We Went to a Sound Bath (and It Was Totally Lame)
I don’t identify myself as a “bohemian type,” that dirty word denoting free-flowing ideals with the world’s most regimented eating plans. While I respect vegabs, I do not sympathize with them. I look to yoga as a fitness last resort since it consistently feels like a church service I’m thrown into against my will. The closest I come to meditating is when my non-English-speaking hairdresser trims my bangs, and I can feel her many rings trace my forehead and for a moment I forget how alarmingly short she’s cutting my hair, and I am at peace.
Living adjacent to Los Angeles’s Silver Lake neighborhood, you face-off against some dream-catchers, a.k.a. men and women who claim the world’s defeat will be at the hand of misaligned chakras. I’ve never been one to be swayed by their passion, but I found myself curious. It’s the same curiosity that makes a Los Angelino take pause before the grandiosity of the Church of Scientology Museum Tour. This past week I followed that desire for peeking over “the spiritual fence” so to speak, and took part in a “sound bath.”
Yep, a “sound bath.” The name alone baffles people with its ambiguity. Who could possibly attempt to define it without having experienced it first themselves? I imagined a vacuous room with several people laying down, experiencing sound waves that feel like Mother Nature orgasming through your eardrums.
Tropicalia: Once Upon a Time, Brazil Protested with Psychedelic Rock & Roll
On March 28, 1968, students in Rio de Janeiro began protesting against the high price of food in a student restaurant called the Calabouço. The military regime set up by an earlier coup d’état was in its fourth year of power and President Costa e Silva’s authoritarian rule had begun to take hold. During the protests, a Brazilian teenage student named Edson Luis was shot in the chest at point-blank range by the military police, who showed up to disperse the protesters. In the wake of his death, several antimilitary demonstrations were held across Brazil, the largest being the March of the One Hundred Thousand, which took place in Rio on June 26 of that year.
At the frontlines of the march were artists from the Brazilian intelligentsia, including two young musicians from Bahia in northeast Brazil, named Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, who were at the vanguard of Tropicália—a counterculture arts and music movement that emerged in 1967 as a reaction to the dogmatic elitism of the left, the authoritarianism of the military, and the socially oblivious lyricism of bossa nova. Influenced by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, but creating an amalgam of rock ’n’ roll and the Brazilian folk of the northeast, Gil and Veloso, along with Tom Zé, Gal Costa and Os Mutantes, came up with a new avant-garde style that was highly inspired by cultural anthropophagy—the “eating” of others’ ideas.
In 1974, the Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky set about turning the classic sci-fi novelDune into a major motion picture. He recruited Orson Welles, Pink Floyd, H. R. Giger, David Carradine, Salvador Dali, and Mick Jagger to the project, completed 3,000 pieces of story art, and spent millions of dollars preparing for production. Investors balked when he asked for more—and when they realized the script would account for a meandering 14-hour film—and it was ultimately shelved.
Which Horselete Should You Root for in the Kentucky Derby?
Photo via Flickr user Velo Steve
To those who aren’t horse racing fans—a category that includes nearly every person on Earth who isn’t incredibly wealthy or an aging alcoholic gambling addict with a permanent hacking cough—the Kentucky Derby, known to insiders as “the horse race that is happening this weekend in Kentucky,” is a mysterious, somewhat stupid tradition. The horseletes (like athletes, but they’re horses) have names like “Orb,” “Vyjack,” and “Palace Malice” and are owned by characters who could be James Bond movie villains. The people who are really into the Derby wear awful hats and get day-drunk on minty cocktails that taste like your grandfather. Not only that, the race is ten “furlongs” long, which means no one knows how long it actually is. So why care about it? Because it gives you a chance to root for—and gamble on—a horselete of your choosing, and distract you from your mostly miserable, horse-free life for two minutes, or however long it takes to run ten furlongs.
But what horselete should you bet on for? Presumably you don’t have a personal connection with one of the animals, and unless you are a huge fan of orbs or whatever a vyjack is, a name alone won’t determine your rooting interest. Which is why I’ve compiled this handy guide for you that matches up your personality with a corresponding horselete.
