Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nesting: Hanging out at home

Nest II in the afternoon
This is the Nest (II), where I easily spend most of my time and where I like to carry out the art of hanging out one on one.  If you have been here, you're fucking welcome. Hanging out one on one is kinda my jam and I think really the only true way to reach understanding the trueness of another human.  I digress, I will talk more of that later.  This is about creating comfort and it's inherent place in hanging out, particularly at home.  I love the Nest and finally after over a decade of having a new space to live in-pretty much annually, I think I have learned to manage the art of creating comfort in each space quickly.  The equation is pretty simple but essential if you like people to feel comfortable in your home.  Soft things, a sense of warmth, and interesting shit to look at (womb recreating? too far?).  I love this space so much the current goal is to recreate it exactly but in mobile form but again I digress!

I really love to have folks in the Nest.  Even if I am not particularly thrilled when they get there because I am tired/grumpy, I am pretty happy by the time they leave. For folks that kick it with me in this space I like them to leave a lil tipsy, satiated and somehow feeling a little better about their place in life.
I have a white bike fetish. Don't read too deep into it.
This desire I think is pretty inherent in me but in this department I often think of my hang out sensei and general life coach, my friend Terry Johnson.  I lived with her briefly and although I am pretty sure the fridge at any given point only contained margarine, saltines and Miller High Life, for guests meals were always produced and drink was always had, and for one- even if only brief moment shit felt alright.  And now that I think about it those were all elements of our home on a daily basis, the essentials of daily life. The fundamental elements of hosting at home above all else are drank, food, a good place to sit and an ear given as if it is nothing and with a regular occurrence.  Which if you are living your life justly, it should be. When I grocery shop I actually think of who comes over the most and what they like and try to have it in some capacity at all times.  Which at minimum should be a bottle of whiskey, no?  Ok at minimum it should be tea. I epic failed at this the other day and it is like a black mark on my soul.  A B+ on a a report card of all A's.  Nerds are you with me? I had been spending too much time alone and doing things like embroidering, exercising, and eating too much protein, so the Nest was off.  Ran out the next day to stock up on foods that I hardly consider necessary but that would comfort guests and a run to the liquor store is next on the list.  I am back on.   In other news, I got a new bike (!) for future warmer non-Nest hanging out.

This weekend the hang out that can go oh so awesome or oh so terribly wrong..... the Parental Hang.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Just Foods Conference

Arriving at the conference, very very early.

My dairy consumption and cigarette smoking have caught up with me once again with a slight fever and general achiness so I am not able to keep up the level of hanging out I was hoping for this weekend.  I chose instead to dedicate my energy to attending the Just Foods Conference, an annual conference here in NYC focusing on food justice and sustainability with the input of farmers, food advocates, consumers and the like.  I joked for two weeks before hand I was attending the conference to find my farmer husband, ya know for the commune but in reality I was attending in my continuing effort to rehumanize myself after academia. I realized I needed to get my shit together and start plugging into the NYC activist, foodie, general pro rev scene.  Just Foods was an excellent place to start and I am kicking myself for having not attended the conference the previous two years I have been living here in New York. 

Just to get beef out of the way, the conference of course had its stock of obligatory white liberals.  There was a share of entitlement, great white hopeness and coded language, where the “underserved” and “diverse” means Black and maybe Latino and where the normalization of whiteness led to comments that included the concept of “us” and “them”.  This doesn’t offend me as a Latina but just as a human living in 2012 .  Once again, we are all one.  The paradigm of whiteness and white privilege is dying and it is sad to see people hold onto it so desperately.   Let it go and join us already.  But this percentage was in the minority, I am grateful to say.  The level of bad asses in attendance was beyond inspiring and it was hard to count myself amongst them.  Beyond discussing how to grow yourself into a farmer and the problems with the USDA, much of the conversation was transformative even spiritual.  Not just from the speakers but particularly in interpersonal interactions at breaks, in line for coffee, questions and comments etc.  It was story after story of epiphanies, learning, making a jump from an office job to digging in the soil.  There is a change in the air- can’t we all feel it?

Lunch, some pickled zucchini and tomatoes
To highlight some of the amazingness, I have the names of some folks down below and am doing my best to provide the most up to date links of the projects they are working on.  Undoubtedly the people I most admired at the conference were mostly people of color who talked about their lives as farmers (both urban and rural) but also used their opportunities in the spotlight to talk about dismantling racism and classism and addressing the true causes of hunger and food related disease in this country.

