In part 2 of 5, Permission To Heal’s Victoria Moon asks me the question, “Where did you find support as you transitioned from cooked vegan to raw vegan?”
I happened to be on tour with STOMP during my transition, so social grace was vital from my perspective. Check it out:
Total blast from the past! The castmembers of STOMP on tour perform a morning radio show, trick out while injured in a wheel chair, improvise late nite delirium music on the tour bus, play with radio control cars in the venue parking lot and join the Mile High Club. I love you guys!
Three years ago I committed to Los Angeles. Which is a big deal if you know me. Prior, I had toured all 50 states (many multiple times), traveled 11 countries and just couldn’t sit still, whether that was a metaphoric movement-oriented career choice or the literal path-wearing across the globe – I was in motion. And committing to LA was a big deal for me.
I had no keys for years. Because I was so portable, I had absolutely nothing to lock up. Nothin’ to steal/nothin’ to sell. Freedom is what they call it. And free is how I felt. There is something so right about my personality completely changing everything … over and over and over.
I paid no rent for 9 years. I had a suitcase with a strangely worn wheel that rattled a lopsided beat across waxed air terminal floors and moving walk-ways. I had a dresser in my mom and dad’s basement with feathers and stones and bones and love letters inside. I had a rose that can claim my having planted it in Chicago and there is still my pine tree in that park near the Hollywood Bowl in LA. It bothered me not at all that my memories and communications and dream building became digital. Digital was valuable because it took up less space. I traded in my sculpting clay and xacto knife for a forced interest in typing my thoughts. And if you click all the way to the bottom left on this page – to my first archive ever – you will read the precise moment I took up digital writing and let gardening become an official ‘something to look forward to.
It’s good to have goals.
The gorgeous young man on my right could tap dance a dreadlocked symphony in his sleep. The tattooed guy to my left sang opera underneath his breath. My parents taught me to give silent compliments to everyone including myself, so luckily I knew no jealousy. But there we were – the most prolific, audacious, and magnificent of Manhattan artists all vying for one job: to make music out of trash cans, make history in live theater, and claim a spot on stage in STOMP.
I was feeling rather exposed, as only an auditioning performer can, being expected to be brilliant on command. My compliment mechanism kicked into overdrive as one by one we were directed to take center stage and improvise music using only our hands and feet while Luke Creswell, STOMP’s creator, took notes in the empty audience. “Wow, that Japanese girl sure can solo!” “Sweet, did he just do a standing back flip?” “Great…I guess it’s my turn after Ringo Starr, here…” The jazz musician panted, the African dancer paced, and I did what any starving artist in an overly tense situation would do: pulled up my sports socks, stepped center stage, and screwed up.
I was not the best dancer at the audition. I was not the best percussionist. I was not the best at anything at all – except being myself. In fact, I was the only one who could possibly do it. And with that heavy responsibility upon my shoulders – that if I did not express myself fully in this very vulnerable moment, a unique creative opportunity would be lost forever – I got down to what was real and gave the only thing that anyone really has to give: the authentic me.
Six hundred of Manhattan’s finest artists attended STOMP auditions in March 2002. Three women were hired.
If you had told me when I was four, hosting tea parties with my stuffed animals, that at twenty six I would be rolling out of bed and into the back of a limo to do morning radio appearances, I would have dropped my lump of sugar. If you had suggested to this Midwestern firefly catcher that someday she would be signing autographs in a different time zone every week, she would have absent-mindedly set the glowing captives free. Never in a million childhood imaginations could I have daydreamed a life so fulfilling, a career so rewarding, a fantasy so real as touring the nation in STOMP. And a year and a half later, as I stand center stage soloing music using only my hands and feet this time in front of 2,000 people, I am reminded of why I am on this stage at all. It is not to “act” and “perform” – words implying falsity or illusion. No, if these 2,000 fans wanted façade they would be zoning out on reruns in their living rooms. Instead, they have chosen the red velvet seat of live theatre and are opening up to experience me, asking me to affect them, inviting me to change their lives. The audience gives me their attention and in return, I give them the only gift anyone really has to give, the only thing anyone is really interested in receiving, the only reason to live and breathe at all: the truth… myself… what is real. Every night the challenge to become a better performer is the challenge to become a better human being, through knowing myself more deeply and expressing myself more fully. 2,000 watching eyes keep a girl honest.
