Trapsing: Oxford, London, Bombay…

Dear Lovies: (as they say in England)
The last ten days have been a whirlwind. As I type, roosters a cockadoodledoo-ing at 1:30 am. Wild dogs, doing the same. I don't know if their internal clock is off, or there is some weird Indian breed of rooster who crows when the sun is down instead of up… Everything else is "backwards" here, so why not add farm animals to the list.
I arrived in Oxford, via Heathrow ten days ago and stayed with my friends Christina and Brian, of new baby fame. Their six-week old bundle of joy is named Jasper, and we shot the shit (metaphorically and literally) all week. We all laughed and played and I learned that much of the external Harry Potter scenes were filmed right in Oxford. Which is why I kept expecting to see the students pull magic wands out of their matriculation robes and say something Latin-sounding, and no, not the salsa kind of Latin.
Visited Avebury, an energy center similar to Stonehenge, but way quieter and way cooler. Went to a local sustainability conference and festival. Ate amazing beef lasagna (even though I don't do that.) Roasted a chicken for the first time.
In London, I hung out with friends I met last year at Sivananda ashram in India. I went on a date with a cute Irish guy (whom I'd met on the plane when I was coming home from Costa Rica.) Navigated the Tube, ate apple cinnamon cake with clotted cream.
Did TWO comedy shows in London–thanks to my friend Paul, who I met in India. One was at a pub in the theatre district, one was with some really good comics in East Dullich (sp?) ALso had a drink at the famous Ivy Room (though I didn't spot any celebs) with a theatre producer before flying out to Bombay in the morning.
Last night I flew into Bombay at 12:30 am. Negotiated several hours of immigration lines, security checks, swine flu checks, and then night time in the city that's never sleepy–my taxi driver didn't know where Thane was–or speak English–or have a mobile phone–so every few minutes we'd stop and ask some more rickshaw drivers where Thane, Balkum, and Runwal Garden City are. I was about to give up and look for a hotel instead of trying to get to my friend Sam's house when a guy on a motorcycle led the way and we finally arrived, sans cell.
The most amazing thing here has been not having a cell phone for the last ten days, and having sporadic email access. It's so freaking liberating. Of course I'm aware of how much I use my iPhone. Every four minutes, I check something. What to do without all the checking? Without Googling something when it comes up and I don't know the "answer". Just something to chew on… I'm hoping that when I return, and set up a new place to live, I'll create a new structure for my life, with my new home as my alter, and my iPhone as my bitch. And not the other way around. \
Oh, BTW, I just did "Eat, Pray, Laugh!" in Bombay tonight with my fellow comic Sam Koletkar at the Jewish Community Center here in India, and we rocked it! What awesome fun! All the bits I was scared they'd be offended by were the ones they laughed the hardest at! (Pics to follow–it's hard to upload on vacation.)
Namaste,
Alicia
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bombay to kerala… om!

hari om… so… we last left our heroine in bombay… (that sounds so strange to say–like we stashed our smack in an alley in india) she was just finishing a performance of her new comedy show "eat, pray, laugh" along with her comedian friend samson at the jewish community center. she–ok, i–was worried that the indian jews wouldn't really enjoy or understand the racier bits of my indian travel tales… 

but it turns out that those were the parts they enjoy the most. i capture most of the show on my awesome canon elph camera, which i then leave in a rickshaw the next day, along with all the other photos i took in england of jasper and i. jasper is six weeks old and adorable.
letting go
i am sad for a couple of days about losing the photos. and the camera too. it served me well on my last trip to india. so now i am learning lesson number 8,341 on letting go. but like i'm actually getting it. i mourned the loss, and then i got that, hey, this shit is all temporary. and it's a great addition to my losses. meaning, now i don't have a laptop, a cell phone, or a camera to distract me from what's right in front of my nose. 

nothing exists but here and now. and what i'm seeing in the here and now with my eyes is also marginal on the reality scale.
whispering woods
co-incidence of strange co-incidences, the method acting teacher i studied with for four years, who has never been to india, is in bombay the exact same week that i'm here. i visit him at the film school where he's teaching and sit in on a couple of classes. the studio is called whispering woods, and it's like the canyon in LA. lush, green, undeveloped. i even get to do a deathbed scene while a kind of famous (so i'm told) actor is in the class. talked with some of the other professors there and the head of the film school and might get to teach a class on standup the next time i'm in the hood. 

anandashram

i remember sam and his sister alice dropping me off at the train station, but i don't remember anything about the ride. all i know is that it was overnight and i arrived in khanangad as the sun was coming up. one of my kirtan heroes, krishna das, told me after a concert that there's a place in india where they chant "om sri ram jai ram jai jai ram" continuously. an ashram called anandashram. so that's where i'm going. i arrive and somehow i'm not in the guest book, but they let me stay anyway–give me a private room and everything. and it's a very special time to be there because a saint from tamil nadu (a state in india) is visiting for several days named thuli baba. i've never heard of him until now, but it's very exciting. after each meal, i have the opportunity to have satsang and prasad with his group of devotees. the skinniest, frailest, loudest cat i've ever seen curls up next to thuli baba every day. they tell me that the cat was a guru in the last life and is working out some heavy karma for the world by coming back as this cat and not eating.
sun and moon
friends of my friend haridas bring me to the ocean to see the sunset and the full moon rise on the opposite side of the earth. i climb the mountain behind the ashram and leave all my worries there hanging in a tree. 

letting go for the 8,342nd time. you know what they say… "8,342nd time's a charm!" the next day (or the day before… who knows!) my german friend sandra and i are walking back from a beautiful little temple in a field and we pass the cows' maternity ward. on the ground is a five-minute old calf being licked by its mother. they milk the mamma cow and i peer into the giant milk pail of colostrum saying, "whoa." "you like?" the guy says. 

the next morning they knock on my door with some cake for me made from coconut milk, sugar, and this thick cow colostrum–let me tell you–i have never eaten anything more rich. plus, when i was trying to "om" it started coming out as "moo" that day.
i joke!
i'm getting daily two-hour massages from these two young women with medicinal hot oil. after five days, it actually gets to be kind of boring! they don't speak much english, so i'm cracking them up with my mime humor for two hour straight. "cheery" means smile in malayalam. and "tamasha" means joke. (these words strangely come in handy later when i'm being harassed at the train station.) 

