Friday, July 8, 2005

I love Saul-to-Damascus stories, and Lillian's is one of the best: she came to Ashtanga yoga standing in the bathroom of a dive bar at 4 a.m., coked up and staring at herself in the mirror, a bloody chunk of septum in her right hand.

Not everyone is pitched from horseback by the voice of god. Sometimes the call is loud and overpowering, but sometimes it's a faint, ghostly echo, barely heard over the roar of the party and the music from the jukebox.

Lil had partied Wednesday and Thursday nights with little sleep in between. Friday night flickered into early Sunday morning as the party train hit all stops: bar to club, club to house, house to bar. Last stop: Gentleman Jack's, a downtown San Diego dive, small, cramped, dark, seedy.

The bartenders swept out the crowds at 2 a.m. They locked the front door, pulled the blinds, killed the lights, fired up the jukebox, and dumped thick white rocks of coke on the bar. A guy pulled out a hand coffee-grinder and started churning the rocks into powder. Everyone took turns hoovering finger-width lines off the bar.

At 4 a.m. Lil was in the bathroom wiping the drip from her nose. The coke had revved her heart's RPMs so high she could feel the fist-sized muscle thumping into her breastbone, threatening to tear free from its moorings.

And her nose! It itched so bad! She had this booger that just would not quit. Lil closed off one nostril and with a firm snort, blew a thick, blood-red chunk of scab into her hand. It was a piece of her septum.

"Beyond a certain point there is no return," said Kafka. "This point has to be reached." A piece of her nose in hand, Lil had a coke-fueled flash-panic anxiety attack. At that point---her point of no return---three clear thoughts whispered through the din: "I need to stop partying," "I need to get healthy or I'm going to die," and "I need to start doing yoga."

She doesn't know where the last thought came from---maybe she'd read about yoga in Vogue? Regardless, the seed had been planted somewhere. She sifted those three thoughts like a prospector panning for gold, and after a bit of trial and error, found Ashtanga vinyasa.

That was four years ago. Today Lillian is strong, healthy and most importanly, alive.