspot). They also offered me a late check-out; 2pm instead of the usual 11am. I teach in the morning, so I'll be out well before 11. I declined it, but it's a nice perk to have.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Mt. Rainier National Park

I've lived in Seattle for over a dozen years now. On a clear day, part of the stunning scenery is a view of the majestic Mt Rainier. It seems like it's a part of the city, but it's actually about two hours away by car.
Today, Zeke, River and I got in the car and drove those two hours to get a closer look at the mountain and its environs.
It was a cloudy day in Seattle, but as we approached the mountain, we could see that some sunshine was hugging it.  The mountain is such a huge force of nature, that it actually has an effect on the weather surrounding it. It can bring its own clouds to a sunny day and it's own sun to a cloudy day. Because of this, it also affects the weather in the towns around it, often dumping record-breaking snowfall on a town called Paradise.

 The northwest forest is a special, peaceful place. There is green all around.
 Except some of the creeks. All of the rocks are the same place white color, and the water, itself, has also taken on a milky hue. I suspect it has something to do with lava silt, but I never saw any signs explaining the phenomenon.
 Grey water

 We were in the park for about an hour before we acquired enough altitude to be above the clouds and actually see the mountain.
 This was an unusual sight. The mountains were not only covered in large pine trees, but also the ground was covered in a thick green grassy ground-cover. I'd not seen such green grassy rolling mountains in the USA. It reminded me of Switzerland or Ireland.
 Our first views of the mountain were cloudy.
 Reflections lake.  After we shot this photo, River saw a big German Shepheard that really set him off. He hadn't been this excited in well over a year. I knew exactly how to stay calm and diffuse the situation, but it was too bad that I had to. River had been so good for so long. I'm glad that this is no longer a regular occurence, though, and more of an unusual event.
The whole incident took probably two minutes from initiation to final relaxation.
 I was fascinated by the three dead trees surrounded by so many live ones. I wanted to know the story here.
 Mt. Rainier
River getting very excited to be so near such a big waterfall. We're at the top of the falls. To see these falls from the bottom, we'd have had to take a long trail, and dogs are not allowed on trails, so we had to enjoy it from above. It's spectacular enough from any perspective.
 River and I checking out another, more distant waterfall.
 River loves to hop on rocks and get a higher perspective on things.
Another beautiful National Park to cross off my bucket list.
River seemed to be enjoying himself.  Here is what he thought of the day:

Northwest Traffic Horror

I do a lot of driving and I've encountered some thick, slow heavy traffic in my travels. So I've learned that it pays to allow a lot of extra time to get places. But what happened today went beyond my wildest imagination.

I woke up in Seattle. I had slept in late and spent the day tooling around the house, doing laundry, cleaning out the car, and playing in the park with River. I was scheduled to teach a workshop and class that evening. The class was going to be held in Centralia, which is 85 miles from Seattle, and was scheduled to start at 5:30pm.  I would be teaching a 90 minute version of my Nuts & Bolts of FreeDance playshop and then we'd do my Woodstock Experience Nia routine from 7-8pm.

Since the trip was just under 2 hours, I left at 2pm. That gave me an extra hour to be stuck in traffic or get lost, or to deal with whatever road mayhem may befall me, and still be there half an hour early.

But I hit thick, slow traffic immediately upon departing Seattle. When my navigation system included traffic information in my trip, it indicated that I wouldn't be arriving at my destination until after 6:30pm.  I couldn't believe it at first. It made no sense to me that I could possibly require 4.5 hours to go 85 miles; most of that on the interstate.

But the navigation suggested a detour through back roads. Taking the detour, it said, would get me there sooner; and I'd arrive at 4:55. The whole thing was seriously surreal to me, but I went on blind faith and accepted the detour. I was guided off the highway and into some very congested suburban roads. It seemed that my main road was going to be good old Historic Highway 99, which was a long straight road with lots of traffic lights.

Every time I stopped at a light, I saw my estimated time of arrival increase by a minute or two. Finally, in a town called Fife, which is about a third of the distance I was going, I thought it would make more sense to take my chances on the interstate. I switched my navigation back to the shortest route and it directed me to take a left turn to get back on the highway. Traffic in Fife was so backed up that I waited literally for fifteen minutes at the left turn signal before I could get through the intersection.

By this time, I had started to wrap my head around the very strange possibility that I wasn't going to be on time to my playshop. Unless the traffic suddenly and completely disappeared and I was able to sail the whole rest of the way, I was certainly going to be late. So I called the studio and told the person manning the desk that I was running late and to let my host, Christina, know what was going on.

Christina and I ended up chatting through Facebook messenger and we decided that she could get the playshop started and I would get there as soon as I could and take over. So using Messenger Voice to Text I dictated instructions to her on how to lead the playshop, which she did. I asked her to take notes on what the students said and to take a video of them dancing 'before' the playshop so when I got there I would be able to see where they started from.

As I crawled slowly through the gnarly traffic, I kept sending the next step in the process, trusting that they were getting it and understanding it.

