Sunday, August 25, 2013


I make plans, the Universe laughs. That pretty much sums up my time lately, culminating in our super quick trip to NYC.

I had this blog post all planned out far in advance. It was supposed to be chock full of lovely photos and witty writings about my fabulous jaunt to NYC. For now, I'll live with "it is what it is." This post should rightfully be broken down into 2 days, but I'm just going to get through it at once. Here we go.

The other happy vegan and I made plans a while ago to attend the WTFveganfood End of the Road party in NYC, which actually was a benefit for the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, put on by the wonderful and talented Kristin Lajeunesse.  If you don't already know about Kristin and her WTFVeganfood project, you must either visit her on Facebook or at Reading this paragraph, I know now the problem was "I made plans."

Refer back to opening paragraph: I make plans, the Universe laughs.

I had about a 3 day gap between our day of departure from when I had some family visiting. Seemed like a reasonable amount of time to make the final preparations for the trip north, and do some work here at the inn.  Fatal flaw, right there.

We had some more major problems behind the scenes with the County of Monroe and their shenanigans which completely boiled over on our planned departure day (there's that word "plan" yet again). My head was literally pounding. We were supposed to head up to the mainland shortly before dinner hour, check into the hotel, have dinner at Sublime, and then get to sleep early as we had a flight scheduled at dawn. We also had some other business issues to deal with, which left me absolutely no time at all to research the restaurants and logistics of traveling within NYC... you know, basically what's the closest/best places to eat, best use of our very limited time in the city, blah blah blah.

The day before departure, we were absolutely tortured by the aforementioned tomfoolery. Massive amounts of time and energies were wasted because of it, so much so that by the time the torture concluded, we were exhausted, stunned and hours behind schedule for our plans and departure. This meant no eating at Sublime on the mainland. Instead I was scrambling making some last minute changes and preparations, as mentioned hours behind schedule. By the time we got to our overnight hotel destination, it was close to midnight. By that point, the only food available was my "emergency travel provisions" that I take whenever there's a road trip on tap. For me, this time the provisions were this:

Very small emergency food kit for this trip.
This silver packets are dried vegan coffee creamer (more on that later).
Look at that pitiful pile. What's missing is one of the Primal strips. That's what I chose to have for dinner in the hotel at about 1am, a mere few hours before our first flight. Sigh.

We woke up for our really early flight, and made it to the airport with time to spare. Food offerings were limited, and truth be told, I was feeling pretty crappy due to the stress from the day before. The hotel coffee was so awful, I actually regretted using one of my rationed vegan creamer packets in it. Down the drain it went.

Once on the plane, we settled in, and everything seemed to be going ok. I was a little hungry, so I again broke into my emergency travel provisions, choosing the spirulina ball (I like those little treats a lot!) Once we landed, we even had time before our connector to grab a mega-quick morsel of food. We found a place called "Moe's" which apparently is some type of food chain, but had vegan stuff. He ordered this:

Beans, rice and veggies in a fried bowl......
While I ordered this:

Inside is a bunch of beans, rice and veggies. I totally forgot I was avoiding gluten,
but remembered as I took bite #1. I opened the burrito, scraped out the insides, ate that,
and let the other happy vegan eat what he wanted of my tortilla.
Overall, we were delighted simply to find vegan food in an airport that didn't
come from a vending machine or my tote bag.
We boarded the flight to NYC, and found we were not seated together. I'm a much better flier than I used to be, yet I still enjoy a security blanket (travel companion). I didn't have it. I steeled myself, and figured "just grow up already!" The flight was bumpy almost the entire time. I began to feel a little queasy. I was already feeling crappy from the stress, and then things began to become amplified. The landing was the roughest I can remember from any flight in many years, and I was not happy. Covered in sweat, I grabbed my bags and dashed from the plane, through the airport to find some fresh air. Those hopes were dashed as soon as I burst outside the airport doors and found a crush of vehicles and people among polluted foul smelling city air.

My palm trees were far behind me.

