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The Velocity of Autumn

VelocityLast Wednesday our good friend, Casey surprised us with a pair of tickets to the pre-broadway engagement of The Velocity of Autumn, starring Academy Award winner, Estelle Parsons and two-time Tony Award winner, Stephen Spinella.  Written by Eric Coble and directed by the all-amazing Molly Smith of Arena Stage, this play of two on-stage characters takes you into the aging and glowingly lonesome life of Alexandra and her gay son, Christopher.

The entire play takes place in Alexandra’s Brooklyn brownstone living room, filled with arsenal of molotov cocktails and a woman with her husband’s Zippo lighter who’s on the edge of blowing up the entire block in a painfully desperate attempt to stay in her home.  Her estranged son, Christopher lives in New Mexico and returns to New York City, reluctantly becomes the family negotiator between his exhausted and seemingly volatile mother and his siblings.  This beautiful play is a compelling story of what seems like a long-lost mother-son relationship, whom both have more in common than they realize.  The audience are provided with the opportunity to witness the living room ping-pong match of extremely funny dialogue as well as deeply touching moments, as these mother and son characters re-discover their bond and love through unconventional ways.

The splendor of any good play, is being able to relate, sympathize, and empathize.  In the ever-increasing velocity of a me world, do we pause in our life to think about the ins and outs of our relationships with our family members, especially those who are aging?   When we seem to grow distant from family members (and long-time friends for that matter) through differences in our lives, beliefs, and understandings – do we embrace and nurture the bonds we once had to begin with, or do reconcile such distance, being that too much time has passed in placing little or any effort into trying to rebuild what once was?

I’ve often asked myself those same questions about the relationship between me and my 81 year-old grandmother.   Though we weren’t entirely close when I was younger, there was still a profound bond between the both of us.   As I grew up, we both became distant to a degree, and after father passed away – we re-connected our relationship and have continued to nurture it since then.   Perhaps we needed each other the most as she began to grieve the loss of her first-born son and I began to grieve the loss of my father.  In many ways we are alike, and in many more ways we are very different in “where we’ve been” and what we believe.  Yet though the beauty and mystery of the family bond, we depend on each other in many special ways.   I interpret that this is very similar for Alexandra and Christopher – though years of separation have passed, they have reached a point in their lives where they need and depend on each other.

The Velocity of Autumn is playing through October 20, 2013  at  Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater’s Kreeger Auditorium.  If you’re a DC local, I highly recommend that you enjoy this great theatre production!

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Macaroni & “Cheese” – #ScrumptiousSunday

It has been so exciting to receive so much encouragement and feedback in such a short time since I launched The Vegan Bear!   My passion for the vegan lifestyle, the eagerness in learning to write decently as an amateur, and each and every one of you who follow me make this blog so much fun!  One of the most popular requests I’ve received since I started is for more recipes, so your wish is my command!  I will now start posting recipes on Thursdays and Sundays.  My #TastyThursday posts will be recipes for pretty much everything – salads, sandwiches, main dishes, sides, and desserts.  My new #ScrumptiousSunday posts will be solely dedicated to those recipes that are so proper for Sundays cooking.  These are dishes, desserts, and meals that might mimic a popular and traditional dish that many of us grew up with (vegan, of course), or a recipe that is so scrumptious, hearty, and carries the worthiness of being a Sunday best.

photo 1I hereby christen #ScrumptiousSunday with one of my all-time favorite recipes:  Sister Kitsiyah’s Macaroni & “Cheese”!   This is one of the most popular dishes at Everlasting Life Cafe (soon to be Woodland’s Vegan Bistro).  For those of you who don’t already know, this is absolutely my favorite place to eat in the entire Washington, DC area.   This award-winning restaurant and their food truck offer the perfect variety of 100% vegan, gluten-free soul food.  Yes…vegan soul food!  Sister Kitsiyah, is a health food nutritionist who studied vegan cooking in Israel with the African Hebrew Israelite Community.  This recipe for macaroni and cheese is from her Food for Life Cookbook.   Many of my non-vegan friends even assert that this Macaroni & “Cheese” recipe is top-notch and some even say its better than their grandmother’s!   The only thing better than its satisyfing taste is the easiness in making it.   Once you make your first batch, be sure to leave a comment on this post and let me know what you think!

  • 16 oz. bag/box of elbow macaroni
  • ½ cup + 1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons of Spike seasoning
  • 1 ½ cups soy milk
  • 1  garlic clove
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¾ cup canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the pasta as directed.  In a blender or food processor, blend the nutritional yeast, Spike seasoning, soy milk, garlic and paprika.  Slowly pour the oil in the food processor while it is running.  The mixture should be creamy, as this will be the “cheese” sauce.

