Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Ups and Downs of My Vegan Vacation

What: Let Live NW Animal Rights Conference in Portland, OR, followed by a week-long vacation in Vancouver, BC.
Who: Me and my main-squeeze, Mariann.
When: Late June/Early July, 2009

Up: Finally having the gumption to get to LaGuardia on public transportation.
Down: Getting off the plane in Portland and going straight to the ER for my scratched eyeball. (Should I admit that this was a makeup mishap?)
Up: The fairly hot lesbian doctor at the hospital (and with a script for Vicadin, as an added bonus).
Up: Seeing Isa, and getting catty with Kirby, Avocado, and Fizz.
Up: The much-anticipated Vegan Mini-Mall. It is, indeed, all it’s cracked up to be.
Up: The best tattoo ever at Scapegoat. The wonderful Valentino is on my leg for eternity (and covering up a teenage mistake, to boot).

Down: The Vicadin (yes, the-eyeball-Vicadin) wearing off at the same time as the adrenaline during the process of getting the best tattoo ever.
Down: The ironically harried atmosphere at Blossoming Lotus.
Up: Snacking on the kale chips from Food Fight Grocery.
Up: Vegan doughnuts from VooDoo Doughnuts. I especially love the “Dirty Old Bastard.” (Vegan doughnuts are fat and calorie-free, right?)
Up: The amazingly convenient Trimet trip planner for public transportation in Portland.
Down: It ain’t the A train. You’ve gotta wait for the buses, often for a long time.
Down: Walking for a mile and a half – uphill – to get to the Rose Gardens.
Up: Stopping on the way to play on the swings.

Down: The Rose Gardens aren’t all that rosey.
Up: The Japanese Gardens, however, are luscious.

Up: Taking a break in the Japanese Gardens for a Buccaneer from Food Fight. Tastes just like a Milky Way, but minus the oppression.
Down: Finding out that Michael Jackson died and knowing that an era has died with him. Then trying to shove that new piece of information into a pocket of your brain just long enough to stop and smell the roses.
Up: When ordering food at Bye and Bye and asking if the “cheese” on the menu was vegan, getting a “duh” look. Um, yeah….
Up: Last Thursday on Alberta Street.
Up: Being leafleted to go vegan at Last Thursday on Alberta Street.
Up: The look on the face of the leafleter when she realizes I’m wearing a vegan t-shirt. Then, the conversation that transpired from that.
Up: Someone complimenting my new tattoo that I just got the day before.
Up: My rad new vegan shoes.
Down: Slowly but surely grasping the fact that my rad new vegan shoes hurt my little pinky toes…a lot.
Up: Trying on cruelty-free diva wigs.

Up: Passing a beautiful garden near Alberta Street as we looked for the rerouted bus.
Down: Passing it several more times since we were laughably lost.
Down: Getting tut-tutted at by the bus driver for attempting to pick up the rerouted bus at a non-bus stop.
Up: Having the bus driver let you on anyway, despite his visible annoyance.
Up: The vegan spread at the Ethiopian joint where we had lunch. Realizing that one of your friend’s friends is actually your friend too. It’s a small world after all…
Up: Singing “What’s Up?” with Gene Baur at karaoke night opening the Let Live Northwest Animal Rights conference at Portland State University.

Up: Josh Hooten’s karaoke salute to homosexuality…complete with a pink polo!

Up: The vegan soft serve at the Let Live opening party.
Down: Being too late to get any vegan soft serve at the Let Live opening party.
Down: No vegan breakfast in sight. This is Portland, folks. “And I scream from the top of my lungs…What’s going on?!”
Up: Kim McCoy’s riveting opening speech.
Down: Realizing that one of my workshops planned for that very afternoon is remarkably similar to Kim McCoy’s riveting opening speech. Quickly doing some rewrites.
Up: Awesome, inspiring activists at my farm animal advocacy workshop.

Up: Getting through my writing for the animals workshop in one piece and actually feeling good about it. Getting an email the next day from an attendee who started a blog because of it. Yay creativity!

