In yet another epic bout of procrastination, I cleaned out my desk yesterday, and came across a brochure I picked up at the Fancy Food Show in January. It’s for a cereal company called Holy Crap. I shit you not.
Archive for the ‘Misc.’ Category
Posted in Food, Misc., Travel, tagged animal abuse, child abuse, complete and utter apathy, domestic violence, Good Samaritans, Texas, traveler's safety, women's travel safety on May 15, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
I just returned from a four-day business trip to a certain city in Texas. I’m not going to give its name, as I don’t wish to represent it. Let’s just say that due to its location on the border of Mexico, most Americans (self included) would consider it seriously sketchy if they didn’t know better.
I discovered on my second day there that it’s ranked the nation’s safest large city, a statistic I found pleasantly surprising. But it made sense to me, both logistically and emotionally. There’s obviously a large police force, as well as a strong military and border patrol presence. Yet most other border towns don’t share its low crime rate.
This specific city caught me off guard with its mellow vibe. My first day there, I found it so enjoyable, and felt so safe, that I took an evening stroll downtown (which is less than 10 blocks from the border, as was my hotel) and around the arts district, a portion of which is adjacent to the railroad tracks. If someone had told me I’d be doing that in any border town, but this one in particular (owing to the spectacularly high murder rate of its Mexican sister city), I’d have said they were smoking something that’s usually responsible for said murders.
I’ve prefaced the following story with this information because it provides a deeper understanding of the event at hand. Had I been in a place that was certifiably dangerous, or if I’d had a gut feeling that it wasn’t safe, I wouldn’t be writing this post.
We’ve all – travelers and homebodies alike – been witness to certain public situations that more often occur in private. I’m referring to domestic violence, child or animal abuse, and the like. What we choose to do in those instances depends upon a number of things: our location, the time, who we’re with (or not) and, at the risk of sounding judgy, our sense of compassion and moral code. If we’re traveling, even more factors come into play, such as cultural mores and penal systems.
There’s a name for those who take action in these situations; in some states and countries, it’s actually a law or act. I’m referring to Good Samaritans. I don’t harbor any illusions that I’m a representative of the moral majority. I do, however, think that I have a solid set of values, thanks to my parents.
As a result, as well as what I think is a reaction to being picked on as a kid, I have a fairly strong sense of … justice, as well. If I see someone taking advantage of another living thing, and I’m in a position to do something about it without obvious harm to myself, I’m going to take action. This doesn’t mean that I think I’m better than you, but we’ll get to that.
I’ve never been in a physically abusive relationship, but like most women, I have a very strong reaction to the idea of domestic violence. Sadly, it occurs every hour of every day, worldwide. If you travel or move a lot, you’re likely aware of this.
Getting to the point, the other evening, around 5:30 p.m., I needed to go to the drugstore, which was located about four blocks from my (very nice) hotel in this particular city. I was a few blocks away at the downtown plaza area. There were a handful of pedestrians about, and a slow but steady stream of traffic. As I often do, I’d left my cellphone behind, since I was just running down the street, it was daylight and I was in a safe area.
I saw a vagrant couple, around their mid-20s, and obviously high, having a volatile argument across the street. I was waiting for the light to change, and watched them begin walking down the street, still fighting. I decided it was best to stay on my own side, but we arrived at our respective corners at the same time. That was when I saw the female half of the couple, who stood around 5’3″, slap her boyfriend, who was easily 6’2″. Without a second’s hesitation, he slugged her in the face, and knocked her flat on her back. Yes, she initiated the assault, and I don’t condone hitting men. But there is something to be said about cause-and-effect, as well as the differences in size and strength between genders.
It’s hard for me to describe what went through my mind, because on the one hand, I (re)acted on impulse and instinct. Yet, I also assessed my own safety (Was this guy armed? Don’t get hit by a car.). While I was processing this, I was already racing across the street, screaming at the top of my lungs (to attract attention, as well as out of anger), “Get the fuck away from her!”
