Mexico

Mexico
Protesting in Mexico City against the murder of 43 students.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Tiny actions that change the world

I was thinking of writing a post about resolutions for the new year. Then I decided that there are plenty of those out there. I have a few things I want to look at in 2013, and one of them is asking our readers to take simple, small actions that can change the world.

In the 1 1/2 years since I started the blog I have honestly been blown away by the action our readers take when I write about an issue or ask them to do something. It started with Meatless Mondays when over 1000 people were touched by our readers in deciding to not eat meat on a Monday. I have also been beyond thrilled when someone writes to me and tells me that they discovered who their state representative is and that they made a connection. The list could go on and on.

So for 2013 I'd like you all to join Mike and I in doing, or continuing to do, small acts that are huge in their affect.

If you are in a relationship, go for a walk with your beloved. Hold hands. Just the two of you. No companion animals. Our actions for change should start in our own lives.

Check out your local shelter and ask if you can volunteer. Clean cages, walk dogs, cuddle with cats. In some shelters there is a specific room for cats with FIV, which is basically HIV for cats. They are tougher to adopt. All three of my cats had FIV. Hanging out in the FIV cat room rocks.

Find out who your state representative is and connect with them. They are your voice in your state capital. Whatever your big issues are, they might be voting on one of them in 2013. Make sure your voice is heard. Go here to find them: http://votesmart.org/

Have a vegan potluck at your home. A Sunday brunch would be awesome. We have done this, with mostly non-vegans attending, and the food is ALWAYS delish and everyone ALWAYS has a wonderful time. My favorite brunch item for potlucks is Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Banana Rabanada French Toast in her "Vegan Brunch" cookbook. Page 102! Mmmm.

While on the topic of making vegan food, make a vegan baked good and bring it to work to share. This can be huge. My whole office has a different concept around vegan food because of what Mike (and I at times!) have made for the office. It's great to see people go from "I don't think I'll like this" to "Holy cow!" in a matter of seconds.

Make a donation to a non-profit that is a voice for the animals. There are SO many to choose from. Some local, some national. I always like to start out by talking about making local change. There is an animal shelter close to everyone. $25.00 can go a long way. It's important for me to financially support those doing the work in being the voice for the voiceless. It's not always cheap.

I think this is a great start. Will you join us?

Thanks for reading! If you would like to communicate with me other than posting a comment my personal email is vegandude@msn.com






Monday, December 24, 2012

The Chicago Diner


 If you are connected to us on Facebook or Twitter, there is no doubt that you must have seen all of my check-ins to the Chicago Diner over the past week. When in Chicago, it is where I go. I have been going for over ten years now and still LOVE it.

The original Chicago Diner is on Halstead in Boys Town, just a couple blocks north and east of the red line Belmont station. Now there is a new Chicago Diner over in Logan Square, just three blocks from the blue line California station.

The names reflects the food: diner food. Not all vegan but I am pretty sure that every dish can be made vegan.

The highlight of every visit is the vegan chocolate peanut butter milkshake. I always start out with that. Now last night Mike got, per the server's recommendation, the chocolate chip cookie dough peanut butter shake and it was crazy good. I will get that next time.

Best dish: Chicken Fried Steak. Their vegan version of this dish is amazing, and filling. Lots of gravy and mashed potatoes and just enough veggies to make it a little healthy. I definitely say you should order this your first time.

They serve breakfast till 3pm every day. The Sammy is a good option. Basically a breakfast sandwich with house fries that actually taste good.

Ask your server. They will help. With all of the times I have dined at the diner I have not encountered the attitude that can be prevalent at veg or veg friendly places. Servers have always been kind, hospitable, and helpful. My faves as of this writing are Kristie at the Halstead location and Brian at the new location (he used to be at the original location). Kristie is a total love, we really adore her. And Brian is a sweetheart, honestly recommending items he loves and making you feel so welcome.

Whether you live in Chicago or are just visiting (or have a long layover at O'Hare) I highly recommend getting to know The Chicago Diner.

Thank for reading and buen provecho!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A few of our favorite things Part II

Part II of a two-part post!

It's that time of year again, when folks put out their "best of" lists. Last year we did a blog post on our favorite women and a blog post on our favorite men. This years' list includes many of our favorite things: people, groups, restaurants, etc. Like we did last year, we invite you to share some of your favorites with us!

