Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Tai Chi”

Too Much Homework?

The United States ranks 17th in the world for education, a legitimate and worrying metric to examine where our country will stand in the next few decades in terms of business, innovation, and the ability to live out our own values and encourage others to follow a similar path.

I realize that, for the sake of our children, I should be calling in more investment into education, a greater status and respect for teachers, and other ways to boost the performance of our children, their grades and general rounded education. I want to live in a smart society.

I should be calling for change because I truly believe that education is the key to advancement, because I believe that every child should be given the opportunity to reach their own potential, find and train for a meaningful career, and use as a stepping stone to rise up in society. I also believe that education helps makes people more satisfied and happy, and that this creates a better world to live in.

I’ll leave this to the experts:

 

But I don’t feel like writing this right now. Like my teenage son, I feel thoroughly burnt out and resentful. In order to pass on a full curriculum, designed by people far more professional and knowledgeable than me, our children are being forced to study, not only most of the day, but during the evenings and most of the weekends.

When he is not studying, he is so exhausted, that all he wants to do is vegetate in front of a screen, and frankly, I understand that.  My work has periods of intense and long hours. During these months, I only want to crash on the couch when I get home and stare at burly young men kicking the pigskin around. Often during these times, when my wife asks who is winning, I need to glance at the scoreboard first before answering.

I’m willing to go through these periods because I love and am inspired by my work, and because I believe that this is the sacrifice the main breadwinner of the family makes. One day, when my children are settled, I will have plenty of time to go fishing, bird watching, do Tai Chi, and sit in a coffee shop and read a newspaper (remember those? I am convinced they will become a status symbol of independence from the clock).

imagesBut there are things I want to do now – and I want to do them with my son. I want to take him biking, to the gym, to practice archery, and read a good book together by the sea or in a forest. I can make that time, get up early, go to bed late, do whatever it takes – train through the pain as one of my favorite t-shirts says (the one I wore playing basketball with a torn meniscus).

But my son can’t. He has math problems to solve, a project to write, an English essay to complete. Sure, he finds times to hang with his friends and some screen time, I don’t resent him this. It is part of growing up.

I remember being in school and looking forward desperately to the summer. I recall my mother being annoyed that I wanted to lie in bed late every morning and enjoy not having pressure or a schedule.

I want my son to succeed in school for all the reasons mentioned earlier and the profound fear that I will not be able to help him, that at some point he must stand on his own, as I did. But I also want to enjoy being together while we still can, while he still wants my company.

He gets a long summer break and deserves it. I will take a week and we will head north into the mountains. We will fish, bike, swim in a lake guarded by a snow-covered mountain. We’ll eat too much ice cream, fight over who gets the hammock, read together by the fire.

DSCN0951None of this will help my son or the USA become more successful in the decades to come, but sometimes life is more than statistics, and more than homework assignments and grades.

Somehow we need to find ways to measure quality of life, to value relationships, to create memories. Perhaps we will find that time is as valuable as making the grade.

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.  For more about the author, check out his website.

 

Unwanted Heroes – Chinatown – Part 2 of 2

Unwanted Heroes was much longer before my editor got his hands on it. A number of chapters were cut because they do not directly move the plot along. They seem to have something in common – my desire to show the many facets of San Francisco. I would like to share then with you over the next few weeks.

There is nothing here that spoils anything in the book – which probably vindicates the editor’s decision. 

Heroes Low Res Finished Cover 11.18

 Chapter 5 continued: 

We enter a small shop in a side alley.

His receptionist, a young Asian-American woman, hands me a form and I write about my allergies and pay thirty dollars. With perfect timing, a door opens behind me and I turn.

“This is Doctor Li”

Dr. Li smiles. His face is deeply lined with age and the small man moves slowly over to shake my hand. But his firm grip leaves no doubts of his vitality in my numbed extremity.

Dr. Li shoots a short question in Chinese to my friend. His assistant translates and Julie replies that she is doing really well. Thank you. This is translated back and there are smiles all round.

“He doesn’t speak English?”  I ask apprehensively, and for some strange reason, whispering.

“He doesn’t need to,” replies his assistant warmly. “Dr. Li embraces Traditional Chinese diagnosis.”

