Wanderlusty, anyone? Experience is the only source of knowledge, as the great Albert Einstein once said. If you can’t leave your room at the moment, jump in your virtual spacecraft and discover something new!
My very talented housemate and friend took some amazing photos on the Brooklyn Bridge last Sunday. We frolicked under a looming thunderstorm, hopping like frogs, whirling like dervishes – it couldn’t have been any more fun. Or that’s what I thought, until we finished it all off with some slammin’ empanadas from Empanada Mama in the LES. Nothing like a day of creativity and for that I’m grateful!
The Brooklyn Bridge looms majestically over New York City’s East River, linking the two boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Since 1883, its granite towers and steel cables have offered a safe and scenic passage to millions of commuters and tourists, trains and bicycles, pushcarts and cars. The bridge’s construction took 14 years, involved 600 workers and cost $15 million (more than $320 million in today’s dollars). At least two dozen people died in the process, including its original designer. Now more than 125 years old, this iconic feature of the New York City skyline still carries roughly 150,000 vehicles and pedestrians every day.
Fabulous free music? Surrounded by trees and big open sky? Just two blocks from my house, you say? Now *that* is a sweet way to bring in the summer (and say goodbye to New York)!
Celebrate Brooklyn! is one of New York City’s longest running, free, outdoor performing arts festivals. Launched in 1979 as a catalyst for a Brooklyn performing arts scene and to bring people back into Prospect Park after years of neglect, Celebrate Brooklyn! was an early anchor in the park’s revitalization and has become one of the city’s foremost summer cultural attractions. Over its history, the Festival has presented over 2,000 artists and ensembles reflective of the borough’s diversity, ranging from internationally acclaimed performers to emerging, cutting-edge artists. All Celebrate Brooklyn! performances are free! The festival attracts upwards of 250,000 attendees from across New York City to the Prospect Park Bandshell each summer. Friends of Celebrate Brooklyn! membership benefits include express entry, reserved seating, pre-concert receptions and more. (from the official site)
Last Friday I hit up an Irish band at the Prospect Park Bandshell with two good friends and a few cold brewskies – a jovial recipe indeed. And though I did not join my audience brethren in their adorable American homage to the Riverdance, we did bust a move for the band’s final encore, a rockin’ rendition of an old folk classic, featuring a violinist who would have no trouble sharing a stage with the likes of AC/DC.
Calexico, Mavis Staples, Wynton Marsalis, Blackalicious, and Cody Chestnutt have already played this year, all for the suggested donation price of $3. There are still quite a few more performances to go, so hit it up while there’s still time! (I can’t believe I’m missing Jamie Lidell and Beck!)
It’s getting to be that time, New York. I have exactly one more week to go before moving back home to Hawaii, and since returning from Paris, I’ve had oodles to be grateful for. Here’s the breakdown:
Friday, July 12th
The convenient – though sometimes hideous – MTA. Alright, the paint is peeling off the walls and cat-sized rats scurry not far from the platforms. But all in all, New York’s public transport gets you where you need to go. After landing at JFK I took trains all the way back to Park Slope in time to shower and repack for my next trip that day. I’m especially grateful for the public transport here in NY since I’m remember how tough it is to get around Oahu without a car. I’m soaking up this train/bus action while I can!
Saturday, July 13th
The first official day of the Third Root collective owners’ retreat in the Poconos. Today I’m grateful for catharsis. Not the kind of anger-fuelled punching bag catharsis that’s now been proven to make matters much worse. Rather, the kind of mindful catharsis that can cleanse the soul, paint a clearer picture of the past, dark shades and all, a catharsis that brings us to understanding.
Sunday, July 14th
Lake fun! It was a long morning and afternoon, sitting inside and sorting through heavy important to-dos . . . uber grateful to have had a jaunt to the lake for swimming, tanning and a whole lotta craic.
Monday, July 15th
One of my dear friends from the Abu Dhabi days came to visit and there are so many moments of gratitude here, it’s mighty hard to choose. The fountain at Washington Square park, so calming in 100 degree weather? The joy of having a good friend in town? The decliciousness at Thewala? I’ll go ahead and highlight Greenwich Village Comedy Club, where just about all the performers were on point, making us giggle and guffaw the whole evening through. And as a few bonus cherries on top, we scored a bunch of free tickets for future fun and made a few friends from out of town. The impromptu sesh went on at the Bowery Hotel – equal parts hunting lodge and bad trip. I highly recommend a visit if you’re in town!
