Strange in the familiar • 13 November 2008

Full moon ashtangi date: flow class in Venice and lunch next door at “Rawvolution.” Give me a break already: it’s a Wednesday; it’s gorgeous; I’m working from home and the full moon is strong on the tides of the Pacific and my hyperactivity. Also my companion’s been exiled to Florida for months, working the Obama ground game: even winning campaigns leave the rank and file with PTSD (I would know), so she needs all the asana and raw roughage she can get this week.

I walk in to the grand old flagship studio of YogaFranchise. The room is vast and airy, full of sea air and lit with skylights. The front row, with an empty space waiting, is a line of cheating ashtangis, easing their rippling flanks toward the sklights like Amazons before the hunt. Horrible! What the hell are we doing here? We’ll frighten the natives for sure. Alone this would be ok but I’m not the only one in the tribe unstill this fullmoon Wednesday.

Class is fine, taught by someone with his own website stocked with acting stills, a hometown boy bio and many, many, many headshots. Got to make your name in YogaFranchise land like the rest of em, if that’s your game. (When an artist purchased my to sell “energetic portraits” featuring enneagrams and shaman imagery, I guess my own window for yoga namesmaking closed. That website is NOT ME, I swear! I don't do energetic portraits, phrenology or entrail readings. No.)

YogaFranchise is just a business—it works by its own rules and generates its own culture. Fine. But, returning there, I perceive all the strange in the familiar. There’s a churn in the room—a grasping involvement in glamour and wanting-it-ness. Seen from a distance, it’s just the froth of cresting scensterism, but on the inside there is added an eros, anxiety and great expectation in it that jack up the emotion and all-out WANT. People wanting to “make it,” people wanting to have each other as part of that project, people tense to be magazineready.

So normal, right? But also: not normal. The selfhood of demi-celebrity has a special anxiety: it is a shared eros and vanity pulsing in the sticky-sweetness of that old room where decades ago CM first taught ashtanga in this town. For me, there is a sensitivity to the content of the minds of others that I may or may not gather the fortitude to document here: the churn is not my projection but part of the scene as other minds are creating it. Wish I could write it off as the former, but no. 🙂

Susananda has me thinking that demystification of the “false awakenings” is good: the new kind of knowing and the times you can play with your energy are wonderful but also nothing important. No need to rely on stupid magical thinking nor self-flattering elisions to (not) speak of them. No need to leave these things locked inside Himalayas and hierarchies, shrouded in mystery and ice. But moving out of that is scary and I might mess up or attract the usual kali yuga idiocy.

At Rawvolution the woman at the counter, who wandered around confused for a full five minutes before taking our order, exclaimed my name. What? “Remember me from two years ago? Well I’m raw now.” Yes I see. She had lost much of the fleshy contours of the old face and easily 10 sizes. And a little something more than that, like the raw PB&J we ordered (more like wilted apple slices on a delicate layer of particle board, and a good thing we went back to the kitchen to retrieve it because it tasted like pie and gave me a buzz that made mid-day freeway driving a little too fun). My old acquaintance was pretty good at gathering subject, verb and predicate into sentence-size utterances, so she’s doing better than my dear Sarah P. But the trick of corralling a complete thought—something she did so adroitly and with critical wit in 2006—has dissolved with her adipose tissue. Scary. I came home and ate oatmeal before I got back to writing. Sorry to say, but while the lightly machinating Venice angels may hate or fear the complex bulk-bin carb, it’s what keeps my world immanent and rational mind online. Immanence and rationality—strangers in Venice's good old sun-drenched familiar. I would have gotten lost if I had not regained them in a yoga that’s more pathway than roughage churn.