Back to School!, Monday, August 27, 2018

It is that awkward time of year for yoga and Pilates studios. Schools are starting, and attendance in classes is falling off. Teachers, who had the summer off and were able to take daytime classes, are either back in their classrooms during the days, or preparing feverishly to go back to work. Parents, who had school-age children at home for the summer, are now free to go to the daytime classes they were missing but are still getting back-to-school duties managed. I expect them to start showing up next week

I too will be going back to school, but as a student and not a teacher. I have enrolled in the Pilates and Dance Conditioning certification program at Orange Coast College and will be commuting down to Costa Mesa on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I will be taking the Pilates Methodology class, the Kinesiology for Dance class, and a Gyrokinesis class. The latter two classes are taught by my long-time body mechanic Donna Place.

My objective in going back is not motivated by a desire to be a teacher, but more a desire to learn more about my body and the methods I can use to maintain and improve it. When I started practicing yoga six years ago I was frustrated by the lack of opportunity to ask questions in class. My solution to that problem was to do a teacher training program even though I had only been practicing for 8 months when I started. That was the perfect opportunity to ask those questions I had.

Now I have been practicing Pilates consistently at Pilates X Studio for over a year, and it is time to up my game!


With respect to my own training, my right foot still has not forgiven me for beating it up almost three weeks ago! I can now walk pretty normally unless I try to go too fast or too far. On Friday I managed to walk almost 1.5 miles without a problem, and that gave me some hope for extending my range.

Saturday, however, was a different story. I went to the Fit Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center to watch my training partner Anna’s sister Diana who was entered in a Powerlifting competition. Diana did great, winning the 60kg weight class. That’s her in the video with her final squat of 237.5 lbs. I think I got caught up in the rushing here and there, all on unforgiving concrete floors, and wound up hobbling back to my car after only a couple of hours. I do have an appointment with a podiatrist tomorrow and I hope he can assist in getting me back on the road to a full recovery.

Sleep? Who Needs Sleep!, Sunday, August 20, 2018

When last we spoke it was Wednesday, and I was in Utah waiting for Kerry Ward and his intrepid band of canyoneers–Sam Edwards, Sam’s 13 year old son Max, and Kerry Sherman–to make the most challenging slot canyon descent in Zion Canyon National Park.

At the Trailhead
At Lava Point–Kerry Sherman, Max and Sam Edwards, and Kerry Ward

The target was Heaps Canyon. Heaps feeds the Emerald Pools, one of the most accessible and popular features of the canyon. It is so challenging that the first descent of the canyon was not even made until 1982. It is a full-featured canyoneering expedition requiring serious gear–wetsuits, long ropes, harnesses, slings, and rappelling hardware–and features numerous rappels, deep potholes that turn into keepers when not full of water, and culminates in a 280 foot free rappel to the upper Emerald Pool.

Entry to Heaps
The approach to Heaps Canyon

I had dropped off the canyon crew at Lava Point at about 8 am. Sam told me that I could expect them to finish between 4 and 6 pm, which was more than a little bit optimistic given that the guide to Heaps says that the descent can take from 12-20 hours. The expedition began with an 8 mile hike just to get into the canyon, and I had heard from Kerry Ward about 10:30 that they had reached the mouth of the canyon in very good time.

Later that afternoon I explored the park a bit and found that the trail up to Emerald Pools was closed, so around 5 I headed down to the Visitor Center where I would wait for them. As the day wore on I noticed some serious cloud buildup north of the canyon. This was a cause for great concern as one of the dangers of any slot canyon trip is the possibility of flash flooding. Sure enough, by around 6 the skies had darkened, thunder and lightning had commenced, and light rain was falling at the Visitor Center.

EUP by www78 on Flickr Edit
Final rappel sequence for Heaps Canyon. The second rappel is 280 feet. Image from Flickr www78.

As 8 pm and darkness approached I began to worry in earnest. There are a lot of things that can go wrong in a descent like this, and I had visions of them dropping their long rope and not being able to make the final descent. That would not be a huge problem under normal circumstances as there would be a lot of visitors to the Emerald Pools who could be notified and seek help. The trail closure nixed that possibility!

I was waiting at the shuttle stop as shuttle after shuttle appeared with no canyoneers. I noticed a very worried looking gentleman who was also anxiously watching shuttles. I found out that he and his wife and daughter had been hiking in the Narrows, had become separated, and they had been unable to locate the daughter. The gathering storms were also feeding his anxiety.

