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Utkatasana - Chair or Fierce PoseAfter at least five years of hearing the call to teach yoga, five years of making excuses and allowing other things to cull my time, five years of resisting what I craved, I started yoga teacher training with Shiva Rea at Exhale in Venice, CA.  Saying I chose to make this the time to engage this stage of growth would be to snare unlawful credit to myself – the Universe gave me an almighty push.  After being laid off and debating my next steps, Shiva’s impending training modules came before me…and I leapt.  I made the financial implications matter very little in comparison to the creativity and energy that choice brought to me – even before the first class began.  The credit card is rather unhappy, but it cannot account for the waves of joy and excitement that proffer fuel to this process.

The surge of energy within this very beginning stage of engaging with these guides and myself has been truly remarkable.  More responses and reflections to follow as I plummet with a massive grin flapping comically in the wind…

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LA Zoo May '09 (37)

My life is besotted with negativity and anti-climatic moments.

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My life is faltering in edification; I am stultifying.

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The ravages of this life weigh heavily upon my mind.

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The heavy mantle of responsibility smothers me.

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Somebody give me a cigarette.

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Just let me sleep, or put me out of my misery.

 

Sounds pretty stupid coming from a kangaroo, right?

How do you think he feels when we say stuff like this?

Take a leap.  Take a bounce.  LA Zoo May '09 (29)Take a cathartic yogi kangaroo squat.

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Today found me breaking out of my home-building isolation (truly, how often can I stare at my assorted pictures and shelving waiting to be hung before I start seeing amorphous blobs of black and varied color?  Blasted feng shui sense that will not allow me to toss art up higgledy-piggledy on the wall!).  I was working with Gay For Good, a group I found in one of those random Facebook meanderings that sometimes lead to intriguing people or sites.  Gay For Good selects a charity or non-profit once a month to assist in their efforts.  The combined force of 50+ gay men and lesbians should never be doubted!

I’ve missed the two events in previous months after finding the group, the one garnering some attention was the Great LA River Clean Up in which 80 volunteers from Gay For Good participated.  This type of volunteer activity was something I always wanted to do in the past, but through odd work hours and exhaustion, I never managed to work it into my life. 

After pursuing my LAPD application with a service mindset as a core impetus, one would think I should naturally gravitate toward volunteer-based efforts.  One would be right in that I am drawn to them, but my inherent shyness and frustrating inability to surmount the barriers of not knowing people have barred me in the past.

I didn’t let it this time.  For July, Gay For Good was going local, helping the West Hollywood Community Housing Project start the clean up of a long-abandoned apartment complex.  The WHCHP recently purchased the buildings that they will convert into accessible and affordable housing for seniors, differently abled, and those with HIV/AIDS as soon as more funding clears.  It truly is local for me, as the buildings reside about two minutes up my street.  I walk by them on my way to the Internet cafe.  How could I not volunteer?

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I showed up (late – so shoot me, I have to live up to the occasional gay stereotype), looked helplessly around, thought about retreating in defeat, haltingly asked where I could help, grabbed gloves, and with gravity and apology set about yanking and shearing entrenched ivy out of some seriously shaky brick planters clinging hesitantly to the front of the buildings.1234 N. Hayworth Gay 4 Good Volunteer Project 7-18-09  After the detritus was cleared, lots of sage and banana palms and the orange flower in the photo were given new homes in the barren front yard, and then we wheel-barrowed mulch in to spread over the lot of it.  It sounds like drastically lighter work than it really was – there were probably about fifty of us helping out (and so many beautifully formed shirtless men than I likely could have watered the new plants from my drool alone, not to mention the sweat from all the labor) and we worked for two and a half hours straight. 