I knew other people had witnessed this event. I turned to a car waiting at the light next to me, and asked the female driver to call 911. She looked at me like I was nuts, and without a word, sped off. Meanwhile, the victim was back on her feet and hysterical, and her assailant’s attention and rage was now directed at me. “Mind your own business!” he spat, as I continued to yell at passerby for help, police, call 911.
By this time, we were on the same side of the street, and he began to advance toward me, menacingly. “You want some?” he screamed, while his girlfriend hung onto his arm, attempting to pull him back, apologizing to him all the while.
I darted back across the street, to a youngish, well-to-do-looking couple who had also been witness. I begged the woman to call 911. Her response? “You know, I’m sorry. But I really just don’t have time for this.” While I was talking to her, a couple of older derelict men passed by. The one said to me, “She slapped him first.” To which his friend replied, “That don’t matter! It ain’t right to hit wimmen!”
Meanwhile, the drama across the street continued, and I saw that I was next to the lobby of a business building. There were two security guards on duty, one of whom was a woman. She called the police, and we both went out to the street so that she could give them a location and description of the suspects. But the couple had vanished.
Then I saw the girl, running like the proverbial bat out of hell, across the plaza, her boyfriend giving chase. She ended up on a park bench, while he loomed over her, yelling and gesticulating wildly. We waited for five minutes, but the police didn’t show (god knows how many domestic violence calls a day they receive). The guard had to return to her post, and thus I was left on the sidewalk with a decision to make. Stay or go?
I felt I’d done my civic duty, and was about to leave when I saw four teenage girls sit down on the bench across from the couple. They were too young and naive to understand the inherent danger of the situation, and instead, they were goggling at the spectacle. I continued to wait. Then I saw the police car across the plaza. It drove right past the couple, despite the fact we’d provided them with a full description of the suspects.
I ran across the plaza, waving my arms, trying to flag down the car. Unfortunately, this also meant the assailant saw me, and knew the jig was up. I managed to stop the police car by leaping in the street and gesturing frantically. Two cops – a man and a woman – emerged. I explained the situation to them, and turned to point out the couple. That’s when I saw that the assailant was sitting snuggled up next to his girlfriend, arm around her shoulder (as a friend aptly said, upon hearing this, “This wasn’t his first rodeo”).
The male cop then asked me his only question. “You say she slapped him first?” Then the two of them marched across the plaza toward the couple, while I beat a hasty retreat back to my hotel.
What did I hope to accomplish by a.) inserting myself into the situation, and b.) doggedly trying to resolve it? Well, as I explained, I acted partly on instinct. It’s never okay for a man to hit a woman. Period. As a woman, and a human being, I reacted to that.
Did I expect to help her or change her circumstances? Of course not. I’ve read about and heard enough statistics on domestic violence, as well as known people involved in such situations, to understand that my intervention wasn’t solving anything. Do I think his girlfriend was grateful to me for intervening? No. Even if she was arrested on assault charges, I honestly believe she was safer spending the night in jail than wherever she likely ended up.
The bottom line is that I witnessed something shocking, disturbing, and illegal that was causing harm to another human being. I had an emotional and intellectual reaction. But in its aftermath, what’s been far more upsetting to me is the apathy displayed by everyone else who’d witnessed it. When did we, as a culture, become this way? I can’t pin a date on it, but I can say with certainty that television and the cult of celebrity are largely to blame. Here, we celebrate bad behavior (or at least, don’t adequately punish it…I’m talking to you, Lindsey Lohan).
It’s four days later, and I’m still grappling with the sociological and geographical factors that determine how we react to these types of things. I could somewhat understand if it were a dangerous, crime-ridden city or a bad part of town or on the other side of the border. I’ve asked myself what I would have done if this had happened under any of those circumstances.
I’m not proud of it, but I’m quite sure I would have done nothing, aside from possibly telling someone in some position of authority who had the capacity to call the police (a bartender, for example). If we’d been in any number of other countries or domestic regions, I would have kept my big mouth shut. See, I told you I’m not better than you are.
