Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Extended Playshop in Cornwall

Lynn used to be a student of mine when I taught Nia in Manhattan. She long ago became a teacher herself and opened up a Nia studio in her home-town of Cornwall-on-Hudson, about an hour north of NYC.

I was still in NY when she opened it, and she invited me to come up and teach a series of classes and playshops on the weekend the doors were officially opened.

And now I'm returning to the successful studio about ten years later. It is burgeoning and popular, and my class was filled with people.

I was bringing the Orchestra routine and tacking on an extra hour of FloorPlay. At first, I was trying to quickly put together an hour of classical music to do FloorPlay to, but it didn't take me long to realize that that was going to take a lot of work to make it any good. I could easily play some music and 'wing it' but I feel like the students that come to my classes deserve my best work, which comes from preparation and much consideration of my movements before being presented.

So I opted instead to use the stuff that I have already choreographed and figuring out a way that it flows musically from an hour of classical music to The Who and Kiss.

So, I decided that after Bach, I could transition into the symphonic piece from the soundtrack of Goldfinger. That is about a nine minute piece of music that I used for FloorPlay at the end of the Goldfinger routine, and it flowed perfectly from the classical set. After that, I went into a Shirley Bassey song . (since her voice is so closely associated with Goldfinger, it flowed perfectly.) I followed that up with Beth by Kiss. By that time, I was well transitioned from the classical to the rock and was able to blast The Who. So I went through my full FloorPlay set and finished the whole thing up with Moonlight Sonata, the last piece from Orchestra, to give it a feeling of completing the circle.

My goal was to show the students that FloorPlay can be as fun as FreeDance or even choreographed dance, and that anyone, no matter what they're dealing with, can participate in FloorPlay to some degree. I showed lots of options for adjusting the moves and even for doing "FloorPlay" against the wall for people who didn't want to or couldn't go down to the ground.

After class we gathered for a snack and beverage reception.

The drive between NYC and Cornwall is very scenic. Surprisingly so. I took the Palisades Interstate Parkway, which winds through lots of green grass and trees. In the fall, of course, the colors and spectacular, but in the middle of summer, the ubiquitous bright green is pleasant enough.

At one point, we drove right alongside the Hudson River to gorgeous effect. Sorry, I was driving and didn't whip out my camera, but you would've loved it!



After class, one of the best comments I heard from one of the students was spoken through emotion. Fighting back tears, she tells me, 'I've been struggling a lot with death, and you gave me life."

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I do what I do!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Bug Bites, Blood and Poison Ivy

I know what poison oak looks like, growing up loving to explore the creeks and forests in Southern California. I'm not as familiar with poison ivy.

For the past few days, since Vermont, I've been noticing long tendrils of ivy-looking plants with leaves in groupings of three. Not knowing what it was, I kept steering River away from it, but inevitably, he'd find some and get into it before I could say otherwise.

And when we had the dog incident at the Green Mountain National Forest, I thought I might have walked in and stood in a patch of it, being so focused on the canine matters at hand.

But nothing really came of it, thankfully. I thought at one point I was seeing a patch develop on my right wrist. I had done my best to avoid touching River or the venomous plant, as I am highly sensitive to it. I've got horrible memories of being covered in oozing, burning, itching welts.

But I think maybe it turned out onto to be a very mild bug bite. Or, if it was poison ivy it was the very lightest application of the oils on one single spot on my skin.

A few days later, it calmed down to a single spot, making me thing it was actually a bite.

This morning, in NYC, I was in the bathroom and noticed a quarter sized red mark on my inner thigh. It was more white in the center and more red around the edges. It wasn't raised at all and it didn't itch, but it was distinct and curious.

Then, I noticed a red spot on the inside of my shorts. The splotch of blood matched the location of the red spot on my thigh when my shorts were on. I had just put these shorts on yesterday after Nia class and wore them for the drive down to Manhattan and around the apartment here last night.

I took River out for some walks, but didn't really come into contact with any 'nature' as we were mostly on Columbus Ave.

So, it's a mystery, what bit me or stung me and when and where? I did change into these shorts in an unfinished and very dusty area of the building used for storage. So I could have trapped a spider in my shorts as I pulled them on. But it's weird that the reaction doesn't itch or isn't swelling, just changing color.

I originally thought it was a small patch of fungus, but when I saw the blood I knew that wasn't the case.   I hope that I don't have anything further to write on this topic. If the mark just goes away, I won't give it another thought and chalk it up to one of the facets of the vagabond lifestyle.

UPDATE:
Just a few hours after writing this, I looked for it again and the mark on my leg was gone. I had an inspiration to look at the blood spot again and, as I suspected, it was no longer bright red, but a dark, maroon color. Which leads me to believe that when I saw it this morning, it was within just a few hours of the bite happening. The blood was fresh and wet, and now it's dry and the leg shows no signs of violation.

Hopefully, that's the end of this mysterious story.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Albany Double Header: Amazing and Woodstock

My host, Richele set up two classes for me while I was in Albany.

One of them was actually while she was teaching her Nia class at the local YMCA, so she wasn't there, but the owner of the studio was. The roundabout connection happened a  year ago when Casey, the owner was out of town on the date I was to teach, so Richele hosted the event. This time, Richele put it all together but Casey hosted me at her space on Friday.

