Thursday, December 31, 2009

A time for reflection - ooh, goody! Reviewing this year, looking forward to next.

Here we are, then, on the eve. I'm home from work with a migraine, and while the head pain waxes and wanes the nausea is a constant, punctuated by the sharp shots of a sciatica flare-up. Snow is falling outside - the second real fall this December - and I won't go out for fear of falling. Ah, life.

I am sad to say that this year has been one largely defined by my health, or really, the problems therewith. Perhaps my body knows it's actually in its thirties now; maybe that's why my condition has taken such a dramatic nosedive. I cannot do what I could do a year ago. That's an odd thing to have to say - in my mind I still feel young.

Even so, I want to say that good things have happened this year. I just have to dig them out is all. They're not big and flashy. They're more the kind of thing you learn to appreciate because it's foolish to take them for granted.

For one, Jonathan and I moved. And while the move itself was difficult, overall it's been a good thing. It strengthened our relationship and gave us a more comfortable living space. It let me have a christmas tree! It's much more quiet here, which makes it easier for me to rest when I need to. And since we're now on the second floor, and in a house instead of an apartment building, I feel much safer. These things have a real impact on quality of life.

For another, I managed to get through another year at the office. It's killing me, but it's important to our survival. Is that contradictory? We need the income, and heaven knows I need the health insurance. And the fact is that the longer I'm there and the more senior and indispensable I am, the more power I'll have to negotiate if I need to, say, work part time or go on medical leave.

Then there are the dozens of micro-achievements that make daily life worth living: the blog posts that people enjoyed, my work with the Vegan Etsy team, the couple of zines I've managed to write, the Etsy sales I've made and positive feedback I've received, the train rides I've taken and blogged about. There was some pure enjoyment as well: reconnecting and spending of time with cherished friends, visiting my former homes and actually taking a real vacation for once, and just exploring the city with my baby like we do. And, you know, the eating.

It's been a hard year for many people in my life, but always there are spots of hope. One of my dearest friends became a mother this year; at this very moment she is doubtless curled in the warm glowing love of her new baby girl, just two weeks old. It's good to know that such happiness still exists in the world. Another friend has gained an ever growing acknowledgment of her craft and design skills, each day getting a little closer to fulfilling her dream. Yet others will be a rock star, a professional photographer, and a famous author any minute now, despite it all. Maybe this is what my wildly diverse group of friends and I have in common: no matter what life throws at us we just continue to strive for... whatever the hell it is that we can't live without.

So, next year? 2010, the year sci-fi movies are made of? (Where is my jet pack? Where is my hovercraft? Where is my homicidal supercomputer?) It's hard to say. As of my doctor's appointment yesterday, I am coming off of the Savella. That will be a somewhat slow and possibly sickening process, but I'm trying not to psych myself out over it. Once I'm off of it... Well, I have some real fears. I began the medication because I was rapidly approaching real disability. Unfortunately, while it helped the fibro somewhat, the side effects have made it hurt more than help. So off of it, I really just don't know where I'll stand. (Or hell, if I'll be able to stand at all, ha.)

Once I'm weaned, we may try Cymbalta, another medication in the same class. It may help, it may not, it may make things worse. There's a lot of guesswork and wait-and-see in this process. It, um, sucks. But there's nothing for it but to keep trying, because I'm not just going to go, oh, OK, well I guess I just don't function anymore. That's not really my gig, you know?

Of course I'll keep up with the chiropractic and all of the other things I do as well. I've never once believed that medication is the complete answer.

2009 was the year I got worse; maybe 2010 is the year I get better.

And I'll keep writing. There is so much that I want to write. Maybe 2010 is when I get another short story published - hopefully somewhere where someone might actually read it this time. It's almost a sure thing that I'll be having some blurb-ey, short expositive writing bits published in the Zinester's Guide to NYC, scheduled to be put out by Microcosm this coming summer. Don't want to say it's definite, because who ever knows what'll happen, but let's say it's supposed to happen, and at least for that I'm excited.

