L’eggo my ego

I walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water, where across the hall, bent over, completely naked in the adjacent bedroom, was Oliver Stone’s ass. I tiptoed back to my bedroom and heard him complain to his wife about the dim lighting in the house. I found it amusing to hear a private conversation between a husband and wife that would never travel the wavelength to their host. Oliver Stone is one of my favorite directors, and seeing the nakedness of this iconic purveyor of truth felt like a wink from the universe that there is a human vulnerable side to us all. We try to cover this up because it’s so soft and unprotected, like exposing our inner epidermis, but really it’s what connects us, and Oliver’s ass was a gentle reminder. We were sharing a guest house because my cousin Jeff Greene was holding a conference of top forward thinkers, a micro version of the Davos economic forum held yearly in Switzerland. Jeff Greene is an eccentric, made from scratch, multi billionaire, who famously, along with John Paulson, shorted the subprime market and was responsible for the greatest financial coup on record. Ordinary homeowners fell under a mass hypnotic incantation believing the market was stable, they would be able to make mortgage payments indefinitely, and that the bankers who issued these loans, no questions asked, were masked fairy godmothers, dressed in suits and ties with facial hair. The miracle bubble was about to burst and Jeff, who once owned two lamas named Tony and Dali, bet against it.

The speakers at this conference included the Prime Minister of England David Cameron, who had recently resigned after Brexit; Chris Christie, who seemed kind of cool, like the Billy Joel of politics, until his bridge scandal; the beloved ex (and legally blind) governor of NY David Patterson; one of the heads of JPMorgan; the above mentioned Oliver Stone, and a slew of others.

That evening we all converged at the main house for a formal sit down dinner. Oliver entered the room and said to Jeff “what’s with the dim lighting Jeff? Trying to save money?” This summed up Oliver. What he thought in private he said in public. Hurt feelings did not factor in.

I was seated next to a man, who as I proceeded to get more and more drunk, morphed into Nicolas Cage. I asked him, “has anyone ever told you that you look like…” He said “Who?!” I said “You know who.” He said “Come on, say it.” I say it. “Nicolas Cage.” He smiles and says “All the time. In fact, one time a woman asked for my autograph and when I told her I wasn’t him she said she hates it when we actors lie about our identity, that it’s just plain rude.” He said he’d actually love to meet him one day. This prompted my Nicolas Cage story. I tell how……a long time ago…..I had a dream that Nicolas Cage and I were driving together in my car and I knew it was a dream that would happen in the future. A few months later, in real life, I was driving down Main St. in Santa Monica, and there he was, at a bus stop. I know I’m supposed to pick him up because I had dreamed it, but I chicken out and circle the block. I end up a street ahead of where he was initially but now he’s there too, where I am. He approaches the car and introduces himself as Nick, and asks if he can get a ride. He gets in the car and we drive, not speaking, just listening to John Lennon’s song “Oh Yoko.” After awhile he says “We’re together now.” I agree, in a blacked out hypnotized way, and then I realize what’s happening. Nicolas Cage is in my car, and I had dreamed it was going to happen. I lose my marbles and say “What’s going on here? I feel like I’m on drugs.” He says “What kind of drugs? Nicotine, caffeine?” I say “You know what kind of drugs.” He says “mushrooms?” I, very angrily shout, “WHERE DO YOU HAVE TO GO???” He says, “Oh, turn left.” I say “I can’t,” and I pull over to the right. He says, “Oh ok, thanks Tracey, see you.” I scream, “How did you know my name???” He laughs and disappears.  There is an uncomfortable silence at the dinner table now and my Nicolas Cage lookalike, who also happens to play a crucial role at JPMorgan, and was speaking at the conference the following day, appears to be looking for an exit strategy. His eyes dart across the room and fall upon a myriad of fascinating people to converse with, Dr Oz for one. My heart sinks. And then he slowly proceeds to tell me the most magnificent story of how he met his wife.