Casey was one of the first Nia trainers I'd ever met besides Debbie and Carlos. This was back in 1997, when there were only a handful of trainers. I have seen Casey on videos and in publications and Nia things ever since, but haven't really seen her in person in a long time. Maybe only once since that very first time. And it felt like we were old friends when we saw each other in the parking lot today.

The studio is ... well not in the best...um let's say... its in da hood.

But painted on the building is this cool mural of yoga poses and positive thoughts. A nice addition to any ghetto, I'd think.
We had an extra fifteen minutes for class today at Nia & Yoga for Life, so I added some FloorPlay at Casey's request. I added the Goldfinger instrumental, thinking it would be a fun throwback to the last time I was here.
But I couldn't figure out how to change my playlist in the broken phone that I use as a music device. I could figure it out in my current phone, so I just used that.
Side note, I forgot to turn it on privacy, and wouldn't you know I get a phone call. I NEVER get phone calls. And then, after that, I get a text. Both events stop the music momentarily, but I kept the group going with my patter until it returned. We all laughed about it and then, during FreeDance, I slyly switched it to Do Not Disturb mode.

 Setting the focus, "Directions" and the intention "to Connect to Community"
Love that sweaty, post-Nia glow.

The next morning, I show up at Body Bliss, on my way out of Albany, bound for Manhattan. I stopped to spread some Woodstock love in Averill Park. Richele was already there and started showing me the temporary tattoos and 'make love-not war' buttons. There were also some huge peace sign earrings, but they kind of hurt to put on, and were big enough to break a tooth on.

We had a full room of Nia lovers. This class was special in that it was the closest, geographically, I was going to get to the original location. Woodstock, NY was about an hour away, but the actual festival ended up taking place in a different city called Bethel, which is almost three hours away from Averill Park.
Two of the students were actually there at the festival. The room was filled with the freedancing spirit immediately upon the first note of the music. The hour flew by far too quickly. I wanted to go on and on.

After class, the drive to Manhattan was easy sailing for about three hours, mostly on the Taconic State Parkway.

Friday, August 26, 2016

State Highway Signs

Each state has a different design for the signs that indicate official State Highways.
 Some are bland shapes, like the squares of Illinois
and Texas
which is only different because the outline is thicker in Texas (of course).
But the most boring square is Connecticut

Or there are the circles of Kentucky
and New Jersey
I can't even tell the difference between those two!

And there are lots of variations on the rounded corner rectangle, but my favorite of the shapes is Wisconsin. Kudos for combining a rectangle and a triangle.

Vermont brings a little more creativity to the shape concept and adds color to the rectangle.
I don't know what's going on with Alaska, but I love it.


And some of my other favorites are downright artistic like in New Mexico
or in Kansas

A lot of them have silhouettes of people or things, like Washington state has George Washington


Utah has a beehive
And North Dakota has a Native American.

Several of the states use an image of the outline of their state, like
Arkansas
Oklahoma
 Idaho, (which also includes the name of the state in writing)
Florida, although some of the outline is artistically only implied
Some of the signs have an outline of things I haven't quite figured out yet.
Pennsylvania has a 'keystone' ?

New York?  what is that, an open book?
Nebraska is one of my favorites, with a full scene emblazoned on it.
But I also like the ones that are really colorful, like of course, Colorado

and California
My vote for the saddest one goes to New Hampshire, which features a natural rock formation that no longer exists.
A surprise favorite of mine is Wyoming, which features a bright yellow color, the name of the state in writing, and a little silhouette of a cowboy on a wild horse. It's awesome.

And Minnesota is a close relative, with the state name, and shape on a bi-color background.
I know I didn't hit them all, but I think it's fun to notice the differences and similarities. One of the many ways I occupy my mind while I drive all across the country.

Dog Drama

I arrived at a lovely house she was renting for a year while her friend, the owner, was in Europe. It had a big fenced back yard where we sat and chatting for hours, mostly about Nia and River and being happy and healthy. At one point we walked to the market and got some food to heat up in the microwave and River and I waited outside while she went in to shop.

Throughout the day I was telling her stories about my encounters with people and how they upset River and how my constant struggle through life these days is all about keeping River safe from dog lovers. Strange as it may seem, I told her, the ones that claim to be the most dog savvy are our worst threat. They don't know how River really is and the let their ego cloud their better judgment.

For example, while I waited outside the market, a big man with a grey beard slowly waddled toward us, giving unbroken eye contact to River, who freaked out. The guy laughed as I struggled with a ferocious dog, barking and lunging toward him. He continued to approach us as I'm choking River so he'll calm down. I'm trying to swallow my anger at this gentleman for so wildly incorrectly reading this situation. But rationally, I understand he doesn't see the situation, he just wants to pet my pretty doggy. I finally deflected his attention and pretended to care about how many dogs he has at home and finally went inside the store and I could start to calm River.

As I was doing that, a woman walked across the parking lot making cutesy cutesy cooing noises at River. As I tried to think of a tactful way to get rid of her, she got closer and closer and River got more and more excited and finally broke and started lunging and barking at her and I, once again, had to choke him off to get his attention away from attacking her. She laughed and said, "I'm sure he's friendly." I thought she was being ironic, but still, I answered her sincerely, "No." But she didn't hear me. I'm not sure if it was that she didn't hear me over River's repeated barking at her, or if she just wasn't listening because she was too busy making unbroken eye contact with him and reaching her hand toward him! "He's not," I continued, earnestly dual-tasking, as I calm him and educate her. She literally had to ask me again and hear my answer a third time before she finally backed off.