Gradually it became obvious that I wasn't going to make it in time for ANY of the FreeDance playshop, and now I was getting more and more concerned that I wouldn't be there in time to start the Nia routine. That's not something I could lead over messages.

So, it turned out to be just after 7:10pm when I arrived. There was a parking spot right in front of the studio door!  I took River out to visit a tree before ushering him quickly into the studio and setting up his crate and my music while they watched the before and after videos of the group FreeDancing. I gave them some of my observations and asked them about how their experience was in my absence.

We decided that I needed to come back to Centralia later in the year and teach a repeat of the playshop. Many people were away for this one because of summer vacation activities. So we decided that I could come back in the fall, after I'm back from my full USA tour. We'll give the students who attended today free admission to the next one.

I was sickened by the traffic situation. As I crawled along, I was cursing the whole notion of being a traveler. I romanticized how nice it would be to sell my car and to call up everyone along my future route and cancel. I fantasized about staying home and just walking or taking the bus everywhere.

But by the time I got to the studio and everyone was so spirited and joyful, it reminded me how much I love what I do and all was well again. I was so thankful for them being understanding and we all danced The Woodstock Experience and had a great time.

After class, Christina showed me the apartment she has in the studio and invited River and I to spend the night and teach again in the morning. But I had plans for the next day so I had to brave the highway back home.

And by that time, all was clear and I made it home in the 90 minutes that the trip should take.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Sleeping in Seattle

Originally, the plan was to stay in Portland last night. It was after seven pm before I got out of the studio and it would have been so easy to go back to the room and chill for the night. And then, I was going to move north to Centralia, where I have a class on Friday night.

But Portland is only three hours from Seattle. And by the time I was done with class on Friday night, I could feel the pull of home calling me. I made the trek and was home by ten pm. It will be simple enough to go to Centralia for the FreeDance and Woodstock events we have planned there.

It was nice to cook my dinner in my oven and sleep on my own pillow.

I will take this opportunity to clean out the accumulated debris from the car, and give it a vacuum. I'm also going to be removing things that I had packed but haven't used in the past three months. And I made an appointment at Mini of Seattle to take a look under the hood and see if they can determine why she's been dragging at lower speeds lately. I was able to get a same day appointment.  They couldn't find the problem I was having, but they did say to expect lower performance at high altitudes. And now that I think of it, it was usually at high altitudes when I noticed the problem. But they did rotate her tires and change the engine oil and the air filter. They also found an oxygen sensor malfunctioning. They said it wouldn't create the problem I describe, but will order the part and replace it. I warned them that I only have seven days in town before I'm gone again until October, but they seemed confident they'll have the part by then.

I may also rethink my food situation. I've been carrying around a lot of empty jars, thinking that I'd be creating new fermented veggies as I went along, but I haven't been motivated to do so. And keeping them at the proper temperature is more of a hassle than I had imagined it would be. So, I will leave them behind for the second act of my excursion.

There was actually a whole lot of stuff that I never used so I'll be leaving those things here when I take off on Friday.

This is a much needed respite, regroup and recharge. River, Babe and I'll be renewed and reinvigorated for the second half. Much more to come! Stay tuned.

It's interesting and maybe coincidental that the week that I am going to be resting and recharging at home is the Week of Purification in the Mayan calendar.

On July 21/White Rhythmic Wizard, we begin the "Vayeb" which is a 5-day purification cycle that always falls at the end of the Galactic Year. Use this time however you are intuitively guided to purify your inner and outer environment in preparation for the upcoming New Year. Its a good time to meditate, to listen to your heart, attune yourself in nature, clean, let go of things, to make amends and/or bring closure, to make space for the sacred... The 5-day purification culminates on July 25th which is always The Day out of Time!


As most of you know, The Day Out Of Time is celebrated in over 90 countries to honor: * Planetary Peace through Culture * Universal Forgiveness * "Time is Art!" * Atonement * Freeing of Debts * Purification * the Art of Peace * This is a day for sacred pause and celebration before the dawning of The Galactic New Year which is always July 26th! Regardless of your responsibilities on this day, please focus on "stopping business as usual" and explore even a little break from linear time. Tune in to the telepathic field as we collectively energize the Victory of Love!  We invite you to join the festivities and celebrate a Day Out Of Time in whatever ways you feel called - whether gathering with your community or simply observing the occasion with your intention. READ MORE:


July 26th Launches us into the Galactic New Year of The Blue Spectral Storm! This day marks a powerful time of Renewal as we begin another 13-Moon Spiral around our Sun. Learn about the particular Galactic Frequencies & Potent Energies in store for us all ~ as together we are being catalyzed to embark on a whole new level of Awakening & Liberation.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Portland: Nia Mecca

On Friday, I woke up in Springfield and we took our time waking up. I had a leisurely coffee as River walked around in the lush grassy area. Our checkout time wasn't until noon; we're used to an 11am checkout time, so the extra hour seemed like a call to be languid. Add to that, the fact that we were less than two hours from Portland, where we can't check in until 3:00, and you can figure we were in no rush.

