Friday, December 15, 2017

Proceeding through Prossedi and Mulling over Moszna (Part 1)

Well, buona sera and dzień dobry to you!

I rejoin the World of Blogging almost at the same spot where I left it: Prossedi, Latina, in the region of Lazio, in Italy.

I say “almost” because I’m not actually in Prossedi anymore, though I was there until just a few days ago. Now, I write to you from my spot at the windowsill in the Moszna Castle in Łącznik (from what my cell phone location tells me…), in the south of Poland. From this spot, I can see a family of cats strolling around the parking lot of this enormous structure; I can see a lonesome horse slowly meandering in a gated enclosure; I can see, through the naked branches of a sparse forest of trees the movements of what appear to be either donkeys or… deer? (Edit: I confirmed up close that they were a type of deer.) The sky is filled with gloom, but, in the distance, pale blue and sun-tinged clouds proffer bright contentment. (Edit: I walked in the sun before the early sunset [the sun appears to begin to set as early as 2:00]. Photos to come in a dedicated blog post, but here’s a taste.)

I guess I might have to jump back and forth in time a little bit. I’m in Poland now, as I said. Dane and I arrived here on Wednesday, landing in Warsaw, where we spent the night in what I think to be a swanky hotel (it takes little to impress me, though, so maybe it was just a normal hotel). Dane has been coming to Poland about once every two months for the past year, as he quit his advertising job after our honeymoon (yeah, we got married, eh? Like I said: I’m gonna have to jump back and forth in time), started working on writing a book, inaugurated a podcast on the online competitive card game Gwent, began streaming his game-play on Twitch, forged important and cherished relationships with CD Projekt Red (the creators of The Witcher, whence Gwent came), and, finally, was hired by the company, along with three other people, to be, essentially, an e-sports commentator/caster for Gwent competitions hosted in Poland, events known as the Gwent Masters.

Needless to say, he’s been busy.

Thus, since I finished teaching at the university on the 7th of December (I’ve got about a year left of my PhD!) and Dane needed to be in Poland on the 13th, I figured I’d tag along to meet all the characters and personages that have played essential parts in this truly exciting journey of the past year; now, there are faces to the names I heard Dane talk about all the time. I’ve been in their company only for the last few days, but it’s already become clear why this community is so tightly knit and supportive: they have fun, they’re passionate, they’re totally dedicated to the game, and they are, truly, very kind and encouraging to one another. I feel fortunate to have this exceptional view into this community thanks to Dane’s employment and expertise. (As I type this and the clock strikes eleven, eleven peals of bells echo in the distance from a nearby church.)
Since I was heading over the ocean, I could sneak in a visit to my family in Prossedi. My great-uncle has been ill, and I hadn’t seen the family since Dane and I were there last and got engaged, so I checked in with them to make sure I was not imposing, and they invited me to stay in the bed and breakfast that my cousins opened up just over two years ago. It is a place of magnificence (if you are heading to Italy and want an authentic Italian experience only slightly off the beaten path [it’s just over an hour away by car from Rome], I highly recommend this spot, and not just because it’s my family. Their tagline on their web site says it best: Un paese da favola con tutti i confort della modernità, that is, “A fairy-tale town with all the comfort of the modern age”). So, I stayed in Prossedi for four days and met up with Dane—or McBeard, as his fans and colleagues know him—in Warsaw.
Before I continue, here are a few shots of my experiences in Prossedi and surrounding towns, including Fossanova (where the nearest train station and a medieval historic centre are located), Rome, Sabaudia, and Latina.

The view, through the screen, from my room at the Locanda Persei

One of my favourite views in Prossedi. On my left is San Nicola Church; on my right is the exit of the Locanda Persei bed and breakfast.

The immaculate cloister of the abbey in Fossanova. That certainly is a lemon tree in the foreground!

Medieval abbey in Fossanova

Medieval architecture in Fossanova

Vegan stuff is eeeeeeeverywhere now! This was in Rome.

Priverno-Fossanova train station. It was pretty deserted as I waited to embark to head to Rome.

The Tyrrhenian Sea as seen from Sabaudia

What I think is a brilliant ad for Illy espresso in Fiumicino airport

Vegan croissants are available at all bars, apparently—even in the friggin airport!

