Monday, July 21, 2014

Post Peak-Oil Men and the Full Monty

We're theatre people - sort of. We definitely enjoy going to the theatre - the whole family (and my daughters have grown up as both audience members and performers, and behave better at the theatre than some adults) - but we are also involved in other ways. I prefer to be backstage, helping with costuming and make-up, or as part of the theatre crew, ushering or manning the snack bar. Deus Ex Machina and my girls enjoy all aspects of the theatre, including being onstage.

This summer, Deus Ex Machina is performing in the stage production of The Full Monty. My daughters (the youngest of whom is eleven) have participated in the production in a variety of ways, including going to most of the rehearsals with their dad and helping with sewing costumes. My oldest teen helped the choreographer teach the dance steps to the performers, and she is an usher. All three of them have seen the performances multiple times.

Yes, there is male nudity. Yes, there is a lot of language (although I'm a little embarrassed to admit nothing they don't hear from their sailor-mouthed mother). Yes, for the most part, it is an adult-themed production. There are a lot of adult issues that I would rather not expose my children to (including about half of what they saw in Vegas recently), but none of the issues in The Full Monty are things from which they have been sheltered. It's life.

One of the first evenings we were at the show, as we were leaving, one of the audience members (a twenty-something young woman, who was probably a college student, and most definitely not a parent), saw my kids and immediately passed judgment. Her comment was something like, "Some one brought their kids!?!"

I looked at her and said, "Their father is in the show."

She shut up, real fast, and looked appropriately abashed at loudly exclaiming her moral superiority ... and getting caught not knowing nearly as much as she thought she knew, but even if my children's father wasn't in the production, her comment was from a complete place of ignorance.

What bothers me is that the people who are forming these opinions about who should see this production based solely on the fact that there is nudity and swearing must be missing the point of the play. The play is not *about* men who get naked, although the men most certainly do get naked (in the end), and it is not *about* strippers, although there are a few scenes in which men are stripping.

The story is about empowerment. It is about a society that forces men to define their own worth by the job they have or the amount of money they make. It is about men who, in the beginning believe themselves to be "scrap" (the title of the first song in the play), but realize through the course of the story that they actually do have some worth, and not just because they are willing to disrobe in front of a throng of their peers. It's about relationships and gender roles and parenting and friendship and so many nuances of who we are and what we believe ourselves to be that for some person to decide that my children being there is inappropriate shows that she, clearly, missed the point. Take out the nudity and the language and what you have is a story that we should all be hearing - we are worth more than what we do or the money we make.

I have loved this story since I saw the movie (on which the play is based), and when I started listening to the music, I knew I would love the stage production as much as I loved the movie - and I do. My children and I have discussed - at length - what the story is about, and yes, they have now seen men prancing around stage in g-strings and fully naked men (backlit so that their parts are obscured in shadow) on stage. So what? If exposing them to that makes me a bad parent ... well, that's a personal opinion, and there are a lot worse things I could do that are socially acceptable (like allowing my children to eat fast food or watch unrestricted hours of commercial television or go to the Mall unsupervised).

The most important part of the story, though, is what the loss of their jobs does to the men, and that's the part of the story that I really want my daughters to understand.

Several years ago, back when she was still writing at Casaubon's Book, Sharon Astyk had a wonderful piece about gender reactions to hard times. She pointed out that women are often better equipped to handle sudden poverty than men are, and her point in writing the piece was to say that as we slide further into resource depletion men's (and women's, but more so men's) roles in society will change. She argues that men should be redefining themselves, now, to move more into the informal economy and away from these roles defined by their jobs.

As is depicted in the play, The Full Monty, men's esteems are intricately linked to what they do for a living, but when that what they do is challenged by economic collapse, that is, when men lose their jobs, their livelihoods, and, ultimately, their identities, they may find it very difficult to swim out of the mire in which they find themselves. Deus Ex Machina is an engineer, by trade. But he is so much more than his job, and if something happened and he wasn't working as an engineer anymore, I would be heart-broken if he suddenly believed himself worthless. There's so much more to him than being an "engineer", and his worth, as a living being and to our family, far exceeds any numerical values.

This is what I want my daughters to know, and what I want them to learn from The Full Monty, and why I am so thrilled to allow them to see the production. I want them to be able to know that a job does not a person make, and money does not a life build.

