30 November 2007

A Day Without Art

The first day of December is a day of remembrance. “World AIDS Day” is also “A Day Without Art”. Back in 1989, many artists chose to honor those lost to AIDS by not creating on December 1st. Theatres went dark. Galleries closed or shrouded the art. While some artists choose to show commemorative work on that day, others still choose not to create on December 1st. I am one of them.

Having gone to an art school, there was no way not to be touched by HIV/AIDS. While I have known many friends and acquaintances who were positive or had gone full-blown, I can’t say that one has died from it. But that’s only if I don’t count a suicide. I remember the pre-“cocktail” days when the loss of from AIDS was massive. There was a time when every obituary in the trades was a loss from that disease. Gratefully, that is now rare. But AIDS is still here. And, like most things from the 80s and 90s, it’s having a come back.

Condoms, people. Wear them. If not for fear of HIV, then what about Herpes, Chlamydia or even Syphilis, because that’s making a come back, too? I’m not about preaching abstinence. Sex is a fabulous part of life. I’m no saint, but I’ve not been able to master slutty. I am a natural born serial monogamist. Even my one-night stands turn into relationships. I’m so not one to judge, but I am one to question: Why wouldn’t you use a condom?

First of all, it takes away the question of who will sleep in the wet spot. Secondly, guys, it takes away the question of if she remembered to take her pill. Unless you’ve had a vasectomy, boys, a condom is the only way to be sure she won’t get pregnant...and even then you need to know how to use it right. Thirdly, there isn’t that much of a difference. Just find the condom you like best. I’m a Trojan fan. Don’t like the Durex, though.

We all would like to think we are bullet proof, or at least Teflon coated, but we aren’t. AIDS testing is no longer vogue, but it is prudent. And, for me, it is required. Until there is a committed relationship with all the proper paperwork, a raincoat is proper attire.

One boyfriend took my request as a bit of an insult. He asked me, “Why do you need a test? Do you think you might have slept with somebody wrong? I mean, I was in a relationship for seven years. I know I’m clean.”

I reminded him that his ex cheated on him, with at least one guy he knew of. Which goes to show that you might be monogamous, but that doesn’t mean your partner is. My point was that you never know until you know, and the only way to know is to be tested. It’s not about being “dirty” or sleeping with someone “wrong”. It’s not about judgment but knowledge. He saw my point and went willingly to the doctor. The swab up the urethra was a little surprising, but I reminded him what women go through for our annual pap. We both passed our tests with flying negatives, as we expected and, at the end of the day, he admitted his respect for my insistence.

To me, it’s not about expecting doom, but respecting yourself and those you love, or hope to one day. And, it’s a true test to see how much that person respects you. If he or she can’t commit to taking a test at your request, that can’t bode well for your future. And are you really willing to risk that?

Whether you choose to create on December 1st or not, please take a moment to think about how far we haven’t come in reducing HIV and AIDS. Then take a test. Or take someone to take their first test. Or buy a value pack of condoms and shag your lover senseless. However you chose to do December 1st, I wish you good health.

For information on free testing, visit: http://www.knowhivaids.org/

28 November 2007

And So It Vegan

It was my last Thanksgiving. And on Thanksgiving, you expect tradition. The bird. The stuffing. The yams. The pie. We had all that and then some. I had waited to go vegan until the day after Thanksgiving because my friend had threatened me with Tofurkey. Instead we had Turducken. I’m still not sure which is scarier. In case you aren’t familiar with this “delicacy”, it’s a boneless concoction of a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey. I stayed on the “tur” side of things, enjoyed the vegetarian stuffing my friend made for her daughter, downed heaps of the roasted vegetables, and savored a slice of pumpkin pie. It was enough.

“Why?” was the question most friends asked about my veganism, especially when attempting to figure out what to serve me at a dinner party, as though I wasn’t difficult enough before. The answer isn’t very direct. I’ve been pondering this since Live Aid. Yeah, that concert way back in the day to end famine in Africa. While waiting for David Bowie to take the stage, little punk rocker me I went into my friend’s kitchen to make a sandwich. As I reached for the bologna, I decided to give up meat. And easy decision in that situation, but my friend and I had been talking about going vegetarian in the preceding weeks. That day seemed to be the day to make that choice, and I had a lettuce, mayo and cheese on Wonder instead. That’s pretty much what my diet was for the next year-and-a-half: meat-free, not vegetable-full. Back then, before you could easily reach for tasty vegetarian fare, there wasn’t much for you but cheese pizza and bean burritos, generally made with lard, which isn’t quite a vegetable. Skipping meat was easy. I remember nutritious cafeteria lunches of yogurt and mashed potatoes. See what I mean?

