center fold: dj hyfi and the center.

burgIMG_2999I retired from distance running not long following the birth of my son. After 20+ years of high mileage, my body finally started to rebel: my hips got wonky, I developed a bum knee, my hamstrings would tie themselves in knots over nothing…  even my feet are… well, they’re just disgusting. Even with all these reminders of my physical limitations, I still think of myself as some  25-year-old running phenom (ha), dive headlong into new exercise programs or physical challenges (such as carrying a few dozen 40-pound bags of stone up and down the hill in my backyard), and then find myself arrogantly surprised when I get tired, or my muscles (ha) start shaking, or I’m too sore to even lie down the next day.

Thank goodness for yoga. I mean it. One, it can be as challenging as you need it to be. If you’re an elite athlete and think everything’s too easy for you, there’s a yoga for you. If you’re a beginner who needs to work on balance and flexibility, there’s a yoga for you. Two, if you tend to be a stress ball all day and need to be emotionally untangled, there’s a yoga for you. Three, if you’re an old washed up athlete who struggles to do any kind of exercise, there’s a yoga for you.

And now, if you love yoga but also love electronic music, there’s a yoga for you! Yep. Brandy, Ella, and I, along with about twenty-five other folks, recently attended a 90-minute (!!!) yoga class with a DJ, the Friday Night Live: Cool Music, Groovy Yoga class AND happy hour at The Center.

burgIMG_2933The DJ arranged his sound and light equipment at the front of the yoga studio; as we all filed in and placed our mats on the floor, I felt like I had a little subwoofer in my chest. I worried for a few minutes that the music would be too loud, but before long, the movements and the sound fused together in a way that connected all the senses. The music was so much a part of us and our movements that it seemed to both predict what we were doing and respond to it, simultaneously. I lost all track of time. It was a RAVE of relaxation, if you will.

burgIMG_2947DJ Hyfi works as a “nomadic DJ, on the road, fusing fresh beats with vinyasa.” I admit, when I saw this event come across my newsfeed, I wondered how it would work and thought it sounded strange. How would I quiet my mind in a loud environment? I still don’t know the answer to that question, but having now experienced it, it seems completely natural. Yoga is rhythmic. Breathing is rhythmic. One’s heart beat is rhythmic. Why not give those things a rhythmic soundtrack?

burgIMG_2952The session started with multiple sun salutations and warrior poses, followed by balance work.Suzanne McCahill Perrine’s instructions and cuing were, as always, impeccable. If I couldn’t see anyone to mimic his or her movements, her verbal descriptions saved me. If anyone needed help getting into a pose, she was right there. My favorite part was when the entire group formed a circle and held hands during Warrior III. I got to hold Ella’s hand and the hand of a complete stranger — what a beautiful thing! Another notable moment was how gooood everyone looks doing what I call the “pretty pose” (i.e., Half Lord of the Fishes pose) — all those whittled torsos and strong shoulders and piles of messy hair. During one of the inverted poses, I could see Brandy through my legs and Ella beyond that through Brandy’s legs, and it made me smile the way, even upside down, those two gals look so much alike.

Just when I thought I couldn’t hold any pose for even one more second, sweat was pooling in awkward places all over me, and every muscle fiber burned with constant exertion, Suzanne instructed us all to lie down. I closed my eyes and let myself be carried away by the throbbing music. I might have fallen asleep… I’m not really sure… but for several minutes I thought of absolutely nothing. When I opened my eyes, the lights were dancing all over the room, and I saw faces in the ceiling. First there was a lion. Then I saw a man with a beard, until the beard morphed into a baby, being held by its mother. To the left I saw a caricature of John Lennon, while a man and his cat sat over to the right. Brandy remarked that she had an out-of-clothing experience where she snapped out of her trance and thought she might be nakey… but then she checked and realized she did indeed still have pants on. We really did lose track of time… and space.

burgIMG_2959After peeling ourselves off the floor, we quietly emerged into the lobby of Ice House Studios, where Suzanne had arranged a buffet catered by Food Bar Food and Pale Fire Brewing. Starving from our efforts in the last ninety minutes, we devoured the delicious snacks: falafel fritters with tatziki; tofu and shiitake mushroom croquettes with Thai caramel sauce; and black bean & goat cheese hummus with corn tortilla chips. For the next hour we enjoyed chatting about the class, the DJ, and our lives, making this workout as much emotional and spiritual as it was physical. I also got a chance to check out Ice House Studios: I admit, I had not set foot in there before tonight!

