Today I was preparing for two upcoming events: rehearsing my song for the Bushwick Book Club Seattle’s performance of songs inspired by Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire and Omnivore’s Dilemma; and removing old music from my iPod so I can replace it with new music for my upcoming trip to the Netherlands to visit my wife’s family. In the process of my preparations, I found myself reflecting upon my personal evolution with my diet, as well as my music.
First to the diet…
When I was a kid I thought that I was healthier than other kids. I knew because my mom had my brother and I mix our Cocoa Puffs with Kix, our Cocoa Krispies with Rice Krispies, and our Frosted MiniWheats with regular MiniWheats. So rather than allowing us to have just the sugary cereals, we balanced the sweets with the “healthy” stuff. Moving forward into my teens I matured on a diet of what my mom called “plain” bologna sandwiches: bologna, a Kraft Singles cheese and Kraft yellow mustard on white bread, as well as a seemingly never ending supply of Little Debbie snacks cakes of all varieties: Nutty Butter Bars, Oatmeal Cookies, Twinkies and Ding Dongs. Needless to say, all of my high school friends never objected when I suggested we hang out at my house. Then, to the peak of my past dietary quirks, when on my first trip to Europe with my high school world history teacher and a group of students I was named Testa di Carne (“meathead” in Italian), due to my singular diet of meat and complete aversion to vegetables.
So, looking back, one might see that it has been quite an evolution for this bologna loving meathead to turn into the current pro-organic, semi-localvore, vegetarian writing this. While I don’t talk about my personal dietary choices (honestly I don’t, ask my friends), reading Omnivore’s Dilemma and then the writing of my Book Club song for the upcoming show made me think about why I’ve made the changes to my diet and I feel that it was as good of a time as any to talk from my little music soap box about my choices.
I first stopped eating meat in the summer of 2004 when one of my oldest and best friends John and I happened to both live in the same city for the summer. John, was at the time a new and, unlike me currently, a very vocal vegetarian. Every time we would go out to eat he couldn’t help but berate me about my selection of the chicken option in my Pad See Ew. As an attempt to move on to another subject, I eventually caved and ordered the tofu in the hopes of keeping him quiet. I had two realizations:
1.) The meal ended up being cheaper than my chicken version, saving a few bucks, and
2.) It tasted fine to me (remember I was fine with the taste of bologna).
So in order to save some money that summer and to shut John up for once, I decided to try out “vegetarianism” (it was actually pescetarianism). I ended up living by an “eat what you can kill” mentality, unsure to this day how I exactly decided to live by that motto. I still ate sushi, remembering all of the fishing trips I took with my dad and grandfather when I was little and the numerous rainbow trout my grandmother fried up after we gutted them. I eventually decided that I in fact would not feel comfortable killing fish anymore and a year later became a full veggie. Voilà!: A vegetarian evolution.
Since then, I’ve added on a strict preference for organic for the health reasons, both my own and the animals and the soil, and I do my best to buy local, which has been relatively easy being spoiled with the Northwest’s abundance. The environmental impacts of the food industry have also influenced many of my life choices as meat, non-organic, and non-local foods all have much higher levels of fossil fuel energy consumption than vegetables, organic and local foods (my main job and passion is around reducing fossil fuel consumption in the Building Sector).
So what does all of this have to do with music?
Well, beside my song being about my personal hope that we as humans will evolve beyond our basic instinct to kill other animals to sustain ourselves, this story of my dietary transformation has some parallels to my musical evolution.
I started out listening to the Oldies and Country, mostly Garth Brooks. It wasn’t until I hit high school and met John (my now vegan friend mentioned above) that I was introduced to what started with pop punk and morphed into indie rock. John was my first connection to the music of what would become my future home, Seattle, introducing me to the likes of Death Cab for Cutie, Pedro the Lion, and Modest Mouse, all in their pre-national sensation state. I helped to buy John his first guitar and he helped me join the local music scene in our hometown and inspired me to play my first show. John was again responsible for a first major step in personal evolution, this time in music.
From there I largely took out on my own and have since headed back to some of my country western roots. What I found interesting as I was replacing music on my now increasing small 30 GB iPod for my upcoming trip is that most of my new music, just like my food, is local. Not just Seattle “local”, big time names like Fleet Foxes and the Cave Singers (those are on their too), but more personal local. My music selection, and preference, is now largely local Seattle musicians, mostly other singer songwriters and Americana acts that I’ve meet in the community, which includes the Bushwick Book Club Seattle. Like my food, I feel more enriched, knowing where my music comes from, the emotion put behind it, and the genuine purpose it serves.
So, thanks John, thanks Seattle and thanks Bushwick. I look forward to the next evolution.