After eighteen months of not getting enough protein (I was a lazy student who had yet to find love of the leafy greens let alone tofu), I stared at a chicken breast for an hour before I could eat it. Fish and fowl were brought back in to the regime, but dairy was out. It made my allergies worse. Snotty is not just an attitude with me. And so, after my final lobster tail and turkey breast, I said adieu to animal food. It was time to vegan.

Being a vegan today is a piece of cake. Egg- and butter-free cake, that is. But, fortunately, those exist. Friends have worried when they call me up to go out, “Oh, can you eat anything there?” Yep. Luckily, most restaurants have these things called “vegetables” and “salads”. There’s always something to eat if you look hard enough, or order off menu. But, if you think that going vegan means a rapid drop in weight, think again. For, I have discovered in the days that have followed Thanksgiving that you never actually have to eat a fresh vegetable or piece of fruit if you don’t want to.

There are vegan blueberry waffles and soy sausage links to have for breakfast. Broccoli soup puree for lunch with Wasa crackers. A bean and rice burrito, vegan Indian cuisine or a “meat” loaf with mashed potatoes, corn and peas all within two-five minutes from freezer to plate if you are so inclined. There is organic, vegan “Mud Pie” rice-cream for dessert, vegan cookies, and most importantly, pomegranate martinis are vegan, too. And I’m pretty sure a vegan fast food chain is not too far off in the future.

Now, I realize eating that way is not the point of being vegan. But, when you are a busy vegan newbie, it’s easy to fall into those bad habits of yore. There is one vice I have given up: Starbucks. Yes, if your stocks took a dive, that is why. My seven-to-ten ventis a week are now a thing of the past. I’m now enjoying organic, decaffeinated green tea...and a bit more money in the bank. (I still love the Bucks though, and do enjoy a soy hot chocolate there every now and again. A tall, not a venti, sans whip.)

No, this isn’t a sign of the apocalypse, just me trying to grow up more and take a little responsibility for my health and that of the environment. Since I’m not going to be driving a hybrid car for a while, I figured going vegan was something I could do for the green team. Cow farts are really what are destroying the ozone. Our water is polluted by our grotesque animal farming techniques. And if you think the FDA, EPA and USDA really give a shit about your health, remember the amount of feces allowed in your food. Do you like your cow pies medium, or well done?

I’m sure tofu and spouts are sounding yummy now.

14 November 2007

The Final Lob

It’s never easy to say goodbye to anyone or anything that has brought joy into your life. The decision to end that relationship or association is difficult and questioning your choice borders on obsession. At the end of the day, you have to go with what’s best for you, no matter how hard that might be.

So, I made the decision to go vegan. Considering I haven’t had red meat in decades, and dairy was reduced to the occasional slice of Brie or random crème brulée, it wasn’t that much further to go vegetarian. With all they pump into poultry, I had been avoiding that for a while. I thought about ditching the fowl but keeping fish in my diet, but with all the crud in the ocean and the grotesque fish farming being done, I realized the futility of that if I wanted to avoid antibiotics, mercury and other muck in my meals. The only thing left before arriving at vegan village was a carton of eggs.

Did you know that “free range” and “cage free” are more or less on the honor system? Did you know that they allow poultry to eat bio-chemically jacked up, not-approved-for-human-consumption grains? And if we really are what we eat, I don’t want to be a genetically modified chicken embryo. But that’s just me.

Since I had already agreed to a Thanksgiving dinner party, I didn’t want to be the “what do we serve her” guest and decided that the day after turkey fest would be my first as a vegan. That also gave me time to say goodbye to some of my favorite foods. Like the crunchy, spicy shrimp rolls at Chaya and my beloved blue-corn-chip-soy-cheese nachos at A Votre Sante (because the soy cheese has casein in it, which is a milk protein, which is non-vegan-friendly). I did not make it to Cynthia’s for her famous fried chicken, or indulge in caviar at Shutters, but I did make lobster, for the first and last time.

I couldn’t really justify the restaurant tab for a lobster tail, so I made my way to the seafood counter at Gelson’s for a nice piece of ass. I don’t care that they are bottom feeders; lobsters are damn yummy. But they aren’t a fruit or veg, or even a whole grain. Alas, my crustaceans days were numbered.

Shellfishly, I opted to have the dinner alone. I wanted to savor each bite, indulge in my gluttony, and cruise through TiVo while I did. I’m really behind on everything. I mocked an old Buffalo Club dish, and poured myself a nice glass of wine to wash it down. And when I was finished, I was done. That was it. The satisfaction of the meal was replaced with ick. At first, I was concerned that I might have poisoned myself. It was my first time cooking tail. Perhaps I made a misstep. But standing over the kitchen sink, wondering if I was going to lurch, I listened to my body and it said she was done. I really just didn’t want meat anymore. I was ready to be rid of it. And that felt good. Now, there was only a turkey standing in my way. And isn’t that always the case?