On the way out of town, I stopped at one of my favorite natural food stores in Eugene, Sundance Market.  I filled up my water jugs there with filtered water and stocked up on coffee grounds, bread, corn chips, hummus, fruit, avocados, cheese and cookies.  River stayed in the car and barked.

I also stopped along the way to fill up (or rather let some other guy fill up) my gas tank.  And I asked him if it would be OK to wash my windshield. At first, he thought I was asking for a dog treat for River. haha. I said no thank you and motioned to my windshield. He asked if I wanted it cleaned, and I said, "Is it cool if I do it?"  I felt weird asking him to do it, as he was running around filling up the gas tanks for several cars.  But immediately after I asked, I felt weird for doing his job. I'm still unsure what the protocol is. And do you tip these guys? I didn't.

So I got to Portland, eventually. The traffic got really thick and slow the closer I got to the city, so my Mini Nav guided me to some farm roads to reduce the amount of congestion I had to work through. My mind appreciates moving. I would rather take a detour off the quickest route and drive more miles if it meant I could drive unimpeded. So while it added a couple of miles extra to my odometer, I was much happier than I would have been sitting in stop-and-go highway traffic.

So we checked into the Motel 6 on Stark St.

I've been here several times before and it's my favorite one of the several Motel 6 choices in Portlandia. It offers free wi-fi and a refrigerator and microwave in the room. And there's a guest laundry, which I planned to use after teaching three Nia classes and a Five Stages class during my stint here. On the downside, it was Friday night and the place was hopping.  It's a noisy place. The people upstairs from me were training for the Olympic sprinting team. Or maybe it was pole vaulting. Lots of people were milling about everywhere, so that when I took River out, he was too distracted to do any of his business.

And to top it all off, just as I was winding down for sleep, I heard the chirp of my smoke detector signalling it needed new batteries. I went to the desk, got a replacement and changed it.

I would have slept fine, despite the herd of elephants rooming above me, but the pillows in this place were incredibly dense and thick. Sleeping on my back on such a high pillow caused my neck to ache in a very short time. I did my best to sleep on my side, but my natural inclination is to go into corpse pose. I woke up with an sore neck and a headache.  I called the front desk to ask if they had any thinner pillows, but they didn't.

Which was fine because I was just about to teach a Five Stages class. In my experience, doing a Five Stages practice is the perfect prescription for any physical malady.

I had done my research and found the cheapest parking lot downtown and walked from there to the studio. In all my years of teaching on the road, this was easily my longest haul from car to studio. It was so long, that I didn't do my regular routine, which is to leave River in the car while I set up his cage and then come back to get him. I carried the crate and his blankets in one arm, wore all of my class materials, including my laptop, in a back pack, and handled River's leash with my other hand.

In years past, River has been very difficult to manage in that scenario, which is why I do it in two trips. But we had to go up an elevator in the parking lot, and then through an office building. Then we walked two city blocks and up another elevator to the studio on the 4th floor. I was surprised that he stayed right by my side the whole time, except for when he wanted to visit a couple of trees, which I stopped to allow.

So I put on some meditative, crystal bowl music and got out the skeleton for demonstration purposes and greeted the students as they came in. Only two students were there at first, and neither of them had done a Five Stages practice before, so I felt a bit of relief. In my mind, I had pictured the room was going to be full of expert Five Stagers, who would easily notice that I hadn't taught the technique in several years. But it was nice that we could all be in beginner's mind.

Because of what was going on with me thanks to the pillow situation, I decided to make the focus on the Head and Neck. I demonstrated a quick version of the Five Stages and then talked them through a fifteen minutes version. My head and neck already felt better. I had gone through all five stages twice, while waiting for the students to arrive, and during the demonstration, I noticed that my headache was gone.

I also had felt a bit nauseated, but that was just nerves. It's hard to describe the feeling of teaching at NiaStudio. Considering this was the room where I did all of my trainings, it still holds an energy for me of being a tyro. And even though I've now got twenty years of experience, I couldn't shake the anxious anticipation. Once class started, though, it was entirely gone and I was in the zone.

Mid-class another student showed up and it was obvious that she had done it before, so I took the three of them through all five stages. Then we stopped and I showed them on the skeleton, all the things I found interesting and relevant about the skull and neck and spoke about how it is impossible to separate the head from the neck, and even the shoulders were intimiately involved.

I led them through the Five Stages once more. This time we focused on the head. Afterwards, everyone seemed to be glowing with that familiar high we get from relaxing profoundly.


And immediately after was a Nia class, so I gave the Five Stagers a bit of time to regroup and then turned on the hippie music. We started with The Who, and then The Band played as the Nia students gathered.

The last time I was in NiaStudio was on my Frankie Say Nia tour. I had not been added to the official schedule last year, but was being treated as a renter and self-promoting. No one showed up. In fact, someone did show up, but he intended to use the room himself, not even realizing a class was scheduled. It was a huge fail.