Now to live on the road, sacrifices must be made. You have a mailbox, I have a laptop computer. You have a blender, I have a laptop computer. You have family and friends, I have a laptop computer. Yes, the road is a grueling place exposing loneliness, addiction and all the most attractive human qualities. So when I arrived on tour in January 2003, Little Miss Sunshine claiming to eat only raw, uncooked fruits and vegetables, my new cast mates smiled with a knowing look in their eyes – they’d seen spouses and the devout sink quicker. Placing their bets, they welcomed the new girl aboard.
I remember early in my touring career playing Danville, Kentucky. You know you are off the grid when Verizon doesn’t get reception. Or when there is no local dial up number. Or when the only grocer within walking distance is Super Wal-Mart (which surprisingly did offer a small organic produce section down the aisle from the car batteries and next to the disposable diapers, I believe). Disheartened and famished, I opted instead to wait for catering at sound check, only to be thwarted yet again by parmesan on the iceberg salad and, well…let’s just say fruit isn’t “what’s for dinner” in Danville. I remember some of my early hotel rooms having refrigerators….some not. And fondly, I remember my new cast mates lovingly calling me “rabbit.” It is a way of reaching out, this friendly teasing, but somehow it just leaves one feeling different, which is probably the main obstacle to maintaining a raw food diet – feeling socially isolated when in your heart of hearts you believe you are normal.
But any goal worth striving toward is as difficult or as effortless as we perceive it to be. Embracing the dramatic adjustments to my routine, instead of cursing them, has rewarded me three fold with health, education and experience. I learned quickly that even the smallest cities have a co-op or health food store, and there is no cab ride too expensive that is not worth the organic persimmons eagerly awaiting my arrival into town. I learned also that nice hotels will gladly deliver a refrigerator and a handsome bellhop to your door upon request. And I learned that Mexican joints and fine dining restaurants are a raw foodist’s greatest allies when eating out with friends. Guacamole or a chef’s surprise salad consistently exceed my expectations, and more importantly, remind me that I am not a victim of raw food, hiding in some hotel room, peering through a peek hole at the world’s social web. Rather, I am in the center spinning, spinning, spinning patterns of friendship and connection.
Which brings me to my absolute favorite part of touring as a raw foodist – yes, friendship and connection. The STOMP company I travel with is nineteen individuals strong – all exceptionally extraordinary people, to say the least. Out on the road, sometimes all we’ve got is each other – we celebrate birthdays together, mourn deaths together, create art together. And because I view the raw food diet as an ever evolving personal experiment that this scientist would abandon completely if unsatisfactory results came back from the lab, I acknowledge that my cast mates may be getting the precise results they desire from their chosen lifestyles and therefore I have nothing but respect for their personal paths. Yes, I adore my brother and sister STOMPers and all of our glorious diversity, yet there are times when I need the support of a fellow raw fooder. I need to discuss the femininity of the pomegranate or the neutrality of dino kale. I need somebody to suck on a coconut with me. And it is precisely at these times, with the aid of my faithful laptop computer, that this traveler has reached out and discovered a monumental truth about America’s raw food movement: we are everywhere! From potlucks in Central Park to festivals in Oregon, from Karyn’s Fresh Corner in Chicago to Rawsome Café in Phoenix, from the Favor family in Austin to a treasured cyber pal in San Francisco, I am fortunate to report firsthand that our community is vast and rapidly growing. We are the artists, the musicians, the healers, the parents. We are the innovators, the educators, the leaders, the dreamers. We are role models in society, we are muses for growth, and we are the emerging counterculture of the 21st century.
So unto all my STOMPer friends I say, “you gotta know when to fold ‘em,” for the bet has been won and even improved upon. Not only am I traveling full-time and enjoying an unstoppable social life as a raw foodist, but I am doing it all while maintaining the intensely physical lifestyle of a professional athlete. The cast mates who once called me “rabbit” are now complimenting my “solid” figure and inexhaustible energy. And this time it is I giving the silent, knowing smile…
I eat raw food not to transcend the human experience, not to cheat death, defy aging, or attain some enlightened spiritual state. I eat raw food because it brings me joy right now. And it is precisely by getting back to what’s real and living in the moment that I effortlessly become the giving performer, the thriving athlete, the authentic human being it is natural for me to be. If I am blessed enough to live a century, seeing only one hundred autumns, feeling only one hundred springs, then I refuse for even one day to delay life’s pleasures.