“But how can I give him information?”

She turns and shoots a few sentences to him in Chinese. Dr. Li nods and smiles at me.

“I just did,” she informs me. “Do you want to explain whether you feel the damp heat rising in the morning or evening?”

“I err, I don’t know,”

“Precisely,” she says, smiling victoriously. “Good luck.”

Julie pushes me in and also wishes me luck.

“Aren’t you staying?” I ask in near panic.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate, though I’d like to watch him sticking the needles in. Maybe he’ll let me do a few?”

I close the door on her sharply and turn to face Dr. Li.

He smiles serenely and indicates for me to sit on a massage table covered with a white sheet. He rolls my sleeve up and slowly checks my pulse. His eyes seem to glaze over, but the occasional tut and uh-huh reassures me that he is discovering profound truths about my condition.

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I look around the room. There are a variety of brass instruments that hang from red string, a chart of the human body indicating what I assume are acupuncture points, some Jade Buddha statues and, I am relieved to see, a bonsai tree by the window.

After a few minutes Dr. Li takes his hand from my arm and examines my face closely. He sticks his tongue out, indicating that I am to do the same. I stick mine out apprehensively; years of social etiquette training chastising me. As a kid, I was punished for such behavior and now I am being encouraged. I glance around, expecting Ms. Thornbridge from preschool to intercede angrily and send me to stand in the corner.

“Good, good,” Dr. Li beams. “No tongue now, all good.”

He picks up a clipboard and squiggles on it. Doctors, the world over, have different methods and medicines, but share the same inability to write legibly.

“Sex good huh?” Dr. Li asks enthusiastically. “You sex good?”

I swallow hard. Doctor or not, I am British. “Yeah, no complaints except for frequency.”

“Aaah,” he nods.

“You understand me?”

He nods sagely. “No understand, bit. Sex good, not much, like most men.  Morning, is good?” He makes a sign with his hand as though encompassing a firm penis, a rather flattering one at that.

“Yeah, I often have an erection in the morning. This is normal, no? Frustrating, but normal.”

“Oh yes, yes.” He nods again.

I haven’t a clue what that means. He points to a vase of flowers near the bonsai.

“This make up-chi?”

“Sometimes. Also dust,” I make a motion as though I am wiping dust off of the massage table. And cats, but only sometimes.” I repress the urge to meow.

 “Then,” he wiggles his nose, “go up-chi, up-chi, up-chi…”

“Yes, that’s right.” I nod, earnestly wanting to be a part of the charades.

“Good, good. You know Chinese medicine?”

“I know you stick needles in people,” I make a piercing movement and it makes him laugh. He then demonstrates, reassuringly in a far more delicate fashion. “That’s much better,” I say feeling reassured, “and herbs.” I point to a picture of some root that looks a bit like a man.

He looks as well. “Herbs, yes. Ginseng, good for man and sex.”  He again makes the sign of holding a penis, the size of which would have facilitated ginseng’s extinction centuries ago.

“You know chi? Tai Chi?” He makes a slow martial art move and I recall my extensive Karate Kid movie experience. I nod. I actually did study some Tai Chi in London. He smiles and points at the picture of the human body. “Chi flow through body … like blood … no chi, dead. Slow chi, not good, too much chi, no good. Understand?”

“Sure.”

“Now, you do up-chi, up-chi. Chi come up, understand?”

He bursts out laughing and his whole body shakes. “I make joke. Up-chi, up chi. Only joke I make in English. Make to every patient. Up-chi!”

He laughs. So do I. This guy is about to stick needles in my body, I will laugh at his jokes.

He makes me take off my shirt and trousers and lie on the massage table. I brace myself for the piercing. After seeing Marathon Man at a tender age I have harbored a deep fear of dentists and the dentists, for their part, always seemed willing to play the part. Why do they feel obligated to say: “this isn’t going to hurt now,” about five seconds before you scream?

But his needles are gentle and I hardly feel them. He must stick a dozen needles in from below my knee on the inside of my leg, on my arms and my face. I can see one sticking out below my check bone and it is a bit freaky. But he is smiling all the time and asking: “Is good? All good?” And, I admit, I do feel all-good.