burgIMG_2925 burgIMG_2940burgIMG_2966 burgIMG_2978The space houses both The Center and Breathe Pilates and Yoga. There are two yoga studios with mats, bolsters, blocks, and blankies. The Pilates room contains mirrors and ample equipment, while the Barre room offers mats and balls to its users. Large windows and soft lighting contrast the concrete columns and exposed block walls throughout the old factory. There’s also a terrace — you can make yourself a cup of tea in the lobby and enjoy it outside.

burgIMG_2944Ice House Studios also hosts services provided by several other professionals: Four Seasons Harmony Massage Therapy and Healing Arts; Mary Straub Pargas Yoga Therapy and Holistic Coaching; Kate Miller’s “Be” Bodywork, Yoga, and Aromatherapy; Blue Heron Healing Arts owned by Grayson Pritchard; and Becky Bartells Massage Therapy.

And, the merchandise. You can find beautiful jewelry by Rhoda Miller of Rhodarts, Lily and Laura bracelets made by artisans in Nepal, colorful tote bags, essential oil kits, and candles. Body products, journals, mats, socks, and headbands. Icehouse, Breathe, and The Center shirts and other crucial apparel, just in case you arrived without something.

And if you’ve never really explored the Ice House in entirety, you can take a class or get a massage at Ice House Studios, grab a perk-up at Black Sheep Coffee, shop for clothing and jewelry at The Yellow Button and Hugo Kohl’s, eat dinner (or breakfast or lunch, for that matter) at Pure Eats, and then savor a beer at Pale Fire Brewing. Too bad you can’t just move in there. Oh wait, YOU CAN.

Ice House Studios are located on the second floor of the Ice House, which is located in downtown Harrisonburg on Liberty Street across from Turner Pavilion. Coming up on April 30, it’s the return of Detox Retox — an outdoor yoga class in the circular drive of Pale Fire Brewing! Click to see the classes offered at The Center and Breathe. See you there!
burgIMG_2949 burgIMG_2962burgIMG_3008Copyright © 2012-16 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

set the record(s) straight: honky tonk happy hour at the blue nile.

In the car on the way there, we listened to some Johnny Cash. “Cry, Cry, Cry” came on; Bree asked, “Why does this song have to be so sad?” Because it does, I told her. Because it’s raw. Because it’s how he felt at that time, with no shiny gloss or double talk or self-pity. “He wants you to feel what he felt,” I told her.

“Well, I feel it,” she assured me.
Then, “I’m hungry. Are we there yet?”

We were on our way to Honky Tonk Happy Hour at the Blue Nile, hosted by DJ Real Gone (a.k.a., Jason Summer), and I was bracing myself for the likes of George Jones, Kitty Wells, and Buck Owen… songs about love and betrayal, about heartbreak and loneliness, about drinking and riding your lawnmower to the bar.

We arrived and there was Jason, ready to spin some old time, twangy vinyl… not behind the sound booth, but instead under the bright lights of the stage, where those musicians infinitely deserve to be.

He carefully thumbed through the albums which no doubt have brought him solace, hoping perhaps to transfer, through needles and grooves, the same impression to us.

Customarily, my kids started running around, and I sharply snapped, “Stop running! Where do you think you are??” To which Cal replied, “I really don’t know.” Fair enough. A few minutes later, Cal asked Brandy and me for “a tape.” “Tape? What do you need tape for?” “No,” he said, “a tip.” Ah. Money for the bowling video game.

We sat at the bar and listened to the full-bodied words of Loretta Lynn, Johnny Paycheck, and Hank Williams, and felt strangely uplifted. It’s like reading a book with a plot that just worsens and worsens, and at the end there’s absolutely no redemption. Most people like a happy ending. But unhappy endings make you feel better about your own reality.

This is not to say that all the songs were “sad.” Not all of them put a tear in your beer. Some were funny, some were romantic, some were feisty. But none were understated or devoid of intent. Music back then was simple and straightforward, both instrumentally and lyrically. Meant to be heard and listened to, not just enjoyed as some kind of sedating backdrop. People think music today is “explicit”… but vacantly, meaninglessly so. These old songs have an inescapable intimate quality that make one’s eyes moisten and one’s heart sting. These tunes SAY something, and often it’s something we really don’t want to hear because we already know it’s true. They not only shine a light which provides a path through the darkness, but which also causes our scars to glow white hot. And when everyone around you glows like that, you know you’re not alone.

You can catch Jason this and each Wednesday in the basement of the Blue Nile from 7 – 9pm. Leave your thick skin at home. It won’t work.

Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Photos by Brandy Somers. Written content by Katie Mitchell. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

city legend gets a different drummer no. 20: bongo restaurant and lounge.

Something strange always happens.

