Archive for October, 2007

War on Iran

October 31, 2007

I am no more of a student of international politics than anyone else, and cannot fathom this administration’s logic in its realpolitik, but can no one stop this headlong rush into a criminal and stupid strike on the good people of Iran?  Are we such sheep that we will believe and acquiesce to whatever they say and whatever they do?  Have we learned nothing about their ability to lie?  Has Congress lost all reason and restraint with its cojones?


Whether 9/11 was created (those buildings, struck asymmetrically, went down as neat as a stack of pancakes) or merely manipulated by these people, it is the greatest threat to this democracy yet perpetrated, right up there with the Civil War.  If this does not rise to high crimes and misdemeanors, I don’t know what does.  But we sleep on, lulled by the Prozac of our propped up affluence and the Britney Spears / American Idol circuses.

It’s all so predictable – Rome, again.  ‘Islamo-fascism’ – the red flag the Republicans have apparently chosen to wave in front of the populace for this election – makes no distinction between Arab and Persian.  And no distinction between a sophisticated society like Iran – temporarily (for reasons of our interference in installing the Shah) ruled by sharia, but fundamentally committed, like Turkey, to being a Western-oriented society – and an old despotic potentate like Saudi Arabia, our supposed ally.

We have alienated them all.  When will it stop?  We must stand up and stop the next step, a strike on Iran.  What will it serve?  They are years away from a bomb, and will trade it away for civilian nuclear power.

This madness, whether a Bush Christian obsession or a Cheney Machiavellian bid for New American Century hegemony, must be stopped before we are over the brink.


Il Maestro

October 31, 2007

In the early 80’s, I had the opportunity to open a traveling practice in Rome.  To kick it off, my contact set up a talk at the Centro Macrobiotico, one of the few New Age-y places in Rome at the time.  As I passed through the restaurant on the way to the lecture room, there was a large table of people with an older gentleman as the clear center of attention.  He got up and was introduced to me as Il Maestro.  A short, handsome man with Fellini-like horn rimmed glasses, he also had a very obvious wig.  So obvious that one thought, “Oh, look at that old man with a wig!”  If he had left his head bald, you might say, “What a striking looking man.”

Il Maestro, whoever he was, said in English that he was looking forward to my talk, and given that I was nervous about it – one of the first in which I was translated – I politely (I hoped) shined him on and went in to set up.  The talk went well, and I was handed a full schedule for the next few days.

I was busily learning the Italian for ‘Foot up and down’, and ‘Please lie on your back with your knees up.’  I knew, of course, none of the names, so was surprised when Il Maestro showed up for a session.  “I wonder if you can help me …” – but with a thick Italian accent: “Ai wander eefew hcan hyelp me …”

And with that, standing there, he slowly and deliberately put his foot, knee extended, out in front of his collar bone.  Immediately awake and humbled, I allowed as how he was way ahead of me, and I would do what I could.  And help him I did, actually – the first lesson I had that one does not have to be able to do everything the client can in order to help them.  ‘You can’t take a client somewhere you haven’t been yourself’ is a limiting shibboleth we could do without.

Il Maestro had begun his career as a balletomaine, and had met Ida Rolf while on tour in America.  They studied yoga together in Nyack, NY, with Pierre Bernard, the scoundrel saint of Tantric Yoga.  Apparently she worked on him, as he was, he said, waiting for a student of Ida Rolf to make it to Rome.

After his career in ballet, he had become adept at both yoga and Tai Chi, hence his handle Il Maestro.  He had many students in both disciplines, and continued in both despite his advanced age.  His tissue was that of a much younger man.  He was also one of the first people I identified as ‘autosexual’ – in love with himself.  These people – and few they are – are usually nominally gay, as they are looking for someone as close to themselves as they can get.  Often their self-obsession turns out, as in Il Maestro’s case – to serve others.