I feel especially all-good when he burns something that looks like a smudge stick and smells of pot. He holds it over various parts of my body and I feel a deep heat envelope me from within. I wonder if I run the risk of arrest if I leave here and walk pass a policeman with a keen sense of smell.

After a half hour or so, the needles are out and I am dressing. He writes something and then escorts me out. He talks with his receptionist and she conveys that he is giving me an herbal formula. I need to take it to one of the herbalists, who will make up the formula and tell me how to prepare it and when to take it. I am to come back to see him in two weeks.

I turn to the doctor and find myself slightly bowing. I speak slowly and deliberately as I thank him.

“No problem,” he replies in fluent American. “It was a pleasure to meet you.”

He returns to his office leaving the receptionist and Julie both laughing. I feel like an idiot.

I take my friend’s arm, desperate to leave. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

The receptionist answers: “The doctor thinks the treatment is more effective that way. Also it makes for a far more enjoyable for him.” She laughs again.

Julie opens the door for me and then bows most reverently.

“Welcome to America.”

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.

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Unwanted Heroes – Chinatown – Part 1 of 2

Unwanted Heroes was much longer before my editor got his hands on it. A number of chapters were cut because they do not directly move the plot along. They seem to have something in common – my desire to show the many facets of San Francisco. I would like to share then with you over the next few weeks.

There is nothing here that spoils anything in the book – which probably vindicates the editor’s decision.

Heroes Low Res Finished Cover 11.18

Chapter Five:  China Town

San Francisco boasts a Chinatown unrivaled outside of Asia. It feels like a different world with its own products, language, culture and traditional medicine. Unlike other Chinatowns in the US, it also has a feel of authenticity, as though this neighborhood is for the residents and the tourists are, at best, tolerated.

Chinese Medicine is well respected in California and a Chinese medical practitioner is held in high esteem, especially if their clinic is in Chinatown. If you live in San Francisco and have a health challenge, a visit to the Chinese doctor is a rite of passage.

I have suffered from allergies all my life, which developed into occasional asthma a few years ago. But my introduction to Oriental medicine happened because…because I had no choice…she was pretty and I wanted to hit on her.

“You must see my herbalist!” I am not sure if this is an order. “I used to be just like you, now look at me.” She giggles as she twirls.

I am at a party in the Mission District, not long after alighting from the metaphoric boat. A new friend has taken me under his wing and this party should have been my much-anticipated coming out event, my chance to make an impression on the Bay Area social scene. I have meticulously dressed to impress and carefully sharpened my English accent in preparation. My face is smooth and keenly saturated with aftershave. I am ready.

And then I have an allergy attack: just as I step into the house where the party is taking place. My tongue begins to assault the roof of my mouth. My nose begins twitching, transitioning swiftly into exploding mode. My already-fragile ego implodes as people rapidly evacuate this part of the room, putting a safe distance between themselves and me. I am a pariah. It is truly an unforgettable coming out!

Someone takes my arm and guides me through the crowd; it is not challenging. Moses couldn’t have parted the Red Sea with the ease of an erupting allergist in a crowded room. I assume my guide is a bouncer and I brace myself to be thrown onto the street, if not straight to Alcatraz. This is a country that insists you put a bottle of beer in a brown paper bag in order to quench your thirst outdoors, but allows you to carry a semi-automatic rifle with impunity; I have surely broken some law. Still there are other cities in the US, I think miserably. What was the name of the Northern Exposure town in the Artic Circle?

Through tearful eyes, allergy and self-esteem in equal parts; I see that the arm supporting me is female, slim and tanned. She somehow manages to grab a box of tissues as she leads me down some stairs and into a small garden. Other partygoers abandon their need for fresh air and I realize this would be a good ploy if ever a more romantic situation materialized.

I am seated on a metal bench and when my nose is finally exhausted, I look up, trying to appraise my Florence Nightingale. She is blonde, thin and wears an expression that doesn’t try too hard to hide the smirk. I am vaguely aware that she has been saying something.

“You must see my herbalist!” She repeats enthusiastically. “I used to be just like you, now look at me.” She holds out her arms in expectation that I appreciate her humor. Well she deserves it.

“Will your herbalist transform me into a beautiful blonde angel?”