Up: Being given a copy of a college student's vegan cooking zine after the workshop (and I am in love with it).
Up: Telling my most embarrassing activist story in front of several hundred activists, including some of my mentors.
Down: Telling my most embarrassing activist story in front of several hundred activists, including some of my mentors.
Up: Great dinner with Gene, Liz, Jason, and Heather at the Let Live fund raiser at Bye and Bye (yes, Bye and Bye again and again).
Down: Realizing that the reason many people were missing at Bye and Bye dinner was because they were at Portobello Vegan Trattoria, a restaurant we were dying to try.
Down: Further realizing that Portobello was going to be closed for the remainder of our trip. Grrrr….
Up: Fried coconut pies at the food cart, and the homemade vegan caramels.

Up: The powdered soy creamer we got at Food Fight so we can finally move beyond plain black coffee in our hotel room.
Up: Getting to talk on a panel with lauren Orneles and Pulin Modi.
Up: Buttnernut squash enchiladas at the Iron Horse with Jenny and Doug.
Up: Watching Ruby Bird Hooten lip sync at her house, later that evening.

Down: The incredibly tiny plane (with propellers!) taking us from Portland to Vancouver.
Up: A sweet flight attendant who took a particular liking to the vegan lesbians from the Big Apple.
Up: Getting out alive.
Up: Reading the menu at the Westin Hotel in Vancouver and noticing that they have 100% vegan cupcakes. Jumping up and down wildly. Then noticing that about half their menu is vegan. Weeping with joy, even though we couldn’t afford any of it.
Up: Splurging on the $10 cupcakes anyway. Thanking the chef and telling him we’re vegan. Getting two free cupcakes as a result.
Up: Daiya Cheese at the Naam. The best nachos we’ve ever had.
Up: Having lots of leftovers, and a mini-fridge in our hotel room in which to store them.
Up: Davie Street, which was remarkably similar to the Castro.
Up: The book selection at Little Sisters.
Down: Absolutely no signs on any bus stops anywhere in Vancouver. We started to think that the motto should be: “Canada…Guess!”
Down: No public transport maps to be found anywhere. And nobody having any clue how to advise you as to how to get where. I’m surprised that carless Canadians don’t just walk in circles.
Up: Somehow figuring it out anyway, often with the help of very sweet (and tolerant!) bus drivers.
Up: Feasting on a delish veggie dog. They are available at every corner hot dog stand!

Down: The disappointment of Commercial Avenue, including the food at Cafe Deux Soleils.
Up: Kitsalano, or “Kits,” on the most picture-perfect day you could ever imagine, sitting at the beach with a view of spectacular mountains and a beautiful city, fifteen minutes from downtown on a bus. (The 4, in case you’re lost.)

Up: Walking from Kitsalano Beach to Granville Island.
Down: Everything was closed at Granville Island, even though it was only 7 p.m.
Up: Taking a water taxi back to downtown, where everything was open, and it didn’t get dark until 10.
Up: Canada Day! Who knew?
Down: Scratching my glasses and breaking the track ball on my blackberry at the same time. (Yes, my glasses and my eyeball both got scratched in the Pacific Northwest.)
Up: The fabulous glasses guy, Reed, who gave me his take on what sights to see and which to miss...once he fixed my glasses, of course.
Up: The steam clock in Gastown.
Up: The coffee store that used maple syrup instead of sugar.
Down: Hastings Street is perhaps the most terrifying/depressing street I’ve ever seen.
Up: Great local cherries.
Up: The Loonies and Toonies. (That’s one-dollar coins and two-dollar coins.)
Up: The chocolate fondue at Foundation that made me a little too exuberant.
Down: The loud banging music at Foundation that made me a little too homicidal.
Up: The quote on the building of Foundation.

Down: Not being able to see the fireworks from our hotel room because our room faced the wrong way.
Down: Mariann’s dopey head cold that suddenly surfaced.
Down: Waking up early for an all-day adventure to Victoria.
Down: The VERY LOUD TALKER on the bus on the way to the ferry boat. (His basement flooded and the handyman refuses to fix it. He is on his way to Victoria with his band for the jazz festival. I know many more details about his life in case you’re curious.)
Up: Distracting myself from his rantings by listening to “Hey Eugene” on Mariann’s iPhone over and over.
Up: The breathtakingly beautiful (and incredibly windy!) ferry ride to Vancouver Island.

