Thursday, December 27, 2007

Holiday ramblings

My family has been cultivating a new holiday tradition for the past few years. I will not say that we started small; we didn't. Yet we still seem to best ourselves every year. I am referring to our Christmas Eve feast. This year's menu: steamed mussels over a bed of tomatoes, sausage, and white beans; garlic shrimp; mushroom tartlets; butternut squash soup; French pot roast; roast chicken marinated with figs soaked in sweet Vermouth; capenata; the usual piles of mashed potatoes and dressing; and of course the inevitable pies (apple, pumpkin, pecan). I'm probably forgetting something(s). We made everything fresh from scratch. My brother-in-law and I started cooking on Saturday, spent most of Sunday in the kitchen as well, and did pretty much nothing on Monday but bump into each other as we careened around the kitchen in increasing states of frenzy and inebriation. Despite the chaos, all the dishes we prepared came out very, very well (a Christmas miracle, as far as I am concerned) and were well received by the group of 16 for whom we were cooking. I am of course getting hungry again just thinking about it.

I wanted to make a gingerbread outhouse for dessert, but didn't. I'd like to say that discretion got the better of me, but the truth is that I just didn't have time.

So NoRegrets meme tagged me a few weeks ago, and embarrassingly I still haven't the slightest idea what to write on most of the subjects... sorry! I was never very good at colouring inside the lines, I'm afraid.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Prank update

She did think it was funny, but she didn't call me weird. At least she didn't call me weird any more frequently than usual.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I think there's something wrong with me...

I'm storing some stuff for a friend who is in between apartments. Her nice, neat pile in the corner of my living room was just too tempting a target for a minor prank:

I did something like this once before, when I was in high school. My little brother made a stink about having to move his favourite chair in the living room for the Christmas tree, so when the rest of the family was away for the evening, I decorated his chair with a few strands of holiday lights. I think his response was that I should have decorated the chair with him in it, watching TV.

Ultimately, I guess a chair or a pile of stuff is not much more arbitrary than an evergreen, is it? Or maybe it is. If I remember correctly, the Christmas tree's original meaning was as a representation of Yggdrasil, the tree of life from Teutonic mythology. I don't know of any mythologies that revolve around a chair of life. Perhaps it would be accurate to say that consumerism revolves around piles of stuff as a central organizing force, but it wasn't my intention to make any sort of sociopolitical commentary with my light strand prank. I just thought it would be funny.

Anyway, I can't wait for my friend to get back and see what I've done to her pile of belongings. I think she will laugh and tell me that I am weird.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


A few snippets of writing from the past few days; first, from Sunday's entry in my yoga class log:

We did the asana sequence that scares me most today - sirsasana dropping backwards into urdva danurasana variation. I knew it was coming and I steeled myself up for it by thinking of things I have done wrong and treating my fear as a punishment for me to work through, or a crucible in which I could measure my worth. This, from someone who does not believe in god, an afterlife, or moral absolutism. There is enough of a devil in each of us that we need not pretend there is any other external demon.

I can't wait to see what my instructors make of that, if they do read it.

And from a poem I started writing last night:

Every god damned time I sit down to write this poem
some shiny new distraction catches my eye
immediate, demanding, inconsequential -
trumps my best laid plans
calls to question my motivation and abilities -
laughing with derision, "you'll never find the words anyway."

I loved her, I loved her not -
Schröedinger would feel right at home.
But me, all I do is sit here and mew
bitch about the time I've wasted
lapping at this bowl of milk
wonder why it's so dark in here

Some of it needs revision, and there are a few more stanzas to come, I think. I like the first two lines. The second stanza is sort of clever, which makes me nervous, but I think I will keep it in one form or another.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The horror!