She blushes. I have gambled that this brash approach would either compensate for my memorable entry or to scare her off and leave me alone in my misery. I’m not sure which I prefer. She remains standing in front of me and folds her arms across her chest, coincidently emphasizing her cleavage while slightly arcing her hips to one side. It is pleasantly effective. My mind stops dwelling on my social debacle, though this is not easily achieved.

“I’m Will,” I say, attempting to be social. “And you?”

“Julie. Joe says you’re the new boy, the freshman. Welcome to America. Do you always make such an entrance?”

“Looks that way,” I reply, misery returning.

“Have you been to Chinatown?” Julie asks.

“No. I’ve only been here two weeks. Looking for a flat, err apartment,” I correct myself, “and a job have been the priority.”

“Any luck?”

“Next weekend I am moving into a house in the Sunset. It’s student land, but the rent is in range.”

“I’m a student,” Julie replies sternly.

“And I’m hoping the ground will swallow me up any moment.”

She smiles again. “I’ll forgive you this time. But you’ll come with me to Chinatown.”

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I shouldn’t complain. Two weeks into discovering America and my hand is being held by an attractive business major guiding me through the uniqueness of the Far East, out here in the Wild West. Christopher Columbus surely never had it so good. No Starbucks, no public transport system where they actually remind you that you can use the ticket a second time, no cable TV with four hundred channels and nothing to watch. Sure Columbus discovered America before me, but he had to deal with wild ravenous predators, indigenous populations who showed scant appreciation for arrogant colonialism, greedy gold miners and zealous missionaries. My biggest dilemma is whether to watch Saturday afternoon British soccer at seven o’clock on a Saturday morning. Thankfully around this time I discovered Digital Video Recorder: God bless America!

I think the most impressive aspect of Chinatown is that it is full of Chinese people. I mean it. Millions of tourists pour through her marble gates and take excited pictures by her ever-guarding dragons before buying Chinatown, San Francisco T-shirts, three for ten dollars, no returns. But one senses that the real business happens between the Chinese and there are so many of them. Certainly there are no Westerners lining up to buy live fish, fresh turtles and scantly feathered birds of every kind. The negotiation over the price of vegetables displays the gritty determination of a people who have survived five thousand years. The Yellow Emperor and Mao Tse-Tung may have come and gone, great dynasties risen and fallen, but the bok choy must remain fresh and firm if it is to be purchased. One look at the grim-faced, scarf-covered, vegetable buyer and you know that this bok choy is seriously stir-fried.

But my lovely companion leaves me no time to play philosopher-tourist. Julie guides me effortlessly skirting the precariously stacked and pushed vegetable and milk carts being continuously unloaded, elbowing through the throng of bargain hunters, whether their prey is embroidered purses or stuffed pig heads. Between breaths she points out different things, arming me for survival in this surreal world.

But surrealism is only just beginning. There will be no escape.

Having turned on Clay Street, I had tried to duck into a bonsai shop. I have a long held fascination with bonsai and consider myself a bit of an expert having watched The Karate Kid at least a dozen times. I fancied the salesman might have been my Mr. Miyagi, my mystical Taoist teacher, and I could have learnt the secret ways of the Orient and the pruning of bonsai trees from him. But I am dragged on, deeper into the bowels of Chinatown.

Continuing tomorrow…

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.

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Clark Howard Leads The Charge

Clark Howard is the consumer advocate who took on Bank of America when they refused to help a man who incurred legal charges as a result of B of A calling in the police. They suspected the man was in the middle of a criminal act when he was innocently brought a fraudulent check. For more, see here and the post from yesterday.

Clark Howard

Howard is a nationally syndicated consumer advocate who “advises consumers how to save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off.” He hosts a radio show that is broadcast every day on more than 200 radio stations throughout North America. After a career swinging between jobs in both the public and private sectors, he set up a travel agency business in 1981. Six years later, he retired at the age of 31, having sold what he had developed into a chain that spread across metro Atlanta.

A spontaneous guest appearance on a travel show in Florida led to his own program, The Clark Howard Show, which was soon syndicated by Dial Global. In early 2009, The Clark Howard Show was expanded to HLN (formerly the Headline News channel). He is the author of eight books, some of which sat comfortably in the New York Times Bestseller list. While his books are all available through GetClarkSmart.com, Clark tells his listeners that they are cheaper used and can be had for free at the public library!

