Category Archives: Travel

Shakespeare In The Park

Every Summer the Public Theatre puts on an eight week showing of Shakespeare In The Park. They have a beautiful, intimate stage nestled in Central Park. The stage is open to the elements and only seats about 1,500 people. Tickets are free and every person in line is eligible for two tickets. But getting in that line, well…

Recently the Public Theatre has been putting together outstanding casts for their Shakespeare In The Park showings. This summer featured actors like Al Pacino, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Jesse L. Martin. Between the cast and the amazing reviews, the interest in the theatre has seen a drastic spike. I decided to camp out the night before the closing performance to stake my place in line and get tickets.

I camped with two of my friends- we showed up around 11:00pm (Saturday night) at 81st and Central Park West loaded up with a tent, sleeping bags, a cooler of Belgian beer and a bag full of deli sandwiches. Oh, and the dog came too. We spoke to a haggardly looking woman who told us quite bluntly that she was first in line. We thought we would be camping inside the park, but she enlightened us on this as well. We would, in fact, be camping on the sidewalk along Central Park West until 6am, at which point we would then be transferred into the park where we would wait in line some more until tickets go on sale at 1pm.

And so we walked to the end of the line which at this point was between 86th and 87th. There we pitched our tent as the line continued to build behind us. It became quite clear that this was a dog-eat-dog line with strict rules- like no one was allowed to join the line, nor was anyone in line allowed to leave for long periods of time. The deal with tickets is this: the theatre gives out an unknown number of tickets each day, usually between 400 and 1,200 tickets depending on how many “donors” received their tickets first. At this point we were about 300th in line. Crazy lady #1 had been waiting since 4pm. We were camping on the streets of NYC to be in a line that didn’t guarantee us anything. Hmm…

We woke at 5:30am after a few shaky hours of sleep. The street lights didn’t go off until about 5am. So strange to be camping around concrete and lights. We were hurriedly shuffled into the park at 6am where threw our sleeping bags down in the grass and tried to sleep again. The line was the most eclectic group I have ever seen- crazy #1 up front, then groups of homeless, scalpers, and crack heads (I’m talkin crack viles laid out in the open) mixed between college students, people on macbooks, hippies, older people, you name it. And the gear people brought to lay on was just as eclectic- anything from cardboard boxes to blow-up mattresses to actual full-size mattresses to chairs and living room furniture.

When the line finally started moving around 1pm, tensions were high. A lot of people were pretty upset with the groups of scalpers who would be turning around and selling their *free* tickets for $300 a pop. A lucrative endeavor, sure, but a disgrace for “public” theatre to be supporting crack habits. When we got close to the box office, they actually ran out of tickets, but we got #40 and #41 out of 50 vouchers. What happens is at 6:30pm, we were supposed to come back, and vouchers get (in chronological order) any cancellation and/or open seats. If all the vouchers are sat, the people left in the standby line get seated.

So we came back at 6:30pm and waited. And waited. The show started at 8:00 and by 7:55 it looked pretty hopeless. The scalpers (some of which had front row center seats) were getting desperate, but many of us were irritated and did our best to interfere with business by shouting things like “don’t buy from scalpers.” They didn’t appreciate us so much, and I got a little concerned when someone said “scalp the scalpers,” followed by, “ya, kill the scalpers.” Rut roh!

But just as the show was starting, the guy from the box office came out again, this time with a big stack of tickets. After 21 hours of waiting, we finally had tickets in hand and were ushered into the theatre. We were pretty delirious at this point since we really hadn’t slept at all, but somehow it all seemed worth it. The theatre was beautiful, the cast was amazing, and there we were, on closing night of Merchant of Venice with FREE tickets. From here the play will go to Broadway, but nothing beats waiting in line with NYC’s finest…

Waking up in Central Park

Guy from a nearby deli selling egg sandwiches

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YogaWorks

I’ve been thinking about a lot of things in ex-girlfriend analogies lately. This is one of them…

Since moving to New York I have been exploring new yoga studios because moving also meant breaking up with my girlfriend called Vital Yoga in Denver. I was spoiled by this girlfriend. She was fun, top-quality, reliable, just the right medicine for whatever my ailment was. Oh well. We’re over.

I decided to check out YogaWorks (for everybody). They have five studios in Manhattan and a sweet $1 for week of yoga deal. The first studio I went to was their Soho location (pictured above). The place is more like a spa than a yoga studio- three big yoga rooms, a huge locker room with slick mirrors, digital lockers, big showers and fresh towels. I have to say that showers are a big plus for me since it’s a long, sticky ride home that I don’t necessarily want to do covered in yoga sweat.