The Hudson Valley Horrors Roller Derby team, that is. I have a few friends on the team, and they twisted my arm to work security for their match last night (roller derby girls can be very persuasive). This was my first exposure to the roller derby world, and it was amazing! Or, since they lost the bout to the visiting New Skids On The Block team from Montreal, perhaps I should say emerveillé! On Friday I told my supervisor that I'd be working security for a roller derby match over the weekend, and she told me that I always do the most interesting things of anyone she knows. I talked about this with some friends (fellow single friends) on Sunday afternoon, and we agreed that a boon of being unattached is that one is sometimes impelled to seek out passtimes that the rest of the world finds very peculiar (admittedly, cause and effect are a bit grey here).

And more horrors - Hallowe'en. My favourite holiday; a good old fashioned celebration of darkness, both literal and figurative, which has been all but completely denigrated into yet another orgy of capitalistic gluttony. Thank you, Walmart. Thank you, Madison Avenue. Thanks a fucking lot. Wasn't Christmas enough for you? And Thanksgiving? Couldn't you leave one holy day on the calendar (albeit a holy day for a religion that is no longer in vogue) without turning it into a feeding frenzy devoid of meaning or reflection? We don't deal with darkness well in this culture. We run from it whenever we can; use our gadgets and crappy philosophies and distractions to pretend death and sadness and anger don't exist. But they do.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Anacortes Crossing

This week has been very challenging for me. The details, I think, are beyond the purview of this blog; perhaps it suffices to say that I have been observing the anniversary of a very confusing time. I have a natural tendancy to dwell on the dour; anyone who knows me knows this. Even reflecting on things that turned out well, I focus on what went wrong and why it was my own fault. It's a knee jerk reaction. What I'm reflecting on now was such a hodge-podge of the good, the bad, the wonderful, the painful, the beautiful, the impossible, I scarcely know how to sort it out in my own mind. I look for errors I made, and I find them; but my remorse is tempered by the beauty I experienced. I try to focus (for a change) on amazement and wonder, and these feelings are marbled with regret. This isn't simple. It's not linear. It's not something that I felt even remotely prepared for, yet I found myself in this situation nonetheless, and I had to muddle through as well as I could, trying to minimize damage...

...which brings me to the title of this blog entry. Anacortes Crossing is the name of a peak in the North Cascades of Washington state. I traversed it in July of 2002, with a group of "well-chosen companions," to borrow a few words from Barry Lopez. It was the most difficult hike I've ever done. As happens in any intense situation, all of my shit came up. I had to face my fears, over and over again; and I kept going. I had to deal with my distrust of my own abilities; and I kept going. I had to surrender my ego and rely on others; and I kept going. I cried on that hike, at a time in my life when I never, ever cried. And I kept going. The photo that accompanies my profile on this site is from the morning before that hike. When my yoga teachers advise me, at the beginning of class, to focus on something essential or beautiful to me, as often as not my thoughts are drawn to Anacortes Crossing. This is part of my psyche now; incontravertible proof that even when faced with a difficult situation that I don't think I'm able to handle, committment, good friends, and surrender of ego can ease me through to the other side. So "Anacortes Crossing" has been my mantra recently, a talisman for me to hold when my mind starts travelling down its rougher byways.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Cryptofascist mania, silicon deliria

So I started my yoga teacher training program this past weekend. I've been practicing yoga regularly (religiously? ruthlessly?) for about five years, and have been thinking on-and-off about teaching for almost the entire time. About two years back, I dipped my big toe into a different training program, but found the waters therein chilly and unaccomodating. And so here I go again. So far so good. I didn't freak out in weekend one, and there's only nine more to go (once a month till June). Plus homework. Lots and lots of homework. Time to bust out the #2 pencils.

