Rocking out with Michael Franti & His Spearhead Band at the Idyllic Mountain Winery Amphitheater

“You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can’t bomb it into peace.” —Michael Franti, singer song-writer

At the tail end of their "Love out Loud Tour" the band combines hip hop with an eclectic blend of funk, reggae, jazz, folk and rock. Franti's lyrics are filled with an enduring inspirational message about "getting through the rough times while never losing your enthusiasm for life."

Two songs into the concert, it becomes obvious that his brand of music is all about spreading the message of peace, love and community to millions of his fans. He has been described as an American rapper, musician, poet, singer-songwriter and spoken word artist.

The 6 foot six, 51 year old gentle giant who was born in Oakland, Calif. tells stories about love, injustice, isolation in social media, sexuality, gender equality, homophobia, and the environment. He sees his musical lyrics as a unifying force that can help people engage in a conversation about a "new way of being" in a challenging world. As an advocate for peace in the Middle East, his film: I know I’m Not Alone came out of his frustration of hearing generals, politicians and pundits talking abbout the economic cost of war without ever addressing the human cost.

He shared with his audience about his vision of what love and respect for cultural diversity is. He told us he likes to keep and open ear to people who have different political perspectives, come from different faiths and have different ways of living. 

Franti comes from a family of "dreamers." His biological mother Mary Lofy was German and Belgian and his birth father's genealogy is African-American and Nottaway Indian. Lofy put Franti up for adoption because she was afraid her racist family wouldn’t accept him. He was adopted by the Franti family, second generation Finnish immigrants. He credits the school teacher mom who adopted him with instilling the empathetic values that have become part of his musical message. He was taught to find ways to serve the greated good and be good to other people.

He tries to inform not only through music, but film, business and philanthropy. Franti’s organization, Do it For The Love, serves 1,000 families, providing children, adults, and veterans with serious medical ailments or special needs the opportunity to attend live concerts by any artist who performs in North America.

During the performance he paid tribute to his mother and wife who were in the audience. He moved effortlessly throughout the amphitheater, engaging people, singing and dancing with them, hugging them and even inviting young children on the stage to sing with him.

Franti credits a priest he met while attending the Universtiy of San Francisco, with teaching him how to tell a story. Before long he was writing poetry. He purchased a bass at a local pawn shop and began experimented playing music inspired by hip hop, punk and reggae that was being played on the college campus radio station, KUSF.

As to why he goes barefoot: He started playing music on the streets in countries where people couldn’t afford shoes. Every now and then he would take his shoes off and try to play soccer with the kids. As a personal challenge in 2000, he decided to try to go about his business barefoot for three days. 3 days turned into a week, then a month and he has been going barefoot ever since.

The Heirloom Tomato Harvest Festival Breaks a Guinness World Record in Los Gatos, CA

“Knowledge is knowing a Tomato is a fruit and wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.” —Miles Kington

On Sunday, my wife Cecile and I attended the much anticipated first-ever Heirloom Tomato Harvest Festival Celebration in the downtown square of Los Gatos. A few things immediately caught our attention. The Blue Grass Band, Dirty Cello with cross over Cellist Rebecca Roudman got the jubilant crowd’s feet stomping and heart pumping (photo). The colorful three tiered display of 241 types of tomatoes were so stunning they could have passed for works of art at a museum (photo). 
Our good friend and former mayor of Monte Sereno, Mark Brodsky volunteered to set up the most ripe varieties of tomatoes before the start of the event (photo) for the judge to review. Christina Conlon, 32, an American born judge represented the British-owned Guinness World Records organization stationed in Philadelphia (photo). She was wearing a navy blue blazer, gray slacks and button-down white dress shirt, reminiscent of the colors of my school uniform at St. Michael’s High School I attended in New Jersey. Then there was the ever colorful and cheerful president of the World Tomato Society, Helen Pastorino (photo) who said she never dreamed that this event would get such a wonderful turnout and support from the community. There was a volunteer ice cream server giving out free sample sized cups of Tomato Saffron ice cream from his refrigerated cart prepared by Treatbot Ice Cream in San Jose that Helen encouraged us to try. It was surprisingly tasty. Even the cute and cuddly one month old tiny chihuahua named Peanut, wrapped in a pink blanket next it’s doting owner liked it (photo). The adorable pup licked my fingers clean of dried ice cream drippings when I went over to say hello to him. 

But, as cute and cuddly as Peanut was, it was Conlon, the judge from Guinness who had garnered much of the attention. After a careful count of these prized jewel-like tomatoes, the former bankruptcy attorney determined that a new world record for the most variety of tomatoes had been set at 241, right here in our beloved village of Los Gatos, CA, handily beating the previous record of 135 set in 2015 in New York’s Time Square.

While thinking about the fun time we had at the Heirloom Tomato Harvest Festival yesterday afternoon, our doorbell rang. It was our next door neighbor Howard Green who generously offered us several pounds of fresh tomatoes from the community garden at Rinconada Hills that many residents participate in. He had no idea that there was a tomato fest in town. For us the joyful coincidence didn’t go unnoticed. The fresh tomato aroma was “to die for,” as Cecile would say. We happened to have two fresh packages of linguini in the fridge and Cecile decided to make a homemade sauce from an inspired recipe from my late Zia (aunt) Cettina from Sicily. Thanks to Howard, my late aunt and Cecile, it was Heavenly Pasta Night at the Augustine's home.

Postscript:
When I was a kid my now, 100 year old dad would ask: “Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?” I was used to him quizzing me on trivia questions. “A vegetable, of course, dad,” I answered. “No, it’s a fruit,” he would say. At the time I had neither the interest nor curiosity to verify if what he said was true. It was many years later that I discovered it was a fruit. Science Bob says the way to know is to inquire if it has seeds. “If the answer is yes,” he said, “then technically, (botanically) you have a fruit.” Dad was right—again

Just Got My New Sondors Fold X Electric Bike—a Joy and Adrenaline Rush

"Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride."
—John F. Kennedy."

It’s beginning to feel like Christmas and Hannukah combined. I just got my new Sondors electric bike. It was defintely worth the 3 1/2 month wait. Our friends James (Jimi) and Jennifer Hunter, just back from an Alaska cruise offered to be my “assembly team.” Though Jimi used to race bikes back in the day, he would be the first to admit that, Jennifer was the brains behind the operation. She proved to be more mechanically adept than either one of us, and took the lead assembling it. That said, it was Jimi that got me hooked on electric bikes. We covered many a mile navigating the foothills of Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Saratoga as well as the backroads of Napa Valley in the last several months.

Storm Sondors, the creative genius behind his brand says, “Global electric bike sales are projected to increase by about $10 billion over the next 10 years.” His company has sold 20,000 bikes and shipping to customers in faraway places like India, Australia, and New Zealand. 