Sam Takes a Leap
Entering the canyon. Most folks rappel down, but that’s too slow for Sam.

Finally, just before 8 I received a text from Kerry W.  They had successfully exited the canyon, were hiking down the closed trail, and would soon be on a shuttle heading down to the VC! About 5 minutes later my co-worrier got a call from the rangers that his daughter had been located at the last shuttle stop before the Narrows (the Temple of Sinawava) and was on a shuttle down to the VC.

Heaps Narrows
In the narrows.

When she arrived she was very angry with her parents, and I wondered why. After becoming separated the parents had come out of the Narrows. They didn’t find the daughter at the shuttle stop, assumed that the daughter (who had been behind them in the Narrows) had gotten on a shuttle and gone back to their prearranged rendezvous at their car at the VC.

Finders Keepers
My fears of them losing a rope proved unfounded. They actually returned with about 600 feet of rope that had been lost/abandoned by other groups.

They took the shuttle down, didn’t find her, and made a fatal mistake–they got in the car and went looking for her, moving the car to a different location. My guess is that the daughter had come down after they moved the car, didn’t find it, and took the shuttle back up to where she had last seen her parents and where she had been waiting anxiously for them until the rangers canvassed the location. Kind of a comedy of errors!!

Final Rap Setup
Sam setting up the last rappel. Getting late, but still light out!

The shuttle with the canyon crew finally arrived about 9, and we all headed to Springdale for a well-earned dinner. Then it was back to St. George, where we arrived at Sam’s at 10:30. No rest, however, when hanging with Ward, as Kerry and I were headed back to LA! I drove the first leg to Primm, Nevada, Kerry took over until Barstow, and then I drove the last leg to the Morgan Castle in the Hollywood Hills. I dropped Kerry there, headed back to Long Beach, and got home at 5 am, which is when I usually get up!

My Costume
Me in costume at Versailles with a couple of new friends.

I had a lot to do, so after I slept for a couple of hours I got up, went to my 11 am Pilates class at Pilates X, and then it was off to my costume fitting at Bianca’s Historic Costuming! I had been invited to a costume party Friday at the Morgan Castle. The theme was “Let them Eat Cake Party at Versailles”. The Morgan’s are serious costume partiers, and I am costume challenged so had decided to seek professional help. Bianca and her husband Peter expeditiously fitted me with a great period costume.

I had a decent nights sleep, was up at 5 as usual, worked out, took a Pilates class, had a nap, and then drove up to the Morgan Castle in the Hollywood Hills for the epic costume party. A little after 1 am I managed to extricate Kerry Ward from the party–not a trivial task as he is traditionally the life of any party he goes to–and I drove him up to Big Bear where he planned to rendezvous with his friend Dax Orion Hock.

Party scene by Baxter Zappa
Dancers at the party–photo by Baxter Zappa

Dax, along with his wife Sarah, is a world champion swing dancer, and they are the owners of the Lindy Loft in downtown Los Angeles. About a year ago he expressed an interest in doing an ultra marathon. Since then Kerry has been mentoring him in that endeavor, and he finally felt that he was ready for his first 100 miler. Dax had started the Kodiak Big Bear 100 ultra at 8 am on Friday, and Kerry wanted to meet him at the Sugarloaf aid station to pace him through the last 30 miles.

Dax was faster than expected, and we left the party a little later than planned, so we missed Dax on his first pass through Sugarloaf. Kerry grabbed a bit of sleep in my car while I watched for Dax. When Dax arrived just about at dawn they were off for the last 20 miles of the race. Dax finished at about 11 am for a total time of 27 hours and was first among all male non-professional runners, a pretty spectacular result for a first timer!

Then it was the long slow drive home. Mid day traffic on I-10 was a whole lot worse than middle of the night traffic, but eventually I dropped off Kerry at the Morgan Castle and made it back to Long Beach just after 5 pm. Between Tuesday morning at 5 am when I got up and Saturday at 5 pm, a span of 108 hours, I had gotten a total of 13 hours of sleep. I will be getting some needed rest over the next few day. No rest for Ward, though. He was off today for a job Monday in Charlotte, NC, then back to Vancouver where he will gear up for the long drive to Burning Man!