Tuesday, July 16th
Despite the 106 degree weather, like the pros we are, Nat and set out on a full day of explorations: cwoffee from a no-nonsense Brooklyn dinah – black, to go! Onward bound to the New York Aquarium and Coney Island boardwalk, complete with beachy rendezvous with a few yoga sisters on a picnic day. Hungry and determined to try some of the best pizza in Brooklyn we hit up Totonno’s – only to find it closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Boo! But you know what, it was worth the walk, because one of owners popped her lovely head out the door and chatted with us, apologizing for not being open, and blowing us “sweethearts” a kiss before asking God for our blessing. Now *that’s* some Brooklyn hospitality I hadn’t been before!
After a shower and a costume change, we nibbled on sushi (delicious and affordable, at some spot on 2nd ave and 8th street – such a good find if you can find it!) before checking out some rare peace and greenery in Manhattan at the Highline. On the flip side of NY kindness, when we rocked up to the Standard Hotel for a rooftop tipple, we were rudely turned away (despite our reservations) and told to sit in the snazzy bar a floor below. Thankfully there was a four piece swingtime jazz band bopping away to welcome us! We met up with another mate and checked out the Jane Hotel, a slightly more disco version of The Bowery, before finding our way to a hooka joint. Today’s source of gratitude: STAMINA, BABY!
Wednesday, July 17th
Nat’s last day in the citay 😦 We decided to make it a food tour day and set straight out for the best bagels in Brooklyn at The Bagel Hole. An everything bagel and veggie cream cheese, does it every time! Two blocks up the road and we took a stroll through Prospect Park on our way up to catch a Q train to Chinatown (for a taro puff, of course!) and Little Italy – home of hardcore espresso and delectable tiramisu. Apparently, the Italian American Museum is open by appointment only on weekdays, but we made the most of our steamy – and very brief – stroll through the ‘hood. Next up: the East Village for some BIG GAY ICE CREAM! Honestly, I was more impressed with the unicorns and She-ra decorations, but the Salty Pimp (a dulce de lece vanilla ice cream cone, dipped in chocolate and rolled in pretzels) was no doubt delightful. Overpriced. But delightful.
No trip to NYC would be complete without a romp through hipsterville, the infamous Williamsburg. It’s home to the Mast Brother’s Chocolate shop, a gaggle of places to eat drink and be merry, and a center dedicated to “learning through making,” 3rd Ward. We dined on the best dumplings ever to cross my palate, the spicy won tons (in heavenly peanut sauce) at Shanghai Bistro and Garden. Seriously, they’re on another level.
What was I thankful for that day? The company of a dear friend. I might have blogged about that one before. But I changed the wording around a little bit this time. Friends deserve multiple blogs 🙂
Tuesday, my first real day back in Paris. My yoga bro spent most of the day at work, and I took the opportunity to lay back and do absolutely nothing. Oh, sweet nothing. There’s nothing better than doing nothing when you’ve been traveling for two weeks, it’s hotter than the devil’s armpit outside and your prana levels are looking just about as flush as the euros in your wallet. On occasion, I’ll feel a twinge of guilt for doing nothing, as though my entire existence should be dictated by productivity assessments. But that’s just the Puritan work ethic creeping up on me! No, doing nothing is quite alright. Even on holiday, in one of the most fabulous cities in the world – sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. And in this case, it was nothing. 🙂
By the time Wednesday rolled around, I’d found the time to come back to my asana/pranayam/meditation groove, so I felt rejuvenated enough to do a little more exploring. I didn’t have to wander far until I ran into an adorable Thai Massage joint recommended to me by my local friend. 30 minutes of Thai Massage and all that travel was nothing but a feint memory . . . it took me back to my days in massage training in Chiang Mai. It might be time to finish up my level two training soon!
(A random video of Thai Massage techniques, in case you’ve not experienced it before. It’s such a perfect compliment to an asana practice – your flexibility will definitely be enhanced with regular Thai Massage!)
Wednesday rolled on through the Pompidou, crepe tastings, Notre Dame, a jazz band, and to top it all off, Ethiopian food at Abyssinia Restaurant! The portions could have been more generous, but the flavors were out of this world.
Thursday we set off for New York via the Charles de Gaulle airport. I may have been through quite a few airports in my life, sure. The Honolulu airport is adorable and mostly outdoors, palm trees lining the walkways, the smell of flowers in the air. I love the Tokyo airport for all the spas and restaurants and pod hotels. But the airport in Paris is so mindfully designed, it has to take the cake. All the inside walls are lined in wood, giving the ambiance a grounded yet spacious feel. Sunlight pours in at every design opportunity, the perfect natural mood enhancer. From the outside, the airport looks like some kind of 60’s vision of a futuristic spacecraft. Fo’ realzies, one of the best flying facilities I’ve seen so far.