"He's pretty though." she offered as she turned and walked into the store.

"Yes, he is." I said flatly.

River and I both managed to shake it off. Moments later, Richele comes out of the store and I spend the walk back to the house telling her what just happened and how often it happens and we agreed that a wise person would heed the warnings of a dog owner who tells you not to approach. And we made fun of the woman who laughed when I told her River wasn't friendly and still went in to get close to him. And yet it happens so frequently, it's astounding. I'm usually so incredulous that I can't think of what to say quickly enough, and that's very frustrating. We laughed about how I have a leash that says "Caution Do Not Pet" but no one reads it. It felt good to be able to unload it all on her, and I felt much better by the time we got back to the house, thought it did feel like I was hogging the conversation and making it all about River, so I relented.

We ate and continued to have a nice friendly day in the backyard. She told me how much she loves gardening and she has been weeding a lot since the recent heavy rains made the ground soft.

Eventually, she took the dishes inside. She was in there for longer than I thought she was going to be, so I started to play with River in the grass. When she came out, she said that her partner had come home.

So I knew that it was time to prepare for the confrontation, but I didn't know how much time I'd have. I let her know, "We should have River on a leash." To buy some time while I took River by hand and went to get it. It was by the door Tim would be coming through, so I grabbed it, and was going to bring it back down to the yard and hook him to it, but that's when Tim comes through the door.

I managed to get myself between River and Tim before the former reacted. And I could stop him from locomoting but not from lashing out. He barked and scratched toward the man, but I reassured him and calmed him while I fastened his leash. I hoped that Tim would just go over the table and let me get River under control.

"It's all right, he won't get me." Tim says hovering over us.

"Yes, he will." I say. I don't know how to sound more serious. Richele helped to deflect him away from us toward the table, but he wasn't easily swayed. He maintained long and focused eye contact on River, who was supercharged by the challenge. Richele and I did our best to interrupt the contact and get the whole party moved to the table.

I hung back to give River a chance to settle himself, but we were being watched by the newcomer, relentlessly, so there was only so much he could settle. As I waited and asked River to collect himself, he instead lunged and barked at Tim who had sat at the table by now.

In retrospect, I should have left at that point. It crossed my mind, but it felt so incredibly rude, I decided to stay. But I introduced River gradually. The first thing I did was I showed them the controversial choke technique. I explained how it calms him and puts him back in touch with his body when all he was focused on was projecting outward into the threat, her partner.

And it worked. He stopped barking and hopping and spitting at Tim when he couldn't breathe for two or three seconds. He gagged once for dramatic effect and then was calm again. I sat him between Richele and I with a very short collar.

We talked a bit about River's point of view, but I have to admit, I dropped the conversation a bit when it started to get around to what River was 'thinking'. I didn't want to have that taboo conversation.

But eventually, River relaxed and lied down. So I released a little bit. We all sat and Tim got caught up on what we had done that day. I felt like I wanted to recover from my bad first impression with Tim. River wandered around and sniffed things and people.

As humans, we all want the dog to like Tim. He likes Richele and me, so we know he's capable of it, right? Such machinations we make, such stories we tell. I do it too. I'm guilty of hoping the dog would be logical instead of emotionally reactive. I should know better.

When River worked his way around to Tim, he reached down to rub him on the back, which is fine, River didn't care. They were exploring each other, and it was going well.  I was splitting my focus between the conversation at the table and the dog. I honestly don't remember what we were even talking about, but I remember being aware how stupid I felt when I realized that I'm micromanaging my dog in this social situation.

It is in that instant that I heard the sound he makes. And I saw Tim pull his hand back and give it a shake, and I knew. I exactly knew that feeling so well. Ow! I had seen that exact thing happen to myself so many times that I literally got used to it. For the first year or so that I had River, In addition to several dislocated fingers, I was dealing with scabs on my knuckles constantly from his response to my earliest training techniques. River bites onto the hand but not hard enough to do damage. Then the person, reflexively pulls his hand back and the bunched up skin on their straight finger gets scraped right off by the back of the dog's small front teeth. It's painful, and in a very inconvenient place, but it's not serious or deep.

Oh but my heart sank. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed and stupid and angry and neglectful and frustrated and betrayed and probably a lot of other things, too that I still haven't processed and certainly didn't then. I was also aware of the cruel irony of how I was just telling Richele that I was getting so good at handling him and knowing what I need to do next with him. But I just didn't want to show that I was losing it, so I kept cool.

They got up to tend to his finger and River sat there motionless except for trembling, perfectly mirroring how I felt; pathetic and helpless.

When they came back to sit down again, I'm sorry to say, I didn't handle it well. I maintained my composure with some effort but basically just ran away. I knew there was no way I was going to emotionally recover quickly enough myself  to handle River to sit down any longer at the table. I excused myself, saying "We have to leave." And I made my way out.

I can't remember exactly what he even said, to be honest, that's how freaked I was. But it was something to the effect of don't worry, it's fine. He's Ok. I'm ok, Someone's Ok. But I wasn't going to be convinced to stay at this point.

So not wanting to be rude, I attempted to explain that it's not because of how he feels, but it's about how the dog feels. And it's my fault for assuming he could see River's feelings. But the fact was neither River nor I could handle it, so we left.

Regrettably, I don't like the way I ended the conversation. He made one more friendly attempt to offer me hospitality and I hope he didn't hear me, but I sighed "Arrogant." And I know Richele heard me, she was right next to me. I don't know who I meant, or how I meant it, it was a frustrated emotional release and it was done before I could stop it, but what a bad person I was being. I wanted to implode. Reset.

