Open House

Bhagavan Das, Chakra yoga, no meat, soy milk, and Jesse Friedman

 LOCATION Inwood
PRICE $225,000 in 1999 [$880 maintenance]
SQUARE FEET 1,700 [two apartments combined in pre-war walk-up]
OCCUPANTS Emily Horowitz [professor of sociology, St. Francis College]; Seth Barron [freelance writer]; Marina Barron [six, P.S. 314]; Juliet Barron [four]

Is this the temple room? [Seth] This is sort of the outer temple. [Emily] Here is Bhagavan Das's room. He's on the road 11 months a year. [To a child] Don't tip over the massage table. I do yoga here with his ex-wife. She's the top teacher at Jivamukti. She's my best friend. Bhagavan's current girlfriend is my friend too. We do yoga here.

I saw his website. He has a long gray beard. He was born in Laguna Beach and found spiritual enlightenment in the '60s and leads Vedic astrology readings and evenings of ecstatic chanting. You know how like in India, a family adopts a guru for good luck? We kind of did that with Bhagavan Das. Allen Ginsberg wrote a poem about him.

Juliet, Marina, and Seth Barron and Emily Horowitz
photo: Shiho Fukada
Juliet, Marina, and Seth Barron and Emily Horowitz

Details

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  • Bhagavan Das is pretty famous. He had three kids by two different women, and then he had to get a job. I've been a follower of his since I was 18. I said, We have to buy two apartments so we can have a room for Bhagavan Das. We had never even met him. Two years later—this was after buying the apartment—I went to a concert. He came over and said, Hey, how ya doing? I said, If you ever need a place to stay in New York . . . He said, You know what? I need a place to live.

    I have my own career, but now I'm his manager, booking agent. His real name is Kermit. When I make plane reservations, it's kind of hard.

    When you bought this in 1999, you said it was "a real crapshoot." I was six months pregnant, I had a baby. We were living in a studio on the Upper East Side. I said, I cannot raise children up here. It's horrible. I saw an ad—"Build your own palace, 10-room apt." My husband said, You're nuts. I just came up here, totally pregnant. It seemed kind of creepy, the neighborhood. But the apartment was so great. My whole life, I only lived in rental. I really wanted to own. It nearly killed us to like buy it at the time. We had to borrow from everybody. I was working all the time. I had no time to research neighborhoods. Now the grocery is making an effort. They're carrying vegan ham and soy milk. I had started a food co-op here, but . . .

    You and your sister lived by yourselves in high school, you said. My mom died when I was a kid. I took care of my sister. We lived by ourselves, in Summit, New Jersey. My dad was supposed to live with us. He lived with his wife 20 minutes away. He'd come to visit. On vacation, I figured out how to stay with friends. Seth and I met at graduate school, at Yale.

    You became Jesse Friedman's good friend after he got out of prison in 2001 after 13 years. One of my interests is helping Jesse. I knew Jesse before the film [Capturing the Friedmans, about Jesse's father and Jesse, 19, pleading guilty to sexually abusing young boys who'd gone to the Friedmans' Great Neck house for computer classes]. I do work on wrongful convictions. After prison, he couldn't even go to the grocery. We have him over for Thanksgiving, holidays. He loves Bhagavan Das. [Seth] We got Jesse a job. A friend's training him to be an electrician. [Emily] And an apartment. He got thrown out of his building when they found out what he was in jail for. My neighbor across the hall happens to be Ron Kuby's assistant. We asked her if Ron would represent Jesse. Jesse's filed an appeal to vacate his conviction. When my friend moved out across the street from us, I told Debbie Nathan, who's written a lot about the case. She bought that apartment. Jesse has 200-plus counts of child abuse on his record. He is totally innocent.


    schlesinger@villagevoice.com

     
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