Just as no-one ever conceived that phones would become smart hand-held computers and the internet would become a worldwide phenomenon, who ever dreamed we would one day be riding electric assist bikes to work, to the beach, to the health club, your favorite yoga studio, and even your local Apple Store (see photo).

In there new promotion, Sondors Inc., the makers of my new electric FOLD X bike says, “The choice is yours…a new iPhone or a new Sondors. That’s right, a brand new SONDORS can be yours for less than an iPhone.” Plus you get recreation, exhilaration and transportation without those pesky roaming charges.

But why limit oneself to either an iPhone or an electric bike. Why not have both? So, I upgraded my old razor flip phone to an iPhone 7 Plus for my birthday last month and now have a Sondors Fold X which has a 48 V battery, 500W rear hub motor, a driving range of 50 miles using the straight electric or 60-85 miles using the pedal assist. It also has an LCD screen for 5 levels of electric assist, can be folded in half for easier storage in your garage or to put in the back of your trunk or back seat of your car, has a adjustable handlebar height, and but not least a 7-speed Shimano gear cassette with hand grip shifter. The knobby fat tires can tackle any terrain and what an “adrenaline rush.”

I love Storm’s story as much as his bikes. Born in Latvia, he struggled to make friends as a kid. He felt awkward around his classmates and even his parents felt there was something off about him. While in his 20s he was making wooden models for major toy companies in Chicago and then went out on his own. But success didn’t make him any happier. He eventually sold his company and moved to Malibu. The surfer businessman came up with the idea of a more economical electric bike (pricing his first model at $500) when he saw how expensive they were. He was also diagnosed with Asperger’s Disease as an adult. It was a liberating moment and explained a lot of the angst he suffered as a child. He now interacts more comfortably with strangers and engages his customers more regularly when they want to test drive his e-bike creation and has become an inspiration to many who have his form of autism. And, judging by his sales video clips, he has a charming sense of humor to boot.

Photo Credit (Apple Store in Santa Monica, Ron White, LA Times)

A Delicious Lunch at the Bell Tower Cafe—A Former Place of Worship & Still a Peaceful Refuge

"Churches worldwide are being given an afterlife by savvy entrepreneurs who CONVERT them to libraries, restaurants, schools, housing, bars, theaters...."

Cecile and I enjoyed lunch yesterday at our favorite Bell Tower Cafe. We had a Greek Salad and Egg White Persian Omellette consisting of 4 organic egg whites, basil, tomato and feta cheese, with a side of potatoes and toasted wheat bread. We chose this Saratoga bistro not only for its diverse menu and tasty food, but for its outside patio that is tucked away from street traffic. It boasts an idyllic shady garden, stone cherubs, potted plants, and an arbor with vines and flowers, and is dog friendly—an important feature as we had our son Jason’s dog Daisy with us. There is even a red phone booth—that in the age of cell phones has become a charming relic and time capsule of the past. The building itself is a relic of the past. It was built in 1895 and served as a Methodist Episcopal Church in 1896. It was also used by the Red Cross during WW l, as the city of Saratoga’s Town Hall, and was even a school. In 1924 the church became an art gallery and sometime later housed a bridal salon. The Bell Tower restaurant opened its doors in 2010 and is kept busy by loyal customers who enjoy the attentive, friendly staff and quick service. 

The Bell Tower is one of a plethora of churches around the world whose clerical residents—for one reason or another have had to vacate the premises. Ironically, Savvy entrepreneurs have given these former places of worship an after life by converting them into clubs, restaurants, theaters, bars, and concert venues. Some examples: The Church Bar & Restaurant in Dublin, Ireland (photo) with remnants of a grand pipe organ on the second landing; a 700-year old Dominican Church converted to a bookstore in Maastricht, Netherlands; A Gothic church built in 1909, in San Francisco turned into housing; St. Sebastian Church in Germany was transformed into a kindergarten; The Church Brew Works in Pittsburg, PA, was once a Catholic Church in 1878. There is even a church in Santa Cruz, CA that became a therapy center. 

Though there is no longer a bell to ring in the Bell Tower, I love to ring a few of the ornate bells located on a stand in the reception area just in front of the blue sign that says “Best of Saratoga 2012.”

 

An Evening With the Gifted Jazz Saxophonist & Fellow New Jerseyan, Eric Darius

“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.” —Maya Angelou

While in LA last Saturday, Cecile and I had the pleasure of attending an evening performance by Eric Darius, 35, one of the most gifted and exciting musicians to enter the American Contemporary Jazz scene in the last decade. 

He had just closed out the Cancun Jazz Festival with Jazz icon George Benson. From the start this charismatic New Jersey born musician took over the room, and serenaded us with his sultry, original songs and tunes from the old jazz greats. As he roamed around the ballroom, he generated so much energy and excitement, we were up on our feet dancing.

Darius entered the world jazz scene at the age of 17, and since then has six critically acclaimed albums under his belt. He realized his calling at the tender age of nine when he heard a saxophone being played at his local church. He found himself “blown away by both the emotion and the soul of the instrument."

By age 11, after playing a saxophone for only a year, Darius was chosen to be in Sonny LaRosa and America’s Jazz Band, consisiting of young musicians, age five to twelve. The group toured the country and even played at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.

In 2004 he was named the “Debut Artist of the Year" by Smooth Jazz News. He has shared the stage with some of the most renown Grammy Award-winning artists, such as Mary J. Blige, David Foster, Carlos Santana, Wynton Marsalis, Babyface and Prince. His Jazz music crosses into other musical genres such as R&B, Hip-Hop and Pop resulting in a fresh, distinctive sound that is uniquely his own.

Born into a musical family with rich traditions in Caribbean music. (His father is from Haiti and his mom is from Jamaica), Darius attributes his inspiration to Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis and Prince for fearlessly trail blazing new frontiers in music.

He has been featured on Fox’s TV show, The X Factor, one of our favorite entertainment shows, and TNT’s hist drama series, Mob City. With the help of radio stations worldwide, his radio single, “Breakin’ Thru” recently made it to # 1 on the "Mediabase Smooth Jazz Chart." 

He was also featured on the up and coming musician Adam Hawley’s radio single, “35 Street” that made it to # 1 on the “Billboard Contemporary Smooth Jazz Charts” for 5 consecutive weeks. 

Humbled, grateful and honored by all the attention his music has been receiving, Darius continues his involvement in the “Mission in the Schools Campaign” he established several years ago. His goal is to inpire the younger generations of musicians to follow their dreams, play music and keep music alive in schools. Dedicated to this cause and having the desire to “Push it Forward" he has faciliated workshops with the Birmingham School of the Arts.