Then I really wanted out of there. GOD What was I going to do next, shit on the carpet? Steal something? Richele escorted me out the door as I made a bad attempt of explaining my weird behavior that sort of backfired.  I don't think it made sense and looking back I see how it could be misinterpreted, so tomorrow when I see her, I'll talk to her about it and apologize for acting like a freak and losing control of my dog and my manners.

UPDATE - The next morning, I started the day with an apology, but it was met with an apology. It seems Tim and Richele also felt that they were in the wrong. It was just a bad situation, where we all wanted the good thing to happen, but it didn't. I'm so glad we connected the next morning so we could all forgive each other and move forward.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Disruptive Late-night Visitor in Vermont and Downpour in Upstate New York

Last night, my colon started rumbling around bedtime. I guess I had eaten something bad and I was paying for it all night with frequent visits to spill my contents into the bowl. I was losing a lot of water and regretting whatever it was I had that was very spicy. My initial thought was something about the dominos order that I just finished. They took a long time to get to me and my BBQ chicken pizza was nearly cold by the time I ate it. But there was no heat in the dinner. The heat I was feeling seemed like it might have been from the salsa on the burger from lunch.  I also wondered if it was part of, or different than, the sickness I am currently recuperating from.

Whatever it was was ravaging my insides all night and into the morning. I got a fitful sleep, and I really missed having my fermented foods. I have a feeling if I had been keeping up with my high-bacteria diet, my digestive system would have plowed right through whatever took me down today.

In the morning, about 6am, I finally felt finished. I showered and had my coffee. lol You know I'm an addict when after a whole night of the runs, the first thing I do is have my morning coffee. It was delightful.

I took River for a walk, loaded the car and took off for New York. Today was going to be a short drive (only a couple of hours) to Albany, where I teach in the morning. Nothing really worth stopping for on the way, except the forest that I saw yesterday.


But as I was leaving Brattleboro, I realized that I recognized the road as I was on and knew there was a great burger place up head. So I decided to visit there for lunch.

It was a great burger with local vegetables, meat and cheese. Vermont is a very outdoorsy place and there are many places I saw that had outdoor dining areas. This was one of them, so River lied on the ground next to me as I ate my Vermont Cheddar CheeseBurger.

Was it any good?  Read here to find out.

It was a warm and sunny day, but not too hot. Very pleasant day for a scenic drive through more of the Green Mountain National Forest and through some of the cute small towns in Vermont. Like New Hampshire, the speed limits here feel very low to me. But it's OK because I'm in no hurry and there's plenty to look at.

Mark this day, as it is the first of the year that I saw some fall colors. Certain species of trees are beginning to show some yellow and red leaves. Otherwise, it was mostly still very green up here.

I headed back down through New York and in the city of Troy, the sky opened up and diluvial rains poured down.  Fortunately, it was only for brief periods that I was under sheets of pure water, but the rain stayed fairly steady for most of the day as I pulled into the Motel 6 in Albany.

Another thing that happened in Troy was that Babe joined me in middle-age. She, like me, just celebrated a milestone known as 'the big five oh'. I turned 50 in June and she passed 50,000 miles on her odometer. 22,300 of those miles were added in the last four months.

Once settled into the room in Albany I went out and fed River. The rain had stopped enough to make that a not unpleasant experience, though both of us were quite efficient about it and soon done and headed back inside.

My room has a refrigerator and a microwave and I'm going to be here for two nights, so I might go to the local healthy market and see if I can buy something I can store and cook here in the room.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Welcome to Vermont and the Green Mountain National Forest

After doing laundry at the Motel 6 in Nashua, I started my day with a burger. I noticed that there was another b.good location right around the corner from the motel, so I decided to try another option on the menu before today's road adventure began. I wrote it as an addendum to the entry from yesterday on my burger blog.

I set my navigation to avoid highways and we took more back roads through New Hampshire. Whereas yesterday I went east, working my way toward Maine, today I worked my way west toward Vermont. I noticed more and more Hilary on this end of the state. And as I got even further west and into Vermont, I saw several faded and weathered Bernie signs. 

The speed limits in New Hampshire feel very slow to me. Every road I'm on, my instinct is to be about 10 MPH faster, but I abide. I noticed that there is also a dearth of gas stations, especially ones that I've heard of. But I wondered if the slower speed limits and the fact that they don't seem to need gas as much around here have anything to do with each other.

I was surprised how long I was driving in New Hampshire. I had made a plan to stop and take a stretch as soon as we passed into Vermont, but my route was taking me up, to explore the forest, and then down, just this side of the Connecticut River, which separates the two states. 

I was yearning for Vermont and tired of New Hampshire. Also, I knew I couldn't visit the Green Mountain National Forest while I was still in the Granite State, and I was eager to see that. 

Finally, at long last, around the bend was a bridge over the river and into Vermont....but it was out, and I had to follow a detour. It was a short detour and soon I was passing over the water and into the welcoming arms of a cute town in Vermont that's about a half block long and I can't remember the name of. 

But it was at the intersection at the Vermont end of that bridge where I got my official welcome. There was a four-way stop and three cars, including mine were all ready to go. There was what I can best describe as a domino effect of confusion that had started before I even pulled up, regarding who's turn it was to go. So, the upshot of this confusion was that I, and the driver on my left, pulled into the intersection at the same time. I stopped to let her go and as she passed me, her passenger, a charming young woman, let's call her Meth-head Podunk Trash called out to me "Go back to Washington!"