My first class in the Soho studio wasn’t that impressive. I got a few good instructions on pelvic adjustment but the teacher was a bit snooty. She even bossed her “assistant” around and told her who to adjust and how. Seemed strange that she wouldn’t just do it herself. I did, however, get a nice little tour of the place from a cute boy at the front desk who also walked me through the schedule to recommend good classes (which I obviously needed).

The next studio I visited was their Union Square location. This space was a lot more down-to-earth than the Soho location- two restrooms (and long lines waiting to get in) and a few curtain rod dressing rooms. Apparently there is a shower in the back of one of the restrooms but they don’t really want people using it unless there is no line. There were two studios- both with big windows and one with cool Union Square views. How I got the SAME teacher at this location, I have no idea. Maybe the universe was trying to teach me a lesson. I enjoyed this class better than the first, but was still determined to find someone better.

Since it was now the last day of my $1 week trial I decided to do some research on the teachers before just popping into a class. I found a woman named Elisabeth Neuse. Ok, anyone who does a nine-month, 1,100 hour training has my respect. I decided she was worth my last go at it.

Her class was full but she moved graciously around all of us, offering clear adjustments and excellent cues to keep us breathing as we moved. She played some music, which I love. I was in the back in the classroom so I could soak in the whole room and at one point this sweet, electronic-esque song came on a bit louder than the rest. Her soft voice faded a little from behind the music and I found my groove. I felt a little choked up, like maybe I had found a new girlfriend, or at least someone I’d be willing to date.

Later we returned from savasana and sat quietly with our palms touching in front of our hearts. The room was silent, peaceful. Then from outside came the sounds of loud, long New York style honks. I let out a little giggle just reveling in the irony of it all. Here we were all zen, sending good vibrations out to whoever and getting quite the response in return.

When I left class I made sure to say thank you to my teacher. She was talking with another student but I said a quick thank you. She turned her head so she could catch my eyes and gave a soft “you’re welcome.” After I walked out I realized that she had these bright, beautiful eyes that I had not noticed until then. Yogi eyes I call them. They are those sweet, inspiring eyes that come from someone who has a beautiful soul. When I came across her website later I saw them again.

She’s one I’ll go back to…

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Bohemian Caterpillar

Ok, he’s a bit hard to see but I still think this little dude is one of the coolest caterpillars I’ve ever seen. I used to play with these things all the time but they were always black on the end with a copper middle. They hung out on the anise plants that grew along the fence of my grade school. Not sure if this one is a different species or just an odd ball. Maybe he’s just trying to be like the bohemian babes all around 5th Ave where I found him hanging out. I guess even NYC caterpillars have an image to keep up…

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You Know You’re in New York City When…

10. You see monks in Penn Station carrying iPhones

9. Bud Light is $8 a pint

8. Two women casually walk down the streets of Washington Square Park in nothing but their panties and bras

7. You fail to notice the bloody crime scene as you exit the subway from your morning commute

6. As a white person, you feel like the minority

5. A bag search from the NYPD is more of an irritation than a cause for concern

4. Swimming topless at Coney Island just feels like the right thing to do

3. You see the “I have no legs” guy from the movie KIDS on the subway. He really has no legs

2. Your yoga teacher verbally instructs a student to lower her heal “so it’s more like a pump than a stiletto”

1. A three-year-old girl can put any beat boy to shame

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Adventures at Discovery Kingdom

My sister has wanted to work with marine animals since she was just a little tyke. I remember her crying in the bathtub when she heard that one of the killer whales at Sea World had died in an accident. My sister married young and eventually became a title manager for a real estate company. When the mortgage crisis got the best of that job she was laid off. She took it as a gift and decided to go back to school and pursue her dream.

Before we knew it, she was working as an explorer guide at Discovery Kingdom (formerly Marine World) in Northern California. Not even two years later, she’s a full-time aquarist and is loved by everyone she works with. She recently took me and my family on a tour of the park and got us a back stage pass that included some personal time with Merlin the dolphin.

I have never swam with a dolphin before. I thought maybe I’d get to touch him a little and feed him fish. But when his trainer told me to swim out into the pool I was ecstatic! I got to ride on his belly and do a fancy little trick called a foot push where he pushes one of my feet and sends me flying forward. He was smart and gentle and just an amazing creature- he even knew cobra pose. I couldn’t believe that for some people this is “work.”

The best part of my day, however, was seeing my sister in her element- listening to stories of her swimming with the sharks and feeding the alligators. I couldn’t have been more proud.