We hailed a cab, and were treated to the first of several white knuckle rides through the streets of New York. By the time we got to the hotel, I collapsed in bed. Gone were my plans of researching which restaurants and when. Instead, as I napped, he ran around the corner to a veg place and ordered me something off the menu he hoped I'd like, and brought food back to the hotel for both of us. He loved his, me.... not so much. I was hungry, so I ate most of it and went back to sleep for about an hour.  Upon waking, we made a couple of last "run throughs" of practice for a flash mob that was planned for the party (more on that later too).

I was still feeling crappy, but hoped it was just due to the flight and stuff, so we cleaned ourselves up, and I put on my "sassy city girl" outfit #1 which was my perfect city dress with city walking shoes. We both looked like we didn't belong in Paradise anymore.... dressed in black from head to toe. We can still blend! I thought to myself "success!"

We walked around and I noticed this cute "angel cat" painted high on a building.
I wanted to go to MooShoes. We hailed a cab since MooShoes was more than a few miles away. Next up was about a half hour hell ride in a yellow torture chamber as far as I'm concerned. My stomach was rolling by the time we made it to MooShoes. We had less than 1 hour to shop, not enough time by any stretch, but it's all we had. MooShoes was like a Vegan Mecca for me. One of my only goals besides eating my way through NYC was to go to a bricks and mortar all vegan store.  MooShoes sure fit that bill! Once inside, we met John, and we met Lisa, two of the nicest, most helpful people you'd ever want to be around if you happen to be 2 vegans who definitely were out of their element in NYC. As we tried on different shoes and boots, we also met Marlow....
Meet Marlow! Isn't he handsome?!
He's the resident shop cat at MooShoes.
Marlow is a bit grumpy lately. MooShoes is fostering 2 new kitties.
Marlow is not amused by the invasion.

Inside MooShoes!

Wall art @ MooShoes. LOVE!

Yup, Vegan Fashions For All!
Thanks MooShoes!
MooShoes did a constant stream of business as John and Lisa tended to us. We each settled on a pair of shoes (he got work shoes, I got boots, all of which are being shipped) and I also picked out a really beautiful vegan message shirt for the other happy vegan. It was beginning to get dark by the time we left MooShoes, and we figured dinner was in order. I had done the bare minimum of researching, and we made reservations for a late dinner at a fine veg place in NYC. John (MooShoes) put together a fabulous list of "must eat at" places for us, and we figured we'd hit what we could the next day, but since we already had reservations, we'd stick with them for dinner. Big mistake.

The other happy vegan hailed another cab. I was still feeling crappy, and I was thinking it was stress related still from the events of the day before with the business meeting coupled with a very rough day of travel in planes and cars. I was pushing through though as there was no way I was going to miss 1 minute of NYC. 36 hours and not a moment to spare, right?......  We got to the restaurant. It was tiny, and cramped. The menu was ok, but not as great as I hoped. I was feeling worse and worse, I couldn't shake what happened at the meeting the day before. The other happy vegan, equally upset, kept trying to calm me down, and asking me to not let what happened ruin our trip. Our food arrived, and I photographed it. The photos didn't turn out, I learned this today when I downloaded them.

I tasted my food, and thought it was sort of funky; I didn't care for the flavor combinations. I ate only a few small bites of it. The smells of the other happy vegan's food began to wear on me as well. He looked at me, and saw I was apparently deteriorating quickly. We took almost my entire order of food "to go," skipped dessert, and ..... hailed a cab. This particular cab ride was the worst ride of my life. Don't ask me how, at that hour of the evening, there was so much traffic, but there was. That driver at one point hit 55 mph through the decrepit city streets. I'm not exaggerating when I saw pedestrians scrambling to get out of his way. He was hitting the brakes, then the gas so hard it didn't seem to matter we were in seat belts. All I remember the cabbie saying was something along the lines of all the OTHER drivers in New York are crazy.  Um, sure.....

I bolted up to the room, and within minutes was violently ill. The drives through the city, the rough flight, the lunch and the dinner all came back in a flood over me that had me literally crawling on the bathroom floor (too much information?) The poor other happy vegan..... hotel rooms sure do get small in situations such as this. He ran to Duane Reed to get me anything he could off the shelf, and returned in short order with a bag of items that were meant to help, but I couldn't even look at. Bless his heart, he did come back with some ginger ale, which I opened up and left sitting on the ledge for later when it was no longer fizzy.  I cleaned myself up, and slid into his Mercy for Animals t-shirt, because I had also forgotten to pack pajamas. Oh, yes, I forgot to mention that.... the night we left we found ourselves in downtown Ft. Lauderdale looking for a 24 hours CVS or Walgreens so I could buy something to sleep in. We found 1 Walgreens, which had 1 pair of crappy non-fair-trade (of course) rayon "vacation pants" which I am sorry to say I purchased.

