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Oregon Trail 2012 Greatest Hits


On October 3, Oregon Trail 2012 “officially” came to an end.

In 85 days (plus another 3 months of work at an animal sanctuary), I had journeyed west across the great plains from Chicago to the foothills of the Rockies; I rode the undulating mountain roads to a Krishna temple in the Mormon Utah Valley and dove south into the ochre slick rock of the Colorado Plateau; I backpacked into the depths of the Grand Canyon and replenished my body with legendary Ronald’s vegan donuts; in a day, I touched the lowest point in the country and ascended 9,000 feet to the top of Yosemite; I  trekked from an infamous prison in the San Fransisco Bay to a raunchy porn studio in the Mission district; I indulged my mind, body, and spirit with an outstanding human being along California 101 and an insecure, bitter one in the Rogue River valley; I found an amazing relationship with another woman in Portland and brought together old friends in a messy triangle in Seattle; I ferried Catbird to the Olympic peninsula and trailed up into the sub-alpine meadows of Sol Duc where I camped in solitude for four days. Now I face the toughest challenge yet: acquiring employment in the PDX.

Updating this blog was much more difficult than I anticipated during my adventure. With only a smartphone, droid app, and unreliable AT&T access to data and wireless for the first portion, and all my non-work time researching and writing a paper, keeping in touch with friends, and managing an interpersonal time bomb the second, I did not fulfill my original writing goals. I do plan on continuing my entries on my experiences and reflections in between job apps, although, not in the same detail as before. In the mean time, I would like to share with everyone my favorite moments and meals.

May I introduce to you, Oregon Trail 2012’s Greatest Hits!

 

EVENTS & ACTIVITIES

[0] Deliberating, planning, organizing, and coordinating an epic cross-country road trip (Chicago, IL)

[1-2] The optimism of the open road during the first two days leaving Chicago (IA and NE)

[3] New Belgium Brewery Tour (Fort Collins, CO)

[4] Hiking up to Nymph and Dream Lake through snow in sandals (Rocky Mountain NP)

[4] Listening to life insights and stories of my friend from Australia (Boulder, CO)

[5] Solo nightwalk through downtown (Denver, CO)

[6] Conversations about philosophy, love, and life with one of my best friends from college (Denver, CO)

[7] Reuniting with my best friend from childhood over a vegan potluck (Breckenridge, CO)

[8] Listening to Final Fantasy VII orchestrations while driving through the Rocky Mountains

[11] Meeting and hanging out all day with a local and total stranger (Salt Lake City, UT)

[12] Sunday Night Love Feasts at Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple (Spanish Fork, UT)

[18] Researching genealogy at The Family History Museum (Salt Lake City, UT)

[20] Listening to Ennio Morricone while driving through Southern Utah

[20] Driving along the Colorado River on 128 (Moab, UT)

[20] Entering Arches National Park at sundown (Moab, UT)

[21] Delicate Arch and Devil’s Playground (Arches NP)

Solo wilderness backpacking in Syncline Loop (Canyonlands NP)

[26] Sunrise at Monument Valley (Goulding’s)

[26] Monument Valley tour

[28] Walking the West Rim (Grand Canyon NP)

[29] Camping at Bright Angel at the bottom of the Grand Canyon with lovely strangers

[30] Driving at sundown on US-89 from through painted desert from Sedona, AZ to Zion NP

[31] Lunar Eclipse at Glen Canyon Dam (Page, AZ)

[33] Angel’s Landing and The Narrows (Zion NP)

[36] Driving all night to eat Ronald’s Donuts after 8-years of waiting! (Las Vegas, NV)

[37] Making out in the Rainforest and Venice, Italy (Las Vegas, NV)

[38] Mystère (Cirque du Soleil) at Treasure Island (Las Vegas, NV)

[38] First official couch surfing experience (Las Vegas, NV)

[39] Bad Water the lowest point in the US (Death Valley NP)

[40] Tuolumne Meadows and Yosemite Valley (Yosemite NP)

[47] California fruit stands on CA-580

[47-50] Staying and chatting with my scholar-activist friend (Oakland, CA)

[50] The SF Armory Kink.com tour (San Fransisco, CA)

[51] Amazing home-made dinner, wine, and dessert date at Callie’s (Arcata, CA)

[..] Driving at sundown in The Rogue River Valley (Ashland, OR)

[..] Tossing hay in The Rogue River Valley

[65] BDSM make-up sex (Jacksonville, OR)

[..] Taking care of dogs, cats, horses, pigs, and goats at an animal sanctuary (Jacksonville, OR)

[107]Party People at the Shakespeare Festival (Ashland, OR)

[..] Listening to audiobooks for the first time ever and loving it (e.g. The Odyssey, America: The Book, Fahrenheit 451)

[129-31] A weekend of wooing a (potential) lover who drove 5 hours to visit me

[136] Witnessing a man who drove two 18-hour round trips to adopt a dog he fell in love with, adopt said dog

[148] Sunset from the Watchman (Crater Lake NP)

