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