Safely tucked into my hotel bed in my non-fair-trade vacation pants and a giant MFA t-shirt, whimpering, I began to wonder if I would be well enough to make it to the following night's party. I didn't want to say my thoughts aloud, because to say them would be to manifest them.

I couldn't sleep. I couldn't get comfortable. Pity the other happy vegan at that moment, trust me.

The next morning I still felt crappy, but not AS crappy. He let me sleep late. This irritated me because sleeping late meant no Dun-Well Doughnuts visit for us. Not that I could actually EAT anything, but I desperately wanted to go. I took a sip of my non-fizzy ginger ale, as he came up with crappy coffee. The smell of it made me nauseous, so no coffee for me. As he sprinkled dried vegan creamer into his cup and took a sip, he cursed wasting another packet of the stuff on brown water. Down the drain it went.

After another hour of me whimpering, I got up and showered. I wasn't feeling well enough to put on another "sassy city girl" outfit, so I pulled on my jeans and a tank top, and off we went to discover lunch.  Honestly, I didn't want to eat, I was still thinking that would be a huge mistake. Worse yet, he wanted to go back to where he got the takeout from the day before! I decided there would be no more take out from that place, no more talk of the fancy place that also may or may not have food poisoned me, and that I would not take any more cab rides in NYC. We used our little phone GPS and made our way to a place called "Terri." Terri is nothing fancy, but it appeared to be clean, and it was totally vegan. The people behind the counter were smiling, and very friendly. The place had fun music playing, and was doing a brisk, constant, stream of business. He ordered a buffalo un-chicken sandwich with some potato salad, and I ordered a plain green salad and some potato salad too. The other happy vegan LOVED his sandwich and thought the potato salad was great as well, although he said he likes mine better (aw......) I only wish I was feeling better, as their menu had far more things I would've liked to have tried as compared to the fancy place the night before. I picked off the red onion from my salad (I should've asked....), and picked around the onion in my potato salad (also should've asked about that).  I couldn't take the taste of anything that wasn't 100% bland. How unfortunate considering there were so many things on that menu I would have loved to try. I ate 4 bites of (yay! organic!) baby greens, and those big chunks out of my potato salad. I was truly hungry, but simply couldn't eat. Sitting in the middle of NYC, surrounded by vegan food everywhere, and I'm not eating. This definitely was not on my plan.

What's that sound? Universe are you laughing again?

We walked through the streets, stopped in a few stores, and made our way into one of the most fabulous vintages shops I've ever been in. Ever. Really and truly, ever in my entire life! I was frustrated, I wasn't feeling 100%, and the slightly musty smell that would never have even been noticed by me under any other circumstance suddenly became all I could focus on. Sadly, we both agreed we should probably just get me back to the hotel for some rest. It was the night of Kristin's party, and we both were thinking the same thing, but not saying it.... "would I be well enough to go?"

We made a short pilgrimage to FIT.
For anyone who doesn't know me.... or for those that THINK they know me, but really don't...
fun fact: Decades ago, I dreamed of a life immersed in fashion design.
It would have started here, but never did.
I'd be lying if I didn't admit that once in a blue moon, I think....
"what if" - or- "if only."
Carpe Diem, baby; Carpe Diem
We hoofed it back to the hotel, as cabs were off limits. Once we got back, I crawled into bed and watched mind numbing crap on TV as NYC vibrated outside my window. With every minute that ticked by, I was becoming more and more upset about what was happening. He did his best to soothe my frustration, including being a constant source of no longer fizzy ginger ale.  I dozed in and out of consciousness, and finally it was time to assess the situation. I got up, walked around, and realized that despite the fact my still-pounding headache (which was not responding to medication) remained with me, I felt much better than before. We got ready for the party. He forgot his cufflinks, so we improvised and used 2 of Lil Bub's buttons on his cuffs. He had the coolest outfit of anyone thanks to my prior thrift shop planning for weeks and months, which included a tux shirt (hence the Bubtons) and a vintage tux jacket, paired with vintage denim, an animal rights t-shirt, vintage white scarf with fringe, and a white straw Panama hat. I wore the same black cocktail dress and shoes that I searched months for when his first born got married not too long ago. We both put on our sassy sunglasses, and began to hoof it to the party (no cabs, remember?) The line was out the door when we arrived. One of the elevators was not working, so we had to wait, and make fast friends when getting in the elevator. Every 5 minutes or so he would whisper in my ear "are you ok?" Gratefully, I honestly was able to answer "I'm good!" and mean it.

