Saturday, July 28, 2007

Of Photo Shoots & Other Demons

Our tale today begins with a photo shoot.

It was my first time working with this client & photographer. Pretty straightforward job to produce- find a suitable surburban home with the right kitchen, cast a hip-but-not-too-funky suburban "mom", hire the stylist & hair/mu person, coordinate everything: the logistics, people, equipment, catering, etc. Make sure the shoot runs smoothly & put out all the fires. Basically I liken it to throwing a party with a handpicked guest list.

It's the morning of the shoot and we all arrive on time in lovely Westport, CT. As the equipment & catering is being setup, I am at the front of the house directing the stylist where to park. As she is backing up in her car, I see an enormous dog- a really big beige dog...wait a pony perhaps...galloping full speed ahead, running across the street & disappearing past the bushes. I realize that it wasn't a dog or pony, but a sheep- a sheep that just ran across the street.

At that moment the caterer reappears and I say to her "Oh, you guys have sheep in Westport? (I am a city girl and I have seen deer in the country, so why not sheep running around too?)". She looks at me, eyebrow raised and says, "No." I tell her about the sheep and she says that it might have escaped from Stew Leonard's farm not too faraway. Stew Leonard's is a supermarket chain that apparently has it's own farm. Frantic, I speak to the homeowner about the sheep and she compares him/her to the Loch Ness monster- people in the neighborhood have spotted it from time to time, but apparently no one has reported any lost sheep, but it makes sense that the sheep was nearby because her border collie had run off this morning away from home- ahh to herd sheep! Sheep are big- I had no idea. Well, I contacted Animal Control in Westport & Farm Sanctuary and I hope they can get the sheep which I would certainly adopt!

(Update: Officer D'Amico in Westport returned my call quite promptly & has told me that they have been trying to catch this sheep for 2-3 months! The sheep has a tag, but they do not know where he/she came from. They had set up a fencing area where the sheep had been seen often, but they have not been able to catch the sheep. His fear is that the sheep has run off into Fairfield County & into coyotes because he has had no calls reporting any sheep sightings for days now. I mentioned Farm Sanctuary and he assured me that the sheep if captured, would be placed by the state at a nice sanctuary. Officer D'Amico was very kind and said that he would let me know if they are able to rescue the sheep- he also mentioned that it would definitely make the news if that happened! Good luck Officer D'Amico & Big Booboo Sheep!- all animals are Booboo animals...)
Here's the sweet border collie who tried to herd the errant sheep & then returned to go for a bagel where the catering was setup. She managed to lick a bagel and was promptly reprimanded.

Below is one of the pretty bathrooms in the house that we were shooting at.

(Skip this section if you are squeamish about clogged toilets)
Speaking of bathrooms, let me convey to you how unglamorous my job really is...someone from the shoot clogged up the other toilet & it took me half a day to deal with it. I have never in my life had to deal with a stranger's "business"- and let me just say that, I am a brave brave woman for trying, tackle the situation.

First off the owner hands me the flimsiest plunger ever- it was so flimsy that it had the nerve to flip back up and a single drop of toilet water (clear at this point still thank god) flicked onto my foot. Argh!!!!!!! That foot was immediately washed with soap & hot hot water. I sent the home owner out for a heavy duty plunger and when she returned the situation had worsened, but intrepid being that I am- I grabbed the heavy duty artillery & headed back into the trenches. Gingerly, I started plunging for fear of splashback especially since the water had risen & was now dark & murky (gag!)- my beloved friend & assistant on this job, BBF, so much braver than I- got me out of the way because the delicate approach was not cutting it. She got the job done. What a heinous experience!

Sorry to share, but it really disturbed me because if I happened to be the cause of such a thing, embarrased as I may have been, I would have asked for a plunger myself to deal with my own sh*t, not leave it for someone else especially since this was someone's home & the children's bathroom no less! Moral of the story is when you are producing a shoot, you take care of business from top to bottom and make sure it all runs smoothly... and I would definitely recommend that that person go on a vegan diet!!!

