Last Sunday, Rose and I headed over the to alternative medicine conference thingy that was taking place during the Eugene fest and we heard herbivorous's talk about how to embrace both herbalism and modern western medicine. She talked about how western medicine is really good for dealing with trauma whereas there isn't much herbs can do in such situation. She talked about how herbs are often really good for dealing with chronic issues as well as for PREVENTING illness/maintaining wellness. I hadn't heard the term "tonic herbs" before, though I was familiar with the concept of taking a combination of herbs daily to maintain wellness. She talked about the difference between pharmaceutical drugs (single chemical compouds extracted, synthesized, and concentrated) and herbs (complex matrices of many active compounds that complement each other in complex ways). You can't patent an herb, but you can patent (and profit off of) a drug. So aspirin can give you stomach problems even though the plant that it is derived from contains other compounds that protect against that side effect. Fucking profiteers. Can we just abolish the entire concept of medical patents please?
Most interestingly, she revealed some really interesting information about possible herbal regimens that may significantly aid people who are on Chemotherapy. Apparently there's a lot of evidence to suggest that certain herbs strengthen the healthy cells while weakening the cancer cells so that the chemo and radiation therapies will actually do a better job of killing the cancer while the rest of the body will heal faster. Other herbs can help with appetite and nausea and such. This is a key area where doctors and herbalists should really be working together!
Afterwards, she and I talked a bit about the whole issue of how much quackery there is out there in the alternative medicine world. It really is such a shame that people have to work hard to find someone like herbivorous who spent several years of her life getting a bachelors degree in herbalism, studying biochemistry right along side traditional practices. She really knows her shit and I hate that in some people's minds she probably gets grouped with the New Age Quacks. I wish her business the best of luck.
Later that night we all went out to a local bar for some drinking and pool. Chia wanted to get drunk with me because she's still getting used to the idea that I drink (her first exposure to that was my last New Year's Eve Party).
The bar seemed kind of lame at first because the pool tables were those lame small bar size pool tables (but they were FREE on Sunday nights!) and the jukebox was not on. But once we started playing, it was fun. I'm really bad at pool and I found it was especially hard to play on the smaller sized more chaotic bar table but it was fun anyway. Chia's Enich showed up with his own pool cue, that was intimidating but with appropriate team distribution fun was had by all. Eventually the old bartender left and the younger bartender turned on the tunes (no jukebox, but great tunes played on the stereo).
I drank 3 shots of jack and a shot of tequilla. I'd never done a tequilla shot before, did the whole salt and lime ritual thing. I'm all for ritual when drinking. It was fun. And really with the ritual you have no idea that you are drinking. I can see how people get REALLY wasted on that stuff.
We got Jared to drink. We fed him his first ever shots. He didn't get drunk though, sadly. He said he didn't feel ANY effect at all. Rose abstained and drove us home. Jared was game for trying to get our very straight-laced friend Matt drunk with peer pressure later in the week but we never got around to it.
We shot the shit about many different things. As weeks have passed I don't remember the highlights but the really nice thing was that it was that kind of laid back half-reminiscing half-random-bullshitting really comfortable talk that I just don't have much with the people I hang out with every day. I think that maybe that stuff comes more naturally for friends who haven't seen each other in ages.
And there was plenty of catching up and bonding for Chia and I especially since we've never _really_ spent that much time together. We've had a few really great conversations over the time we've known each other and we've always felt a good connection, we're both really interested in each other and we know we are good friends right off the bat...but we met when my life was in utter chaos and she moved away before that chaos had really resolved and since then we've just seen each other here and there. This was probably only the second time we've had really extended quality time together.
