Saturday, March 21, 2009

We're Gaining Weight. That Means Growing.

I have to imagine this is what newcomers fell in love with when they arrived after the harrowing trip West to discover California. This is the California I imagine them seeing. Who wouldn't want to stay? On our way out, though, I was very happy to be leaving the modern realities of connecting points a and b, car-style:

Before we left LA, I got a chance to connect with more family, here with Zache, my first cousin.

When we were kids, I, the elder cousin, told him “I wish you'd drown!” while in my aunt's swimming pool. That wasn't nice.

I wish Syba was this enthusiastic to tour. Our last night in LA we were fortunate to play a house party thrown by none other than the former NC troupe known as Casey of Sweater Weather. I say troupe due to the number of attendees who migrated from NC as well as their shared chosen studies of film/television.

Playing the show with us, his first show actually, was the nice man pictured below. He was naturally good and we were very happy to meet him.

We played without mics, and though I have said that I fired Acoustic Binge, this was a compromise because I still got to play my kit...just really, really quiet. I wish I had one of those voices that belted out like an uncontrollable force of nature when I'm NOT mad, that is, when I'm singing. But alas. It's a good test of a song to unplug it, anyhow.

We really enjoyed Casey and Curt's set too.

They played a somewhat last-minute put together thematic arrangement of songs about Friday the 13th, which was coming out soon. The songs were clever, and though silly, they had weight too. Could have been the depth of the vocals and strength of the melodies. I'm hoping they keep writing material together. Check out Casey's project here. He's touring all 'round so go and see him when he's in your neighborhood.

I bought a vegan cake for the occasion. I was a little skeptical because it was 'sugar free.' I'm careful particularly when I bring a cake to a party where people may never have tried vegan cake before. One bad cake and we're history. Luckily, it was so delicious and the frosting melted as you bit through the moist body of the cake.

I wanted to take it 'to go' but thought that would be rude since I brought it as a present. Luckily #2, other people are discovering the joy o' vegan baking, as published in the NY Times Magazine, cover here:

(Picture from NY Times Magazine article referenced below)

With the unfortunate exception of a couple of statements, this is a pretty good article.

Speaking o' environmental things, there were miles of windmills on the way from LA to Prescott. Anyone know what they are powering? Me neither.

Since we're gone for so long it is impossible for us to cram in shows and screenings every day, both from a booking standpoint and from one of exhaustion. This space provides time to experience an area (when we're not working in libraries) and minimizes long drives.

We make sure to rest and let Syba run around and Rob do push ups. Actually, I think that Syba is kind of showing off how push-ups are pretty lame compared to the moves she can do without (formal) yoga training.

To our delight, even way out in the middle of nowhere, we spotted this "Smoothies and Veggie Burgers" truck:

Unfortunately, we noticed this after we were already full with a Subway veggie delight, vegan-style, soy chorizo added in.

I have another question for my North Carolinian friends. (For those counting, this makes my second question/demand. The other was requesting vegan taquitos at our new co-op.)

I love the idea of minimizing expenese and of course travel by growing fruit. On trips to California as a kid, it always seemed so exotic that you could grow your own lemons and oranges. I remember the lemons falling down next to the pool at my aunt's house (yes, the pool that I wished drowning upon my poor cousin).

Citrus fruit just grows in California, like dandilions. They're delicious. Can we make this happen in Durham? Or is it too cold in the winter? Can someone plant a citrus tree in our yard?

We had to get to Prescott, Arizona the next morning to appear on television. Since this was big-time, you know, television (does anyone still watch morning talk show television? I mean, anyone I hang out with?) we were a bit worried that Weston would do something silly, and we would not get there, but instead another worry presented itself:

I was a bit incredulous at first, not really believing it ... snow? I thought this business was finished back in Seattle. Isn't this the desert? The roads were clear, and Prescott was only cold, not snowed in, so we were relieved to arrive without incident.

We'd lost an hour so it was extra-hard to wake up for an 8:00 am arrival. I never fail myself in one consistent way: if I know I have to wake up early, I cannot, for the life of me, fall asleep the night prior. Hearing Rob and Syba snore doesn't help.

