New York City: Injera, Ethiopian Delight

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These are the hands of the immensely beautiful and happy Roman who, with her French husband Pierre and her sister, run the restaurant Injera at 11 Abingdon Square in the West Village. She insisted on feeding me half of my meal with these hands, citing an Ethiopian tradition that I hadn’t heard of but truly I didn’t mind. I walked in out of the blue and was immediately embraced by this amazing woman whose delight and kindness do not belie her true age. For her, hospitality is human nature and she just loved me, simply, with many hugs and kisses and joyful little laughs as we talked and watched Chile win out over Brasil after a series of penalty kicks in a game that was already in overtime. I ordered the yetimatim fitfit, which included misir, my favorite form of lentils, and a delicious teff and avocado and tomato and jalapeño salad, and plenty of fresh, rolled pieces of injera, the staple bread of all Ethiopian cuisine. I left Injera full and full of love. This is the best Ethiopian in New York, with a definite touch of French brasserie- the coffee was real and the wine list sound. An overlooked brunch spot that should be put on all top eats lists. Please go in and tell Roman and Pierre that Stefan sent you and be embraced and eat well.

Injera
11 Abingdon Square
The West Village
New York, New York 10014
212.206.9330

The Salt Flats of Provincetown

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The salt flats of Provincetown are some of its most celebrated natural features. Separated from the harbor by a breakwater that reaches over a mile and a half across the waters to Long Point, the flats are home to marsh grasses, cranes, cormorants, and the bite of green headed flies.

When the tide is out, one may trek along a familiar path through this desert wonderland to the outer shore of Herring Cove, which also serves as the unofficial nude beach of the Cape. An uninformed adventurer may climb the dune that separates the beach from the flats and behold in surprise many a naked man. The women tend to gather farther north toward the park service-operated parking lot. If you choose to join in the undressed revelry, keep an eye out for park rangers. They will scold you–and even fine you–if they have to bear witness to your private sides! These lands are part of the magnificent national park which holds the deeds to most of Cape Cod.

On the other hand, when the tide is in, and especially when it is high, the flats fill with the warmest waters and make for excellent swimming. Jumping from one of the large rocks that comprise the breakwater is a coveted treat for those in the know. If you can catch the tide on its way out, it will take you on a lazy marsh-river ride. Don’t mind the horseshoe crabs, little blue harbor crabs or even eels–the little ones think you’re a danger and daren’t come near.

“Provincetown for the Summer!”

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I said that to a friend today and it rang true in a way it hasn’t in two years.

I first came to Provincetown in April 2011, seeking freedom from a stifling relationship, seeking as well new friends and what I heard to be a good chunk of money to be gained from the summer tourists. That first summer was fun, liberating and full of personal discovery. I believe that this summer, my fourth consecutive summer spent at the tip of Cape Cod, will rival the expansive glory of that first one.

The two summers between were tainted by the death of my younger brother-the first was spent grieving, the second healing-and I was also living in Provincetown full-time, using the fat of my summer savings to make it through the winters. Winter on Cape Cod is beautiful yet desolate and almost completely unfitted for residence. A small contingent of hardy locals keep the town hearth warm nevertheless until the return of the spring and, with it, hundreds of happy, familiar faces.

I left Provincetown at the end of last summer, in October 2013, and spent six months in New York trying to find my way into any notable industry job. Instead, I was stuck waiting tables and struggling to make ends meet. Such is the fate of many young people now that New York is “going corporate”. Fortunately, Fate is kind, as the song goes, and I have found my way back to Provincetown once again to put money in the bank and bum on the beach.

I’ll be writing for this website, of course, telling about my adventures and the places I love to frequent in Provincetown and the Outer Cape. This summer I’ll also be teaching yoga! Subscribe to my blog somewhere on the right-hand side of the page! And go out and make your own adventures!

You can also see it all through my eyes on instagram (@arcncl) as well as at planetstefan.tumblr.com

Provincetown: MAP

MAP Ptown
MAP, legendary purveyor of fashionable goods, is the best place in the village for cultivated All-American style. A little hip-hop, hipster and rock star all tucked into the ground floor of an authentic Cape Cod clapboard building, this store offers the stylish gay man a chance to explore his glam side. (Yes, most of the gear is geared toward guys.)

Brass rings, leather wallets + chains, clever notebooks and bangin’ backpacks, bags and boyish bling fulfill your most stylish desires. Books on art + culture fill the in-between spaces like glorious glue–especially media about the awesomely weird cult classic god John Waters, whom you’ll spot in town now and again sporting his notorious mustache. To go with your vintage aviators and paisley kerchief, the second half of the store is tastefully jammed with the best collection of Levi’s denim in New England, plus Orwellian printed tees and Hollywood-level rebel jackets to top off the image, like a maraschino on a malt.