We got inside the party, and began to mix and mingle. I truly felt the stress begin to leave me for the first time since we left that disaster of a meeting. We made our way to the bar; the bar which we had both paid for as an open bar.... and I realized I was still too fragile to go for the vegan wines and IPAs that were there. I stuck with non-alcoholic beverages the entire night (delicious and a wonderful selection, by the way, but boy was I looking forward to the bar selections as part of my grand NYC plan!) and began to make my way back into considering food. Here I was at a vegan food catered event, there was NO way I was not going to partake. I grabbed the first thing off the first tray I saw, and scarfed it down. It was the best thing I'd eaten since arriving in NYC. I ran to the corner, kicked off my walking shoes, and put on my glittery stilettos. I looked at the other happy vegan and announced "I'm in party mode" and we began to finally enjoy our time. Speaking of time.....

As I also mentioned briefly above, we practiced for a flash mob which was surreptitiously planned by Kristin for the party. When I say we practiced, I mean we PRACTICED! We memorized the routine and had it down cold. This was no easy feat considering what we've been up to work-wise in the last few weeks, along with the other demands upon our time. But, we managed. I even practiced it in my glittery platform stilettos (everything Fred did, Ginger did backwards and in heels). We knew the dance was supposed to be at about a certain time. We made our way downstairs around the appointed time, but nothing. We killed some time downstairs, I used the ladies room, and still nothing. Somehow we made our way back upstairs, and then eventually about 40 minutes after the appointed dance time, someone came upstairs and announced "the speakers upstairs aren't working...." which we thought was a cue for any dancers to get downstairs for the impending dance. Little did we know that by then the entire flash mob was over. We were so out of the loop that the other happy vegan even asked someone else later in the party "what happened to the dance?" to which they replied "we think it got cancelled" as they too were apparently a "mobster."

These shoes were made for dancing (or an assault depending which end of the spike you're on!)
Sadly they missed the big flash mob, but the passing cabbies got to see our
vegan style flash mob on the way back to the hotel.
Neither one of us were going to let all the practice go to complete waste.
I love my sparkly shoes. They have shiny silver platforms and shiny silver spikes.
I love them so much, I wore them one morning while flipping pancakes.
One ringy dingy..... Universe, is that you?

We didn't even know we missed the dance until this morning, yes, Saturday morning, when we saw something posted on Facebook about it. All I can say about this is that the other happy vegan and I flash mobbed ourselves back to the hotel after the party like dopes. Yes, people were looking at us like idiots. I prefer to think it was mostly because we had good outfits on, and everyone wished they had outfits as good as us at that moment too (tidbit.... we walked past 4 fur stores on the way back to the hotel, the irony was not lost on the passersby as I ripped the tux jacket off the other happy vegan so anyone could get a better look at his animal rights t-shirt).

The party was the highlight, it really was. We met some really fun, and interesting people. We met many people who are very involved in activism, and committed to veganism. We met some people who are just beginning to explore plant based eating, and some people who were not vegan at all, but now have a lot more information to think about. We bid on one of silent auction baskets, and I was delighted I was the high bidder (OMG... the fashionista basket!!!! Vaute Couture! Cri De Coeur! Pansy Maiden! Compassion Couture! and so much more!!!!) and I met the Vegan Zombies (yeah, I bothered one of them for a photo to which he graciously agreed, but it came out so lame I refuse to post it). We played in the photo booth (I made at least 6 attempts to upload photos at the event, no one else had a problem, but the anti-tech geek came out in me and I couldn't get them to post).