At some point in the night I mentioned that I'd never been to a sex shop before. On the way home, me still drunk, Rose and Jared took me to one to giggle at all the silly merchandise. They have this huge super store, well lit, with a nice cat (you know a place isn't sleazy if there's an open door and the cat hangs out and mellowly gets pet between the XXX teens and the anal sections). We walked around giggling, checking out the variety of DVDs and toys and such. I realized the moment I started to sober up when I all of sudden it became really pretty boring being there. We left without any purchases and felt a little bad about being tourists at the sex shop...such bad consumers.
Sobering up before going to sleep was something I hadn't done before. I woke up from a night of drunkenness for the first time without any muscle aches. I never get a hangover headache or puke or anything ever...but I usually wake up stiff in the joints with achy muscles. This time I woke up feeling entirely refreshed. I wonder if it is because I slept better because I wasn't sleeping drunk.
Hobbits and Relationships
On Monday, Rose and Chia and I drove out to the Oregon coast. We hiked down to the beach along a thing called the Hobbit Trail. I thought this was a silly name until I got deep into the trail. It really really was like a trail made for hobbits. We had to duck down most of the way. The trail was really steep and really lush with vegetation, lots of mossy stuff on all the trees so it had an enchanted kind of look. Very hobbity. We ate wild blueberries and some other fuzzy berries that Chia told us were edible on the way down. Yummy. Always go hiking with an herbalist!
The beach was AWESOME! I took lots of pictures. I'll post them later when I'm not on a train at 3am. We saw tidal pools, anemone, starfish, jellyfish, mussels (chia grabbed a bunch to cook), amazing bluffs and greenery and dunes and ocean. And for most of the time it was completely deserted.
My bladder was in top form during the hike; I had to pee 6 times! I didn't hear the end of that any time soon.
On the drive out there, Chia told her current relationship story to us. It was a classic story, very familiar to me, but with even more hairy than the version of the story that I experienced and that others I know have experienced. The night before Jared and I had eluded to The New Orleans Trip (of doom) and the complex relationshipy issues that said trip entailed. Anyway, by the time we headed back for Eugene I realized that I DEFINITELY had to tell my 1993-1998 relationship soap opera story. I was just going to tell the New Orleans trip part but I found that the story needed some background. Especially since Chia knew some of the characters involved. So I spent the whole two hours telling the LEAD UP to the New Orleans trip. As I told it Rose remarked "I feel like I just heard the SAME story on the way out and the way back from each of you". It's amazing how these little human dramas all play out in the same basic forms for so many people. I hadn't told that story in it's full glory in several years and it was probably the first time I'd told the whole story since I'd gotten over all the issues involved. There's so much distance from that whole mess now that it is hard for me to imagine how much craziness and pain was swirling around me for like 5 years straight. I think Chia felt better to hear that someone else's relationship story was as soap operatic and painful and weird and confusing as hers was. I think it's all going to work out well for her and her boy, he's a cool guy. I hope he heals well from all the strife he's been through from his previous situation. No one deserves to be treated like that.
Later in the week we went out to dinner and Jared was there and I let him tell the New Orleans story from HIS perspective. How embarrassing to learn just how much insight he and the other hostages on that trip had into what was really going on during that trip! I mean, I always figured it was obvious but they all pled ignorance at the time when I tried to apologize. Apparently it was pretty miserable for the lot of them to be dragged through it (though they probably could have shrugged it off if EVERYTHING THAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG ON A ROADTRIP, also went wrong). They're all still my friends though, and I love 'em for that! Then I "wrapped up" the denoument from there and hours later the story was done and the restraunt people were waiting impatiently for us to go home. To think that Chia and I met BEFORE most of that stuff had happened and haven't really talked much until now. I'm both a completely different person and the same. It's good to remember that I'm still mostly the same (in all the good ways, e.g. didn't throw out the baby with the bathwater when I finally escaped the 5 years of abuse and eventually, years later, found myself again). It's good to reach out to old friends. It's good to retell old stories.