Hanging with Ward, Wednesday, August 15, 2018

It is now 10:38 am on Wednesday, and I am sitting in one of my favorite coffeeshops, River Rock Roasting Company, in Hurricane, UT. At about 8 am I dropped off my buddy Kerry Winston Ward and three confederates–Sam Edwards, Sam’s son Max, and Kerry Sherman–at Lava Point in the high country north of Zion Canyon.


Kerry Ward in Sam Edward’s well-stocked garage at 5 am

Their mission? To make a descent of Heap’s Canyon. According to Canyoneering USA, Heap’s is …

The Big Kahuna. Heaps is a truly wonderful canyon, but it is also BIG. Deep inside the mountain, it is dark, wet, sinuous and moody. When really wet, it is fast and cold, and such a blast! When the water levels go down, keeper potholes start appearing, and as the level continues descending, more and more potholes require effort to get out of.

Sam had planned to do this expedition last week, but was unable to get it together. Kerry W. had to scramble a bit to get in this rescheduled excursion. He flew into Los Angeles on Tuesday morning for a meeting, and then after the meeting I picked him up at the Morgan Castle in the Hollywood Hills and drove to the St. George area. We didn’t leave until about 6:30, and it was just after 2 am when we got to Sam’s house in Santa Clara, and then we were up before 5 am to prepare for the expedition du jour. As if that were not enough of a challenge, we will be driving back to the Los Angeles area tonight so we can take care of business tomorrow.

Pothole Dave Buckingham

Potholes in the upper reaches of Heap’s Canyon. Photo by Dave Buckingham on CBS

This is a very challenging canyon experience, and requires a great deal of expertise and preparation. In fact, the first descent of the canyon was not even made until 1982. Starting from Lava Point, wannabe canyoneers must hike on the order of 9 miles just to enter the canyon. Once in the canyon there are a number of rappels required, with the last one a 280 foot rappel down to the upper Emerald Pools. That last rappel is actually more on the order of 500 feet, but is broken into first a 200 foot drop to a very small ledge (just large enough for two) and then the final approach.


At the Lava Point trailhead–Kerry Sherman, Max and Sam Edwards, and Kerry Ward

Another challenge is water, and sometimes a lack of water. This canyon has a large number of potholes, deep depressions that fill with water, and when they are full canyoneers need to swim them. When they are not full they can also be problematic–a keeper pothole is one that is deep and difficult to climb out of when it is not full. The upper reaches of the canyon require wet or dry suits, which must be packed in along with ropes, harness, and hardware for the rappels.


View from the top of the final rappel. Photo from T-Dawg Speaks


The guide for the trip indicates a 12-20 hour time commitment required, but this crew is planning on more like 8-10 hours. I just got a text message from Kerry W. (coverage is spotty and unreliable) indicating that they had reached the canyon in just about 2-1/2 hours, well under the 4 hours predicted in the guide, so they appear to be well on schedule. Keep your fingers crossed! I think I am going to find someplace where I can get in a bit of a nap before tonight’s driving.

Status Update, Saturday, August 11, 2018

It is Saturday morning, and I am here at Steelhead Coffee working on dealing with the latest injury/insult to my body:-(.

My friend Kerry Ward flew in to LAX on Thursday morning, and one of his prime objectives was to go for a long run with World Champion swing dancer and proprietor of downtown LA’s Lindy Loft Dax Orion Hock . Kerry is mentoring Dax, who is preparing for his inaugural 100 mile ultramarathon next weekend in Big Bear. I picked up Kerry at the airport, we met up with Dax in Santa Monica, and then proceeded up the coast to the La Jolla Canyon trailhead in Point Mugu State Park.

Screen Shot 2018-08-11 at 9.21.41 AM

That trailhead is the western terminus of the Backbone Trail, a 67.9 mile long trail that extends from Point Mugu to Will Rogers State Park off Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles. Kerry and Dax were planning on running about the first 30 miles of the trail. My plans were more modest. I was planning on doing an up-and-back hike of about 10 miles, after which I would pick up the lads at some road crossing to be determined later.


Kerry and Dax at the Ray Miller Trailhead

All went as planned for the first five miles. I even got ambitious and ran a couple of miles, but stopped running because the tendons in my right heel were starting to tighten up and bother me. At my turnaround point I saw that there was a trail that went down La Jolla Canyon to the trailhead. It was only 2.4 miles long, so I decided I would cut back on my expectations and take that shortcut. The trail was very narrow, overgrown, and looked like it got very little traffic, especially considering that it was the shortest route from the trailhead to the La Jolla Canyon walk-in campsite.