Pretty kitchen where the shoot took place....

The other night a friend of Fcat's held a birthday celebration with a cocktail cruise aboard a private boat. We sailed around Manhattan. There's the Brooklyn Bridge behind us as I try not to look so windswept.

The loveliest lady at the party:
There was also some food aboard- pickings like vegetable crudite but of course with a creamy dairy -based dip, fruit, chips with salsa & guacamole and hummus with toasted pita and cupcakes (non-vegan, sigh...) in place of birthday cake. Immediately, I headed for the hummus which had the faintest trace of egg (apparently some people put mayonnaise in their hummus- why??????), but I wasn't certain, but I stopped eating the hummus anyway.

So fast-forward, a few glasses of champagne later and I am ravenous. Buzzed, I head for the food table & spot the hummus which I have forgotten all about the possible egg in it & greedily stuff my face. I must have had the equivalent of about 3-4 tablespoons of hummus. Yes, well that egg/mayo that I thought I tasted was definitely confirmed when I woke at 3:30am doubled over with stomach pain and soberly recognizing the aftertaste of egg/mayo. How sneaky of those omnis corrupting a perfectly yummy hummus with liquid chicken- why???

Well, way before that not-so-fun 3:30am wakeup when things were still fun and buzzing along, Fcat & I left the pier and as we are walking towards 10th Avenue to get a cab, Fcat spots a table and I go instantly from vegan to freegan in the furniture sense at least. There was this gorgeous table sitting on the curb with the trash. The middle plank had a crack in it, but other than that- still intact. We decided to take it home- not an easy task because it was a pretty heavy table. Fcat took one end and I took the other and we shuffled towards 10th Avenue where I perched as Fcat got a cab. I love this shot- I have seen many a fashion editorial with tons of things out of context just like this table & I sitting on the corner of 23rd Street & 10th Avenue. If you look closely, you can spot our "ghost guy" by the mailbox. Fcat had to adjust some camera settings to shoot at night, hence the haunting.

The next morning after being up all night from that sneaky mayo in the hummus & too much champagne, I was certainly not feeling fabulous. So some clean Japanese food to the rescue! We decided to try this neighborhood sushi place known for it's extensive veg sushi options. Some seaweed salad:
Healing miso soup: (honestly, miso soup never tasted this good- I was so ill.)

And the veggie sushi platter- avocado/cucumber roll, asparagus, shitake mushroom, oshinko, and inari (tofu skin stuffed with sushi rice): it was all so perfect!

The one thing I dislike is that Asian restaurants always give you disposable chopsticks, which I always turn down. Think of how many meals and how many people use these chopsticks once and into the landfill they go and how many trees chopped down for this one time use- ridiculous! I asked for a fork and they looked at me like I had two heads. Everyone should avoid using disposable chopsticks & plastic straws too if they can. It bothers me that we live in a disposable society- one time use chopsticks, straws, and it's the same way our society sees animals too- disposable and for our own use. Makes me want to scream.
Upon our return to the restaurant another evening, I had the avocado/peanut roll & sweet potato tempura roll- I also told them that I didn't like the disposable chopsticks and instead of the fork, they brought me a special set of pretty wooden chopsticks (they only had two sets). I have been considering bringing my own chopsticks in a portable case...
Fcat made a lovely breakfast the other day of blueberries served in pretty bowls that I gave him:

alongside a hummus sandwich on spelt:

I also had dinner the other night with my best-friend, JK, who is recently engaged. So we have been getting the wedding planning started...which included a dinner at Jaiya Thai where you can get the spiciest food ever if you are so inclined. This was the tofu penang which was so delicious except we ordered it medium spicy which was too spicy for us though we are girls that can handle some spice. It's going to be mild for us next time!

