Sep 27, 2008

Portobello Market with Matt

Today I went to the Portobello Market with Matt, a friend of mine from the States, who lives here as well. It was so good to see him, cuz he's family in that he's my bro in law's best friend and we've done loads of holidays together, etc. We browsed and caught up on each others' lives, sharing handmade pastries and some coffee.

I was a little loopy from benadryl: I got stung by a very gnarly bee on the way to meet Matt. The wild is everywhere. Within seconds my finger was ready to burst. But I popped some benadryl as my breath got wheezy and my throat dried out, I was fine in 20 minutes beesides the sleepiness. Silly bee, landing on my chest like that. Forcing himself to deposit what was likely his death blow in defence of my swat. I felt bad for both of us.

But I digress! Turns out Matt and I have similar clothing styles. Bring on the button down long sleeve shirts, snaps are even better. And there were lots to choose from, even used. We both kept picking up shirts similar to ones we already have. I probably picked up 3 red v neck sweaters in contemplation. I have a lovely red v neck that is pretty much my favorite sweater of all time.

Alas we both left with no purchases. I purposefully came with fewer than 10 pounds. Oh, and Matt found 10 pounds while we were walking. I felt better about letting him buy me handmade pastries and coffee after that.

I liked a lot of the market. I even went back after saying bye to Matt in an effort to score closing market bargains. Great plan, it turned out. I turned my 7 pounds into about 15 pounds of fresh vegetables, fruits, and a vegan stew and rice dish that I ate on my walk "home". I was a little confused that there was imported produce. I thought that the produce stalls would all be local but that was not the case. But some stuff had stickers and I just asked about other items to get local produce. British strawberries are yummy. The Cox apples look great too.

Back tracking for a second, I went to Critical Mass last night. It was not nearly the joyous cycling event I had anticipated. The ride was almost as intense and aggression riddled as the commuting I've done here. I heard and saw the aftermath of a taxi hitting a cyclist, which destroyed his back wheel. Saw another taxi driver assault a cyclist. And saw a cyclist do something pretty naughty (though not to a human) after a driver sprayed him with washer fluid. I also had a really hilarious conversation with protesting cab riders who were out for one brother's "stag night" and need "to get to the strippers NOW".

I've had my fair share of incidents at SF Critical Mass so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I just thought we might gain some speed at some point, but we kept getting bogged down in conflict. Seriously, I'm a proponent of moving on if you can't actually help the situation. But whatever. I met a few rad folk and ran into a human I'd met before.

I want to recommend the North West Earth Institute after getting an email from an awesome librarian who recommended the site to me. There's a course on voluntary simplicity that might interest Compactors in the NW. I like that NWEI is offering chances for folks to address things like diet, simplicity, etc at different scales (individual, workplace, community). It looks like a good resource on many levels. Thanks, Kathy, for sending such a cool tip and the encouragement.

Sep 26, 2008

Freshers Fayre and Diesel Exhaust

I think I'm on track with school at this point. I met with my professor, signed a lot of forms, and got the basics on the course. I then went to the "Freshers Fayre". Now this was about 40% great and about 60% consumerist. I loved seeing the different clubs/societies that are a part of the campus and even signed up for a few email lists (Disarm UCL, UCL Union Stop the War, Friends of Palestine). I turned down free vita water and plastic bags from Waistrose (?), a fancy grocery store chain that I bet is something like Whole Paycheck. I also got my left knee bandaged. Those first aid folks were totally excited to see my injuries from Wednesday's moment of grace. I had on (as ever) convertible pants so it was perfectly easy to get a proper bandage put on the mess I've made. Very cosy cycling now.

Speaking of cycling, diesel fuel is gross! I know it's generally used more efficiently by car engines, but it tastes disgusting and activates my mild asthma. Those tiny particles definitely get into my lungs when I'm cycling hard. Today my chest started to hurt and I thought I was going to have to stop for a break. I think I'm going to get one of those fancy masks that I see about 1 of 15 cyclists wearing. They make you look pretty weird and I bet they're hot, but my throat feels all weird and my lungs just don't feel right. As in SF, bikes and buses are constantly vying for the same spots in the road, so I'm aerobically sucking in a heavy load of exhaust. Ugh.