[150] Hanging out with an old vegan-feminist friend from college (Eugene, OR)

[151] Driving through the Willamette National Forest

[151] Chatting with a favorite former student (now grad student and teaching fellow) who is inspired by me

[151-59] A week of sleeping in and dining out with the lovely Annichka (Portland, OR)

[155] Public sex downtown (Portland, OR)

[157] Kicking ass at Crystal Castles and Pac-Man Vs at Ground Kontrol with Texas friends (Portland, OR)

 

[162] Reuniting feuding friends from a New York animal sanctuary (Seattle, WA)

[165-68] Braving bear country by myself for 3 full days and nights (Olympic NP)

* Top 20 “Holy Moments”

 

DINING OUT

Tofu Scrambler Plate at Eklecticafe (Moab, UT)

Chocolate chip pumpkin muffin at Love Muffin Cafe (Moab, UT)

*Yelow Curry at Thai Sapa (Springdale, UT)

Green Curry at Benja Thai (St. George, UT)

*Every vegan donut at Ronald’s Donuts (Las Vegas, NV)

*Taco Salad at Red Velvet Cafe (Las Vegas, NV)

Inferno Mysore Dosa at Mint Indian Bistro (Las Vegas, NV)

*The Latin’tude at Pura Vida (Las Vegas, NV)

*Southern Fried Tofu (Catfish gumbo) at Souley Vegan (Oakland, CA)

*Gourmet Spicy Chicken at Golden Lotus (Oakland, CA)

Yasai bowl and Moon Garden rolls @ Cha-Ya (San Fransisco, CA)

Cajun Scramble at Golden Harvest Cafe (Arcata, CA)

BBQ Veggie Burger at Grilla bites (Ashland, OR)

*Spicy Basil and Tofu at Thai House (Jacksonville, OR)

*Tempeh Fried Steak Combo at Cornbread Cafe (Eugene, OR)

*Combination Mung Pao at Van Hanh (Portland, OR)

Taco Salad at Papa G’s (Portland, OR)

Buffalo Bomber at the Veggie Grill (Portland, OR)

*Sweet and Sour Chicken at Bamboo Garden (Seattle, OR)

* Top 10 “OMFG!” foodgasms

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Categories: Food & Drink, Oregon Trail 2012, Review | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oregon Trail: Boulder 1


Day 3: An Uncanny Self

Date: April 20, 2012
Journey: Fort Collins, CO to Boulder, CO
Total miles: 1,079 miles (39.6 mpg)

Continued from part 1

III. Age, Race, & Class

My time with Krista ended at the tasting room of the smaller, but still popular, Odelle Brewing Company. There I had the much talked about 90 Schilling (amber ale) and a taste of Krista’s $15 chemistry set of beers they called a taster tray. My personal favorite was one of the darker ones, but alas, I forgot.

Meanwhile, she, her roommate and I made some conversation over our beers. I had mentioned how much I liked Fort Collins so far, but that it felt almost too cozy. It was too white and affluent for me… what a thing to complain about! Her roommate was several years older than us and didn’t feel the same as Krista and I about wanting a more diverse home. She mentioned how she had already explored different cultural experience, had gotten her taste, had been transformed, and now wanted a comfy place to settle down. She wanted comfort and security, a home, a family, and maybe kids. Something didn’t jibe with me about the way she was addressing multiculturalism, and I had a feeling Krista felt the same, but Krista was a courteous, kind friend and a diplomat. I was a philosopher.

“I don’t want to live in a perfect bubble. I feel responsible to transform the world, and I cannot do that from a bubble. To change the world, we must work with, not for others, and that means dwelling with them. And who am I to advocate changing the world if I am not also willing to risk myself? Not necessarily my life, but my identity. I grow bored and sick with myself when I stagnate. I want transformation. I don’t see unsettlement as always a threat. Often it is a promise for liberation.” She patiently listened as she bit down on her artisinal cheese. Krista said she felt similarly. She wasn’t looking for security either. Her roommate said she used to feel the same way, but attitudes change as one gets older. Would we feel similarly when we were in our thirties?

By the time we returned to their home to pick up my car, I had a lot to drink, but my filling lunch tapered-off the affect of the alcohol. Too their extreme delight, more alcohol awaited us. Her roommate’s father from the Northshore of Chicago had shipped her two boxes of wine from his wine cellar. Thirty bottles laid inside each box, each worth–according to the roommate–an average of $30. Some were decades in age. I figured after the shipping, the whole shipment cost $1,000… just for wine. I was irritated, angry, and a little disgusted.

They were both so giddy with glee, but that’s not what scratched underneath my skin. It was the second day in a row that I found myself confronted with my class privilege and guilt. I was disgusted with myself, my situation. Back in Chicago and Texas I hung out with people from more modest means, but the people from my past were wrapped up in the same social networks of private higher education as I was. It was a revolving door one gets swept up into, but one is fooled into thinking one got inside because of one’s fine skill. It was not so much accomplishment though as it was privilege–the otherside of class oppression. My situation was inescapable, I knew that; but finding myself more aware than ever before of privilege made me feel guilty by proximity. I once lived with gleeful ignorance. I was like that. And now that I was a different person, what had changed. What had I done to bring justice besides “raise consciousness”? I felt just as guilty of the omission of action, more unaccomplished and fake. I couldn’t wait to leave for the next stop on my itinerary.