We set up very early.

Here our hosts prepare their notes for the talkshow.

Despite a few pre-on-air questions, the male host still referred to my documentary as a “Socialist take on vayganizm.” That's “sociological,” but I'm guessing the viewers might not notice. I did learn things to cook for my valentine. To my surprise, since this seemed like a relatively conservative show, they highlighted some Morningstar sausages. Morningstar is not very vegan-friendly, but recently (after a campaign) agreed to use one million less eggs.

We were treated well, and Syba even got to roam the studio. I was worried she'd do something uncharacteristic like take a large dump by the hosts, or spew on their shined shoes, but she was very well-behaved.

She wore her “Vegan Outreach” t-shirt while on air. She did not field any questions. If she were asked, I'm sure she would say: "I hate the van. My captors seem to think a few visits to the dog park will change this. And what is with the t-shirt? Hello, fur! Don't get me started on my food..."

The hosts asked us a few questions about the documentary and our band, then we played a couple of songs. I believe we chose “Miso...I don't like people” and “Unification of + and -.” I'm thinking that these were probably not songs for our TV morning audience but we had a lot of fun.

After the show, we were hoping to get a copy of the segment we performed on, but they charge $25. This is the difference between DIY and large companies, in many cases. I would think the DVD (or even electronic file) would be free to the performers since we are, in theory, helping them fill out the show, but then conversely, it might be said that we received promotion for free, and should shut up and drive away in our Weston quite contented. But I'm too Greek to do that. So I stewed. Stew with Gimme Lean and large chunks of soft carrots.

Later that day, we went to the local library to work. Here's Weston from the window.

As you can see, it had started to snow in Prescott.

A few hours later, I recognized the significance of the snowball effect, so to speak...Rob in the parking lot heading Weston-ward:

Now we were in a blizzard, the kind they had in that Little House episode where the whole family was snowed in for Christmas.

Where, to leave the cabin, they had to open the upstairs window and walk on the ten feet of snow. Except we were in Weston, and had a show and screening to get to. In a Darwinian moment, we decided to walk to the shop first without proper winter attire.

Syba rolling in the snow, a) to cool off (it's refreshing), b) no idea.

Fingers frozen, Rob put on the chains and we set off to the Catalyst Infoshop to see if we were still screening and showing. Here is the little shop, snow bound on Art Row:

We were welcomed to the vegan kitchen (Food Not Bombs cooks there as well) and fried up some seitan I'd made the day before. They had a nice kettle of food for us, and we hung around the little info shop. I wasn't really feeling like hauling in our gear through the storm, so luckily I only screened the documentary that night. It was quite heatless in the shop, but a few spaceheaters helped warm up the screening room, and blow a fuse.

Following the discussion we all sat around the living room and discussed whether or not purity was possible (uh-uh), strategic activism, and other matters. Met an interesting lady who photographs a traveling circus performance troupe, who had just performed at the next venue we'd be visiting:

The Trunk Space, in Phoenix, AZ. We left the night of the screening, despite the snow piling down, and barely made it. Even on the interstate the snow persisted, and we were only able to remove Weston's chains after about an hour of driving. Thankfully, the snow eventually subsided as we drove out of the mountains. At the Trunk Space we performed with Skinwalkers:

A lively floor-crawling type of band where you're kind of afraid, as an audience member, that the singer/guitarist is going to knock you over or slam you with the neck of his guitar (accidentally on purpose). We loved his songs and the megaphone added a spice like that smoked paprika I need to find.

Next were the coincidentally vegan band Somersault. Nice folks. Rob was sad they did not play his favorite watermelon song.

We spent a lot of time in Tempe. It's definitely a college town, with a university the population of a small city (50K I believe). Climbed up the “A” mountain and saw a few spiral petraglyphs. Since a sign said that many of the rocks were defaced, I was not certain which were authentic petraglyphs and which were college graffitti. I suppose it does not matter, only time separates them. That said, what the &?!@#$? are people thinking when they mess up ancient communications / art that can never be recreated again?

