Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Drinking the Kool Aid

So since we met last, I took a bus upstate, joined a cult, was subsequently kidnapped and deprogrammed, and live to tell the sordid tale of my misadventures in mysticism!

The Ananda Ashram in Monroe, New York is part yoga retreat, part repository for the epiphanic middle aged who have checked out of life. Or maybe they have entered into the most authentic life of all? Oh fuck me, here we go again... This gorgeous antiquey farm house set on acres of bucolic woods and meadows was founded by the Yoga Society of New York in 1958 by a vaguely menacing, bearded fellow referred to extensively and early as "the guru." His picture is everywhere, and yeah it's creepy, but you get lulled into security by the Sanskrit chanting and steady diet of vegan food and sedatives.

You guys, I had such a great time! "Well obviously," you sneer, "Everyone just has a fabulous time when they run away and join cults." I hear your imperious judgements, my new culty talents include mind reading and levitating. But just check out all the awesome stuff I did:

I slept in a monastic bed.

I got good advice.

I had a picnic.

I met the Unabomber.

I saw a deer family, and had a great idea: I will open an overnight youth hostel for deer when it rains. I don't think nice animals like deer should have to endure torrential downpour, and I don't even much care for animals.

... and I did yoga, and got Ayurvedic massage (no happy endings in this cult, sadly), saw a baby bear eating out of a dumpster, was vegan for the weekend and then promptly ate a cheeseburger with a bottle of red upon my return, as per my deprogramming. But what did I learn this weekend? That like Walt Whitman, "I contain multitudes!" And so do you, you judgy know- it- all, so go! Get thee to an ashram!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Woody Allen and the Incomprehensible

At the end of Manhattan, Woody Allen's character Isaac Davis deliberates over that eternal question that ping pongs through our minds in the mute moments of the day, waiting in Trader Joe's infinite line, or being molested on the subway:

"Well, all right, why is life worth living? That's a very good question. Well, there are certain things I guess that make it worthwhile. Uh, like what? Okay. Um, for me... oh, I would say... what, Groucho Marx, to name one thing... and Willie Mays, and... the second movement of the Jupiter Symphony, and... Louie Armstrong's recording of 'Potatohead Blues'... Swedish movies, naturally... 'Sentimental Education' by Flaubert... Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra... those incredible apples and pears by Cezanne... the crabs at Sam Wo's... Tracy's face..."

Two items on "Not Offing Myself Today" list are (after baby goat faces and my popcorn/ M and M movie combo) are Terry Gross and Woody Allen. And imagine my delight when these two iconoclasts of urban intelligentsia and human behavior intersected in lively conversation on public radio. Yesterday, Terry interviewed Woody about his upcoming film Whatever Works, and you have to have to have to listen to it, philistines:


OMG, you guys, I am freaking out it's so good, and have listened to it twice. TWICE! Now I know some of you won't listen to it because you have trouble taking directions, adult ADHD, compulsive masturbation rituals to attend to, whatever. But the most tortuous and oddly gratifying part of this interview, aside from Terry getting Woody to open up a bit about his pervy May- December- Asian- quasi- incestuous romantic inclinations, is that our bespectacled, neurotic hero reveals himself to be not that at all! Not even close! We have been wrong about Mr. Allen all this time. And he knows how wrong, how very, very wrong we have been, sitting on our judgy armchairs atop telephone books. Allen on his image:

"When I first started as a comic in Greenwich Village, people thought that I was, at that time, some kind of a little beatnik and someone who, you know, was a kind of mousy intellectual, and you know, none of these things were ever true. You know, I never lived in the Village. I always lived in a very nice neighborhood uptown in Manhattan.

I was never intellectual. I was never interested in intellectual things. You know, when I explain to people I’m the guy that you see in his T-shirt with a beer watching the baseball game at night at home on television, they find that hard to square with the characters that I played in the movies. But in the movies, I’m just acting.

So it doesn’t bother me, but it is something that I’ve tried to be honest about over the years and explain to people, but they don’t feel comfortable hearing it. They listen to it, and either they don’t believe me when I say it, or they don’t want to believe me because it diminishes their enjoyment, or it’s important that they have some kind of image of me that’s meaningful to them for some reason. I don’t know why. But I’ve never been – you know, I was always a very athletic little boy, always, you know, never a loner or a loser, always the first one picked on any team."

GROSS: You were the first one picked on any team?

Mr. ALLEN: Always.

GROSS: See, I wouldn’t have believed that.

Me neither, Terry, no one in their right mind would! And he then goes on to say how he flunked out of NYU because he couldn't "get the marks," which thrills me to no end, because their numbnuts admissions officers rejected me, fuckers, and their dismissal of young Allen Konigsberg just reinforces how shortsighted an institution can be. Take that! Who's laughing now, assholes?!

Okay, enough megalomania, but this interview has thrown me into a crisis of belief and perception, a perverse inversion, a kindred agoraphobic misanthropic spirit who also goes on first dates that "are as much fun as the Nuremberg Trials (Hannah and Her Sisters)." Lies! Bloody lies, orActing! Does the fact that real life Allen is not Alvy Singer make him somehow less our hearthside companion? I cannot square these two ideas and I think my pea brain might explode. Taking things uncritically at face value is a skill I have been honing over the years, and I do not appreciate this insult to my superficiality, This is like when you first find out that Santa doesn't exist (my mom finally broke the news to me last Christmas, goddammit) or like learning about infinity, I just can't wrap my feeble mind around it. Et tu, Woody? Listen to the interview and tell me what you dudes think. I'll still be weeping in the fetal position, missing a friend I never really had...an imaginary friend!

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Ryan Adams once asked [me in my dreams] in a song, "Where do you go when you're lonely? Where do you go when you're blue?" If lonely and blue, I typically "take to my bed" in the Victorian manner, dressing gown, hot water bottle and all, or I cry in public and frighten people. But if the question was instead "Where do you go when it's sunny? Where do you go when it's the lunch hour in the work week?" I would throw myself into his lap and exclaim, "Headquarters, Ryan. HQ!"

Headquarters is the community garden El Sol Brillante on 12th street between Avenues A and B. Please don't stalk me, I already have enough stalkers, albeit paid employees, and they are putting a major strain on my resources.

Anyway, this is truly a magical place, a whimsical oasis amidst urban post apocalyptic wasteland.
There are cheerful gardeners who barbeque daily, and the other day when they were weed whacking and shit was flying into my lunch, they even stopped instead of doing it more. People are always throwing shit into my lunch!

Here's the local wino, he lends a touch of folksy authenticity to HQ.

And here's the baby bird I adopted. He fell out of his nest with a broken wing, but has recovered capitally under my care.

Sometimes I put on a show for the homeless who gather about, outside the garden's gate of course. Why? Because I'm fabulous and cannot be stopped.

Then just a spin in the hammock and it's back to work! Herding cats can really take it out of you, but when there's HQ, no task is insurmountable.