For the rest of the week we just chilled out at Rose and Jared's place. We were all pretty content with the activities of earlier in the week and wanted nothing more than to just veg. We watched Josie and the Pussycats (subversive comedy about a girl band fighting the evil music industry), Ghost World (surreal teen post-high school story with Steve Buscemi based on comic book, directed by the guy who did Crumb), Sunshine State (John Sayles flick about developers and race relations in Florida), Mighty Wind (the Spinal Tap of folk music), Igby Goes Down (dark comedy about rich brat in New York facing bohemian tragedy with many Culkins). I'd seen all of them except Mighty Wind which I very much enjoyed, I was laughing out loud a lot. Even though the whole movie was full of total corn, I REALLY dug the Folksmen's very bluesy rehearsal of the Wandering song they would eventually be foiled from playing at the big gig.
On my last night in Oregon, we went for a long walk along the river and shot some more shit. It was awesome. Then we played The Game of Real Life, a silly game I'd picked up earlier in the week. I gave Chia a "safety hug" goodbye in case I didn't see her the next day, and it was a good thing because Jared and I were running really late on Friday and didn't have time to stop and say goodbye to Chia at work.
Jared and I drove up to Seattle to see Matt. It was nice to have that long car trip because Jared and I didn't get to talk much during my Oregon stay because he had a busy work schedule and had to go to sleep early most nights.
In Seattle, we saw Bubba Ho-Tep. HOLY CRAP. You all must go see this movie now! Bruce Cambell plays Elvis who is living in a Nursing Home in Texas. No one believes he is really Elvis. He teams up with a black guy who claims to be JFK and they battle a monster! How fucking cool is that? Bruce Campbell rocks in this movie.
We also met some of Matt's amazon coworkers and played some poker. Surprisingly I managed to only lose $1 out of the $10 initial buy in after playing for a couples of hours.
Before that we also ate some great Afghani food. I'd never had that before and this was definitely top notch stuff.
On Saturday, Matt was on call all day, but Jared and I met Gel and Brent for dinner and then Jared went back to Matt's and Gel and Brent and I went out to see a play at the Seattle Fringe Theater Festival. We only got to see one play but it was AWESOME. It was a solo guy doing monologues as grumpy the dwarf as an old man in a nursing home talking about how Snow wrecked their family, the chairman of the russian may day parade speaking to a group of american comrades, a swiss border guard (I think from The Sound of Music) giving grief to a group of austrian refuges, and Darrin (from Bewitched) on death row for killing Sam. It was called "Figures of Authority". It was hilarious. It was dramatic. It was tragic. It was emotional. It was silly.
We had coffee afterwards. Gel and Brent are two more people I don't talk to much in person. I used to talk to Gel online A LOT, an insane amount, and Brent and I have a semi-adversarial relationship online but in real life I always get along with him just fine. It was great to hang out with them in their natural habitat, and again just shoot the shit.
Then I got on a train. I've watched both directors commentary tracks on Moulin Rouge (god that movie rocks more and more each time I see it). I've read a lot more Greg Palast and gotten suitably more angry. Talked with some random people in the dining car. Taken some long naps (my sleep schedule is going to be WRONG when I get home). And in about 12 more hours I'll be in Chicago. By late tonight I'll be home.
Then it's RIGHT back into the swing of things with a Beth Amsel show on Oct 1, an IMC membership meeting (that I am coordinating) on Oct 2, a James O'Brien show on Oct 4, and of course work on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Whee!
I am rested and powerful now though! Vacations fucking rock.
And I'm REALLY looking forward to throwing my FOUR DAY New Years Bash again this year now that I've spent so much time in Oregon talking about it.
Conversations with Braindead People
(This part added the next day as I failed to post the above when I wrote it and then I had more to say.)