I think this tells you a lot about the man. I also want you to know that my books are available new and in e-book form on amazon.com, so it shows what kind of man I am.

Clark also invests in his native Atlanta community. He started several civic programs, including Atlanta Volunteer Action, Volunteer Action, Inc., The Big Buddy Program and Career Action. Together with listeners, he has helped Habitat for Humanity built 30 homes in and around metro Atlanta.

Habitat - a great place to volunteer

I think in today’s economic climate, it is hard to act, hard not to just shut down and weather the storm. If you can do that and live with the clock that’s ticking for you, all power to you. For the rest of us, we could do worse than finding a teacher, someone we trust and can follow. This person shouldn’t make money out of your actions. Pay him/her for their time, books etc., but not the products or services that they advise you to buy.

When learning Tai Chi, I met a man who spent considerable money and time, going to every workshop and studying every form of Tai Chi  with every teacher he could find. When we practiced together, his technique was bad. I wondered how someone who learned from so many of the biggest names had failed to grasp the rudiments of the martial art. The answer comes in depth and not breadth.

Do Little, Achieve Much

Jewish proverbs teach us to find a teacher and learn everything we can from them. Only when we have mastered all they have to teach us, should we move on to another teacher. The trick, of course, is finding the right teacher and recognizing that they bring experience and knowledge, but not the gift of foresight. The best thing we can do for ourselves right now is to find the best financial teacher for each of us and then to listen.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Yoga Wars

So there is a conflict across the aisles. No not the democrats and republicans, not the dictators and the people in the Middle East, but the yoga teachers.

Is yoga still yoga as we know it in a 21st Century marketing package? Lizette Alvarez writes in the New York Times that there is a populist leader taking yoga to the streets and stirring up the yoga masses. Actually, I suspect she is stirring up more responses from the traditional, more conservative yoga authorities.

Tara Stiles does not talk about sacred Hindu texts, personal intentions or chakras. She does not ask her yoga classes to chant. Her language is plainly Main Street: chaturangas are push-ups, the “sacrum” the lower back. She dismisses the ubiquitous yoga teacher-training certificates as rubber stamps, preferring to observe job candidates in action.”

No wonder those in the higher yoga echelons are feeling threatened! When is yoga not yoga? Where do you cross the line from an intentional way of life to a straight-forward workout?

Critics abound. Jennilyn Carson, the blogger known as Yogadork, cites “deep practitioners who feel it is a disrespect to what the practice is” for Ms. Stiles to pitch yoga as another quickie weight-loss regimen. “It’s not a few minutes a day, it’s not fitness, it’s a lifestyle,” Ms. Carson said.”

Is yoga being turned on its head?

Stop. Take a deep breath. Clear your mind.

Allow me to share my credentials. I have practiced yoga for more than a dozen… well I’ve participated in a yoga session maybe a dozen times. But my family owns more yoga mats and DVDs than we own cars. Both my sons, care of the Berkeley education system, have learned yoga.

But seriously, I have practiced Tai Chi for nearly twenty years. I taught classes in Israel and believe deeply in Tai Chi – as an exercise and a way of life.

One of the biggest challenges in any such program that purports to be more than just exercise, is finding the right teacher. I loved my first Tai Chi teacher. I was engrossed as we learned the Tai Chi form and I was engrossed when we sat and listened to him talk. I was shattered when I discovered that he didn’t actually walk the walk in his everyday life.

It is the same with dictators and democratic leaders. We put our trust in them, that they will fulfill what they claim to stand for, that they will stay loyal to the fundamentals of whatever ideology propelled them to that position.

Yoga, Tai Chi, democracy, benevolent dictatorship – it is about the people who step up and how they conduct themselves. In Hebrew there is a word – kavvanah – intention. It is a concept far stronger than any form of spiritual or political framework.

Perhaps America would be a better place if its elected leaders were required to practice yoga or Tai Chi. Perhaps less leaders would fall afoul of the law, Maybe taking deep breathes before standing in front of a microphone could save lives.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com

McDonald’s: Diet for a Bankrupt America

Jon Stewart and the Daily Show couldn’t resist a dig at San Francisco in their first show of the year (Monday, 03. January 2011).