So this year, I was invited by Debbie Rosas, Nia Founder, to sub her classes while she was out of town. This year I was in the newsletter and being promoted by NiaStudio on facebook, and the turnout was big. It's a giant room and  we had that place filled. The students really took to the FreeDance energy, as I suspected they would, having such a capable teacher. It was a blast.

Afterwards, one of the students told me that he had been doing Nia for 35 years! And I knew that that's about as old as Nia itself, and he confirmed that indeed, he used to take aerobics from Debbie in California. He told me  how he was there when she started to transition into exploring what was to become Nia. At that time, they called it N. I. A. (Non-Impact Aerobics).

Throughout the back-to-back classes and the lengthy discussions afterward, River remained perfectly calm. And on the long walk back to the car, he chose a few trees to visit, but otherwise stayed at my side, even in the elevators and even as we met a family coming in the door we were going out. They gave him a lot of excited attention, but he remained grounded. I was so proud of him.

Back in the motel room, I'm just dying to know what the hell they're doing in room 210. How on earth could they be making that much noise unless they were throwing the furniture at each other?

It has been grey and cloudy ever since I got to Portland. I find it very soothing. I love the grey sky. I guess it's a connection to my Irish heritage.  Growing up in Santa Barbara, each summer day used to start with a marine layer of fog that would burn off by mid-afternoon. I was usually disappointed when the sun finally made it's way through.

I stepped out to get some food at a burger place I discovered online. Foster Burger. Read more about it here. On the way out, I glanced up at room 210, just above mine, and I saw that there were at least two toddlers running around. The adult figure was out on the balcony on his phone. The girls tried getting his attention but he was blind and deaf to them. I was envious of his ability to tune them out.
But actually, knowing that it was children helped me not to be so annoyed by the noise. At least I could explain it now, and it was suddenly much easier to tune out.

I got creative with the bed for the pillow situation. I noticed that the mattress could slide around on the flat platform, so I slid the mattress about a foot away from the headboard and stacked three pillows up. The pile of pillows were a perfect height for me to comfortably sleep on my back. The next morning, I woke up and my neck felt fine.


Again, I looked up the cheapest parking in the vicinity of NiaStudio, and luckily, it was right across the street, for only $1.60/hour. I allowed for hitting rush hour traffic, since it was Monday morning at around 8am. But I didn't hit any. And parking was easy. As soon as I went through the ticket booth, there was a compact car parking spot right there. And it was right near the stairs.

So I ended up arriving at the studio well before the doors were even unlocked. But that's far superior to being late, or even cutting it close, so I was glad to let River visit some trees and listen to a street guy haranguing the air until they unlocked the doors.

There were still only a few students in the room five minutes before class starting time, and I had to remind myself that that didn't mean it was going to be a small class. Five minutes is a long time, and people were milling around in the lobby still.

As it turned out, we had a great big class with lots of people and it was totally fun. It's strange how teaching at NiaStudio is like returning to my childhood home. I have done all of my Nia trainings in that room for the past 20 years. There are many memories of a lot of struggle and growth happening with me in the very room I was now teaching in, feeling masterful. It was personally very satisfying.

During the FloorPlay section of this routine, choreographed by the Nia community in Leavenworth, WA, they've asked that all of the students join hands or are somehow physically connected in a circle. So far, I've been able to achieve this every time I taught the routine. But today, in Portland, I got a strong resistance to that part. Which I can understand. Sometimes I don't want to join sweaty hands with a bunch of strangers. I get it. But, still I kept asking for it because I wanted to remain true to the choreography as it was given to me. And I have a whole spiel that I do based on the feeling of being a part of the whole group and the difference it makes when we're all in it together...etc.

Fortunately, we did eventually all end up connected and made, as I like to say, 'the circuit complete'.

After class, I was invited by fellow First Degree black Belt, Andrea Bell, to come back tomorrow and teach my FloorPlay routine in her class. I enthusiastically agreed.

I spent the remainder of the day hanging out in the motel room watching TV, listening to music, playing with River, inside and outside and resting. I went to get a burger at Burgerville. It's a chain, but it's a local chain, so I wanted to support it. They also use seasonal and local ingredients. I wrote more about it here.


This was actually just a regular Nia class. Andrea told me that she's been introducing FloorPlay into her classes and they've been less than enthusiastic. They made her promise only to do extended FloorPlay on Fridays so they would know which day they could skip. This was a Tuesday. And she didn't tell them I was coming. So I made it my mission to make FloorPlay fun. I put in some dancing and we did our Nia stances seated, and on our backs with our feet in the air. And I think an important aspect of FloorPlay is transitioning from being on the floor to standing and back again, so we played with many different ways to dance through getting up and down on the floor.  Afterwards I gave them an opportunity to speak out on anything they experienced and some of them commented on different aspects of the work that they appreciated. I didn't hear anyone saying they were converted to FloorPlay lovers, but I think I may have planted some seeds.
The afterglow today was deeply relaxed and invigorated.