Last night's dinner conversation in the dining car was pretty encouraging. I was speaking with a civil engineer turned farmer, now retired, who was a former Marine (got out in 1974), and a couple who didn't mention their occupations but I gathered that the woman was a management consultant of some sort. She was originally from Germany, he was from Chicago. Anyway, the conversation veered into Caterpillar's labor issues and from there it went into the auto industry and environmental issues related to cars and engines. We talked of hybrids and hydrogen (I tried to explain why Hydrogen wasn't a silver bullet because it cost energy to make the hydrogen). I told them about biodiesel which they didn't know about (though once I explained it, they'd been on a cruise where the ship smelled of popcorn and they learned it ran on biodiesel). I talked a bit about ethanol and the Farmer Dave observation that sugarbeets produce 30 times more energy per acre than corn. Anyway the whole conversation was easy going and friendly, the woman in particular knew a lot about CAFE standards and the evils of SUVs and what have you. Very interesting people.
Today's breakfast conversation was a whole other beast. Very discouraging. The couple sitting across from me owned a home construction business in Washington. The guy sitting next to me was a laborer returning home to Kentucky. For the whole hour, the guy next to me was silent, I guess alienated. The other guy's wife was also pretty quiet so it was just me and this guy talking, and his wife possibly being a little amused that her husband had started another political debate. Anyway, it all started with this guy asking me to tell about the book I was reading. It was the Greg Palast book. So I explained that he was an American reporter for a British newspaper and he was an investigative journalist whose stories often didn't make it into american papers and that this book was a retelling of those stories. The guy grilled me in great detail about the florida voter rolls purge which is the first and most famous story in the book. I held my own, though in the end the guy was unconvinced that Florida had intent to disenfranchise voters choosing instead to believe that they were just incompetent. I think he thought he was a lawyer the way he was grilling me on subtle details that I could barely remember having just woken up and having passed a week since I'd read the book.
Anyway, at the end of that conversation he opened a HUGE new can of worms by stating that he just didn't trust the British papers to report on American issues. I asked him if he also didn't trust American papers to write about foreign issues or if it made a difference that Greg Palast was an American. He said he couldn't really comment on that because he doesn't really read the papers and he didn't know anything about Greg Palast. After some hemming and hawing he said that he felt "The Europeans" don't understand "our system", they have an "older system", they have an "inferior system" (yes he actually said that). Somehow after some more probing this all came down to him thinking the French were a bunch of jerks for complaining about the Iraq war after we'd saved them in WWII. He feels that "The Europeans" complain too much about stuff that isn't their business but then "come crying to us when they need help." All of a sudden this guy is just oozing this weird anti-European sentiment, I was kind of blindsided at first. I suggested that the very thing we were protecting in WWII was Democracy which had the right (responsibility) to dissent as a central principal. He countered that France is not part of our Democracy, and they shouldn't be commenting on our national debate (going to war with Iraq).
Anyway, we went around and around like that until the dining car was empty and his wife had a look of major boredom (and minor bemusement) and I made my exit excuse. In the end we hastily managed to agree that perhaps the voice of a government does not always express the attitude of its citizens, and that the motives of governments are generally clouded by economic and military interests (and I made sure to include the US government as a guilty member of that class).
"You and I will never know why we really went to war in Iraq." *well perhaps if you read some papers you might be able to take some good educated guesses you ignorant bigotted fuck* "Yah, I guess, you all have a nice trip."
He seemed like such a nice soft spoken polite man. (And he was all of those things and our conversation was very civil even though I wanted to be much more angry than I acted). I have to step back and tell myself that the problem is people getting fed so much propaganda and getting brainwashed and making conclusions from incomplete data and trying to deal with all the cognitive dissonance of life in our "democracy". But sometimes it is very depressing to meet first hand, in person, the people that are so thoroughly deluded by nationalistic propaganda.
As long as media sucks, people will avoid exposing themselves to it. As long as people avoid exposing themselves to media they will never find media that doesn't suck. As much good media as we may make, if people are brainwashed, it's going to take serious action to get them to consume and consider it.
I really need to improve my "talking to duped nationalistic drones" skills. I need to talk to people in uncomfortable settings more often.