Happy Thanksgiving, Pass the Smallpox Blankets

Something to chew on besides turkey.

Yeah, I know I’m a stinker. Wait ’til 9/11 comes around and I post something about the CIA overthrowing Allende’s Chile on that date in 1973. I guess that’s why no one invites me to parties anymore.

My Scooter’s Long-Lost Twin

How many years have I had my Vespa? I don’t recall exactly, but it has been around ten years. And in that time, I had never seen a Portofino green Vespa Granturismo 200L like mine. (Actually, I did see one while on a Google Maps search of Oxford, England. It was parked on a sidewalk, students from the famous university walking by it with their pixelated faces.) Now I have seen one and touched one. (Even accidentally sat on one.) Last Monday, I was walking back to my ride after working a half-day in Downtown Sacramento. The owner of my scooter’s twin parked his GT200 right next to mine, probably as a friendly gesture. If I had kept the windshield on mine, they would be virtually identical.

My scooter’s doppelganger sports a windscreen. Mine had one, but I removed mine.

My scooter’s twin has some black detail on the back fender, whereas mine is
Portofino green.

I’m a little over a month away from retirement, a month away from regularly
parking here, and my Vespa finally found her long-lost sister. Cruel irony.

Thanksgiving Prayer

Thanksgiving is coming; it’s time to destroy my diet. But, of course, that’s a lie; my self-control and I haven’t been talking for years. My diets over the years have never survived the holiday season anyway. It starts when my wife habitually buys Halloween candy way too soon. So we end up having to buy another bag of “fun size” candy after we wiped out a giant bag of those little bastards, including the miserable York Peppermint Patties, Milky Ways, and the Almond Joys. Hey, someone’s got to finish off those otherwise untouchables!

Thanksgiving isn’t the time for dieting, anyway. Not with my family, at least. The Thanksgiving dinner is too good to decide whether to cry light raspberry vinegarette tears into my salad or eat the good stuff in moderation. For me, Louis C.K. said it best, “The meal isn’t over when I’m full. The meal is over when I hate myself.”

Besides “hating myself,” there’s one other thing about Thanksgiving I don’t like. It’s the brief yet, for me, the seemingly endless moment before I ignore everyone in the room and get down to the business of ensuring I stay fat. It’s when all heads turn to me to lead us all in grace. A grace that everyone knows will be utterly devoid of—well—grace.

There was a time I enjoyed this preamble to stuffing my face, but that was when I was a kid and my grandfather was alive. When my grandfather said grace, it was all my brother, and I could do from breaking out in laughter. To our ears, my grandfather’s grace was utterly incomprehensible. To us, he mumbled through nearly the entire event, and it was funny as hell. We knew it was over when he finished with the flourish, “…for Christ’s sake!” The final three words—the only words I could make out of the whole prayer—were spoken not as a petition in the name of God’s only son but as if he found a bug walking over the mashed potatoes. Little did I know as I giggled through all those prayers that I would inherit, leading the family in grace around the time I could grow facial hair.

I didn’t sign up for this gig, nor did I draw the shortest straw between me, my older sister, and my younger brother. Perhaps my mother felt I should inherit the job from my grandfather partly because my dad didn’t want to do it and partly because I was her eldest son. But, in all fairness to my mother, I’m sure she thought it was an honor to be given this task. And I’m sure I felt honored to receive the mantle until I realized I didn’t have a talent for it, even after becoming a Christian.

Look up the definition of “pray” or “prayer,” and you will see such descriptives as “adoration,” “confession,” “supplication,” and “thanksgiving” (hey, whaddayaknow, thanksgiving!). The only times I ever prayed to God out loud was when I was a child/young teen. It was more of a crying bitch session than anything even remotely close to adoration, confession, supplication, and absolutely nothing like thanksgiving. I cried to him, wanting to know why he made me so horrible in sports. My brother and especially my best friend Jesse seemed like naturals at baseball, dodgeball, tetherball, anything that required hand-eye coordination. I sucked at all sports. I spent many an evening in my bed crying out loud, asking God why he made me this way. That was the only “conversation” I had with God, and it always felt one-sided, primarily when I remained the suckiest kid on the blacktop the following day.