For the record, I also took my thirteen year old daughter to see Hair, which has sex, drugs, Rock and Roll, and full frontal nudity, but it's not about those things. It is about a young man's struggle between doing what society expects of him and following his personal moral ideologies.

Sometimes we have look beyond the presentation and listen to the message. That's also what I want my children to learn.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Throwback Thursday - Ducks




Throwback Thursday (or TBT) is a thing some folks do on Facebook. I thought it might be fun to bring TBT here to my blog and explore how far we've come with our Nanofarm in the few short years we've been moving toward real self-sufficiency.

If you want to play along (on your blog, not on Facebook), leave a comment with your blog link.

I, personally, have a long way to go, but it's not about the destination ... it's about the journey. Let's ride ;).

Monday, July 14, 2014

... But I Wouldn't Want to Live There

I'm not much of a traveler. In fact, driving locally tends to exhaust me. I'd rather just stay home, and if I have to go somewhere, I'd rather it be a place I can walk to. Unfortunately, before I started thinking enough about footprints and such, I had created a life that required I spend a lot more time on the road than I like, driving my daughters to their various classes (the furthest of which is about 12 miles - one way). I am painfully aware of what a luxury it is to be able to travel as far and as fast as our automobile allows. I am well aware that walking 12 miles would require an entire day and that we probably wouldn't be returning home that same day. Without a car, we wouldn't be doing that class.

Part of that lifestyle we created very long ago was allowing our daughters to join the competition dance team, and occasionally, we end up traveling to dance competitions. Two years ago, we went to New York City for a dance competition. Last week, we were in Las Vegas.

Everything I was told about Las Vegas ended up being not entirely true. For instance, I was told that Vegas was cheaper. It's not. Nothing is cheaper in Las Vegas. At best everything was comparable in price to New York City, or home. At worst, and more often, it was more expensive. Food, beverages, souvenirs, accommodations, transportation ... everything ... and almost nothing was complimentary. I'm not looking for free stuff, mind you, but I was led to believe that Vegas hotels cater to their guests, because they want them comfortable, sated, and sitting in the casino happily spending. That wasn't my experience.

Frankly, going to Vegas was not on my bucket list. I had no desire to ever travel there, and it was an experience I could have lived long and happy without having gone through. In fairness to those who call Las Vegas home, I will admit that my experience in Las Vegas is completely limited to the "Strip", which is probably not the "real" Vegas anyway.

I did meet some very interesting characters, and I call them that, because everything on the Strip was absolutely fake. The entire 4.2 mile stretch is an illusion created to part visitors from their money, and it did a very good job of doing that. Nothing is free - not even pictures, and there are plenty of people on the streets who are more than willing to take a dollar from unwary travelers in exchange for allowing them to return home with a photographic reminder of having met Chewbacca, Pee-Wee Herman (and his bicycle), a Showgirl, or one of the Minions from the cartoon film Despicable Me. We saw all of them, and many more characters. We only saw one Elvis, though, which was kind of disappointing, especially considering I missed getting a picture with him.

We also saw so many people who were panhandling in various ways from simply holding a sign that offered some plea for assistance to making and selling crafts. The panhandlers in Vegas seemed a lot more genuine than the panhandlers in Portland, Maine, in that their need seemed more real, and they weren't just doing it as a way of earning a living. I don't doubt that some of the panhandlers who live in Maine really do live on the streets, but there are an awful lot of stories about our northeastern homeless population who aren't really homeless, who earn more money that I do, and who are scamming the public. True or not, it makes people unwilling to give handouts. I suspect many of the street people in Vegas really do live on the street, and I even saw many of them looking pretty comfortable in their chosen spot (with comfortable being a euphemism for the fact that they looked as if they really did live there, but not implying that their lives were easy or comfortable, because they looked neither).

Our hotel room did not include any amenities, like coffee makers or refrigerators, which was both surprising and surprisingly difficult. I know - after a paragraph about the homeless population, I have the audacity to complain about not having a coffeemaker in my hotel room. Right?

The hotel did have a Starbucks, where I could purchase coffee. Four coffees cost almost $20. After spending nearly our entire day's food budget on just coffee, the next day, I resolved to find a better option for our morning meal. So, in the early morning on Tuesday, while my daughters slept a little longer, I walked down the Strip in search of a less expensive cup of coffee and some breakfast that didn't cost almost $100 (room service is pretty pricey). The Strip in the morning is an interesting place.