IV. Boulder: First Impressions on 4:20

I

Galaxy directed Catbird and I down CO-119. When we passed through a buzzing, affluent strip of a town, I thought I had arrived in Boulder, but it was actually another medium-sized city called Longmount. Fort Collins had already impressed me with its vistas of the foothills of the Rockies, but as I continued south-west, the foothills grew closer and larger. The higher-grade roads felt like roller coasters. Catbird accelerated down the slopes with ease, veering toward the sharp contrast in the horizon of puffy white clouds, deep blue sky, and green textured mountains. Entering town and taking a right onto Alex’s street, my lips curled into a smile. The grandeur of the beauty brought instant joy. I was in the mountains. I was in this legendarily awesome city. I was hanging out with awesome people and eating great food. Le sigh.

Alex welcomed me into her apartment. She had just returned from the campus square, eaves-dropping on the annual 4:20 celebration. I originally planned on arriving early to report on it and it’s history on campus as well as its contemporary suppression by the police, but I was bourg-ing on microbrews and I, as a foreigner, was not allowed on campus during the event. This year, Alex told me, was more dispersed. The loom of pot smoke wasn’t nearly as large as it had been in previous years. I hadn’t missed much. With that said, Alex took me to Pearl Street, a cosmopolitan strip of cute, locally-owned shops and restaurants. This section of Boulder immediately reminded me of Ithaca, a mountain college town in the glaciated hills of upstate New York along Cayuga Lake.

She was leaving in several weeks to start her summer job as a tour guide for an American travel company that took young Europeans and Japanese folk on an adventure across the American West through our National Parks. I had already planned my own trip and was doing it solo, but Alex had always been an inspiration and a bit of a trip adviser. If it weren’t for her, I probably would have passed through Page, AZ and Kanab, UT and missed out on their grand beauty. After she completed her summer, she had just a little bit of school left and then another 6 months or so “training” microorganisms to eat toxic and man-made chemicals in the southern seas around Antarctica.

If it isn’t obvious, Alex has pretty good taste and it was this taste that drew her to Boulder to attend school. Boulder: a city hording gorgeous people, shops, bike lanes, and foothills. It was almost too good to be true. Almost. My friend Emma who had attended school here was able to articulate my sentiments exactly: Boulder is a retirement home for hippies–white dudes in dreads in the haughtiest eco-fashion, women flashing their brilliant, perfect white smiles, and  children running around as free spirits without threat of any disciplining. In appearance, it’s as close to a utopia one can imagine a non-intentional community/development could be. The happiness was contagious, and although I wasn’t immune, I became adverse. Boulder had struck a chord. But why? Continue reading

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Oregon Trail: Fort Collins


Day 3: An Uncanny Self

Date: April 20, 2012
Journey: Fort Collins, CO to Boulder, CO
Total miles: 1,079 miles (39.6 mpg)

I. Virtually Dead

I was alive! I had just woken up in Catbird during a large storm. Somehow I had managed to squeeze in a nap at one of the absolutely worst times. Catbird was veering down I-25 toward Fort Collins at about 55 miles an hour and I had gotten a head start on ending the night.

I should have probably took my mom’s advise and not driven at night, but this kind of thing even happens during the day. I carried a Monster energy in the car for these occasions, but was to confident in my ability to stay up to drink it. I’d like to think that my years playing F-Zero for the SNES, in which I somehow still came in first after zoning out during several laps on easier tracks, saved my life. But given that scoring 200s in Wii Bowling did not improve my game in the real world in the slightest. I’ll have to be find more justifications for my obsession with video games… and drive more responsibly.

II. Birds of a Feather

The funny thing about the internet, and Facebook more specifically, is that it can make special occasions banal. For instance, when I arrived at Krista’s door and said hello, it had been six years since we had talked face to face and exchanged more than a couple sentences at a time; yet, it felt so “normal.” It reminds me of those times when I return home to Duke after being a part for nine months and he seems almost unphased, but when an absolute stranger comes to the door, he gets dogshit excited. (Now that I made the analogy, I realize it’s not a very good one. I could delete it, but I like that I reference Duke in this post). The point that I’m not trying to make but am is that I’m perpetually alienated from my experiences. I don’t take reality at face value. Perhaps that’s why I like philosophy.

Krista wasn’t a philosopher, but she was into environmental and women’s studies and that’s one reason I liked her so much. She’s also really friendly and pretty cute. She had gotten involved with owl research in California on disease in Barred and Spotted Owls and was invited to apply to  CSU-Fort Collins where she is working on a masters degree in wildlife management She wanted to pursue her next degree in a different field to work on the impact of the environment on women’s health issues (This could be all wrong. I’ve been taking terrible notes and it’s been two busy weeks later). I asked her what perspective her women’s studies background provided her in her program, but she didn’t have much to say about it other than that it was still a bit of a boy’s club.