He was living in a dilapidated hovel of a studio in Manhattan and his personal life was a shambles. He one day had this vision of meeting his future wife. He saw her very clearly and watched them both walking down a path together in NYC, having a particular conversation, and making plans for their future. Cut to: years later. He found himself with the exact woman he had imagined, and walking down the exact same path he had seen years before, a path that was not even his suggestion to walk down. He asked her to marry him. They worked together at JPMorgan and she was very cute. She expressed concern, saying that sure, he was attracted to her now while they were still young, but people get together all the time for those reasons and it doesn’t pan out. What about 25 years from now? He told her he had fallen in love with her soul and that of course they would get older but that he would always be in love with her. He then drew a picture of what he imagined her to look like in 25 years. He recently just found the picture and it looks exactly what she looks like 25 years later. He said he had no idea how he had known all of it, but he just did.

The next day was the conference and later an evening fireside chat with David Cameron. Chris Christie spoke about how “Guess what? You want better representatives? We are just reflections of you. You rise up to the challenge and we will too.” Huh? There were other so called trail blazers that were a real snooze, experts in their fields, such as artificial intelligence, CNN correspondents. But the grand slam homerun was the final speech by Governor David Patterson, about the importance of developing consciousness.  That we need to honor and explore this untapped vastness, and that this is where the future is, where visions and inventions are created. After the blind Governor had finished his speech, he stepped away from the podium and appeared to be sniffing for something, like a mouse sniffing for cheese. His girlfriend grasped hold of his arm and said, “Such a great speech.” I saw this had been a hatched plan of theirs so that he could find his way back to his seat. It was heartbreaking and courageous. The root word of courage is cor, the Latin word for heart, and courage originally meant “to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” The governor had once told me, during a walk through the Pompeii ruins, a story about how a psychic had approached him and said that he would soon be the next Governor of NY. He knew this was impossible. He was currently lieutenant governor, had no plans to run for governor, and oh yeah, he was blind. And then, soon after the psychic’s prediction, Elliott Spitzer, due to irrepressible urges and indiscretions, was forced to resign and David was sworn in later that day. David’s implication was that our minds are not localized in our heads and to further demonstrate this theory he added, “Did you know that mice can feel when someone is looking at them? Not see, but feel. They will first freeze in paralysis and then run away.”

That night I sat next to Oliver Stone and David Cameron. I listened to their discussion of Putin. Oliver, seemingly wanting to rattle Cameron’s cage, defended Putin. David Cameron, in his conservative English tone,  politely disagreed. Oliver schooled Cameron in a brief history lesson explaining the Russians great loss during WW2 and that, in fact, the Russians saved the world, not the USA or England. David Cameron, finally relenting, said “I suppose I did see his softer side at one point.” Perhaps this softer side was when Putin once hosted a 10 course meal for the English Prime Minister, which included a delicate pudding of burnt caramel modeled after Big Ben, created by a very famous London chef. Later however, Putin’s opposition to gay marriage, among other things, left a bad taste in Cameron’s mouth that not even the caramelized pudding could cover up.

We left for Los Angeles the next day, but not before walking into Mara Lago, via the beach entrance, because my cousin Jeff lives next door. Secret service scoured the premises and roads were blocked off for a mile in all directions, but we passed all security without a hitch.  I asked them “Don’t you want to stop me?” They laughingly said it was too much paperwork, and we walked right in. And by walking right in, I mean right into the boardroom that was set up for Trump’s meeting with the president of China, just 20 minutes later. And a little later than that, Trump would declare war and fire missiles off to Syria. I’ve spoken about the “softer” side of some of these great men throughout this story, but I don’t think I need to convey the unexpected shocking vulnerability of our current president. The fact that I wasn’t stopped, and entered Mara Lago, via the beach, because my cousin lives next door, says it all.

