The Body Eclectic

Rock your chakras and eat it raw at Soma

"It's 2007, goddamn it! Punk rockers eat raw, organic, free trade chips made of dehydrated vegetables!"

Chris Cartrett, former guitarist for Doorway 27, said this with an ironic grin after somebody remarked on the strangeness of seeing party people in a whole foods environment. It was the rock 'n' roll way of saying: "Our global village has brought disparate elements together, and now even right here in the microcosm of Lake Worth, our changing consciousness allows seeming opposites to coexist peaceably."

In fact, I'd spent the night cataloging the incongruous elements of my evening at the Soma Center: part health food café, now serving alcohol, and part meditative yoga studio, now serving as a band venue, where a melodic rock band (in which Cartrett was now playing bass) was calling itself the Guns, though they were all passion and no violence.

I had long suspected Soma was just a storefront for a New Age cult, and not just because the café's entrance feels secretive (there's a chalkboard sign out front directing people down a narrow passage between buildings). I'd heard drumming and observed uninhibited dancing, but most of the time the Lake Worth storefront with the "free yoga class" sign in the window was just a tad too tranquil. What sort of place names itself after the drug the government uses to sedate the populace in Huxley's dystopian novel, Brave New World?

If it weren't for my longtime friend and fellow journalist Steve Ellman, whose "poverty chic" fashion and sardonic wit make him more '60s Bohemian than postmodern hippie, I'd never have set foot in the place. He'd had Soma's raw food chef Lisa Steinborn cater his un-birthday party, and I had hit the spinach dip with the sort of enthusiasm most reserve for hash brownies.

I guess it was only a matter of time before I woke up and smelled the yerba mate.

I told Steinborn about my unnatural craving for her dip. "You must have craved the nutrients," she said. An incipient iron deficiency, maybe, asserting itself with a craving for spinach?

While I waited for my walnut-paté-stuffed tomato and ginger green tea shake, I checked the place out. The back entrance to the café really did make sense; it provided a quiet porch, almost a private outdoor nook, in the space between neighboring buildings to enjoy a coffee or access the free wireless internet. The purple bougainvillea arch provided a pretty side alley entrance, which, in the hour I was there, two groups of people used to stage photos.

Inside, the tiny café area had lots of colorful art crowding its walls, a couple of easy chairs and small tables, and a counter that could accommodate about a half dozen butts on stools. Through an open doorway, the larger studio was mostly just open space. Not bare, though. Besides the mirrored wall and hardwood floors necessary for the yoga studio, lots of funky pottery by EarthArtists studio sat high on a ledge around the room, and framed art — which was all for sale — occupied the asparagus green walls. On the ledge above one window, seven wooden letters told me to "Imagine."

Easy for them to say. I was hungry — very hungry — and Steinborn was still slicing and scooping. What was taking so damned long? It wasn't like we were waiting for things to cook. Later, I would learn that raw food isn't pre-prepped so it doesn't sit around oxidizing, leaking its nutrients, which is another reason fast food is so unhealthy. Right now, though, I was ravenous as a wolf, and the hunky barista was looking more edible by the moment.

Rather than lick my chops and stare, I re-directed my attention to some reading material on the counter, including a yellow flier that announced the Guns' upcoming gig. Not only had they begun booking bands, said the yummy morsel who turned out to be owner Scott Allen Brown, but they'd also recently gotten their beer and wine license. So this is what people meant by "harmonic convergence."

"I am combining all I like to do — good food, art, movement, and music," Brown said. Having moved from Minneapolis to Florida for the warm weather and surfing, "I wanted to have a place that I could go and feel good." The inspiration for the place's name wasn't literary but scientific, a reference to a term he had used often while studying kinesthesiology in college. "My anatomy and physiology book says [soma] means the body."

Once my food arrived, I scarfed down every scrumptious mouthful and, in gratitude, bussed my own table. The food clinched it; I'd be back. Besides, I was eager to see the Guns again. I'd seen the West Palm Beach trio play once before at South Shores Tavern during a Guitars not Guns benefit. For a new band (just six months old), they not only had their shit together but it was artfully arranged.

"It seemed like they were stealing the right bits and pieces of the Beatles," Lake Worth singer-songwriter Grant Balfour summed up at the time.

When I showed up for the Saturday night Soma show, a small crowd had gathered, half of them a posse I'd rounded up myself. Since the limited space meant a limited crowd, which in turn meant a limited budget (the band was being paid in good karma and juice drinks), it was important I do my part: I ordered an organic wine.

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