I’ll pick this back up in separate blog posts, so that I don’t leave you with a monstrosity of a novel like I did last time. Plus, since I’ll have full days over the weekend to myself while Dane preps and casts the Gwent Challenger, I’ll have lots of time to write (though I do have lots of work to do…). I’ll catch you this weekend!

Cheers and hugs and four church bells at 4:00 pm (I wrote this in pieces. Heh),


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Welcome to my yearly blog post, wherein I talk about nuptials, food in Paris, Zoe, Facebook silliness, and gratitude. (YAY!)

Hey, hello there, what's up, how's it goin'.

It's been a while, eh? Unlike my more prolific blogger friends (I'm looking at you, K!), I have allowed myself to fall into a bit of obscurity, having remained silent long enough for my browser to not autofill "veganinsub” as I started typing my own blog's URL. (To be more precise, I haven't blogged since June 10 of last year. Woopsies?)

I guess that's to be expected in a year of thesis-writing, teaching two full-year courses, planning a modest wedding, organizing my sister's bridal shower with my mum, adopting a dog (holy shit! My blog has never seen our dog, Zoe!), training said dog, going to physio appointments, drinking a lot of coffee, attending Osheaga, presenting at two conferences, biking everywhere, meditating, going to Montreal, publishing in an academic journal, getting a part-time job at a much-loved vegan restaurant in Toronto, quitting said job, crying with joy at concerts like a loser, spending hours upon hours at cafés with study buddies, attending my first kirtans (!), and finally landing a TOTALLY AWESOME translation gig.

Now that I type it all out, maybe, just maybe I have a good excuse to not blog, but... it's not a great one. But… maybe I should follow the lead of the aforementioned prolific blogger friends and give some tidbits every so often instead of dumping all this out. We'll see what happens, I guess.

Then again, my silence also coincided with my willing absence from social media after the attacks in Paris of last year. (I'm sorry to get all serious very abruptly.) I couldn't bring myself to share anything online or to read anything on social media because it didn't feel like what I or anyone was eating for lunch or where I found myself sipping coffee or "what your favourite colour says about you!" really mattered alongside tremendous and brutal loss of life. I mean, lives are lost—human and non-human—due to human and environmental atrocities every damned day, and in larger numbers than what occurred in Paris, but, shit, man… I don't really know if it was because a metropolitan city like Paris was targeted, much like Toronto or Montreal, that made it feel like "too close to home"—or maybe it was because Dane and I had just been there in May... ?

Maybe it was the fact that it had happened on Friday the 13th, when I had, that very day, just urged my students to "let go of superstition" and taught them that "13" is actually a lucky number in Italy, and, thus, I somehow felt, later, like I'd let my students down or deceived them (I know: it's ridiculous)… Maybe (and I'm just thinking about this now) it was because it had happened in a venue that I often frequent—a concert venue—a "sacred" space for art and community and sharing and love, not unlike a place of worship for the faithful, really.

Anyway, the events in Paris affected people in different ways, and I don't mean to insinuate that I am special for feeling or (re)acting the way I did, especially since that kind of malice manifests in myriad manners all over the world every day and my reaction means nothing when placed alongside... the heartbreak of Syrians being forced out of their homes, for instance. Some of us don't always know about or react to the news—myself included; but, once we know, sometimes the helplessness causes us to act, and, other times, it causes us to retreat in retrospection for a while.

All this to say that that's why I was silent (self-righteous side note: I also went the whole year without clicking "like" [or whatever these other new-fangled buttons are; they were a surprise when I "came back" to Facebook!] on a photo or post on Facebook. Try it! Write a comment instead on someone's post, or share an emotion. It makes interacting on Facebook much less passive and more fun and active and interactive :) Check out this article that I happened upon a few weeks ago for more on this), but, I've been creeping back around over the past few months, and especially in the last weeks, after Orlando… 

So… hey, what's up. removes her serious hat and sets it aside

We have even more reasons to come together and talk to each other and hug and love and sing and pet dogs and—ZOE! STOP EATING GRASS. gets up and claps her hands to get the dog's attention So, before I go on, thanks for reading this and for being patient throughout my rambling, and thanks for hanging out for a bit while I get some things off my chest and let you know why I'm writing today (trust me: it's not all that interesting, so you can jet if you want. [Peace]). And feel free to let me know in the comment section how you've been doing or link to a post on your own blog so I can keep in the loop : )