Despite (or perhaps because of) having spent so much time in this yoga/meditation/personal-growth/crystal-light-and-breakfast-cereal-healing-centre community, I am very very skeptical of the motivations of other folks I meet along the way. I think a lot of the people drawn to this sort of practice are trying to salve old wounds (me included). But some are looking for a way to avoid dealing with old wounds, and it's this emotionally dangerous group of folks against which my guard is raised. But how do you know who's who when walking into a new studio with a dozen new faces? Well... you don't. And much to my discredit, I tend to default to believing that everyone is there for the wrong reasons, until they prove themselves otherwise. Guilty until proven innocent. I wasn't concious of it, but that's how I walked into our first teacher training session on Saturday. Closed. Suspicious. Guarded. It wasn't a pleasant way to spend four hours. But I thought about it that night, and I realized what I had done, and I saw that it probably wasn't necessary. I didn't have to take all these people into my heart all at once, but I didn't have to lock them out either. So I walked in on Sunday feeling a bit different; more open and less accusatory. It was a better way to practice.

Friday, August 31, 2007


So I've been listening to the radio drama Afghanada on the CBC every morning at 11:30 (shhhh... don't tell my boss), and it has drawn me in completely. Two grunts and their sergeant, delivering aid, having cultural clashes, getting into fire fights, as part of the Canadian peace keeping mission in Afghanistan. The back drop of Canadians in Afghanistan is interesting enough, but it's the human drama that really grabs me. This ain't Melrose Place, folks. This is a drama about people with actual real world problems, people who get themselves stuck in very bad situations over and over again because it's their job, and not a job that they can quit. People who have to deal with their own personal shit and can't let it control them because there are much bigger issues at stake. It's been making me feel a bit better about my own crap. It's refreshing to see that someone else understands that sometimes you're in a bad situation, you can't get out of it, can't really make it much better, just have to get through it as well as you can, trying not to harm anyone else. Check it out!

I noticed that in the tag line for this blog, I mentioned dining, though I haven't actually followed up on that and written anything on that subject. Well... I like food! How's that for a solid start? I don't actually have much to say about dining. I have a CSA share which has been providing me with ridiculous amounts of produce for the past few months; that's been great. I love the idea (and the act) of getting food from local sources; knowing the people who grew it, the land it was grown on, others in the community eating from the same crops. I love the fact that buying a CSA share stems the tide of unsustainable development, and keeps farmers on their land. Also, the food is amazing, and I've been eating things that I'd never heard of before, can't pronounce, and/or would never have thought to buy, otherwise. Huguenot Street Farms

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sat guru. Sat dumbass.

...but uh, mostly dumbass.

I don't think this entry is going to make any sense to anyone but me, but since no one knows about the existence of this blog, that might not matter.

I was browsing through old emails this morning. I came across one to my friend Byron in which I described one of my recurring day dreams - kayaking or dogsledding though the arctic from village to village, teaching yoga; sort of a wandering samurai yoga teacher. I concluded the description of my fantasy with the words "Have mat, will travel." So therein lies the origin of the title of this blog.

Byron died last Labour Day, after a long struggle with lymphoma. He left a wonderful wife and beautiful little girl behind. I still really haven't made any sense of this, or peace with it. I still find myself angry, sad, resistant to accept his passing. I had a hunch when Byron was still alive that he and I shared a lot of similarities, in the way we were raised and in the way that we viewed the world around us. Conversations with his wife in the past few months strengthened this belief in me. But I never talked to him about it. Now I'm angry at myself. Why did I squander my friendship with him? Why the hell did I hold myself back? There isn't a damned thing I can do about it now, and my fumblings to cope over the past year have benefited me not a whit; they just kept me from dealing with losing him. Is it selfish of me to think this? To judge my actions solely in the light of what gains I personally have gleaned from them? There's a subtext here that I can't discuss, even in a blog that no one knows about.

I've made some new friends over the past few months, with whom I passed a thoroughly enjoyable evening on Tuesday. As a getting-to-know-each-other sort of exercise, one of them asked me what I would like to be able to do better. I declined to answer the question aloud, but the answer was clear to me. I wish I was better at holding on when I need to hold on, and letting go when I need to let go.

Like now.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"...there's nothing uglier than a man hitting his stride..."