I screened my film next to one of the better vegan restaurants, Green. Do not let the uninspired name fool you. These people have options. For instance, here lies the chalkboard list of the various soy-namis (aka blizzards) you can decide upon:

One must mathematically break the choices down like a story problem to make the appropriate decision. For instance, as our friend Dawn asks herself, “Is this something I can make at home?” The flowchart, if pointed to “Yes,” would indicate that you absolutely should NOT choose that flavor. If “No,” then it is exotic and you should consider it. Unless you're allergic.

Here's Rob displaying our soy-namis. He chose peanut butter (and apparently did not follow the flow-chart) while I selected some butterscotchy type of concoction.

They were kind enough to advertise for the screening. In fact I was kind of nervous because the place was packed with people who were eating at Green then heading over to Acme for the screening. We had to delay the start time while they finished eating.

This was a fun screening, and also a very rambunctious one where I was less in charge than usual: Syba, along with the owner's dogs, decided to play chase through the audience. I admit, it was cute. Way cuter than the intro I was attempting to give.

At the end, two people who had not seen the film came in and thought they would ask questions anyway, with a polite preface, of course: “I did not SEE the documentary, but ...” Tip to people who do this: Don't. I mean, come in, enjoy the Q&A, but don't ask questions. Unless you want to ask, “Eleni, do you want a large slice of vegan cake?” Or, “Would you like to try this new soy ice cream flavor, malted milk-ball?” (Can someone invent a vegan malted milk ball already? Please?)

In any case, this was a fun screening as it was full o' nice people and we had some great discussions about something I and many care about deeply...the plight of animals used for food. Check out Acme for your AR t-shirt needs!

Or to play “Rampage.”

The nice, nice folks that set this up are hosting another screening without me on 4/3, if'n your near Phoenix, AZ.

It was time to leave Tempe and head to Tucson, a town Rob and I considered moving to back in 2002 when we last went through.

Syba broke the sliding door screen a month or so ago to make this possible.

We were happy to meet Anne and Matt of Vegan Outreach in Tucson, at a vegan restaurant called “Lovin' Spoonfulls.” One word: delicious. I had some sort of sandwichy not-chicken thing if I recall correctly. Two more words: Vegan Cake. The white frosting flavor was the best.

It was awesome to meet two of the people who made VO possible, kind of like meeting Obama in the vegan world. We also met Jack in California, the co-founder, President, and nutrition guru, and many fellow-leafleters, which has been better than peanut butter cups.

Speaking of, Rob leafleted at the University of Tucson, and the Gawds of vegan goodness gave him a few of these!

Syba wanted to share with us, but was not allowed, and displayed her dismay thus-wise (look closely now):

That night we played a show at the HangArt, a nifty space that is not an airplane hanger but looks and feels like one. We played with the Monitors:

and H is for Hellgate (Seattle):

and Logan Greene and the Bricks!

We started carrying around a coloring pad & crayons to our shows. We say it is so the audience can have fun and color all sorts of pictures. It's really because we want to have drawings of us like this.

Some more feedlots...this huge one in Texas I believe, which stretched for miles.

In Texas, I screened my film for the El Paso Veg Society. My grandfather, Richard Davis, was raised in this town. I'm thinking it was a lot different in the early 20th century. As my mom put it when she received my “El Paso” post card, “Looks like a boring city.” And this considering I tried to pick out the most interesting postcard, to highlight the excitement and vibrancy of the place.

The President of the Society ensured there was a great selection of vegan food for the event, and it was delicious. Here's my intro or outro:

The next day we struggled in vain to find a park nearby, and finally gave up to hang out at the State Park. There was not much vegetation vegetating, but that's probably because this is the desert.

Lucky for us, though the town did not seem to have a lot to offer, we met some nice Veg Society folk (including the President of the Veg Society) and appeared on their radio program which you can hear here:

Instead of the State Park, we should have just gone to this reststop, on the way out of El Paso toward New Mexico:

Complete with monster pineapple.

