Friday, September 21, 2012

The Donut Bear

I found this guy outside the Black Bear Café in Ossipee, NH, right along Rte. 16. As I stood in the parking lot taking the picture, a man walked out, looked at me, looked at the bear, and struck a pose. “Sorry,” says me, “you’re not as cute as the bear.”

And, this is not just any bear—this is The Donut Bear. Or rather, like an icon in a Russian Orthodox Church, a crafted representation of an important figure of faith.

To begin, you might find it useful to know that my family, like all others, has a particular language to which logic need not apply. In fact, it often seems that if Logic were to apply to many aspects of the laws and language by which my relations and I govern ourselves, said application would be summarily rejected out of paw.

Growing up, we read the Berenstein Bear books, which would occasionally feature the whole Bear family heading off for burgers and milkshakes at the local Burger Bear. So, being a witty bunch (to ourselves, if not one else) this title for all fast food establishments wormed its way into family jargon. Ergo, we did not eat at McDonalds or Burger Kings, but we very infrequently frequented Burger Bear.

About twenty years later and this spring, I was on the phone with my sister who lives far away from my rabbitty warren. It was going to be a long day with a tight schedule and I didn’t see how, when, or where I was going to feed myself. Because it is New England, I could count on at least one Dunkin Donut store existing between the road I had to travel. “I’ll just get a donut,” I said, in high pitched desperation.

“A donut is not dinner,” says Smarter Bunny. “I’m sure that Dunkin Donut Bear has smoothies or something.” The Donut Bear?!

How delightful.

That day, I did manage to find myself an amazing strawberry smoothie from a nice local coffee shop and continued my evening feeling refreshed, nourished and all other things that a good visit from The Donut Bear ought engender.

I have since decided that The Donut Bear is a force in the world who provides perfect refreshing snacks. Several friends now understand the concept of The Donut Bear, who despite his name seems to have a penchant for smoothies and mocha lattes. The Donut Bear, is, of course, larger than anything as petty as labels. The Donut Bear is also good at baking cookies for friends, and now that it is fall, I believe that The Donut Bear is squarely behind apple pie for breakfast, as well as, obviously, cider donuts.

Physically, I believe that The Donut Bear looks a little like Homer Simpson crossed with a Carebear. Vocally, he sounds like Tom Waits with a lisp. “Here, kid, you look tired. I made you this hot cocoa—did you want whipped cream on that? Of course you did. Hold on.” Try it.

Recently, I was in a totally hip café. As someone who loves Donut Bears and blogs under a picture of an adorable baby bunny, you may be surprised to learn that I am not the most hipster bunny around. Skinny jeans are not my thing, and I like gears on my bike. I found this particular place intimidating, as it seemed to be run by kids who looked like they would hang out in the art and music room of high school, occasionally making a run to the parking lot to smoke cigarettes. Smoking is bad, but the artistic-goth-punk, “this is bad and we’re too cool to care about your rules” attitude is still a potent combination to make one feel about three inches tall. Only, I’m guessing these kids didn’t smoke—there was way too much focus in the café on internationally certified organic teas and artisan-brewed coffee hand milled by free-range improv artists from a local collective.

As I just need to check my email, I bought a muffin and a cup of tea, which I had the honor of selecting from a double-sided menu of tea, replete with overflowing descriptions of each blend. “Mint, please,” I said, ignoring the other eight words in the title describing mint tea. I pay for my snacks and Skinny McGee trots off, clinks around with a bunch of different vessels of hot water and scoops of leaves and then returns to the counter. My muffin is sitting, all Donut Bear-delicious looking, on a plate on the counter. Skinny plops down a mug, which I assume is for tea. Then she presents me with a tiny teapot, and pours scalding water onto the leaves. And then she leaves.

How, you might ask, do I know that the water is scalding? Because in trying to carry a small muffin plate, a mug, and a teensy teapot to a table, I slosh scalding water onto my paws. I set it all down and regrip, and was rewarded by a 1.5 degree burn on my finger from holding the teapot. More scalding water spills onto my muffin. As I needed both hands to maneuver to a table, I decided to forgo the whimsy of the teapot. I poured the tea into the mug, and took my soggy muffin and unsteeped minty hot water to a table. Where the internet did not work. When questioned, the super hip little dude with skinny jeans, cool tattoos and a chunky wool hat at the counter told me, while smiling, “Yeah, we’re part of a subscriber-based network, sort of a community thing.”

This café was not the territory of The Donut Bear. I think that is obvious.

Which is why I was so happy to see this carving of The Donut Bear a few hours later, proof that, despite unpleasantly hip cafes, the Donut Bear can still be found when one least expects and most needs a snack.

