Namaste Motherfucker

I Can See Better Through the Fog is a storytelling podcast series in the vein of This American Life and the Moth. It tells the ongoing story of an echo boomer’s quarter life crises, featuring life, love, music, and San Francisco. Press the play button below to hear an audio recording of this latest entry or listen to it on iTunes. If it doesn’t work, you may need the latest version of flash software. (click here to download). Another troubleshooting tip would be to go directly to the soundcloud website. Sit back and let your ears do the work. The text version of this entry is provided beneath the list of selected tracks.

Runtime: 6 minutes and 49 seconds.

Selected tracks: Fiona Apple “Every Single Night” and Beck “I Just Started Hating Some People Today”

Sediments of left over tea danced like snowflakes in a snow globe inside my reused Snapple jar. Waves of foggy tap water crashed against the bottom side of the bottle cap. The few drops of water that escaped were soaked up by the green beach towel the bottle nestled against. With my yoga supplies tucked beneath my arm, I walked down California Street.

As I approached Fillmore, thirty yards down the street a white billboard with an orange flower logo hung at the top of a door frame, perpendicular to the victorian building on which it was attached. It matched the logo from the yoga studio’s website. On this free weekday morning, an unusual occurrence for me, I’d decided to try yoga to curb my habitual, torturous, and excessive anxiousness.

I walked down a narrow hallway, painted the same shade of orange as the logo out front, to a set of stairs. At the top of the stairs and to the right, a doorway waited for me. Peering into the studio, I saw only a reflection of myself in the mirror across from me that ran the length of the studio. Wondering if I missed the office in the hallway downstairs, I peered back down the steps. There was no indication I’d missed anything. Peeking my head further into the studio, I noticed a cubicle tucked away in a nook to the left and behind the door. A middle aged man with blonde sprouts, that were unlikely to grow back in full, and big green googly eyes stared at a computer screen hidden by the concave wooden desk he sat behind.

“Are you a new student?” the man asked, shifting his attention from the computer to me. “Ya. I’m here for the introductory thirty days for thirty dollars,” I answered. The man behind the desk smiled and handed me a form attached to a clip board. After filling out the form, I returned it to him with my check card. He typed away at his computer. “You’re all squared away Max,” he said. “Thanks. And what was your name?” I asked. “Venis,” he smiled.

By the spelling on the website, I’d thought his name was pronounced like the planet of the same spelling, but he said it like the canal linked city in Italy. “You can take a seat anywhere you’d like,” Venis called, as I was placing my belongings into a square cubby. I migrated over to the front left corner of the empty room and lay my towel down. Atop it, I breathed in and out methodically, relaxing my mind before the session. It was over 90 degrees in the room, the antithesis of the foggy weather looming just outside the sliding glass doors that lead to a backyard deck.

“This is so strange,” Venis called from his cave. “Usually we’re packed by now.” It was seven minutes until showtime. As ten o’clock scrolled closer, only three others roamed in. By the way Venis greeted each of them, I guessed they were semi-regulars. At ten sharp, Venis left his desktop and shut the door to the studio. “Well, I guess it’s just us today,” he commented. I didn’t recognize until he was out from behind the desk that he wore a light purple tank top and short shorts. He was beginning to remind me more and more like Richard Simmons.

“We’re going to start out today with a breathing exercise,” Venis began. “Stand up straight and face the mirror. You can put your towels to the side for now.” I folded up my towel and let my feet firmly press against the rough carpet. “Now take a deep breath in through your nose, and I want to hear a loud breath out of your mouth.” Me and his other three students followed his lead. After a few medium volume breaths, Venis interjected. “I can’t hear you! There’s four of you and one of me.” He took his own breaths, which were inhumanly louder than the four of us students put together. “I can barely hear you. Louder! Breeeeeaaaaathe!” My anxiousness was replaced by chagrin.

As we continued into different poses, Venis kept pushing. “We’re going right into the next one. Don’t forget to breeeeeaaaaaathe!” Venis beckoned. Venis indeed was Richard Simmons, if he were cast as the drill sergeant in “Full Metal Jacket”. Finally we came to our last pose. Our raised, contorted arms lifted all our shirts just above our navels. “Now turn your back!” Venis commanded with the intensity of a military commander. I twisted to the right, wincing in pain. Across the spectrum of tense, sweating students, I noticed a black bumper sticker on the registration nook. It read “Namaste Motherfucker”.

Something Old

I Can See Better Through the Fog is a storytelling podcast series in the vein of This American Life and the Moth. It tells the ongoing story of an echo boomer’s quarter life crises, featuring life, love, music, and San Francisco. Press the play button below to hear an audio recording of this latest entry or listen to it on iTunes. If it doesn’t work, you may need the latest version of flash software. (click here to download). Another troubleshooting tip would be to go directly to the soundcloud website. Sit back and let your ears do the work. The text version of this entry is provided beneath the list of selected tracks.

Runtime: 10 minutes and 3 seconds.

Selected tracks: Regina Spektor “Small Town Moon”, David Byrne & St. Vincent “Who” and Beach House “Myth”

The dry cleaning dangling from my right hand grazed the glass front door of my father’s midtown house-turned-duplex. I turned the key then pushed the door open with my left shoulder. Despite the solstice not being for another two weeks, Sacramento’s summer waited for me in my father’s lower unit. His place was silent, save for the pre-summer wind whistling through the window crevices. My dad was away for the afternoon at a recently deceased colleague’s memorial.