Mine is somewhere on here......

We wrote on the "Before I Die" board (very cool idea, and very fun to read what others wrote.....)

LOL..... I love "go home w/the Vegan Zombie"...
and no, it wasn't me who wrote that!
I got a good laugh when I saw the "write on Before I Die board."

I almost cried when I saw "rescue my dad."
I smiled a lot when I read "I'm good."  Way to be.
We met the people who won the Florida Keys swag basket in the silent auction which included the stay at our place; we're so excited for them! Funny thing, we were actually in the middle of an excellent conversation with them on the terrace when that "speakers aren't working" announcement was made, which we erroneously thought was a cue that the flash mob music was going to start. So, we excused ourselves from the conversation and headed downstairs for said nonexistent, already happened, flash mob. Fail.

The Universe: "hahahahahahhahahahahah."

The food trays continued to pass us fast and furious. I tried everything that passed me, and almost tackled the server who had the gluten free mac and cheese bites. I think I had an out of body experience from those morsels of joy. Was it a coincidence that after our first 2 run ins with her, any time she saw me after that, the tray seemed to magically fly into the air away from me as she shouted out "these are for the UPSTAIRS PEOPLE!" Maybe that wasn't directed exactly at me after all.... seemed that there was a secondary flash mob going on, and it involved the mac and cheese bite fans.

We waited on line for the desserts, and as we were waiting we began to chat with the photographer, who was a very nice, friendly professional. We spoke about the challenges of being self-employed, as well as the freedoms it affords us (which we all seemed to agree exist, yet most small business owners/self employed rarely take advantage of). He suggested to us to do the photo booth, but I explained I had a lot of time invested in that dessert line and I wasn't going to uninvest it. I promised him I'd bring him back a canoli and we'd do the booth after dessert. True to my word, I brought him his canoli (and one for me!) and we played in the photo booth. That was more fun than I expected, especially since the other happy vegan by that point had a few glasses of wine in him. He and his wine, partnered with my "I'm in party mode" spirit definitely had us barreling full steam ahead through the evening.

Kristin even had amazingly talented live music at the party, which was so good we stopped, stood, watched and listened to. Shame on me for not knowing their names, because they deserve more than an excellent "plug." Jay Astafa was the caterer, a 20 year old from Brooklyn who I say is a future star in the world of vegan food. When I think back to what I was doing at 20, I'm practically ashamed. I had no focus, no plan, no nothing. Jay's food was outstanding, both in taste and presentation. I wanted to shake his hand and thank him, but he was working so hard I didn't find any opportunity to do so. He is to be commended. Vegan Treats of Bethlehem PA provided the desserts. VT is the leader in the field of vegan baking, and I think there's no one out there who does more beautiful or varied vegan baking. I've been a fan for as long as the storefront has existed. VT puts conventional baking to shame, while setting the standard for vegan baking. Conventional bakers.... ka-pow take THAT!

And then, it was over. The music stopped, the place cleared out, and we found ourselves again on line to take the one working elevator back down 16 flights. We got to the street, and it was the moment of reckoning... after party, or not? I desperately wanted to stay out. We were all dressed up in the heart of NYC, 1800 miles from home. I was exhausted, and I knew he was too. I left the decision up to him, it was the only fair thing to do. The hammer came down, and he said he didn't think he could do it. I said no problem, I understood, and truth be told I really did. We laughed the entire way back to the hotel, flash mobbed for a good part of it, and stood in front of those fur stores, pausing while I pointed to his animal rights shirt, and reminded those in the area that fur is very cruel, very uncool, and dead. Remarkably no one on the street disagreed with me, in fact I got a few "go girl!" comments and he even got a "great shirt" comment from someone passing by.

When we got back to the hotel, we crashed almost instantly. There was no after party for us. No clubs til 4am, no middle of the night vegan diner raids or anything else. Eyes slammed shut, we had to get up early for the flight home the next morning.  Time for the Universe to check in......