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Filed under Challenge, change, Empowerment, Entreprenuer, Fear of Death, Mystical, Mysticism, Personal Growth, Spirituality, Story, Storytelling, Travel, Yoga

Yoga To The People: All Bodies Rise

Yesterday, Stacey and I got the hell out of Long Island and headed to the East Village to get our first dose of New York City Yoga- Yoga to the People. When we got to the subway just outside of Penn Station a woman came up to us and asked where we were going. I guess yoga mats get you a little extra attention in NYC. Once we were on the subway, however, other yoga mats started to appear. First one, then two, then three. Then we’re all getting off at the same stop. Since this was our first time at the this yoga studio, we just started following the mats. As we turned on to St. Marks street the yoga mats were flowing down the sidewalk- a class had probably just let out. I turned to Stacey and said, “I’m home.” We both smiled and laughed.

The entrance to the yoga studio was right next to a restaurant facade. The street was bustling with pedestrians and the sounds of clinking dishes from nearby patios filled the air. We followed the train of people through a large door and down a long hallway. At the end of the hallway a woman was standing outside the door of the studio on the first floor, but directed us upstairs. On the next floor was another studio that I couldn’t get a real glimpse of since we were again directed up the stairs. The room on the third floor was full as well so up and up we went. When we reached the fourth and final floor we were finally able to go inside. We threw our shoes on a rack, popped our $20 donation into a tissue box that the teacher was holding and joined the other forty or so people flooding into the room.

My mat found its home in the back of the room right by the door and snuggled up next to one of the studio’s big brick walls. The place was already packed but they managed to squeeze even more people in the room- there were at least sixty of us at this point. We were mat-to-mat (or mat-to-brick). I could feel the temperature of the room rising from the heat of our many bodies- bodies of different shapes, colors and sizes.

When we were all settled, the door was closed, containing the room’s vibrant energy. Our teacher, a young woman in a loose plaid shirt, short shorts and a wrist full of bracelets grabbed her ipod remote, turned on the first song of the class and then said, “Let’s get started, Childs Pose…”

For the next hour she embodied the mantra of the studio:

There will be no correct clothes
There will be no proper payment
There will be no right answers
No glorified teachers
No ego no script no pedestals
No you’re not good enough or rich enough
This is yoga for everyone
This sweating and breathing and becoming
This knowing glowing feeling
Is for the big and small weak and strong
Able and crazy
Brothers sisters grandmothers
The mighty and meek
Bones that creek
Those who seek
This power is for everyone
Yoga  to   the   People
All bodies rise

There weren’t many alignment cues. No “inner spiral,” just a couple “shoulders on the back.” Mostly she just showed us how to move and then we did it on our own. She would talk us through a short series, then give us the reigns. “Find your flow,” she said.

There was a lot of emphasis on breathing and letting go. I have never heard such uninhibited, “Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhh’s,” and “Mmmmmmmhhhhhhhh’s” as people let their breaths be audible. No one seemed to be looking around, just moving. Half the students had pretty scary alignment but then I realized that this class wasn’t about alignment. It was just about us, in this space, moving together…

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Saraswati

In the Rgveda, Sarasvati is a river as well as its personfication as a goddess. In the post-Vedic age, She began to lose her status as a river goddess and became increasingly associated with literature, arts, music, etc. In Hinduism, Saraswati represents intelligence, consciousness, cosmic knowledge, creativity, education, enlightenment, music, the arts, and power. Hindus worship her not only for “secular knowledge”, but for “divine knowledge” essential to achieve moksha.
(wikipedia)

~ ~ ~

Today we ventured down to the Pilot House Marina to set sail on Barnacle Bill, a sweet little boat that carried us out on the steamy waters of the Potomac River. On our stroll down the dock we passed a cute boy cleaning a tugboat while country songs blared from a nearby radio. Part of me wanted to stay there with him.

I looked around at all the boats in the marina, wondering what their stories were. I wondered if any of them have ever been caught in bad weather, or seen a river monster. Boats have sweet, exciting lives- like evolved fish that get to play in the water but dock on land. I used to be more like a fish when I was younger. I grew up in the tides of Southern California- a water baby at heart. Now I’m more like a boat. Like Saraswati, I’ve retired my status as a river goddess in pursuit or the arts, but I always feel at home around water and the sound of crashing waves.

It was beautiful out on the water- reminded me of the best vacation I ever had when was maybe 15 and my best friend and I spent two weeks with her family on Lake Hartwell down in South Carolina. We played the entire time- boating, jet skiing, wakeboarding, tubing, tanning, exploring. The scenery today was surprising similar- calm, murky waters surrounded with trees pulsing with dew. I couldn’t resist jumping and diving off every edge of the boat. Think it was that inner river goddess…

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