Thursday, May 31, 2012

66% of This Post is About Animals

Oh hey there. Did all my new Facebook friends like how I spammed every damn person on my friends list with my new FB page? I thought you might.

It's been two weeks since my last post. To make up for this horrible lapse in time where you were unaware of my daily motions, I've compiled a list (of course) of some things that have recently occurred in my life.

1. Sad news first - one of my rats died. He got really sick out of nowhere, seemed to have a bad upper respiratory infection and was struggling to breathe. I packed him up in his little travel cage and dramatically rushed to Virginia, to the only emergency exotic vet in a 30 mile radius that was open at 11 pm. He stopped breathing about 5 minutes after we got there. Watching a team of 4 people frantically trying to give my tiny little rat CPR (through a little straw) was slightly adorable, albeit sad.The vet thinks he was having heart failure, and that's what triggered the respiratory issues.They were really nice and didn't charge me the crazy high fee a trip to the emergency vet usually costs - just the body disposal fee of $24.  Now I'm trying to make sure to spend a lot of time with his brother, Pippin, so he doesn't get too lonely.
Rest in peace, little friend.

2. On a related note, the day before this happened, our friendly exterminator stopped by for his monthly visit. This guy is fantastic - he's really nice and very funny - but he is also utterly terrified of rats and cats. He's from Africa, and he told me that they use cats in voodoo to cast spells. He keeps trying to convince me that my cats are evil spirits and that it's really stupid to keep them as pets. He's a pretty good sport about having to risk his mortal soul every time he comes over to my apartment, and always jokes good-naturedly about it. However, the day after he came to our apartment, my rat died and Stella got a cold. I do not think this is a coincidence.

3. I walk two dogs named Pansy and Rogi. Pansy is a great dane and Rogi is half dane, half lab. They are both giants, and within 10 pounds of my size (Pansy >10lb, Rogi <10lb). Pansy is out of her head in love with me. She as abused as a puppy, and abused dogs frequently trust very few people - but the ones they do trust, they bond very strongly to. Rogi, on the other hand, is thoroughly unimpressed with me. I have never met a dog that gives less of a fuck than Rogi. It's kind of awesome.
Because Pansy and Rogi are both rescues with tormented pasts, they have certain walk requirements. Rogi is utterly terrified of cars, so she's generally kept away from them. Pansy is utterly terrified of dogs, so she's kept away from them. Both of them are very wary of people, and absolutely HATE black men with hats on. (It's pretty weird. I don't know why, but boy do they get angry when black men wear hats). Considering their combined weight is almost 250 pounds, any interaction that might result in them angrily charging someone/something usually ends pretty badly for me. I'm actually pretty good at keeping them under control (brushes off shoulders) but I still prefer to keep things quiet. Thus, our walks generally take place along back allies towards a nice, usually vacant field in Rock Creek Park.
Last week, we showed up to find a small herd of deer. Pretty common in DC - we have a crazy deer population. The lone buck stopped grazing as we approached and turned to watch us. All three of us froze and watched him, fascinated. This went on for quite some time. It was a little while before I realized that he was acting kind of strange. He had turned so that he was facing us head on, his tail had gone from upright to lowered and stiff, he wasn't breaking eye contact, and he was gradually lowering his head. I don't know much about deer body language, but in dog body language, that's a pretty clear "I am about to attack the shit out of you" stance. Not only that, but the dogs and I were all giving a pretty clear "Game on, muthafucka" response. My initial reaction was "Ooh! Maybe if I keep staring at this deer he'll charge us! That would be so exciting!" Then I realized that it would be more dangerous than exciting. I turned the girls around and we meandered away from the deer and his ladies.
The next day, we came back to find the deer back in the field. I was about to leave again, when I thought, "No way, dude". This is the only place I can take these dogs without fear of puppy PTSD relapse. Pansy always rolls around gleefully in the grass, Rogi sits like a dying toad on a log and stares at nothing, I make buttercup chains for them (which they and their owners, I'm sure, love). I wasn't about to let this piece of crap deer keep us out of this field. So, I marched over about as close as he would let me, stood and glared with all the aggression I could muster. He glared back at me for a bit, but then finally sulked off into the woods. I felt like a hero.*

4. My dad came to visit me on Sunday, as he usually does. He recently went to a gun show, and was eager to tell me about it. My dad is a Vietnam vet and former cop, so this dude knows quite a bit about guns. He brought with him a target practice poster from the gun show - you know, the ones that look like the silhouette of a person?
Yeah, these guys.
Well, my dad shows up with the one he was shooting. It has about 30 bullet holes through the head, 30 through the heart, and 2 slightly off to the side of the head that he missed. Shot from 25 yards away. And as I'm standing there in awe, admiring his bad-assery, he's lying on my living room floor, baby talking to my cats.

