The Foie Gras Parable
Been on a TED talk binge today and truly inspired by many of the videos but Dan Barber's Foie Gras Parable is one that really touched my heart. My friends should know well that cooking and food have a really deep meaning to me. Not just the taste but the process and what our choices mean in the world at large -- that our choice in eating has an effect on our soul beyond the well known physiological benefits.
The foie gras parable is that foie gras is absolutely wonderful tasting but it makes me sick to my stomach the same way that seeing beef production makes me sick. In this video Dan Barber shows us how foie gras doesn't have to be that way and not only is it ethical it can also be tastier. If you have never eaten a carrot or tomato from a local farm using 'real' farming techniques then you have never eaten a carrot or tomato in your life. Food doesn't have to be a production in both meanings of the word. To quote Barber:
...the great blessing for chefs, and for people that care about food and cooking, is that the most ecological choice for food is also the most ethical choice for food. ... And it's also almost always, and I haven't found an example otherwise, but almost always, the most delicious choice. That's serendipitous.
This story goes beyond an argument about sustainability and humane meat production practices. It's a story that has been told by many but listened by few. As Sousa tries to constantly explain to Barber, just listen, just watch, everything has already been provided; one just has to let the system do what it naturally wants to do. It also is very much philosophical Taoist point -- "Flow with whatever is happening and let your mind be free.". Nature has had a billion years to solve many problems, why do we think we know any better? Sousa says it precisely when asked about "traditional" foie gras (which we find out isn't how it originally was made), "I think it's an insult to history."
The Mayans relied heavily on the highly nutritious ram%C3%B3n nut yet we are now just understanding how to best utilize and grow it. Or we can look at how we have shifted away from three sisters style planting that all of Mesoamerica and Native America used before monoculture crops came along. Tho I suppose its a lot of me to expect that we will actually learn from the past when there is very little observable evidence we ever do.
One of Dante's Circles
I'm reading Dante's Inferno and learning about the nine circles of hell. Mind you I'm an atheist but I think it may be rubbing off on me because I have REO Speedwagon's Keep On Loving You stuck in my head. I'm pretty sure Dante described this torture of the soul in his seventh circle for violence against art.
The Evolution of the Internet
Web 1.0 = Be thought a fool.
Web 2.0 = Open our mouths and remove all doubt.
Bus #20 is the bus that goes east and west on Burnside. If you live in Portland you may know what that means. Burnside is one of the main arteries of Portland. It connects Beaverton to, God knows where, Gresham. Along the way it picks up downtown workers who live in the quiet-but-not-suburb West Hills, hipsters heading to and from Nob Hill, PGE Park game goers, Powell's book buyers, Powell's street beggars, Old Town drunkards, Old Town tweakers, Burnside Bridge "nomads", scattered blue collar workers, the east side lower class and, well, me.
Bus 20 @ 12:30am
Heading home late on a Wednesday night. Caught the second to last bus back into downtown. I was in the best of moods, the moon was close to full, the night sky was clear and a warm day had just ended. I was concerned though. I knew that after getting off the 20 there was still a pretty long walk for me to get home.
Portland is not really a scary town even at night by yourself. Most homeless folk are harmless and they are everywhere sleeping at doorways. Tweakers tend to stay in one area, which makes them easy to avoid. The odd people you run into while walking usually are mentally not there and involved in themselves. Surprisingly a good smattering of police patrols and taxis roam around as well. So I'm not really worried about getting home but I am carrying my laptop and, really, one can never know what may happen while walking alone at night.
As soon as I stepped on the 20 I realized it wasn't the time that I got off the bus that I had to be concerned with but the time on the bus. After taking my seat I realized the man talking to the bus driver was not "normal". It was pretty obvious... his loud speech, the eyes that went everywhere, the large Jerry Lewis-type laugh, the gauze tapped wrapped around his left forearm, oh and yeah, the ELECTRODE PADS on his arms, chest and legs.
The bus driver was keeping him engaged, listening, chatting and laughing with him. You'd hear her say, "oh don't be so bad," and at first, it would seem like she was just talking to any other long-time bus goer, but his discussion topics made you realize that she is also chatting to keep him in check. The conversation swayed from his many heart monitors, the IV needle he (according to him) still had stuck to his arm, his goal of getting some, and I quote, "poontang" at the strip club tonight, how he is going to get high and how his wife is a hottie MILF.
I felt bad for the uncomfortable lady sitting a few seats in front of me who kept turning around to double-check that other people were hearing and seeing this as well. I believe she was not sure if this was some surreal dream or if she was stuck there until either he got off or she did. It was bad for her because anytime he'd say such memorable lines as, "my girlfriend is only 22; I'm robbing the cradle, yeah!" or "I have four kids, they are 18, 12, 4, 4 and 1 and my wife is only 22, yeah!", he would turn around laugh and give that lady a Jerry Lewis smile.