Weston had been making some noises, so we took him into a VW expert in Santa Fe. One of his noices was a flapping sound, which the mechanics said they fixed by tightening down the mud flap. We later learned (at another VW shop) it was actually the rear axle that needed a new boot. But here in Santa Fe, we got Weston's point system reinstalled (history: the original points were changed to another system then back already once).

While Weston was in the shop we walked around town and bought some overpriced vegan food. Later that night, we played at Backstreet Pizza. This was a show where we were supposed to be quiet: in fact, it was emphasized that the owner was worried we'd be too loud so we couldn't have the show unless we agreed to keep it low. So I played with my hotrods. For some reason it's hard as the drummer to play quiet and enjoy playing. The purist in me thinks this should not be the case, that playing lightly and dynamically is more difficult blah blah etc. But it's no fun and makes Acoustic Binge angry.

After we finished our set, one of the employees asked if he could play my kit. When I gave him the hot rods, he said, “oh, no, regular sticks,” and proceeded to pound the drums. Acoustic Binge very angry!

Speaking o' instruments, my first cousin twice removed (uncle) Steve is a guitar builder. He built Rob's guitar, the wood-finish one. Above are two of his projects. Like any artist, he also customizes messages depending on his customer:

Which are you?

Here he is in action. I have never seen a cleaner shop. This is the shop I remind Rob of when we're home and cannot find a tool. “What about uncle Steve's shop?” I challenge, as an ideal we can maybe obtain someday.

We had an awesome time visiting Steve and Robin (and their dog Arlo) in Albuquerque, NM. They came to my screening at the U of New Mexico, Albuquerque, and we walked around the desert the next day, pictured above.

The night before, I was lucky to discover vegan chocolate Raspberry cake at the local co-op. Though I had sworn off cake, it's not always that one stumbles upon vegan cake, and one owes it to the Vegan Movement to test and report on all of its cakes. This one was amply supplied with frosting.

It is a debt my hips continue to pay, but a little exercisin' and heck.

Our show at Burt's was pretty fun....the first band (screamo-style?):

attracted a lot of fans, who left, before and during our set:

But it was worth it to meet the nice guys in Flood the Sun. They'll be touring soon West Coast-style so check 'em out.

We set off the next day for Amarillo, Texas, where we got a last-minute show. The day before, on Sunday, we were absolutely unable to find a NY Times paper. We desparately checked Starbucks after Starbucks, and a few bookstores. They all reported that the distributor has not sent them any for months, and so we were out of luck. I even found an old NY Times in Weston and called a number to ask where we could find a copy. The security guard on the other end had no idea, and the number he gave me did not work.

And so we settled in and did some scrapbooking, or grass-rollowing, if you were Syba.

You might think it odd that I want the paper so badly. What about an old-fashioned book? I love books. But I love the Sunday escape of no responsibility and no-anything that the paper allows. The book review, the magazine with the ethics questions and crosswords, the Style section with “Modern Love,” column. The arts section, the national and international news, even the Business section.

Last week I was reading an article about Facebook, where the writer wondered if folks could ever plan the future when they were living so wholly in the present (aka Twitter updates).

In any case, part of this fascination with the paper has to do with this taste I've developed for the idea of living in NY. I don't mean leaving Durham. I don't think we'll ever do that. But I don't want to die never having lived in NY. The question is only how and when, and how much time.

Back in Amarillo, there is ONE cool place that you do not want to miss if you're passing through the dry, dusty panhandle.

And that's the 806 Coffeehouse, recommended to me by a student. We contacted them last-minute and they set up a show for us. I can't understate how kindly they treated us, and they even have 'vegan' listed on the menu. This is a place where the outsiders go, us. We loved it. (Apparently Amarillo has some pretty conservative folks, so when they dressed a manaquin in an Obama t-shirt, some customers complained. The 806 is also listed on a conservative Christian website as one of the bad, devilish sort of places in town due to a Pagan meeting that happens to occur there. This only excited the Binges further!)

After the show we went out for drinks at a local bar and then Syba got some treats from the nice, nice 806 folks:

Syba's pagan so she doesn't care about the reputation. It's all about the bagel.