As I walked into the dining room I noticed opened moving boxes on the table. Strewn out beside them were heaps of photographs. Some small, some large. Some were even panoramic. They were a mixture of color and black and white prints. I draped my dry cleaning over a chair. The plastic coating over it purred softly as it came to rest. I sat down, looking over the scattered piles of captured memories.

At first it appeared my father was preparing for my best friend from childhood’s wedding. That was in fact why I was in town for the weekend, Frances’s wedding. On the top of the many piles of pictures was one of me, Frances, and Mitch, her high school sweetheart, and now her husband to be. In the 8×8 color print we stood together outside my childhood suburban home, dressed for junior prom. Our legs were kicked up to the right in unison. We were posed in the can-can dance position. Smiles were spread across our faces. Behind my own was a nervousness more complicated than the picture could possibly show.

I went with a beautiful girl who was a year ahead of me in school. She was my co-anchor on the daily morning announcements. Her intensely curly, blonde highlighted hair, sparkling green eyes, and bubbly personality appealed to droves of other boys. I asked her because I enjoyed being around her infectious positive energy and it seemed the easiest “yes” to get from anyone. She was a friend beyond anything else. Our prom together was enjoyable, but I kept it even tamer than a G rating. I didn’t even to attempt to kiss her at the end of the night. Part of that was a fear of rejection and the other part being a stronger interest in the boys. But at that point, I hadn’t given much thought to dating guys. Asking them to the prom seemed out of the question.

I began flipping through the black and white pictures eventually coming to one of my grandmother in her wedding dress. Her posture was better than I had ever known. Perhaps she was past 5 foot at her wedding. I’ve known her only in her below 5 foot days. She’s seemingly shrunk in height, but not personality, each passing year.

Noticing many pictures of my deceased grandfather, I remembered my father had organized a memorial hike for him in a few weeks time. Maybe this was why he took all the pictures out. To find one to bring to the hike. I stumbled across a picture of my grandfather at my Uncle Steve’s bar mitzvah. He stared stoically into the camera. A tallit was draped over his shoulders and a yamaka rested on his head. His facial expression dictated: “I really don’t know why you have to take this picture, but if you must, go ahead, I’ll play along.” It’s the sort of attitude you want subjects to have in a photograph. A sort of truth comes out when people are just able to be themselves despite the camera’s gaze. So often moments captured on film fail to give a true depiction of a person or time because people adjust themselves to what they think the camera wants: a smile, a weird face, a respectable posture. Once the camera’s off them, they return to their natural state.

Dogs, however, are naturals when it comes to being photographed. They don’t know any better. I flipped through some pictures of Buddy, our old golden retriever. In one photo, he lay in the grass, soaking in the sun. However, in many of the pictures he refuses to face the camera, not knowing what my dad wanted from him. So maybe dogs are not always the most photogenic creatures, but they still know how to properly ignore the camera.

I moved back over to the black and white pictures. I then came across a photograph I had wondered if was in existence: my grandparents’ house as it was being built by my grandfather. I gripped the picture and sat back in my chair, staring at the wooden skeleton. The design was unmistakeable: steep sloping driveway, pointed roof to the left, and a long, ranch style frame to the right. In the distance were the tree laden hills of Marin County. In the 4×4 print the carpenters atop the tiny forest of wooden beams were barely visible.

Setting the picture back down on the table, tears started to form. It was my father’s home. It was my grandfather, the renaissance man, doing the work he loved and was revered for. It was the home I used for months before finding a place to live in San Francisco. It was the home my grandmother had to rent out because she couldn’t live there any longer without full time care. Time stood still as I continued to stare at the picture. I’d known this house in its finished form all my life. It’s the only way I knew it. Which left me taking it for granted, believing it eternally existed. The memory captured in the picture had become immortal. Yet, it was also a stinging reminder that all things in life, and life itself, have a beginning and end.

My dad walked in just as I was moving onto more current photos. “How was the memorial?” I asked him. “Hard,” he responded. “I knew Carol for a very long time. She was a really great person. Wish I had known her better.” He went to the kitchen. His keys jingled as he set them down on the counter.

“Are all these pictures out because you’re picking one to give Frances and Mitch tonight at the wedding, or for grandpa’s memorial hike?” My dad walked back into the dining room with a glass of pineapple juice. “Actually, it’s for your Aunt Shirley’s memorial.” I felt ashamed to have forgotten the most recent in the family’s long list of passings. “Oh, right,” I said somberly. “So you went to Jeremy’s graduation last week.” I reminded him of his nephew’s graduation. “And a memorial earlier and a wedding later today. How does it feel to be involved in such different types of ceremonies?”

My dad gave out a long sigh as he leaned on a chair. “They’re all celebrations of life really. Youthful achievements, unions, and honoring the entire arc of a person’s life. They just celebrate different blocks of life.” My dad shrugged, not knowing what else to say. I nodded in understanding, agreement, and satisfaction over the content and brevity of his answer. He took a sip from his glass and looked thoughtfully out the window at the trees blowing in the wind. With that I peeled back the protective plastic sheet covering my dry cleaning and began to get ready for Frances and Mitch’s wedding.