Before spooning her guest mattress, I met her roommate who also happened to be from a neighboring suburb of Chicago. At the time, it didn’t register to me how close it was to my home–partly because I never went there and also because I was really tired. Krista offered me a drink. We all laughed.

The next morning I treated myself to a shower. A little 3-minute hourglass suction-cupped to the tile wall made me smile as I got in, but guilty after coming out long after the sand hand emptied into the bottom. Thereafter, Krista introduced me to her backyard chickens. Actually, they were a friends. She was chicken-sitting. (I just had a terrible and perverse image pass through my mind after I said that out loud). She, her roommate, and her roommate’s boyfriend were thinking of getting their own chickens, however. (I later learned that her roommate had met her partner at the time when he was her TA. It was a scandal I could relate to.) They lived in a really nice house. Part of what made the house so cozy were all the animals. Not only the chickens outside but a couple cats and a deaf dog. “You must be so happy to be living with all these animals,” I asked in the form of a truth statement. She was, but it could also be a lot of work.

III. A Taste of Fort Collins

Speaking of which, Krista had to run to her lab on campus and bring her bike in for repairs. We had just enough time for lunch. The detour gave me an opportunity to get a limited perspective of the town I once considered living for grad school. Fort Collins has a special feel. It’s brisk, the people are laid back and they wear casual workout and camping gear. Oh, and the city’s/state’s car is the Subaru Outback (Krista and her roommate each had one). The downtown area seemed pretty new, yet rustic and cozy. The thought passed through my mind that this may be somewhere I could call home.

REVIEW: Indeed, if Tasty Harmony, the local vegan restaurant, was as tasty as it advertised itself to be, perhaps I could be persuaded. I was really impressed with the interior design of the space. The relaxed earthy colors and textures and oriental decor rang with a healthy, spiritual vibe. Just like the rest of Fort Collins, the place was super cozy and the wait staff were very kind, hippie-esque folk. Fortunately, I had already predestined my meal so I needed not spend an hour slobbering over the menu. (The waitress tried to dissuade me with the special, but I wouldn’t budge). Kentucky Fried Freedom it was. Krista stuck with the Tempeh Reuben she had enjoyed last time. The KFF did not appear to be that big of a meal (by my standards)l: there were only two “chicken” pieces, a scoop of grave, potato, pinto beans, and sauteed greens, however, the gluten “chicken” and the rest was very filling. Krista, too, was filled by her sandwich. Having been spoiled at Chicago Diner for several months, the KFF did not blow me away, but the “chicken” and gravy were pretty tasty. The Reuben also scored on texture and flavor, but did not impress. I ordered a chocolate chip to go, which was a delicious way to end our meal. Each item hit the golden mean of chew and moisture. Overall, Tasty Harmony scores very high on atmosphere and service, high on taste and hunger satisfaction, but a tad high on price. In any case, I highly recommend hitting it up if you are in Fort Worth. <4.5 carrots out of 5>.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next stop: New Belgium Brewery. Word on the street was that Fort Collins didn’t sport many attractions, but if there was one you had to experience, it was New Belgium. Founded in 1991, this Colorado microbrewery broke out onto the scene with its amber ale, Flat Tire–a common beer on tap or in bottle at many many bars. A combination of their notoriety and the IPA trend, their Ranger is also another crowd pleaser. Despite their large size, New Belgium has a good reputation for sustaining its environmental and social values. The brewery itself was designed to minimize its environmental impact and after several years of employment, workers receive a NBB bike. As is the case with Odelle, NBB refers to its employees as co-workers.

I wasn’t thinking ahead and almost missed out on my opportunity to see the birthplace of Fat Tire and family. It was a Thursday, but tours are FREE–yes, you read that correctly–and fill up days in advance. Luckily, Krista and I were able to get walk-in tickets to the next tour (which runs every 30minutes for an 1.5 hours).  The inside of the building was beautiful. The colors and textures were vibrant and relaxed blues, greens, yellows, and reds. Their tasting room featured 11 of their year-round brews and another three from their Lips of Faith series. Three dimensional found art collages made from bike gears, wood, and obsolete technology adorned the walls. The inside was brightly lit by outdoor lighting. Near the entrance, one could purchase recycled rubber dog leashes and frisbees among other cool merchandise. Even more impressive, the front room had a twisty slide and a stand filled with NBB postcards that they’d send anywhere in the country for free. I decided to buy a Fat Tire Frisbee as a souvenir and sent my friend in Texas, a beer snob, a little message.