Vermont is lovely; so green and rustic. It's beautiful when there are no people around, but at other times it feels like I'm in Duck Dynasty. 

I was headed toward the Green Mountain National Forest and it took me along the Saxtons River. I stopped at a place where the river ran near the road and River and I hopped out and gave ourselves our own "Welcome to Vermont" by climbing, splashing, chasing and having fun running around. 



I dried him off, especially really well inside his ears, and I also gave him his dinner before we got back in the car. It was mid afternoon by this time.

As we got closer to the forest, the trees enveloped the road so that we drove under a green canopy. At several points it was dark enough that my automatic headlights came on. At another point, it was so deliciously compelling out there that I rolled down all the windows and completely stopped the car and sat and listened to the forest song. I could see far down the road behind me and knew I was safe. It was a moment of zen. Then I drove on.

We got to the recreation site at Green Mountain National Forest and I wanted to access the lake. There were a few yipping dogs that blocked our access to the picnic area, where we could go right to the lake, so we went the other way. According to the sign, it was the "Pond Trail", but we didn't get that far.

River's nose was going overtime and he was smelling up a wild storm. I actually had to high collar him so he'd walk with his face forward and not glued to the ground. I could hear him sniffing frantically at the air as we walked.

A guy came walking rapidly toward us, taking the trail in the other direction and I said hello to him as I kept one eye on River for his reaction. He was pretty excited about something. But he didn't react to the guy. Of course, having him on the high collar had a lot to do with that.

Once the guy passed us, I stopped and released River to let him shake it off and do a little rummaging around where we had stopped. It was just then I saw that something ahead had captured River's attention. I look up to see a big black Lab running full speed toward us.

I commanded River to jump up on the nearest rock and he only got his front paws up by the time the dog was right next to us. She ran past us and up a side trail where she stopped cold as if to listen for something. Then she turned around and bolted in the direction the man we just passed was headed.

River and I were frozen the whole time. He with his front paws on the rock and me standing right next to him telling him how good we were being by not reacting.

It wasn't until she was out of sight down the trail that River showed signs of emotion. Then he kind of went into a frenzy of delayed reaction. He barked and jumped around and scratched at the dirt. It wasn't until I told him to sit on the rock again to shoot this video that he finally settled down.


A bit later, we were walking back toward the car and see the guy and his dog again coming toward us, off leash. She speeds up toward us and River begins to walk crouched down and slowly toward her. So I guide him to circle away from her. It had been a long time since I've seen River allow another dog so close, so I was willing to let him explore this safely. I was doing pretty good and maneuvering myself to be in a place to pull River out quickly if need be and watch him react calmly to this dog. She was good for him, so I wanted to let it happen.

But then, I saw the noses lock and I knew I had to get him out of there. Just as I was making the realization, the noises started. It didn't take much to get him calmed again, once they were apart. I put my fist in his crotch and near the base of his tail to simulate another dog's nose and complete his emotional need cycle whether he wanted it or not. Then I had him bark and we walked back to the car. 

Next stop was Motel 6 in Brattleboro, VT. This one gets the award for trying the hardest. Kathy was polite and efficient checking me in. She put her business card in the sleeve with my room key. On it it says "I am responsible for your stay. Are we providing you a GREAT stay? We want your 10 rating!" 
When I asked about if there was a guest laundry, she didn't just say 'no', she told me where the nearest coin laundry was in town. When I got to my room, she called me to see that everything was OK. When I took River out for a little tugging and pushing on the grass, I notice she's standing outside, smoking her cigarette and smiling, watching us play. I felt like she was going to have a pie cooling on the windowsill next. 


The Other Portland - Nia in Maine

I set my navigation to take the back roads from Nashua to Portland; it was exactly the same number of miles and it only added about five minutes of driving time.

Going through New Hampshire I was dismayed by the support for Donald as evidenced by many "make America great again" yard signs. It nearly put me in a bad mood to think of how much support he is getting. I see him as not only entirely unqualified to run the country, as he has zero political experience, but also extremely dangerous as he has shown he has no tact. I can imagine him pissing off political leaders from other countries and really damaging our international relations, as well as attempting to make changes that favor our countries few billionaire businessmen, further driving a wedge between the haves and have-nots. Not that I think Hillary is any great shakes, I do think she's far better and the only wise choice. I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see folks who live along the back roads of rural New Hampshire making unintelligent, fear based choices. I want to know when these people think America was greater than it is now. Especially in the past 50 years or so, we've made great strides in becoming the country of equality and opportunity we set out to be and wrote about in our U.S. Constitution. If there's any place we are needing improvement it's in the class disparity I just mentioned.

Anyway, didn't want to write a political post. Just sharing what my drive was like. Each time I saw another sign, I imagined myself having this conversation again.

At some point yesterday, I pulled a little muscle in my back. It was either while sneezing or coughing. It exacerbated the 2008 shoulder injury which is by now an old familiar yoke. It isn't excruciating, but is quite uncomfortable and made me squirm the whole drive out as I tried to 'work it out'.

Portland, Maine is the easternmost point on my trip this whole year. The difference, as soon as I crossed over the state line from NH to ME was immediately apparent. Maine feels like a place that has a sense of humor and appreciates quirkiness and kitch. I felt right at home there. I happened to be wearing my "Pot o Gold" shorts with the leprechauns and rainbows and I've never gotten so many compliments on them in one town.

