Sunday, June 28, 2009

Adios Esalen

I have to say that I'm grateful that I was at Esalen during celebrity death week. I have a tendency to get sucked in to the media blitz whenever something like this happens. I overheard some grumblings about Michael Jackson but only when I checked Yahoo did I realize he had died. Esalen participants are more interested in Geshtalt, meditation, yoga, chi, and processing than Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson.

I spent three nights at the wonderful oasis. My skin is silky soft thanks to the twice daily sulphur baths. 

On Thursday night I did a reading and Q&A. I told my crazy publishing story and was then asked a myriad of questions including, "What intention did you set in order for your book to get published, and so fast?" I thought about it for a minute. I don't really consciously operate under 'intentions' and the like. As I contemplated my answer the woman clarified. "What do you think you put out in the world that got such good results?" I wanted to answer "it was just good luck," but an answer like that doesn't fly at Esalen. "Manifest", "Flow", "Intention" are the words that are often tossed around. I settled with "Passion. I think I felt very passionate about my process and it manifested in the book being published." 

I have not seen so many naked bodies since...ever! I'm going to a pool party tonight and I'm not sure how I'll keep my bathing suit on. It is just so freeing and oddly normal when everyone is naked. When running into people outside of the baths, I found myself saying, "Oh, I didn't recognize you with your clothes on."

On Friday, Ann and her awesome friend/assistant Kinga (from Hungary) went to the Henry Miller Library in town. His papers, letters, etc. are stored there, but it is also a wonderful bookstore and performance space with a big, fat O'Malley-esque cat wandering the premises. For a time, Miller lived in the area and wrote extensively about it. I can't wait to read the books I bought there. Later we had lunch 'off-campus' at Nepenthe, a restaurant on a cliff overlooking the Pacific. If you remember, last summer there was a terrible fire that devastated the Big Sur area. Driving up the coast you can see the charred remains of that fire - baron hills, etc. Esalen was threatened and had to close for a month. 

Ann's friends, Gail and Eric, came down from SF on Friday and I had a great time chatting with them while Ann taught her class on Friday night. Kinga loaned me her yurt for the night as she went up to SF for the David Byrne concert (so jealous). I heard animal footsteps all night.

I drove home yesterday, my car hugging the curves of the beautiful California coast. I am constantly enamored and comforted by this landscape.

I took Route 1 until I merged to the 101 where I could finally get good radio reception. I zipped down the coast blasting Michael Jackson, as most of the stations were playing tributes to him. Despite his weird, tragic, potentially pedophiliac life, there's no denying that his music was the soundtrack to so many of our lives. I opened the moon roof and boogied as much as I could from behind the wheel. I thought about Neverland as I drove through Santa Barbara. Due to traffic, I exited the 101 in the valley and drove along Ventura until the 405. At a red light I looked over and saw a street blocked off and tons of people wandering around. I thought it might be a block party until I noticed some media and realized it must have been the Jackson compound (on Hazelton in Encino). Only in L.A...

I arrived home safe n' sound, rested yet giddy from the wonder of it all.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Um...Who am I?

After a couple of false starts, I arrived at Esalen here in Big Sur, California. My friend Ann Randolph is the artist in residence, teaching a month-long workshop about performing. She invited me up as her guest speaker and as an opportunity to meet the head of the program to perhaps secure my own workshop in the future.

Ann has been put up in the Artist's Yurt:

a two bedroom 'cabin' of sorts. When I arrived, I dumped my stuff and we headed over to the main lodge. Ann is a performer and the night arrived she was performing her one-woman show, "Loveland." She had to rehearse so she directed me to the baths and told me to meet up with her at dinner.

First of all, let me say that the property is astounding. It overlooks the Pacific and there are rolling hills, gorgeous, vibrant gardens, a pool, and of course the baths. There are a series of outdoor tubs and baths overlooking the ocean and everyone is soaking naked. I was so achey from the drive up that I couldn't wait to get in there and have a good soak, too. First you have to shower in a 6-person shower also overlooking the Pacific. I tentatively stripped off my clothes and jumped into the empty shower. When I approached the baths they were all filled - men, women, kids, fat, skinny, taut, shriveled... you name it they're here. I found one with a family - mom, dad and daughter and joined them. Soon after two old men joined and there we were, the six of us, just chatting naked about the weather. 

Dinner was an amazing curried shrimp along with copious amounts of fresh salads and veggies all plucked from their organic garden. At dinner, Ann introduced me to Tjarn, a guy in a bear suit. He swore he knew me. We figured out we both lived in SF, but at different times. I asked where he lived. "Doloros Park," It's very possible he literally lives in the park. I thought the suit was temporary, but no...he walks around in it all the time. Ann says he is the most brilliant writer she's ever taught, ever. 