The tour began in a large room with two long wooden tables filled with NBB memorabilia underneath the glass top. There were seats and glasses for forty guests. Our tour guide was an energetic, peppy, round blonde from Indiana. She almost charmed all our pants off, we had such a huge crush on her by the end. Good thing we didn’t get more drunk. On the tour we had at least five four-ounce tastings: Dig, Shift, Biere de Mars, Abbie Grand Cru (their first beer), La Folie (sour). I can’t recall what each one tasted like, but the sour was my favorite. I had never been adventurous enough to try a sour before, but this one was free, was given a perfect score by professional beer drinkers, and our guide was hella cute. It had the smooth, bitter bite and sparkle of a good hard apple cider. Definitely my favorite of everything I’ve had by NBB. By the end of the tour, we had been given the brewery’s history, a discussion of the brewing process at the two-story-tall vats, a discussion of the bottling and distribution philosophy, and a ride down the twisty slide. Our guide was right: don’t touch the steel slide with your arms on the way down or you will bleed. I found out the fool’s way.

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Oregon Trail: Greeley


Day 2: 
Date: April 19, 2012
Journey: Lincoln, NE to Fort Collins, CO
Total miles: 1,033 miles (39.6mpg)

Continued from part 1

V. Greeley, Home of the Factory Farms

But the idyllic ranches along I-80 was a thing of Nebraska. I was in eastern Colorado now: the land of factory farmed cows. Along my route down I-76 since entering Julesburg, I was witnessing the monstrosity of the giant feedlots for what would be the first time. I’d seen chicken and egg factory farms in Illinois, Iowa, other states, and even Israel, but not these. Every dozen or less miles was another  concentration camp. I was driving about 72 miles per hour and it would take me over a minute to pass up these bio-generators from end-to-end. (Check out Google Maps: A mile and 15 miles north-east of Sterling. A mile from the Brush Municipal Airport. A half-mile east of the Empire Reservoir.)

The largest of all was not a filthy, ugly, barren dairy cow factory (with hundreds of “replacement calf” shelters), but a “beef” feedlot–much like the one seen in the opening scene of Food Inc.–on US-32, one mile outside of Kersey. Google maps confirmed my mental note that these were “mile-long factory farms.” The shit lagoons alone were the size of city blocks in Chicago. From the satellite image, the factory farm not only has more bovine inhabitants than the entire population of humans in the town of it belongs to; it is also larger than the entire down town area. A city within a city.

According to my friend in Greeley, the people (in general) are quite proud of their agri-business. It’s not something to hide, but to embrace as part of their identity. (The local roller derby team name is Slaughterhouse). This was even the case several years ago, before legislation was passed banning the burning of blood at rendering plants. The smell and toxins under the right (or wrong) wind conditions  could fill the city for days and even reach Fort Collins, 20 miles to the northwest.

In addition to the questionable values that finance Greeley and the environmental are the social issues in town such as gang violence and sometimes racial tensions/competition/hierarchy(not unlike those described in the NYT article, “Somethings Never Die“. (Cities with factory farms have high violent crime rates compared to cities with other industrial job-bases). Greeley is about half white and one third Hispanic with a growing Sudanese refugee population which is protesting Swift & Co., the owners of the packaging plant they work at, for more rights (as they don’t have much protection from serious exploitation). My friend knows someone who works for Swift & Co. in Human Resources who is trying to mediate tensions from inside the company. At times she’s tempted to leave her job at Subway for the much better paying white-collar job at Swift & Co., but her values get the best of her. In some places, violence pays.

(See my videos filmed at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago for more on this)

VI.Silver Lining?


When I arrived in Greeley, I was surprised by how suburban it was–far from the rural image I had in my mind. besides being a major player in animal agri-biz, it was also a university town. My friend is majoring in sociology at the University of Northern Colorado and was presently learning a lot about the social injustices and questions of privilege. Even with some more progressive-minded people, I didn’t hear much about activism in town beyond the labor issues at the processing plants.

My friend wanted to show me that Greeley wasn’t all that bad. She had found her niche with some local entrepreneurs in town who owned a restaurants, bike shops, a local magazine, and a hair saloon on 16th street. The downtown area was a lot more developed than I imagine it’d be–a much cozier area to reside than many other small cities I’ve traveled through. Then my friend warned me about wearing certain colors in bars (of which many bars banned due to gang violence). Afterwards, I began noticing all the shoes hanging from telephone wires above the streets.

Originally, I had planned on staying the night before at my friend’s place and spending the morning together so I could get to Fort Collins by the afternoon or earlier. There was not much to do, it seemed, in Greeley, and certainly not any vegetarian restaurants. She said we could go to either Chipotle or a local place she’d order a customized sandwich at. I chose the latter. I wasn’t going to waste my food tourism opportunities (plus, I was sick of Chipotle). I hadn’t had a “real” meal in about two days, so I had my fingers crossed that this place would satisfy my appetite.