For those interested in attending one of his concerts while on tour around the country, check out his website at: www.ericdarius.com

One Lucky Dog, a Monkey god & Other Meaningful Coincidences

“When you live your life with an appreciation of coincidences and their meanings, you connect wth the underlying field of infinite possibilities”—Deepak Chopra

While attending a medical conference in LA this weekend, Cecile and I met a woman named Sue who manufactures and distributes nutritional supplements from Vietnam where she works and lives. I was attracted to her booth by a rather large familiar looking wood puppet, propped up on her display table. As I got closer I noticed it was Hanuman, the mighty monkey god in Hindu mythology that symbolizes, physical strength, perseverance, devotion, and how to face and overcome adversity in life. 

I noticed a number of coincidences were beginning to unfold. For example, Sue told me she bought the puppet in Myanmar (Burma), a place where I have visited over the years to study and practice mindfulness meditation. Her manufacturing plant is in Southern Vietnam where my son Jason and I visited years ago, and where Cecile and I will be touring in 2018. While we continued to talk, a cute golden dog joyfully popped out from behind the table to say hello. “What’s his name,” I asked? “Lucky,” she responded. “My first dog while growing up in New Jersey was named Lucky,” I said. She told us her dog was 6 years old. She took him in and helped nurse him back to health after he got hit by a motor scooter and was thrown to the curb and given up of for dead. He was a 1 month old puppy at the time. Lucky has been her faithful companion in ever since.

I have been journaling and archiving coincidences off and on for over 25 years. We have all experienced them in our lives that cause us to scratch our heads and say, ‘Hmmm, what a small world.” Or, “What are the chances?" For example, you think about an old friend you haven’t seen in years, and few moment later they call. Or, you are drawn to visit a place you haven’t been before, and wind up meeting the love of your life. 

While getting ready for bed, I noticed I left my bag with books and special reports from the conference on the concierge floor where we had appetizers and drinks. I hopped in the elevator and encountered a chef. I told him what had happened. “No problem, we will find it for you,” he said. As we entered the lounge, he checked with his staff. It turned out the items I left behind were turned in to “Lost and Found.” He escorted me down to the basement to retrieve them. On the way back to my room, he recommended the service elevator. I asked him what was his name and where he was from. "Paolo. I'm from Italy,” he said. “What part,” I asked? “Milano,” he answered. Cecile and I had been there. We spoke about my mother’s good friend who was a pastry chef in Sorrento. “Ah, the Amalfi Coast is the best," he said. He escorted me to my door, we shook hands and I said, Molte Grazie, and Buona Notte (Thank you very much and good night!). “Prego and Buona Notte,” he said. The lines of connection and this curious encounter didn’t escape me.

Sometimes coincidences can be a cause of joyful amusement, and other times have significant meaning to the observer. One thing that is certain, the phenomenon of meaningful coincidences will continue to fascinate believers and skeptics alike. I’m grateful to count myself among the believers.

Cosmetically Challenged Fruit and Veggies Get No Respect & Why They Should

Cosmetically Challenged Fruit and Veggies Get No Respect & Why They Should 

“Ugly is the new beautiful when it comes to produce.”—Mary Gerush

It all began with a trip to the local Farmer’s Market. One of our favorite fruits are white nectarines. When we approached our favorite produce stall, I began hand picking the best, unbruised fruit I could find when I came upon one that looked “cosmetically challenged.” It was odd, misshapen, and it made me smile. It looked like it had a big nose attached to it. My curiosity got the best of me. I bought it anyway. When we got home, It got me thinking about how often the mind discriminates by how things look. People tend to look for attractive partners with whom to mate, nice clothes to wear, we want flawless skin, perfect tans, desire fancy cars within our budget, cute pets to bring home. So is it really any wonder why we would expect good-looking food to be tastier? In fact according to Debra Zellner, a professor of psychology at Montclair State University in New Jersey, “Several studies have shown that how foods are presented can influence our liking them.” Think about the “oohs and ahs,” we express when the waiter serves us an entree made by a chef that looks like a work of art. They are almost too pretty eat. 

In 2014, Zellner worked with the Culinary Institute of America to serve two meals to participants that were prepared by chefs. They were the same in every way except one was more visually pleasing to the human eye. The result of the study confirmed that people enjoyed their meal better when it was plated more attractively. Scientists believe the brain uses aesthetic processing to evaluate whether the foodstuff we are looking at, is good or bad for us. But, the question that begs to be answered, are strange looking fruits and vegetables really bad for y

Let’s begin with what causes fruits and vegetable to become mishappen or deformed in the first place.
According to Marvin Pitts, a professor of horticulture at Cornell University there are three major causes:
Inadequate pollination, frost damage and insects feeding on parts of these food sources that causes them to develop in a asymmetrical shape. But, none of these causes would make them harmful to human beings. The belief is that once people are reminded that fruits and vegetables don’t have to be symmetrical to be safe and delicious to eat, perceptions are likely to change. Plus, in the age of social and environmental responsibility, food shaming based on how an item looks may fall by the wayside. 

Sadly, even though nutritious food is available, six billion pounds of so called ugly fruits and veggies wind up in a landfill because it doesn’t meet cosmetic standards, while millions of children who go hungry every day. To combat this dilemma, Bay Area start up “imperfect" is selling crooked carrots and malformed tomatoes and potatoes directly to consumers by forming strategic alliances with farms and packing houses to take their unwanted produce and sell them at 30 to 50 per cent less than supermarkets. It is a win-win situation that benefits the farmer, consumer, while saving a great amount of wasted food and water.

The European Commission joined in declaring 2014 was “the year against food waste.” Their goal is to reduce food waste in the European Union by 30% by 2025.
Imperfect Founders Ben Chesler and Ben Simon are filling in some of the gaps in the food waste chain. They founded Food Recovery Network to connect cafeterias with local food banks so dining hall leftovers would go to groups in need. Ron Clark, the food sourcing and logistics manager for the California Association of Food Banks set up a program called Farm to Family, where he sources out one million pounds of ugly fruits and veggies directly from farms to families in need. 

Imperfect’s motto is,“all fruits and veggies deserve to be loved.” As in life itself, diversity and imperfections are not flaws but traits to be celebrated. When you break down the word Imperfect, it actually spells, “I’m Perfect,” because everyone and every thing is perfect in their own imperfect ways. And finally a note to parents of young children, your kids are more likely fruits and vegetable if they looked like this.

Postscript: Yes, I did eat my cosmetically challenged nectarine from the Farmer’s Market (except the nose),🙂 and boy was it tasty and sweet.