Here, in its questionable glory, is the legend of the Donut Bear:

Once upon a time, there was a small bear. He was invisible to most people and his name was the Donut Bear. The Donut Bear appointed himself as a non-denominational patron saint to those who were weary from traveling, from long days moving stacks of paper in offices, or staring at endlessly shimmering screens, or who were otherwise tired and having a bad day. The Donut Bear would find these people, tired and cranky in their cars or offices and silently guide them towards the nearest bakery or café. In their angst, these grumpy people only knew that they were propelled by a force larger than themselves towards a good cup of coffee and a delicious muffin, or a cold smoothie and a frosted donut. As if by magic, the bear knew what each person’s comfort snack would be and gently pushed them in that direction with his soft fuzzy paws. Being no bigger than a teddy bear, our hero moves invisibly through hustling crowds tapping a leg here and turning an elbow there, and, through his small actions, improves a thousand people’s mood. Next time you find yourself soothed by a fresh baked cookie or glass of iced tea, perhaps acquired when you least expected and most needed such refreshment, look down and you may see the Donut Bear, quietly making the world a better place, one un-crankied person at a time.

Granite Bunny

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Descamisados and Village Barista-ing

This is the shirt that I wore to work a few weeks ago. The RNC had just gotten underway in Tampa and I had a minor moment of panic when my alarm—set to NPR—did just that, (alarmed me.) Being frightened for the future of your country while you are still groggily coming out of dreamland is not pleasant. Certainly, the anxiety that I feel about the future of my country, versus the fears that someone waking up in Palestine or Syria might have are markedly different. And I am grateful for that difference.

But, since I don’t have to worry that I or my family will be executed for any of our political activities, I am free to move on from the basic tenets of democracy. I have a graduate degree in a field I love, a bachelor’s degree from a decent school, and I currently balance two—it was three for the summer—part-time jobs and, yet, because of my student loans, I am unable to afford health insurance, which shouldn’t be a luxury item anyway. I have been looking for better work for two years. I don’t mention these facts to whine—two seconds thinking about Iraq or Afghanistan or the Dust Bowl 2012 affords some great perspective on the challenges of my own life—but more as context.

Despite my own situation, I simply cannot find the economy to be the most important issue in this election. The social issues that are at stake are too vitally important.
A sampling of my political thoughts and views:
  • Consenting, aware adults should be able to marry who ever they choose. Committing to love someone for the rest of your life is terrifying to me—more power to those who can do so. Good luck and god bless.
  • All rape is legitimate, all rape is forcible, all rape is wrong. There should be no excuse lurking in terminology for a rapist to hide behind. No woman should be forced to have a baby with her rapist. End of story.
  • I don’t want a bunch of old, idiotic, corrupt men deciding what is best for my vagina and me. How about I agree to make good choices about which men are allowed access to my vagina (hint: NO ONE in the Congress), and Congress agrees to back off? I would also like birth control to be as available to me as Viagra is to those who “need” it.
  • Or, if we must limit access birth control to keep Jesus happy[1], let’s increase social services because people will still have sex and then babies/new citizens who will need things like medicine and housing and education and jobs and food.
  • I would like to have the government mirror the demographics of the country today, rather than mirror the pigmentation and gender of the Founding Fathers quite so closely.
  • We need to do better by our military, starting by not sending anyone to war until all diplomatic avenues have been fully tried and exhausted.
  • That pesky issue of climate change. I, for one, was grimly amused by a hurricane nearly hitting the GOP convention. And yet, they still ignore the issue. Small, family businesses who grow food to feed the hunger of our great country are being hammered this year by heat and drought and storms like none on record, and not everyone is on board with this new weird ass shit reality being an issue worth talking about? Where do they all think these climatic changes are coming from?[2]
  • Voter ID laws? From the party that wants to decrease the role of government in our lives? Come on. I want leaders who are smarter than me and this ain’t a good start.
But I digress. I turned off my NPR radio and, like a kid jamming her doll into her backpack to bring to school for reassurance[3], I donned my Obama/Biden shirt from 2008 and ventured off to my job at a small café. Unsuspecting me was taken unpleasantly by surprise when coffee-buyers began talking about my boss’s letter in that day’s paper. I opened to the Editorial section and proceeded to read about how my employer would like to get Obama and his small business hating administration out of office and return this country to the principles that made it great in the first place.
It was an uncomfortable day at work. Especially as about 20% of the customers mentioned how much they loved the letter. [4]

I can agree that “if you have a business, you didn’t build that” is a tempestuously bad statement for a President running for re-election in a crap economy to make. Even just stringing those particular words together so that they could later be taken out of context is unfortunate and scary when the stakes seem so high. Personally, I understood the words to mean something along the lines of  “it takes a village to raise a business.” I gather that not everyone took the statement, out of context, in the same context that I did. I think of that business-raising village as people percolate through the door, looking for coffee and muffins. No customers, no business. I get it—my bosses took an admirable risk, opened a business, sold enough coffee to hire me, now I have a job and we can make more coffee for more people and I can contribute to the local economy.[5] I am clearly a beneficiary of the entrepreneurial spirit of my employers.

