Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy halloween!

Besides facebook, the huffington post and Five Thirty Eight, it seems like many offices are obsessed with cute pictures of dogs. On Halloween this becomes a heightened state of euphoria with all the absurd dogs in costume pictures being tossed around, and some are JUST WRONG! People, it's really silly to dress up dogs. Maybe it's time to just stop. Meanwhile I'll still laugh at the one above.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Thinking about Barack and Toots

I love Barack Obama even more than ever for taking the time to visit his sick grandma. I was able to see my grandma Anne a few weeks before she passed away and I remember how sad I was but how important it was to be with there.  As hard as it is for him to be away from the campaign I know this is totally the right thing to do.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Clarity Haynes, American Artist

In high school my constant inspiration was my best friend Clarity Haynes. When I walked into Washington International School as a new student in 9th grade I felt super weird because I had gone to that school from Nursery through 4th grade, but left for four years to go to Catholic School. I hadn't kept in touch with my friends at all for various reasons I'm sure I'll get into later in life and so the normal first day of school jitters were compounded by a severe anxiety over seeing them again. One of the first new people I noticed was Clarity. She had bleached blond hair cut in a mega cool asymmetrical style and was wearing black clothes and silver lipstick. I was shocked by how cool she was and was totally sure we'd never be friends. I had brought a book with me that she later told me shocked her too! It was Wifey, the Judy Blume classic, and completely appropriate reading for a 14 year old. Let's face it, I was confused! 

Slowly but surely we got to know one another and basically spent nearly every day together for the next two years. We remained close after she switched to Duke Ellington High School for the Arts when my parents wouldn't let me go but it required more work. But thank goodness she did. She got support and focus and encouragement to pursue her painting and drawing talent and is now a professional artist, and I'm lucky enough to own one of her paintings. 

If by any chance you are able to be in the Philadelphia area in the next month, please see her new show, it looks amazing and I really hope I can make it. 

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Blogging Vs. Living

It's the modern dilemma right? We should DO more and not just do it to write about it later right? But it's fun to write about things that interest me. Right now I'm working a lot, trying to stay healthy with the weather changing and everyone getting colds around me. I'm thinking about the election in the U.S., poverty and power abusive governments around the word, and the struggles me and my friends face everyday in life and love. Nothing is easy.

But, if I were to write about the details of my life one cool thing i did this week was go on a field trip with some other students at NGI to Sunset Park Brooklyn. Sue Baldassano, the director of education is naturally passionate about food and has created her won business doing culinary tours to Mexico and Sicily called To Grandmother's House We Go. On our trip today we went to all the Mexican markets to look at ingredients like spices and produce and finished the trip with a lovely lunch at Maria's Mexican Bistro. It was great to meet other students from the other classes and eat delicious food. I bought a bunch of spices and cheese and a tortilla press.

And always on the quest to find Salvadoran food in NY, I stumbled across this gem. Woo hoo!
The find of the Sunset Park field trip! on TwitPic

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Simple Social Graces: List from Berlin

There's nothing like a quick trip to Berlin to energize Simple Social Graces! Here is a list of tips and info should you find yourself going there!

Places to stay:
My darling friend Bernardo Santarelli ( rents two studio apartments for really reasonable rates by the night or by the week.
Here are some pics:
Tell him I sent you! And check out his awesome riot queer boy punk band Noisy Pig!