And here the mock duck in basil & chili sauce, also ordered medium spicy- which was too much...but still so damn tasty. I recommend this for anyone who has stuffy sinuses- this will clear you out faster than any Sudafed can...

Also wanted to showcase my newest littlest neighbor, Isabelle. She was found starved, dehydrated in the courtyard of my building. Her eyes were all infected & oozing, but thankfully someone called my neighbors who live down the hall from me (they are the parents of Booboo's big dog friends- in addition to the three dog, are four cats- so everyone knows they love animals.) and they were able to take the poor little thing into their home.

Isabelle is the sweetest, most adorable girl. Her mother tells me that she is so happy to be around them that she jumps up with her paws outstretched every time they enter the room.
She is the cutest and she gives little licks of gratitude.
She is black except for a little tuft of white under her chin. We had to keep the door closed to my apt because I didn't think that Booboo would be amenable to the idea of meeting her new kitten neighbor.
Lastly, SKO is a good sister. She surprised me with flowers to thank me for taking her to the Harry Potter midnight sale launch event. She's so cute- she thought they were peonies because she knows that I love peonies. I hated to tell her that they weren't peonies but hydrangeas- so pretty nonetheless. The flowers are displayed atop a gift that SKO had given me for Christmas. She has asked me to list my favorites poems. Then she bought a beautiful lacquered gold tray and copied a poem onto the tray. She chose Yeats' "Aedh Wishes For The Cloths of Heaven":

HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Just Now Considering the Moos & Oinks In The Food Debate?

I'm thrilled to see an article that features animals & Farm Sanctuary so prominently in the NY Times: Bringing Moos And Oinks Into The Food Debate.
Though why just now bringing the animals into consideration...sigh.

The article is fairly tame, but the fact that this is even in the Times renews this vegan's hope. However,the end part infuriates me, where there a line describing Gary Baur as a man who eats noodles with margarine, soy sauce & brewer's yeast, who's never heard of Chez Panisse. Just ending the article with that statement reinforces omnivorous minds that vegans have nothing to eat and are not at all sophisticated in their palettes. Oh that makes me mad. I live in NY, have traveled all over Europe and I know all the fabulous restaurants in NY, but I too do not know of Chez Panisse because I am not at all familiar with the famous restaurants in California. That was a nasty little dig and completely unnecessary.

Recently, I have been reading more of Gary Francione's blog, which denounces animal welfarists and promotes the abolitionist approach. Of course my heart is with the abolitionists, but I think the victories that the welfarist approach has brought are obviously steps in the right direction. As people become more concerned about what's in their food, they are becoming more educated about food. They become more aware of the fact that their meat, dairy & eggs come at the expense of an animal's suffering instead of just the packaged ham, bacon or burger that makes it easy to not think of the actual animal that has been slaughtered. I have to believe that as people actually give their food more thought & become more educated about livestock animals & the conditions that they live in that they will eventually come to reason that no piece of flesh or glass of milk is worth that torture. Baby steps will have do to for now...

On a related note, as we all know we are the only species that drink another species' milk. Milk meant for little baby cows who never even get to taste that perfect food meant for them as they are dragged off right after birth to be crated for veal and instead their babyfood goes straight to people to have with cookies by the glassful- disgusting. The true price of drinking milk is that every glass of milk has got a chunk of meat in it. Think of it this way: milking always pregnant human mothers, crating & chaining the sickly boy babies for tender "meat" and another animal drinking up your little baby's milk. Outrageous concept isn't it?

There's this Skittles' commercial that apparently disturbs people. I don't find it disturbing at all because if people are going to drink milk, they should drink it from their own kind- it would be more accurate to have a mother hooked up to the milking machine but that would be too confrontational & and actually remind us all that human milk is for human babies and cow milk is for baby cows.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Weekly Rewind

Finally a little time to unwind and rewind my week and a half for you as I again play blog catch-up- you know that game where you take tons of pics for your posts and then don't post, resulting in mega-post with way too many pics...