After, I watched Ann practice sound cues for her show and then found myself as the lighting engineer, raising and dimming the lights at the beginning and ending of her show. Hundreds and hundreds of people came, and it was even better the second time (I'd seen it in LA last month) I spoke to the director of the program, Nancy Lunney, after Ann's show. Nancy, coincidentally, knows my parents from back in the day (late 60's) through a bunch of writer friends, and I even went to nursery school with her daughter. We had a wonderful time connecting the dots of all the people we know in common. Note to Dad: Coleman used to come here and practice/teach some sort of healing arts. She remembered that you knew him!

Later, it was back to the hot tubs for a late night soak. There are 18 people in Ann's workshop and about 9 of them showed up in the small tub. There were lots of jokes about student/teacher nakedness. It was pitch black and you could hear the waves crashing and the sea lions barking. We played a game called "Two Truths and a Lie" which was hilarious and immediately bonded us.(although after 3 weeks together, they're all bonded) Mine were: "I named my feet when I was little and talked to them often", "I was once on Mr. Roger's Neighborhood" and "I once fed cookies to Cookie Monster." Please be reminded that I am the guest speaker tonight for the group that was in the tub. I can't help but wonder if they're going to be thinking "that naked girl spoke to her feet when she was little" while I read from "Swimming Upstream, Slowly." 

I can't stop thinking about my friend Erika Banks, who at 18 came up to Esalen as her senior project. I can't wait to talk to her about her experiences. At 18 I never would have jumped naked into the hot tub or appreciated the amazing beauty of this place. Elsalen has always held a magical mystique because Erika was so inspired by her trip here over 20 years ago. Now, finally, I understand.

As we walked back up the hill to the yurt, jelly-legged and mush-brained from the heat of the water, I asked, panting, "Are we at a high altitude?" The sound of the waves and barking seals echoed in the background. "Can you please write about that in your blog," Ann said, as she reminded me we were at sea level.

What will today bring?

And I was never on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.

Oh, drop me a comment if you have a chance! I miss you!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Swimming Upstream, Slowly

My sister Jennifer and I grew up with a fabulous pool in our backyard, one with a diving board, a slide and a bank of water fountains that can only be compared to an Esther Williams movie. I spent many a summer swimming laps, practicing dives, or just floating on my back watching the clouds. I always loved everything about pool water, from the sharp chlorine smell to the sound of underwater silence. I even love the feeling of staying in too long, fingers and toes pruning from the water. 

This summer, encouraged by my friend Al, I joined the Santa Monica College pool. Actually, there are two pools, 'splash' and 'deep water'. Both are Olympic sized and relatively warm. We decided we were going to do laps so armed with my Target bikini and a towel, we signed up in late May and have been going twice a week ever since.

It's only mid-June, but already I laugh at my May naivete - a bikini and a towel? Where were my flip-flops? My goggles? My swim cap? How about shampoo? Lotion? A hairdryer? I'm still in the market for a one-piece suit. I seem to be the only one there in a striped two-piece.

You should see the long, lean Michael Phelps-esque bodies that glide along the water. There are also an inordinate number of pregnant women - I mean REALLY pregnant. They say it's the only exercise they can tolerate at this late stage. There are teams of people practicing for triathalons on one end, water aerobics classes on the other, and then lane after lane of people swimming laps, the breaststroke, butterfly, crawl, backstroke, etc.

Sure it's a little crowded and yes sometimes there are particles of...dirt? gunk? stuff? floating in the water, but for me it is worth it. At two dollars a swim I get a good workout, some amazing people watching and that indescribable endorphin high. I sure miss that bank of water fountains from the pool on Barrington, but the pool(s) on Pico isn't half bad. 

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Dear Stone Fruit: I love you.

You know it is summer when your local California farmer's market looks like this:
and this:

And this:

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sexy Bare Chest

As a member of the Girlfriend Cyber Circuit, I have the pleasure of hosting author Judi Fennell. Her latest book, "In Over Her Head", splashed ashore on June 1st.


When Erica Peck, one terrified-of-the-ocean marina owner, finds herself at the bottom of the sea conversing with a Mer man named Reel, she thinks she's died and gone to her own version of Hell. When the Oceanic Council demands she and Reel retrieve a lost cache of diamonds from the resident sea monster in return for their lives, she knows she's died and gone to Hell.

       When they escape the monster and end up on a deserted island, she amends her opinion - she's died and gone to Heaven.

       But when Reel sacrifices himself to allow her to return to her world, she realizes that, Heaven or Hell, with Reel, she's In Over Her Head.

Which came first, the title or the novel? 

The novel. I think I wrote half the story before I got the title.

Which comes easier for you - beginnings or endings?

Beginnings, usually, although with one of the books, both weren't easy. Surprisingly, the middle part was the easiest, but In Over Her Head was definitely the beginning. I actually changed the ending from the original.


How many drafts until the final draft? 

No clue. I don't do straight through writing. I tend to backtrack then move forward. Sometimes I'll write scenes in advance that then change or are moved around by the time I finish it. I keep writing until it's done.


What are you reading right now? 

Fellow Casablanca Author, Linda Wisdom's Witches series.


What's next for you? 

I have two more stories coming out,Wild Blue Under in November and Catch of a Lifetime in February 2010 and am working on a proposal for more stories in the series.