Eggplant Head Image credit: Gareth P. Lewis.
Apple Duckie image credit: @gourmet.jpg
Carrot Yoga image credit: @debbiegleeson
Peachy Love image credit: @UglyFruitAndBeg.jpg

Warrior ll On the Dock of the RInconada Lake & the Canada Geese that Yielding the Right of Way

Warrior ll On the Dock of the Rinconada Lake & the Canada Geese that Yielding the Right of Way🙂

Journal Entry: 7 AM. Sunday. After Cecile and I walked on the trails with our son Jason's dog Daisy, and before my 8 AM yoga class at Bay Club Courtside I had the urge to do a Warrior ll pose which is a symbol of wisdom, courage, and focus. Normally, I have to compete with the Canada Geese for floor space on the dock, but they were off wading in the cascading ponds except for one who stood steady on a rock, gazing on the reflection of the lake—which is what I was doing moments earlier. We were both loving what we do.

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert—repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves."
Via Lis Huntly writes: 
"You are perfect in your wholeness. 
Your wholeness includes your scars, your weaknesses, your mood swings, the days of your life you’d rather pull the covers up over your head and stay in bed.
Yoga is a practice of peeling away labels of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and embracing whatever form of beauty you bring to your mat each day."

Namaste'

P.S. Normally, I would do the pose barefoot...but the geese can be messy in what they leave behind—if you know what I mean.

Debora Cohen: Yoga Teacher, Energy Therapist, Healer, Author & Friend

Debora Cohen: Yoga Teacher, Energy Therapist, Healer, Author & Friend

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good teacher.”—Temple Grandin

Debora Cohen, and my wife Cecile and I go way back. She was one of our first yoga teachers at Courtside Bay Club. She exemplifies all the special qualities one wants to see in a yoga teacher. She empowers her students to get the most out of their practice, she emphasizes safety, and rather than working from a script, she choreographs a sequence of poses according to the energy she feels in the room. More importantly, she maintains a positive attitude throughout the class that allows her students to have an uplifting and energetic experience.

Speaking of uplifting and energetic, I reminded Debora recently, that back in the day—and much to my surprise—I did my first deep back bend called “Wheel Pose,” in one of her Sunday morning classes. We simulated a back bend in one of the photos below, to demonstrate how Debora goes about assisting a student to safely get into the pose. As a beginner, you never start out doing an advanced back bend. It takes practice. Then one day, you suddenly find yourself in the pose saying to yourself, my God, “I can do this.” It's a very empowering experience.

Debora holds a BA honors tract in psychology, one year of masters study and three year of clinical doctoral education. She also holds many certifications in the disciplines of energy work, yoga, fitness, meditation and medical qigong to name a few. Her continuing education efforts led her to becoming a Certified Energy Health Practitioner (CEHP).

Sometime later, I had heard about a spiritual leader affectionately called Amma, or "mother.” She was best known for literally "embracing the masses," resulting in the media giving her the nickname: “The Hugging Saint of India.” By this time, she had hugged millions of people around the world, and her status as a “Spiritual Therapist,” was attracting a large audience in the US. When reporters would ask Amma how she kept up such a hectic pace, she would simply say, “I am connected to the Eternal Source, so I am not like a battery that gets used up.” Her organization raises over 20 million worldwide to fund her many charitable causes including Mother’s Kitchen, that feeds the poor and the hungry. I used to see Amma at her 164-acre campus near San Ramon, Calif., twice a year when she was on tour. I was moved when I saw spiritual leaders from every major religion standing in line to be hugged by her. After a while I felt compelled to take people I knew to see her and experience her compassionate embrace. I brought family, friends, fellow yoga students and many of my yoga teachers. Debora was one of them. 

Out of all the people I invited to visit Amma, she was the most taken by her. Her experience met all the criteria of the old saying: When the student is ready, the teacher will come. In a section of new book: Kundalini, Empowering The Mind, Body, Heat and Soul: The Energy of Joyful Transformation (Balboa Press, 2017), Debora talks about how she came to meet this humble living saint many compared to Mother Teresa. Without mentioning me by name, Debora wrote in Chapter 3, “One day a student came to me and told me about a woman known as Amma that he thought I would resonate with.” 

Like myself, and thousands of others from all stations in life, when Amma was in town, Debora would go see her at the San Ramon campus—which sits atop an equestrian farm. Later, she would go on to visit her ashram (teaching center) in India. In effect, Amma became her Guru (spiritual guide). This experience played a major role in her personal transformation and enhanced her abilities to: “feel or sense what was going on with my clients while I was working on them.” 

Postscript: To those not exposed to yoga, the partner yoga poses as seen in these images are are rarely taught in a traditional yoga class but "are" taught at certain yoga workshops. 
To learn more about Debora’s energy work, online courses, podcasts, retreats and her new book, check out her website: http://www.insightfulrelaxation.com 
www.amma.org
enjoyyourlifenow.net
Note: Studio Photos taken by my beloved Cecile...

Rain Pryor, daughter of the late Richard Pryor Delivers a Stellar Heartfelt Solo Performance

“Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”—Friedrich Nietzsche 

Cecile and I saw Rain Pryor in “Fried Chicken & Latkes” at the Levy Family Circle in Los Gatos, California last evening with friends, Nelson and Susan Bye. It was a sold out performance with over 300 people in attendance.

Rain Pryor, was raised in Beverly Hills in a biracial home. Her father, the legendary, Richard Pryor, was undeniably one of the greatest comic geniuses of our time. Her mother Shelley Bonus, was a Jewish go-go dancer, and is an award winning film performer and photographer. As an actress, Rain’s most notable role was as a regular character on the ABC hit series “Head of the Class.”

Her impersonations of her late father were hauntingly spot on. Her overall performance was spell-binding, hilarious, and heartbreaking—a true piece de resistance. Her portrait of her difficult mother whom she refers to as, “Joan Crawford in the ‘hood’ was edgy and provocative. Yet, she acknowledged the burden her mom had of raising Rain alone in her early years while her father was out womanizing, and engaged in a dangerous love affair with cocaine (sniffing the white stuff). She contrasted this by his paternal concern towards her, and his brutal honesty about the way things were. She also spoke tenderly about his eventual decline due to multiple sclerosis that brought about his death in 2005. 

Back in 2016, she told the Daily News before her performance at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City, “I didn’t know there were poor black people.” After all, her dad was rich and had a limousine driver. It wasn’t until she learned about history that reality set in.

In responding to an after show chat by a member of the audience who asked how she came about deciding to do this show and what would her late father think? She said that this was not a show she had to be casted for. “Fried Chicken and Latkes,” was purely her own.
“I am living my life, truth, story and destiny, and that’s what he wanted me to do, she added.”