There was brunch at Pastis, which has withstood the fickle New York minute when it comes to hot restaurants and still remains it's quintessential cool factor after all these years (which most of McNally's restaurants like Odeon & Balthazar do- which is so amazing, how does he do it?).

My brunches here consisted of raw oysters, the eggs hussard (which was eggs over ham & toast, drenched in a bordelaise sauce, mesclun salad, french fries, bloody mary & a coke. Nowadays that is easy to adjust vegan-style, I always order a mesclun salad and the fried eggs with beans & tomato on toast minus the fried eggs of course. And I always have half my salad to start & then move it onto my plate when my entree arrives...
and the french fries (such a NY moment with the taxi going by...) that's served with mayo which I put off to side and make my own ketchup & tabasco mix instead.

And animals friends are always welcome at brunch, this little guy was hoping someone would drop something within his radius.

After brunch, we stroll over to Stella McCartney- not buying anything because we have our closing in a few months, but yes, I do so covet a pair of vegan designer boots for the fall. All her shoes have "Suitable for Vegetarians" printed on the sole. Sigh. On another note, it's pretty ironic that what use to be the meat market stands a designer boutique that does not sell any leather goods.

This neighborhood is known as The Meat Packing District because several years ago, most of these cobblestone streets were dripping with blood & animals carcasses. There are still a few wholesale meat distributors in business, but for the most part, they have been overrun by hip bars, restaurants & boutiques.

SKO fits in very easily with this trendy set.

Another day, SKO & I went to Red Bamboo. Finally! I have been meaning to check this place out forever. I had sampled their food at the Farm Sanctuary event not that long ago, so I knew it would be good. I ended up ordering the very thing that freaked me out so much at the event, the buffalo "wings" with the stick in it to resemble bones...I had a craving, got over the bone/stick and it was good.

SKO had the roti. It was good.

We also ordered the bourbon "chicken" (can't we just give it another name damn it). It was good.

And to go with all that wheat "meat", I had a great house salad. It was good.
Am definitely going back to Red Bamboo, there was just so much on the menu that was calling out to be sampled! After gorging ourselves, SKO & I walked over to The Pearl River Mart which is this giant Chinese department store that sells everything from houseware to clothing to food. It's a great place for gifts. You can pickup gorgeous dishes or pretty cloth covered notebooks. We also found some interesting gender specific Japanese snacks- not vegan though. See the Men's flavored Pocky which is bitter chocolate in the manly dark green box. So sexist, but hysterical.

We were on our way home and since we were walking toward the subway in Nolita (the area North of Little Italy), I knew I had to take SKO for a Ciao Bella gelato. There were a few vegan options. I ordered pear. It was delicious- I mean really really decadently good. It was like eating a pear but infintely better. I know my face does not actually convey how really good it was possibly because I was still recovering from the fact that the small cup of gelato/sorbetto was five dollars. Hence the smile, but not real smile on my face?

Here's an upclose shot of what $5 gelato in a small cup looks like:

Then there was the day we grabbed a bite to eat before going to the "Becoming Jane" screening. SKO & absolutely loved this movie- we love Jane Austen too, but besides that it was just surprisingly, achingly good but oh so depressing. The chemistry between Anne Hathaway & her co-star was amazing. The chemistry of this California Pizza Kitchen vegetarian pizza hold the cheese was also amazing.

There was a day of casting on Wednesday and SKO was going to assist me for the first time ever! I had to cast a thirty-something suburban mom for a shoot next week. Of course when I woke up it was pouring rain by the gallon, wasn't sure if anyone would show up at my casting, but we had to trek out to the studio either way. We were armed with fun rain boots & umbrellas. Honestly, it has never rained as hard as it did- the thunder rumbled so violently while we were walking down the avenue that I thought we might possibly be the first ones struck by lightning on 6th Avenue.
We sat at my casting for at least forty minutes before anyone showed up. I had scheduled 67 models that day, a little less than half actually made it. Four hours and twenty-eight "moms" later with the rain finally gone, we were off to a Korean lunch.