It’s this idea of totally disconnected individualism that I find disconcerting—as if any business or person or state or country exists in a total vacuum. Could any of us do anything without each other? Very little, and not too well, me thinks.[6]"We must hang together, gentlemen[7]...else, we shall most assuredly hang separately,” according to Benjamin Franklin. I find that to the perhaps the single greatest principle that has ever made this country great.

My understanding is that the country was founded on the ideas of fairness and equality, and that the government is a structure to provide leadership, justice, and services to its citizens. The government, like the Postal Service, was never set up as a business. Now that corporations are people, perhaps that has changed, but I do cling to the idea that we are still by and FOR the people.

To end, today is the gubernatorial primary in New Hampshire. My café job is near the local poling place. I contemplated wearing my Obama shirt again, as I don’t have a Jackie Cilley shirt. But what would be the point? I quite literally can’t afford to antagonize my employers and don’t want to anyway. If we’re all hanging together, raising businesses and sharing services in this big cozy village, we would do well to try to be kind, tone down confrontational rhetoric, and, specifically, not wear a particular shirt just to be a smart-ass. I can understand where my employers are coming from. I disagree, but that’s beside the point. They know I disagree, but I still have a job. This is good.[8]

So if you have an election to get to today, chop chop and get thee to the polls. Personally, being a big nerd, I like to vote whenever possible, simply out of respect for the right. There are people fighting, dying, and killing, for the privilege to vote on their leaders. I care far more that you vote than who you vote for. Of course, it’d be swell if you voted for Green Socialist-Democrats, but that decision is, of course, your business.
Granite Bunny

[1] Given the nature of His birth/conception, I don’t really trust His feelings about contraception.
[2] When I did relief work on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, someone overheard a guy saying that Katrina was God’s vengeance for abortion being legal. His proof was that the eye of the storm looked like a fetus. So there are some theories out there, other than say, science and what you can see with your own eyes.
[3] Grades K-3. Only sometimes it was my teddy bear.
[4] Except, they called it an article. It wasn’t an article. It was a letter to the editor. Right up there with people not understanding what the President can and cannot do from the Oval Office (read Jon Stewart’s America: The Book if you need to brush up on your civics), I hate when people don’t use the correct terminology, especially if the incorrect term somehow applies greater gravitas and authority. Articles appear in Orion, the New York Times, US Weekly, etc. Letters to the Editor are as often from crazy cat ladies as they are from the politically disgruntled, both of which happen more often than letters from the politically astute/socially aware. And blogs are the province rambling bunnies, apparently.
[5] And Sallie Mae.
[6] Okay, Thoreau, try it. Spend a full winter day with nothing that another human being was ever involved in creating. Let me know how it goes. “Brrr. I’m hungry...”
[7] Recent research shows that this sentiment ought be extended to all people, not just dudes.
[8]Wait, I can disagree with my employers about politics? Cool. Thanks, Labor Movement! 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fanfare for the Common Bunny

Hello! This is the inaugural entry for what will doubtlessly become a ranting fount of wit and wisdom pertaining to whatever manner of incidents pass before my beady little eyes and/or long floppy ears. This photo came from and I hope that it is okay with them that I'm using it here. Not that there is a lack of cute bunny photos on the interwebs, but I happen to like this one best. Those paws--are they clapping, freaking out, or directing a plane where to land? Difficult to say.

Why start a blog? Mostly I've done so today because it is threatening to rain and I have a sore throat and am unable to get out to the White Mountains on any adventures. Also, I went to my local Farmer's Market today like any other well-brought up Gen-X socio-environmentalist. I love a fresh tomato as much as the next kid, but as another friend wrote me: "Yesterday I ranted about the abundance of blogs, Facebook posts, etc. that constantly, and in the most unoriginal ways, celebrate the sensual abundance of any given farmer's market.  We all know quite well just how fucking amazing farmer's markets are, and all about the bounty of beautiful vegetables that delight the senses, and there is so little that can be done on this topic without making us all puke.  It is my opinion that people should only be blogging about farmer's markets if they either work at one, supply produce to one, or have something fucking original to say.  Otherwise, eat your goddamn kohlrabi with your goddamn perfect boyfriend and shut the hell up about it."
Well said, I think. On that note, I decided to find a wider forum for the scavenger hunt I created while living in Missoula, Montana. I believe that it should work just as well for similar communities of my own demographic.
Granite Bunny 

Saturday Market In Missoula Quiz[1]

We all know that we’re supposed to be “Keeping Missoula Weird,” and yet there is a certain homogeneity that would lead the passerby/non-Missoulian to believe that we are all part of some dang Chaco-wearing, happy-baby-producing, local-organic-eating, bike-loving cult. Let’s rally and prove our differences and keep Missoula at least as weird as the other cities[2] with those stickers!