About a mile from the trailhead I found the reason for the light traffic–the trail was closed! It would have been great to have had that information at the start of the trail, and  my only choice at this point was to turn around and go back the way I had come, meaning that my 10 mile trip, that had been reduced to a 7.5 mile trip, was now going to be on the order of 14 miles!

I had another problem to deal with. It was a very hot day, and the temperatures as I moved away from the beach had climbed to 100+. I had brought along 1.5 liters of water, and as I had descended the canyon trail I was thirsty and was drinking a lot as I thought I only had a couple of miles to go. By the time I reached my new turnaround point I probably had less than a half-liter of water left, and that had to get me through a very hot seven miles!


View from the Ray Miller Trail. You can see just the tip of the rock at Point Mugu.

They say when it rains, it pours, and that was the case here. At about the 11 mile mark I took a bad step and my right foot began to hurt in earnest. Not such a happy occurrence as I still had about three miles and 1200 feet of descent ahead of me. By rationing my water I managed to make it last until I had about 1.5 miles left, and when I got to the bottom I rather quickly consumed 3/4 of a liter and was still thirsty!

About a mile from the end of my hike I got a text message from Kerry that they were approaching Yerba Buena Road, so I drove up to that trail crossing where I found Kerry waiting for me. He was suffering a bit from the heat and had only covered 16.3 miles at that point. Dax had continued on by himself to cover another 4.6 miles to the next intersection with Yerba Buena road, so we headed over there and waited for him to arrive. He arrived safely, and we headed for home.


Bedlam Lullaby at Viento y Agua

In the immediate aftermath I was having great difficulty even walking, and that state persisted through yesterday. I laid pretty low, but did get out to see a steamy performance by my favorite girl group, Bedlam Lullaby, at Viento y Agua coffeshop. Even that was a problem as my parking spot was a painful two blocks from the event. Today is better, but I am still restricting my activity to just a Gyrotonic session today, and trying to stay off my feet as much as I can.

Old Band, New Music! Boxing Gandhis, Saturday, August 4, 2018

From 1983 to 1993 I was living in Venice, sharing a house on Rose Avenue east of Lincoln with my friends Gene and Davida, and eventually, their daughter Frazier. Gene is a musician and had a band named Big Fun. A large part of my entertainment at that time consisted of going out to Big Fun gigs. I was their biggest fan, and worked hard to bring others out to their shows.

One memorable show was in 1993 at the late, lamented Palomino club in North Hollywood. As I recall, Big Fun was up early enough that I was able to hang out for the next band. I was happy that I did! That band was an incredibly good funk/soul band named the Boxing Gandhis, and they instantly converted me into a major fan.

The Gandhis were the creation of and fronted by the Darlings. David (aka, Dave) Darling is a successful record producer who has worked with artists like Brian Setzer, the Stray Cats, Def Leppard, and other acts. He is also a talented musician and singer in his own right. Brie Howard Darling, his wife at that time, is a dynamic vocalist/percussionist who was a founding member of the all female rock band Fanny.

There was no shortage of vocal talent in the Boxing Gandhis! Ernie Perez and David Kitay provided additional lead and backup vocals, while Ernie also did yeoman duty on the saxophone. One of the distinguishing features of the Gandhis was a brass section, with Alfredo Ballesteros joining Ernie on flute and saxophone. Percussion was another strength for the band with both Davids (Darling and Kitay) and Brie adding rhythmic complexity to the drumming of Steve Samuel.

The Gandhis were a rather large band–I see eight members listed on their eponymous album Boxing Gandhis, but if my memory serves me well there may have been on the order of 10 players at times in their live gigs. I recall seeing them perform at Genghis Cohen one time, and it was quite a challenge to accommodate the full band on the tiny stage at that venue.


Fanny Walked the Earth

I was very happy several months ago when I saw that Brie has resurfaced and joined forces with sisters June Millington and Jane Millington Adamian, her former bandmates from the 60’s. Back in their teen years they were known as Fanny, and the mature version is going by Fanny Walked the Earth.


Boxing Gandhis

The new Boxing Gandhis

Even more exciting was the news that the Boxing Gandhi’s have reformed! They have not done any live gigs yet, but every day brings more news from the studio where they are working on a new album, titled “Old Band, New Music”. I am eagerly awaiting both the release of their new album and look forward to shaking my bones when they finally do start playing out!