And here's the rest of our list:

Chris Kluwe. He plays for the Minnesota Vikings, is way sexy and constantly speaks out for marriage equality. It is when people do what he does that makes me feel we will have full marriage equality one day.

Heather's Restaurant. I wrote a blog about this treasure in Bay City, Michigan. What a find. My mom lives near here and took us for lunch. We were blown away. HUGE selection of vegan dishes including desserts and cinnamon rolls!

Pussy Riot. Yes, you have most likely heard of this Russian all-female band whose members (two) are currently in a prison (actually I think it's a labor camp) all because of their peaceful expression of their beliefs, in a church. The church got mad. We love activists with courage and our reason for naming them here is to get more people to speak out against the injustice of their being imprisoned.

#tweetfortaiji. This is a symbol on Twitter for all of those speaking out for the dolphins being massacred in "the cove" in Japan.  I spend a lot of time thinking about the pods of dolphins being pushed into the cove and then being killed by hand. The fear, torture, cruelty and hopelessness as they try to survive breaks my heart. I will write a blog post soon in hopes of taking action against what is going on there.

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera. Kasha is the founder and executive director of Freedom and Roam Uganda, a leading LGBTQ rights organization. In Uganda. One of the most anti-gay countries in the world. If you see this Kasha, know we love you. And to all LGBTQ activists who live in harm's way, we are sending you love too.

The activist. Yep, we know you are out there. You work all day. In some cases you take care of your family and are a supportive other-half. And in the limited free time you have you are a voice for the voiceless. And you rock. We love you. And we get it. It's not always easy. Thank you.

Thank you for reading our list of a few of our favorite things. We could probably write at least two more posts. We encourage you to speak out for your favorites and to let folks who you think rock know that they do and how you feel.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A few of our favorite things

It's that time of year again, when folks put out their "best of" lists. Last year we did a blog post on our favorite women and a blog post on our favorite men. This years' list includes many of our favorite things: people, groups, restaurants, etc. Like we did last year, we invite you to share some of your favorites with us!

Here we go:

My husband. This is Dan writing this post (and pretty much all of the posts). I am totally in love with Mike and am grateful for every day that I get to be his husband. We have an incredible life together.

Linger. You must know by now that Linger is our favorite restaurant in town. Amazing vegan food and the best service in town. I could go on and on but you can just go to the blog post that I wrote a review on them. If you live in the Denver area and have not been to Linger, go.

Mercy For Animals. This animal rights group ROCKS it for the animals. Their undercover work in the past couple of years has brought the inside of factory farms to the local news. The brutality, torture and fear inflicted on sentient beings that all animal rights activists know about has been brought to a TV near you, to people who maybe thought this happened but now have the facts. We love them so much that this year we became members of the major giving club and are grateful to do so.

Malala Yousufzai. You have heard her story. She is a true inspiration. She is 15 years old and from Pakistan. She made headlines in the US when she was shot by the Taliban. She constantly speaks out for the rights of women, especially around education. Her courage blows us a way!

Voters in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington. Heck yes! They all supported a ballot measure that was pro marriage equality. In Minnesota they voted down a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and in the others they actually approved gay marriage!

Tarascos. The best vegan Mexican food we have had. Amazingly friendly staff. They actually APPRECIATE customers. Imagine that!

Chicago. An amazing city filled with wonderful culture and super options for vegan cuisine. We like The Blackstone Hotel, the Chicago Diner, The Art Institute of Chicago, Naked Pizza and strolling around Boys Town.

Alka Chandna and Bruce Friedrich. When I think of this couple I think of love, inspiration and powerful voices for the voiceless. We are fortunate to count Alka and Bruce as friends, and our world is fortunate to have them here. 

Eat Pastry cookie dough. As much as Mike and I like to bake, we are still totally in love with this fabulous vegan cookie dough. If you haven't tried it yet, we suggest you do so right now! Many flavors. We like the chocolate with chocolate. Mmmmm. 

Amy's Mac n Cheese. The vegan version of course. This is a staple for me (Dan). Love it. The only thing I wish Amy would do is to offer larger portions of this, like in a party size!

That's it for now. Part II coming soon! Thank you for reading!






