Thursday, June 30, 2011

Handkerchiefs Are Handy

I remember the day in Switzerland when my dear friend, Emmanual, pulled out a handkerchief from his pocket, blew his nose into it, and then put it back in his pocket. I was confused and surprised. I thought such practices were beyond archaic - extinct!

I remember my mom's stories (or story that has been told multiple times) about how she used to practice ironing with her father's handkerchiefs.

And now, in 2011, I use them as well.

My handkerchief history, personal experiences, goes back to 2003 or so when I first went to the Dominican Republic. I learned of their magical ability to mop up sweat and the handy-handhold they made when tied to a water bottle.

When I started contra dancing this past year, I shoved a handkerchief into my pocket before each dance to use through the night.

When I bike in the cold, my nose runs. I used to just carry around socks in my backpack to pull out at stop lights. It was after a few weeks of sock-to-nose contact that I realized I could just jump ahead and use what was meant for that purpose.

I usually have a few on me, stuffed into the pockets of my pants, backpack, and the corners of my box. I can use them to mop up spills, blow my nose, wipe sweat, create a clean eating surface, play with, collect scraps of paper to dispose of, and anything else a small square of fabric would assist you in.

I don't feel grossed out at all each time I pull one out and try and find a clean corner is. The truth is, most of the time I don't know where I've blown and where I haven't.

They're cheap.

And best of all they don't go in a landfill and don't cost me anything to maintain (except the minute amount it costs to wash them).

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Aspen Blues Recess 2011

A week where around a hundred beings came together and created a beautiful culture based on connection, creation, and dancing. Blues dancing.

Blues dancing was the initial common ground that brought us together. And from that our community was born.

A community where freedom is frequent, sleep less so, and clothing optional.

I experienced my first blues recess back in March in Portland (warehouse, coffee house, rave-venue). The blues recesses are events planned by Justin Riley where people from across the nation come together to dance. Simple as that by definition - but a lot more in reality.

That’s how I explained it to the people of Aspen when we were blues-busking (dancing in the street) to make some cash for dinner. We were a curious site, dancing on the pavement. And they had questions before they handed us the contents of their wallets generously.

Are you a team?
Nope. A bunch of individuals who came together to dance.

How do you know each other?
Through dancing.

Where are you from?
Seattle. Portland. San Francisco. Austin. D.C. Denver. Albuquerque. Ukraine. Russia. Mexico. All over.

And what are you guys doing?
Blues dancing – partner dancing with African roots.

And what are you doing in Aspen?
We’re traveling around Colorado, not just Aspen, going from location to location, creating moments, memories, and letting all things go. Environments have been sought out and created by the organizer, Justin, that can only be described as magical.

After my first blues recess, the Urban Blues Recess, I was hooked and ready to connect with this community again. Post-UBR, people had violent reactions to what had happened. Some hated it and what it had been (insanity) and others had fallen so deeply into this life that coming out of it was like being woken up by being thrown from your down bed into a near-frozen lake.

To get to Colorado, a lot of folks flew. But after cost calculations, I realized that wouldn’t be as feasible as I’d like it to be. So I found three other girls and we decided to make the 2,473 mile journey together.

We didn’t know each other before – although we had some sort of knowledge of each other. I had met one of the girls, Amica, one morning of UBR when we had created “the Creature” and I had run into Kyle at Gasworks during Honkfest a month prior.

The three main characters of our caravan, the Natal Group, in addition to me were Kyle (age 18 of Seattle), Amica (age 19 of Portland, originally Albuquerque), and Christi (age 19 of Corvallis). Despite our internet communication prior to departure, I don’t think any of us expected strong bonds to form. In fact, I think we all expected something brinking on the worse. We were prepared to stomach through over 40 hours in a car with other girls (that’s where the danger lies) – doing what we had to do to get where we had to be.