REVIEW: The Crvsh-Room on 16th Street and 10th Avenue, wasn’t quite a restaurant or a bar, but food and drinks were served there. A cute little place with some cool art, nonetheless. My friend’s partner recommended I try a local beer, Oskar Blue’s Brewery’s Dale’s Pale Ale. I’m not as fond of pale ale’s as everyone else seems to be, but I liked this one. (Sorry, it was over two weeks ago and I’m not a beer connoisseur so I’m not going to attempt to describe why :P). Based on recommendation (and hunger), I ordered the guacamole and mango salsa appetizer with my vegan panini. The guac and mango salsa were refreshing. Adding jalapenos created more layers and complimented the zest.  The chips, however, were off in taste and texture. Not quite crunchy enough for me. The panini was a delicious combination of veggies and spinach, but the bread seemed like something bought from a grocery store and as a whole it didn’t pack many calories (something most people don’t ever complain about). After all was said and done (appetizer, entree, beer, and tip), it was only $16.  <3 carrots out of 5>

The dinner wasn’t as intimate and enjoyable as I would have liked it to be. After my appetizer came out, we heard a loud dog yelp. We went out to the street to see what happened. A man was joking with some concerned citizens on the sidewalk in front of his car. “I didn’t see it!” he laughed. The small puppy seemed to be alright, but had trouble walking. We weren’t sure if he was a stray, but he had been hanging out on the block for a while. Evidently, the man had hit the puppy while he parked his car. “I slammed on the breaks as hard as I could!” He was still smiling.

Besides, the dog instance, I wasn’t getting much attention because my friend was preoccupied with her iphone. (I would have been more upset about this before I became guilty of the same thing after attaining Galaxy). I started talking to the waitress, a friend of my friends. She was originally from Colorado Springs, but had moved to Greeley for school. She never graduated but ended up sticking around because it was a super cheap place to live. She put her concerns about safety and health aside. The other folks sitting at the bar were the owner and his possees who owned the adjacent shops. My friend’s partner explained that this is how good business is done, local networks and mutual aid. They didn’t say much to me, and I didn’t say much to them. They weren’t my kind of people; no interest in social justice and philosophy. They wanted to have fun and make money, and that was about it. (Even my friend sometimes wondered about them. They were white trust-fund babies, she explained.) Was I being judgmental? Probably. Alienating myself? Certainly.

My friend hadn’t seen one guy in a long time and wanted to hang out with him. I felt short-handed given that I had just driven 1,000 miles and set aside a day to hang out with her. Her partner took me to a microbrewery he liked: Crabtree Brewery. They didn’t have his favorite stuff in, the Oatmeal Stout, so we ordered the Eclipse IPA. Meanwhile, we snacked on faux-buttered popcorn and a super spicy sauce. We chatted a little with the owner who had a lot to say about the microbrew bandwagon. “Everybody thinks they are going to open up there own brewery!” he said. He worried that corporations would appropriate the culture of microbreweries. Afterwards, my friend’s partner  and I talked about the root and cure for societal injustices. He wanted to know what he could do. I shrugged. “I’ve been reading the literature for years and I still don’t know. If we knew, we wouldn’t have to ask.”

We returned to 16th street to pick up my friend who had started to feel sick. I dropped them off at their trailer home and stayed to chat before I departed. We reminisced on Texas and got philosophical about animals and vegetarianism. Her mom had come home from work and it was probably the last thing she cared to hear about. She was clicking away on the computer at what seemed to be an MMORPG. I decided I wanted to make the most of my time in Fort Collins for day 3 as I was planning on being in Boulder before 4:20pm on 4/20/2012, so I did not stay the night in Greeley. I contacted my friend Krista who I studied with in Australia in the spring of 2006, and she said it was not too late to stay with her. So I said goodbye to my Texan friends–but not before dressing up in ridiculous costumes and taking photos– and drove westward into the foothills.

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Vegan Wild West Tour


One important rule of thumb for vegan traveling is to research food options in advance. While there are usually some “accidentally vegan” options at fast food joints that populate the exits of interstate highways, finding substantial and delectable vegan munchies can be difficult when traveling in rural territory. In addition to logistics, it is a lesser known fact that vegans love to schedule their travel around food. Taking a detour on a road trip is game when a vegan bakery is a 20 minute drive away.

Last week I took a few hours to search various websites that list vegan(-friendly) restaurants in the various cities I’ll be passing through.  I’ve come up with some pretty awesome results and will be excited to review these joints, some of which are in places less well traveled by vegans.

NEBRASKA:
Omaha:

  • McFoster’s Natural Kind Cafe (Sustainable: Blackened Tempeh Dinner)
  • McFoster’s is a vegetarian restaurant that serves free-range chicken dishes and fresh seafood. All our food are free of refined flour and sugars. We use organic produce from Tom and Mary’s garden and greenhouse, as well as other local and organic gardeners, whenever possible.
  • Jade Diner (Chinese)
  • Amsterdam (Middle Eastern)
  • China One (Chinese)

Lincoln:

 

COLORADO:
Ft. Collins:

  • Tasty Harmony (Kentucky Fried Freedom)
  • Tasty Harmony is committed to provide our community with healthy organic plant based cuisine. Most of our food is vegan and most of our desserts are wheat free and sugarcane free.
  • Avogadros (Tempeh Tacos & veggie chili)
  • Maza Kabob (Afghani)
  • Mugs

