Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I’m generally not one to complain about the weather. What good will it do, right?

And besides, you’ve got to keep things in perspective: here in Seattle, we’re not having earthquakes or tornadoes, and as I’ve long thought after moving from Minneapolis, the local climate might make you want to kill yourself, but, unlike in my old home town, you’re not going to actually die out there from the cold.

But, still.

It is fucking dreary here.

I’m home from India two weeks now and there hasn’t been a single day on which it hasn’t rained at least a little and for the last five mornings in a row, extending pretty much through the afternoon and evening, it’s been drizzly and cold, the sort of chilly weather that makes you feel like you’re living in London in the late 1940s when the world was still in black and white and no one ever got warm.

It’s usually better when you get out in it and so I’ve been doing my best to make sure I take a couple bike rides every day, and while it does tend to be my experience that the rain looks worse from inside your house than it is when you’re pedaling around in it, the whole business of getting geared up and then, even worse, peeling off the wet things when you arrive at your destination, is really tedious. I’m sick of gloves that smell like cheese and am fed up with my sodden toes never quite drying out.

Of course, I know that all this precipitation is good for us; Washington state snowpack levels are up, but still tend to be below average; wet socks are a small price to pay for irrigated crops and clean drinking water come summer.

I realize, as well, how tiresome is a guy sitting inside his dry home ranting about wet weather; if the sun would just come out, though, I’m sure I’d feel better.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Let the record show that I hated disco when it was actually happening.

Like all right-minded folks, I maintained “disco sucks,” and listened exclusively to new wave and punk music: bands like Devo, the Talking Heads, and the Clash.

More than three decades later, though, I’m a fan, at least when it comes to choosing a theme for a bike race, as well as an outfit to wear when putting it on.

The 327 Words Studio 54 Disco Time Trial went off in fine fashion, with 33 riders setting forth, and all but six finishing. The weather was suitably crummy, with rain showers pelting the southern part of the route, but no one got killed, even though the Angry Hippy was attacked by a crazy hobo downtown, for no apparent reason, and with fortunately, no lasting damage other than to his bicycle’s rear wheel.

Tall Jace,
riding a single-speed and subsisting only on bananas and water, was the winner, finishing almost two minutes ahead of second-place rider, the surprisingly fast Kevin Septor, who credited his success to knowing where to go, especially Haulin’ Colin’s shop on 5th Avenue South, not 6th Avenue, as the race manifest mistakenly indicated.

My favorite story was of the group of stoned riders who ascended the south steps of the Volunteer Park water tower and, upon descending the north ones, looked around and were convinced, at least momentarily, that their bikes had all been stolen.

I also loved thinking that third-place finisher Small Fred won’t be celebrating his 54th birthday until the year 2044, at which time, no doubt, races like this will finally be run using jet packs and anti-gravity belts.

My heartfelt thanks to all the folks who performed checkpoint duty and my deepest gratitude to all the sponsors, notably New Belgium Brewery who provided a keg of beer (that for the first time ever, we didn’t finish) and to Vapolution Vaporizers, whose grand prize Ben failed again to win.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Andre advised us to be prepared to drink in an outdoor place at which we’d never drank before, to ride on roads never ridden before, and to drink in a bar never previously sat at; I’m pretty sure all three of those were accomplished in one form or another, even without taking into account Heraclitus’ famous reminder that the same river can never be stepped in twice, given that all is flow and flux, so that even if, technically, I had had a drink in that same park shelter on Alki before, it’s still not the same drink nor, really, the same shelter either, even though, thankfully, the bike gang itself remains consistent, at least in its success in taking you to fresh locations via new routes for imbibing and carousing well into the night.

We ended up, midway, at what I was expecting to be a bar on a boat, but which turned out instead to be a boat in a bar, and which, thanks to the reasonably confused state into which I’d gotten myself as a result of various quaffables and eatibles, really did seem like an indoor home upon the water. The light through the rear windows of our “ship” was perfect, like moonlight dancing upon the Caribbean as we floated gently at anchor drinking rum and playing dice made from the bones of our enemies before our morning raid on the English armada.

It was all I could do to simply stay abreast of the proceedings as I sat near the “prow” as conversations swirled around. Soon enough, though, there was talk of completing a “boat to boat” run that would put us crosstown at another nautically themed establishment.

Eventually, we went fast downhill (if not necessarily downhill fast) and crossed a bridge or two before splintering into friendly factions; I had an hour or so to myself on the final leg, floating over the spring night to my home port once more.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


As anyone who’s even ever seen a Karate Kid movie knows, the Eastern tradition of learning is based in the student’s relationship to a guru. “When the pupil is ready, the guru appears,” and all that; you apprentice yourself to the master and do whatever he says for years and years until finally, you discover, with surprise, that you have internalized the lessons he’s been teaching you all along and now you can kick the bullies’ asses, or fly, or lift your Jedi spacecraft out of the swamp just by using your mind.

In the Ashtanga yoga tradition, the guru is important, too. Although some people have managed to pick up the series from videos or books, traditionally, one is taught by a skilled teacher who, in turn, was taught by a master, and so on an so on, leading right back, directly or indirectly to Pattabhi Jois and even Krishnamacharya himself, though the lineage of instruction.

I’ve been fortunate to have a number of gurus, beginning initially with Catherine (Satya) and David Garrigues, who ran Seattle’s Ashtanga Yoga School for almost a decade and from whom I got infected with the Asthanga yoga bug; I was also blessed to have participated in two week-long led classes with Guruji himself, and then, most recently, in Mysore, I got to be taught by his daughter, Saraswathi, for two months; all this in addition to workshops here and there with Ashtanga masters like Manju Jois, Richard Freeman, David Williams, and Tim Miller.

But today, as I practiced alone, I was struck by how the real guru is the practice itself.

Most everything that I’ve learned from Ashtanga has been a result of going through the poses, doing the breathing, trying to be present as I bend and sweat during my time on the mat. It’s from the series that I’m learning about myself, the world, the unseen, the Atman that is Brahman.

I bow to my guru, the practice.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Open Sesame

Even someone who likes to hear himself talk as much as I do gets tired of listening to himself occasionally.

But, of course, the chatter in the mind goes on; thoughts keep percolating up, all of them attached to words, and for some reason connected to my sense of self and what I consider necessary to understand the world, I’m compelled to put some of that mind-stuff down in text.

Does it make any difference to the world? Certainly not. And ought my time not better be spent by making contributions to Japan earthquake relief or to writing impassioned screeds about the latest war my country has gotten itself into? Naturally.

But here I am, puzzling publicly about my puzzlement; wondering aloud about the my wonderment, making excuses on behalf of my sorry excuse for an externalized internal monologue.

I once went 327 days in a row writing and publishing a 327-word essay, half-imagining that doing so would somehow catapult me into internet stardom. But all that happened is that I got sort of addicted to the habit such that I don’t entirely feel like myself—whoever that is—unless I do so.

In the literature of Vedanta I’ve been reading, there’s lots of talk about how the mind falls into grooves and how yoga, meditation, and other such practices are means to assist us in climbing out of those grooves.

The problem, typically, is that the grooves feel so groovy; it’s nice to snuggle down into the familiar; quite frankly, I’m disinclined to change when change is difficult and the status quo so nice and easy.

Thus, here I am again, returning to the 327 word form, writing and posting an essay that’s little more than naval gazing turned inside-out.

Does this mean that 327 Words is back?

Well, sorta. In April, when spring quarter starts, I’m back at Sabblogtical, with a focus on doing Philosophy for Children.

For right now, though, this is groovy enough.