Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Downward dog days in NYC


A downward dog with a building up your butt? That's Yoga at Bryant's Park.

When I travel I try to pretend I've been in the place I'm visiting for years. That is, rather than rush about seeing sights, I try to do normal things that I or anyone else would do at home. Like eat, sleep, work, buy groceries. I might take in a museum or show or two, but I don't run around with this great long list and a Fodor's duct-taped to my chest. In fact, I don't run around at all. I've been known to spend days indoors in the heart of a NYC summer, the MOMA, Met, Cooper Hewitt, and Century 21 clothing store beckoning, glued to my laptop.

What's the fun in that, I hear you ask?

In this way, I don't get so much of that 'gotta tear myself away' angst and 'get back to real life' letdown when my stay comes to an end. This *is* real life. Or as a friend put it, 'This is not a holiday, this is my life.'

So my attending a free yoga class in the middle of NYC is part of that. I saw 'The Yoga Project' advertised in a TimeOut NY mag gifted to me by Chicago Folding Bike overlord, Bob Matter - who works for the mag.

The class was surprisingly good, packing in some decent postures with good intensity for a public class. It was sponsored by gear outfitter Lululemon Athletica, who even supplied the mats. The photo above was taken surreptitiously between my legs while executing a kind of downward dog. Minding your chakras, while surrounded by glassy edifices, the sound of peak hour traffic ringing on all four sides of the park, soft grass underfoot ... a surreal cocktail that can only be NYC.



ANOTHER random act of localdom was my impulse purchase of a full-sized guitar.

In my last post I talked about succumbing to the spell of the Mandolin Bros guitar shop. Well, I returned with my tail between my legs (or rather the guitar, balanced all the way between my knees on the Staten Island Ferry and #48 bus) to do some serious re-plinkety plunking and find a guitar that I really liked. The Guild was a fine guitar, and my experience of it was not at all soured by a friend's comment that a "Guild made in China was like a Lithuanian R&B band." Just because he owns a 1960's Gibson worth more than me ...

And as ZZTop would say, you need to spank the plank every day to get it to sound sexy - Greg Macainsh

Again, the ever patient Dennis was there, and sat through a further 3 hours of my trying out a slew of even less expensive guitars. I don't know how on earth this man ever got divorced, he has the patience of a monk, especially when I made him run downstairs and lower the action on two guitars and ended up buying neither.

I re-plunked through everything, from a great sounding Big Baby Taylor (a curious oxymoron) for just $398 including a gig bag, to that sub $3000 Eric Clapton, and a strange, Oreo-colored Martin 00-15 guitar that was a re-issue of a wartime 'budget' model. This guitar had me hooked for its wonderful story, an instrument made of all pedestrian mahogany to produce an affordable guitar for impoverished times. But at the premium peacetime price of $900, and with a sweet, but more subdued tone due to lack of a spruce top, I soon lost interest. On the brink of tearing his hair out, but not showing it, Dennis suddenly got a brainstorm, went and rummaged in an upstairs attic and pulled out a Martin 000X1.

Just look at the specs, in part ...

ENDPIECE: none
ENDPIECE INLAY: none
BINDING: none
TOP INLAY STYLE: none
SIDE INLAY: none
BACK INLAY: none
FINGERBOARD POSITION INLAYS: none
FINGERBOARD BINDING: none
FINISH BACK & SIDES: none

Just my kind of no-frills guitar! And for $500, it sounded pretty durn nice. The guitar is largely made out of a kind of Pergo flooring material, albeit with a solid spruce top where soundwise, it counts most. So it's basically bomb-proof, perhaps for smashing television sets in hotel rooms ...

This is the guitar for me, a travelin' gal. The Clapton would have given me heart attacks every time it was out of sight. The Big Baby Taylor was a bit big and boxy, and a bit too bright in the bass. The Martin has a decent, mellow tone, bearing in mind you're playing a piece of Pergo flooring.

I schlepped it back in the same gig bag, which I had to now pay for as this simple, modern-day guitar came in a simple corrugated cardboard box. I like the fact that with fancy woods getting scarce, Martin has looked into making a sustainable option. It also has some good reviews.

Not only do I have a guitar on the east coast, even if temporarily (I have a guitar in Eugene on the West Coast and also two in Sydney, Australia) I can use it as an emergency dancefloor ...

Thanks Dennis and Stan from Mandolin Bros, for letting me 'downgrade' my purchase so I could have something I'm, happy with. You can catch Dennis and his band playing in Manhatten at www.stoutmusic.org

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