5. I was hanging out in downtown Annapolis this past Saturday. As my friend Emmy and I were walking down busy West Street, I see a freaking snake hurrying across the road. Naturally, I run out into the street and begin to try to nudge him to safety with my foot. He (she?), however, decides that I'm actually attacking him/her/it and begins striking at me. We do this little dance for awhile, me tapping with my foot and jumping back as I'm lunged at, gradually moving to the side of the street (the whole time Emmy is begging me to get out of the street and stop playing with the snake). Eventually I managed to coerce it over to the curb. Good deed of the day, ladies and gentlemen.

6. Two nights ago the treadmill in my apartment's gym wasn't working. I decided instead to go for a nighttime run in the thunderstorm. Pleasantly cool rain on my skin after a hot day, lightening streaking the sky - it was awesome. Just as I was thinking to myself, "Why don't I do this every night?" I was stopped by 4 police cars and a cop putting up caution tape, who informed me that I was about to jog onto a crime scene. Oh. Right. I live in Murderville. Thanks, my neighborhood.

So as you can see, I've been very busy getting up to all sorts of shenanigans. I promise my next post will be more timely. I know you'll all be waiting on baited breath.

*There is a highly significant chance that this was all in my head. The deer probably was just idly watching me that first day, and probably wandered off the second day because I was boring it. But when you're a theater kid, you've got to narrate your life to yourself in an epic way.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thoughts on Ethical Eating

As you may or may not know, I'm a pescetarian (means I don't eat poultry or red meat). I don't usually talk about my eating habits unless asked, because I don't want it to come across as sounding judgmental, or like I'm trying to change others' eating habits. I believe diet is a very personal issue, and I don't think there is one "right" way to eat. However, I figured I'd share my reasoning for anyone who is interested. If you aren't, feel free to skip this over or send me hate mail.

I've always been a huge animal lover. I toyed with the idea of vegetarianism all throughout my teens. I would always ultimately abandon the notion, because I didn't think I could healthily maintain it. I grew up hating fruits and vegetables, and living pretty solely on very processed carbs and meat. The idea of a veggie-hating vegetarian sounded pretty dumb to me.

Then, when I was a sophomore in college, I began picking up the vegetarian pamphlets I often found displayed around campus. I'd always shied away from them, thinking that I didn't want to know how awful animals were being treated if I wasn't doing anything about it. Eventually, this began to seem cowardly to me. I figured if I was going to contribute to this industry, I should at least know what it was doing.

What I found horrified me. The fact that animals were dying for me was honestly not that upsetting. What really got to me was the terrible quality of life they had before their deaths. I won't go into details - if you're interested, check out the links below, but I don't want to shove information down your throats you may not want. I was troubled, but still not quite ready to make a change.

Reading a quote by one of my heroes, Jane Goodall, is what really did it for me. She said, "Thousands of people who say they ‘love’ animals sit down once or twice a day to enjoy the flesh of creatures who have been treated so with little respect and kindness just to make more meat." 

This really got to me. I have always been known as a Doctor Doolittle of sorts with my friends. I spent my childhood saving injured birds and squirrels and bats. I've always had a plethora of pets. Being an animal lover is a huge part of my identity. Reading this, from someone whose animal ethics I so admired, made me feel like a complete hypocrite. 

The day I came across this quote was my 19th birthday. I decided that I couldn't give up meat forever, but I could handle having it once a year on my birthday. So, that night I went out with my family, got a big Fuddrucker's cheeseburger, and then said goodbye to meat. 

People give up meat for many reasons. Let me make it clear that, for me, it is not because I find meat to be inherently unethical. I think the food chain is a good system that makes a lot of sense. I have absolutely no problem with responsibly hunted meat. I also know there are a lot of small farms that humanely raise and slaughter their animals in a very respectful way. The issue I have is America's meat industry. It is the terrible quality of life of these animals that I take issue with. 

As I continued through college, I began to become more interested in the environment. Through this, I began to realize the massive damage raising animals for food has on our planet. The amount of water and land needed to sustain a herd of cattle is staggering. A plant-based diet requires much less resources. However, I also learned that most of the plant-based agriculture in our country is ecologically devastating as well. I learned about chemical fertilizers, GMOs, and food miles. This led me to initially start buying organic produce, and eventually move on to buying almost all my fruits and vegetables from local, organic farmers markets.

When I initially gave up meat, I knew I would have to clean up my diet. My mom (who was very supportive of my decision) bought me a couple basic vegetarian cookbooks. From these, I slowly began to learn how to cook healthy food that was also delicious. As I began to research nutrition (I was very concerned that I give up meat in a healthy way), I learned that Americans actually get way too much protein. I learned that red meat and poultry are commonly believed by nutritionists to be a less healthy protein source than beans, nuts and fish. As time went on, I began to love cooking, and LOVE fruits and vegetables. I adored meat, but I was surprised to see how quickly I stopped craving it. Even when I have it as my birthday dinner, it seems like less of a treat than it used to. My taste buds evolved, and I've begun to lose a taste for it.