Seven tour busses pull up to United States customs at 3 a.m.. They are returning from Canada to their home country. Customs officers insist that each of the tour bus residents (Because let’s face it; these tour buses are our homes – playing a new city nightly, we don’t get hotels. We sleep in a coffin sized bunk – the best money can buy – while we travel to the next city. But a bunk with a #1-only on-board potty, while certainly romantic, is not in any way mistakable for a king sized bed in an actual home. Which is what I am looking forward to. Which is what is waiting for me in less than two weeks) – customs officers insist that each resident rise and actually go into the security building to have their passports scanned and their criminal histories checked. At 3 a.m.. It is far harder to get into your own country (when your country is the U.S.) than it is a foreign one.
I wish the Canadian/United States boarders would open up and we could freely move/work/trade with our neighbors to the North.
Sound designer, lighting rigger, company manager, bass player – all puffy eyed and in decorative p.j. bottoms, slip on shoes, a still-buzzed and grouchy face here and there, but mostly a motley crew of grungy touring rock-n-roll lifestylers who just loaded out a fantastic show in Vancouver BC and enjoyed a fine night partying together, swapping tour busses for a few hours until “we roll. There were silly fireworks brought from Iowa and there are always dancers (specifically 6 – yes, 6 professional dancers, of whom I am one, on this rock-n-roll tour). As long as someone is dancing, it’s a party. Invite the dancers. Our lives are a party.
Problem is, my passport has a long, red haired Midwestern looking chick, similar to myself only in a cat-who-did-it kinda smile and well-positioned eyebrow piercings. And Vancouver is recording record snow. We all make it through customs and are shoed back to our beds. But the bus, nor the tour sponsor, Dave, make it across the ice. One moment he was up and just as quick as the sun rises over Manhattan, he was flat on his ass. It must have hurt. Maybe it hurt his pride more than anything.
And in another 2 hours, we will pull into Seattle, WA (my home town – at least that’s what my driver’s license says. And I will try to sleep, though lately it’s been difficult. I have from 11pm to the following day 7pm to catch some zzzz’s, but wouldn’t you know I’m up. I’m a light sleeper/recovering insomniac. This whole tour thing again, is really my growth point for deeper sleep, you know. This is my chance to really get over it once and for all.
Of course, in San Jose, CA (after Seattle, WA) I will see a man who fits perfectly. I have been counting days since 8 days ago. He comes over to play like childhood best friend and crosses the world to care for me the way a grown man wants to take care of a woman. He wants to be the only one to take care of me. Even though we both know I don’t need taken care of. I’m pretty sure I won’t sleep on the bus tonite.
So deliciously romantic is the touring artist’s almost-full-moon, traveling winter nite.
Yea, okay, I’ll hang up the phone now. Even though I didn’t say what needed to be said. I dropped the hook deep in that sea a couple of times, hoping you’d bite and … be on the other end. But it seems like every time I have a need of the loneliness kind, you have emotions that need far more care.
And they do. So I say, “How did that feel?” and “That must be hard.” Even, “I understand.” But no one on the other end of the cell phone, nor putting on make up one mirror away in the dressing room – I am naked. I am always the most naked in the dressing room. I am exposed and it’s not because I “love my body” and I want to show it off. I certainly don’t hate my body, but sometimes I do. I am naked because it’s my body and I don’t feel like it has to be covered all the time. It is as innocent and infantile as that.
Neither they nor you on the other end of this mobile conversation ask me, “How are you doing?” “What’s going on.” Even, “Hey, I notice your not holding eye contact today.” No one asks.
And that usedta woulda driven me nuts and make my loneliness -need a bigger issue, just driving in that disconnection feeling and barren loss of attachment feeling. I am an outsider of my own reality. I am outside my own world.
Oh, little Miss Renegade, how deep the personality dismantling experiments go. Oh, Little Chaos Magickian, how freedom and disintegration are just two interpretations of the same feeling.
Like celebration and anarchy. Like desire and destruction.