What was originally just an obstacle or the journey turned into an event of note itself. Oh how we bonded. Oh how relationships were formed! These girls became dear to me within a day and, from there, we only got closer. I don’t even know how to convey in words what happened in that car.

When we finally got to Elsewhere (the first environment the blues recess presented to us), we burst through the round hobbit door in hysterics, hands held together, not prepared for the transition from road trip to blues dancing. One would have thought that we would have wanted to get time from each other, but it was on the contrary. Through the night we kept finding ourselves back together in the straw or sprawled on the floor.

Elsewhere was our first stop on this journey. Elsewhere Studios is the full name. Elsewhere is, genuinely, one of the most incredible places I’ve been. Every element of the house is a work of art. From the textured copper sinks to the painted walls to the free standing tubs to the closest with the throne toilet. Elsewhere was created by and artist, Willow Wind. The layout is full of nooks and crannies to explore and holes to sleep in. There are lofts and ladders and a small corner room that hosts just a bed. The solid wood floor was the best dance floor of the week. But it wasn’t just a geometrical house. The yard is worth note too. Heading out the back door is a multilayered lawn that encouraged gathering and mobbing. A giant bus is parked to the left and suited up to host a handful. A gingerbread cottage sleeps an artist in residence. A creek (pardon me, ditch) runs thru. A hairpin turn slanting down turns to a straw path that leads to a hammock, chicken coop, and the crown jewel of the yard, the hot tub. The hot tub is an old wooden half-barrel whose water is heated with a wood-burning stove. Everything is surrounded by trees that create cool shade heated by a warm breeze that push the leaves about mesmerizingly when you try to take a nap.

And we danced and lived and explored. This is the recess.

All of this happened in the small mining town of Paonia that managed to hold as much charm as it had churches. The next morning our parade of lovelies took the streets by musical storm to the park where our infectious culture spread.

1.5 miles away was another world and our next environment, the Trading Post and the fields and woods behind it. As the old folks of Paonia (who I met) would say, the Trading Post is where “those hippie people” go. It’s a store at the end of a long gravel road in the country selling all things local, organic, and healthy. The kind of foods that hippies (whatever that means) feast off of. Beyond the Trading Post was a field with a few wooden settings to nest in.

On Friday night, the calm landscape turned surreal as gentle lights shone from the trees and gauze created a ceiling-less room. This was our ballroom. The tall-grass was beaten and trampled down by our rhythmic, pulsing movements into a makeshift dance-floor that got better as the night progressed. We felt peace. And we felt alive. The term “magical” is appropriate here to describe our temporary existence that night.

In the morning, we ate breakfast on the gravel road next to the car from a communal bowl, danced again in the sun, and packed out to head for the mountains, 7,9620 feet higher in elevation than what I’m used to back home, following the Crystal River.

At mile marker 25 on Highway 133 we pulled over for some would-be-cliff-jumping the water had not been so high. As clothes were shed, the cops made an appearance. I guess they had nothing better to do than crack down on “those darn naked hippies,” except they never actually scrambled down to us (bit of a hike). Someone would pass the message along, screaming, “Cops!” and everyone would rush for their clothes. Within 30 minutes the community was back to where they were and eventually the cops would return, look over the cliff, and call out again. We lounged in the sun and plunged into the reservoir of the River.

Our next refuge greeted us with a sign boasting a population of 83 – welcome to Marble. Our arrival instantly increased the town’s population by 1.5 and we nestled down at the local Mari Daes campground. Marble is the most literal town I’ve encountered. Marble, that’s just about all there is to this town.

An old, broken down marble mill site was where our community connected and grew that night. The rough lay-out of the old factory was still there with one, jagged marble wall set as a backdrop before the looming Elk Mountains. Marble dust was sprinkled on the floor, smoothing out each turn we kept and keeping track of the patterns of our heavy feet.

The soundtrack created that night was one uniquely for us by the marvelous Mr. Moo (Milo Hayden of Portland). A classically trained violinist gone creative – he had created rich tracks over which he played live for us, matching the mood of the dancers.