One thing about Texas, besides everything being big (this is true) is that there's some real pride in the state. Such as these grills, found at one rest stop:

I'm certain that many a veggie burger has been flipped on this grill.

We passed through the dry panhandle of Texas into the dry Oklahoma panhandle. Signs of Route 66 (touristy) were everywhere, and we succommed to the pressure and interest in our history eventually. First we stopped at the museum in a small town, but found it was closed.

A man with a cowboy hat on came up to us, saying they close in the winter to save electricty. He said the town was small, stood firmly, then concluded, “and we like it that way.” We left, but not before capturing this:

Not the same man. This is first in a series of really funny dummies (ala the Tobacco Museum talking dummy in Durham, except not the talking).

We found the real Route 66 museum, which was a huge disappointment and waste of time, except for that it quelled the possible regret we might have felt at NOT visiting it.

The fake town was lively:

As was the fake green grass:

This is the first we saw of the Oklahoma practice of painting brown grass green.

After several inquiries, we learned that this green spray was not aesthetic but FERTILIZER or PESTICIDE. It's green so you can see where it's been done.

Rob said that this lady reminded him of the mother in Psycho:

And here is her stove, fer cooking:

And now, presenting, not in order of significance, some townspeople:

Hans the Accountant,

Cliff the Postman, and,

Fritz the newspaperman.

These were the highlights. We didn't pay the full amount so windows stood between us and our friendship with the community.

Inside the museum, for the paid leg of our experience, a few shiny old cars were parked, along with annoying commentary playing without being asked. There were virtually no actual articles from Route 66, except a piece of cement, that was about as interesting as a clipped toenail from a nail salon.

But do go visit Hans, Cliff, and Fritz. They're kinda lonely.

Almost as much as rolling in snow, goose poop, or a dead being, Syba loves the leaves.

Had some screenings in Oklahoma, then onward to Arlington, TX, where I screened for the Environmental Society:

This one was a lot of fun, as there was a room change and it was so packed students had to sit on the floor. Also met a professor whose dissertation was on the units of measurements in the ancient world, which he gave in Crete. We exchanged some Greekities.

Shortly thereafter we discovered that Weston's flap was not the noise we'd heard. These nice V-DUB folks fixed him up good and we even bought a new window-roller-thingy cheap so that I could again roll my window up and down to ask for directions or get fresh air.

Still haven't fixed the clutch, which was reported to be on its last clutch-legs in Santa Fe. We totally believe that, due to some observed behaviors of the pedal, such as it not working every 5th time, but we're trying to avoid the $600 for as long as possible.

While Weston was repaired, Rob and Syba waited outside the library for it to open. Surprisingly, Syba was able to go inside with us, in the foyer area. If you bring her in with authority, and a touch of looking like you need a guide dog, it's a no-fail endeavor. More on that in my next blog.

This has no matching picture, unfortunately, but on the border of Irving and Dallas, there is a most excellent Korean buffet, all vegan. Try it out if you're in the area. BUT, after a screening at Texas Christian U, the professor heartily recommended this place:

Which I would 2nd. The vegan cake was most delicious:

(again, for the Movement), as was the Seitan Philly:

The shake was equally great, according to Rob, who tried to make it look like I ate it by taking this picture,

When really, I only spilled it:

(in the shape of a jack-in-the-box clown-head).

It's true that the birds fly south.

In Fort Worth, we played at a DIY space called 1919 Hemphill, then screened my documentary.

Rob took that last picture. Also on the bill were Zwounds:

and Smitten Kittens:

I was very happy to meet a fellow-leafleter that Rob and I (mostly Rob) leafleted with in this area. She and her husband came out to the show and screening as well which was awesome.

At this show we met a professor who has Synesthesia so he sees sounds and hears colors. He drew a picture while we were playing, and later told us about the reason Mandarin evolved to have very similar sounding words with vary disparate meanings.

