Saturday, July 18, 2009

Breathing ocean air at Galos Salt Caves - Chicago

What pleased me most about visiting the Galos Salt Caves spa and health experience on Chicago's northwest side was its cleanliness. Tons of rock salt from the Russian Black Sea were shipped stateside to create this faux salt cave at 6501 W. Irving Park Road, which is an unusual offshoot of the adjacent, Polish-owned Jolly Inn restaurant and banquet hall.

I was ushered into the cave with three of my friends by a helpful and lovely young lady. Our group and two other participants spent the first 10 minutes or so of the 45-minute session walking around in clean socks to get a recommended foot massage from the salty surroundings. The salt bricks inset with Himalayan salt lights, decorative pillars graced with salty seahorses, and faux sparkly stalactites all added up to what could pass as the coolest basement rec room anyone could have created. It is, however, on the ground floor, but once inside, who knows? You feel fathoms from the surface of the earth.

My lungs opened up as soon as I breathed in the seemingly odorless salty air. Temperature is held at a comfortable 70-something degrees. We all slung back in white, zero-gravity lounge chairs and listened to gentle spa music highlighted with enchanting water sounds -- waves, waterfalls, fountains, streams. One friend, who travels around the world, said, "You made a good pick with this one."

The owners of the cave believe that a 45-minute session spent relaxing in this environment is equal to three days at an ocean beach. They claim the cave air has an anti-inflammatory effect and stimulates the immune system. It is particularly known for helping people with respiratory aliments.

I have to say that my sinuses opened up, I could breathe deeply and fully, and felt totally relaxed and refreshed by the experience. I will surely return and recommend this very affordable spa experience to my friends and family. ◦

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Planning a Staycation This Year?

Look it up now in the 2009 update ofMerriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. Hardworking word-lovers everywhere can now learn the meaning of the word staycation ("a vacation spent at home or nearby") along with nearly 100 other new words and senses added to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition.

Many of the new words address: concerns about the environment (carbon footprint, green collar), government activities (earmark, waterboarding), health and medicine (cardioprotective, locavore, naproxen, neuroprotective), pop culture (docusoap, fan fiction, flash mob, reggaeton), online activities (sock puppet, vlog, webisode), as well as several miscellaneous terms such as haram, memory foam, missalette, and zip line.


Monday, July 06, 2009

Allen Ginsberg Memorial on July 3, 2009

My husband Carlos and I were fortunate enough to attend Naropa University's ceremony honoring Allen Ginsberg, poet, activist and co-founder of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. The memorial took place on July 3 in Boulder, Colorado, in front of the Allen Ginsberg Library.

The occasion, MCed by Reed Bye, also marked the interment of some of Ginsberg's ashes at the Shambhala Meditation Center this summer, and the launch of the Allen Ginsberg Scholarship Fund.

Jim Cohn, curator of the virtual Museum of Contemporary Poetry read one of Ginberg's favored poems by Pablo Neruda, called "Let the Railsplitter Awake!"

The poem, about Abraham Lincoln, also harkens to Barack Obama's rise to presidency.

Musical numbers abounded, including singalongs of Ginsberg melodies and lyrics. In this photo, poet and Kerouac School co-founder Anne Waldman joins guitarist Tyler Burba. ◦

Meet and Greet Poets at Naropa

I suppose this post is more about photos than text. And more about lasting poets than passing fancies. During the third week of Naropa University's Summer Writing Program/Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, my husband Carlos and I had a whooping wild time attending workshops, lectures, panels and readings with some of the finest poets across the states.

We had fun hanging out with Truong Tran, a San Francisco poet and artist of Vietnamese descent who teaches poetry at San Francisco State University and Mills College. Found out he actually lives in Haight/Ashbury. His latest book is entitled "Four Letter Words."

Clayton Eshleman, professor emeritus of Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and his wife Caryl were a joy. Eshleman is the highly regarded translator of Cesar Vallejo and Rimbaud. Carlos was part of Clayton's workshop on Rhizomic Poetics all week.

Poet Anselm Hollo, originally from Finland, is now a full-time professor at Naropa University. His wife Jane, a Mississippi native, is pictured with him.


Naropa Summer Writing Program in Boulder

Back home in Chicago after spending a jam-packed week with my husband Carlos at the Naropa University Summer Writing Program/Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado, where they even compost their dryer lint! I studied daily under San Francisco poet Gloria Frym and Carlos participated in Clayton Eshleman's group. Each of us arrived home with a small portfolio of newly written pieces; the experience helped us both break out of our usual writing patterns in a big way. Between morning through night workshops, panels, lectures & readings, we were still able to enjoy some of Boulder's culture outside of the Naropa campus. Here, Carlos joins fellow students at the Tibet Kitchen patio, where they ironed out some poetry issues!

Recommendations. We made most meals in our tiny kitchenette apartment, yet also enjoyed some of the area's food and/or drink at Tibet Kitchen, Sunflower Organic Dining, Berry Best Smoothies, and the Laughing Goat Coffee House. Also tasted some kicker wild boar at Zolo's.

David Segal of Berry Best Smoothie Co. has been in the business for 16 years and uses only fresh fruit and juices in his smoothies. Also serves excellent freshly made veggie juices and out-of-this-world tamales which are also available at the Boulder Farmer's Market. Laughing Goat offers up food and beer in addition to coffee, and hosts poetry readings for Naropa University visiting poets on Monday nights.

One Wednesday afternoon, we hit paydirt all within a two-or-three block area. After receiving exceptional massages from therapist Jeremy Kotenberg, CMT at Massage Specialists on Broadway, we waltzed over to the Boulder Farmer's Market in Central Park, which teems with healthy people and gigantic kale leaves, stuck our heads into the otherworldly Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, and spent a wondrous hour at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art reveling in its human, uplifting and accessible exhibits (versus the sometimes painfully abstract and nihilistic themes favored at other contemporary art museums, shall I say, closer to home).