I grew up and, after a while, stopped whining to God about my lot. However, as an adult, I remained horrible at sports on the rare times I picked up a ping-pong paddle, softball bat, or even tried to pass my driver’s test. (It may not be a sport, but I’m sure Guinness has me down as the world record holder for failing that test four times before finally passing. Even now, no one wants me to drive the car, so I ride a scooter alone.)

I recall complaining to my bride that I knew I was horrible at saying grace and didn’t know what to do about it. She recommended I write down a prayer beforehand. I had been flipping through Marianne Williamson’s beautiful Illuminata: A Return to Prayer and chose one of hers. That worked, but I got embarrassed when someone giggled, and from that point, I went back to my boring, simple prayer. I don’t think anyone at the table understood how difficult this was for me.

At church, I avoided the mid-week prayer meeting because it meant praying out loud and doing it more than once within each gathering. To the uninitiated, a prayer meeting consists of church members and guests talking about concerns and blessings with the congregation, community, and beyond (illnesses, deaths, pregnancies, births, war, travel, new jobs, and just about everything else). Then each attendee would pray over these concerns/blessings. It’s a round-robin prayerathon, and when it got to me, I stumbled through my prayer then surreptitiously glanced at the clock until it was time to go. As a result, I only attended one of these. If I had forced myself to participate in these meetings regularly, I might have become an eloquent prayer reciter, but I didn’t. So praying aloud became as awkward as fielding a hard-hit grounder or hitting a fastball: instead of sticking with it and slowly but surely getting better, I quit. 

Even without the prayer-intensive mid-week meetings, some would have thought after many years attending church and Bible studies, I would have built self-confidence and developed a style of talking to God. But, nope. I even skipped praying and instead listened attentively during communion when the deacons and elders prayed over the elements so I could evaluate the prayers of my church’s uber players. “Wow, Victor, that sounds beautiful. You stuck that one, bro!”

I feel bad about dreading saying grace when I should be honored. So in the end, I say the same tired boilerplate: “Heavenly Father, thank you for these gifts we are about to receive. In Jesus’ name.” I occasionally hear a smart-aleck crack from a family member who recognizes the same old prayer. From time to time, my wife would do a follow-up, cleaning up my lousy prayer, but she never volunteered to be the designated grace giver. My brother’s children (now grown-ups) used to say their Vatican-approved grace after my crappy one. I thought that was great, hoping my niece and/or nephew would take over the tradition. But, alas, it kept falling back on me.

As far as my faith goes, I had become more of a Doubting Thomas than I was when I was first saved. However, this doesn’t make grace any more or less easier. If I was a devout Christian, I am sure my prayers would suck just as bad as they do now. Maybe if I go all Richard Dawkins on a prayer one time, no one would want to hear my devotion to the empty void again.

The funny thing is there are not that many church-going believers at these dinners: a few Roman Catholics, my very devout wife, and me, Doubting Jack, and that’s it, I think. (Of course, only God knows who is saved, as punching the clock at a church has nothing to do with salvation.) The first person I ever heard praying at the dinner table was my grandfather. I believe he attended seminary when he was a young man, and I recall seeing photos of him as a young man holding a Bible. Then the Great War came along, and after he stepped over one too many dead soldiers, he felt God did not exist, or something like that. This phenomenon was common in modern warfare. As humans figured out ways to kill their fellow humans en masse and the dead bodies stacked up quicker, many previously religious people felt a genuinely merciful God wouldn’t allow this kind of thing to happen to his children.

I honestly couldn’t hear a word my grandfather said during those prayers, which makes me wonder if he was no longer a believer; maybe he was mumbling about high property taxes or reminding himself to take the car in for a tune-up next week. But, on the other hand, if he was mumbling no actual words, maybe I should do what he did and belatedly carry on the tradition, “for Christ’s sake!” As for this Thanksgiving dinner, it just dawned on me. It’s an odd-numbered year, so that means my wife and I will most likely be spending Thanksgiving (and Christmas) at the in-laws’ house, where my wife’s father will be doing the praying, which he does very well. Now that’s what I call grace!

