Yoga Asylum

It was a perfect morning for yoga in the park. Warm enough, but not yet the stifling heat of the summer. It was a Goldilocks day.

Class had been moving along nicely and we were about at the halfway point. A young guy walked into class, right to the middle of class. He was a half hour late, which is lame, but I normally don’t say anything because traffic in this town can be bad, worse and most of all unpredictable.

But if you’re a half hour late you don’t walk to the middle of the class and throw your mat down. You stay at the back entrance so you don’t bother people.

He walked to the center of class, brought his hands to pray and bowed to me. I knew I was in for a rough ride.

He starts taking his clothes off. I immediately remember the time the guy walked through class naked and didn’t really want a repeat.

But our new guy, in the middle of class, takes everything off except his tighty whiteys—which were actually green—and I say, “Please tell me you’re stopping there.” He smiles, keeps his underwear on and starts doing yoga. Everything except what I am telling the class to do.

We’re doing a simple forward bend and he’s doing breath of fire and moaning. It’s a public space and I can only be so territorial so I let it go, knowing class will end soon. I stay focused and move ahead. I thought, “Maybe I should say something,” but I was almost certain he would have told me he was a yoga teacher, too. And by the look of the junk in his tighties, I was pretty sure he was on something that included amphetamines. Yeah, I looked. It was right there. He was in the middle of class. I would like to have looked away, but it was not an option.

Class finally ends and everyone is in savasana (laying down). He actually does this, but starts shaking and whacking his arms on the ground and then yells something I don’t understand, like some kind of chant or incantation. At this point, I say in a loud voice, “I am going to need you to be quiet and not move for the next two minutes,” and he listens.

After class, he approaches me. It’s like that person allergic to cats whose lap the cat just can’t stop from sitting on. He wants to introduce himself. First thing he tells me is his shakti is super strong and he has mastered manifestation. He says he is a recent multi-millionaire and doesn’t know what to do with all his money.

I tell him forty thousand men, women and children are homeless in LA and maybe he could start there.

He says, “Oh yeah, okay,” and then tells me how he died at Burning Man and the aliens picked him up and told him he was an archetype. I was kind of sure he didn’t know what archetype meant but didn’t say anything because I was trying to end the conversation.

He then says, “If I give you $500, will you let me do whatever I want in class?”

I say, “Absolutely fucking not.”

By this time, I have my stuff gathered and all the students have left their donations, looking at me and rolling their eyes as they left.

He said, “I guess I need someone to tell me to shut up once in a while.”

I said, “Happy to be of service,” and made my escape.

At least this dog was very well behaved in class. But he looked a little nervous.

At least this dog was very well behaved in class. But he looked a little nervous.


My Mother’s Son

By the time I reached high school, it was determined that I was not going to college. Of course, I did go to college, but for music and art, which is like not going to college. But in high school, I ended up in a lot of interesting “we know you’ll do nothing good with your life”-type classes. Stuff like American Comic Genius (awesome!) where we watched old Charlie Chaplin and other B+W movies, Wood Shop where I often slept, and Basic Math.

One day in math class I finished my test first. Not because I was good at math, but because I hurried through the test with an attitude somewhere between Zen Buddhist and “I don’t give a fuck.” As I walked my test up to Mr. Lumbardo’s desk, Jeff H. (the first person I ever knew that injected drugs rather than smoking and snorting them like a normal person) reached out and punched me in the left kidney. My legs buckled and I held myself up by grabbing two desks as I said, “You motherfucker!” Mr. Lumbardo jumped up — I thought he was going to help me because I felt like throwing up and assumed I looked the same. But to my surprise, he said, “Overberger! What did you say?”

He sent us both to the principal’s office. The principal asked us what happened. Jeff said, “I punched Daniel.” He then asked why I was here and Jeff said, “He called me a motherfucker.” To my surprise, the principal said, “You are both suspended for two days.” I said, “This is shit,” and he said, “THREE days!”

They called my mother to come pick me up and take me home. It sucks because she worked for the Board of Education and was probably embarrassed to have to come and get me. They told her what had happened and that I was not to come to school for three days. On the ride home, my mother didn’t say much. I figured I was in trouble but I didn’t know how much. I had never been suspended before. My disturbing sense of justice had me thinking I might not get too much more “punishment” — maybe a week of being grounded at most. As a teenager, there was some necessary acceptance of the established rules, no matter how hard I fought it.

When we got home, my mother told me to go in the other room and wait. She called work and told them she would be on her way back soon and then went to our basement. It was a little while before she came back up. She eventually called me into the kitchen. I was ready to tell her how unfair this all was and then she said, “Look I don’t want you watching TV all day. I brought up my oil paints and a fresh canvas… paint something if you like. But don’t turn on the TV.”

When my parents got home, nothing was said of it and nothing ever was. In their silence, I felt their support. If someone punches you, calling them a motherfucker is OK. Mostly.

For a moment, I thought, “Gee my parents might be alright.” But, It would take me a long time to let them know.