You Hate Hippies
If you get into heated arguments with Greenpeace canvassers and routinely go on rants about the evils of PETA, why not throw your support to Frac Daddy? This horse is, of course, named after thecontroversial natural gas extraction technique—primary owners Carter Stewart and Ken Schlenkermade their money in the oil and gas business. They decided not to name him “Frack Daddy,” I guess, because spelling, like environmentalism, is for loosers.
You Love Diversity
Horse racing is one of the few sports where men and women compete on the same playing field. There have been a number of jockettes (“lady jockeys”) who have ridden in the Derby, but none of them have won, yet. Rosie Napravnik’s ninth-place finish in the 2011 race is the best to date from a female rider, and she’ll be atop Mylute for this year’s edition.
Meanwhile, Kevin Krigger, who will be riding Goldencents, is the third African American jockey to ride in the Derby since 1921. Krigger is relatively unknown, but had arguably one of the best prep races leading up to the Derby, proving he deserves a spot this Saturday. A win by either Napravnik of Krigger would make history at an event that, um, has not always been known for its embrace of progressive politics.
America’s First Hippie: Living, Learning, and Going Long with Gypsy Boots
Photos courtesy of Kees Van Voorthuizen
My mother hated hippies. She also wasn’t keen on meeting strangers, long-haired or otherwise. And her mood was especially dark that day in 1970 when the two of us were vacationing at the Hilton in Beverly Hills. She’d been waging a long battle with my father, her ex-husband, over me, their seven-year-old, and worried that she’d either lose custody or I’d “turn hippie” thanks to California’s corrupting influence. So when a hyperactive senior citizen with shoulder-length silver hair, a scraggly beard, and love beads around his neck approached us in the hotel lobby while banging a tambourine, shaking maracas, dancing a Russian cossack jig, and chanting, “I’m-a the Gypsy Boots, I live on nuts and fruits,” I wasn’t surprised when my mother yelled at him to get lost. I wanted him to scram, too. Ordinary hippies—the ones I saw on TV or hitchhiking through our New Jersey suburb—they intrigued me, but this one seemed crazy. Scary crazy. Why was this man who looked older than my grandparents behaving like a kindergarten escapee?
“Make him leave, Ma,” I whispered.
She certainly tried to. But Gypsy Boots was a man on a mission, which was to cheer up the sad-sack divorcee and kid he’d just come across. And, being irresistible, he succeeded. Within minutes, Gypsy had my mother and me smiling at him, then laughing with him, applauding his antics, trying out his musical instruments, and humming along to his inane ditties. Boots wasn’t drunk or on drugs, as I had heard other hippies were. Like the female protagonist of the film Harold And Maude, this guy was just chronically jubilant, the archetypal holy fool. After he was gone, leaving me with a free autographed copy of his self-published memoir, Bare Feet and Good Things to Eat, my mother admitted that she hadn’t felt this happy since before my father left her. It amazed me to hear her say that. And it amazed me to realize I felt the same way.
What I didn’t know then, and wouldn’t know for a long time, was that Gypsy Boots was important, nationally important, an odd figure who had changed the course of American culture. He wasn’t just an old hippie, he was the ur hippie. His journey started in the late 1930s, when Boots, nearing 20, left the working world, grew his hair and beard long, and went “back to nature.” This was way beyond Thoreau at Walden Pond: For years at a time, Boots would sleep in California forests, bathe in mountain streams, feed himself by foraging for nuts and fruits and vegetables, practice yoga, and wear practically nothing in the way of clothing. A dozen other Nature Boys, as they were called, kept him company (including eden ahbez, who wrote “Nature Boy,” the hit song for Nat King Cole, supposedly about Boots), but Gypsy was the most visible of the gang, the one who would eventually become a star.
Long before the Baby Boomers turned on, tuned in, and dropped out, “Hollywood’s ageless athlete,” as Boots was known, created a counterculture for them to inhabit. He did this by performing fitness demonstrations on network television and in movies, opening one of America’s first health-food restaurants, racing around LA in his crazily painted van with organic treats for a network of customers—all to spread his message, which was deadly serious in spite of his constant clowning: “Why cling to sickly, fretful, conformist ways when you can be your healthiest, happiest, most authentic self?”