Interview with Yogi Bob

Robert at Asha Yoga in Sacramento

I met Robert Hallworth in a Power Yoga class at the Capital Athletic Club in Sacramento about seven years ago. I was both impressed and intimidated by his level of practice. I was new to yoga and only took “gentle” yoga classes. After that initial exposure, I never attended that particular class again. Still, many of the students and teachers I practiced with spoke of Robert in a very respectful, almost reverent tone.

When COVID-19 hit, and my club, along with all the other gyms in Sacramento, closed, the yoga teachers who had day jobs–attorneys, teachers, and State of California employees (in Sacramento, we are legion!) may not have felt the financial hit. Still, people whose primary or sole means of income was teaching yoga, like Robert, had to become creative and turn to social media to keep the lights on. In Robert’s case: the online Yogi Bob persona was born.

When my club re-opened, the group exercise pickings were slim: the yoga classes were few, and I could only attend two that were led by Robert. While I was in the worst shape of my life, Robert was very accommodating. Mercifully, neither of his current classes are Power Vinyasa classes. However, when more people re-join the club, one of these classes could become a Power Vinyasa class. Hopefully, the club will have more classes to offer someone at my level.

In the meantime, I enjoy and learn from Robert’s practice and from his brief talks before we practice. And even if he leads the classes through many balance postures, I am doomed never to stick (thanks to being heavily medicated); I appreciate his practice. So here’s a short interview with the yogi.

BurgerScoot: I’ve always known you as Robert. How did you come up with Yogi Bob? Was it for social media?

Robert Hallworth: Yes for social media and easy to remember, but also as kind of a joke 10 years ago, of two diametrically opposite sort of personality types, one mindful, compassionate, content, low key, and the other ignorant, brash, in your face, reactionary, not cosmopolitan. In other words, a yogi redneck.

BS: When were you introduced to yoga?

RH: I was introduced to yoga at Sac City college around 1999 by Trinidad Stassi, who happens to teach Spin [cycling] at Capital Athletic Club, wonderful teacher and motivator.

BS: I know you teach some Vinyasa yoga, but do you practice any other kinds of yoga in and outside a Hatha?

RH: Well yes and as you know all physical Indian style yoga is Hatha (sun/moon) yoga, but it includes breathwork, concentration, meditation, sense withdrawal, personal and external ethics, that culminates in samadhi/ self realization. I bring all of these aspects into my classes subtly or not so subtly; but I also practice Tibetan tantric yogas and meditations, and kriyas.

BS: Do you meditate regularly? If yes, do you practice mindfulness meditation or something else like Transcendental Meditation?

RH: Yes, I meditate very regularly Shamata (tranquil abiding), mindfulness, tonglen (giving love and taking negativity), and Tibetan tantra.

BS: You teach chi Kung or Qigong and Tai chi, isn’t that correct? What are those arts? I have seen people practice Tai chi, but have never looked into it. Qigong is new to me.

RH: Yes I teach primarily Qigong which is a Chinese cultural flow modality of slow mindful/meditative movements for restoring vitality/subtle stretching. It is a very easy set of 21 movements that address all the major muscle, joint, ligament areas, as well as refining breathing and meditative awareness. On my own I’ve been practicing qigong & Tai Chi for about nine or ten years under Stan Yen, a very great practitioner-teacher here in Sacramento, who authorized me to teach his style.

BS: Do you have a guru?

RH: Well I have more than one guru (remover of ignorance) but my main or root Guru is Garchen Rinpoche and also Barbara Du Bois, both teach from the drikung kagyu Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and both live in Arizona. They both teach Mahamudra and Vajrayana which are meditative practice traditions over 1000 years old.

Robert rock climbing at Putah Creek, California.

BS: One thing you like to mention in our yoga classes is your love for rock climbing or bouldering. How did you get into that?

