Jun 18th, 2015
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From The Times March 28, 2008 Esalen: top hippie enclave is hip againAllen Ginsburg and Joan Baez used to stay at this touchy-feely New Age cradle in California. Now Daniel Craig goesStefanie Marsh I first began to suspect I was out of my depth just off Highway 1, when our car was body-blocked by a gigantic Swedish masseuse. My sister and I were on our way to Esalen, the legendary retreat that helped to put California at the sharp end of the counterculture revolution, and the Swede was there at the tyre pump, fresh from her own stay at Esalen, where, she told us, she had both thrived at Kundalini yoga and discovered her power animal (a Gentoo penguin). But when the conversation was over, instead of leaving like a normal person, she remained standing in front of our car, beaming with aggressive friendliness. She's annoying, I said. Can we run her over? But my sister, who has lived in California for ten years and has a deeper understanding of West Coast etiquette, inferred from her body language an implicit demand. The Swede wanted a hug. A handshake, a kiss on the cheek, a wince, even - these are the British farewell gestures of choice. I cannot hug a person, I said, who thinks a giant penguin in the sky is looking out for her. So my sibling did the deed while I pleaded greasy hands from a phantom take-out. Back on the road, my sister warned me about the journey ahead. At Esalen, hugging is where the esoteric journey begins. Oh Christ,

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