Scientists have found that while victims of traumatic childhood experiences can be psychologically damaging, they give us a chance to develop how to cope with difficult situations in the future. Just because something terrible happens to us in life, doesn’t necessarily mean we can't learn from it and move on and even carve ourselves a bit of joy for life. 

By the time the show ends, the audience felt compassion for Rain Pryor and what she and her family went through. However, we were also respectful and proud of how she was able to cultivate personal strength and resilience, and rise above the adversity, fear, and pain, while making peace with what had happened. After all, Rain was just as much a product of her upbringing as her father was of his.

Holocaust survivor, psychologist and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankel once wrote: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Rain reminds us all how it’s done by reframing her experience. She moves beyond all the craziness and teaches us we need to move beyond racial prejudice and begin talking about the human condition.

Postscript: Cecile and I had a chance to briefly chat with Rain after her performance. She was warm, loving and seemingly unaffected by her past. We wish her continued success.

Note: The event was co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation, Tabia African-American Theater and the San Jose Multi-Cultural Artists Guild. Kudos to Diane Fisher and volunteers at the Jewish Federation and to Director of the show, Eva Brandstein.

Photos: Taken with Rain Pryor; of and with friends Nelson and Susan Bye, the Brenners, Bencuyas, and the Weinzimmers; and Finally, one of me with the joyous Jeff Jones, an African American Singer, actor, and entertainer who lived in Italy for 30 years and had a special fondness for Sicily, the place of my ancestors. Arriverderchi Jeff, and Buona Fortuna.

A Special Dinner Party at Rinconada Hills—The Best Kept Secret in Silicon Valley

“Heaven is a little closer living in a home by a lake in the heart of a natural setting.”

As my wife Cecile and I walked down the winding path from our town home, alongside one of the three cascading ponds and tennis courts leading to the “Clubhouse” for dinner, we felt a deep sense of gratitude for choosing to downsize over two years ago from our large estate home in Saratoga to this natural refuge of easy-living known as Rinconada Hills.

Several times throughout the year, the Rinconada Hills Homeowner’s Association (RHA), organizes theme dinner events for it’s residents. This time it was BBQ Bonanza Tri-Tip dinner with fresh salads, awesome side dishes, fresh fruit and ice cream for the first 100 residents who RSVP. Board member Russ Gillum, who marinated the steak in a cup of soy sauce, minced garlic and beer clearly knew what he was doing. Russ and assistant manager, Ray Ramirez, seen here skillfully cutting the tender meat. All the food was graciously prepared and provided by volunteers.

There was an open wine bar tended by Stewart Ives, a former president of the RHA and the evening's entertainment was provided by Gary Carnes, the Singing DJ. Many guests danced to their hearts content, including board member Connie Palladino and her husband John, who we bump into on the trails from time to time while walking the dogs.

The ambiance evoked a welcoming atmosphere. Everyone was in good cheer. Seating was not only available in the brightly lit main room of the “Clubhouse,” but on the side and back patios overlooking a stately grove of palm trees. The tables were decorated with Italian checkerboard type tablecloths. We were joined by friends, Nelson and Susan Bye who have lived here for over 20 years. Susan saw us walking near the lake one day, got out of her car and said, “Oh my God, you guys are living here now?” That fated day rekindled the friendship.

This peaceful gated community, offers its residents several walking trails, natural landscapes, a wide variety of trees including plum and cherry fruit trees, and spectacular views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Santa Clara Valley. There’s also ten neighborhood pools, a two-acre pristine lake inhabited by black turtles, and large koi fish, and frequently visited by geese, ducks, and large orange koi fish, and egrets and cormorants.

This unique planned development sits on over 100 acres of land and includes 394 town homes, 40 single family homes and the “Clubhouse" with room enough to throw dinner parties such as the evening’s event. If a developer were to build a community like this today—and have it be profitable—it would require double the density of housing structures. The spaciousness of the grounds is one of many reasons we love it here.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people we meet on the walking trails like Susan and Nelson mentioned above, that we actually knew during an earlier phase in our life when our kids were in school. Then there's Dee Blumenthal and Kathy Ramos whom we took yoga classes with for many years at Bay Club Courtside. We didn’t know they were long time residents of Rinconada until we were contemplating making the move.

Life has a way of making things interesting and fun by bringing people together in very whimsical ways. Like, Barry Gotlieb seen in the photo with me. Barry and I used to engage in spirited conversations in the poolside Jacuzzi at Courtside. One day, we bumped into him and Sue, his significant other on the walking trails. 

We feel a deep sense of community here, and are more connected with nature than ever before. As far as I’m concerned, Rinconada Hills (often confused with La Rinconada Country Club) is the best kept secret in Silicon Valley. So please, shhhhh!!! Don’t tell anybody! 

 

 

Celebrated my Birthday at Rangoon Ruby’s Upscale Burmese Restaurant

“On my birthday, I count my blessings for what I have today, rather than pass it off as just another day…and I count my blessings for what I have today before I lose it.” 
—Sandy Kannan

Our daughter Michelle, husband Kyle, Jason and Alix joined us at the bustling Palo Alto eatery owned by John Lee, who is originally from Burma. I just loved the large artfully designed photo collages of familiar and charming scenes that adorn the walls on both sides of the dining room. I had spent a lot of time in Burma from 2005-2010 while on meditation retreats at Kyaswa Monastery outside Mandalay I had many opportunities to sample Burmse food including the famous Mohinga, a rich, hearty soup with rice noodles, ginger, garlic, cilantro, lemongrass, hard boiled eggs and fish stock that is eaten at the start of the day and is referred to as the “Myanmar’s Breakfast of Champions.”

Burmese cuisine in general, is influence by Indian, Thai and Chinese cooking and is all the rage among foodies. Every single dish we ordered was without exception outstanding.
and was accompanied by delicious condiments, sauces and chutneys 

We began by sharing Vegetarian Samosas and Lettuce Wraps with radish carrots, water chestnuts tofu, green pepper and Tofu and Palata, a multi-layer flat bread served with Coconut Chicken. We also had their famous and traditional Tea Leaf Salad with fried garlic, yellow beans, sesame seeds, lettuce, tomato, jalapeño. It is a good way to tease out the taste buds. For our entrees we shared a Pumpkin Tofu Stew, Garlic Noodles, Rangoon Lemongrass Chicken, Mango Chicken, Salmon Lemongrass Fusion, etc.

We all shared Fried Banana with ice cream and Coconut Pudding deep fried with a side of mango ice cream. I was surprised by a dessert ice cream treat with a fireworks display that my loving son Jason captured perfectly on video as everyone sung Happy Birthday. It was a magical evening.

