Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year reflections

I am leaving tomorrow morning for a short New Year's retreat on the North Shore. A friend of mine goes every year and she told me about it. My mom and my boyfriend ended up paying for it as a gift to me, because I've been under a lot of stress lately and they both thought I needed it.

My mom insisted that I go even though my uncle, her brother, passed away last night after a long hard fight with cancer. The rest of my family is en route to Nebraska for the funeral and I hope I didn't make a mistake, not going with them.

My uncle was funny and weird and crazy and everyone's favorite. He was my dad's best friend, they were in the Marines together in the late 60s. He introduced my parents to each other. He used to write absurd, rambling letters that read like Tom Robbins books. I found one last night and read it because I couldn't sleep. I laughed and cried at the same time.

There is so much sadness in the air here in New Orleans as 2010 draws to a close. Eight people died in a warehouse fire the other night, as they burned a fire in a barrel, trying to keep warm. Apparently they were friends of the person I mentioned in my last post. A friend on Facebook linked to this great blog post about the incident. When I lived in the Quarter I was often harassed by "gutterpunks" and sometimes I responded (verbally) with hostility as well. It was tough for me, especially as a "keep to yourself" New Englander, to deal with the constant requests for money, food, and attention as I was just trying to walk down the street. But it is important to remember that everyone is an individual, no matter what they dress like, and they are not all rude. And even the ones who are...they are still young. I am rude sometimes, too.

I've been thinking about what it means to be counterculture. In some ways I feel I fit that label, but in other ways my life is very comfortable and "normal." I always loved the stories my dad and my uncle would tell about their younger days - road trips, hitchhiking, drugs, jail, and the mostly unmentioned shadow over it all - the Vietnam war. I never lived on the edge like they did, like the "gutterpunks" or "travelers" of today do. The risks I've taken have mostly been in the artistic realm - I fear too much for my physical safety to take other kinds of risks. But I think about the longing for freedom, for adventure, and that makes sense to me. More sense than most of what goes on in this thing we call society.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Another New Orleans story with a sad ending.

In 2006, I quit my full-time job to work part-time as a barista while attending massage school. My friends had bought a coffee shop and offered me a job. Many of the other employees had worked for the previous owners, and were, frankly, not very nice people. They decided almost immediately that they didn't like me. I wasn't sure if it was because I didn't look or dress like them, because I was friends with the new owners (who they didn't approve of, and stole from, despite all the new owners tried to do for them), or if they just didn't dig my personality, or some combination of all that. It made it tough to work there, sometimes.

But there was an exception. He worked the graveyard shift, and I worked the morning shift, so we overlapped a bit when I came into work at the crack o' dawn. We were given a fair amount of liberty as to the ambiance of the place during our shifts. He preferred to turn off all the lights, blast death metal, and burn incense. It was, after all, the graveyard shift. But when I came in, I knew my regulars, on their way to work, would never come in with the place in that state. So I'd cheerfully turn on the lights, extinguish the smoke, let some fresh air in, and play happier music. Strangely, though, we got along great. We'd joke around and talk about random things.

I remember one morning, I came in with my hair still wet from a shower and fresh hair gel. He looked at me and wrinkled his nose and said, "You look so...clean." His appearance tended more towards the unwashed and disheveled look. I laughed and explained that I'd just taken a shower, which he couldn't imagine was worth the extra few minutes that early in the morning. Then he walked over and put his arm around me and grinned. "Now you're dirty!" he said.

No, we didn't have much in common, but it didn't seem to matter. Sometimes we had long and fairly deep conversations. What I gathered from his past was pretty rough, though he didn't seem to think so, it was simply all he knew. He drew cartoons. Really good ones, actually.

I only worked there for a few months, before I finished massage school and was able to work as a Massage Therapist. We'd run into each other fairly often when I lived in the Quarter, and chat and catch up with each other.

The last time I saw him, I was in a hurry, and I didn't stop to say hi, figuring I'd just wait till next time. But there won't be a next time, because he was apparently murdered Thursday night. The end.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Drew Brees loves Earth Balance

I worked at Whole Foods today, doing chair massage. It was busy and full of cheerful holiday shoppers (who tend to be great tippers - hooray!). At one point, I took a break, and got myself a couple of slices of vegan "veggie overload" pizza and a chocolate chip cookie. While waiting in the checkout line, I noticed that the man ahead of me was buying a case of Earth Balance.

Now, I love Earth Balance, which is the best vegan "butter" ever, but I couldn't figure out what someone would do with what looked like 12 or so containers of it, so I had to ask, "So...whatcha gonna do with all that Earth Balance?" I was hoping he'd say something like, "I'm opening a new vegan restaurant," but he didn't. He replied, "It's for Drew Brees. I'm buying it for Drew Brees."

I asked him, "Is Drew Brees a vegan?" and he just laughed. I think maybe Drew Brees is a secret vegan, and he doesn't want everyone to know, so he sends people to Whole Foods to buy his Earth Balance for him ;)

Or, perhaps, I suppose it's possible that this guy had a much less interesting reason for buying large amounts of Earth Balance, and made up the Drew Brees thing to try to impress me. OR, I suppose he could be a deranged Saints fan who decided to buy Earth Balance and present it to Drew Brees for his own deranged reasons.

But he seemed like an honest, straightforward guy. So there you have it, Drew Brees loves Earth Balance. And so do I.

P.S. I also saw Dr. John at Whole Foods today!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas cookies!

My mom makes 9 varieties of Christmas cookies, in epic amounts, every year. I don't know how she does it. I like baking cookies, but 2 batches (occasionally 3, if it's an ambitious year) are usually all I do. I also like to make different kinds from year to year, depending on what I'm in the mood for.

So far this year, I've made Sparkled Ginger Cookies from Vegan With A Vengeance, and these Dark Chocolate Peppermint cookies from the Oh She Glows blog, which I recently discovered. Both are awesome!

If I'm feeling ambitious today, I might also try out a recipe for almond cookies that I found in Veganomicon.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

30 today!

I haven't been very posty lately...I've had a lot on my mind, not all of which I can share right now. But! Today is my 30th birthday. I have to do one massage, but other than that I have the rest of the day free. I'll probably spend it reading and relaxing, for the most part.

I took the GRE last week, and was happy with my scores. I surpassed my goals for both verbal and math! Granted, the math goal was not particularly lofty, but as someone who, until recently, could no longer do long division, I think I did pretty well! And now I have a more expansive vocabulary due to my verbal preparation.

On Sunday, I had a tea party with friends and family, and NOLA Playback performed. I think this was the first time I've ever watched our group do a show...I'm usually on stage! The show was all about me, so I loved it ;) We're hoping to perform at more birthday parties in the future. As one of my friends pointed out, it's nice to share stories about someone while they're still alive, rather than waiting for the funeral!

My mom's delicious vegan apple butter cake was a big hit as well.