I don’t think one should ever get involved in this type of situation if there’s a high likelihood it will result in compromising one’s own safety. All it does is put you, as well as others, at risk. Bear in mind, too, that in certain countries or cultures, it’s not an overtly criminal act (despite what the law might say) to beat your woman or animals. Most of the planet, fortunately, can agree that it’s fucked up to hit or molest children.
When I’ve witnessed animal abuse in Thailand, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bolivia, a part of me died inside, but I said nothing. As a visitor, and given the cultural differences and circumstances at hand, it wasn’t my place. It might have resulted in negative consequences for me. I would, sadly, do the same here in the States, if my speaking up jeopardized my safety.
Like everything in life, we must pick our battles. Sometimes, that means we may need to help others fight those battles. We’re fortunate enough to live in a country where it’s against the law to abuse women (and men), children, and animals. Think about that for a minute. These laws exist to help those who cannot help themselves.
It’s not about being a hero. It’s about doing the right thing. If the circumstances don’t prohibit us from taking action, I strongly believe it’s our duty as supposedly evolved homo sapiens to help. Wake up, America. Your values are calling.
Posted in Food, Misc., Street food, Travel, tagged Bolivia, Bolivia climbing, Bolivia mountain biking, Bolivia trekking, climbing, Condoriri Massif, Cordillera Real, La Paz, Salar de Uyuni, Southwest Circuit, trekking, World's Most Dangerous Road on April 17, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
Last night I attended “An Evening with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert: Good vs. Evil” in Boulder. Best quote of the night (and there were many…so many) was from Tony, talking about Guy Fieri (one of my own favorite targets):
“He looks like Ed Hardy fucked a Juggalo.”
That sums it up nicely, I think.
I’m going to preface this post with a disclaimer: I’ve spent the past decade exploring South America, and I keep coming back because I love it so much. I find the differences (and similarities) in countries and cultures endlessly fascinating, as well as the food, languages, geography, flora, fauna, and people. I’ve been in Bolivia for a week, and I’m smitten, if not a little culturally befuddled.
Like most of my writing, this will likely offend, so please let it be known that I’m merely taking the piss. Don’t even get me started on what’s annoying about Norte Americanos (self included). Now, adelante:
- Why do adults of both genders pick their noses in public? Like, a lot?
- Why do men of all ages also urinate in public, i.e. sidewalk, mid-day, full frontal? Yet last night, I got into verbal battle (en español) with a Bolivian man who’d just relieved himself along with two friends, behind a mound of rocks on the side of the road (our overnight bus was taking a 10-minute break at a restaurant). After they zipped up, I ventured over, and this guy started yelling at me to go pee in the bathroom.
I explained that the toilet (a seatless, shit-splattered number in a cement cell, with a one-foot gap at the top of the door that approximated the height of the average Bolivian male—about 5’7″) was in use. In reality, my nervous bladder wouldn’t function in there, and believe me, I tried. He was having none of it. From what I gathered, the issue was that said pile of rubble was part of the “construction” of someone’s “home” and it was bad luck for my (female? gringa?) urine to taint it.
- Why are 99.9% of cholitas (indigenous women from the Andean highlands; I’m specifically referring to those in La Paz) the size of Mack trucks? Proof: The city’s weekly event called Cholita’s Fighting.
- How is the human cheek is capable stretching to hamster-like capacity, in order to accommodate a wad of coca leaves the size of a tennis ball?
- Why do cholitas hawk with greater frequency and volume than the Chinese? I blame the noxious traffic fumes, since many of them are street vendors.
- What do the cops actually do besides eat, socialize, and look cool in uniform?
- Why, as in the rest of Latin America, is honking one’s horn repeatedly, even when at a standstill, okay? Rather than just being totally fucking annoying.
- How does listeria not develop in “fresh” cheese that’s been kept unrefrigerated for three days?
- Why am I still alive from eating said cheese? Because I seriously had no choice in the matter, or I would have caused grave offense. And sometimes death is preferable.
Posted in Cooking, Drink, Food, Misc., Travel, tagged Brad Newman, business ethics, Eater, food writers, hotel reviews, no pay no play, restaurant reviewers, restaurant reviews, servercards, travel reviews on January 27, 2013 | Leave a Comment »