After dessert I was invited to open my presents as the fun evening began to come to a close. As the old saying goes, “Time flies when you are having a good time.” I realized once again that on our birthdays we pay tribute to time because it is depleting asset and we must seize the precious moment while its here.

Postscript: I am so excited for Michelle and Kyle who will visit Burma in the fall where my friend Maybelle who also has a daughter named Michelle, will take them to visit the monastery grounds where I studied mindfulness meditation. I’m also thrilled to finally share the richness of this wonderful culture with my wonderful wife Cecile early next year. it has been 8 years since my last pilgrimage there. One of the photos shown here from that time is me with one of the resident monks.

A Farm to Table Feast at Michelle and Kyle's Place in San Mateo

“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.” —Sophia Loren

Cecile and I, Al and Kim, and Jason and Alex were invited to Michelle and Kyle’s place in San Ramon for dinner last evening. We started with an assortment of gourmet cheeses, and then Michelle brought out Buratta Mozzarella and slice heirloom tomatoes that melted in you mouth.
Wine and drinks were flowing and Kyle made me my usual Moscow Mule. Talk about farm to table. Michelle made oven baked Salmon that Kyle caught while fishing with his friends the day before. And, as if that weren’t enough, he made homemade spaghetti from scratch. 
He was rolling in dough—so to speak, laying it out flat several times over, until it was perfect enough to place it in the pasta machine to cut into strips. Al pitched in to help as the rest of us watched as if we were viewing the popular cooking show, “Chopped." Seeing Kyle in action
would make my Italian ancestors proud. There is nothing in the world better than freshly made pasta. When I was a kid visiting my family in Sicily for the summer, I used to watch my nonna Peppina make long fresh tubes of pasta, and hang them to dry in preparation for lunch. My late aunt Cettina, the finest cook there ever was—originally from Catania, made fresh pasta. The physical contact with the dough seemed to breed a sense of intimacy. She knew intutitively when the dough was the right consistency, the right thickness, when more flour and the eggs were needed. “Its all in the feel,” she used to say. 

We gathered around the dinner table, We enjoyed the pasta “al dente” with red sauce and meatballs, and foccacia. The mixed green salad was fresh, salmon was perfectly cooked and we had ourselves a feast. For dessert we had multi-colored French macaroons. Before we knew it, 4 1/2 hours had gone by. We were full, we were satisfied, we were happy:-)

Joined Senator Jim Beall’s Annual Los Gatos Creek Cleanup Event

“Not all of us can do great things. But each of us can collectively do small things to make a big difference.” 

The invitation was straight-forward enough: “Be part of the solution to pollution! A creek runs through our neighborhoods, please help us take care of this precious resource. Join your neighbors, get some exercise, and give back to the environment.”

It sounded compelling enough. It would mean giving up my early morning yoga class, but performing an act of selfless service and giving back to the community seemed worth it. 

I met up with Senator Beall (D) and a group of other volunteers at a registration booth at Campbell Park. I checked in, signed a waiver of form, and was issued a yellow volunteer vest, green trash bag, gloves and a litter pickup device with an extended arm by volunteer staff members. Coffee, water, snacks and sunscreen/lip balm was provided by the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.

We took a group photo and I had the opportunity for a photo op with Senator Beall who represents the 15th Senate district that includes the South Bay and Silicon Valley. He introduced us to some local political aides, his press secretary, Rodney Foo, and the Campbell Chief of Police, David Carmichael. He told us he believed in the internship programs. He began his political career as an intern and youth commissioner for Norm Mineta, who was mayor of San Jose at the time, and later went on to become the US Secretary of Transportation under George W. Bush.

I didn’t know volunteering to pick up trash from the creek trails could be so much fun. I got the chance to meet like-minded people. I walked along side the rustic, scenic trails from Campbell Park to Los Gatos. A few of the runners and walkers on the trail stopped to thank me for helping to clean up the environment and wanted to know how they could get involved. It gave me a real sense of community. In fact, everyone walked away from the experience feeling good about how they spent their morning. It was especially nice to see parents take their young children to participate. About an hour and half hours and seven miles later, I returned back to Campbell Park, adding my filled trash bag to the pile. I then thanked Senator Beall for the chance to serve and for his leadership in organizing this Annual Creek Cleanup event. After saying goodbye, he had his staff give us a signed Certificate of Recognition from the California State Senate for our service.

Poscript: Thanks to my civic minded friend Elizabeth Sharkey, a teacher at Fisher Elementary & Middle School who asked me to sign a petition for SB 492 sponsored by Senator Beall that: Enables the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District to acquire 6,500 acres in the Upper Guadalupe, Los Gatos Creek, and Saratoga Watersheds to protect ecological sensitive lands, safeguard 1,000 acres for redwood forest from logging, and link several trail systems to allow the public access to spectacular scenery from Santa Clara County to the sea.

A Magical Encounter with an Uber Turtle and His Little Ride-Share Companion

“Try to be a turtle at ease in your own shell.”—Bill Copeland

A Turtle can withdraw from the world just like humans until they feel safe. Only we lack the cover of a protected shell. At least they have a choice. When they want to bask in the sun to warm themselves they find a log or a rock. If there is no room they climb the back of a larger turtle.
When they want to cool off, they float in the water like a moving island. Should they be hungry, they just scan the surface for insects. And, when a small turtle wants to travel it simply hops aboard an “Uber” Turtle to ferry it across the lake—in this case a stones throw from the waterfall near our home. Turtles have poor vision, but can feel every vibration—like a human sneaking up on them. I waited patiently to take these photos hoping these majestic creatures wouldn’t sidle into the water like many times before.
Luck or perhaps grace was with me this morning as I was able to capture the moment.

What Turtles Taught Me: Turtles are very symbolic, often viewed as the doorway between our world and mythic underworld. In fact, some cultures believe that turtles are actually holding up the world. They are the oldest reptiles dating back from 157 million year ago. It’s shell is modified ribcage and part of its vertebral column. Consequently, they cannot be separated form its shell any more that we can be separated from who we are.
Even though turtles don’t mind when other turtles stack on top of their shell, they are not social creatures. That being said, they do show us how to grow old gracefully and about living in harmony with our environment. When we feel anxious, the pace of life gets too hectic, and our minds are spinning out of control, they show us how to slow down and go with the flow. Peace!

Dim Sum Luncheon at Dynasty Seafood that Draws upon a 2500 year old Ancient Tradition

According to Wikipedia, The Cantonese phrase Dim Sum literally means “Touch the Heart,” or “Order to Your Heart’s Content,” and that we did.🙂

We were invited to join the Chiens for Dim Sum at the Dynasty Seafood restaurant in Cupertino, CA. Our daughter Michelle and husband Kyle met us there. When we first entered the restaurant I was amazed by the size of the main dining room. I felt like we were on a luxury cruise ship. It had a vaulted a ceiling with bright lights, and there was excitement in the air. Everybody seemed to be having fun. We were escorted to a smaller, quieter room off the main dining area.