"ichally" means ticklish and "idally" is a kind of breakfast rice dumpling. and they kind of rhyme so i'm just saying "ichally, idally, ichally, idally…" there's nothing funnier than jokes between people who don't speak the same language. i'm joking with gestures about how the oil they're using smells like cooking oil and that i'm afraid all this basting means they're going to cook me for dinner… and on and on…… stuff that's way funnier without words.
i know by ths time in my trip that i'll be spending more time in india in this life. it calls. 

i hope your day of giving thanks was full of grace. i have returned from my time in india and i'm back in the bay, so blessed in so many ways. have a gander at the next installment of my adventures below… more to come about Tiruvanamalai in my next note.. 

In the meantime, I invite you to join Suzette Hibble, Erin Brandt and I, for the next Creativity, Sexuality, and Spirituality Workshop! Please register for the December 10th workshop event with me if you're interested–soon–it is filling up–only a few spots left!
Namaste,
Alicia

Hey 2009, You’re Looking Mighty Fine…

Dear Fellow Humans from the year 2009,

As 2008 passes like a gall stone, I'm laid up for the first day of the new year, high on early episodes of The West Wing and the belief that the inauguration of our new president will rescue this country from free-fall. It's been an endlessly interesting year for us all. Electing our first black president, losing 40% of the capital in the stock market, seeing Tina Fey look so much like Sarah Palin, I can't tell who's who.

Personally, I've had an interesting year as well. It began with a ten-day silent meditation course in India. You all followed my travels throughout India, Thailand, and Cambodia for three months starting last February. I gathered parts and memories of myself scattered in many lifetimes during that trip. 

I also joined a year-long training course for life coaching and workshop leading in August, and began coaching people in creativity and spontaneity. After doing standup, working and playing with others to break through to what is most true for them is my favorite thing to do. And after almost two months of work on my solo show, "The Punchline," I played to sold out houses at the Fringe Festival. It was an honor to win Best Female Solo at the Festival and be selected for the Solo Show Festival in Marin in February (the 24th.)

I'm sending out this new year's wish to you because I want to reach out and connect with you. I've been very affected by the intensity and fear of the world's events–the end of easy oil, the reluctance of auto companies to completely re-invent themselves in order to protect the environment, the blindness and greed of the mortgage industry, and the sense of scarcity the downturn in the economy has had on us. And the message I want to convey is that it's time to open our eyes to what's really happening in the world. And to take a stand. To speak what we believe, and to align our actions with our values and our words. But I also want to say that there is so much more to life than the what's in the news. Our own thoughts and actions are what truly build the fabric of reality, moment by moment. And together, we have the power to focus our thoughts to send an asteroid crashing into Bernard Madoff's living room. (But read some of my beloved Krishnamurti and you'll realize we are all Bernard Madoff.) 

So stay tuned for info about my gigs, laughter yoga classes, and workshops in the coming year. I'll be premiering the full version of Eat Pray Laugh! at some point, and I'm also putting together a down and dirty old-school standup set for the clubs.

To 2009, may all beings be happy.

-Alicia

http://www.aliciadattner.com
http://www.creativeheartcoaching.com
http://www.monkpunk.org
http://www.examiner.com/x-453-SF-Comedy-Examiner
http://www.youtube.com/AliciaDattner

Comedy at Morgan Hill

I did a set tonight in Morgan Hill, California.  Far far away from, well, anything it seems.  I'm very uninterested in political material, partly because I never feel as informed as I'd like to be to back up my arguments, partly because it's annoying to talk about something that I care about and find out who the Republicans are in the audience.  Then I wonder what they're thinking of me, and if they're thinking as poorly of my opinions as I am of theirs, and in general it's just unpleasant.  So I did some of my new material about my trip to India and meditating, and it went incredibly well in a room mostly full of Christian Republicans.  They had fun, I had fun.  They heckled, I heckled back.  People always apologize to me after shows where they heckle me.  Like somehow we're old buddies.  Ok.  Be my buddy.  Fine.  But so I was surprised that my material, which is designed for a room full of new agey spiritual types actually went over with the straight crowd.  Good to be doing standup again.

Standup India

Saturday night Sivananda Ashram has a talent show. I haven't done standup since I've been in India, and I was itching to get on stage. Oh, the "stage" is also the altar to Sivananda, Vishnudevananda and several gods. It's not your typical smoky comedy club; it's a sort of temple with 200 yoga-teachers in training, a few swamis and sadhus, and yogis, and yours truly. And I have to say that I totally rocked the temple with a set about Indian toilets and lusty yogis that ended with a hilarious and totally inappropriate bit about "being in the present." People were coming up to me for days afterward saying they were literally in tears from laughing so hard. It doesn't get better than that. (I actually captured the set on my camera and will send a link when it's up.)