I've read mixed reviews about face masks, but I'll probably try one. Biking is the best way to get around, but only if you can breathe. And believe me, no part of London has challenged me in terms of gradient, so I'm not huffing or puffing because it's a work out. This place is like Kansas next to San Francisco. And the traffic is so dense that speeds aren't often very high either, at least during the day. Besides, I'm constantly wiping black sweat off my face, so I don't even want to know what my lungs look like.

Sep 24, 2008


Rough couple of days! Met London's finest tonight, just after getting on course after an hour plus of lost-ness around 12:3o AM in way way way out east London. I moved on Tuesday from South London to West London. That really doesn't explain my lost-ness. Luckily this motorcycle cop was pretty chill about my running a red light and turning down the wrong side of the street (knowingly on both accounts). He actually sent me on my way saying, "You'll get it. Try not to commit any more offences tonight". If only.

All in all, the moving of my meager wares yesterday was a nightmare. Two of my bags are a bit heavy. And today, though I've gotten no word (as in ZERO communication) from the geography department of UCL, I find out that I've missed a welcoming event for the department and a lecture on environmental ethics. The department secretary basically told me that I needed to turn up or be chucked out. I was pretty insulted given that I DID turn up. I enrolled. I paid. I got no timetable. I got no induction schedule.

In my dumbass efforts to be a patient United Statesian, I fucked myself a bit. The lecture, by the accounts of the coursemates that I've met, is nothing that I haven't covered in Geog 610 at SFSU so I'm not stressed. More worrying are those freakish question marks by my name on some lists that I've seen. How can I turn over about 8 thousand dollars and they dunno I'm here?

Thank god I met nice humans on my course. They rock. They probably think I'm a nut because I pulled a classic "rachel" move tonight by tripping over a curb, scraping my knees and even ripping the left knee of one of a NEW pair of REI pants. I bled all the hell over the place just before we went into this departmental social, changed my pants with a human curtain on a street and even bled on those, but it was kinda dark so it looked like water. Whatever, that's me. I'm klutzy. It wasn't as glamourous as that huge scar on my left shin from playing capture the flag on Bernal in the dark after the Bicycle Music Festival last summer, but it was one of those moments when I feel pretty standard and other folks make a fuss. And these poor people have to go on field studies with me!

Seems buying new shit isn't for me. Cuz if I buy it new, I either have to return it or totally fuck it up within a few uses. What was I thinking?! Since I ruined a pair of new, blue tennis shoes in the ditch behind our house when I was six, my mom's always said that I'm "hard on clothes". It's true. Time for another patch!

On a brighter note, I went to the Hackney City Farm yesterday. It rocks. I met a nice pig, who let me scratch her butt for ages. My hands felt like they'd been through a spa treatment, so soft and smoothe afterwards. I'm going back to shovel some poop tomorrow. Or today, it seems. Can you believe that darn pig's name is Bella? There are two special Bella's in my life already. Bella the pit and Bella the shepherd. I miss 'em both. My good girls. I'd rather be scratching their butts but I guess I'll have to settle for this pig.

Sep 22, 2008

"What about a Toaster?"

I met with four people on Saturday to talk about starting a new vegetarian home. Many things come up when 5 folks who've never met sit down to talk about living together. We talked about geography, money, kitchen space, growing things, and the calendar. It was such an incredible relief to meet these folks, who I instantly liked and wanted to know.

When I tentatively said, "Think we could get a garden ... and grow stuff?" I heard enthusiasm and encouragement. Last Friday I met with folks in a house with a great garden. When I asked if I could grow some vegetables, the master tenant actually said, "We don't really have the climate for that in England." Those girls were also vegetarian, but I'd prefer that the vegetarians that I live with not assume that produce magically appears in supermarkets. And the new veg house kids don't.

I hope it works out with these guys. As the broke ass student of the bunch, I have the lowest budget. I also don't give a shit where we live or how big my room is, given that I have a place to rest my head and my trusty wheels. In my meager week in London, I think I like South London (the Californian in me so longs to call it SoLo) better than North London (NoLo). But I'd rather live with loveable humans than trip over geography of which I know so little.