He wanted me to do the whole ten sessions of Rolfing, so month by month we progressed through, becoming closer as we went.  Once, when I complained about the rickety table I had to use, I caught him as I came back from lunch for his sessions, coming down the street to my office schlepping a large treatment table.  “Il Maestro,” I cried, “You should have taken a taxi.”  He grinned sheepishly – he had carried the table ten blocks just to prove he still could.

When we got to the head session, out came his false teeth for the intra-oral work, no problem, but I knew enough not to ask him to remove that awful wig so I could get at his scalp, and he never offered.  I simply and silently worked around it.  Sometimes, after the neck work, the wig was a little askew.  Although I never mentioned it, I had a look I would give him as we finished, and by the time he emerged from the door on the ground floor, it would be back in place.

He died, I heard, a few years later.  I never took a class from him, but he taught me a lot.

The work of an artist

October 23, 2007

is waiting.

Paul Theroux writes about Graham Greene:

I had the feeling of a kindred spirit, a fellow sufferer, who was completely alone, who had only his work and who, after seventy years, woke up each morning to start afresh, regarding everything he had done as more or less a failure, an inaccurate rendering of his vision, a betrayal.

(This is in an absolute treat of a book called Picture Palace)

Last sail

October 22, 2007

Quan calls it my mistress, I call it my indulgence (especially after looking at this year’s bill), but let other people find their joy where they may, sailing just plain does it for me.  Even though the tool is artificial – at least mine is, frozen spit and aluminum and nylon; nothing natural (wood or canvas) about it – the dance is all animal.

Beset with obligations, Annie and I instead played hookey yesterday, setting off at noon.  We were spit out of the river at 1:30 by the tide and strong west wind, and Annie persuaded me to lay off for Monhegan – along trip for an afternoon.  But the air burnished so clear that each flame-leafed tree is etched on the shore – unusual for such fast-moving air so near the water’s surface to stay so dry – so making a run for something was irresistible.  The waves were high with some cross chop, and she horsed and slewed the nine miles to Monhegan in a mere hour and a half.  Empty now of tourists, we roared through the harbor dead before the wind, seeing almost no one, the boats and wharf uncharacteristically deserted.

We pulled around Manana, and tightened the sails for the trip uphill to home.  We were flat on our side, rail under, climbing and slamming over the rollers, spray flying above us and in our pockets.  Both Annie and I could feel how little sailing we had done this summer, our balance and footing shaky, more than it should be at this time of year.  Also, though it has been warm here, there was a bit of October in this wind, so we were a bit stiff-jointed from the cold and from managing the wheel of the plunging boat.
Halfway across, I saw water coming through the floorboards, and there we were, full of water and bouncing along at 6 knots.  The pumps – the electric and my flying hand on the manual – kept up with it, and it stopped as soon as we rounded Thrumcap and were upright in the river, so it must be a leak up near where the deck meets the hull – something else for Mike to look at this winter.

The tide and the last tongues of wind helped us up the river.  We couldn’t bear to turn on the engine even though it went from civil twilight to nautical twilight, and we landed at the dock under sail in the dark, putting her to bed for the night by feel and the light of the waxing moon.

But this is it.  Today I will pull off the things that can’t freeze, and then take it down to Mike’s to be hauled for the winter. It will be six months before I take the helm again, six months that will take me to Canada, England, Japan, Norway, Germany, as well as all over the States.  But nowhere will I find the country I enter when I leave the land and take to the sea, dancing between wind and water to commune with my God.


October 20, 2007

We’ve been dealing with a lot of death in the rabbitat this year, and Isaac went down this morning.  His belly was large and hard, and Quan debated taking him to Brunswick for an autopsy with a vet, but we decided that this mass was so obvious that surely we could see what it was for ourselves.