I was first introduced to Dim Sum many years ago by Yusan, a friend from yoga who used to host a talk show in Hong Kong. It is a style of Cantonese food that that has grown very popular among Westerners over the years. It is best eaten with a group which allows the opportunity to sample a lot more food. More importantly it doesn’t hurt to have people with you who know a thing or two about ordering. Personally, I found myself intimidated by the many choices of dumplings, meats, noodles, rice, tofu, veggies, chicken, pork, seafood and other exotic dishes to choose from. But, between Al, his mom Dana, and his dad Jack, we had it covered. Instead of ordering from a traditional menu—which is available, our hosts chose an assortment of flavorful, sweet and savory dishes from push carts rolled to the table by our food servers. They were then placed on a large "Lazy Susan," at the center of a the white table-colthed table. One of our favorites recommended by Kyle’s mom, Kim were the authentic Sesame seed balls that were stuffed with sweet red bean filling. Very tasty.

The origin of Dim Sum began over 2500 years ago as charming little teahouses to accommodate weary travelers along the Silk Road, an ancient shipping route that Cecile and I had the opportunity to tour during our three week trip to China some years back. As it became known that tea was a digestive aid that also cleanses the palette, tea house owners began adding small snacks. This was the birth of dim sum. 

Though dim sum has changed over thousands of years from a roadside tea stop to a full-on culinary culinary event, the spirit remains the same: Enjoying food surrounded by the people you love and care about.

Jason & I Bonding with a Burmese Python: Now Being Bounty-Hunted in the Florida Everglades

“Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the poor snake and the snake didn’t have a leg to stand On.”

Here is a photo of Jason and I bonding with a 200 pound tame reticulated Burmese Python in Caron, Thailand that accompanied a feature story in the Saratoga News in April 2004 entitled A Quest for Life: "Father and Son Find Adventures and Enlightenment.” The thrill of interacting with such a beautiful bigger-than-life reptile is hard to describe. It’s constricting body felt like a living garland around our necks and shoulders that was tighter than the tuxedo I wore at my daughter Michelle’s and Kyle’s wedding. We were told it had recently ended it’s three week fast, and we prayed he wasn’t hungry.🙂 Who knew that 20 years later the Florida authorities would be placing a bounty on the corpses of these exotic reptiles.

It’s not uncommon for Burmese pythons to attain lengths up to 23 feet and exceeding 175 pounds and to live up to 40 years. They inhabit the jungles and lush grassy marshes of Southeast Asia. They have sharp teeth and strong constricting muscles they use to kill their prey. They have become popular pets over the years due to their painted skin and generally docile disposition. They can be obtained at pet shops or breeder expos. Unfortunately, they often wind up in the hands of negligent and incompetent owners. Due to the abhorent illicit trafficking trade, they have established themselves in warm states like Florida, far from their native land.

Though giant pythons have been involved in less than 10 fatal deaths in the past decade, (rate is higher for human deaths involving horses and dogs), these deaths are preventable. When handling or feeding a python, it must be contained in a safe enclosure. Some years back, a 19 year old man from the Bronx was found dead in his apartment. Apparently, his 11-foot Burmese python entwined around his body. The police believed that the pet python mistook the pet owner for food when he was getting ready to feed his python a chicken. Once a python gets around the upper body, a person can become unconcious in minutes, as the carotid artery gets cut off if a person panics.

Through no fault of there own, these pythons have been smuggled into the South Florida by traffickers over the years and in the process have created a reptilian nightmare for the ecosystem. Pythons have taken up residence in the Everglades National Park. Their prey: rabbits, foxes, deer, bobcats, opossums and raccoons, which are close to being wiped out. Pythons are great swimmers and can stay submerged under water for 30 minutes before coming up for air.

Trafficking of exotic Burmese pythons has been going on since the 1970s. Naive pet owners, no longer able to deal with these creatures as they grew to full size, began dumping them in the Everglades. The National Park Service estimates that over 100,000 pythons are in the swamps of South Florida due to their breeding and multiplying. It has become a public menace. According to Michale E. Dorcas, a herpetologist at Davidson College in North Carolina, “there hasn’t been a snake big enough to eat a raccoon in Florida for about 18 million years."

It’s become such a problem that Florida authorities have resorted to hiring bounty hunters in a program called “Python Challenge," but it has barely made a dent in decreasing the python population. According to Wikipedia, the problem is so serious that Florida has placed restrictions on keeping them as pets. Violators face imprisonment for more than 7 years or fined $500,000.

*Quote Source: Michael E. Dorcas, a herpetologist at Davidson College in North Carolina, said in a 2012 interview with Yale Environment 360, an online publication of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

*Photo Credit: of bounty hunters, Nicholas Banos/Facebook

 

Celebrating the Grand Opening of Cafe’ Vida at Bay Club Courtside-our Active Lifestyle Resort Facility

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
—William Arthur Ward

Cecile and I attended a celebration for the Grand Opening of Cafe’ Vida at Bay Club Courtside, an 88,000 square-foot active lifestyle resort facility that we have been members of since the late 70s. We partook in the live entertainment, a Margarita station, multiple bars and delicious tapas-style food service stations that were strategically placed around the familly pool deck. There were colorful decorations everywhere including two white “Unicorn" floaties in the family pool that added a mythical feel to the festivities.

Other than the gastronomic delights, some of the photos taken include the band, Cecile and I and our long time friend Rose whom we have done yoga and Tai Chi with for years; my friend AJ in the striped blue shirt and blue cap, whom I affectionally refer to as the “Zumba King,” for his love of dancing and the ladies. He and Robyn VanderLuit, Vice President and General Manager of the Bay Club Company (not pictured here), opened up the first dance number of the evening. Then there is Jose, a food-service leader, always with a smile, preparing the salad with his co-worker. Finally, The photo of Gurpreet and his lovely wife Sarah—with the colorful Mexican Hat—who happen to be our neighbors at Rinconada Hills.

The desire to improve one’s diet and embrace heatlhy living has moved our society to seek out nutritious and tasty alternative eateries such as Cafe' Vita. We feel very fortunate that our resort club owner was cognizant of this healthy trend and arranged to provide it's members with one of it's most enviable offerings. Cafe’ Vita provides California fresh and Latin-style dishes with a unique blend of spices and herbs. The emphasis is to avoid the use of heavy oils and sauces. It is simple fresh tasting food that is also aesthetically pleasing to the eye. “Vida" is Spanish for life and love, and there is plenty of both that goes into their food. The owners of Cafe’ Vida—who have several restaurants in Southern California—have stayed true their name and mission statement: “Food is the mainstay of social and cultural events, not only does it provide nutrition, it helps faciliate connections between people…its all about enjoying life.”