Gypsy died in 2004, just short of his 90th birthday. With his centennial coming up next year, I’ve been thinking a lot about him—what he meant to history and what he meant to me.
Two and a half decades after our encounter in Beverly Hills, Gypsy reappeared in my life. By this time, my mother was long gone—she’d died of breast cancer at 49—and I was living in New York City, volunteering as a cook at a soup kitchen for the homeless. I didn’t think much about Boots; he was a luminous childhood memory, nothing more. Then, while browsing my shelves, I came across the memoir he’d given me, and I decided to bring it to the soup kitchen. Maybe we could use some of the vegetarian recipes he’d included in his book. As I consulted Bare Feet and Good Things to Eat while cooking, a middle-aged woman I worked with noticed the book and grinned and said, “Wow, Gypsy Boots! When I was a flower child in Hollywood in the 60s, Gypsy was such an inspiration. And wouldn’t you know it, he’s still going—I just ran into him last year!”
“Wait,” I said, “he’s still alive?”
“Sure, and he hasn’t changed one bit since the old days. He came roaring into this ashram I was at, shouting, ‘Don’t panic, go organic,’ and making everybody crack up.”
Until then, I’d never met anyone who’d known of Gypsy. So, he was still around, inhabiting the present as well as the past! That night, I called 411 in Los Angeles County and requested a listing for Gypsy Boots. I was doing this out of curiosity, but also as a sort of tribute to my late mother.
Burning Man Vs. Superstorm Sandy
Union Beach, New Jersey, like much of the state, is a mess thanks to Superstorm Sandy. Its residents who are sticking it out and hoping to rebuild have to figure out a way to clear their lots of debris and condemned structures. Regular relief groups don’t provide aid for this kind of work, and contractors aren’t going to cut a break for flood victims. It has left an altruistic void, one that has been filled by a bunch of people who every year head out to the middle of a desert in Nevada to do a bunch of drugs, dress up like gay aliens, and light a bunch of shit on fire.
Yes, a small group of Burning Man enthusiasts have rapidly formed what appears to be an extremely efficient charitable organization that helps people in ways more bureaucratic organizations can’t.
Reasons Why LA Is the Worst Place Ever
I recently moved from London to Los Angeles. Despite the fact that LA is the undisputed worst place in the entire world, I’ve been trying super hard to like it. Mainly because I like being that guy who likes the thing everyone else hates just to annoy people (which reminds me, people I know in real life: I never really liked Skrillex or Twilight. You should’ve seen your faces though).
Liking LA also seems to be “a thing” lately. I’ve seen a bunch of articles about it, like this one by Joseph Gordon Levitt that people keep sending me. In it, he talks about how LA is superior to New York because you can sing in the car when you’re stuck in traffic, and also he once saw the movie Swingers here.
Anyway, below are the main things that have been annoying me since moving to LA.
THERE IS DANGER EVERYWHERE
In London, the worst that can happen while you’re out walking around is maybe stepping in a puddle or gettinghappy slapped. Here, I have to worry about drive-bys and forest fires and mountain lions and “The Big One” and rattlesnakes and brain-eating parasites and home invasions and fucking TSUNAMIS! Why did someone think it would be a good idea to build a city here?
IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO HAVE A NORMAL NIGHT OUT
In London, or New York, or Paris, or any other city on Earth, going out means either walking/taking public transportation to a bar or club, then maybe walking to another place after that, then taking a cab home. This becomes problematic in Los Angeles, because public transportation does not exist. And I’m pretty sure cabs don’t exist, either. This means everyone drinks and drives, and I’m not sure if you’ve seen those ads about it on TV, but drinking and driving is really, really, really not OK. Then, you have to find somewhere to park or pay a bunch of money to valet, and then line up to get in, and then before you know it you just paid $30 to get into a “yoga rave” that’s ten minutes from ending, you’ve forgotten where you parked and, oh shit, you got a ticket. Fun times.
THERE IS HIPPIE BULLSHIT ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE
Every time I think I’ve met a normal person, I find out they’re extremely into some kind of new-age nonsense. Did you know that Mercury is in retrograde right now? Me too, and I really, really shouldn’t know that.