RH: I came to rock climbing at the same time as yoga bout 1999, as a departure from some older habits to definitely healthier and smarter habits primarily and they have helped guide me along with Buddhism since then.

BS: Do you use the same mental disciplines you have developed from yoga and meditation when climbing a rock?

RH: Yes there is such a crossover in all three disciplines as they all require mindfulness focus, strength, flexibility, and the ability to relax under duress.

BS: You combine yoga, meditation, and rock climbing on special retreats. Is this done independently or through a company?

RH: I do these retreats independently through my creation of Sadhanadventures as a way to combine these disciplines I love to share and teach on weekend camping trip excursions to special places.

BS: Thanks for doing this interview, Robert.

Robert leading a group in yoga at McKinley Park in Sacramento.

Yogi Bob, can be found on his YouTube channel and his Patreon page. And as mentioned above, he also leads groups in yoga, meditation, and rock climbing retreats

Zen and the Mud Puddle

I took my dog, Vivian, out for her morning walk yesterday. Halfway through, she lunged towards another canine across the street. I lost my balance and stepped into a deep mud puddle.

I got angry at Vivian, but it’s on me; I trained her poorly. As the walk continued, I was reminded of what a yoga teacher said at the end of each practice: “May you live like the lotus, at home in the muddy water.”

I often wish I could be like that lotus. But it’s a process, and sometimes a muddy shoe prevents you from achieving Zen.

Until my next post: Here’s a dream interlude

That’s not me. I wear a C-PAP.

I haven’t posted anything recently, so in the spirit of just posting a writing exercise, here’s a dream I had recently. Dreams for me are special because I have or remember so very few of them. (I have/recall maybe one dream every 100 nights.)

I thought when I finally broke down and agreed to wear a C-PAP every evening a few years back, I thought I would start remembering dreams because I would have more R.E.M. sleep. I started getting much better sleep, but I still didn’t remember any dreams, for the most part.

There’s no point to this dream, so don’t try to interpret it unless you’re into that kind of shit. If you like tinkering with dream interpretation and read this, let me know what you think it means.

In a dream, I read that a political position was open from a local publication. I’m guessing it was in an “Inside” publication, if not that, PennySaver, but it was a dream, so that it could have been a fabrication of my mind. Nevertheless, it was a community post of some kind. I recall thinking about how I should put my money where my mouth is. I want to change the world. So why don’t I take my first baby step and run for this post? But I shuttered at the thought and turned the page.

As so many dreams are, time slipped or skipped or whatever, and I was sitting on the hood of a car (I would never do that) or riding a bike (more like it), and Robyn from work was approaching me on the sidewalk (or I was riding towards her). Robyn is a beautiful woman who many a man where I work have desired. There has also been some dirty gossip about the woman: making out with married men and men dating other women. In one case, as the dirt went, she caused the divorce of a happily married man, but I didn’t buy the “homewrecker” story. (Strange and unfortunate how only the woman can be a “homewrecker.”) All of this has made her, in my eyes at least, more sexual, if not more attractive.

After we greeted one another in the dream, Robyn congratulated me for landing the new post! I laugh and tell her I didn’t register for the position or even considered registering for the post. But, she said to me that I got it regardless of my objection and showed me a paper pointing to the announcement. In my nervousness of having the beautiful Robyn inform me of this as well as being utterly flabbergasted over this revelation, I went into self-deprecating humor.

Robyn was laughing hard, and that made me aroused, and my arousal compelled me to dish out more self-deprecating humor, which made her laugh even more. I didn’t think this was going to go anywhere. It’s not like Robyn started removing articles of clothing. Nor did I notice my wife walking up to us, smiling.

I don’t believe my wife’s presence ruined the moment–I didn’t think my humor was a form of foreplay. I don’t think my humor has ever been an aphrodisiac in dreams or in wakey time. I attempted to introduce the love of my life to one of the women of my dreams, but I got my wife’s name wrong.

What does that mean? Anyway, it woke me up stressed out. Did I feel guilty?