My appetite came back in full force. Both River and I needed food. River would have to wait, but I needed some BEFORE I stepped in to teach a three hour workshop. The time was tight, though, so I had to choose my stop wisely. About a block from the church I was scheduled to be in, I found a little stand on the corner that sold coffee, soup salad and sandwiches. Soup, I thought, sounded perfect!

Alas, they were out of soup, so I got a chicken and beet salad. I arrived at the church to find Erin, my host, also eating a chicken salad. haha.  So we ate our salads as we set up the room and waited for the students.

The playshop was my Nuts and Bolts of FreeDancing Playshop. It was one of the smaller groups I have had for this work, but that doesn't bother me, as I've said before. I like the opportunities for deeper intimacy in the smaller groups. The first step of my playshop is to ask them to dance and see what I have to work with. They impressed me by displaying several minutes of very creative movement. I knew I had my work cut out for me with this group, so I took the reigns from where they were. By the end of the three hours, the group was helping me to develop new facets to my work. They tell me they got a lot out of the experience and so did I. That's the best!


After the three hours flew by, Erin took me to the pet store to get some food for River and then she took me to a local burger place called B Good and bought me dinner. I wasn't sure how well I'd do with such rich food so close to being sick, so I kept it modest. I go into more detail about it here.

We chatted about Nia and stuff as we ate and River seemed to be extra nervous. Maybe he was anxious after being in the crate for a three hour stretch as we danced. There was one moment, while we all played like children on the playground, one of the dancers mimed rolling a ball, as in bowling. She randomly rolled it in the direction of River's cage and apparently was convincing enough to freak him out. I'd never seen this before, but he jumped! Inside his cage! It looked almost as though he was trying to avoid the impending sphere. I had to reassure him he was OK and cover his cage before he'd calm down again. During our dinner, he kept lunging at people walking by us. By this time in our relationship, I know enough about River to never sit down in public without making sure his leash is well secured on my person and that he doesn't have enough slack to reach anyone, so everyone was safe and OK, but after the third time, I had had enough of it, so I put him in the car for the latter part of our meal.

I fed River in the parking lot of the burger place while Erin went to our second location to prepare it for the Nia class.

When River and I arrived at the space, I stood there in horror as I heard Erin explaining about River to the owner. This was a pristine yoga studio and when I realized that the presence of my dog hadn't been given prior approval, I suspected I was in for some drama. I explained how River coming into the room with me was a non-negotiable point. I explained how he doesn't leave his crate and that I could lay blankets down to protect the floor under the cage. (Although this cage has plastic feet on it and it doesn't scratch wood floors, it is easier to lay down the blanket than to convince a studio owner of this.) She reluctantly relented, but further requested that I don't let him walk on the floor, but instead carry him from the car to the cage and back again. That was no problem. So we went ahead with class.

The owner was concerned with humidity levels in the room, so she asked that we don't open the windows. There was no A/C, but there were ceiling fans and a dehumidifier. I had already pressed my luck so I didn't want to pursue it, but I knew that we were going to steam that room up and that if we kept the windows closed, our body heat would create more humidity than anything coming from outside. But I dutifully followed directions and we did the Orchestra routine in the tropical yoga room.

I'm usually into working out in the warmth. As a wrestler in high school, I got accustomed to the hardest exercise of my life in a poorly ventilated room so full of heat and humidity that it was hard to breathe without stepping outside. To this day, when I practice in my home studio, I prefer to keep the doors and windows shut, filling my studio with body heat and carbon dioxide. So I was used to the conditions, but the students obviously were not. One of them left midway through. She had recently been diagnosed with lupus and was on her second month of recovery from being flat on her back. So it was completely understandable that she didn't want to put herself through the whole hour. I was drenched in sweat and leaving puddles anywhere I stood still. I think it was good for my recovery, but even I, with my love of and experience with tropical, low-oxygen exercise environments, felt like it was extreme.


After class, it took a while for us to get out of the space. We were all a bit spent. After everyone left, I took River out on his long leash and let him run around the parking lot for a little bit before hitting the back roads again for our night time drive back to Nashua.

I wasn't sure if all of the activity was 'too soon' for me and I would wake up the next day relapsed. But it wasn't and I didn't. I felt fine the next day and actually ready for more.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"My Recuperative Powers Are Legion"

A few days ago it started with a sore throat. Two days ago that became a stuffed up head and deep productive cough combined with a headache and lack of energy. I was sick.

I told a friend of mine and his response was "Your recuperative powers are legion."  Which is true. When I compare myself to other people, I tend to be the one who gets sick less frequently and who recovers more quickly. And I don't know if it's just my imagination or my bias, but when I do get sick, it seems that I get really sick. I don't just get the sniffles or feel kind of off kilter, but when I am sick, I'm thrashed.

Such was the case these past few days. But I was inspired by what my friend said and that became my mantra and my inspiration. One of the first things I do is to admit and accept that I am sick. I don't try to get on with my life. I don't go to work anyway. I don't trudge through like a hero, I curl up like a little baby and totally check out of life.

And this is just what I did.  Yesterday, I only got out of bed long enough to run to the store to get a fresh squeezed fruit and vegetable juice, and then a bit later to get a burrito. And of course, I took River out for several walks, but other than that I was in bed, under the covers, with the lights off and the curtains shut.

