One used to refer to “Glacial Progress,” but I fear that that meaning has changed pretty significantly. Those suckers are flying.
However, as I re-achieve a sensible level of equilibrium, I remind myself how slowly things move in life. As long as they move forward, I think a turtle’s pace is about right. We rush too damn much, don’t ya think?
I Have Been Making a Little Actual Writing Progress, btw
First off, my story on folks working in kitchens in the healthcare industry during COVID-19 was published in a digital-only copy of Edible WOW. Chefs Franklin, Tison, and Penn were all inspirational and a joy to spend time with, all on the phone, of course. This issue of the magazine is only available online; if you like it, please share.
One note: I had requested that there be paragraph breaks similar to the way stories in the New Yorker appear, but apparently it wasn’t possible to do that. So what were written as sharp transitions—with the line break signalling a silent and visual change in direction—now seem a bit abrupt. If I seem to switch courses in a painful way, just imagine a little bit of empty space, if you can. Better luck for me next time, I guess.
I’ve also been working on a post about my single day in Brazil. (Cuba is coming, I promise, but it’s 10 days, not one, so a little daunting. Brazil is a warm-up.) It has 3 separate videos in it, so it’s taking me a while. But here’s a pic to whet your appetite.
In Which I Learn a Little About Stress
I’ve been working hard to pay attention, attention, attention. And I just noticed, literally two days ago, how tense I get in certain situations and around certain people, including some that I love and others who I like a lot. When the realization hit me in the past, I automatically dwelt on all the reasons the other person troubled me. There were lots! People suck. Except for me.
But this time, I thought, hmmm. What’s up with this? Why am I doing this? (Alas, I don’t find it “darned interesting” like Mr. Wodehouse yet. But I’m working on it.)
Meanwhile, since last Wednesday, I’ve been cutting out sugar, booze, and caffiene in an attempt to give the old liver a rest. I shall not lie: Since returning, I’ve been pounding through a lot more sweets, coffee, and chardonnay than can possibly be healthy. This past weekend, I ditched gluten and dairy as well.
I have been quite, quite cross about this.
Then I read an article about COVID healthcare workers, and found out that they have cortisol rushing through their systems at such a high degree that they spend their days off from work going through adrenal withdrawal. And I thought, damn. That’s exactly what was going on in Perú, when we had to be on the constant lookout for whether or not we’d be flying home that day or the next. Then we got here with everything different. And then we had the stressful situation I recently found myself in. It’s nothing compared to what the healthcare heroes are going through. But it’s still something.
Cleanliness Is So…Meh
I used to regularly clean myself out with a quarterly detox plan, very similar to what I’m doing now. I stopped doing that after the most intense one, which I wrote about in this post and which thoroughly messed up my digestive system for a while. Fasting is, apparently, not my friend. High colonic enemas are not, I think, anyone‘s friend.
Still, some bodily housekeeping has been very much in order. And finally, yesterday, after a full week of being decent to myself despite not feeling like it At All, I started to find all kinds of things moving along at a much better clip. I sleep better, I’m finally getting more energy, and my brain feels like it’s functioning with a lot more clarity.
Foremost among these is a heightened ability to notice my tension, and an increased comfort with discomfort. Case in point: the yoga series I’m doing right now on Gaia.com. Gaia is primarily an outstanding yoga/meditation streaming service, though if your taste runs to New Age hucksters and Proof of Aliens, you have also found your true north. (This is completely unsolicited, by the way; I get exactly zero if you click the link. Click it if you want yoga Netflix, then write me for teacher recos if you need them.)
Chaturanga: The Crocodile
Gaia has a number of yoga series, which I occasionally opt for just to shake myself out of my yoga rut. I decided to start a 21-day program called “Commit to You.”
The first week, nearly every class was close to an hour, which is a long time to do streaming yoga from my point of view. And Monday and Tuesday, week 2, started with 2 quite difficult classes taught by a woman named Shannon Paige. She’s a superb teacher, a stickler for form, but she talks really fast and I’ve lately noticed that when people talk fast, it makes me really tense.
(I used to talk way too fast. I apologize to everyone that I stressed out.)