Okay. So, I got engaged, as I mentioned in my last post, so that's nifty. Yay, Dane! Thanks for liking me! Dane and I will be married on July 9, and that is very soon. (As my Nonna Libera would say: "oly boy" [in case you don't get it, it's a charming combination of "holy cow" and "oh, boy." Hahaha. Oh, Nonna...) That'll be right around the time when, one year ago, Dane and I welcomed an energetic little half-poodle, half–Jack Russell named Zoe into our home. She's six now and is the snuggliest and cutest little pain in the arse. (As I type this, she just bolted from beneath my patio chair to chase a squirrel.) She is a loudmouth and she is, unfortunately, leash-reactive due to her lack of socialization with other dogs as a puppy, but she is my buddy and I love her and we snuggle and she lets me kiss her snout and that's nice. I will let her face show you her silliness and sweetness.

See? Hehehe…

So, there's that… Zoe is a good friend. (EDIT on June 23: We went for a run together for the first time today and it was grand!)

I mentioned in my last post that a bunch of things happened that I wanted to write about, but I never got around to it (I apologize for misleading you when I said, "Stay tuned for more." How silly of me…). Well, our Euro-trip was sick—in the good way, of course. Dane and I had never travelled extensively together before, and it was great to see how we were always on the same page when it came to plans and meals and sights and meals and…

Speaking of meals, when Ingrid Newkirk walked into Saveurs Végét'Halles in Paris, I couldn't eat. She was sitting next to us with another influential individual in the vegan and health scenes, and I told Dane that I felt sick and that if I didn't say hello I would vomit. Hahahaha. (Sidenote: When Dane had asked me to marry him, I told him, "I think I'm going to be sick" before I actually said, "yes." So, apparently, when I'm really overcome with emotion, my insides get a little messed up.) Dane convinced me to wait to say hello, and we did, after our meal. I was even scared to go to the bathroom, lest they left before I said hello! They were both so kind to talk to us (ahem: me) as non–freaking-out humans. Ms. Newkirk even gave me some végé pâté (!) and her companion was kind enough, too, to take a (blurry) photo of us. 

Oh, in case you were wondering, I didn't actually puke before, during, or after our meal. But, holy shnikeys, I was beaming. (And, in case you were still wondering, I wasn't actually sick when Dane proposed to me either. Somewhere below is a photo of the view surrounding the area where he proposed, in Prossedi, Italy, in the birthplace of my paternal grandparents.) And, finally, because it bears being said, though PETA (Ingrid Newkirk is the President of PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has some questionable practices and a few of their campaigns hurt my heart and they are reviled by many (for good and bad reasons), it must be acknowledged that a great number of their advocacy campaigns regarding veganism are effective, and it was because of one of these campaigns, at the Vans Warped Tour in 2003, that I went vegan. So, it was rad to meet the woman behind the organization that spearheaded my vegan lifestyle and brought me to good health.

Okay, so, I put my serious hat on again without telling you; I'm sorry about that! removes it 

This started off as a vegan food blog, so maybe I’ll spare you all the logistical details of our trip to Paris, Prossedi, Naples, Borgo Grappa, and Rome and the wonderful and precious moments spent with loved ones, showing you the food photos instead. Here goes!