Granted, this work was entirely cosmetic, but the effect was dramatic: every time I passed this building previously, it exuded a slightly menacing vibe from its dilapidated frontage.  I wondered if that vibe would prevent us from really making a difference, but what I found as ivy gave way to mulch and five year-old decomposing wood and rusting cans met the garbage truck was that this building was only shielding itself.  Its apartments are remarkably well kept for being unused for more than four years; beautiful hardwood floors in amazing condition greeted me as I peeked into one unit.  There is a proud demeanor that came through once the front yard was looking more presentable.  Members of the WHCHP who were present expressed their feeling that this is a beautiful start giving them hope for the buildings’ eventual rejuvenation.  I think the sage was in particular agreement.

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My inner turmoil eased considerably as friendly greetings were exchanged and one woman and I explored the insect jungle living amongst the ivy, discovering a pinkie-sized centipede replete with fuzzy covering and speedy maneuvering.  The ivy really did not want to give up its home, causing me grief as I tore and cut its roots, hence I’ll end with a photographic tribute in remembrance.

1234 N. Hayworth Gay 4 Good Volunteer Project 7-18-09

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Tar sticking to my feet; I walk past a slowly drifting woolly mammoth, unheedful to the frenetic jaunt of her street.  I pay little mind as well.

Wilshire blazes with the finances and grabbing-at-straws and exhaust shimmering of many.  I give her my breath and a slow lurch from side to side, celebrating slowness with a long-expired mammalian cousin.

From my perch on a railing, I see boxes of earth questioning their contents.  Unearthed when LACMA needed space to park, the earth only knows what the boxes keep; no dearth of tarred content, just waiting to birth new additions to the sibling pool of tar.  Boxes of fairly broad girth awaiting the investigation as to their worth, these containers protect earth and the remains of millennia I never got a chance to visit and someone’s Cheetos bag.

Swelling cacophony of light from 202 lampposts clustered soldierly becomes my playground of frenetic dance and irreverent appreciation.  Sister streetlights sigh that they are not as much a part of my spontaneous and modern interpretation of lighting up the night sky and must settle for my perambulatory passing and perhaps a swing around a lucky one as they are still tasked with their original purpose, not given second life to do art.  I’d promise them artistic grace, but I’m bad at keeping promises, so won’t.

Staring up the cliff facade of the erected canyon, reverberated car passing waves of sound strike me from two directions.  A highly anticipatory driver adds discordant honks that remind me of watching medical dramas when they use bone-cracking devices.  A bus partakes of the bass line, superseding a diesel truck’s bellowing, and a bicyclist whizzing by adds a touch of the postmodern aural.

On the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax the nervous and bored settlings and shiftings of those waiting for the appropriate bus make a noise akin to wind, if wind were impatient to be elsewhere quickly, and, since it often is, these waiting mass transit goers can only pretend to be the wind in its hurried arrival and departure.  Many of them look like they desire a transmogrification to wind, especially the one who adds a loud and protracted sigh.

I play the whole symphonic dialogue in reverse, walking away from the soughing people, through the canyon of car sound, swing around a lamppost, tarry to watch the stationary boxes of earth, listen intently for the drift of forever-sinking woolly mammoth, and make squelching noises with my feet.  This last motion does it: I feel profoundly glad, secretly look around to see if the audience has stood to applaud, and finding no one has done so, gather my courage and bow solely to Wilshire.

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This weekend was LA’s Gay Pride celebration.  Parade and festival shenanigans coupled with a panoply of people and costumes.  The regalia of revLA Gay Pride '09 6-14-09 (21)elry and respect and remembrance and revolt all met on Santa Monica Boulevard Sunday at 11 am for the parade from Crescent Heights to Doheny.  Creations simple and spontaneous walked next to the elaborate and resplendent; the stunningly beautiful paraded next to the garishly grotesque.  Presenting unified diversity, the parade brought a slight bit of leakage to my eyes as I watched scores of people walking in support of the identity to which I subscribe.  Gay-Straight alliances from high schools all over LA, PFLAG parents and grandparents, gay parents and their kids, legal defenders, politicians, peace officers, erotic dancers, baristas, cleaning specialists, retirees, activists of many hues – all marched in celebration.