Andrea also asked me to co teach her evening class with her. So I came back to the studio at 5:45pm.  I chose the two Bowie songs I put together for the tribute class in Seattle, Space Oddity and 'Heroes', and three songs from Frankie Say Nia that never got to see the light of day at NiaStudio last year; Safety Dance, Come On Eileen, and Walk Like an Egyptian. Andrea opened with one of my favorite Nia songs, My Life by Dido. She also mixed in some percussive classic Nia songs from some old Carlos routines, and closed it up with a hip focused FloorPlay and a freestyle cool down and final stretch/rest. I felt peaceful and got very sweaty. We took some pictures afterward.
The Safety Dance 'S'

On Wednesday morning, I slept in. Midmorning, I finally got up and took River out for an eventful walk. First, before my eyes had even adjusted to the light, I heard someone wolf whistle from behind me. I turned around to see if I could see what the attraction was and a woman from the balcony waved at me. She asked me what I was doing, but then noticed I had River on the leash and that explained why I was just standing there by a tree.

A bit later, as River made his familiar rounds around the property, we got to a spot that had always been safe before, but this morning we encountered a barking dog on the other side of the chain link fence. That got River riled up, but I redirected his attention and kept him grounded as we retreated.

And that brought us to a man who had seen us a few days ago and asked me "What kind of pitbull is that?" I didn't know there were 'kinds' so I said, I didn't know and explained I got him from a shelter. Today he was excited to see us and kept repeating "That's a Colby!"  He explained that the white tip of the tail, the white socks and gloves, and the white bib on an otherwise brindled dog is called a John Colby. He implored me to look it up on the Internet, which I did. He also offered me $1000 for him, which I laughed at and turned down. I looked up John Colby and he might be right. It's nice to know River is a coveted breed.

I took my time checking out of the motel. The manager had to call me to give me a nudge. That housekeeping staff likes to get their stuff done early.

I still had four hours before I was to meet my First Degree Black Belt colleague Fred Bass for a video shoot, so River and I just hung out in Portland.

We walked around and a homeless man scolded me on my handling of River. When he started to go ballistic at the proximity of another dog, I lifted straight up on his choke collar. It is the quick and easy way to get him completely redirected away from the other dog. Granted, it looks horrible, but it's brief and it's necessary. I reminded the guy about how many hours he'd accumulated at the other end of the leash of this dog and assured him that I love him and am the reason he's alive and that what I was doing was completely called for. Afterwards, I kept thinking about it, and eventually I wished I had thanked him for showing concern for my dog instead of getting defensive.

Then we went to the park. O'Brien's Park, I think it was called. It was right next to the food truck block so it was packed with people sitting down and eating. And occasional panhandlers or skateboarders. There was enough going on to give River quite a challenge at staying calm. He got excited a lot, but calmed himself very nicely, which is a good sign of maturity. I was happy.

I sat there for at least an hour with him before going to visit a food truck myself. I got a pulled pork sandwich with mustard sauce and went back to the park where River watched me eat it. They also included a MoonPie cookie, which I took a couple of bites from but didn't like.

At three, I went to the studio for the interview. Fred is making a film about why men do Nia, so he put me on camera to ask me some questions about how Nia fits into my life and then he shot me walking River to the park, feeding him, and walking back to the studio.

We finished in plenty of time for River and I to play some tug and chase in the parking garage, and then sit and watch the kids play in the water at Teacher's Park.

At about five I changed in my conductor pants for the evening's class.


I was nervous before class. I think because it's such an unfamiliar territory for me, and I hadn't taught it as much as I'd taught my other routines, so I wasn't as tight as I could be. But with the very first movements of Bolero, I could tell the class was with me and willing to go on the ride. It starts with some very slow and repetitive movements, that can be nerve-wracking to a teacher concerned with keeping it fun and interesting. But afterwards, one of the students commented that she appreciated that aspect because it allowed her to sink into it and really sense the building up of the choreography.

Many of the comments afterwards demonstrated that the students got what I was doing and had a deep, rich experience in class; as did I.

Right after class, I got back in the car and headed up to Washington.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Woodstock in Bend, McKenzie Pass and Amazing in Springfield

This was my first visit to Bend, but my relationship to the town goes back several months. Last September someone was arranging a gig for me, but a week before the date, we were contacted by the venue with a bunch of legal documents to fill out and to add their names to my insurance policy. Now, I'm not the type to jump through corporate hoops on a good day. And when I'm traveling, I'm 'out of the office'. So I ended up putting the kibash on the whole thing and said, let's plan for next year when I can take care of these things while I'm in the office. Cut to March of this year when I was working with another person to get something for me in Bend and the same thing happened. I'm due to teach in July and a week beforehand I'm contacted by the venue and asked for an insurance policy in their name and a full background check on me, I was to fill out the questionnaire, which I didn't even look at and wrote back saying this wasn't going to work for me and to cancel it. I was ready to wash my hands of Bend, but for the two nice women who I was working with. I wrote to Libby, the one I was working with this year and said I'd still be up for doing the class if we could find a place without rigamarole.