Since this trip was for work I stayed at a hotel with my colleagues called the Mandala Suites. It was REALLY NICE and for a fancy hotel was pretty reasonably priced. If you are traveling for business and want a comfortable hotel in the center of town, this is a great choice. My room was huge and had a terrace and a kitchen larger than those found in most NY apartments. The gym was nice and both the view from the breakfast room and the breakfast itself were fantastic.
View from the Mandala Suites
Berlin Breakfast

Places to eat:
Berlin has great food culture and although many people think of German food as one dimensional, I've had excellent luck. The most popular street food is the doner kebab which is the Turkish gyro. I usually get the vegetarische kebab which is just delicious bread with salad and yogurt sauce or a falafel. The other thing you might see is the currywurst stand, which sells sausage with a curry tomato-ey sauce. Not for me, but I'm sure it's delicious.
Last year when I was in Berlin I had a lovely dinner with Bernardo and two friends from Vancouver Beez and Dave. We went to Ristorante Bei Gino and I loved it so much I made a beeline for it for our first meal this trip. It's southern German food so there's an Italian influence which makes all the flavors bright and exciting. For a starter I had the most amazing beet soup I've ever had in my life, sweet and savory and horseradishy. I could have had a vat of it. It will take ages to replicate but I'll do it I swear. For my main course I had a cheesy, oniony schnitzel which was better than most mac and cheeses Please try to visit if you make it to Berlin.
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Also, one of the places we ended up was the center of music and nightlife, the Kulturbrauerei. In the center of the it all is a huge grill for all kinds of meats. Again, not for me, but it did look amazing!

Misc. and nightlife:
The conference I was, Popkomm, is a once a year chance for music business people from all over the world to get together. It's a hectic few days of non stop meetings but also a great chance to see people from all over the world, and hear some amazing music. I always spend a lot of time at the Sounds From Spain stand because they have great goodies. The Catalan Arts society also has a stand and usually the Basque Music Society does as well, but I didn't see them this year. I was lucky enough to be based next to the Lithuanian Music stand and picked up this Lithuanian Folk Music CD, hoping to get into my roots (great great grandpa was from Vilnius.)

I also was lucky enough to be given this bottle of Rioja at a Rightsflow cocktail party. I didn't have a chance to drop it off before we went out for the night but I discovered Berlin security people are fantastically reasonable. In both clubs I went to the security people just told me to leave it out, in one case in a bin and in another sort of hidden in a corner. I really appreciated the lack of drama put forth towards the foreigner traveling with a huge bottle of wine!
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The coolest place to hang out in Berlin is again another Bernardo haunt, the Barbie Deinhoff in Kreuzberg. Good cheap drinks, good music (not too loud!) and cozy chairs makes for a perfect place to meet up at the beginning or end of your night. The only complaint for this tender New Yorker is that its mega smokey so you might have to wash your hair before you go to bed!

I can't wait to spend some time in Berlin when I don't have to work and rent a bike and tool around. But until then, I'm happy with what I've got.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Greetings from Berlin and checkpoint charlie!

I'll be home on Friday to give you the list of the week, all fabulous Berlinische things to do, see, taste and think about.



Sunday, October 05, 2008

Simple Social Graces: List of the week 10/5/08

The list is a little late this week because last week was koo koo feeling. I was preparing for my first quiz at NGI and it was all I could think about. I know I blew one question but I think I did pretty well other than that.

Today was the Atlantic Antic in Brooklyn, a huge street fair from Hicks and Atlantic near my house to the Atlantic Center in Downtown. The girls and I met up for a stroll and tasting of various foods. Here are my highlights:

Potato Pancakes, cabbage and kasha at the St.Cyril's of Turau Cathedral branch of the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox church. Yummy stuff!

Bugs Are Gone Exterminating

Women's Cooperative WE CAN DO IT/WE CAN FIX IT (917-463-0403), a woman owned, woman run business designed to create living wage jobs for their members. House cleaning and home services like painting, plumbing, carpentry etc.. COOL AS HELL!

Streamline Pilates and Providence Day Spa. Both offering specials for new clients and PDS is having a spa week the week of the 13th. Sweet!

Complete Elizabeth R VHS Boxes set for $10. I only have a VHS player in my bedroom so this is days of entertainment to be had.

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feeling the possibility

In one month the United States goes to the polls to elect it's next president. This will be the 5th time I've voted for president. I grew up around politics and my father was actively involved in Mo Udall's presidential campaign in 1976 when I was 5. I don't remember too much about the campaign although my parents did split up a year later. I wonder if there was any connection? I don't dare ask. Something are better left unknown.