Yoga Teacher from Hell

My wife just sent me this. Very funny. I hope Robert, my yoga teacher, and the subject of my upcoming post doesn’t take this the wrong way!

Delaney Rowe(@delaneysayshello) has created a short video on TikTok with music Yoga Music. May or may not have taken a yoga class this morning #foryou #yoga #comedy #namaste
— Read on www.tiktok.com/@delaneysayshello/video/7008315626259221765

The “Coal Stop” California Burger

Nope, it is an oasis around a virtual desert of sorts. The name of the resort comes from a famous cattle ranch nearby know by locals for the foul smells of cattle excrement and the even worse smells coming from the slaughterhouse, but lucky for us, the resort is far enough away we can’t smell that stuff.

I have heard that Santa Nella is “The Oasis of I-5,” but not too far away from Stockton, it isn’t much of an “Oasis.” After Santa Nella’s Pea Soup Andersen Restaurant and Ramada Inn, there is nothing until you hit Coalinga (meaning Coal Stop or Coal Station), and Coalinga wouldn’t be anything to visit if it weren’t for the massive Harris Ranch Inn and Restaurant.

Steaks, steaks, and brisket, and more steaks!

Harris Ranch is a cattle ranch, so there is plenty of beef. Something I try to avoid except for the occasional hamburger. Considering the heat in this land plagued by fires, droughts, and man-made climate change, you have to be prepared to buy steaks way out here unless you come with your own icebox. (And you thought I was for once not going to get serious for once!) For someone who rarely eats steaks, they sure look good!

They also have a bakery, and the stuff looks good, but we were waiting to be seated for lunch, so we passed on sampling something.

These caps looked like they might have been worn by the ranch softball team for a game or two, then returned to the shelf.

“Red, white & Moo” Cute.

The steaks and the baked goods are inside a gift shop that offers self-promotional merch, gift baskets, some including bottles of their own IPA (yep, that’s right, they brew their beer!), greeting cards, and knick-knacks. All that scream, “That’s right, I stopped in the middle of nowhere. and bought this shit!”

The California Burger comes with fries or a ramekin of beans. As you can see, the beans are not very thick. It tasted fine, but I should have tried the fries.

Now for the mini-burger review you have been waiting for: I ordered the California Burger. I am sorry to report it wouldn’t win any prizes for uniqueness. It’s about a quarter-pound of good, if not remarkable beef (I had mine prepared medium-well as I always do when asked). It also has Jack cheese, two slices of crispy bacon, and fresh guacamole—which is the only “California” element of the burger. It also sports raw red onions, iceberg lettuce (I told you it isn’t fancy), tomatoes, and dill pickle slices. The bun is as pedestrian as the rest of the burger, but it held up during the whole time I was biting and masticating the thing, which is more than I can say for a lot of burgers I have had that I end up having to eat with a knife and fork because the bun dissolved under the juices and fumbling around. The only truly distinctive element is the tasty Harris Ranch’s Special Dressing: a basil vinaigrette dressing containing oregano, red onions, parsley, and Harris Ranch olive oil. A nice touch.

I would give the burger good if not excellent marks. I would be pissed if I came all the way out here to rate this burger. Still, the burger gets a passing grade as a rest stop lunch/dinner item. If I were into red meat, I would be intrigued by some of the menu’s steak items, including Whiskey Smoked Salt & Brown Sugar Rubbed Ribeye, Horseradish-Crusted Prime New York Steak! (the exclamation point is mine), and a steak sandwich with my name on it–literally: Jack’s Favorite Steak Sandwich. But, like I have said on this blog in the last few years, I’m cutting way back on red meat so I’ll have to relegate those items to my drooling dreams. Also, I just started a new diet. Ha! We’ll see how long that lasts!

An update from an old post about my weight, diet, and yoga practice

On March 19, 2017, I posted a 192-word blurb about the struggle I was going through at the time: laziness and overeating vs. practicing yoga and eating healthier. Unfortunately, I gave the post the uninspiring title “Battle Royale.” Also, I was unaware that the title is from a book that bares little resemblance to my personal struggle. Still, just as I was too lazy to develop a better title, I was too numb to apply myself to a healthier lifestyle. So here’s the original post with an update below. It’s not pretty, dear readers. 