She did! So I make the trip to Bend. Maybe I was pre-conditioned to see it because of my unfavorable first impression, but it seems to me that I saw an inordinate amount of signs saying "No...." When I first got to the Motel 6, there was a note taped to the counter saying that if you smoke marijuana on the hotel premises, they will call the police. Marijuana was recently legalized in Oregon, but it is still a crime to use it in public; clearly they weren't going to bend those rules. Then while walking to my room I pass the pool with a sign posted "NO pets NO smoking NO glass" (bongs, obviously) and then another sign right next to it declaring "No Dogs Allowed". I began to think the town was full of rule-breakers.

At the burger place, Hardy's where I had a Hawaiian burger, the sign on the door says "No Outside Food".  And in the parking lot, on the building next door is an angry-sounding sign.

I looked around and each little store in the area had signs out front saying only their customers could park there. I mean, come on. how annoying to live this way??

But anyway, today I woke up early and ready for some outdoor Woodstock in a last-minute venue. I looked out the window, hoping to see rain clouds.  Alas, it was a clear sunny day about 78 degrees.
We had eight students show up and it was an awesome day in the park. The grass was soft and green and freshly mowed. There were big trees overhead, but also plenty of sunshine to play in. In the shady part, the grass was still a little bit dewy. I got sunburned. It was actually two more notches in the Woodstock Experience belt; the sunburn and the changing of the venue at the last minute. This group really rose to the occasion and I had a blast dancing with them.

Unfortunately, in the middle of the Melanie song my Bose battery ran out and we were dropped into the silence of the wind and birds and our collective heightened breath. No more candles were going to be laid down or held high. I quickly explained what had happened and did an impromptu bit of closure movement as Libby ran off and brought back another Bose speaker. Which my phone didn't connect to. So I just used the iPhone, set it in the grass, and I planned to close the class with Tuesday Afternoon. But we couldn't hear the phone without circling around it and gathering close. So we did the bit from "Miracle" using the phone as the altar and did the dance of gratitude, Woodstock Style. It was so awesome.

After class, Libby asked me if I wanted a burger. I said yes, which I think surprised some of the others, who thought I'd be more inclined to want a salad or a smoothie. I suggested we go back to Hardy's. This time I got a Swiss and mushroom burger. I loved how fresh the mushrooms were. They were grilled, but only to perfection. They didn't release all their moisture and still had mushroom taste and texture. The swiss cheese was authentic and this time I remembered to get a double patty so it felt very substantial.

I drove over McKenzie pass which offered me many unexpected treasures. Not the least of which were all of the volcanos. At one time, shortly after leaving Bend, I was able to see five volcanos at once. It was impressive. Three of them were known as The Sisters and they were the most prominent.

The highway wound me through forests and past waterfalls and along rivers. We went through an old west kind of town called Sisters.

It took me by a sea of lava. I was enthralled. I'm sorry that on the picture it just looks like a bunch of rocks, because that's basically what it is. But the sheer amount of them. So many rocks covering so much ground. Piles and piles of rocks all made of the same material.

Driving through the winding roads, surrounded by piles of rocks was a new experience for me.
This part of the Willamette Forest was obviously caught in a lava flow, but the trees are poking through. Life happens.

I stopped along the way so River could splash in McKenzie River.

He actually wasn't that interested. He was more interested in the plants nearby.

 Some of which was poison oak, so I ushered him right back to the car.

We got to Springfield and checked into the Motel 6. I fed River and took a shower and got dressed for class number two. I had about half an hour to answer some emails and then I was off to teach Amazing at the Willamette Adult Activity Center.

This group doesn't use a mirror and they seemed very comfortable with me constantly changing the front of the room, or even standing in the middle with them circled around me, or with me as part of the circle. In this routine, I focus on Directions and Connections. One of the things that I do to create a sense of directions is to lead from different corners or sides of the room for each song.  They weren't phased by that at all.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Crater Lake National Park

Last night I slept for ten hours and when I woke up my headache was gone.

This morning, we packed up and headed for Crater Lake National Park on our way through to Bend.
River got restless on the way there, and started whimpering, which is his signal that he needs to go right away. Turned out to be a false alarm, though. And all he really wanted was to lie in the sun.

So I let him lie there in the dirt for about half an hour until he moved over to lie in the shade. "If you're going to be in the shade, you might as well be in the car," I said, and loaded him back in.

Upon entering the park, the first thing I saw was petrified steam.
A volcano erupted and lava flowed down over a river gulley. As the steam rose from the water underneath the layer of lava, it created a solid mass of rock sediment in the shape of the the flumes of steam. Over the next several thousand years, the softer, surrounding rock was eroded away, leaving this sculpture behind.
The longer I looked at the scene, the more I saw. I didn't notice the waterfalls right away, or the river at the bottom of the gulch.

I wasn't prepared for how awesome Crater Lake would be.  When I first saw it I said "WHOA my God!" and I actually said it again the second time I saw it.

So blue and so still. It was like a blue mirror. I almost didn't take any pictures because I thought it wouldn't do justice, but surprisingly the blue shows up on film.
On the other side of the street was a giant bank of snow that people were playing on. 