Right after I drank my juice I took one aspirin because my headache was piercing. And I fell asleep with my mantra running through my head: "my recuperative powers are legion".

I toyed with the idea of contacting my host in Portland, ME, where I was due to teach a playshop and a class the next day. She had informed me about a week ago that the number of students signed up were low and wondered if that was OK with me. I told her what I always tell my hosts when they say that to me, "Whoever shows up will have a great time."

But I was having second thoughts. At this point, just the idea of the two hour drive to Portland was more than I could fathom. Not to mention teaching a three hour workshop and then presenting the Orchestra routine and driving two hours back to Nashua.

But this morning I woke up and my head felt clear and free of pain. My energy seemed to be back. And although the cough was still lingering, it wasn't as insistent as it had been.

The day of rest, lots of water and little food, as usual, did its magic. Compared to yesterday I feel like a million bucks and I'm looking forward to my gig in Portland. I'm not 100% myself yet, and who knows, after today, I might go into a bit of relapse. But that's fine because after this I have two more days off before I have to work again. If need be, I can spend one of those days in 'recuperative' mode.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Feeling Sick in Nashua

Well, I suppose I deserve this. I've been paying about zero attention to the healthfulness of my diet while on the road. I opted to forego healthy eating in favor of ease and convenience (like most Americans) and now I'm paying the price with my health (like most Americans).

I suppose I have to admit I thought I was a bit bulletproof. I've gotten used to enjoying glowing good healthy and a robust immune system, that I forgot that it's not just a free gift from heaven, but something that I earn through watching my nutrition and being sure to eat complete, well-rounded and wholesome meals made from fresh foods.

It started a couple of days ago with a sore throat, and then last night the mucus started flowing. Today I'm suffering with a full blown head cold and my energy is zapped. I also get super cranky when I'm sick, so don't start anything with me right now. My sinuses are full and inflamed and I'm producing phlegm faster than I can blow it out. My nose is raw from so much blowing and I'm about to run out of toilet paper.

Fortunately, I don't have any classes or traveling scheduled for today so I can stay in bed. I ran out of water, so I do need to go out and refill at the market so I can properly chase this bug away by drinking copious amount of water.

I also stopped at a store on the way back and picked up some freshly squeezed juice. I opted for the super green, which is Celery, cucumbers, ginger, lemon, kale, spinach and apple.

About now is when I really wish I had access to all of my homemade goodies like my beet kvass, turmeric sauerkraut, bone broth or kombucha. But, of course, if I had been using any of those things and eating more sensibly, I probably wouldn't be in this situation in the first place.

But alas, now I'm just going to be spending my whole day right here:
I have some things planned for tomorrow, so this is my last full day of recuperation.
I hope my next entry brings better news from the road.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Amazing in Massachusetts - Attempted Murder in New Hampshire

Today started out uneventful. I woke up, had my coffee. Michael made me a frozen toaster waffle with cinnamon sugar and I ate it as I gathered up my luggage for the shlepp back to the car. By this time, I had parked three blocks away, but I was thrilled by the parking space.

I found it about 11:10 on Thursday morning. And the space was free and available until Monday! I had struck parking gold by New York standards. The luxury of being able to leave my car on the street and not worry about paying a meter or moving it!! When this morning came and it was time to leave the spot, I felt a bit of internal struggle. I related to George from Seinfeld and how excited he'd get when he found a good parking spot. It was a shame to leave it, but it served me well.

Driving up the country, I didn't stop much as I was on a bit of a time line. Of course I allowed for plenty of extra time, but it was Friday afternoon, and I was driving out of a big city and didn't know what I was in for.

I basically made a bee-line through New York and Massachusetts. The class I was teaching that night was in Mass, but only about half an hour from the motel I was staying in, in Nashua, NH, just past the state line.

My goal was to make it to Nashua, check in and shower and then head back down to Concord to teach my Nia class. But I kept an eye on the time and the map and was prepared to change plans and head directly to Concord if need be. Ideally, though, I would make it to the motel first because I needed a shower and a shave to feel like a Nia teacher.

Fortunately there were no traffic jams or construction sites that put me too far behind schedule. I had plenty of time to check in in Nashua and get cleaned up for class.

I arrived at the studio twenty minutes before go time, which is just about when my host, Maria showed up, too. She let us in and we had a great time in class.

It's interesting how some groups of Nia people have a greater sense of playful adventure, while others seem to be more concerned with being serious and safe. My style is edgy and challenging, so the groups that aren't used to being asked to take risks sometimes give me a bit of resistance. Such was the case at Starfish studio. My impression is that the group as a whole is not asked to push any of their own boundaries. Some groups will laugh and enjoy the struggles they face in my classes, and others don't seem to take my bait at all. Today, I felt it was an uphill battle to get a lively response from the group. For a few select moments, I showed them the kata and then I stepped out and literally asked them to 'dress up the movements' their own way. At one point, I said, tongue in cheek, "Imagine that you're dancing!" It took them a while to cotton onto what I was asking, but they finally loosened up and showed off some personality.

And it's a good lesson for me not to put so much importance in the response of the students. My work in cases like this is to still have just as much fun as I have with a group that whoops and hollers and loves to express themselves in dance.

After class I made my way back to the Nashua motel. I ordered some food and then went to bed early. I felt a sore throat coming on, which sometimes is the first indication of a cold. So I thought it best to nip it in the bud and sleep. I was a bit deprived of sleep in NY, which is par for the course in a city that never sleeps.