Taking in the life’s work of a true artist is impossible to do in a day, but I certainly appreciated the opportunity to do so in Nice! Henri Matisse is one of France’s most prolific visual artists, working in most mediums on the spectrum, including clothing, oil painting and sculpture.
You know a hardcore artist by the range of their creations, how their styles and materials evolve along with them, throughout their lives, not just as products, but as manifestations of a calling within. It’s rare, and deeply personal, so of course, I felt honored to be checking out so many of Matisse’s works in one place. About halfway through the visit, I noticed how jazz music and visits to China and Tahiti were so influential in the development of his expression – I was delighted.
It’s interesting how we experience art – so many nuances come into play, from historical context to color harmony, from the actual size of the object to political messages interwoven into the piece. Today I realized if I’m able to feel connected to the artist in some way, through a shared love for a kind of music, for example, it enhances my appreciation, it allows for more experience. Sharing art with a good friend is also such a special phenomenon, hearing their thoughts, discoveries and ponderings.
If you’re in Nice, the Musee Matisse de Nice is a must-see spot, and tickets will also grant you entrance to six other museums in the city. Get there early to avoid the crowds and be warned: no pictures. Or the skulking security guards just might sneak up from behind and admonish you in an unnecessarily loud manner!
Like so many projects not meant to be, this one started out with a healthy serving of gusto, and ended on an unexpected note. I’d just finished teaching in the arm pit of the Middle East, and I couldn’t wait to start out on my year backpacking – off to see friends and family and continue my yoga studies without distraction. I took photos and wrote articles in California, Hawaii, Nebraska, Chicago, Baltimore, New York, Ireland, London, and all over India.
And then it hit me – bam! India’s new school inflation. There goes my travel mula.
So I didn’t technically make it all the way around the world (at least not in this mini-rotation ;)), but fulfilling the “schtick” isn’t what matters, right? It’s all about what you learn along the way. It’s about how deeply and sincerely you love. It’s about broadening your capacity to share. It was also about eating a whole lot of idly. Mmmm….idly.
Here’s a small sampling of the contemplation that went down along the way, originally published on Yoga Lovin’ in 2011.
Around the World in 30 Asanas: Garudasana . . .
. . . in Honolulu, Hawaii!
Ranked at #13 in Monocle’s annual Most Liveable Cities list of 2011 – and the top choice of only two American cities that made the cut (the other is Portland, Oregon, another green-friendly underrated slice of paradise). This probably comes as no surprise – Honolulu’s known for its beach-side (and mountain-side!) views, fresh international food choices, and happy friendly people.
It’s also stop number 3 on Around the World in 30 Asanas!
My family on my Mom’s side are all from Hawaii and I was born and raised between Ewa Beach and Honolulu. Ewa Beach is where I formed my earliest memories, but Honolulu is where I had my first kiss and won my first debate. It’s also where my Mom and I lived in tiny wee apartments throughout the high school years. Oh, Mama.
Hawaii always unearths themes of family for me, and in the legend of Garuda, we see the ultimate in a child’s dedication to their mother.
After losing a bet with two evil snakes, Garuda’s mother was taken prisoner as a slave in an underground urban hell. To save his mother, Garuda promised to deliver a cup of amrita, the nectar of life, to the evil snake captors. This would require three incredible obstacles: flying through a ring of fire (he put it out with river water), a circular spiked door (shrank himself and avoided even a scrape), and defeating two venomous snakes (blinded them with a wingy dust storm before pecking ‘em to death!).
Garuda used his divine powers in each of the obstacles and found himself victorious – winning the freedom of his mother.
This story is particularly meaningful in my personal life right now.
When things get all twisted up, we often move into ourselves, either to retreat from the stress of it, or to look for answers. And like Garuda, the only way to be victorious is to dig deep until you unearth your divine nature (mortal translation: problem solve before you get burned, don’t let pride keep you from appearing smaller than you are in the right situation, and learn some booty-whooping moves. They may come in handy!).
Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and come into a half-squat. Cross one leg over the other, twisting your legs as much as you can, squeezing from the inner thighs, wrapping your foot as far behind the opposite calf as possible. Then hook one elbow under the other and twist your arms around one another until your palms touch (or come close to it!).
Tuck the belly, sink a little deeper, square the hips, and reach the arms as high up without compromising the twist as possible. Alternatively, you may sink the arms lower and lower until, eventually, you’re peeking just over the tops of your fingertips.
(Arms are crossed opposite to the normal way this pose is taught.)
Strengthens and stretches the ankles and calves
Stretches the thighs, hips, shoulders, and upper back
Improves sense of balance
(Just be careful if you have a hip or knee injury – whether it’s current or a haunt from the past.)