I can rarely resist a dig at McDonald’s. I didn’t here, or here, and couldn’t help mentioning this about San Francisco legislation to force McDonald’s to raise the nutritional value of their children-directed Happy Meals or face a ban on toys being included to induce children to pressure their parents to eat at the Golden Arches.

Hans Bader takes an opposite stance in this article attacking the legislation and sharing his disdain about the Californiazation of America. I will leave it to you to read my post and Hans’ perspective.

What I want to focus this blog on is the feeling that there are probably three main areas where we can pull ourselves out of the recession and into a competitive 21st Century economy.

The first concerns the war machine – the need to be constantly subsidizing a war somewhere. This feels the most complicated and I am going to skip it for this post at least. The second regards sustainable energy and possibly will help solve the first as a not-so-fringe benefit.

However what is relevant for this blog post is the feeling that we simply cannot afford bad health and this will always begin with nutrition. There is a $1 trillion-dollar health (or rather sickness) industry and it is, for the main part, possible to tackle.

We can do this by focusing on the lifestyle and diet we adopt. Now I don’t want to change this great country to a bunch of Tai-Chi loving vegans (actually, to be perfectly honest, I do), but it just seems that food that is nutritionally devoid of anything of worth might be cheap in the short run, but is bankrupting us in the long run.

Not only is this a sick nation, but sickness leads to a lack of productivity and creativity, and these are the resources we need to rebuild America. For a great overview of the sickness industry and an optimistic look into the future, try Paul Zane Pilzer’s The Next Trillion.

There is hope. There is always hope – if not for us, then for our children, but not if they learn about health and values from Ronald McDonald.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

The Elephant in the Pharmacy

Elephant Pharmacy was an exciting discovery to a holistic immigrant to Berkeley. I bought my herbs in bulk and made up my own favorite (and affordable) herbal formulas. We often bought gifts there, able to find unique, cool, and environmentally friendly gifts.

Life moves on. Shattuck Avenue ain’t what it used to be and Gourmet Ghetto is a rare night out for many of us as we need to watch our wallets if we are to see out the month.

What is tough to accept is that the site of Elephant Pharmacy will be replaced by a Walgreens. Now let me confess that I shop at Walgreens and I understand why it is a more useful addition in these troubled economic times. I don’t even think that it is the fact that we have at least three Walgreens along Shattuck Avenue, and a couple of CVS’s to boot.

It is the fact that we have lost another local business and one that was so…Berkeley. It is the fact that you could have an introductory lesson in Tai Chi, yoga, or any other of a number of disciplines that help improve one’s health. It is the free lectures, the comfortable seating while you peruse their books, and the knowledgeable staff that were there to help. They also, by the way, sold allopathic medicines as well.

The US economy is reeling for a number of reasons. One is the $1 trillion+ sickness industry (please don’t call it health – no one who is healthy uses it). People are not just sick, they are bankrupting themselves when they get sick, and there is a direct correlation between sickness and economic production and innovation.

If this country is ever going to create a sustainable economy, it will need to get healthy. For this reason, we need more Elephant Pharmacies and less Walgreens.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

 

 

Week of Freedom – Liu Xiabo

Liu Xiabo has been a leader for Chinese democracy since at least the 1989 demonstrations in Tienanmen Square. He has advocated and stressed using only non-violent protests. Liu Xiabo’s desire for freedom of thought and expression has landed him in prison for 11 years.

Amnesty International took on Xiabo’s case and received a major boost when Xiabo received the Nobel Prize for peace.


China is riding a double track. The government under Deng Xiaoping has implemented an effective easing of economic freedom and this is leading to unparalleled economic growth. Thomas Friedman, who has convinced many that the world is flat has this New York Times op-ed.

I love so much about China. I have studied Tai Chi and Traditional Chinese Medicine. I avidly read Chinese literature. But I wonder what the long-term vision is among Chinese strategists. Do you really think you can offer one type of freedom and deny another? I have news for you, Chinese Communist Party: freedom is addictive, and it ain’t that bad.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

 

 

 

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