Sunday morning came quickly and we were whisked to the final destination – Aspen, Colorado, a popular resting place, apparently, for celebrities. Out of the woods we came, down from the mountains, our classy crew – and claimed the patio as our dance floor. Before dancing, though, we set up camp at Difficult Campground. What a fitting name.

The Natal Group of four had set up our tent next to her river in a small clearing – without a rainfly – before setting off to the main city of Aspen. The locals admired us from a distance and up close – and pulled out their wallets to donate to the “Feed the Dance” and “Tips” box. The local coffee shop gave us a bag of enormous cookies. We were fueled by the generosity of the city. As the moon rose, our own band of Olympian musicians laid down the melody of the night. We responded to their song in the way we best knew how and danced on. When the live set was complete and the onlookers had wandered away, a local bar welcomed us to take their dance floor and sound system. For an hour or two more, we kept moving as long as the music was playing. We were violently shaken back into reality, though, when the bar’s DJ was required to take back the floor for the regular attenders. Grinding-drink-bearing girls and stumbling men invaded and the beats no longer inspired our movements but discouraged them.

It was time for the dancers to find a new home. Our organizer, Justin, had set up this night to be for clubbing. All except one of the clubs were not an option to the 21 and under crowd and the one left over didn’t intrigue any of us after the required cover fee. Four of us wandered around to find the only place we could find that would take us in until 2 AM, when the ABR-crew had rented out a club for our own dancing pleasure. A bit of searching and we found, way up on the second floor, New York Pizza. Open till 2:30 AM it was perfect. It wasn’t long before the small restaurant was filled with other blues dancers, looking for a place to hang out before the final late night dance of the week. Amid bites the downpour began and we couldn’t forget the rain-fly-less tent back at the Difficult Campground.

Without a sign of letting up, we realized the rain was something we were going to have to deal with and packed into the car for a near-solemn drive to see how things looked. How did they look? Puddled and wet. Flooded and inhabitable. Time for redistribution. One male had joined the group and he took charge in redistributing the would-be-soggy girls. Two of our group would join him in his two-person tent and I was connected with a tweed-wearing sir and a lovely from Australia in a blue tent that could only be reached by “forging the river.”

With everyone settled, we got back to Aspen in time for the opening of the club. Underneath the town, it was a long metallic round tunnel shaped room, like an airstream trailer or something from a Star Wars ship. The floor was sticky. And it was time for the final dance of the recess. A few local clubbers remained as we took the floor. They groped and slammed against each other. We connected, seamlessly moving together with non-verbal communication. They squatted right next to us and stared from their low-perch on the dance floor. We closed our eyes and moved on.

It wasn’t long before our wonderful DJ decided it was time to take over the club in totality. Classic blues was turned on and the locals started to lose their dance-inspiration. We took away their club music and their bodies turned confused, no knowing how to move to the powerful, rich, authentic voices that hadn’t been auto tuned or set to electronic beats. As they filed out, we spread out.

At one point, when I was dancing with Amica, a man came over. Amica was at a state of being protective (and sick of the pursuits of drunken men) gave him a flat-handed shove. He wasn’t agitated as he said he needed to talk to us in the corner. It took me three seconds to identify him as the bar tender. As we were about to move with him, Jae, the DJ of the moment, came over and said, “Not those two,” pointing to us, “those two.” And our eyes followed his finger to two girls smashing against each other.  They were asked to leave the club. We were amused. Highly. Once the club was our, the DJ brought our beats back, although not fully leaving the classics behind, and for the last time, in my company, the hundred or so of us connected and moved together until 5 in the morning.