Given my lack o' budget, I mentioned that I don't buy new stuff to the new veg house kids. I wanted to be clear that if some sort of furnishing became involved in the move process, that I would not chip in on new items. It was hilarious! "What about a Toaster?" was quickly followed by "What about a kettle?". I admitted that I've never had a new toaster and that my only kettle was a gift (and not the kinda kettle they mean anyway). I think that toast and tea might be deemed Compact health items in England. They're both way more important here than in the US.

I personally think the toaster that Blake and I scored used and free about 7 years ago is as good as any I've seen. And I can't imagine needing a new kettle since it seems that every housing ad I've read says, "includes all mod cons: wash machine, kettle, etc". But I could see a scarcity on the used market for goods like kettles and toasters here. Dunno, guess I'll hope we find a furnished flat.

For now I'm crashing for free. My English friend, Max, is really the best. She's made this transition so do-able. I've been in one place for a week and leave tomorrow for another where I'm good for at least 3 weeks. Hopefully the housing will have come through by then! (That said, if you're reading this and you know some radical vegetarian kids who need a roommate in their cheap rent spot, do pass my info along!... in case the new veg house falls apart).

Sep 20, 2008

Be Forgiving of Yourself and Others

I got some nice responses/comments on the last post, one of which expressed appreciation that I could admit that it's difficult to hold perfectly to the ideals that I profess. In return, I appreciate that sentiment. It reminded me of a sticker a rad girl had on her bike a few years back: Be Forgiving of Yourself and Others.

I think it's really important not to trip out on perfection. I'm a bit type A, so I can sometimes be very demanding of myself and the folks I love in terms of principles. I am constantly learning about acceptance and not being hard on myself for straying from principles that I espouse. My dad has always cautioned me about sweating the small things. And I agree to the sweat part: though I continue to consider the small things (like packaging, food transport distance, water re-use possibilities), I try to put those thoughts toward creativity rather than criticism, for either myself or others.

The Compact is really functional in that way. We started this as friends so there was no getting kicked out of the challenge. It's fun in part because it's realistic that we'll falter at some point and most of us are a bit competitive. So even though I shopped at REI like a freak, and I bought a new cellphone (which I'm sure I'll pass on before returning to the States in leiu of the chewy antennae phone), I'm still allowed to talk about anti-consumption issues. I'm still a Compactor even if I need a month off the hardcore challenge.

I had to tell some potential future housemates today that I wouldn't consider buying new appliances/furniture if we needed to furnish the hypothetical flat. "What about a toaster?" one girl said. Of course I responded that I've never had a new toaster. I also said that I think toast is a lot more important here than it is in the US! But my used toaster always worked just fine. I'm sure Blake's still using it to toast his frozen, high protein, Alvarado St bread. But in reality, I can't afford to help furnish a flat even if the wares are used. Oi, still room hunting....

OH, I keep forgetting to mention biking in London is crazy hectic! But I kinda love it. I'm not a 'fraidy cyclist so the intensity is mostly ok. I'm sure when the rain hits (it's been deceptively gorgeous for the 5 days I've been here) and my brain gets burned from school that I'll be bitching about all the bendy/double decker buses, taxis, and silly drivers. For now I'm taking advantage of my free time by trying to navigate simply by instinct between destinations. I'm doing ok. On Wednesday I thought I might go insane, but by today I feel fairly confident about my orientation.

I gotta get back to the room hunt. Some freak just tried to run a stupid scam on me (400 pound deposit before viewing the room, right). I'm so ready to get my crap outta my bags!

Sep 19, 2008

London Compacting and Other Adventures

Ok, so I made it to London. So far I'm excited to be here but a bit anxious about finding a good home. I'm mid search and have met some really nice people, but probably not the best fits ever. My last interview was with a banker who talked of the cheap clothes (Ralph Loren) in Miami as her passion for the US. I was complementing that with talks of the food co-op I'm interested in and the bike workshop at the local infoshop. 