But I gutted my way through her classes, learned how to properly do a chaturanga, a pose in which your body is flat and energy-charged; the word apparently means “crocodile.” Lo and behold, in the last 2 classes I’ve taken over the last 2 days—with the equally wonderful Clara Roberts-Oss—my chaturangas have been awesome. And even almost fun.
Even higher on the benefit scale: I normally hate pushing myself very hard in yoga. I like stretchy stuff where I work on my back.
But the really nice thing is, as I flush out a lot of old bile and stop deadening myself with yet another glass of Coppola white wine, I’m actually kind of starting to like pushing myself. Go figure.
And by the way, I’m getting up regularly around 6. When you do that at the lake, you get to meditate with these guys.
The Pointer Sisters, the album, came out in 1973. I was 12 years old, bought it, played it for years. With its low-down earthy riff, “Yes We Can Can” kicks things off, one of the great anthems of change. It was a huge hit, constantly on the radio, and the reason I bought the album.
But the surprise was that the Pointers’ first record was as much jazz and blues as anything else. Dying to learn jazz piano, I would sit spellbound at the wickedly fast and intricate “Cloudburst” as Tom Salisbury practically ripped the piano in half, his response to the sisters’ call.
In truth, there wasn’t a single dog on the entire album. In “Jada,” Bonnie, Anita, Ruth, and June slide into a lopy, snaky, easy-as-pie groove, telling the story of Jada, who’s about to drive across the Bay Bridge in her Volvo—the fact that the Pointers were from Oakland, just an hour’s drive from my hometown San Jose, added to the magic. “River Boulevard” is almost pure gospel, with the repeated refrain, “Isn’t it just a beautiful day?” “Old Songs” finds the sisters riffing off of various corny old songs; you can imagine them sitting around the kitchen table one night over a big pitcher of ice tea, interrupting and topping each other the way sisters do.
The second side starts with the moody, wordless “That’s How I Feel,” a vocal showcase as impressionistic as anything on Miles D’s masterpiece Kind of Blue. It’s followed by “Sugar,” another sexy, sneaky love song, a little more bottled lightning in the standard “Pains and Tears,” and then a balls-out bluesy love song, “Naked Foot.” Finally, the other big hit, the burn-the-house-down “Wang Dang Doodle,” closes things out in an almost eight-minute long party where one imagines, all kinds of things are going on that don’t happen in church.
I especially loved the picture of the sisters on the album cover. They personified elegance, grace, and a rootedness that I never saw in the family portraits that my family and all my friends’ families hung on their walls, painful affairs where you wore your best (read most painful) clothes in front of a pastel moire backdrop, smiling big phony smiles. The Pointers offered one smile between the four of them, yet looked supremely connected. And happy. And proud.
The sisters’ second album, Bangin’ on the Pipes, is every bit as good as the first, with cover art of them rendered as Egyptian art. Their third, Steppin’, features the sly classic “How Long (Betcha Got a Chick on the Side)” written by Anita, Bonnie, and David Rubinson; never has a cheating spouse been taken down with such elegant shade.
But then, Bonnie left. She had a fairly substantial hit with “Heaven Must Sent You,” an average disco anthem. Her sisters at that point were also doing a mix of monster pop—unmistakably catchy tunes like “I’m So Excited” and “Neutron Dance,” and covers like Springsteen’s “Fire.” It wasn’t the same. I never again would sit next to a record so rapt and lost in the rhythm, the stylings, the artistry.
To hear of Bonnie’s death this week saddened me as much as the death of most famous people saddens me, which is honestly not that much. 69 is not long by a lot of standards, especially now that I’m pushing up against 60 pretty snugly. But it’s a lot longer than many people get. Now, breaking out those first two albums on Spotify, all four sisters together eternally—June died in 2006, just 52 at the time—I can only be deeply grateful. What gifts these women brought to the world. What a marvelous family. Heaven, if you’re up there, Earth just sent you someone. Take good care of her.
The Marcus Aurelius Moment* for 11-June, 2020
From my son, that a person can learn from someone else’s mistakes, that life continually provides you with something to laugh at, and that kindness IS godliness.
*In the first part of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman ruler details what various people in his life have taught him. To read the full intro to why I care about Marcus Aurelius, click here.