Up: The seagull who joined us for the journey.

Up: The vegan pizza (with homemade vegan cheese) at The Joint in Victoria.
Down: Victoria is such a cliché tourist joint that it’s hard to palate.
Down: Losing one of Mariann’s flip flops.
Up: Finding a 45-minute boat tour of Victoria, and passing the coolest floating homes (okay, the only floating homes) I’ve ever seen.

Up: The Salvation Army Thrift Store in Victoria, amidst all the tourist shops.
Up: The poetic sunset on the ferry trip home.

Up: Sleeping late the next day.
Down: The long bus ride plus the long walk to Wreck Beach.
Down: The even longer stairs (like, hundreds) that take you down to Wreck Beach.
Down: Being totally disillusioned by what a clothing-optional beach is like.
Down: Finding out what a prude I am.
Up: Keeping our clothes on the whole time.
Up: Leaving, nearly immediately.
Down: The climb to the top of the never-ending staircase that takes you out of Wreck Beach.
Up: The guy with the “Meat is Murder” tattoo on his back, who was always just too far ahead on the stairs to catch up to.
Up: Bodacious, my new favorite (non-thrift) clothing store.
Up: The housemade kombucha, the chocolate hemp shake, and all the other delicious food at Radha.
Up: Eavesdropping on the vegan meetup next to us. Cheerfully noticing that the men far outnumbered the women.
Up: The once-in-a-lifetime train trip from Vancouver to Whistler. This train went through trestles and mountains and rivers (oh my!).

Down: The mean people who sat behind us who, instead of just asking, rudely yelled at me for having my seat reclined while they were holding their screaming infant.
Down: Whistler itself, where we had 2 hours to explore. As Mariann said, “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

Up: The watercress sandwiches and tea they served on the train trip home.
Up: The screaming infant from earlier was not on the train trip home.
Down: He was replaced by two screaming toddlers. It’s like they multiply.
Up: Lying on Jericho Beach the entire next day and reading.


Up: Devouring an advanced copy of Jane Velez Mitchell’s new book, I Want, and eagerly anticipating its publication so I can buy a copy for everyone I’ve ever met.
Up: The lemongrass tofu at the all-vegan Dharma Kitchen might be the best tofu I’ve ever eaten in my life. And don’t even get me started on the banana tapioca pudding.

Up: Dharma Kitchen’s adorable, eager, and yarmulke-wearing hipster waiter.
Down: Despite all the hype, The Oasis has no piano – but they do have a waiter who doesn’t wear a shirt.
Up: Coming back to Portland after a Vancouver vacation. It kind of felt like coming home, in some weird way.
Up: The Max Red Line stops right in the airport terminal. Easy-peasey!
Up: The honkin huge vegan burritos in Pioneer Square, Portland. (They give discounts for non-dairy burritos!)

Up: Having lesbian food with Josh, Michelle, Ruby, and Heather. (Okay, it was Lebanese…)
Down: During an intended leisurely morning in Portland prior to our afternoon flight, realizing the flight is in just over an hour! Scrambling to get to the airport on time.
Up: Miraculously, getting to the airport on time.
Down: A 3 ½ hour layover in Denver, and the greesy gross "veggie" sandwich we ate. Blech.
Down: 45 minutes before we land in NYC, the pilot says (word for word, I’m not kidding), “In case an emergency evacuation becomes necessary, leave everything!” WTF?!
Up: No emergency evacuation became necessary.
Up: Despite spending 14 days in the Pacific Northwest, an area renowned for it’s rainy weather, we experience only sunny skies.
Down: The second – and I mean the second – we touch down in NYC, it begins to rain torrentially.
Up: Spending time with Mariann, the most wonderful travel (and life) companion one could ask for. (Awwww, I know…)