We got up early and packed. I had packed exceptionally light, and had enough room to fit all the swag from my fashionista basket into my case, as well as a few other things I picked up (I bought an adorable shirt for my little nephew from the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary!)  Just as we finished packing, the first of about 2 dozen texts began to come through from the airline. Our flight was delayed, which meant we'd miss our connector. Travel plans crumbled.

Hello? Hello? Are you there, it's me...... Universe.

The flight was delayed. It was undelayed. It was delayed and undelayed again. Then again. After too much time on the phone with the airline, we ran to Whole Foods (it's all we had time for at this point) and I scarfed this:

We're in NYC, surrounded by amazing vegan food, and I'm in Whole Foods
jamming down oatmeal, fruit and a cup of coffee.
In it's defense, it was organic, fair trade and the best coffee I'd had since leaving Deer Run.
We went back to the hotel, checked out, hailed a cab (for the love of dog, I hope I never have to be in a taxi again, ever) and were dropped at the airport. Our flight was delayed even longer than disclosed earlier through those texts and long, numerous calls; we were told that we'd probably miss any connecting flights to Florida for the entire day.

Who's giggling.... Universe, YOU again?!!!!

We finally boarded our flight, and sat on the tarmac for a while. Delays piled longer. We knew we'd be staying in the connecting city for the night, and began to make plans (ut oh....) for dinner in that city. Once we got to the connecting city, we learned that we didn't miss our connector, but "something" was "wrong" with the flight. Customer service had no further info, but told us to "RUN!" to the gate. So we did. Upon arrival, we saw an entire mob of people standing. No one appeared to be sitting anywhere.... all standing. We ran to the ticket counter, and were told there was a malfunction with the plane. The connector was massively delayed, so we could still make the flight! They looked at our boarding passes, and said "you're fine, just wait with the others." So, we started to wait. And wait. And wait. Turns out, the malfunction was quite major. The entire plane had boarded and was preparing to leave when it was determined something with the oil and brakes were not working (ok.... refer to several paragraphs above about me liking a security blanket when I fly. This was NOT good news). The airline made the entire plane deplane. The luggage was taken off, and a new plane was prepared. This took hours. Everyone who was there had been there for hours. I ran off to find some emergency airport provisions (I found hummus in the airport!) and use the ladies room (last stop for me had been the hotel that morning, yikes!) By the time I got back, we had about another 20 minutes wait time, but finally began boarding.  As soon as we got up and showed our boarding passes, we were flagged. Turns out, we were not "fine" as the other attendant had indicated, but rather we had been "checked out" of the flight for being late. They scrambled and found seats for us (thankfully), but again we were not seated together. We got on the plane, and found our seats. Sorry to say I had one very miserable man to my left. Times like that, I leave someone alone to their misery, real or imagined. On my other side I had someone who couldn't comprehend what "turn off phones, and electronic devices" meant when the attendants made the announcements; repeatedly.

The flight was otherwise relatively uneventful, and we made it back to Florida. It was too late to eat at Sublime, but made it to Whole Foods (where else, right?) with about 20 minutes to spare. We did some very quick shopping, scarfed down some soup, and hit the Turnpike for the very long ride back to my beloved home. We pulled into the driveway after 1am, greeted by warm fuzzy faces, including Peri who seemed perplexed that we had left him, but happy we were back.

The journey was over. And remarkably so was my headache. The final parting shot occurred this morning, when I attempted to remove my fake nails. Didn't they look lovely?

When did I take possession of my mother's hands?!!!!

It took about an hour to get the nails off. I had to do it, there's no way I can work in things like that. When one of the nails popped off as I was stuffing my bag into the overhead on the plane, I absolutely should have let it languish on the floor. Instead, I crawled around looking for it, much to the delight of other passengers, and many knowing headshakes from the ladies. I stupidly glued the darn thing back on, which only resulted in more removal time today. Note to self: leave the artificial nails to anyone else but me. I'm a baker, and the two just don't mix.

NYC, you have so much to offer, but I think it will be a while before I'm back in your 'hood.  I'm taking my un-manicured hands and going to lace up my sneakers tomorrow. I'll  run as far too many thoughts of vegan food and vegan clothing float through my head. It's going to be a good long while before this happy vegan gets off the rock again any time soon. I'll Carpe Diem so long as it's in Paradise, USA.

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