Go in and tell Pauline to dress you up and this boisterous Irish babe, owner of MAP, queen bee of rock star glam, will dress you down in so much killer style, you’ll be the next righteous heartthrob of Cape Cod and beyond.

MAP
141 Commercial Street
Provincetown, MA 02657
508-487-4900

Sivananda Yoga Teacher Training

Miracles do happen. I was sent to a yoga teacher training at the Sivananda Yoga Ashram and Retreat on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. I met one man who, after listening to my story, decided I needed a month of intensive yoga practice. He signed me up, sent a check, put me on a plane and said, “Good luck.” That is how I ended up becoming a certified instructor – through the goodness and compassion of another person.

The Sivananda Yoga Ashram and Retreat is located on a spit of land wedged between millionaire mansions and the Atlantis, a sprawling hotel and resort complex. Swami Vishnudevananda, founder of the Sivananda Centers world-wide, was given this land by the family of a girl whom he helped to heal through the practice of yoga. It was believed by him that the Bahamas are a remnant of the ancient civilization of Atlantis and that this location was well-suited energetically.

Caribbean Bliss

With crystalline Caribbean waters and soft, white sands to the north and a bustling harbor packed with cruise ships to the south, the ashram is a curiosity nestled in an unlikely place. Orange-robed swamis wander the grounds with curious smiles while the yellow and white-clad initiates and volunteers run the resort and maintain its occupants. Saronged vacationers, who have come looking for yoga and respite, marvel at the religious attitude of the ashram: Please keep your shoulders and knees covered, and no running. Meanwhile, aspiring yoga teachers are shipped in and out monthly to be trained and stamped with the marks of a certified beach-side yogi – vegetarianism, flexibility and a good tan.

Most of the students, and many of the guests, camp in tents during their stay, for this is less costly than lodging in private rooms or shared dormitories. The bell would ring at 5:30am, calling all volunteers and students to the temple for meditation, chanting, and a lecture. Afterward, we would have a two-hour yoga asana class in the giant wooden pavilion in the center of the ashram property. Then off to a picnic-table breakfast of Indian-spiced bean soups, rice, fruits and breads. All students were assigned to a karma yoga position, and I spent forty-five minutes after breakfast packaging the remains up for later use. Others washed or dried the dishes, swept the floors, or carried the garbage to the boat which took it to the main island.

Home Sweet Home, Sivananda Yoga Ashram and Retreat, Paradise Island, Bahamas

Home Sweet Home, Sivananda Yoga Ashram and Retreat, Paradise Island, Bahamas

In our classes, we read from the Bhagavad Gita, yoga’s holy book, a tale in which Krishna instructs Arjuna on the many paths of yoga and transcending earthly passions. My favorite verse from the book is translated as follows by Swami Sivananda:

Renouncing all actions in Me, with the Mind centered in the Self, free from Hope, Egoism, and the fever of Sorrow, Do Thou Fight.

We also took a class in ayurveda, the yogic perception of healthy being, as well as in kirtan, devotional singing. I would go when possible to the Balakrishna puja ceremony and watch as the ceremonial priest and Vedic astrologer lit a candle and incense and offered flowers, butter and raisins to the statue of Krishna as a mischievous, joyful child. How important I learned it is to be in touch with this aspect of ourselves!

Krishnaji

Some mornings we would take our satsang, or gathering of people interested in the knowledge of yoga and God, as a walk down the beach right before dawn. The sun would crest over the horizon as we reached a point  just beyond the hotel, whose pools and patios and beachfront were empty yet as its guests were still sleeping inside. Sitting, watching the sun rise, we would sing together, led by a man who goes by Arjuna, a name given to him by Swami Vishnudevananda himself. Arjuna would instruct us anecdotally about learning how to see oneself in others through the lens of Love, and once I even led the gathering in a song dedicated to Shiva, god of transformation.

Transformation is exactly what this experience offers to those who seek it out. Many yoga teacher programs are more asana-inclined, as most people assume they want to teach vinyasa yoga classes. However, the Sivananda experience is rather religious. I did not complain–for me it was truly a novelty. I was coming out of several years of intense family tragedy and the catharsis offered by devotion and regular physical and mental exertion worked. What’s more, the other aspiring yogis were amazing people from places like Belgium, British Columbia,and San Francisco.

Official Yogi

I will probably say many times on this blog these two things: Wherever you go, there you are; and, I met amazing people.

When I returned to Cape Cod, where I was living at the time, I decided I was not ready to jump into teaching. I hadn’t fully assimilated the teachings of Yoga and decided to hone them for my own benefit until the time would be right. Now, I am living in New York City and opportunity abounds. More on these experiences to come.

Om!

Fearless!