Brandy and I were excited to attend the invitation-only pre-grand opening on April 18 of Bongo Restaurant and Lounge on South Main Street in Harrisonburg. We were greeted at the door by a friendly hostess who pointed us in the direction of the bar. Once settled on our stools, we ordered a couple of drinks and started chatting it up. Servers carried trays of appetizers around the busy restaurant while people mingled, laughed, and enjoyed themselves. It was a very comfortable atmosphere.

I turned to grab a quesadilla from one server’s tray when I heard her say, “Ms. Mitchell! I haven’t seen you in years!” It was Jordan, a former student of mine from way back when. I was instantly reminded of the time she helped me break up a fight between two kids at my school years ago…. Scratch that, she didn’t help me—she did it single-handedly while I stood there helplessly screaming, “Ladies!” at the two girls rolling around on the floor outside my classroom. It was a strange scene—the two girls were engaged in an all-out brawl complete with eye gouging and hair pulling… in total silence. It was like two mimes fighting. I asked a male student nearby to help me break it up and he just smiled and said, “No way.” Heh heh. And just when I was going to push the red oh-dear-Lord-someone-get-down-here-and-help-me button on the wall, Jordan sailed in (in my memory, she’s glowing and moving in slow motion) and ripped them off of each other. When I got back from walking the two girls up to the office, I noticed clumps of hair all over the floor. Ick. After that school year, I didn’t see Jordan again until this night. Small world.

Originally Lloyd’s Steakhouse (and same owners), Bongo serves traditional American classics and Latin American food. To guarantee a successful reinvention of the establishment, they hired celebrity chef Ricardo Cardona  to shape the menu and train the staff. Hailing from New York City where he serves as head chef to the New York Yankees and owns four Manhattan restaurants, Cardona brings twenty-five years of experience and skill to our friendly city. He even stars in the TV show Mission Menu, and Brandy and I got to interview him!!

But first we settled in at the bar to sample the goods. The all-girl bar staff offered three specialty drinks—a margarita, Bongo Punch, and sangria—as well as a few varieties of beer and wine. As this was their preliminary opening, they had a limited menu, but now their menu (they serve lunch and dinner) is extensive and they have a full bar. For their complete menu, visit the Bongo web site. We nibbled on all sorts of lovelies prepared by Chef Cardona, including chicken quesadillas with guacamole and sour cream; chicken and beef empanadas (what happy, puffy triangles!); the Bongo burger; meat on a stick with barbeque sauce; and chicken skewers, with which I managed to stab my tonsil. By the end of our binge we had quite a collection of sharp, pointy sticks, but before Brandy could get a photo, our conscientious bartender scooped ‘em all up.

Before long we were invited into the kitchen to meet Chef Cardona. We didn’t want to bring all our purses and raincoats and such into the kitchen, so we left our seats at the bar and asked a group of strangers to watch our stuff. Eh. It is the Friendly City, after all.

We introduced ourselves. “I do the photos!” Brandy announced. “I do the writing!” I added. And Chef Cardona replied, “I do the cooking… and the yelling!” He was a bit busy, so Brandy took a few photos and we got out of his hair.
A bit later he was able to sit down with us in a separate room, the lounge. The lounge is a really large room with an urban, swanky feel. A long
bar runs along the front half of the room with tons of seating in an adjacent dining area; the back half of the room is a spacious dance floor and a DJ booth. They host dance parties on Thursday and Friday nights—Thursday nights are for college students only—and Latin dancing on Saturday nights.

We were so excited to sit down with Chef Cardona, although he had just a few minutes before he had to get back to the kitchen. He explained to us that his role at Bongo is that of consultant. He lives in New York, where, as mentioned earlier, he owns several restaurants but also consults with other restaurants in hopes of improving them, which is the premise for his upcoming show, Mission Menu. The show’s five cast members, including Cardona, find restaurants in need of help and overhaul their menus to bring in new life and flavor. Cardona has done this for Bongo, too. He consults with the Bongo staff on a bi-weekly basis to help them consistently provide delicious and interesting food and build a strong customer base.
Since he’s spent so much time in the Burg, we had to ask him… “What’s your favorite restaurant here?” (Other than Bongo, of course.) He hedged a bit, stating that we have many, many wonderful restaurants (yay, Burg!!!), but his favorite is Clementine, with Beyond getting “high marks,” too. Ya can’t argue with that, can ya, Praserth?
So after lots of delicious food and a fun chat with the chef, it was time for us to call it a night. Thanks, Bongo, for the lovely evening. Visit them soon at 2455 South Main next to Kline’s Dairy Bar, open Tuesday through Thursday til 9pm, and Friday through Sunday til 2am.

Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Photos by Brandy Somers. Written content by Katie Mitchell. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.