Monday, May 17, 2010

falling face first into the new age movement

I'm back in LA after being here and there for a few weeks. It was nice to be away. It's been nice being back. I'm not really moved either way. Last week we drove up to Big Sur to see Yo LA Tengo at The Henry Miller Library. Nothing is ever bad in that magical little spot off the 1. The show itself was a little slow and low for my liking, and most of the golden oldies that I happened to be in the proper psychological mindset to enjoy were confounded by the addition of an avant garde horn player from San Francisco who honked his way across some of my favorite musical memories. Alas.
I segued my visit into a week-long stay in Big Sur as the fulfillment of a belated birthday present from my dad. I ended up staying out at Esalen which (if you'll excuse my brief, and unqualified history) is a former Indian (Essalen Indian) holy site because of it's natural, hot mineral springs. White man came and built hot tubs, and then Aldous Huxley taught us about human potential, Hunter S. Thompson worked the night gate and everyone made sweet sweet free love (mostly in aforementioned hot tubs) until the bitter end of the 1960s. These days Esalen is a bit of a new age paradise with lots of workshops centered around art and creativity, a meditation center, a working farm which provides the food for each meal, and an outstanding view of The Pacific.

On the way down through Big Sur I ran into an old friend of mine who had been playing a show with his band somewhere between SF and LA. He's a bit of a psychedelic warrior and totem of good times, so I took our chance encounter to be a good omen. I won't give it away, but his first name is "Farmer."
So, I checked into my room, and sank into my surroundings. I was there for a photography workshop with a heavy-handed dose of zen meditation.

All of these things, from the names of various yogi, to the identification of particular sprouts, to the homeopathic remedy for priapism are pretty unfamiliar to me, in fact, as you can tell, I frequently mock certain new-agey exploits with such vigor that it wears me out sometimes. It was a tough, hacky-sack strewn line to cross, but it ended up being a really remarkable experience. And why the hell not, it was the most amazing place on Earth after all.

The classes themselves turned out to be pretty rigorous. Six hours per day of class time, plus added exercises and assignments in the down time kept me pretty occupied, though I found just the right balance between "work" and sitting on the rocky beach or lying in the hot tubs for hours and hours each night.

I met some really great folks, and learned a thing or two (I think). It was quite a place, and quite an experience.

I left feeling bittersweet and sunburned and drove the six and a half hours back down to LA with just a few minutes to spare before my old pal Steve's new band went on at The Echo. They were great and amazing and all of those things that happen when your friend's band plays a really good show, and they're a little drunk and bubbly and climbing back into their van to drive to the next show and it's all good times. Go see Hurricane Bells because its the right thing to do.

The next day I was right back into the swing of work and traffic and stress and nonsense with a tacky fashion show in Orange County (or 'behind the orange curtain' as I've been told). It was the antithesis of a drunk and bubbly night in Echo Park with friends. More like a hot day in the parking lot behind an art school, but bar a few power outages and a little sunburn it all worked out well in the end.

Saturday we pulled double duty and stopped by a friend's annual 'spring fling' which occurs, without remorse, well after the start of Spring. It was nearby to our house, in fact just over the mountain, and featured lots of long hair and beards, several live bands and one very large margarita.

Then we tore over to The Hollywood Forever Cemetery just in time to catch the start of The Wizard of Oz projected onto a big, white wall. It was the first of many movies of the season, and it's just what you do in the summer in LA. I paid my respects at the grave of Johnny Ramone on the way out, and called it a night. I am now back in the swing of things.