Strain the pasta and run cold water over it.  Be sure to shake all of the excess water out of the pasta.  Put the pasta back in the pot and mix it with about 1 cup of the “cheese” sauce.  Put the cheesy noodles in an oven casserole dish (I use a 7 ½ x 12 inch casserole dish).   Pour the remaining cheese evenly over the noodles.

Sprinkle with paprika and cook in the oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and let stand for 30 minutes before serving.  May your Sunday be scrumptious and cheesy…in all the good (vegan) ways.   Enjoy!

Another Day, Another American Mass Shooting

Monday mornings are when I sleep in as they’re typically my day off every week.   My routine for waking up consists of going pee, letting the dogs out to pee, then stumbling back to bed to finishing waking up.   It is there that I unplug my fully charged iPhone and start to read the Facebook posts of friends, family, and fellow activists whom most start their days earlier than I do.   The first post I read is from a friend, “Scary situation here in DC.  US Navy Yard is under lock-down.  Police everywhere in southeast section near DC.  I didn’t drive in today but if I did, I park very near to the Navy Yard.”   Before I reach for the remote control to turn on the bedroom TV, I comment:  “what happened?”  Already in my gut I knew that there has been some type of shooting.   I turn on my TV.

Myself and others from the community gather for a candlelight vigil in Freedom Plaza to remember the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting massacre.

Another mass shooting.  Reports confirm 4 dead and 8 wounded at the Washington Navy Yard; shooter(s) not yet apprehended.  I sat up in bed, stunned but not surprised.  I’m stunned to wake up and learn that a mass shooting has just taken place less than 9 miles away from me.  Not surprised that it has happened; even in our Nation’s Capital, even at the highly secured Washington Navy Yard.   As each hour passed, the death toll and injury count grew.  In the late afternoon, confirmation was given that 12 victims and the gunman were dead.

sigh

Has this epidemic of American gun violence, especially mass shootings become a new society norm?   Our lawmakers have continued to fail the American people.  With no consequences, they have been bought out by special interest gun groups such as the all-corrupt National Rifle Association which continues to bully the United States Congress with their perversions of the second amendment and their radical insurrectionist rhetoric.  Our elected officials have wiped their ass with the demand of 90% of their constituents and have continued to endanger the lives of innocent Americans.  Petula Dvorak, columnist for The Washington Post said perfectly in her piece this afternoon:

How can this country tolerate another mass shooting after we’ve endured so many others? And why have we allowed ourselves to grow accustomed to this awful bloodshed? Because that’s what these slaughters have become: practically routine.

“How many this time?” we ask as we watch the number of dead and injured climb on TV or Twitter.

….Apple pie, baseball and mass shootings? No. We can’t let slaughter become part of the way we define ourselves.

If we are truly the greatest nation in the world, if we the people truly have a voice, then we have the obligation and power to demand change today.   There is nothing that annoys me more than seeing “let’s pray for the victims of this shooting…” and “my heart goes out to the victims of that shooting and their families…”, yet that seems to be the extent of their action in addressing this very lethal problem which affects every community of our country.

Stand up and wake up, America!   Enough is enough!   Demand action NOW!

We Still Have a Dream

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Fifty years ago today over 250,000 Americans set foot in The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, DC.   On this day, history was forever changed in the largest political rally for human rights and equality.   On this day, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  That speech would eventually be ranked as the top American speech of the 20th century.  It was this very historic day which has been credited in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the ongoing pursuit for equality.  Tragically, it was a little more than four years later that Dr. King would be martyred by a racist sniper on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, TN.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom – August 28, 1963

Today, the life, wisdom, and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. resonates throughout the world.  There are few places in the world where this non-violent, peaceful visionary is not known.   Young children can recite various parts of his speeches as well as memorable quotes with pride and ease.   What is most amazing is how Dr. King has become embraced over all these years by many Americans, especially those who are minorities, ostracized, and discriminated against.  And though great strides have been made in the last 50-years, a lot remains to be done.  We have a long way to go before the visions of Dr. King for unity, equality, and peace are a true reality for all Americans.  In a recent poll; few think all of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s goals have been met.

Today I joined my fiancé, friends, and over 150,000 Americans on the National Mall to remember and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.   I spent the entire day surrounded by a sea of diversity – a beautiful rainbow of ethnicities, ages, faiths, backgrounds…documented and undocumented Americans, male and female, gay, straight, and transgender.  There are no words to describe the spirit of universal love and solidarity which was very much present this afternoon.  We listened to a vast array of speakers, some of whom included: Rev. Al Sharpton, Benjamin Todd Jealous, Dr. Eliza Byard, Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, Oprah Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy, Rev. Dr. Bernice King, Martin L. King III, Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and so many others.