I arrived back in L.A. and the next day went to yoga class. My teacher was at the desk and said “Hey Trace!” I said, “Hi. I’m so out of shape. I haven’t been here in two weeks.” He said, “Where were you?” and it all just came spilling out. My adventure in Palm Beach and sharing a guest house with Oliver Stone and dinner with this person, lunch with that person….president of bla bla bla… He excitedly said “Wow!” and that I was really with the top people or something to that affect. I became flustered and embarrassed by my over the top braggadocious behavior and tried to reel it in, attempting to convey the “cor” of what really transpired, realizing that was a better message to impart. I said, “Well it turns out that it was all about the raising of consciousness, going into unknown territory and listening. Like what you teach here everyday.” He said, “Are you saying I should be a statesman?” I said, “I’m saying you are at the forefront  of what’s going on.” Class began and he talked about snake bites, which was very coincidental because I had just investigated 22 revolvers so that I could shoot rattlers if they came up to my house in the desert, where they are abundant. But my teacher’s idea was better and PETA friendly. He said that the cure for a snake bite is the venom itself, and so whatever the problem, the obstacle, therein lies the cure. To treat it by going into it. I imagined milking snake venom and having a big jug of it on the kitchen table. People would come over and say “oh is that iced tea?” and I’d say “No, it’s snake venom. The problem is the cure.” Soon my head started spinning as we moved deeper and deeper into our bodies, accessing emotions otherwise not readily available. Emotions I had shoved into my hips the way you put things you’ll deal with later in the garage. I questioned my intentions and motivations for telling my teacher all that stuff. I thought of the conference and the elephant in the room, which was our newly elected president, and how it was never once discussed. And that just like Trump, I had felt the need to inflate myself, for whatever mass insecurities lay lurking deep in the recesses of my unconscious, due to childhood trauma not yet unearthed. I realized maybe Trump and I both just needed a hug. Everything I had learned during my trip came rushing to the forefront during our half moon poses, sliding into eagle, and standing bow. Who would have known it was about revealing the softer side, from Oliver’s ass to the magnificent story of my Nicolas Cage doppelgänger revealing what meant the most to him, the mysterious matters of the heart, the soul knowing things that are presented to the subconscious long before they are manifested in life. The governor speaking of entering this vast expansion of consciousness “blindly” or Cameron seeming to have a slight man crush on Putin by admitting he was touched by Putin’s softer side. It was time for frog pose. The psychologist Marie Louise Von Franz illustrates ego formation by recalling certain processes in a frog’s egg. “At any given stage there is produced on one side of a frog’s egg a gray spot. Experiments prove that this gray spot later develops into the head. If you cut into this with a thread, a double headed frog will be produced. If you remove it, the frog will have no head. Thus you can prove experimentally that the gray spot in the frogs egg is that part of the plasma which later develops into the head.” Clearly, I needed to remove my own head and go deeper into the heart, the “kor”. Frogs pose they say invites you to listen. Suddenly things began to move fast and my pancreas felt a stimulating stir. My digestive tract lurched from a trot to a gallop and my root chakra began to disem’bark’. I began to shake and a voice yelled “timber”…I was about to go down.  A sadness I had not anticipated began to well up and montages flashed before me. Images of Chris Christie, alone at Mara Lago, eating a cheeseburger. David Patterson grasping for a hand in the dark, the unconscious toxicity absorbed along the way, all that money….and my own vast vulnerability I tried desperately to conceal. I thought about how “moving into the vulnerability” is the cure, it’s where the strength lies. But no one wants to deliberately expose themselves. No one wants to…oh my god…no…. Something began to rumble in the middle of my small intestine and sweep up the digestive tract into the stomach, through the relaxed pyloric sphincter. In other words, I was about to puke. This just cannot happen, I told myself. It had been a fear since I started this hot yoga thing years ago, but it had never actually become a reality. Until now. I tried to get up and stumble to the door, barely making it outside before collapsing on the floor. A beautiful manager/ instructor came running over and cradled me, putting my head in her lap. Her calming affect allowed me to relax…..and vomit all over her. She stroked my hair saying “let it out, let it out,” and I did.

A quote Matthew Barney once said comes to mind. “A lot of my work has to do with not allowing my characters to have an ego in a way that the stomach doesn’t have an ego when it’s wanting to throw up. It just does it.” And so, this was the great lesson learned from my trip, revealing itself in this “rites of passage” yoga class. To be vulnerable, without facades, to go blindly into unknown territory, that is the strength. The greatest men seem to be able to do this while simultaneously expressing the greatest humility and reverence for this unknown, where things come forth and are revealed.