I took my gloves and scalpel and set poor Isaac – cold and wet from last night’s rain – on some newspaper.  Quan left me with him, but was soon back to see –  an incurably curious cat.  I put on my dissector’s objectivity and pierced his skin around the navel, splitting it up and down the midline.  His muscles look healthy underneath.  We went through the muscles in into the peritoneum, and this huge tumor the size of a grapefruit – really – red and white, rolled out of his belly.  At first I though it was stomach, then intestine, but further examination proved it to be in the omentum, hanging from the lower edge of the stomach and transverse colon.  The entire digestive system was there – liver, stomach, small intestine, large intestine – intact but shriveled, as so much physiological power must have been going into building this tumor for months or even years.

I was whupped up side of the head, as my father had died of just such a tumor – mesothelioma in the omentum and peritoneum – just five years ago.  Here is was again, under my hand.  Every little mouse in the field, in the miles of woods behind out house, needed to construct a body just as complicated as mine, with all these complex organs, just to live out their feeding and mating in the woods.

I cut into the tumor.  The skin was thick, a centimeter or more, made of many layers of meat, like fascial bacon.  Inside was the strangest white thick ooze, like liquid corn starch or unset plaster.  It should have been pus, but had a different smell.  There was a full cup of this yucch, inside the thickrind grapefruit.
“Pasturella!”, said Quan, relieved, recognizing it from her books.  All rabbits carry this, some succumb.  No one in Quan’s well-fed paradise has done so before, but now it has found us, maybe we should expect more.  It will yield to a regime of penicillin, but we can’t do that for 100 rabbits.

I’ve seen cancers in cadavers, but this was so new, and was nearly as large as the animal it came from – Isaac looked small and defenseless beside it. “We all live so close to that line and so far from satisfaction” – Joni Mitchell.


October 20, 2007

Distress is the state of having a different view of what you think the world should be from what your senses are telling you the world is, and my situation with my neighbour is distressing.  She has upped and given her house not to her daughter but to the son of her boyfriend.  The boyfriend was a sweet old codger, but the son is a skulking little weasel.  He will get the land when she sheds her body and meanwhile he wants to use it for a large fishing pier, though she thinks he is just rebuilding what was once there, a small personal dock.

The neighborhood is objecting the large pier, but he has poisoned her against us all.  She’s an old coot, opinionated and spiteful, but we all love her for her independence and her spunk – she’ll be out there most of the day at 92, chopping at a stump, whittling it down until nothing is left.

She thinks Quan and I are after her land, but we have enough trouble with our own, we just liked having someone elderly in the neighborhood, made it variable and fun.  Quan took extra food down to her, and I carried her wood and shot the shit, gossiping away about current peccadillos and strange events of 50 years ago when she was in her prime and I was but a stripling, cadging her doughnuts.

But I haven’t spoken to her since June, when this thing came up.  Today, though, as I chopped and lopped the bruch to make room for the dock to go on land at the top of the ways for the winter, I saw her flag – raised every day and taken down every night, despite her deafness and macular degeneration – today it had been raised upside down, the universal naval signal for distress.  The flag is torn, and seeing it buckle and furl upside down was so sad.
Should I believe her and see what’s up?  Break the silence? Or leave her without confrontation in her last days?  I think we should all go see her together, and confront this wrong, but we haven’t built up the collective courage yet.


October 20, 2007

Woke this morning as usual at 5 o’clock, and as usual stumbled to the loo to to pee.  What was unusual was the silence, but I didn’t realize until a few light switches and a faucet that hissed like a snake what it was – the electricity was out.  The house, usually alive with machinery, was as a mausoleum.  I worked on my book by battery on the computer until it ran out, and then ran in the early morning mist.

Mid-October, the height of the leaves this year, and it is still balmy, balmy enough for fog.  Around my three-mile run, the houses are all dark, but the sun awakens, blasting the fog up in slow motion, setting the leaves alight – the sun is Agent Orange, the leaves are napalm, the world is at silent war.

No, it’s peace.  Coming back home, we discover from clocks that it’s been off since 12:30, and the freezer is starting to melt.  Fuss with the rigamarole of wires and switches, and the generator chugs into life.  The house breathes again, and all our conveniences are there, but only at the cost of burning gas, disappearing dinosaurs, and carbon footprints slouching toward Bethlehem.