This one might not be self-explanatory, so allow me to say that every visit to Paris merits a picture of a Gare du Nord sign, because of the line in Jimmy Eat World's "Polaris": "As the train approaches Gare du Nord, as I'm sure your kiss remains employed, am I only dreaming?" Mm.
The formatting and placement of these photos is all weird, and I don't have the time to (figure out how to) fix them, so I apologize for posting things out of order. This meal was our welcome-home meal at Bloomer's at the end of a long flight that found us poorly nourished (see far below, where we tried to sate ourselves with just salad, jerky, bread, and wine). We felt like we were on some serious drugs while we hobbled around jet-lagged in our favourite vegan restaurant in Toronto, bags and all. We even accidentally bonked heads when foolishly trying to take a selfie. Spatial awareness suffered, indeed, after the flight.
This is where Dane proposed to me : )
In Prossedi, this is where we had breakfast every morning. (This is the spot where I took the photo of where Dane proposed to me.)
Pizza in Naples by the water
I could eat cicoria ALL DAY. (If you have a keen eye, you may see this dish lurking in other photos/meals, too.)
My cousin, at her restaurant, prepared a mind-blowingly scrumptious vegan meal for us. That is, indeed, fried motherfriggin polenta back there. FRIED POLENTA.
The tastiest crêpe ever, in Paris. Holy shnikeys. Thank you, Loving Hut Paris! (If I remember correctly, I was mumbling passionately and incoherently as I was taking this photo. It may or may not have been the best thing I've ever eaten, and I am not one for hyperbole [usually].)
Oh—my bad: it's coffee and baguettes all the time.
This is the meal I barely managed to eat while Ingrid Newkirk dined to our left. It was delightful; don't let all the boring brownness fool you.
Come on, Air Canada. You can treat vegans better! (They can't take credit for the jerky; that was ours. They can, however, take credit for the free wine. YEEEEESSSSS.)
If and when you go to Rome, RUN to Universo vegano. Bring a receptacle in which to gather the remains of your blown mind.
*incoherent sounds indicating excitement about tastes*
*more of the aforementioned sounds*

Hungry yet? :D

Then, the final reason for my writing today (and then I'll leave you to your day; thanks for getting this far!)... No, wait a second: I really, really, really do intend to update you once again after our wedding, because I'm sure there will be cool photos and stories to share, including from our honeymoon, which we'll be taking in the city of—aha! Suckers. Hahaha. I need to keep you coming back somehow! So, I'll tell ya when we come back at the end of July—precisely a month from now, actually. Mamma mia…

Where was I... The reason why I felt compelled to write today was that I was overcome with gratitude on my run yesterday, to the point of tears. "WHAT A LOSER!" you're thinking. It's cool; I thought that, too. "What a LOSER!" my mind echoes. (Aaaand a bug just flew up my nose. [I'm sitting outside.]) No, but, really. I don't know if it's the amalgamation of all the events occurring simultaneously, or my already-full plate of work with an added serving of last-minute wedding stuff (I should be translating right now instead of posting here—and, earlier today, I should have been translating, but I was working on wedding stuff…)—heck, I could have been moved to tears because of being overwhelmed, but I'm pretty sure it's because I felt happy and honoured and loved and supported and grateful.

Let me explain.

Getting married is a funny thing, and not just because it's a perhaps-outdated custom that costs an arm and a leg and maybe the other arm and it shines a bright light on two individuals who maaaaaay not be so comfortable with that much attention, yet they still do it anyway (*cough cough*). It's a funny thing because, yes, you invite people to attend and they're happy to attend a party because they care about you and stuff, but, really, they're coming together to celebrate your love and your vow to share your life with another human being and to see you beam at your beloved in the moments in which you formally declare your promises to one another. These people are dropping everything to celebrate love. Now, there's no way that that is outdated; that's the frakking coolest part about modern nuptials, and that's the part that had me on the verge of tears on my run.

Living in a city of literally millions, it's easy to get lost in the hubbub and to revel in it, too, while also feeling LOST in it and isolated by it. I've been feeling all of that a lot in the past several months, but this wedding has helped me feel so much love, because people keep telling me and Dane, "We're so excited for your wedding!"—and that blows my mind and really moves me! Heck, I even feel like I'm imposing on people for my birthday, let alone a wedding that costs people money and time off from work, and I have the opportunity to practise letting go of that guilt for asking people to come out for my birthday every year. Having people excited to witness your dedication to another human being and share in the festivities that accompany this expression of loyalty and the food and the music and the togetherness—that's exceptional. And we get to do it once. And my heart is so full and so thrilled and so humbled. Even though our modest little wedding hasn't happened yet, thank you to those of you who will attend, and thank you, too, to those of you with whom we will celebrate in our next meetings and who have wished us and continue to wish us well.

Apart from that, I feel very lucky, these past few days, to have been in one-on-one talks with some meditation teachers about new habits and resources and meetings and retreats, and these are people whom I've never met or whom I've just met. It's fabulous and humbling—for me, at least—to interact with these people who are giving or offering me their time when I'm just another name in an almost infinite inbox of endless e-mails. Right now is a precious moment (I type as the wind blows the leaves of the trees in our urban backyard), and it's easy to run away into the future with excitement, but… I'll allow myself a little savouring here, and a little excitement there.