We stopped in a few places to get different views. The lake was formed by a giant eruption of a volcano almost 8000 years ago. It got the mountain so hot it collapsed in on itself creating a caldera. For the next several millennia it collected rain and snow. There is no inlet or outlet to the lake, so it doesn't get stirred up or collect any sediment from rivers. Evaporation and rainfall keep it at a balanced level. It is about 1600 feet deep. Wizard Island was created by a second eruption about 1000 years later.

The further into the park we got (it's basically a circular road around the rim of the lake) the more snow we saw.
When I saw a place where the snow banks came right up to the side of the road, I had to pull over and let River experience it. Even more surprising that the breathtaking blue of the lake was that we were standing in snow in mid July.

The first and only other time I tried to see Crater Lake, the roads were closed. We drove as far as we could but had to stop before getting up to the lake. We did stop and play in the biggest snow back I have ever seen. The one today was significantly smaller.

I made a mental note that this is another place I could spend all day in, but having my fill after about two hours is good, too. I'm loving the freedom of having a National Park Annual Pass.  Not only does it get me to the front of long lines, but it allows me to enjoy an expensive park without feeling I need to 'Get my $30 worth." I can enter, enjoy and leave any time I want. I know myself well enough that if I did pay cash to get in, I'd want to make a whole day of it and see everything there.

Crater Lake National Park was only $10 per car, but other parks I've been at were up to $30.

I'm having some trouble with Babe. At lower speeds, I feel like I'm dragging something. I'm not a car guy, but I have a couple of theories. At my last maintenance appointment, they didn't replace my air filter. They were out of that part and said "it's not very dirty."  I contacted Mini of Portland to let them know I'd love to get a replacement air filter when I'm in town in a few days.

The other thing is it could be my alignment is off. It literally feels like something is scraping against something to prevent it from realizing its potential power. Sometimes, when I'm braking gradually, it feels like the pressure is uneven on the brake. So there could also be something wrong with the brakes, though I don't think that would affect the pick-up. I'll ask Portland Mini to look at it and see if they can find anything. Fingers crossed it's just the air filter. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

FloorPlay, Farm Roads and Freeways. Then Oregon

I woke up shamefully early today, after being up late last night, stimulated from an amazing day of traveling and sightseeing. On four hours of sleep, I packed up the car (no small task in the motel, since parking was far from my room) and headed to Nevada City.

From my car, I had to walk to the far end of this brick wall, enter through the ONE door and then walk halfway back through the property inside, to my room. I make about six trips, so this took a significant amount of time that I could have been sleeping.

This was a FloorPlay class and it was so much fun. At this studio they have thick padded floors. I think there's at least three inches of padding, so we could've been kneeling the whole time and we didn't even need knee pads. It was a perfect floor and the students were happy to play and eager to try new things. I gave them a good workout and explored new levels of FloorPlay, making it a whole routine. I do intersperse some dancing 'on the feet', but about as much of it as you'd see of FloorPlay in a standard routine.

After class, I tried to get a burger. I was hungry, but it was still only 10:30 am and no one seemed to be making burgers in this town or the one next to it, either. So I decided instead to just hit the road and look for something on the way.

For someone as hungry as I was, that turned out to be a bad idea. The first part of my journey today was all along farms. I could've stopped for some fruit, but I was in the mood for something a bit more substantial.

The first place I found something interesting was in Oroville, where I found a place called Righteous Burgers and order their special burger of the month, a Thai burger, with sweet and sour cabbage and a Sriracha sauce. To find out what I thought of it, you can read the full description here.

And then it was back on the farm roads until I eventually found the connection to I-5 in Red Bluff. This Interstate is a long, straight line with nothing to look at for miles. Such a change of pace from yesterday. We drove for a while and I started to get sleepy, so I pulled into a rest area for a twenty minute power nap. I let River sit on my lap while I dozed. I set my alarm for 25 minutes and then was back on the road.

But something lovely did finally loom on the horizon.

Mt Shasta appeared in front of me and over the next several minutes, I slowly overtook it and put it behind me. It was just about that time that I stopped at a rest area to give River his dinner.

I took I-5 all the way to Ashland, OR and then cut across to Klamath Falls from there. The northernmost part of California is a region in turmoil. They want to secede from California and be their own state, called Jefferson. And they also seem to be resisting a government move to preserve some of the land up there as a National Monument.

The moment I crossed the state line into Oregon, though, I felt like I was actually in a National Park. The trees, the mountains, even the slower speed limit on the highway, all made it seem so. I drove through two National Forests; the Cascade-Siskiyou and the Winema. It was winding and gorgeous and was also climbing and dropping in altitude, so it was a bit of a throwback to yesterday.

All of this changing of altitude is giving my eardrums and my sinuses a workout. I can feel the pressure on the inside of my head.

I'm just about ten miles short of hitting 16,000 on this trip, since April 30. And I'm still not even halfway done. Tonight I'm going to bed early.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite to Lake Tahoe to Auburn

This was another unbelievable day. Sometimes I am so amazed at my life. I'm so lucky to be able to spend my days doing this.
I woke up in Mammoth Lakes and we drove around a little bit before leaving town. I wanted to make it up to a place called Devil's Postpile, but no cars were allowed, and dogs on the shuttle bus had to be muzzled. I'm not opposed to muzzling River, but I was afraid of the scene on the bus. If there were dogs on there besides, River it could be a very long, uncomfortable ride. So we skipped it.