I’ve been practicing yoga for more than three years. It started as an Rx by a physical therapist back in 2013, who said there’s no cure for my degenerative disk disease. But practicing yoga would keep me off ibuprofen and the occasional opioid when my back pain pops up from now until the final solution to the problem—death. She was right–barring the stiffness from binge-watching streaming TV shows on a lumpy couch, I’m pretty much always limber thanks to four hours of yoga a week.

Still, I grapple with my health: my laziness and gluttony versus my life on the mat and occasionally stringing together a few days of successfully dieting. It is a mortal struggle. Since I spend more hours doing the two things that are killing me than those that benefit me, it is a losing war—all of this on the battlefield of Time–the ultimate killer.

It’s all about what element will conquer my body on a given day. This day, Sunday, May 19, 2017, goes to the Axis of Evil: an hour of TV, way too much ice cream late in the evening, and just the plain fact that I have much fewer days on this planet than the days behind me. Tomorrow is another fight.

Update August 2021: I’d love to report that things have improved over the last four and a half years, but that would be a lie. Thanks to the pandemic and my laziness, I now only practice yoga two hours a week. And because I no longer commute to work five days a week, fifty-five miles of bicycling has been cut down to less than twenty miles of walking. Finally, I’m stiffer and fatter than I have ever been.

My practice has been brutal. First, being out of shape has made my practice difficult. Also, my two yoga teachers: Heather on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Brenda on Wednesdays with an on-again, off-again Sunday practice lead by a revolving door of teachers, is now down to one teacher on Mondays and Thursdays. Of course, I have no excuse not practicing alone using YouTube, but it is extremely tough getting motivated—I need somewhere to be at a specific time on a particular day.

If I were a true yogi, I would consider myself lucky that my Tuesdays and Thursdays yoga teacher is Robert Hallworth—considered by many yoga teachers to be one of the best in the Sacramento area. I can tell that he is special, even if he wants the class to do too many balance postures. Unfortunately, thanks to a seizure disorder suppressed by narcotics in combination with a lazy eye, I cannot perform Eagle Pose, Warrior 3, Mountain Pose, any pose where the practitioner is supposed to balance on one foot. I get so frustrated when we go through a series of these postures that I cannot do that I often wish there was an adjacent juice bar I could belly up to, sit down, have a Mean Green, and yell to Robert, “It’s okay, I’ll catch up with you when both feet are back on the hard maple!”

But, of course, I’m a baby.

Ironically, I just started the book Anodea Judith’s Chakra Yoga. I recently finished her excellent book on the Chakra System Wheels of Life and wanted to check out a yoga routine that directly addressed the Chakra System. How I plan on sticking to a home routine lead by a book when I have never been able to stick with routines on YouTube or DVDs by Seane Corn or Rodney Yee will be a steep hill to climb.

Perhaps I will re-post this piece in late 2024/early 2025 with another update. Maybe that update will be optimistic, sunny. I can only hope the man doing the typing will be eating better, working out more, and not complaining about the yoga teacher leading the classes he should be so grateful to attend.

Perhaps I should take advice from this disturbingly sexy Buddha with big ears.

Namaste.

Right on Sister–ur Mother!

Yes, you should absolutely call your mom today. But you should also know that Mother’s Day isn’t just a holiday for greeting card and chocolate companies to make a buck, but of radical antiwar and feminist organizers.   Women Strike for Peace activists at a Censure Nixon rally in Washington, DC, on January 18, 1972. (Dorothy…

I’m a bit of a grump when it comes to what I call the “fake holidays”–the ones created, for the most part, by greetings card companies to sell sentimentality and paper goods. I felt rather stupid when I found out there are some actual events behind Mother’s Day. Here is a piece by one of my favorite magazines about the day’s history.

Mother’s Day Has Deeply Radical Roots — Jacobin