On tour, I’m such an introvert in the middle of social oblivion. I fight for a true moment securely alone. And I fight so often that I make it happen and make it happen, in my reality, so well, that when I need to reach out and touch, I find only the inside of my own introverted box. But I want to touch someone. I want to feel someone feel me.
But I’m going to make art of it instead. It’s so much healthier than sitting on the telephone waiting for you to “figure me out”. And I so don’t have the energy or security to reach out and confess of my own accord. Instead of being hurt or mad or martyred, I guess I’ll hang up the phone now.
Make art instead.
And the hook ups begin.
It’s the first after-show party. Thrown by the band for the dancers, the crew, the production team, the record label, and all innocent public fanatical bystanders.
Cast and crew are dressing up and getting down and ducking out early and loitering late and no names will be used in this scenario because everyone knows Rule Number One of our chosen lifestyle, and if you don’t know you learn real fast; “What happens on tour, stays on tour.”
And the hook ups begin.
In honest innocence, I too, enjoyed a New York minute myself. And I am the most honest person I’ve ever met (besides two). And I only do what my heart says to do (plus one) . And my heart feels good still and already only moments after (cleanliness and clarity integral).
Some, on the other hand, may wake up tomorrow to find their beer goggles removed and their New York minute abruptly punctuated in the bed of an intimate stranger.
This is my fifth tour. I was made for this lifestyle. Short bursts are best. After about two months, the loneliness compensation sets in and a new personality must be created to sustain the energetic output and the transient isolation. But if the duration remains under two months a-go, well then I am the same crazy silly fiery creature you looked into the eyes of last time we met. Only a bit less rested and a bit less local.
I start with a mineral foundation. It smoothes out the skin tone over the nose and around the eyes it makes a nice base for other colors. Mostly black in a solid raccoon pattern around the eyes. Underneath the eyes. I look in the mirror and it’s the night of the living dead.
I hear the stadium filling up. There is a muffled anarchy happening past these cinder block walls. The female dancers’ dressing room is closest to the arena. With a pole and curtain dressing room for quick changes during the show because we don’t have time to leave the stage. I don’t like to leave the stage if I don’t have to. We are on stage or quick changing in this production.
Deep purple pressed into a paddy of cruelty-free theatrical velvet which, when applied to the upper lids creates my face as someone definitive, though of what yet, I do not know. I try to uncover the truth with soft black liner, unblended. Specific and bold dramatic lines drawn far past my brows. I white out my brows and create higher, more elaborate ones. I line on the outside of my lips deep brown and fuck-me red whet-look lip color. Lashes last. Lashes on top (and my personal secret) and bottom, go last.
I worry that the zipper will catch my skin. She jerks me off balance trying to stuff my torso into the thing. I can’t breath deeply or bend over properly with this corset on. And then the boots. The long, tight, fingered gloves. The feathers in the dark circus cap. The push up bra. I am anything but natural, but unlike movies, this is dress-up, not reality. Theatre isn’t reality. Rock and roll is not reality. We are playing dress-up for a living, not altering our real bodies.
I can hear the shrieking reach a timber before unheard aimed in my general direction as I tip toe behind the curtain, transparent when one peers through it with the eye pressed against it itself. The speaker feeds back and 10,000 hormone driven teenagers go mad. One jumps up and rides atop overstretched arms. A security guards lifts her out and acts authoritative. Then the lights dim. And an eerie, frightening sound sends me backing away from my curtain eye hole and into position one for ‘top of the show’. It is overwhelming how loud the screaming is. I feel panic for structure and then I give in almost as immediately to feel it.
It feels like full body electrodes. The sound tickles my bones. It shakes vibrates penetrates through me and I become the sound. I become like air, without any attachment to earth or reality. No: I become like lightening.
I am a lightening bolt and not the make up, not the costume, not the music and not the choreograph reveled to me my character, but the expectations of the audience. Hurting my ears with anticipation of me as my greatest. I am the Dominatrix Animal Trainer with complete sexual confidence and a possible substance problem. You can see it in the way I move.
I am who they want me to be.
It is true. I have exposed myself. My love for travel has nothing to do with the rolling awe of northern California wine country, nor the crisp melt of an autumn Michigan apple, nor anything to do with that British Columbian feline whom claimed my heart, seeming to understand me better than any of my human friends. (That’s right: my soul mate kills mice. In his mouth. For the fun of it….Slowly.)