Honestly, I was a little concerned because he did sound unstable and I was just afraid he would do something to the bus driver and cause an accident. My fears did not go down when he told about how the "bitch, bible-thumping bus driver" last night kicked him off the bus and had the cops handcuff him. I did think that he may be delusional and imagining such events but its hard not to be thinking the worst case scenario.
The best moment came when he started ripping off the gauze tape. You could feel the horror on the bus. At that point everyone was intently looking to see if this would be a biohazard bus ride. The driver noticed as well and told him that he doesn't want to do that and so did the lady sitting in front of me. He was adamant about it though. He used his teeth to rip off a piece and began unraveling. There was a silence on the bus as everyone held their breath and braced for some grotesque wound that would soon be uncovered.
There was a lot of tape tho and it took a while for him to unravel sections. He would unravel some more and the driver would remind him that it was not a good idea. He would unravel some more and the lady in front of me would turn to the window to not look but still have one eye on the arm. He would unravel some and I thought about throwing up in my mouth a little bit. To the great relief of everyone on board there was no wound, no bio-terrorist thread, nothing but a very white arm. You could feel the sigh breath out from every passenger.
Soon after he pulled out another roll of tape and started wrapping the arm again. This time, instead of just the wrist and forearm, he made it up to his biceps. At the time I felt bad for new boarders who would get to witness the psychological horror we already went through. But lucky for them he was getting off around Broadway to go to Mary's. Maybe not so lucky for the patrons at Mary's.
Bus 20, guest encounter
A friend of mine told me a quick one about her encounter on the 20: the bubble lady. A lady was on the bus blowing bubbles. The bus driver asked her about it and she said, "bubbles make me happy." With a shrug of his shoulders, the driver replied, "bubbles make me happy too." The lady then continued to blow bubbles while on the bus.
Bus 91 >= Bus 20?
Over the weekend I went back down to Eugene to meet up with some friends and also do an overnight hike. To get out to the trail head I took LTD's bus 91 which goes all the way out to the McKenzie River Ranger Station. As always in the Eugene area, people are insanely friendly, but boy-oh-boy are they characters. It's a bus full of them instead of one or two.
There were two 50 year olds with a kid and their 'larger than life friend'. On the bus they all had a falling out and then an attempt to make up by creating plans to sit around and drink some beer... After they left another bus rider said, and I quote, "I think the large one there was ready to beat the crap out of that boy."
There were two older guys with long hair-- hicks of the friendly variety. I think one was hiding a PBR under his shirt. Then there was the guy "who is in trouble with his parole officer because he keeps working jobs under the table." He was all right though, he thought a lot about how the gov't is fubar right now. Another guy gave me some tips about going out there again. Smart and nice guy, but he was wearing camo pants and seemed like the type to disappear into the woods often. Finally, my favorite is the really old grandpa who looked like a prospector. Or if you've seen Studio Ghibli's Castle in the Sky, then he looks like old Uncle Pomme.
There is a peace to a downpour of rain. As if the world is shedding a tear with you. Or maybe the gods are playing a joke. I will laugh with them. A long walk home has never been so good.
'Til Saturday's Soul Waves Goodbye
Saturday was one of those days that caused a smile you couldn't tear off my face. It started out with us playing football in the morning. Absolutely gorgeous winter day. Cold, brisk air, SUNNY and the ground just wet enough to be muddy but not a crap hole. I had some kick ass new gloves on, my friends were there and my mouth wouldn't stop yapping -- let the shit talk fly! All in good jest of course.
Then I booked it to get myself up to Powell's City of Books, muddy pants and all, to hear about this amazing new book, Walking Bridges Using Poetry as a Compass. I didn't know anything of it at all until the day before. Sharon Wortman, the 'mom' of the book, talked about how it came together, also introducing her husband, Ed Wortman, part of Portland history as he worked on the Fremont. Also several poets read their entries.
Afterwards we walked over to the Morrison and got a tour of the pit and the tower. We got to stand under the counterweight as it swung down to lift up the bridge. Pretty flippin' cool! As Nathan, one of the guys I met, said, "Life changing experience."
Later that night I had some sushi at Masu and I found my new favorite gin: Aviation Gin from House Spirits here in Portland. Goes well with my new martini of choice: 2 1/2 oz of gin, 1/2 oz of Chambord and 1 oz lemon juice. There are times when eating alone on a Saturday night is the right thing to do for me. The night was capped off with karaoke with some friends I haven't known long but feel like I've been talking to for years.
Moving to Boston
A friend of mine asked me what I want to accomplish in Boston and my new boss emailed me saying, "I'm at a national meeting promising everyone how good you're going to be." I've been thinking about those two thoughts...
If it means making the world a better place by helping researchers find solutions to difficult problems, then I'm going to put my damnedest into exceeding expectations. I might be setting myself up for failure, but if we never aim for the stars we'll never even think we can fly.