If you spot any of the following, go ahead and give yourself the prescribed number of points:

A pregnant woman who looks not radiant, but appropriately uncomfortable given that her insides are being squashed by a giant sea-monkey, she’s been off-kilter for the last nine months, and has to pee every four and a half minutes.
(10 pts/per)­­________

A happy couple wherein one half looks like an icy-hearted hipster and the other is a Pachemama loving hippy. (Traditionally, these groups hate each other like Sharks and Jets—co-mingling may end badly.) Watch for tight punk band t-shirts, spiked hair and impossibly skinny jeans holding hands with flowing skirts, dreadlocks and Mother Earth-type tattoos. Be alert for verbal references to bands neither you nor anyone else has ever heard of, commingling in conversation between comments on musical acts such as “The Dead,” (who maybe ought to rest in peace, rather than be forced to perform in their dotage.)
(15 pts/per couple)________

A person wearing a three-piece/pinstripe suit NOT ironically.
(8 pts/per)­­­________

A longboard being used as a toy, not masquerading as a legitimate form of transportation.
(5 pts/per)________

A child eating a Wonderbread sandwich with Kraft Singles and Oscar Meyer Baloney.
(5 pts/per)________

Music being produced by a bona fide instrument, rather than via a creative rummage through the recycling bins of a hardware store.
(3 pts/per)________

A geeky teenager who looks age-appropriately UNCOMFORTABLE with their oddities/inability to blend in[3]. (You know, the weasley looking ones with magic cards, acne, greasy hair, and miserable expressions as they are tortured by being dragged into the sunlight by their families.)
(2 pts/per)________

A devastatingly attractive single man who doesn’t have a parole monitor ankle bracelet, and has a designed and implemented a citywide glass-recycling program[4].
(Points?!? Hell, just get a phone number.­­­_(___)___-____)

For this next section, be particularly alert, as each day in Missoula inures your senses towards the sheer absurdity to many of these sights, smells, and sounds. Remember, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance; and it is our mandate as Missoulians to be as non-conformist as possible.

Subtract the appropriate number of points for each of the following:

A person walking barefoot down the street.
(-2 pts/per)________

Anyone over the age of 3 wearing ANYTHING resembling a tutu.
(-3 pts/per)­­­________

Smugly glowing pregnant women who look more beautiful swollen up with twenty pounds of baby and amniotic fluid than the rest of us have ever/will ever look.
(-10 pts/per)­­­________
(Subtract an additional 5 if you can see her baby-popped belly button.)

Overheard conversations about:
The Good Food Store—a thorny subject, but the “counter” cultural reliance on and inability to consume food from anywhere other than an elitistly monikered food emporium is clearly worrisome. (E.g. “I only shop at the Good Food Store,” “Seattle is great, but they just have Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s[5]; there’s no GFS…”)     
Grains—especially those that no one outside of Missoula (other than the ancient Egyptians[6]) have ever heard of, let alone consumed. (E.g. “Because of Sierra’s[7] allergies, we’re only eating kequinophoeiarmut these days. I’m trying to get her school to ban wheat products.”)
Pregnancy—(E.g. “You just have to read this book about three weeks before you are due, it just gets you so PUMPED to give birth…”[8])
Wildland Fire Fighting—we get it; YOU’RE AWESOME. Shut up.
(-1 pt/per)­­________

Subaru Station wagons (includes Foresters) and Toyota Prii, Tacomas, and RAV 4s.

(-1 pt/per)­­­_______

Cynical grad students who have nothing better to do with their summers than mock municipal happiness[9].
(-5 pts/per)­­­________
  TOTAL POINTS _______­­_­­

[1] Can also be used at any and all of the variously disguised “Celebrate Missoula” festivals and Farmers’ Markets.
[2] Austin, TX; Eugene and Portland, OR; or Burlington, VT.
[3] Puberty is god-awful. The number of well-adjusted, confident teens in Missoula throws this universal truth into question and should not be tolerated. They are missing out on their prime suffering years.
[4] No glass recycling in Missoula.
[5] Not available in Missoula
[6] And look what happened to them.
[7] Children named for other types of flora and fauna, grains, seasons and/or Wilderness areas are equally suspect.
[8] Conversation overheard at The Break, March 14, 2009
[9] But, are they really happy? Or are they just clones of beautiful, fit people with a yen for social and environmental justice and civic and community engagement? Watch The Stepford Wives and add quinoa and kale.