We were reminded of the progress which has been made, but the realities of what remains…a growing gap between the rich and poor, voter suppression, race driven murder victims such as Trayvon Martin, anti-equality legislation and homophobic hate crimes, and more.   As the Voting Rights Act continues to be attacked, former President Bill Clinton remarked, “A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon.”

We were continually reminded by so many leaders this afternoon, “we’ve come too far to turn back now.”   We are Americans and we still have a dream and we have an obligation to keep that dream alive, one day passing the threshold from dream to reality.  President Obama hit the nail on the head when he said,

“Those are the victories they won, with iron wills and hope in their hearts. That is the transformation that they wrought, with each step of their well-worn shoes. That’s the debt that I and millions of Americans owe those maids, those laborers, those porters, those secretaries; folks who could have run a company maybe if they had ever had a chance; those white students who put themselves in harm’s way, even though they didn’t have to; those Japanese Americans who recalled their own internment; those Jewish Americans who had survived the Holocaust; people who could have given up and given in, but kept on keeping on, knowing that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

On the battlefield of justice, men and women without rank or wealth or title or fame would liberate us all in ways that our children now take for granted, as people of all colors and creeds live together and learn together and walk together, and fight alongside one another, and love one another, and judge one another by the content of our character in this greatest nation on Earth.

To dismiss the magnitude of this progress — to suggest, as some sometimes do, that little has changed — that dishonors the courage and the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years. Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Martin Luther King Jr. — they did not die in vain. Their victory was great.”

Think about where we’ve all come from and how far we’ve come.   The dream continues with the wisdom of our past heroines of freedom and elders.   The dream continues with you and I.  We are all called to be pavers in the road to equality, justice, and freedom.  We truly have a moral obligation and duty to stay steadfast, not only for the children of today, but for all future generations.   The dream continues with our commitment to love, service, and stewardship.

“If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral.  And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long.  Every now and then I wonder what I want them to say…I’d like somebody to mention that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.  I’d like for somebody to say that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.  I want you to say that day, that I tried to be right on the war question.  I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry.  I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked.  I want you to say, on that day, that I did try, in my life, to visit those who were in prison.  I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.”  

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The Drum Major Instinct (1968)

When Pets Speak to Psychics

Gracie & Luna get a psychic pet reading on FOX 5's Morning News on August 19, 2013.

Gracie & Luna get a psychic pet reading on FOX 5’s Morning News on August 19, 2013.

Last week Gracie (our labrador retriever mix) and I got an invitation from WTTG FOX 5’s Annie Yu to join her live on the set of the FOX 5’s Morning News for a special “Pet Project” segment with animal communicator and psychic, Diane Roadcap.   Gracie is an avid lover of everything water related…except baths!   She loves swimming and playing in the ocean, rivers, and creeks…but will do whatever it takes to avoid a bath.   Paul and I have always wondered why this is the case, so we gladly accepted the invitation in hopes that Diane could give us some insight as to Gracie’s thoughts and feelings.   Amanda Marie Bowen and her 2-year old deaf Great Dane, Luna were also invited on the show.   Of course some are probably skeptical about a pet psychic or any psychic for that matter…but I believe Diane had an amazing connection with Gracie, and I bet the same could be said by Amanda (the other segment guest) who brought Luna to have a reading as well.

Diane Roadcap’s website says, As a child, Diane recognized that she had a deep spiritual connection with animals.  Playing with a variety of animals in the wooded areas around her home outside of Washington, DC, she discovered that she could connect with them at a soul level.  This connection was confirmed at age five when her dog Blackie telepathically warned her that a poisonous snake was dangerously close to biting her.  She heeded his warning and slowly backed away before it could attack her.  She continued to receive communications from animals and discovered that she could  easily read their needs and wants, humor and insights, aches and ailments.”

While we were still in the green room, Diane already began reading our pets as well as Amanda and her family.   She knew that Gracie had a smaller, older K9 companion at home which would describe our 11-year-old Miniature Schnauzer, Tabatha.  She also mentioned another light-colored labrador which had passed away…of course I knew this was Heidi, a beautiful labrador who passed away when I was around 3-years old.   “She wants you to know she’s standing next to you”, Diane exclaimed.   I could have fallen out of my chair!   She went very into depth reading Amanda, her family, Luna, and their pets at home which I won’t go into detail, as it’s not my place to tell about that very special moment.

Do you believe in psychics?  As far back as I can remember, I have had ongoing contact and communication with human spirits who have passed away…family and strangers alike.   To my knowledge, there’s nobody in my family who has this “gift.”   Though the information given to me is often vague, it is something I’ve gotten used to and experience daily.   So it makes perfect sense to me that people have an ability and “gift” to fully communicate with pets, both passed and living.   But at the end of the day, we will believe what we know as truth and dismiss that which we don’t.   For me, I believe!