Monday, December 17, 2012

With love from The Gay Vegans

I am writing this post from the amazing city of Chicago. Mike and I are here for a week.

I have a couple of other posts ready to be published, posts that I wanted to publish before the holidays. They are our annual "best of" lists. Those can wait.

I have cried a lot since last Friday. Anytime there is a school shooting I think of my beautiful husband, an awesome teacher who has dedicated his life to teaching children how to play a string instrument. On Friday morning, with just very few details, I once again became angry and called my husband in tears. He was fine, hadn't even heard about it.

This post is to send love to all of our readers. This blog journey has been amazing for me and for us. I am constantly blown away by the support I get from our readers and by the stories that they share after reading a blog post.

Please know that I am grateful, and that I sending loads of love to you and your families.

The mission of my blog is to always try to build bridges, to spread love and compassion, and to be a voice for the voiceless.

Thank you for being a part of that. And thank you for doing all you do to make this world a better place for all living beings.

Love,

Dan

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The beginning of the end (Part III)

This is part three of a three-part blog series around alcoholism. I decided to write about alcoholism and my personal journey because I continue to see my communities affected by it, as well as addiction.

When one is consumed with self hatred and fear and has found that the only thing to help them deal with that is to drink (or do drugs) the thought of not drinking is equal to or more than the fear that already consumes you.

I first dealt with the terror of a life without alcohol when I was 18 and in an alcohol treatment center. It was bearable there. Like many treatment centers it was group therapy type things during the day and then trucked off to AA meetings at night. By the end of my time there I was convinced that I could live without a drink. By the evening of the day I got out of rehab I was drunk.

That was the last time I had attempted to not drink. Aside from the terror of thinking about not being able to drink for the rest of my life I also kept thinking that alcoholics were old people, not teenagers. I was sure I had many years ahead of me of drinking before I would have to look at not drinking.

Back to the end. I was sitting in a bar in Norfolk. I didn't know how I was all of a sudden drunk. I decided it was time to go back to base and could not find my car.

The next day was December 30th. I was excited as I had decided to try to quit smoking for the new year. A great resolution I thought. On the outside I was trying to hold everything together, and failing. My boss had brought up the fact that based on my military record, I should not even be drinking. I weighed 138 pounds at 6'3". To give you a good picture, I now weigh 198 pounds.

That evening I was at the enlisted bar on base. Simply Red's video was on the screen and I was settling in for a night of drinking with friends.

I don't know what happened. No, this time it wasn't a blackout or a lost car. It was me standing in front of a Navy alcohol rehab guy on base, a few blocks from the enlisted club, asking if he could tell me where the closest AA meeting was.

This was the end. Due to the "anonymous" part of Alcoholics Anonymous, I am not going to go into what happened after that. I will say that if you know me, you know that I am in recovery and that is something that I am not shy about sharing. I share about it in my daily life, on Facebook, at work and at social events. I share it because people who know me today (and did not know me when I drank) cannot possibly conceive the person I used to be.

I have not had a drink since that night.

Alcoholism kills people. It destroys families and relationships. It shows up in different ways. Some people drink daily. Others binge drink. Others only drink beer.

For more information on alcoholism and on Alcoholics Anonymous click here:  http://aa.org/?Media=PlayFlash 

I feel that it is important that I offer information about alcoholism after writing about it. There is indeed help for those who think they might be alcoholic. One does not have to die, kill someone in a car accident or live an entire life consumed with fear and disgust.

There you have it. If you have read one or more of this blog post series, I thank you. It is not easy sharing an ugly part of ones' life. I also appreciate the huge amount of love and support I have gotten from our readers.

If you would like to connect with me but do not want to share a public comment, my email address is vegandude@msn.com

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Another dead pit bull

If you live in the Denver area you might have heard of the part pit bull dog named Chloe who was shot five times by a Commerce City police person last week. A neighbor videotaped the shooting and from any aspect it looks like the shooting/killing was completely unnecessary.

The story was incredibly sad.

Pit bulls have a bad name in Colorado, not unlike many places around the country. In Denver, there is a ban on pit bulls. What this means is that hundreds of pit bulls have been killed in Denver and shelters outside of Denver are packed with pit bulls. And of course you can purchase pit bull puppies online on Craigs List.