I hope you're excited, too, with whatever you have on your plate and whatever is on the horizon. It's summer! It's warm! Hooray! But, seriously: I invite you to tell me, either via e-mail or in the comments, what's making you smile today (I tried this on Facebook and people just clicked "like." Hehe. Maybe I'll have more success here, but there's no pressure either. [Also, to those who clicked "like," I like and love you all the same. smiles big at you]). And please forgive me for all this (over-)sharing. I feel sometimes like this type of blog or even, I don't know, open letters are really vain, and maybe they are, but they're outlets, and they're most useful for the writer, even if no one reads. I know this is my blog and this is the right venue for sharing, but... well, thanks for allowing me to share and for meeting me in this Internet nook. You rock.

We'll talk soon (or I'll talk at you with my eighteen-hundred words). :-) Keep well and keep smiling and keep rocking, and thank you for reading!


Kris / Vegan in Suburbia

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Conferencin' around Brooklyn

Toronto, Ontario, 23:49, June 9, 2015

Ho, boy.

First things first: hello! How ya been?

Second things: I’m newly engaged; I went to Italy and France; I met Ingrid Newkirk, Dr. Neil Barnard, Roberto Benigni, and Nicoletta Braschi; I presented at two academic conferences (and co-organized one of ’em) and am in the process of having two articles published; I visited Montreal for my sister's engagement party; I met my best friend's baby; and I hung out with three cool cats (and several other human cool cats) this weekend.

Stuff’s been happening, as you can see, but I wrote this other post about a month and a half ago, so I ought to share it.

So, here goes…

Do stay tuned for more.

Hugs and love,

Vegan in Suburbia

Brooklyn, New York, 13:47, April 24, 2014

It’s 13:47. Friday afternoon. I’m in Brooklyn, in a hip café. It’s not packed, but it’s bustling. I’ve been nursing the same soy cappuccino for the past two hours or so. Jessie Ware’s “Wildest Moments” just started playing. A bunch of males of different ethnicities quietly work on their laptops at tables scattered through the back room of the café. A man in his sixties is having a conversation with a woman of approximately the same age six or seven small two-seat tables away. We’re far from the entrance to the café, but the chilly air from outside appears to travel unimpeded to the back of the restaurant, sunny though the day may be.
            I’m in Brooklyn. I’d never been here before now. I’d been to New York State as a kid and went to Buffalo once in the past two years, but I’d never been to New York City. I’d dreamt, since going vegan eleven years ago, that I would visit for the purposes of culinary travel, but, excited as I am about food, I’m pretty psyched as it is just to be here. The city’s got a sweet vibe and I love the people. There are pockets of Toronto-like culture, but, for the most part, it’s pretty clear that I’m not in Toronto anymore.
            On a side, but also-related, note, they say, “to stay” instead of “for here” when talking about foods or beverages to be consumed on the premises, versus “to go.” Ha! (Forgive me for the linguistic interlude, but you’ve come to expect these by now, I imagine.)
            Yesterday, I presented at my first academic conference. As a teenager and as an adult, I’ve always feared public speaking (but when I was little, I relished the spotlight!). That’s not special at all: most people dislike speaking in public. Anyway, Dane does not understand this fear because he positively thrives and shines when he’s got the floor. Maybe it’s an only-child thing… But, anyway, I envy this ability of his, whatever its origins; he rocks as an orator.
            … Ah, yes: Café Madeline is the name of this place. They’re playing Jack White, I think, now. I just ordered a kale-and-mushroom farro dish that I’m pretty psyched about, and then I’ll be off to the second day of the conference.
            The conference. Yes. That’s what I was saying: I presented at a graduate conference at the Graduate Center (“-er,” guys!) at CUNY in New York City. I’ve always been the type to “go big or go home” (I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about that on several occasions in this blog. My wonderful cousin is similar and we call ourselves the “two-feet-in” kids), but, shit, talk about going big, presenting in motherfrakking New York City at the Comparative Literature Department and not even the “safe space” of my native department at U of T.
            But I digress.
            On my first night here, I saw the big Arc-de-Triomphe–looking structure in Washington Square Park that they sometimes show between scenes on Friends, and it was rad. New York is rad, man.
            Where was I? Conference… Farro-and-mushroom bowl… Conference.
            It was really cool—it is really cool. I presented a paper in which I compared a horror-romance, or undead-romance, trilogy written in Italian to Twilight. I don’t like to brag, but I’m kinda livin’ the dream, eh? (That is, if your dream is to read and write about Italian vampires and zombies.)
            I made the audience laugh—intentionally, that is. We were about 15 people seated in a narrow meeting room at a long table. I presented seated because I’d seen other people do so, so it felt appropriate. And what if my fly was down? (Fun fact: my fly was, in fact, down as I walked out of the washroom before my presentation, but I caught it just in time.) The moderator of the panel (two other people presented in the panel, “The Limits of the Human,” after me) was a wonderful Italian man and professor at CUNY—and he got his PhD at U of T! Small world, eh? Maybe I will teach at CUNY one day… He was lovely and very encouraging of me and my work.
            Anyway, it was a positive experience and, although it is rare for me to admit this sort of thing, or, rather, to feel this sort of thing, I’m proud of myself. I think that what I did was brave—brave for me, anyway: I had told colleagues and friends and family in the past that I would avoid presenting at conferences at all costs. But when this one came up and I saw that we could talk about vampires, I though, shit. How could I not send in a proposal? How could I ever fit my vampire talks into conferences on Dante or Boccaccio?
            So, it was a positive experience and I wasn’t horribly nervous, and that was a pleasant surprise and a wonderful relief. I made eye contact with people while I spoke and read, and I lost my place and stumbled a few times, but, nonetheless, I think I rocked it.
            I was asked a question or two that I could not answer fully or well, but it didn’t make me uncomfortable of displease me, simply because I’m not an expert in cultural studies or philosophy or literature. I focus on language, but I’m not an expert in anything yet either. I know a shit-tonne about vampires, but I’ve got some wicked work ahead for my thesis-writing and linguistic-analysis prep. Still, I’m happy with the way I conducted myself and I’m proud of myself (I fought the urge to write “kind of” in front of “proud.” I am allowed to be fully proud, right?).