If you've never had Korean food in Koreatown, you've got to go hungry. We love Kum Gang San on West 32nd St. First they serve you an array of appetizers that are free! These little dishes are called panchen and most of them are vegan, though they vary.

There were marinated bean sprouts:

Some kind of yummy, marinated vegetable:
Delicious tofu:

Peppery, vinegary raw veggies:

Yummy spicy kimchee (fermented cabbage- & this one specifically fermented vegan style):

This was my giant entree of rice with different veggies & seaweed, which you mix together and look at all the little dishes it comes with & a miso soup! Needless to say, we are always stuffed after a meal here. Oh wait did I tell you that this was a lunch special- yep, all this for about ten bucks. Can't beat it.
Lastly, I want to say that I am a very good sister.

Here's the scenario, SKO declares at 10:00pm on Friday night that she must go to Borders (10 blocks & 3 avenues away) to be there when the final Harry Potter book goes on sale at midnight. I tell her that she is out of her mind & that there is no way we are going to trek out, nor is she alone going to trek out in the middle of the night to stand in line for god know how long to get a book that she can pick up first thing in the morning when the store opens. SKO keeps pushing her luck and I being exhausted, no longer have any patience for this pestering. I walk away from the puppy-eyed girl to take a shower. During my shower, I recall being eighteen and venturing out & sitting on the street all night so that my friend & I could be the first ones on line to buy Depeche Mode tickets (sadly we weren't first because we didn't realize that wristbands had been given out the day before- it was okay, we ended up being in the top twenty). Needless to say, when I got out of the shower, we were headed to Borders.

Here is SKO holding her little purple ticket with our number on it which meant we were the 475th in line. SKO is wearing her little miss lucky shirt because she was lucky that I had a moment where I was out of my mind to agree to this ridiculousness.

At this point, people are sitting all over the store at Borders. It is 12:30am and I am having a coffee with soy milk.
During the Harry Potter book party, there were elixirs to be imbibed. And plenty of kids & adults alike in costumes. It might have been more interesting if I wasn't so tired.
By the time we leave the store, it was 1am- we had spent about an hour & forty-five minutes at the store, which was not as bad as it sounds. We looked at lots of magazines.

Here is Booboo skipping to the end.

The End.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Urban Wilderness

Fierce little hunters abound in our homes, lest we forget- those of us who live with feline companions often share tales of killed offerings of small birds & mice proudly placed as gifts for 'Mom & Dad'. Here is a true wild kitty:

New York Times- Kim Wolhuter/National Geographic, via Getty Images
This picture was from a great article in the New York Times a few weeks ago about
the domestic cat whose ancestry can be traced back to Near Eastern wild cats. The article elicited much laughter at home when we read about the first wild kitty deeming to live amongst humans and basically domesticating herself which explains such haughty independence in our beloved feline companions today. Now it all makes sense.

I tried to catch Booboo in her wilderness:
And the smart urban hunter that she is- Booboo knows that her true source of nourishment & treats come from this cold treasure box:
And at the Tennisport in LIC with their regulation tennis whites & not more than a foot away from the prominent door sign that says "No Pets Allowed", stands another urban creature- the Squirrel. Squirrel understands that the rules at the tennis club do not apply to him because he is no one's pet. Silly humans!
On the courts and off: Advantage- Squirrel. He cleverly hides his nuts & such in the potted plants inside the tennis club. See that bushy tail hanging by the planter...
One last urban creature I will share with you today- a big boy cat that has sweetly slept many a night in the very same place, under the glare of the hot lights and the gaze of passer-bys & stuffed dog displays alike...
This for some reason made me think of "Le Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe", everyone properly clothed but the kitty. How scandalous!
Have a great weekend everyone!
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