But all in all we actually like each other! So we'll see. I'm going to some other places today... here's hoping that my fabulous flatmates are in my immediate future. For now I'm crashing with some radical folk in South London. I want to stay down here but am open to other areas. I really like the infoshop down here though... would love to get involved. 

I've been a piss poor Compactor. I've officially decided (as officially as one can be about the Compact) that I'm taking this month off of the Compact. I did that crazy REI haul before I left the States and have bought a new cell phone here. I tried to just unlock my US phone, which was a hand-me-down from my sister. The guy at the shop told me that was a waste of money.
 Indeed it was cheaper to buy a new, more reliable phone. (The old one required me to bite the antennae to adjust it after half the casing had fallen off. )

But I'll be back to my Compacty ways in about 10 days or so, I'm sure. It's not like I can afford to buy a bunch of new shit. I'm just waiting for my bank to fail and my meager tuition savings to disappear. I paid an installment yesterday and felt relieved to have gotten the money from the bank. Are we watching the fall of capitalism? 

Sep 13, 2008

Pumpkin Update + My Adventures with Shopping

Hurray for Pumpkin, she's found a foster home. How I wish I could say she's found a forever home, but for now, I'm just glad that I don't have to put her down. I really worked every angle for this dog and it was coming down to the wire (I'm leaving in 2 days!). After speaking with several folks in various aspects of rescue and animal care, I was resolved not to put Pumpkin into the Animal Control facility, but to put her down quietly and humanely if I couldn't find her a home.

I never stopped looking for a place for her. And thankfully, my inquiries to local rescues were passed along numerous channels, and finally, a dedicated dog lover named Tracy is taking Pumpkin into her home until she can get her adopted. My parents are taking Pumpkin to our vet on Thursday for vaccinations and spay surgery so that she's ready for adoption when Tracy takes her. Tracy volunteers with a shelter that can't fit Pumpkin in right now. They just got 13 puppies that are only 3 weeks old. It just doesn't stop out here.

I did some hardcore, anti-Compact shopping at REI on Thursday. I got some rain gear (coat and pants), a winter coat, two pairs of utility pants, and shoes. I've already had to return the shoes because they just don't fit. Chick shoes are so narrow. So I guess I have to buy shoes in London. Joy. That was the first crazy shopping spree I've had in nearly 3 years. It was weird. I was so contemplative over the choices. Damn did I try on a lot of raincoats!

Every thing I bought was on sale except the raincoat and shoes. My mom was going to give me a winter coat but it really really really isn't my style. It's actually one of those San Francisco coats that people buy when they come to SF in the summer unprepared. I wasn't sure that I could sport the SF coat in London without feeling like a total weirdo.

In returning the shoes today, I tried to find a proper size. No luck. Instead I just got to do a whole lot of gnarly driving. I'm so ready for a city again. Sprawl sucks. All of my romanticizing a life in Atlanta seems over for the moment. It's been priceless to be with my parents for these last 3 weeks. My mom's older and she hates to travel. So I've considered moving back here to have a better relationship with her. I'm just not sure I could handle the ever widening roads and replacement of trees with strip malls.

I'm excited about London, but daunted. I still don't have a place to live. I really don't want to get wrapped up in a crappy roommate situation. I'm sure I'll get it all worked out. For now, I'm trying to be stoked about my program. Trying to learn metric conversions, considering a new tattoo on my forearm for this purpose. Looking forward to wireless access, walking for coffee, and biking!

Sep 10, 2008

Shopping in My Mom's Closet

My mom is a garage saling addict. She buys soooo much stuff that she doesn't need, that when I got home this time, all of the closets were bursting, the shed was full, and one bathtub was filled 5 feet high with used clothes, pillows, blankets, and rugs. It was scary. Of course, this is mostly Compact friendly shopping, but the clutter is insane.

My dad hates it and I kinda freaked out, so my mom is doing one of her big purges. I should mention that the true impetus of the purge was neither my dad's protestations at the state of his home or my anxious assertions that my mom must be lonely. Though I had tried to tie her consumption tenets of her faith, it was really a nicely time sermon by her preacher about 10 days ago that got her started. He spoke about service and sharing and suddenly my mom is all about it. Halellujah.