So I slept long and hard. I woke up at 2am, thinking it was time to get up. I was wide awake and refreshed, but also delighted to learn I could get back in bed and sleep for another several hours. Which I did. It was closer to 9pm when I was awoken by a knock on the door.

I first thought it was housekeeping, so I peeked out the window, hiding my nakedness, to indicate for her to skip my room today. But I saw a Nashua Police Dept badge staring back and me, so I opened the door, hiding behind it and explaining my state of undress to the officer.

He understood and had a few questions for me. My mind was racing, but I was curious and eager to help. He asked about when I checked in, if I heard anything and what I was doing in Nashua. I eventually learned that at some point in the night, someone had gone over the balcony on the third floor. They lived but were in too bad of condition to say what happened.

I'm glad I wasn't on that side of the building. That would have been horrible to see and/or hear. Fortunately, I sleep like a rock and didn't hear a thing.




Biting the Big Apple

New York City still feels a little bit like home to me. I feel nostalgic whenever I return. Today, my drive in from Pittsburgh was going to be a long one, but it was broken up by paying a visit to an old client in Loganton, PA. This is a guy who's seen me twice before when I passed through PA; in King of Prussia once and in Carlisle once. This time it worked out best for me to come to him. He lives on a farm in a rural town. They have one stop sign!

It helped to break up my seven hours of driving, and I also made some money. He also fed me. He had some shrimp and vegetables on the BBQ when I arrived, so not only did he feed me and get a session with me, but he impressed me by serving up a healthy meal.  And then I was back on the road.

The last time I came through NYC was a challenge in many ways. The parking, the traffic, my state of being and the things I tried to organize all seemed to be working against me. They weren't impossible, but they offered up great resistance. Not only that, but I did a quick stretch after a class and pulled a small but important postural muscle in my back, so for a week after that, I was also battling with being in pain.

Everything seemed to go much more smoothly this time. Starting from the very beginning when Mini Nav set my course for Manhattan via central Pennsylvania. I would have gone straight for the cluster-mess that is the Lincoln Tunnel, but Mini took me way up north.

I crossed a bridge in Montague NJ that only cost $1.50 (It is $13 to go through the Lincoln Tunnel.) and there was no traffic. I can usually count on waiting in at least an hour's worth of backed up traffic approaching the Lincoln Tunnel.

Not only did I save the money and the traffic aggravation, but the drive itself was beautiful. Instead of the Interstates and Turnpikes, I was on Scenic Byways and driving alongside the Hudson River.




 I breezed into NYC and found parking literally right around the corner from where I was staying. It took me no time at all, as if the spot were waiting for me. And it wasn't a metered spot. It was free until street cleaning, which was 11am the next morning.

So we quickly settled into the apartment.


And enjoyed a walk in Central Park while Michael, our host, rehearsed with Tommy Tune in the apartment.


They were doing a full run-through of the show and taping it for time. After our time in the park, River and I came back to the apartment where I was going to drop him off and head downtown for a client.
But when I brought River in, Tommy was in the middle of his show. He had just gotten to a part where he's referring to a person in his story and made a big sweeping gesture (Tommy Tune makes no other kind of gesture) right toward River, who is easily spooked by big people.
So River let loose with a string of barks and had to be calmed down. They were recording the session, so River made it onto the recording.
I put him in the cage quickly and left the apartment for my appointment. Tommy and Michael didn't miss a beat through all of this.
At the elevator, I heard River's voice again. I guess his cage was too close to Tommy Tune's tap dancing. So I rushed back in and escorted River into the back bedroom, away from the action. Again, the pros never even looked up as I ushered the dog across the 'stage'. The reports I got later said that once River was in the bedroom, he was quiet.

The morning I arrived in NYC, someone left this art installation in Union Square. I didn't get a chance to see it before it was taken down.
A long-time student of mine, Robyn, decided she wanted to put together a second NYC class for me. I taught Amazing when I was here back in June and she was there. She was also one of the ones that was there last year when we were creating the routine.
She organized a class for Thursday night and got about 20 students to show up. It was a jam packed class in a steaming hot studio. I had a blast. It felt really good to be in a rehearsal studio in Manhattan. As an actor, I spent much of my time in buildings like these and I love the energy of creativity that hangs in the air.
I kept myself busy rushing around to all of my old haunts and seeing my old clients. And of course, seeing that River's needs are met in the middle of urbania is also something to be factored in. He gets very excited by all of the activity, and there's no places I can really let him "loose" but we manage.

On Thursday morning, as I was moving the car to a new parking spot because of street cleaning, I got a warning light on the dashboard of Babe. It said to contact the service center because I needed to new brake pads and to "Drive Moderately". Usually Mini is all about Motoring Hard, but now they're asking me to exercise restraint. Since I have the dog in the car, I tend to drive gently anyway.

But this was actually an exciting prospect in the city. It meant I could possibly set up an appointment with Mini of Manhattan. They could fix my brakes and I would have a free place to keep the car by leaving it on their lot. But they didn't have any appointments open before I was to leave town.

I set up an appointment for one of the few days I was planning to return to NYC at the end of the month. So now I have an automatic free parking space for my next trip here. YAY! All I have to do is survive my drives through New England in the upcoming week.  I figure the warning light comes on long before there is any real issue, so I think I'll be fine.

Four days in the city feel like a lifetime, and yet they fly by like it's just an afternoon.  Before I know it, I'm off to my next destination.