We feel so blessed to be members at Bay Club Courtside. Other than the occasional weekend getaway, we never feel the need to go away on vacation during the summer months. 

The facility boasts three heated outdoor pools including a lap pool for adults with luxurious, reclining, cushioned- chaisse lounge chairs, and bright yellow mediteranean umbrellas. Other amenities are group exercise classes, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, indoor basketball court, a state of the art fitness center with some of the best personal trainers, coaches and instructors. There is also a business suite, locker rooms, a meeting room, childcare center, the “Sanctuary Spa,” a jacuzzi, steam and sauna, “The Shop” for leisure and fashion apparel; and my favorite, the “MindBody Center,” for yoga, meditation and tai chi classes.

As I thought about the white Unicorns floating in the pool, it made me think about what these mythical creatures represent: Opening up to infinite possibilities that surround us at all times. Many fail to notice these possibilities that abound. Unicorns give us the “eyes to see” them. Thanks to the owner of the Bay Club Courtside and it’s management for their vision to not only see the possibilites but to implement them for us members to enjoy!

Stretching the Stillness: Published in the Los Gatos Times Weekly

I want to THANK the nearly 100 people from my general Facebook Friends and the inspiring yoga enthusiasts around the country that are members of the “Yoga Room” Facebook Group who responded to my recent post: 
“Doing Yoga Poses on the Dock of our Pristine Lake at Rinconada Hills." One of the photos that appeared in that post was published by the Los Gatos Weekly Times last Friday along with a brief story entitled: Stretching the Stillness. 

The late Andy Warhol, a leading figure in the visual art movement was credited for the phrase: "15 minutes
of fame," once said: ”In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes. Now, that I have had my 15 minutes of fame, it’s time to wash the dishes🙂

I received some inquiries about how to get started doing yoga. Once a counterculture pastime, this 5000 year old tradition from India has gone mainstream over the years. Thanks to researchers who discovered that the practice of yoga had important health benefits: decreased blood pressure, improvement in cognitive function, positive mood leveling effects, increased flexibility, a calmer, focused mind, the yoga phenomenon began to accelerate. According to The Yoga Alliances latest report in 2016, over 36.7 million Americans (and climbing) have a regular practice. That figure will likely arise to 80 million in the next 12 months.

“The most important pieces of equipment you need for doing yoga,” says nationally known yoga teacher Rodney Yee, “are your body and your mind.” I would add, the “willingness” is also required. Woody Allen once said, “The secret of success is showing up.” My experience is that some people are fearful of attending class, believing they won’t measure up. However, there are no expectations. No judgments. The teacher sets a tone of openness to all newcomers and faciliates a safe zone for people to start where they are.

As one of my teachers, Cindy Walker told our last Sunday morning’s class, “Yoga is not about rushing through a pose, its not a competition, its just yoga.” Even though you share the yoga room with others, It’s your personal journey, not someone else’s. You don’t have to compare yourself with others. Begin with a gentle class or take private lessons as one of my former medical assistants decided to do. Yoga is for all ages, all body types, for people from all socio-economic backgrounds, even people with a life threatening illness (check with your doctor) find the benefits of practice. 

Personally, I am in no competition with anyone. I just want to be happy, healthy, peaceful and free and be able to deal with the challenges of the day with as much grace and equanimity as possible. I believe this is what everyone desires. Yoga is a practice, it’s poetry in motion. It’s life.

The late yoga master teacher, B.K.S. Iyengar,* author of "Light on Life," who lived until to age of 96 once said: “Yoga is like Music. The Rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul…”

Namaste’

*Postscript: B.K.S. Iyengar, is the author of Light on Life: The Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom. In 2004, Time Magazine called him one of the world's most Influential people. He was credited with popularizing yoga in India and introducing it to the Western world. One of 13 children, he lived through a very unhealthy childhood, facing diseases such as malaria, TB., typhoid fever, and malnutrition. 

Photo credit: of Iyengar: Indian Express

Saratoga Farmer's Market and the Rive Gauche Trio: Undeniably a Feast for the Senses

Saratoga Farmer's Market and the Rive Gauche Trio: Undeniably a Feast for the Senses

“Let Food Be Thy Medicine.”
Hippocrates

Cecile and I love to weave through the Saratoga Farmers Market every Saturday morning, rubbing shoulders with members of our community, soaking in the great atmosphere of food gatherers, witnessing nature’s color palette on display, and being seduced by the aroma from the plethora of cooked food being prepared by vendors from diverse cultures and ethnicities. 

The offerings are many: Rotisserie Chicken, Indian, Thai, Vegetable Crepes and Quiche pies, Mexican, and Afghani food to eat there or take home. We ordered Bon Mi Vietnamese Salad and Bon MI Sandwich to go from the Flambe’ Asian American Grill. We also picked up Vegetable Crepes from our Ukranian friend who happens to practice yoga at one of the local yoga studios we attend.

The bounty of fruits and vegetables is fresh, abundant, and unmatched from what you get from our local supermarkets.
We love supporting the local growers and producers.
There is so much variety. Take tomatoes: They go beyond the usual red and green. it is not unusual to see orange, yellow, pink, purple and even striped. We love knowing the fruits and vegetables are fresh. Maybe not fresh off the vine, stalk, bush, tree or ground that very morning—but certainly a few days fresh.
The Farmer’s market may not always be certified organic, but small scale growers do employ organic practices. Unfortunately, the expense and time it takes to get USDA certification makes it difficult to compete with the big boys. 

The band that performed this past Saturday was Left Bank Rive/Gauche Band. The "Left Bank," is the southern bank of the river Seine in Paris.
Their specialty is French cafe-style music of the 1920s-1940s, Spanish and Gypsy songs and other period piece favorites from America and Latin countries. The instruments the trio played were violin, bass, guitar and accordion.

“RIve Gauche” or “Left Bank,” generally refers to the Paris of an earlier era: The Paris of artists, writers, and philosophers like ike Henry Miller, Anais Sin, Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Henri Matisse, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemmingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and James Baldwin. The phrase “Rive Gauche,” implies a sense of bohemianism, counterculture and creativity.

If I had to write a poem about my experience at the Saratoga Farmer’s Market, it would go like this:

“The friendly hum of conversation and music fill the air.
Colorful fruits and veggies compete to draw my eye,
The sensuous feel of gem-like cherry tomatoes,
The Aromatic smells of fresh-cut flowers, 
Toot-picked samples of sweet melons and sugar plums
caused me to become completely undone.”

enjoyyourlifenow.net