I've always said you can't dictate people's motivations for conservation. The Compact's openness about motivation has facilitated it's growth. I hear from people who want to consume less because of ecological concerns, financial realities, religious beliefs, moral considerations, anti-capitalist leanings, family relationships, etc. So I don't approach my mom with The Story of Stuff. That might renew my own resolve, but it would probably just overwhelm my mom with negativity and the enormity of consumption.

I was trying to appeal to my mom using her passion for Church. I messed up when I basically said that "waste" wasn't in line with the teachings of Jesus, who was radical in his sharing. I also commented on the stewardship theory within Christianity, which dictates that we care for the planet. It was the wrong way to go. It was negative and she needed something positive. Sounded like her preacher talked mostly about how sharing with people less fortunate was a joyous thing. I guess I've never learned from my own experiences with Church: Focusing on the sin, the negative, the ways we're bad, is not motivating. Emphasising the kinder, more beautiful aspects of Christianity was always more inspiring to me, and apparently to Mom, as well.

I would personally like to take a backhoe to her closet and scoop 2/3rds out and just dump it into a thrift store. She's more methodical. As she pulls stuff out she tries to get me to take hats, shoes, coats, and the weirdest socks you've ever seen. Some stuff is tempting, other stuff I have to find a nice way to refuse. Luckily I have limited space in my bags and that seems to be working very well.

My sister was helping me pack back in SF and rolled her eyes when I considered taking a pair of holey house shoes to London. "You can get a pair from Mom, I'm sure". Indeed the pair I was contemplating had been a gift from Mom a few years back. Erica was right. And I love the house shoes that Mom gave me! They're so comfy, warm, well treaded, and free! I think I'm taking a coat too. It's not my style at all but I don't have a warm coat and they're expensive so being picky isn't really an option. There's a wasps' nest in the shed so we can't get up in there but I'm really interested to see if there are other warm things that I can scrounge up there. But wasps are scary so my scrounging may be limited to in house adventures.

HMMM, I am going to have to buy shoes. Anyone got any recommendations for a good walking shoe that keeps your feet fairly dry in rain? I've got boots for rain but I don't love cycling in them so I'm looking for a reasonable shoe. I'm not finding much since most sport shoes are so well ventilated. Shoes are a bit of a health item for me, formerly a professional exception for my dog walking. I have to wear custom orthotics and stability shoes for my injured knee. But I don't want wet feet all the time. I'm stumped but looking.

Sep 5, 2008

Gratuitous Pix of Homeless Pumpkin

She's so darn cute it's crazy. I've been in touch with Ridgeback Rescue but I don't know if they'll be able to help. They say they don't have any foster homes right now and since Pumpkin's clearly a mix, I don't know how much effort they'll want to contribute. But I'm hopeful at the moment.

Somehow I accidentally deleted a comment from Lisa in San Francisco. I thought I hit publish but it didn't show up, dial up is no fun. (But I'm at the library right now so big pix of Pumpkin!). Lisa offered to do a drive and meet for Pumpkin. I'm going to email her back personally, but will also respond here.

I've given Pumpkin a name and put her face out there for folks to see. But there are dogs in Cali who Lisa and the other awesome folks who've offered to fly Pumpkin can help. In the time it will take to get Pumpkin to California, perhaps two or three dogs could be helped in Cali. I hope I don't sound weird here. Obviously I want Pumpkin to find a home, but we can't save them all, so it seems wise to save the ones near us. Finally, I cannot drive toward California. I'm stretched pretty thin getting ready to move and finding a dog a home has been a tough addition to the long list of things I need to do for myself. It sounds so selfish, but I really am trying here. She's been the first thing I work on daily.

Sep 4, 2008

Sopo Bikes in Atlanta, Pumpkin Still Needs Home

My bike was damaged in transit! I had a dream the other night that I was going to the Bike Kitchen (SF) with my friends Matt and Justin to fix this bike. Luckily, there's a Bike Kitchenesque spot here in Atlanta.