I met a man who thought I was German, which was interesting, because in the fourteen months I lived in Germany, without even opening my mouth, everyone knew, just from looking at me, that I was an American. I'm not sure what this man saw. He held out a hat for a "donation." I gave him a gold dollar. Then, for some reason, I bought an extra danish and an extra cup of coffee at the Walgreens. He didn't want the coffee, because he has high cholesterol and can't drink it, but he was appreciative of the apple danish.

Further up the strip, closer to my hotel, I saw a man with a sign that said, "Need cash for weed." I asked him if it worked. He said, "Sometimes." I didn't give him any cash, but I did give him that extra cup of coffee the other guy didn't want. He wished me good karma. I wished him the same. I saw him again later that day, and he thanked me for the coffee.

The next morning, when I went out for coffee, the weed guy wasn't nearly as cheerful. He said he'd slept "under that bush over there." I offered to buy him a cup of coffee, but he said his cup of coffee was different from my cup of coffee. He didn't remember me. It was kind of sad, but not surprising. I know a few people who drink not coffee and a good memory isn't one of their strongest traits. I suspect that the first morning I met him, he'd already been lucky to have someone who was willing to give him that cash he needed, and he'd already had his morning "coffee."

We were fortunate that we were able to get out of the city for a few hours during our southwest adventure on a bus tour to the Grand Canyon, that included a stop at the Hoover Dam. There's a lot to say about that visit, but of note is the fact that this ten-year drought the southwest has been experiencing has taken a visible toll on the area. The bus driver, who lives in Vegas, told us that they were on water restrictions and couldn't water their lawns.

Lake Mead, the lake created when the Hoover Dam was constructed, is the primary source of water for most of the surrounding communities, including Las Vegas. There is a visible line where the water level should be, and it is about 100 feet lower than needed to maintain the level of usage. In my opinion, water restrictions should be a lot more tight than just not being able to water one's lawn.

The white rocks in the picture should be underwater.


Interestingly, bottled water was actually pretty cheap. The whole atmosphere on the street along the Strip was kind of like a festival with people hawking all kinds of wares. We could purchase a bottle of ice cold water for $1, which was cheap, compared to $2 to $3 a bottle at the hotel and at Walgreens. At any festival here in Maine, bottled water from street vendors costs double what the street vendors in Vegas charged.

In a drought-stricken region, the only thing that was cheaper to purchase than the prices I find at home, was water. I thought that was interesting.

On our flight out to Vegas, we spent a few hours in the airport in New York City. We met a couple who were on their way "home" to Vegas, and I put home in quotes, because they were native New Yorkers, on their way back to where they lived in Vegas. They were very nice, but the only good thing the woman had to say about Vegas was that her rent in Vegas was cheaper than her rent would be in New York City, and she'd never be able to afford an apartment in NYC like she had in Vegas. Otherwise, she hated everything about Las Vegas and was trying to work out a way to get back to the east coast. I thought that was interesting, too.

I was, kind of, excited about experiencing dry heat for the first time in my life. I've always lived in very wet places, where precipitation is expected, and we aren't disappointed. Unfortunately, I must have dragged the moisture with me on my westward journey, because it was overcast and/or raining (their equivalent of a rainstorm is a barely notable weather phenomenon here - I love perspective) the whole time we were there, and it was just exactly the kind of humid heat to which I have been acclimated my entire life. It was a little disappointing.

I spent a week in Las Vegas. I didn't gamble - not even once - and I was never even tempted - not even once. I spent enough money just trying to feed us and find a decent cup of coffee that I was not even mildly curious about wasting any money on gambling. I was disappointed that none of the major restaurants or hotel bars carried any local/regional microbrews. All of the beer that was for sale was the crappy mass-marketed stuff I would never buy at home, because it's crap - cheap crap, but crap nonetheless. So, I didn't drink either.

I'm probably the first person ever to visit Sin City and not enjoy its particular amenities.