Boulder:

Denver:

  • Water Course (Vegetarian: Toulouse Scramble / Banana bread French Toast / Mesquite Tofu)
  • WaterCourse Food’s philosophy, like our food, is simple and accessible… We prepare fresh ingredients daily to produce incredibly satisfying vegetarian comfort foods in a welcoming environment served by a friendly and efficient wait staff for a reasonable price… By maintaining a completely vegetarian menu, we believe we minimize our environmental footprint and provide a welcome alternative to many restaurants in the city
  • Sputnik (Ethiopian Sliders)
  • Linger (Eclectic: Waffle Sweet potato fires / Mee Krob)
  • Govinda’s (Hare Krishna)
  • The Rebellion (Pizza)
  • Sweet Action (Ice Cream: vegan Carrot cake ice cream)
  • Beet Box Denver (Vegan Bakery)
  • Crazy Mae’s (Vegan Bakery)
  • Sunny Gardens (Chinese)
  • Vegan Van (Vegan Cart)
  • Atomic Tamale (Vegan Cart)
  • 27 Social Center

 

UTAH:
Salt Lake City:

Moab:

  • Peace Tree
  • Electrica Cafe
  • Love Muffin Cafe

 

ARIZONA:
Flagstaff:

  • Morning Glory Cafe
  • Macy’s

Sedona:

  • Chocola Tree (Veg Co-op: Sedona 2012)
  • ChocolaTree Cafe is 100% organic homemade with a delicious, diverse raw and cooked menu that’s entirely gluten and processed sugar-free..
  • Oaxaca

 

NEVADA:
Las Vegas:

 

CALIFORNIA:

San Fransisco & Oakland:

Arcata:

  • Wildflower Cafe (Vegetarian)
  • Bless My Soul (Creole)
  • Redds (Jamaican)
  • Tofu Hut

 

OREGON:
Medford:

Ashland:

Categories: Oregon Trail 2012 | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Veganism: Not a White Thing


After reading a recent interview of Bryant Terry, I was inspired to write a short post on the absence of knowledge about Black (and other people of color) vegetarian advocates in the mainstream (i.e. white) vegetarian community. My feeling is that this is no coincidence, but a product of white privilege whereby white authors and contributors receive more authority and interest. Although according to a 2006 nation-wide VRG poll, there are as many African- and Hispanic Americans as white ones practicing a vegetarian diet, veg*nism is still misrepresented as a thing “white people like“. Here is an excerpt from the recent interview on Terry’s third cook book (and second vegan one), The Inspired Vegan:

VN: Why do you think the belief persists that veganism is a privileged white person phenomenon?
BT: Most of the catalysts for my embracing vegetarianism—and then veganism—came from people of color. The first moment when I really thought about animal rights and a compassionate outlook was when I heard the song “Beef” by Boogie Down Productions and the rapper KRS-One. It was such a brilliant, articulate discussion of the horrors of factory farming and what animals have to endure. I also read this book by African-American activist and comedian Dick Gregory, Dick Gregory’s Natural Diet For Folks Who Eat: Cookin’ with Mother Nature, in which he talks about his journey of going from an omnivore to a vegetarian and a vegan and a fruitarian, and that was deeply impactful. I started connecting with this community of folks in Memphis who were Rastafarians, who were Seventh-Day Adventists, who were people in the Nation of Islam, who all had vegan diets. Before that, I had been in the straight-edge punk community, which was made of conscious white folks who were thinking about these issues, but I pretty much always hung around vegans of color. So many things that people of color do aren’t illuminated in the media or shown to the wider culture. If you never go into an African-American community or go into an Afro-Caribbean community, how would you even know that they have five or six vegan restaurants? One of my missions as well as a cookbook author is to ensure that African American and Afro-Caribbean cuisine isn’t “ghetto-ized” or approached in a very patronizing way. I want to let people know that they can have a healthful meal of African-American cuisine, beyond stereotypes, beyond this very narrow perception.

Check out the rest of the interview at VEGNEWS. You can also watch Bryant Terry and other advocates discuss food justice at Sistah Vegan. For more on the white-washing of vegetarianism in the United States, refer to HEALTH. Below is KRS-One’s hit “Beef” from his 1990 album Edutainment.

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Even Loved Ones are Sent to Slaughter


In the summer of 2008, I was invited on a field-trip to a small stockyard in a small town with several churches and dollar stores called Bath, NY. The stockyard is one of many in upstate New York associated with Dairylea Cooperative, the largest milk marketing cooperative in the Northeast with annual sales approaching $1 billion dollars. Dairylea’s mission: “Dairylea will be farmer-driven. We will seek to maximize net returns at the farm by preserving and enhancing milk markets”.