I've said it before, I'm not a good mechanic. So I did try to take this bike to a shop in Cartersville. I walked out quickly when the mechanic/sales guy said he'd charge me $85 to adjust my derailleur and reattach my headset. WHAT?! Heavy Metal Bike Shop I miss you!

Ok, so I'm going to have to fix this myself, but not without help. Sopo Bicycle Co-op offers access to tools and guidance for a completely reasonable donation of $5 per hour or part. Hopefully, with some good vibes, decent tools, and helpful advice I can get my wheels back in shape before I toss them back into another box! Luckily I read a post on a London Critical Mass list for a workshop on the evening that I land in Hackney, where I think I'll be staying. Hurrah!

Pumpkin still needs a home! We're working every possible angle until I leave. She's a stray but very social and sweet. She's not prepared to fly anywhere though she appreciates the offers from San Francisco. Unfortunately, she's not even leash trained so 8 hours in a crate will be impossible for her. But if you're near Georgia, she's a great girl! And again, we're driving to Missouri on Saturday so if you're on route (Tn, Ky, Il, Mo) ...

Sep 3, 2008

Adopt Pumpkin, a Compact Friendly Dog

If you really care about the finite resources available on this planet, please spay and neuter your companion animals. I'm still in Georgia, staying with my parents in exurbia. A lost dog has found me and I've been calling her Pumpkin. Though I've printed fliers, stuffed them in mailboxes, posted them at local stores, the library, and pet shops, no one has called about this sweet girl. Sorry the pic is so small, dial up is no fun.

I'm pretty realistic about the limitations of dog and cat rescue. In 8 years as a dog handler, I've volunteered a fair bit with rescue groups, almost exclusively in San Francisco. My experiences with the Humane Society of Bartow County, Georgia is limited. I step into the building and feel an overwhelming shame for my species. The last time I ventured to the shelter, I ended up dragging Blake there too. We left with two dogs and a semi-feral cat.

I don't want to send Pumpkin to Bartow Animal Control. I'd love to give her family a greater chance of finding her, but not at the risk of her being euthanized. The shelter gives 5 days for an "owner" to reclaim their dog or cat. They will not place a hold on her for my family, which would mean that they would call us at the end of the five days so we can take her back out. They rely on the Humane Society to come over and take as many of the dogs as they can, but Animal Control will not release a dog to anyone but the "owner" or Humane Society. When the vet shows up, the dogs and cats not chosen on Monday are euthanized.

So basically, Pumpkin is likely a dead dog if I turn her over to Animal Control. She's a large breed, brown, adolescent dog. Adoptions generally proceed with the smallest and youngest of the lightest colors going first (that's right, black dogs are least adopted).

I tried some local rescue groups, but they require that I run a newspaper ad for two weeks before I can call her "my" dog and surrender her. I don't have enough time for that because I'm leaving on 9/15. I understand the position of all of these kind folks who are involved in rescue or animal control. I don't blame them for Pumpkin's plight.

Why can't we keep Pumpkin? She's horse, dog, and cat friendly thus far. But she's a young 'un if you will. All the creatures here, including my parents, are seniors. And truly, my mom's pissed that I've even kept her since Sunday.

So I need someone to give this dog a good home. We're driving to Missouri this weekend for my grandmother's 84th birthday. That's Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, and Missouri. We're also close to Alabama, North and South Carolina. Do you want a sweet, smart dog who is eager to please?

She loves the Compact: Prefers used collars and leashes. Likes her rawhides pre-chewed, and your scent on an old blanket would make her sleep so sound.

I have placed dogs before, and have some standards. She's not leash trained at all, would do best in a rural setting but could be trained if you are experienced. If you are out of state, a donation in the form of a check to the Bartow County Humane Society (nominal amount, just to ensure that you're not some lab jerk collecting "free" dogs) is required. If you are in state, I'd love to make an appointment for her spay surgery. I'll drop her off, you can pick her up.

She rocks, ask questions. Take this dog so I don't have to put her in the shelter. I have until next Friday. Feel free to make links to this post on any relevant lists. Copy and paste the info. I can be reached at k e tt er k A t [AT] y a h oo