After the dance, long story short, it too my crew until around 5:45 AM to find our “lost car.” For twenty minutes, I ran the streets of Aspen in search of a silver Volkswagen Jetta. Getting back to the camping ground, we were exhausted as the sun came up. I forged the river to find that, in the tent where my stuff had been stored; my belongings for the night were gone. I doubled checked with that it was my tent and indeed it was. Then I took a second look at the sleeping back the tweed-jacket-sir was sleeping in. Very familiar. My sleeping bag. As the rain continued to sprinkle, I tapped on the tent of the three in the two-person tent and they quickly welcomed me in. The amicable, hospitable Sir and owner of the tent made it his duty, that night, to be a comfortable bed for the three girls. With just one sleeping bag and blanket between the four of us, somehow we (as in I) managed to rest up. Around three hours, if we were lucky enough to have slept, we woke up stiff, cold, and damp. Well, that’s what I think we were. I know I myself was content, sore, and satisfied.

Whereas, after UBR there was no transition from dream-state to reality, the rain was a bit of a shake-up and introduction to reality for us. What would have been a long, sprawled-out-dawdle to leave camp to head back home turned into a quick, quiet, efficient, and non-monumental departure. By early morning we were gone, having only said good-bye to five people maximum.

The Natal group, plus Sam, reunited one last time in Aspen for an overpriced breakfast, before conquering the road. The final Natal-moment occurred when we sung out, “You and I,” to each other, swaying to our own voices in the middle of the coffee shop. The group was cracked into two has Kyle left for the Denver airport. The remaining three of us jumped back in the car and we made the seven hour trip to Alpine, Utah for the night, where we rested and recharged with the family of a friend of mine.

Tuesday was the final day of travel, just 796 miles, to Portland. Just outside of the city, the perfect sunset occurred along the Columbia River – the perfect closure to our journey together. When we got to Portland, plans changed and we stuck together for one more night.

It was on Wednesday, at 2:50 PM, that I boarded the Amtrak train for Seattle. Three hours to reflect. And then I was back in the wooden structure that I’ve been taught to call home. Although, quite honestly, I felt just as at home in the straw or curled up in that tent as I do safe under my grandmother’s quilt in Seattle.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Plastic Bottles : Yes, I'm Judging You

Quite honestly, yes, I do judge you when I see a plastic bottle in your hands.

See, that bottle you just used for a few minutes is going to end up on this earth for a very, very long time. Probably longer than you'll be here.

And to that I say, "You're selfish, clueless, and need some guidance."

There are two routes I can, and will, take on plastic bottled beverages. An earth standpoint and a health one.



Drinks that come in plastic bottles rarely are any good for you. They are normally packed full of evil sugars and chemicals that do more harm than good. They're full of empty calories, no nutrients, and long lists of ingredients.

I came home from Colorado to find my mom had bought three cases of Lipton Diet Green Tea.
And it upset me.

First - why would you ever, ever need to label tea as diet? Tea. Calorie free.

Tea (good for you - although hopefully caffeine free and herbal/green) + Water (good for you) = Can't Go Wrong

So I looked at the label with all of its words and I sighed. I took a sip and felt gross. Not because of the ingredients but because it tasted awful! It was sour and off and didn't taste like tea at all. How can this be good for her?

What about other bottled beverages? It is very rare that a liquid convenient drink in plastic is good for you. All the actually good drinks (like unsweetened real teas, kombucha, and water) tend to come in glass jars. But in plastic comes things like coke, juice, and fake-teas. All three of those are not not not not good for you. I'd go on and on but hopefully you know that already.

If you drink pop, stop. The only pop I will drink is Rivella and I can only get that in Switzerland. It's flavoured with milk whey and delicious... but also inaccessible.

Things like coke dehydrate you and leave you wanting more. They harm the body and do more than you might know. Cut out the pop. Cut out the juice (the only juice you should be getting should be 100% juice and hopefully freshly squeezed - fruit juice should be limited to ones that are beneficial and pure).


Plastic comes from petroleum.
It's not really good to reuse disposable plastic bottles -- and we all know they'll end up in the trash anyways.