Anyway, I wanted to vote ever since I could remember. My dad worked for Jimmy Carter doing the media advancing for his international trips and was always going overseas during his term as president. He went to Poland, Egypt, Brazil, Nigeria and others I can't remember. I missed him a lot but got lots of cool presents and peripheral knowledge of all of these places, none of which I've been able to visit yet but I will. I went with my dad to the DNC convention in New York in 1980 and San Francisco in 1984. I was excited about the possibility of a Mondale/Ferraro presidency but being so young I didn't feel too much connection to them. Clinton was the first president I voted for and never thought of not supporting the Democratic candidate in 2000 and 2004. Gore wasn't the most charismatic guy on the planet but he sure as hell was better as well all know now, than the disaster that we have had be our president for the last 4 years. In my community, supporting democrats isn't a given, during the 2000 race Allison asked me on stage at a Bratmobile show who I was voting for (I still haven't let her off the hook!) because she was supporting Nader. Erin wisely declined to respond, but I immediately said "Gore." My dad told me later I should have said "anyone but Bush", but I wasn't hip to that yet. I had a flight home from DC to Oakland on eve that year and Nader was sitting next to me on the plane. I ran to the back and called Dad to tell him and he said "did you punch him in the face?" I did not, but I think about it often.

I don't blame Nader for Gore losing the election, progressives should want to do more than settle for "anyone but Bush" but there is something inside me that has always felt more pragmatic about radical change, that it takes time, but in many cases the stakes are too high to not make compromising decisions. We've spent over $800 billion on the Iraq war and the deaths and casualties are difficult to estimate. Almost 5,000 U.S. troops and over 100,000 Iraqi's killed. A complete and utter disastrous tragedy that I think most of us believe would not be our reality if Gore had been elected outright in 2000. But it didn't move this country to vote Kerry in in 2004 and here we sit today. And I finally feel hopeful.

Not overly confident of course, but hopeful. The possibility exists that not only could we have a better candidate than the republican option, but we might have someone who could put this country on a path towards true change. A path of fairness, where education, nutrition, reproductive freedom, economic opportunities for all and peace are priorities. I am driven to tears sometimes thinking that I might witness in my lifetime the first African American president of the United States. It's so important. We are ready and we need to make a radical statement to the world that this is what we want. In 4 weeks we'll know if we have the power.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Happy World Vegetarian Day!

This past September I celebrated my 20th year of being a vegetarian. I originally stopped eating meat my senior year of high school after a rather highschoolian emotional response to studying the holocaust and death ethics in school and being motivated to become more of a peace activist. I remember thinking the easiest thing I could do was start with myself in terms of being more peaceful, and honestly, this is no easy task for me, I'm sort of a hot head. Anyway, since September 1988 I haven't had a burger, a fillet-o-fish or any fried chicken. I have eaten soups and stocks that have had meat by products in them but I do my best to try not to, and that is probably less than 20 times over the years. We did have a silly relapse in 1995 or so when the rumor was going around that those delicious tacos from Jack in the Box were made with TVP not meat. I think I had about 10 over that summer, and they were good! But we believed the lie and had to pause when we knew the real deal. 

At this point in my life where food and learning about it and appreciating different cultures is a big priority, I am sometimes inclined to let go of my strict vegetarianism in the interest of being able to completely appreciate and understand the foods of the world, but I haven't yet. The main barrier is the texture of the animal muscles, I just can't wrap my head around it. And for me, that's a good thing. I also really hate the waste economy of the mainstream meat and dairy industries and the disgusting hormones they use and we don't even know how those are affecting us (although I think we have a pretty good idea.)

Meanwhile, I don't judge my friends and family who make different choices than me. I know this is what is right for me and I have to trust that they are making choices that they feel are right for them. My dream society is still one of peace and respect and I still think that starts with me. So now I just need to work on being a hot head!