The following is a previously unpublished record of my field-trip to the Bath (Live/stock)Market:

Hershey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A young jet black bull stared at me through the wooden pen, his eyes saturated with anxiousness and confusion. He was reluctant to move any closer toward me from the back corner of the narrow pen, but nonetheless curious about the cows in the adjacent stalls. He was the by far the healthiest and most beautiful beast in the stockyard that day. But he was just one of many dozens of beasts stalled up, unaware of their fate to pass from one master to another.

A couple stalls down was a small heifer with an udder so swollen it nearly touched the dirt floor. She too was quite the beauty, though noticeably underfed. Unlike the black dehorned bull, her eyes displayed grief and unnerving anxiety. Quite possibly she had just been separated from her calf not more than an hour ago. As I pondered her familial fate, I was called by Dan, a cruelty investigator, to follow him into the back where the small animal market was soon to commence. Perhaps I’d see this mother’s child.

Walking to the small room in which the animals were corralled into I witnessed a woman electric prodding her calves into a large wooden pen adjacent to he corral. She had at least six males, many of whom may end up being sold as veal. Dan had told me occasionally a big buyer would come to purchase animals for slaughter. For the most part, however, the people there were small, local dairy farmers—the kind many food activists like to support over industrial dairy which comes from anonymous and environmental devastating sources. A veal calf entered the small space, cautiously creeping toward a possible exit, but no exit existed. He wouldn’t move any further while the auctioneer rolled numbers off his tongue, so an older man-presumably his current master—slapped him in the face to get him moving into the center.

The farmers stood and sat in the three tiers, gazing down at the animals as they entered. Adorned with leather boots, flannel and button down shirts, jeans, and either baseball caps or straw hats, they were the genuine image of the rough-and-tumble farmers one might imagine. Modest and dirty folk, the men had very short hair and were typically lean—though, this included a not-so-modest beer gut—and fitted with wrinkly tan leather skin. The women were more varied, but tended to be on the overweight side, some severely so. Some couples brought their children and even their mutts. The children, all boys, dressed like their parents and displayed a great deal of interest in the animals, even a drive to participate in the market. The young boys exemplified an impressive deal of self-confidence and the older boys had nearly fully adopted the disinterested and unreflective disposition of their parents.

During this visit I noticed a machine that scrolled digitally through numbers to the left of the auctioneer. My first guess was that it regulated gas, lighting or temperature. It was not until I read the ironic text on the machine did I realize that it was displaying the weight of the soon-to-be auctioned calf in the corral. The text read:

SURVIVOR

HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT

WEIGHT INDICATOR

Enter calf. He must have been born not more than a couple days ago. His umbilical cord, now a shriveled wire, dangled from his belly. His eyes seemed as though they’d pop out of the socket as he stared with extreme intensity at the rest of the room. He stumbled around, having not yet learned to walk properly. In the space were two men who held shepherd canes. One was Terri, a droopy-eyed middle-aged man with a bushy blonde ‘stache in overalls and a John Deer hat, who immediately whacked the calf on the back upon getting up. The other was a severely obese man in his twenties acting in bored indifference, bumping the calf around as he tried to escape through a small opening, before he too tapped the two-foot tall, orphaned infant with the side of his cane. The calf was sold for under $15. Now came the spent sows, who after having birthed several litters of piglets, likely confined in gestation and farrowing crates, were not healthy enough to produce any substantial profit to keep in production. I was quite horrified to find that all her life was worth to these men and women was $6.

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i don’t know


i don’t know

I don’t know what a chicken thinks. I just don’t know.

I don’t know what goes through a her mind when the beak she used to eat with is clipped off, what she’s feeling when she sees her beak tumbling down into a pile of eighty-six more. I don’t know.

The only thing I think I know is that I will never understand all, let alone any, of it. 9 billion animals go through this every year and I can’t even grasp what it is like for a chicken as her beak is seared off . It seems like it would hurt, but I’m a human, not a chicken. Even so, I don’t know if that CAN’T hurt. And even if I did, so what? I can’t imagine how that chicken went through her whole day. I can’t imagine one day! Not even a typical one out of the 365 days a year when all she does is force herself to keep on going, to keep standing on an uneven surface in an extremely cramped cage? Hell, I can’t even imagine imagining what she must think and feel for three hundred of those twenty-four hour cycles, nor what hundreds of millions of chickens in this country are likewise experiencing in this country at the same time. I don’t know what ONE goddam chicken feels for ONE fucking instant of her entire fucking life when she receives something as simple as her fucking chicken feed.

I really can’t imagine. If you can, tell me. I’d really like to know, because I don’t even know where my meat comes from, let alone what animal I am eating. I don’t know what kind of conditions they were in, if the cow that I am eating now had a broken leg, suffered arthritis in her neck, was given steroids that could kill me, was strapped up to a milking machine for nine hours straight, or had her cut throat and accidentally went on living for several minutes while she swung upside down. I don’t know if the people there took good care of the animals, or bad care, or beat them with shovels, or used a red hot iron to brand them on their face, and then just laugh—-or worst yet, walk away without even a care, or even worse—-without a thought.
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