Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
I think I said something like, “Yoga isn’t my career. It’s my hobby. I’d rather focus on my writing.”
Now I’m eating my words.
A few short months ago, the idea of working as a yoga instructor full time was not an option in my narrow, snooty, self-absorbed little mind. Sure, I’d teach a few classes, but only because I enjoy it so much. Anything more than that and I’d risk getting burned out.
I’m sure my boss at the yoga studio wasn’t all that impressed when she was forced to ask me questions like, “Do you even know how to use a mop?” after I cleaned the studio for the first time and left these huge soapy streaks behind because I didn’t wring the thing out properly.
The message I sent was pretty clear. I didn’t want to work. Sure, I’d love to teach a few classes here and there so I can maintain my own practice, but that’s enough for me. God forbid I spend more than four hours a day in the hot room. It might give me zits and it definitely means doing more laundry and having to blow dry and then flat iron my hair after the Jew-fro flares up from the humidity. Not to mention you do have to actually get your hands dirty, mop the floors and wipe down the mirrors, fold the laundry and roll up the sweaty used mats that are hanging on the ballet bar to dry.
Oh, no. I am a writer, yo. I’d rather focus on things like getting published in The New York Times, maybe finishing my novel or becoming a nationally syndicated columnist or world-famous blogger.
Now I’m like, “what writing career?”
The year started off with a lot of promise. I was sent on an all-expenses paid trip to Grand Cayman for a food and wine festival that makes the Aspen event look like it’s missing a beautiful beach. I met a cute up-and-coming chef from Florida who turned out to be a big surfer and a promising story for a men’s magazine. I scored the dream assignment to follow him and his buddies to Ollie’s Point in Costa Rica, a boat accessed break that’s sort of like the surf equivalent to a heli trip in Alaska, except warmer.
The trip to Costa Rica was the editor’s idea. Luck would have it that he’d be the one to suggest sending me on a dream assignment for a pretty big national men’s magazine on a trip with a crew of hot guys to a tropical beach. I wouldn’t dare toss that idea out for fear of having a very transparent ulterior motive.
This was back in February. I’d send the editor what I like to call a “friendly nudge” once every week or so looking for that green light, that e-mail that said something like, “will you be flying out of Aspen, then?” with the e-mail address of the magazine’s travel agent.
He strung me along for a little while, sending replies like, “we’re having a big editorial meeting tomorrow, will get right back to you.”
Then I finally got the bottom line e-mail that said, “I’ll be finding out if the magazine is folding next week. If I still have a job, I’ll let you know.”
I haven’t heard from him since.
A few days ago I sent an e-mail to my New York Times editor with an idea for a story I could do right here in Aspen. “I’ll take rookie wages!” I wrote. “There will be no travel expenses because I’m already here!”
He wrote back, “Didn’t Jim tell you? We’re not giving out any assignments until the end of summer at least. No money.”
And I’m like, “who the hell is Jim?”
Last week, my beloved editor at The Aspen Times was laid off along with three other people. I’d sort of heard rumors through the grapevine but didn’t want to believe it. I can say for a fact it had nothing to do with her performance on the job ” she’s the only person I’ve worked with who actually read my column before it was printed.
Last Friday we all went to Social to pour some drinks down her gullet and ease her pain and I suppose our own as well. There were a lot of people there from The Aspen Times I haven’t seen in a long time and it was good to know the family is still alive even if our parents got divorced and ended up in rehab a long time ago. One thing I will say is if Dottie goes, the building will explode and there will be no survivors except Scoop the cat.
The bottom line is this economy has totally leveled the playing field so little snobby brat-a-tat-tats like me better wise up and reassess our values and priorities in a world where you’d be lucky to earn a paycheck doing anything, never mind something as rewarding and fulfilling as teaching yoga.
Just this morning I took a class from Marlon, a teacher from L.A. who has practiced and taught with Bikram for 22 years. She’s this tiny little ageless woman with blonde hair and a kick-ass body and a personality that’s way too big for her sub-100-pound frame.
“Namaste means I recognize the good in you,” she said as we collapsed into our final savasana after a serious ass-kicking that only a woman with her kind of strength and experience can deliver. “So, Namaste.”
I laid there on my back on my sweat soaked towel feeling more humbled than I have in a long time. I decided after I teach my next class, I’m going to mop that floor and wipe down those mirrors as if I was Hemmingway on a typewriter or Picasso with his paint and brush. And maybe, just maybe, I could clean up my attitude, too.
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The past sneaks up on us in the strangest of ways, and I don’t mean bounty hunters flashing those “Wanted: Dead or Alive” posters in our faces.