The New York bodyworkers didn’t like it when I warned last weekend of the coming economic storm.  It was sobering in the middle of an otherwise elatory weekend.  We therapists float on the froth of the affluent society – the whole cappuccino will be off the counter when the foecal matter connects with the atmospheric conditioning device.  We’ll be bartering for sessions, as the economic sieve shakes us all down.  Food and energy will cost most of our salary.  The strong will survive?  No, not the strong, but the most adaptable.   How adaptable has our profession made us?

Even the boat needs the shore – the batteries have run down while I was in NY, and the bilge pump can’t run.  I’ve been keeping the boat pumped out by hand, but I have the battery on shore on the battery charger, and after the lights have been back on for an hour or two, I take the battery back out and start the boat, the possession I prize for not using fossil fuel – it has an engine, but I use it little, is in fact connected inevitably to the system grid. We’re all co-dependent.

Expose your asana

October 17, 2007

This weekend, during the whirlwind of classes we did for the Breathing Project, a yoga studio in NY, I came across a postcard for Naked Yoga.  (

Only in New York, perhaps.  I did not consider going – it’s like: I was going to get a tattoo, but then the canvas sagged.  I think naked yoga might be beyond me as an age prospect, but I was interested that the benefit being advertised brings money to ‘sex health and education’ projects, and that the teachers were versed in Tantra.

Quan and I, in our younger hotter years, got a lot out of studying Tantra, and my ideas for Kinesthetic Literacy would definitely include a sex-ed piece.  On Chesil Beach, an amazingly tender but brutally accurate novella by Ian McEwen, points to the striking need.

So hats off (and everything else, I guess) to the Naked Yogis.  It makes a refreshing change form the Puritanism I find in the Vedantists, whose stretchier-then-thou positioning can lead to spiritual materialism (I can do Lord of the Dance better than you-ou).  Or how little do you eat, or how pure.  I am more with the Tantrikas – embrace life! Eat it up, digest it for poetry, shit out the toxicity and search for another appetizing meal to cook.

I doubt that God made such a diverse and tasty world with the intention that we should renounce it.

The website makes clear that this is not puerile or an excuse for hanky-panky – the idea really is that yoga without clothes is a liberating act.

I can’t help it – I wonder who is going to be in front of me, and who behind me when we are doing downward dog.

iPhone again

October 17, 2007

At the risk of harping on the same subject, one of the reasons that the substantially new event of a hand-held computer – currently in my life in the form of an iPhone – is so successful is measured in how many places you can get with just two clicks, two motions.  It opens with two clicks, I can get to the music or mail or the internet with two clicks from wherever it opens, can find any song or any phone number within two clicks – an astonishing range of changes is available within two clicks of anywhere.  I haven’t yet opened a manual, as everything is so intuitive.  And this is just the first one.

October Ocean

October 10, 2007

In these October days, the sun goes white, while the sky darkens, taking the sea with it into a cobalt blue.  Probably the last day I will be able to sail this year, I set off downriver beam reached to a westerly.  “She was sailing herself, from the river to the bay, I could feel the breast of swell beneath my feet …” – this song has been working in my head all summer, but I can’t find the best next lines.
The trees are at their height of fire, so that even the islands were aflame.  By the time I was free of the arms of the river, it had backed around to the southeast, and I shaved the White Islands and skirted around Outer Heron and its ledges.  I said hello to Damariscove, but then climbed up the easterly to Pemaquid to see how Tammy’s house was progressing, then eased across John’s Bay to Crow Island.  I beat my way up the Thread of Life, and then laid off around Pumpkin to reach up the river again to the mooring.  A world to a world in six hours.
It’s all sparkle in the fall, glinting off each wavelet, cat’s paws of wind on the water – the threat of winter and the last sigh of summer all at once.  I am glad I went – today is gloom and drizzle, and I mjust back to work.