Tanya Fields.
All I had written in my notes during Tanya’s talk was “fucking amazing”.  I was transfixed by her and literally on the edge of my seat and I leaped up to a standing ovation as soon as she was done.  On the topic of addressing food issues in the South Bronx. “I am sure I am going to offend some people in the room but we don’t need white people from the Mid West bringing produce into the Bronx and telling us what to eat….We don’t need a Trader Joe’s or a Whole Foods in the Bronx, we need to empower the people of those communities to produce that food themselves”                                  

Yonette Fleming-Urban farmer in Bed-Stuy, a neighborhood that will forever hold a very special spot in my heart. On community empowerment - “This is not about turning the community into consumers”
On changes she has seen in the food justice movement in the last five years - "It has changed from a white elitist movement to a movement for the people! But this is not by accident but because of work done by people of color on the ground”
On white solidarity “Do not be blinded by your privilege!”

Zaid Kurdeih who started a farm because he could not find Halal foods in his area back in the 80's.  “Home, food, shelter, health -are the pillars of humanity.  This is all we need to exist on this earth. This is all we need , this is a blessing.” 

Jalal Sabur. Freedom Food Alliance. I have a video here so he can speak for himself but I was super impressed by Jalal's constant messaging of the inherent importance of solidarity and his ability to connect the farmer and food to multiple levels of injustice. (not his blog but includes a good interview with him)

The conference was held in a high school
in Mid Town and this poster was hanging in
one of the classrooms. I love you New York.
Tanya and I, end of conference glow.

George Welds, restaurateur in the city.  His speech focused largely on the value of manual labor.  He spoke of how the food justice movement must also include valuing the work that is done to put food on our tables whether it be a farmer or a line cook.  That our society looks down on these professions as careers of the uneducated and as a last resort when the people who are in these fields are doing valuable work and love their jobs.  As a former and possibly future dish washer, busser, waitress, prep cook I was a big fan of George's comments.
When you don’t believe in what your doing, work is indeed a curse”.

These folks were presenters at the conference but I made connections with a bucket load of really inspiring people who were just as amazing, just hanging out.   This conference lit a fire in me but most importantly it was fun.

A few more links: (documentary on discrimination of Black farmers by the USDA)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"Oh the humanity"

On to the art of hanging out.....

I decided to take some time out of my busy schedule to see how hang out was being defined on the web.                            From

12: to pass time idly or in relaxing or socializing <hanging at the beach> —often used with around or out <hung out with friends>

So negative Merriam.  I guess hanging out can certainly be idle but I would prefer non-judgmental language on how people choose to spend their time.  From

3 informal spend time relaxing or enjoying oneself:
musicians hang out with their own kind
All this dictionary scouring made me start to think of the phrase "hang out" and its varying contexts.  From an endearing activity, "We hung out on the porch all night, it was so nice" to an activity to be disdained, "I hate those dudes! All they do is hang out on the porch".  As a life assessment, "I have done nothing with the last ten years of my life except hang out" to the grass is always greener, "All I do is work now, I wish I could just hang out".  To relationship status, "No, we're not dating.  We just hang out". Which can mean so many things depending on what is actually hanging out.  Oh! And as a noun. But I think that time has passed, how often do you hear people refer to a place as a hang out? Maybe in some old movies.

Bed-Stuy at sunset.
Relaxing and enjoying your time indeed.  For the purposes of this blog we will roll with the Oxford definition.  I like to hang out because I like people. I get most my joy from the most mundane of activities but perhaps the most intense of human interaction.  Post office lines, train rides, work. Exposure to varying types of people is like a drug to me, it would have to be or why else would I love New York so very much?  From my golden era of hitch hiking I would often feel a peacefulness, a zen in the various combinations of people I would meet everyday. The christian trucker, the creepy trucker, the cop that would tell you to move it along, the folks at the soup kitchen you decided to dine at, the attendant at the gas station you decided to sleep behind. In those moments I would know we were all just the same, all one. Like Dr Bronner's,  all mother fucking one! SO, the art of hanging out is to maintain that feeling at as much of a standard level as possible.  You should really look at hanging out as a meditative process, not obligatory and not defined.  One giant fucking OM with your friends, with your family, with your neighbor, with your dog, with humanity, with yourself.