            I wrote the above in New York, as you read. I’ve been home for almost a week and will be leaving in nine days for vacation. The last time I did this much travelling in such a short span of time was… in 2012, the last time I was in Italy. Jeebus.
            When I was in New York, I stayed with my dear friend, Liz, whom I met in 2011 and lived with in 2012 at the Art Monastery Project. She lives in Brooklyn now and is doing some wicked cool stuff with the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, as well as Impact Hub NYC. She was a spectacular, thoughtful, and generous host, and it was really special to hang out with her as though it hadn’t been two and a half years since we’d last seen each other. Also, when I arrived, two other dear friends from the Art Monastery were visiting, too! We had dinner together at Red Bamboo (I still regret not leaving enough room for dessert, but… that just means I’ll have to go back) and caught up and laughed and they encouraged me and supported me by asking questions about my research and showing enthusiasm for my work. I am still very grateful. I carried that love and faith with me the next day when I presented my work, and I’ve no doubt that the positivity gave me courage and added a little sparkle to my delivery.
            But they’re doing crazy awesome work, too! They’re working with the Art Monastery Project still and are looking for applicants… So, you wanna go to Italy? Go here! They’re also, you know, building a house and taking care of baby goats on a farm in upstate New York.
            And they’re excited about my work? Oh, they are blessed souls.
            I’ve not much else to report that matches the loveliness and magnitude of my New York trip [EDIT: So, a bunch has happened, like I said earlier. I pinky swear that I’ll update soon!], so I’ll end my post here. I’m presenting at another conference, at U of T, this time, next week, and then I’m off to on vacation. I’ll leave this short album of photos from my trip. Cheers, darlings, and be ever so well. :-)

One of my first views upon exiting the subway on my way to Brooklyn from the airport

In the area where I was conferencin'

We saw some slam poetry.

The aforementioned farro, spinach, avocado, and mushroom plate

This was one of the tastiest sandwiches I'd ever eaten. It was at Bliss Café. The staff was fabulous and super sweet.

Me & Liz <3 font="">


Complimentary items from Air Canada—save for the book, which I bought at La Guardia airport