Besides learning that Gracie doesn’t like to be in a confined areas…she’s a very happy dog.   “She wouldn’t change a thing.   She loves people…the more people she’s around, the more she loves life”, Diane affirmed.

Below is a video from the segment.   Check it out!

Perfectly Penzance

Frederick & Mabel, "Stay!"

Frederick & Mabel, “Stay!”

This afternoon my fiancé and I had the joy of watching our good friend, Chris take to the stage in the role of The Pirate King in W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s operetta, The Pirates of Penzance.   The cast and production team consist of members of the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW) community, and The GLBT Arts Consortium who dedicate their time and talent every summer to beloved Gilbert & Sullivan shows.

Pirates of Penzance is perhaps G&S’ most enduring hit!  It’s filled with great tunes plus more than the usual ration of satire and silliness.  It’s a fast-paced show that requires good singing and an even greater talent for rapidly biting off those consonants in the dynamic duo’s famous patter-songs.

The story begins on the rocky seashore of the Cornwall coast.  The pirates offer a toast to Frederic.  Now that Frederic is twenty-one and his apprenticeship over, the men assume that he will join their band permanently.  Ruth, a “piratical maid of all work’” explains that, as Frederic’s nursery maid, she had been instructed by his father to have the boy apprenticed to a pilot, but she misheard and instead took Frederic to a pirate.  Her shame upon realizing her error led her to join the pirate band herself.

Now that his obligation to the pirates has ended, duty compels Frederic to devote himself to destroying them.  When the men admit their inability to make piracy pay, Frederic explains that they are themselves slaves to their tender hearts, particularly about their refusal to take advantage of anyone they believe to be an orphan.

Ruth longs for Frederic to take her with him when he leaves.  He has had no opportunity to compare her with other women, but when he decides that she should stay with the pirates, they reply that they cannot deprive him of his beloved. Frederic wishes he could bring the pirates back to a respectable life, but the Pirate King rejects that possibility.  Alone with Ruth, Frederic admits his reluctance to marry her, though he is satisfied that, despite her age, she is beautiful.  But when he sees a group of lovely young women approaching, he rages at her for deceiving him.

The girls descend to the shore, delighting in their surroundings.  They are astonished to meet Frederic and horrified to hear that he is a pirate.  He assures them that, having just abandoned that profession, he now wants only to love one of them.  They all reject him except Mabel, who reproaches her sisters for being deaf to pity. The girls distract themselves, so that Frederic and Mabel can have a few moments alone.

The pirates suddenly surprise the girls and expect soon to become their husbands.  Mabel reminds them that she and her sisters are wards in chancery (i.e. minors under the protection of the Court of Chancery), and that their ‘father’ is a major general.  The Major General enters and objects to the girls being married against their wills to the pirates of Penzance. He lies his way out of the situation by claiming to be an orphan.  The girls are released from the pirates’ clutches, as Mabel and Frederic – ignoring the pleas of Ruth – look forward to their marriage.

The girls comfort the Major-General, who is upset because he believes his lie has shamed the family name and he fears the consequences.  Frederic will soon march against the pirates accompanied by the police, who now arrive.  They eventually leave to attend to the business at hand, but only after repeated urging by the Major General.

Alone, Frederic contemplates atoning for his years with the pirates, when Ruth and the Pirate King enter.  They explain that Frederic was to be apprenticed until his twenty first birthday; having been born in a leap year on 29 February, he is officially only five.  The Pirate King insists that Frederic respect his own sense of duty, whereupon the obedient young man informs him that the Major General lied about being an orphan.  The Pirate King and Ruth swear vengeance.

The Major General & The Pirate King, "We Triumph Now."

The Major General & The Pirate King, “We Triumph Now.”

Frederic informs Mabel that he will not reach his twenty-first birthday until 1940.  Convinced that he can ignore the pirates’ claim, she begs him to stay with her and swears to be faithful.  After he leaves, Mabel tells the policemen that Frederic has returned to the pirates, praising him for his sense of duty.  The Sergeant laments the difficulties the constabulary faces.  The policemen hide as soon as the pirates arrive.

Unable to sleep, the Major General enters.  The girls chide him for leaving his bed at this time of night. Frederic and the pirates seize the Major General and overcome the police.  When the Sergeant implores the pirates to yield in the Queen’s name, Ruth reveals that they are peers of the realm.  With this revelation, they are pardoned by the Major-General, who rewards them with the girls’ hands in marriage.

You can’t help but smile, sway to the rhythm of the music, and laugh!

I’ve forgotten what a joy community theater is, and have been renewed in the importance of supporting local community theater.   God bless the arts!

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