Excerpted from last night's journal entry, written over a steaming mug of chamomile at the Muddy Cup, in between furtive glances at the cute girl sitting opposite me:

Since qualifying for long distance swimming in Lake Minnewaska two months ago, I have made very poor use of my privileges there; until today, I had only once been there to swim this summer. I broke my dry spell tonight after work. I also acheived my goal for this summer: I swam a mile. This brought up a sea of thoughts and memories for me, and one or two feelings as welll. I swam a mile once before, long ago. I was at Scout camp, and I think it was 1987 or 1988. I was by far the last of all the swimmers to finish. I remember how proud my father was of me; not so much immediately afterwards, but in the next year or two. ... I've never liked the focus of attention to be on me...

I also remember the time that my father swam a mile. It was 1999, I think, one of the last times (if not the last time) that I was at the island with him. He went out for a swim before I woke up one morning, and he came back beaming with pride at his accomplishment. So swimming a mile today links me back to all of these memories.

When I'd finished swimming today - even before I'd finished, actually - I thought about the artificiality of this goal, and how meaningless it was for me to set myself this task, and to strive towards accomplishing it. Not even had the beautiful new building been completed, and I had already begun tearing it down. Maybe that has to do with not wanting the focus of attention to be on me; even when it is my own attention. Distrusting a sense of accomplishment and self-pride.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

bicycles and swim trunks

On Sunday, I crossed yet another item off of my "Someday I'll do this" list. I took the swim test for the Minnewaska Distance Swimmers Association (, earning me the privilege of swimming outside the roped off kiddie beach at Lake Minnewaska. Huzzah! I took the test at the Moriello Pool. It was a beautiful (though hot and humid) day, and the pool parking lot was packed as I pulled in on my bike. I spent about an hour at the pool; during which time, not a single other bicycle appeared on the bike rack. This is a source of constant disappointment to me. Here in New Paltz, we wear our green politics on our sleeves, electing progressive politicians and standing on the street corner protesting the war; but when it comes to making actual changes in behaviour, even something as simple as biking to the community pool instead of driving is a novelty. Quite honestly, I hope gas goes up to eight bucks a gallon (and it probably will, of course).

Anyway... I couldn't believe how nervous I was, standing by the pool, waiting for my turn to jump in and do laps. Something about being judged, I guess, even for something as trivial as this. Despite the fact that I hadn't done laps in a long time (probably almost 20 years), I didn't have much doubt that I could pass the test. I thought back on growing up and spending Saturday mornings at the YMCA taking swimming classes. Maybe the ghosts from that unpleasant time in my life were being resurrected in my mind. But I jumped in and swam nonetheless when my time came, and I guess I swam so well that the ghosts couldn't keep up. I feel that mindset permeating other aspects of my life too, sometimes; my yoga practice, especially. I see what's going on in my mind, whatever turmoils and tempests I've brought to the mat with me, and I try to practice as if none of that is there. Sometimes, practicing that way helps to separate the wheat from the chaff. Sometimes.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


When I'm not busy thinking about garbage (or rooting through it), I think a lot about energy. A few years ago, I had a cochamamie idea that if there were a wind turbine on every utility pole, it would be a great additional source of energy without polluting the environment or screwing up the viewshed or infringing on any one's rights. Eventually I discarded this idea as utopian and unrealistic. If it would work, I thought, someone would have suggested it already. Well... someone did, actually. I've since learned that Buckminster Fuller proposed the same idea in the 70's. I don't know why it never took off. Seems like a no brainer to me. Later (last year, I think), I hatched another energy scheme, even wilder than the last. Single celled organisms are awfully good at taking sunlight, water, and carbon and converting it into hydrocarbons. Why not tweak their genomes to maximize the process? Couldn't they convert the atmospheric CO2 that's cooking the planet into oil? If we produced all of our carbon based fuels this way, carbon emissions would become a closed system, and we might be able to make some real headway on global warming. Once again, I dismissed the idea as fanciful and science-fictiony. But a few months ago, I read in the New York Times that there's a start-up company in the desert southwest that's doing pretty much exactly what I'd envisioned. So part of the lesson here is clearly that I should always act on my every idea, no matter how ridiculous it seems.