I got back on good old US-395. I actually fell in love with it today.  It is full of scenery worthy of stopping for and provides access to many very cool attractions. I took it to Lee Vining, where I switched to CA-120 to head to Yosemite.

Even the ride up to Yosemite is breathtaking.

I stopped several times before even getting to the entrance.

Once we did get to the entrance there was a huge line of cars. So long that I couldn't even see the gate or the front of the line. I waited for about half an hour, inching forward every few minutes. I noticed that there were no cars coming the other direction, except occasionally in groups. I thought maybe they had a single lane situation up ahead. But finally I noticed a park ranger was walking down the line of cars, briefly speaking with the drivers and then letting some of them drive in the left hand lane.

When she got to me, she asked "Do you have a pass?" Happily, I told her that I do. "Where is it?" She asked matter-of-factly. I showed it to her and she gave me a map and told me I could by-pass the fee booth.

Yosemite is such an awesome place. Whereas places like The Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon are beautiful. They seem more like museums because you can't really touch things and climb on them. What I like about Yosemite is that it's gorgeous and it invites you to play. It's interactive. I love to find a private place near a rushing river, where I can climb on rocks or lay down in the sun and not be bothered. Granted, today the park was hugely popular and several times when I thought I had found my paradise, it was quickly overrun by throngs.

Shortly after I took this video, a woman showed up with a dog on a leash. River and the dog locked eyes for a few moments and the dog barked a few times. River didn't move. She scolded her dog and they walked past us towards the water. Once River knows another dog is in the vicinity, nothing else exists. He stops enjoying the lake, or the grass or whatever we're doing and just stares. I can sometimes momentarily distract him, but that's all it is, a momentary distraction. As soon as whatever I'm doing concludes, he immediately must find the dog in the distance again. It's sad. I try not to let it be sad, but I sometimes get saddened that he's so screwed up.

Eventually we found a place that offered everything: seclusion, rocks, trees, hiking and lake access. What more do you need in life?

I wish I could move into Yosemite. I can't imagine ever seeing it all. I try to drive away, knowing I have other things to do today, and every 500 yards, I see another thing that makes me gasp and want to stop.

Two hours went by in a flash and suddenly, I was hungry. So I wound my way back to US-395 north until it turned into Main St. in a one-block-long town called Bridgeport. There were two burger places. (There were actually three, but the other was at the other end of Main St. so I didn't see it until leaving.) One was called The Barn, and the other was called Jolly Kone. Besides burgers, the former served Mexican Food and breakfast and the latter served Burritos and Ice Cream. I lost my appetite for Jolly Kone when I also noticed they offer massage! The Burger Barn was an excellent choice and I'm happy to say that I finally enjoyed a good burger. Read more about that here.

Being fed, I was happy to be back on my newfound treasure, US-395. It ran alongside a river and I kept catching glimpses of it, which drives me crazy when I'm driving on a hot day. In a good way. It excites me and I want to pull over and get wet. Which is what I do.
River tolerates my whims, even though sometimes, I brake so hard it tosses him off of his perch.
Like when I switched from US-395 to CA-89 near Topaz Lake, NV. Sorry River, I didn't see the road until the last moment.

That beautiful and crazily winding road took us to Lake Tahoe through a picturesque forest. It felt funny to be in a place similar to Mammoth Lakes but different. Both were mountainy, foresty and resorty. Both brisk in weather and tourist trade. Unlike Mammoth Lakes, the air in Tahoe was moist. Tahoe is also almost 3000 feet lower, but still a decent 6000 feet.

I navigated to a park without realizing it was going to be an off-leash dog beach, so we drove right on by and I found another place where River could get up close and personal with the lake without being disturbed.

 Until he heard a dog in the distance....
 So I took him up to the dock and made him pose for me.

I also made him pose for me outside the pet store where I got his food.

Then we left Lake Tahoe bound for Auburn. I got on US-50 which eventually became CA-49. It was so roller coastery, that it made the ride we had on CA-89 seem tame. I coasted most of the way down to Auburn, where we checked into a Motel 6.

I'd been doing really well at avoiding bad motel situations, but I think I made an allowance on this when because of the location. Not that Auburn is any great shakes, but I have a class in the morning in Nevada City and this was the closest I could get.

But it was a prison style, with a long haul to the door. I wrote more extensively about it in my Motel 6 blog. I took River our for his dinner and we couldn't make it to the train tracks because of dry prickly brush. We found two abandoned cars, a mattress and a shopping cart in the parking lot. No grass. On the upside, I'm bloggin on the free wi-fi without any problems. And there's a microwave and refrigerator in the room and, most delightfully, the windows actually open and have screens!!

We've had a long and exciting day and are looking forward to sleeping. River's already there.