As joyous and spirit-lifting as the parade is, it is also an excuse to ogle hot men.  If Gay PriLA Gay Pride '09 6-14-09 (74)de is good for one other thing besides camaraderie and community building, it is pulling together gorgeous people.  The wandering eye is beset on all sides by flexing muscles and pretty faces, so much so that the hotness meter overloads frequently, and often I had to stare at the pavement to reset my retinal reception. 

In attempting to reset, I discovered that it often failed to work.  One hard body blended with the next; this pretty face blurred indistinguishably from the following.  In gay publications I frequently come across laments that cloning is overtaking the diversity of gay identity; the ripped and toned ideals are eliding variance and instilling slavish attention to the gay body quest for perfection.  Within these articles cloning begets stagnation, oversimplification, suppression of difference, dissolution of ingenuity, and a complete subjugation to body image marketing.  And yet muscles are hot.

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Alongside the chiseled and sculpted forms lay a lesser celebrated display of persona.  My attention was called to hone in on the presence of a distinct subset of revelers by a companion of mine whose perjorative and demeaning reactions highlighted for me not only the narrow-minLA Gay Pride '09 6-14-09 (22)ded aesthetics of physique and style we subscribe to as a gay culture, but also my LA Gay Pride '09 6-14-09 (30)

personal reactions and the lines of normalized gay personas that instigate themselves as assumed “normals.”

I would like to think that my beatific and accepting mindset carries through no matter whom I see.  That would be lying to myself.  There were several people who struck me as weird, extreme, goofy, or obscene; maybe what saves me from being a total mental bigot is that I stopped and looked at those first reactions.  Why did I think that was a ridiculous costume?  Why was that a bit revolting?  What was that bringing up in my own psyche that it caused a reaction?  Also, unlike the person accompanying our group, I did not voice every negative reaction I felt.  The momentary pondering also brought out a second look that often found something entirely wonderful that I overlooked firstly.

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And whereas my mind eventually started glazing over with every successive bulging bicep and pectoral, these stand out personas caused moments of excitement and experience.  Whilst I may not have found the persona appealing, would not have been brave enough to don the outfit myself (or allow that much latex to cover so much of my body), I was led to an appreciation of the courage and freedom that these personas allowed their wearer to experience and express.  A tight tee or tank highlights the striations and ridges of arms and abdominals, but a persona highlights the moxie and verve it takes to wear it.

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Getty Center

The Getty Center, nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains, overlooking expansive LA, is one of the most endowed museums in the world.  It shows.  The Getty Center is a work of modern architectural beauty from architect Richard Meier.  Travertine adorns almost every inch of the grounds not covered by foliage, and, upon careful observation, fossil impressions are found in many of these stone tiles.  Offering contrast to the square-cut stone are rambling paths following waterways and lawns and gardens.  Perambulating amongst the artful sweeps of stone and plant, water and glass, one might think the price of admission would be lofty, however, admission is free; one only need pay to park unless utilizing public transit.  A visitor to the Getty Center might not set foot inside the galleries, and yet be present to a work of art.

To see more photos of the Getty grounds and some of the many outdoor sculptures that adorn it, please visit my Facebook album.

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Urban Light by Chris Burden

Beckoning car-bound and pedestrian travelers along Wilshire Boulevard’s Museum Row, Chris Burden’s 2008 installation Urban Light at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has become an iconic image for the museum.  It has inspired the creation of a print-on-demand book of visitor photos, viewable on the installation’s website which also includes fan videos, and its own Facebook page.  Comprised of 202 reclaimed and relumed lampposts from LA and surrounding cities, the installation is an interactive playground for visitors during the day, encouraging spontaneous dance routines and photo ops.  At night the orbs effulge, casting waves of light that radiate upon the faces stopped by the intensity of this glowing work of art, illuminating so fiercely against the dark that the light broadcasts a nearly physical presence.

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