In Lakewood, where Mike and I live, and just 1.5 miles from the Denver dead zone for pit bulls, they are safe. Our city council has talked about a ban and decided that the city and our citizens would be better off without a ban.

To be clear, I do not know a lot about BSL, or Breed Specific Legislation. I am not even sure if I have the correct words for BSL. I try to read what both sides have written regarding bans. For me, I get to see what happens because of a ban. I see many dogs killed for one reason only, that they are a pit bull, or one of the similar breeds. And then I see shelters around cities with a ban have many pit bulls for adoption, in some shelters pit bulls are more than half of available dogs for adoption. There is no way that all of them can survive in the shelter, so inevitably they are put down.

My history with pit bulls comes from Geronimo, our past next door neighbor. His head was bigger than all of our dogs except for Miguel. Geronimo LOVED playing with all of our dogs and would run the fence with them every day. He was a gentle lover. When our neighbor moved, I totally missed Geronimo.

I am one of those who believes that a companion dog acts a certain way because of how he or she is treated. I also believe that even if any companion dog is one who is uncomfortable around strangers, that their human companions can keep them and the strangers safe.

I look forward to the day when in Denver being a pit bull does not mean that their family has to move or a death sentence for the dog. How many more dogs will have to die before the powers that be realize that killing dogs is not the answer?

Meanwhile, I mourn with Chloe's family and anyone who loved her. Perhaps once she got out of her house that day she had no chance. And perhaps those of us who love pit bulls or who love dogs in general can change what is happening to a breed who gets a bad rap.

I don't have the answers. I'm just sick of seeing all of these beautiful dogs being killed.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The beginning of the end (Part II)

Just in case you did not read the first part of this series, these posts are about my end days in active alcoholism. I decided to finally write about this and walk through my fears of letting all of our readers know about this as I continually see alcoholism and addiction take it's toll on activist communities.

Christmas Eve I decided to drive to Midlothian, VA and go to a party held by old family friends. Midlothian is just west of Richmond, not too far of a drive from Norfolk.

The week prior had been full of activity as the largest naval base in the world filled up for the holidays. Many people were arriving on ships coming home for the holiday, including several friends of mine.

One was a guy I had met in treatment back in '84. We had stayed in touch even though he had stayed sober and I had not (I actually went and got drunk the night I got out of treatment). Matt was coming back from a short deployment and I decided to go meet his ship.

Seeing him for the first time since treatment was a shock for me. He had stayed sober, and looked the part. His huge grin and strong hug greeted me. His eyes were clear. He looked so, so healthy. I was blown away.

We were able to set a time to grab a bite to eat. As I nervously drank my pitcher of beer he caught me up on the past year since leaving rehab. I could not believe the change in him. What was clearly obvious was that he was happy. As he talked with me he constantly smiled. He was truly happy without alcohol.

Back to Christmas Eve. I spent a couple hours with family friends and enjoyed the wide variety of drinking options. As typical, I was soon drunk. There was a lot of drinking going on and I was right in the middle of it. I then decided it was time to go, and I climbed into my Chevy Citation to head back to Norfolk.

I woke up to a tapping on the window. The car window. I was cold. A nice looking guy was looking into my car. It took me a second to realize that he was a police officer. I rolled down my window. He immediately stepped back due to the stench coming out of my car. I had passed out, at some time had thrown up, had urinated on myself and for some reason he didn't like the smell.

As luck would have it I was parked in a bank parking lot. I had to move. I apologized. I didn't recognize where I was. Richmond? No, the handsome officer said. I was in Madison Heights, way WEST of Richmond, like more than an hour. I had the left the party to drive 1 1/2 hours EAST to get back to Norfolk. I have no idea how I ended up in Madison Heights and I had no memory of anything after the party.

The officer told me about a YMCA where I could wash up and mentioned a local meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. As if, I thought.

I went to a gas station, washed up, grabbed a bottle of Boones Farm wine (my favorite) and started the drive back to Norfolk.

I felt sick. I felt like I wanted to die. A few more hits of the wine and I would be OK. Once back in Norfolk I would be fine.

Thank you for reading. I am truly grateful. This is not a part of my life that I have shared with most people but I wanted to in my desire to talk about alcoholism in our communities. Every alcoholics' story is different and each alcoholic reaches a point in which they cannot stop drinking no matter what.  More to come.