Will I make visual art? Probably. I can't help it. I just comes sometimes, though not as often as I'd like. Meh.

And, oh yes, I'll get married. I'll be Mrs. Breedlove. I'll spend a day dashing around in a big blue dress, and at the end of it I'll have a husband; I'll be a wife. It's really an intriguing concept. I'm quite interested to see how it turns out.

It will be a year, composed of 365 individual days. I intend to do my best to make the most of each one - whatever my "best" might be on each of them. Because honestly, what the hell else would I do?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Vegans Drink! Erm, that is, Vegan Drinks!

It has been far, far too long since I've posted. But here I am! You can all rest easy now.

I'm here to tell you that I finally, finally made it out to Vegan Drinks! You see, for ages now I've believed that they held a not-too-secret vendetta against me. Vegan Drinks is held on Thursday evenings - the last Thursday of the month, generally, to be preciseish - and see I have a longstanding appointment every Thursday evening. What conclusion is there to come to, other than, they did this on purpose so that I can't come? It seemed clear enough to me.

Well this week I thwarted their maniacal little plan and showed up anyway! And what do you know - they were just tickled pink to see me. It seems that they actually schedule the event as it's most convenient for the organizers and the location - Angels and Kings in the East Village - and has nothing to do with me at all. What are the chances? Anyway, as it happened, this Thursday was one of the biggest NYC Vegan Drinks events yet - more drink specials (rum nog!), more food (empanadas from V Spot served up by Danny himself, chocolate from Compassionate Confections), a whole ton of giveaways (including books from the Post Punk Kitchen dynamic duo and jewelery from Evolve Accessories)... It was quite an evening!

There were so many to people to talk to, and the DJ rocked it out all night long. She kept playing songs that I thought only I remembered and loved - the mark of a truly good DJ, I must say. I will definitely be making it back for the next Vegan Drinks, January 28, 2010! OK, I'll definitely be trying to anyway. ;)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cuter than a puppy, even.

Crappy health + crazy work + many other obligations = my blogs suffer.

Anyway, a little treat for you.

There's a breed of omnivore which likes to "confront" me about my veganism by telling me that the only reason I don't eat animals is that they're cute. This is entirely untrue - there are many, many reasons not to eat animals without even breaching how amazing the animals themselves are. *However.* Animals are so freaking cute! Exhibit A: Kingsford The Pig.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Eating Animals: Hiding / Seeking - the fourth chapter of the new book by Jonathan Safran Foer

I'm wearing black in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere. There are surgical booties around my disposable shoes and latex gloves on my shaking hands. I pat myself down, quintuple-checking that I have everything: red-filtered flashlight, picture ID, $40 cash, video camera, copy of California penal code 597e, bottle of water (not for me), silenced cell phone, blow horn. We kill the engine and roll the final thirty yards to the spot we scouted out earlier in the day on one of our half-dozen drive-bys. This isn't the scary part yet.
Thus begins the fourth chapter of Foer's book, the chapter entitled Hiding/Seeking. A lot happens in this chapter. As you may have gleaned, it begins with our hero pretty much breaking into a factory farming facility. He does so with a woman we call "C", who seems to do such things on a fairly regular basis. But she is not radical or extremist. We actually get to know how she feels about it, because it is in this chapter that Foer begins to use the device of personal narratives - that is, short segments actually written by various people he interacted with while writing the book (rather than just about them). Whereas his description of the event has the subheading, "I'm not the kind of person who finds himself on a stranger's farm in the middle of the night", her section, which immediately follows, is titled "I am the kind of person who finds herself on a stranger's farm in the middle of the night." {Emphasis added.} Get it?

Unlike the black bandanna-wearing members of the ALF that you sometimes see around NYC, chanting things like "We will drive the final nail!" (sorry guys, but what does that even mean?), C seems like a person you could comfortably take into your living room.
I am not a radical. In almost every way, I'm a middle-of-the-road person. I don't have any piercings. No weird haircut. I don't do drugs. Politically, I'm liberal on some issues and conservative on others. But see, factory farming is a middle-of-the-road issue - something most reasonable people would agree on if they had access to the truth...