I also had a thought that the problem of birds flying into wind turbines at night and dying could be ameliorated by placing LED's on the blades (of the turbines, not the birds). LED's hardly draw any energy, and they could be produced to illuminate at a wavelength that's visible to birds but not humans.

We're all taught in gradeschool that all of our energy (or most of it, anyway) comes from the sun. And by the second law of thermodynamics, the closer to an energy source you get, the less loss there is. Take fossil fuels for example: first photosynthetic life had to evolve, then it had to die en masse and be compressed for millions of years before becoming a fuel source. So the end product (oil, natural gas, coal) is really, really far removed from the original energy source (the sun), which is why this energy source is so easily depleted. Lots of loss along the way. So the best solution to our energy woes is to use solar energy, right, since it comes directly from the source? Well... no. Or not yet, anyway. Solar panel technology is still very, very inefficient. Only a few percent of the energy that hits a solar panel gets converted into electricity. Until solar panels can be built to harness more of the sun's output, they're really just going to be a novelty item.

Hydrogen - also problematic. It's a great way to store energy, but you still need to produce it somehow. The most obvious source of hydrogen is water, but it's awfully difficult to split it from that oxygen atom. Takes a lot of energy, so we're back to square one - trying to find an efficient, non-depletable energy source.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Garbage, garbage everywhere

I spend a lot of time thinking about garbage. I don't mean bad television programs or manufactured pop bands or the latest movie sequels, I mean the household stuff that we deposit in the ubiquitous under-sink canisters, and once a week set out by the curb for removal. I also spend a lot of time thinking about packaging. It's amazing to me that we actually spend money on packaging for our garbage. Not only that, but there's high end packaging for our garbage, and it sells! What is the point of buying anything but the cheapest store brand garbage bags? How does Hefty stay in business? This boggles my mind on lonely nights when counting sheep just doesn't do the job. I also ruminate on the little cardboard box that garbage bags are packaged in. Packaging for packaging for trash, which eventually ends up being discarded in one of the packaging units that it once contained. Layer upon layer of convolution, all for garbage. Someone, somewhere, is sitting at a computer brainstorming new ideas to package garbage, and to market that packaging.

I have a friend who once, on a long car ride, suggested to me that it would be better if everyone threw all of their trash out the windows of their cars. Then, at least, it would be impossible to ignore the amount of refuse that we generate. We'd be accosted by the sight and the stink of it wherever we went. I thought about her idea for a few years before deciding that she might be right.

Last week I did some dumpster diving on a local college campus. I picked up some dinner plates that struck my fancy. The kids move back home when the spring semester is over, and whatever stuff they accumulated throughout the year, they discard in big piles out on the lawn. Dishware, furniture, clothing, "art", many, many, many ink jet printers. I guess it's the printers that surprise me the most. Twenty years ago, I think we had a much less cavalier attitude towards disposing of electronic equipment. The stuff was expensive, first of all, and I don't think the term "planned obsolescence" had come into use yet. But now here we are - buy a new printer at the beginning of the school year, and throw it out 9 months later, because the low cost of replacement makes saving the old one a waste of energy. The upside, I suppose, is that anyone who's willing to dig through a pile of someone else's trash will be richly rewarded with the detritus of disposable consumer culture. It is an uncomfortable thing, to browse through someone else's unwanted goods. I found myself asking what was wrong with me, that I would debase myself in such a way. Was I just cheap? Was it pathological? I have the wherewithal to buy new, so why was I doing this? What does it say about me that I would do this? I don't have any good answers to these questions, but I think it's important to do things that make you uncomfortable and confused sometimes. Dumpster diving definitely takes me far out of my comfort zone, and maybe that's reason enough to do it.

If there was a point I was trying to make with this post, it has escaped my memory.