I will say that Vegas is a very poor choice as a location for a dance competition that primarily consists of young girls (ages 6 to 18). The casinos through which we had to walk no matter our destination, the bars on every corner, the large numbers of transient folks, and the "stripper" cards that littered the streets are bad enough, but the people who were wearing black tee-shirts emblazoned with some slogan about "girls" and handing out cards were incredibly unsettling. I didn't ask. I didn't take their cards, and most of them, seeing that I was with children, wouldn't even look me in the eye as we walked by.

Vegas is not a family-friendly vacation destination. Just sayin'. Take your kids someplace else, unless your goal is to show them the slimy underbelly of our civilization.

I experienced my first food dessert - not the actual dessert, but the middle of the city in Las Vegas, where the only food is high-priced restaurant food or fast-food, or trucked in, mostly processed, drugstore food. There were a lot of bananas, apples and oranges, but no other whole fruit (lots of packages of single-serve cut up fruit like melon, mango and berries). The closest grocery store was the Albertsons, and I don't know how far it was from where we were, but too far to walk. An apple was almost a dollar. A banana cost 75 cents.

The Farmer's Market I found online was too far, and we didn't get to go there. It was nine miles from our hotel, and after traveling a mile or so by cab from the airport to the hotel at a cost of $23, including the tip, I realized that taking a cab to the Farmer's Market and back would be cost prohibitive. I didn't have the time to figure out the bus schedule. If I have any regrets from my time in Vegas, it is that I was unable to see real people living real lives, and I'm pretty sure that's what I would have seen at the Farmer's Market.

I can not say that I enjoyed the trip. It was interesting, and I saw some stuff I won't forget, but I didn't experience or see anything that changed how I live my life. I knew the southwest would not be a choice of location for me, especially in the face of resource depletion. Without electricity, without cheap fossil fuels, and without the water provided by Lake Mead, Las Vegas can not function. It would be a ghost town, at best. At worst ... just say I know I wouldn't want to be there during a collapse.

If I can say one positive thing, it would be that Las Vegas made me appreciate my life here in Maine. I'm not a "bright-lights-big-city" kind of girl, and nothing about that sort of high-roller lifestyle appeals to me - not even a little. Maybe I'm an anomaly, but I like real life. I like my garden. I like my chickens in the backyard. I like things simple.

Frankly, Vegas didn't have anything I want that I can't find here in Maine. At least now, I can honestly say that I don't like Las Vegas, because I've been there, and I know it's not the place for a girl like me.

World's largest Ferris Wheel. No, we didn't ride it, because it would have cost $85 for the four of us, and we can ride the (albeit much smaller, but with an awesome view of the ocean) Ferris wheel here at home for about $4 per person.


Yes, sometimes I am rather juvenile. It stands for "French Connection UK". It's a clothing store.


Rosemary growing as an ornamental in a planter outside the mall. This was probably one of my favorite things.


Vine covered motorcycle was pretty cool, too, but it's no match for the vine covered bicycle we have sitting in our backyard. I think the vines on the motorcycle might be fake, but the ones in my backyard are very real ;).


The view from our 18th story window. The mountains around Las Vegas were actually pretty cool looking.








Thursday, July 3, 2014

Throwback Thursday




Throwback Thursday (or TBT) is a thing some folks do on Facebook. I thought it might be fun to bring TBT here to my blog and explore how far we've come with our Nanofarm in the few short years we've been moving toward real self-sufficiency.

If you want to play along (on your blog, not on Facebook), leave a comment with your blog link.

I, personally, have a long way to go, but it's not about the destination ... it's about the journey. Let's ride ;).

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Putting It Up


20 lbs of strawberries - half in the freezer, half made into jam.

I love canning days!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fig


Probably not enough for homemade fig Newtons, but it's a start.

Considering I thought I'd killed it, this is pretty awesome!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Entrepreneurial Minded Unschoolers



Conversation at the PYO strawberry field today:

"Mom, Little Fire Faery had an idea for if you didn't have a lot of money. She said you could come here and pick a quart of strawberries and while you were picking, you could eat as much as you wanted. You have lunch here, and you pay for the quart to have later."

I like the way they think.

And I'm, clearly, doing something right.



Note: I agreed and added that one could do as she suggested, but pick a couple of quarts (3 quarts would cost about $10), and then, sell them, double one's money, go back for more, and do it again, throughout the season. Then, there would be a little extra money for other types of food, and other stuff.