It's crazy that the idea of animal rights seems crazy to anyone. We live in a world in which it's conventional to treat an animal like a hunk of wood and extreme to treat an animal like an animal.
Well said, C. (But, you know, it's so convenient to treat them like hunks of wood.)

Foer, somewhat needless to say, is moved by his experience of witnessing conditions at the factory of animals. But what disturbs him most is the difficulty they have finding a door to the animal sheds that isn't locked.
We spend several minutes like this, looking for an unlocked door. Another why: Why would a farmer lock the doors of his turkey farm? It can't be because he's afraid someone will steal his equipment or animals... A farmer doesn't lock his doors because he's afraid his animals will escape. (Turkeys can't turn doorknobs.)... So why? In the three years I will spend immersed in animal agriculture, nothing will unsettle me more than the locked doors. Nothing will better capture the whole sad business of factory farming. And nothing will more strongly convince me to write this book.
The next section, surprisingly enough, has the heading "I am a factory farmer." Reading this is sort of like talking to a rational republican. You think, Well, I see what you're saying, and clearly you've thought it through. But I think you may be missing some things... For example: "Sure, you could say that people should just eat less meat, but I've got news for you: people don't want to eat less meat." No, many people do not want to eat less meat. People also don't want to go to school, work eight hours a day, pay rent or a mortgage, follow driving laws, have their teeth cleaned, go visit grandma in the hospital, clean the house, take the trash out, or pay their taxes. There are plenty of things that people don't want to do. But in order for society to function, and for individuals to remain safe and healthy, they do them. It is part of being a responsible adult on the planet earth which has an ever-increasing population. What am I really saying here? Sorry folks, suck it up. Your 99 cent cheeseburger has just got to go.

The chapter goes on to say a good deal about chickens. Given that an estimated 99% of chickens come from factory farms, they become a good icon for this system of creating food animals. (I have seen this number cited in numerous places, but unfortunately I can't find you an unbiased reference for it.) "As described in industry journals from the 1960s onward, the egg-laying hen was to be considered 'only a very efficient converting machine', the pig was to be 'just like a machine in a factory', and the twenty-first century was to bring a new 'computer cookbook of recipes for custom-designed creatures.'" *shiver*

The last segment of this chapter is one called "I am the last poultry farmer." It is written by a man who raises turkeys, and loves them as if children. Except, of course, that he eventually kills them so that people can eat them, which most people will not do with their children. He is, however, the first of the contributors to give a name: Frank Reese. He doesn't support or want to have anything to do with factory farming methods.
Not a single turkey you can buy in a supermarket could walk normally, much less jump or fly. Did you know that? They can't even have sex. Not the antibiotic-free, or organic, or free-range, or anything. They all have the same foolish genetics, and their bodies won't allow for it anymore. Every turkey sold in every store and served in every restaurant was the product of artificial insemination. If it were only for efficiency, that would be one thing, but these animals literally can't reproduce naturally. Tell me what could be sustainable about that?... What the industry figured out - and this was the real revolution - is that you don't need healthy animals to make a profit.
As you may have guessed, he raises what are now referred to as "heritage birds", rather than the genetically adulterated birds generally raised for commercial uses these days (i.e. for the past maybe 50 years). His birds can fly, and jump... and have sex. Frank makes a statement in his diatribe that I strongly agree with: "If consumers don't want to pay the farmer to do it right, they shouldn't eat meat." There's that 99 cent cheeseburger again.
Just the other day, one of the local pediatricians was telling me he's seeing all kinds of illnesses that he never used to see... Everyone knows it's our food. We're messing with the genes of these animals and then feeding them growth hormones and all kinds of drugs that we really don't know enough about. And then we're eating them.
Couldn't have said it better myself, Frank.

And people still wonder why I'm vegan?