I am a pretty relaxed pescetarian. If I'm invited to someone's house for dinner, and the only food they have to offer is meat (and I can't make a decent meal out of the sides, which is what I normally do), I'll just go ahead and eat it. For me it's about putting as little money as possible into the meat industry, but knowing that the world won't end if I occasionally eat chicken parmigiana to avoid being an ungracious guest. Not eating meat is my choice, and I don't think it's fair to inconvenience others because of it. I eat fish because it makes restaurants easier; because I think fish has health benefits that other meats do not; because I am less troubled by the fishing industry than the livestock industry (although it is environmentally troubling, don't get me wrong); and because I grew up by the Chesapeake Bay and seafood is in my blood :). I occasionally buy shoes or belts made with leather, because it seems like a toss up to me which is worse for the environment - leather or synthetics. 

I think it's quite possible that eventually, one day, I'll become mostly vegan. I would give up eggs and dairy before fish, because, as previously mentioned, those industries seem more damaging to me, both to animals and to the environment. A few months ago I decided to only buy eggs from the farmers market, where I know the chickens have happy little lives wandering around the farm. In the near future I will probably do the same with dairy products. (I went with eggs first, because chickens are abused far more than cattle). 

My attitude towards my dietary choices is live and let live. I think everyone picks different things in life that are important issues to them, that they are passionate about. Some people only shop at small businesses. Some people join the military. Some people advocate against bullying. I gave up poultry and red meat. I don't think one of these choices is better than the other. I think it's important, whoever you are, whatever you think, to find a cause you believe in and make little (or big) changes to affect the world accordingly.

Having said that, people sometimes ask me if I think, in an ideal world, everyone would be vegetarian. I'm honestly not sure. What I do think is a realistic and desirable goal is that people eat less meat, and demand that our meat be humanely raised and killed, and that all our food not be pumped full of chemicals and hormones. I think the amount of meat we eat in this country is unhealthy for our bodies and environmentally unsustainable. If there were less of a market for such copious amounts of meat, farmers could afford to treat the animals better (by giving them higher quality food and giving them ample space, not just a tiny box they can't turn around in). I think this is a very real possibility. One of the things I love about capitalism (another blog entry for another day) is how we can very actively vote and create change with how we spend our money. Look at the green movement! Organic food and environmentally-friendly products used to be exclusive to crunchy, dreadlocked hippies. Now soccer moms are in on it. I can go to Giant and find a huge variety of vegetarian and organic options. When there is a demand (or lack of demand) for something, the market responds accordingly. 

If you have any thoughts on this, I'd be glad to hear them. I think food ethics is a really interesting topic, and would love to hear your opinions on these issues. For more info about some of the things I'm talking about, here are some links: 
The Vegetarian Resource Group
Farm Sanctuary
Sustainable Table

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

This Is Not My Tune, But It's Mine To You

Just pretend you don't notice my awful guitar playing, and we'll be good! Also, make sure you watch out for the surprise cameo by Stella near the end.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"Hi! Just wanted to wish you luck on your audition!"

Monday evening found me happily driving my little self to an audition. As I drove through the heart of Washington DC (which, as you may or may not know, has the worst traffic in the nation), I felt something on my face. Assuming it was a few strands of my crazy mop of curls, I shook my hair back from my face - but to no avail. After a few unsuccessful tries of this, I finally pulled down my mirror to see what was happening. And there, resting on my cheek, an inch under my eye and half an inch to the left of my nose, was a FUCKING SPIDER.

Now, let me just preface this by saying that I love spiders. I grew up playing with the bugs I found in the woods behind my house. I would rescue them from their dangerous outdoor lives, rehouse them in cozy, air-tight jars, lovingly feed them the freshest dirt, and then sob inconsolably when they mysteriously died in a 24 hour time span. I'm always the one to shriek "Don't hurt it!" and stop a conversation/rehearsal/make out session to gently carry little creepy-crawlies safely outside. I have saved numerous big, strong men from centipedes and giant beetles and wolf spiders.

However. When surprise face spiders make their presence known to me (and this wasn't a teeny tiny little guy either; it was about the size of my thumbnail), I pretty much react the way the rest of the spider-hating world does. I screamed "OH MY GOD GET THE HELL OFF ME!", smacked at my face and sent it careening off into the depths of my car, and almost took out the minivan to the right of me and two pedestrians.

I immediately called my sister and regaled my story of horror to her. She said the entire thing reminded her of the Misunderstood Spider.

I am seriously obsessed with this guy.

At the end of it all, I made it to my audition in one piece - although my monologue may have had a slightly hysterical note. Hopefully they'll think it was an inspired and unusual acting choice. I'm expecting a call offering me the part any minute now.