After this night we headed to Austin. It was about a week before SXSW, so not crazy yet. I'd still like to participate in SXSW, but thought we would have to be on a label to get a showcase, even if this isn't stated. Some locals told me we should play it, and didn't need to be affiliated with a label. I'm not into the hype surrounding much-publicized events...I prefer to find sneaky cool things that no one knows about but a small community. But again, as with living in NY, I think it would be interesting to experience. Just so I can say that it sucked with authority. Or quite possibly, and most likely, the opposite.

Hi, How Are You?” Have you seen the documentary, the Devil & Daniel Johnston? It's really good.

There was a great wifi cafe with vegan food and an outdoor yard to sit in complete with Syba, the Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse. Rob and I worked there most of the day and night from 3 pm till 10 or so, and routed the NE portion of our tour. It took awhile because I needed to figure out which universities would still be open so we could priorize them on our route.

Here are some more suggestions for veg food in Austin:

Also screened at University of Texas, Austin. Nice campus with large trees. We'd been in the desert so long (a month) that it was a relief to see some vegetation. I think this is still the desert. But more greenery.

Has anyone heard of trumpet mushrooms? I saw these for cheap at the coop, and bought them immediately for a new-myo experience.

I stir-fried them in olive oil, salt, and garlic. They were pretty boring and bland. Shitakkes are much tastier. Perhaps I did something wrong, and didn't bring out their true potential? I say this because at a subsequent store they were priced at about $35 per pound...pretty steep compared with the average portobello ($5-10) or shitakke ($7 – 14).

Before we left Austin we played a show at the very manly Headhunters Club.

I do not call something manly lightly. Disagree with me if you will, but here's why this club qualified:

  • Pro-wrestling played simultaneously on multiple televison sets;

  • Patrons and employees grunted and shouted at said sets;

  • When I asked for the merch table, the bartender said, “I'll get a strong man to carry it down for you, it's heavy!”

  • I was one of maybe three women there the entire night;

  • Um, 'Headhunters' I think were/are men?

In any case, none of this mattered to me when I saw the joy on Robey's face when he realized that the sound man was his childhood hero:

Do you recognize him? Me neither, but apparently Rob played this man's album over and over again 1,000 times back in the day. He was the singer for SOD (Storm Troopers of Death). To top it off, he recently went vegetarian and was very interested in recipes and other information.

I just did a quick wiki-search and must offer preemptive defense on behalf of Young Rob (YR), who did not embrace the message of the lyrics but liked the guitarwork. Rob is most welcoming and does not believe English is necessary, particularly to be enforced by death, but rather, was attracted to the Star-Wars reference in the band name. I have made this defense up without discussing at all with client Rob (or YR), but it is based on solid evidence including a Star Wars VCR tapes collection worn through by repeated viewings. Defense # 2 is: Guns n' Roses. I think a lot of folks -- maybe even you?! -- listened to ol' Axl and some of his lyrical commentary BITD. As Joe Elliot of Def Leppard said, "it's not the WORDS, it's how they sound..." To think they were my favorite band.

There were five bands on the bill the SOD sound night, which made things very quick-quick-and rushy. We played with this band from San Fran:

and this band Human Circuit from Austin, who I will think will go to places in the sky:

Listen to "Donkey Show." Besides, they were super nice and good to us.

Next we headed off to Houston, to be reported in the next blog.

For now, I wanted to share with you an article about the brain. I found it after I heard the story on NPR. Basically, the study finds there is a genetic componant to IQ, *however,* the brain can do push-ups and even excel as we age (rather than decline, as often thought). Looky here:

"The wires between the brain cells, the connections, are the things that you can modify throughout life," he says. "They change and they improve through your 40s and 50s and 60s." --From "Smart People Really Do Think Faster"

So maybe I'll remember things better in my next decade. For now, I'm working on, as the article suggests, doing mental jumping jacks via crosswords and more Greek-language learning.


PS - I updated the BB site for now: Adam's design was WAY better but I messed it up due to not understanding how to update new fangled style-sheets. Or some other non-HTML format. So for now, it's HTML 4, baby!

PPS - We're gonna be back for a couple week to play Duofest III! 4/18! Awesome duos! Schedule should be posted here soon -- DUOFEST III.