*Life Side Note: Today while chilling with some of my employees all non-chalant on Bedford, a young man was shot in broad day light a block away.  It pains me deeply to think of him lying on his back, in pain, staring up to the sky and bleeding profusely.  This evening I went to a community meeting and found out that the shot was indeed fatal.  Today started off such a gem.  I even got to hang out on the stoop for a moment with one of the best and cutest humans on the planet - Marcel, my land lady's husband.  I was teasing him about his retirement, "You got the life Marcel!".  He chuckled and leaned towards me and said, "Gloria, some people, they get to their death bed and they start fightin'  ya know?  Life is meant to be enjoyed."  Life is meant to be enjoyed!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mami y yo

Mami y yo, Disney World 1985.

I am just in the mood to say something about my mom and the infinite possibility for someone to blow your mind when least expected. My mind has been blown by my mom this past week.   Me, her only daughter who has quite possibly done almost absolutely everything she has ever explicitly asked me NOT to do.  It wasn't rebellion, anything a part of my life has never been about that.  It has always been about the desire to become who I intrinsically knew I wanted to be and this unfortunately caused some distress for my poor mom and friction in our relationship, which we have gratefully passed many years ago.   But my mom is still unabashedly Republican and I am still unabashedly an Anarchist.  My mother who I knew once I acquired a master's degree from an ivy league institution would hope it would change me.  She still hopes I buy a condo, even when I tell her I want to build my own home and marry a doctor even when I tell her it is highly unlikely I will ever legally marry. This week I was complaining to my mother about how working 40-50 hours a week has reduced me to a frazzled wire. Let me be clear my job is the most lovely of jobs that can be dreamed up by a POC anarcho-punk like myself.  My schedule is lax, my boss is a vegan bike rider who lets me have days off to go to radical food conferences and  I work on a rad project with people of color and in a community of color. It is a dream job but my rolling stone tendencies have led me to feeling socially, spiritually and physically claustrophobic in this tiny office of mine.  At the end of my complaints I say "I'm sorry Mami. I feel like such a brat after you and Papi have been dong this for decades and I am in this game for half a year and can barely take it. My retirement from this life is eminent."  My mother replies, "It's okay Tina.  You are you and you have different needs and a different standard of living than me and your dad. You have to do what works for you."  I love the heck out of this woman because she is a much chiller mom than the one of my child hood in that I know she has intentionally set out to become a better person and to grow.   Which gives me confidence despite the middle class bourgeois aspirations she always has had for me, that she will be happy to come live with me in her old age at the commune we both know I will end up at. A thought I think we are both secretly excited about. Even in the most disgruntled of times, we have to know everyone (this is you and everyone you know) is capable of growth and change. We all inspire each other.  Lastly, talking to my mom about my new work out regimen and the addiction of jogging I would hear people talk about but never really believed until now,  my mom says to me "Yea sometimes when I am on a walk I like to sprint.  It makes me feel like an animal, like a bear running through the woods".  Fuck yes, sheer bliss.  What more can you ask from a parent than for them to support every crazy scheme you have and to tell you that sometimes they like to feel like an animal running through the woods?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Queen of Hanging Out

Up at Stinson Beach, eating a small KFC dinner with J. Hessig under a brilliant new moon eat-it-all was birthed.  Really it was on the drive back where I was complimented as being the queen of the hang out something like "you hang hard dude.  like I have never been able to see anybody hang as hard as you".  In the moment the compliment was hard to take, because we were driving on some janky ass California road winding left to right.  I was doing my best not to see my KFC dinner again because as much of a solid bitch as I may appear to be, alas my stomach is not.  Her constitution is much weaker than mine and she easily gives in to the slightest motion, making me also the queen of vomiting in addition to the queen of hanging out.  While trying not to vomit, I was also trying to pretend that I wasn't terrified that we would plummet off the next proximate cliff despite my cautious and experienced driver.  In addition I was also trying to pretend I didn't think that every car that passed us was a serial killer who was just hoping he would happen across two not so drunk punk girls, KFC full, out on a random country road to chill in the moon light. But those sharp cliffs were fucking stunning in that moonlight, for once the Bay sky was crystal clear and after a moment I had to concur with my hang out companion that I do indeed know how to hang out and why not feel inclined to share my expertise with the damn planet.    

Eat-It-All is in reference to the Keebler brand ice cream cones, which apparently has the phrase imprinted on its brim.  When my friend and I had arrived at Stinson Beach, we had parked out front of a diner where one of the Eat-It-All ice cream cone signs was prominently displayed.  In a stupor of travel weary exhaustion, cold, and hunger I looked up at this lovely sign and I thought to myself what a perfect motto for life in general, eat-it-all.  I just came across another blog that says the last remaining Eat-It-All ice cream cone sign in New York City exists in Mott Haven, Bronx.  Perhaps I will head out there sometime soon to pay homage.