What I Do

See, I loose things -- a lot. So buying a $10 water bottle isn't very wise for me. I also hate drinking from plastic. So I've got a fleet of small glass bottles I use. The brown ones hold 2 cups of water and I manage to get around 4 bottles worth of water in me a day.

In the morning I brew some tea in a measuring cup and then pour that in to start the day off. When it's empty, I just refill.

I have yet to have one break on me and I've been using these small bottles for at least 2 years, I believe.

They clean perfectly. Have no odor. Don't absorb anything. They're smooth.

And, here's the great thing, if I loose it, it's fine! I know someone will just toss it into the recycling bin (hopefully) and it won't be a huge financial investment.

The bottles I use come from drinks I enjoy and that my body likes like kombucha and carbonated water.

The Action

I brewed up some real organic decaffeinated tea and put it in a bottle for my mom in the fridge.
That's what her body needs.
Hope she makes the switch someday. It would make me so happy!

Monday, June 20, 2011

On the Bus: Music Survey

I boarded the 313 this morning and took my seat near the back near my fellow bus mates Alieya and Nathan. By the time we reached our mid point I realized that 9/10 of us had headphones on.

We weren't engaging in conversation.
Merely on our way.

So I did a quick music survey to see what everyone was listening to. Find out what music fueled their morning commutes.

Here we go:

Kid Rock
Gucci Main
Chrisette Michele
Freaky J
Deathcab for Cutie
Dr. Dre

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Day I Decided to Fix My Bike

I'd been told a few things about my bike. Maybe the chain was loose. Perhaps the derailer was funky. The whole thing was mangled (??) and I was supposed to just get a new one...

Whatever it is - the verdict was that my bike was not fit to ride the distances I required of it.

And it frustrated me. Because biking is how I like to get around. Give me a good bike and I can rack up the miles.

So I had this advice from males who know stuff about how things work.. They pretty much told me my bike was crap and to get a new one. But I decided I wanted to make my bike work that day. I was impatient and wanted to ride it then. I didn't want to buy parts. I didn't want to find a new bike. I just wanted it fixed.

I turned it over and for a solid hour I tinkered away. Scratched. Scraped. Bent. Twisted.

The problem was very basic... and what no one had mentioned to me.

And in the end, I was covered in grease and very, very content.
And I fixed it.
And proceeded to ride it around from Kenmore to Juanita to Mountlake Terrace to Seattle for 33 miles in less than 24 hours following...

Take that, bike. I fixed you!

I'm still told I need to buy a new bike... but I don't want a new bike. I like my bike. This bike.

I tried to look at other bikes and they weren't my bike... and I couldn't really picture them becoming my bike either.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Clothed in Memories

[june 3 11] - Clothing Memories

My favourite items of clothing are those with memories or people attatched to them.

In this photograph, every piece of clothing shown had a story to it beyond "I went to H&M and got these socks."

The necklace was crafted for me by my incredible, dear, longest-ever, knows-me-best-best-friend Carole Bronson. She is one of the most selfless people I know and full of zeal!

The vest was purchased for a buck in Olympia with my jubilant, twist-and-shout friend of many miles Joelle Friend. Even though she lives a wee bit of a distance, we still manage to run into each other most months. This was froma surprise visit I got to make with school to Olympia. She met me at the Capital and we got a short bit of time together.

The shirt was from an exchange in the Dick's parking lot during a 23 hour encounter with the memorable-upside-down-facial-haired-thick-sideways-hugged-Irish friend for a day from Colorado Andrew Cardella for a map jacket.

Each time I pull each item on, I get a bucket of memories with them. Attached to all of them are joyous feelings and little aids for day dreaming.

Not pictured is the pants from the boy who travels onwards and upwards, Patrick.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My Agenda

[june 2 11] - My Agenda

Representing hundreds of hours spent living.
Representing around a hundred hours spent creating.

Might look like a scrapbook - but it's how I keep track of events so I don't let people down.

Here's it in full resolution:
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