Nor do I incesently travel so I can have everything I adore available all the time and I never have to make a choice or commit or be responsible to anyone but myself. Not that deep at all, Simple Instrospective Simon.
It’s a bath tub tour. That’s all. I drive endless highways and fly gaping canyons to take a bath in the world’s tub. Sure appears that way at least. Mom and dad’s classy black, red heat light, six foot (stretch out your arms and your legs), steamy full-wall mirrors bath tub in Michigan. That’s one of my favorites. It’s the watering hole that started this whole obsession. You see, we didn’t have a functioning shower when I grew up. Every nite a full sized red light steamy mirrors black bath was an elaborate ritual just to wash the hair, rinse the salty spot behind each knee, or read another chapter in whateva book.
I had my very own pool of solace at 45th and 8th in Manhattan. My first apartment alone was 15×15 (no kitchen, no livingroom, no turningaround, no kidding) – the toilet and sink right on top of each other – I would fall back asleep every morning using one and resting my head on the other (use your imagination). Yes, this apartment fit inside Hell’s Kitchen’s pantry four times over – except for the bottomless old school NYC bath. Endless hot water that came out of a space saving spout on the side wall. I rigged it to have no emergency drain. I could sit straight up and the water would cover my nipples. I overflowed twice.
There’s a bath at my favorite Goth’s apartment that had no hot water – just cold, as long as I waited and tested and fiddled: just freezing cold water because he never turns on the hot water heater, aparently, he is so Goth.
There’s a bath in my gardening mentor’s bungalo on the north side of Chicago – a turn of the century home with cracks in the blue bathroom tile right around the cold water knob. A furry spider lives in there. She came out to observe me lingering in the warmish water once. She was curious. So was I.
There is a bath in Los Angeles that I can open the window next to and feel the steam move, breathe fresh air, curl up, flip over, stretch out, talk to myself, think watevea and feel whateva until I don’t need to think or feel anymore. And every once in a while when the Bath Gods smile favorably, an exquisite man materializes in the intoxicating candle lit air. My vision quest before me, he kneels at my altar with offerings of steeping tea. Looking into his frightenly present eyes, I sip it like it was the last drip of eternity’s taste. When it cools enough though, I pour it right down my front, some in my mouth, more on my chest, tea finds my bath and lie back, steep an invitation. Who has wet and who has dry skin?
So I drove 17 hours Monday to get to Denver, CO to sit in Julie and Chris’s stout bath, only a mere foot high. To accomadate a questionable water heater, I poured boiling water from a tea pot around my feet with a tray of ice cubes for melting in my mouth. Freezing and thawing and melting and burning.
As a professional house guest, I will drink from the crusty cups in the sink, I will snuggle down on the unvacummed cat haired floor, I will fold and compact and discard my life to maintain as little evidence as possible of my existence in your space with one simple hope: that your drain be hair free, that your faucet offers boiling, and that the acoustics are complimentary when I sing.
This city is a movie set – an ice cream truck facade chiming down the street, drawing all the starry eyed children to its door, only to serve them rubber grapes. Clothing is costuming worn to create the image one thinks is in demand. Personalities are cheap accessories with lots of glitter, but exchanged three times a day. Even the housing is disposable, made to be exploited and discarded into the urban sprawl of extravagance. Los Angeles, CA: you gotta love it for what it is.
A very Hollywood friend of mine, Geoff, had an epiphany the last time we were together. He said, “The strangest thing, Tonya Kay: I notice when a raw foodist talks to you, they look you straight in the eye” (italics added to emphasize Geoff’s emphasis). He is certainly correct in this observation. In fact, I can always tell a raw foodist from a cooked food eater by three things: the bright, hydrated, youthful glow to their skin, their passionate love affair with life, and the clarity and presence of their gaze. It is uncanny. And a trait the majority of glittery ice cream truck industry hopefuls populating southern California simply do not possess.
I always say that if you can judge a religion by the people it puts out, then Raw Veganism is one of the greatest; filled with optimistic, healthy, earth conscious people who are absolutely in love with life. For 6 weeks this summer, Brendan Brazier and I toured the United States and Canada’s health conferences, raw festivals and vegetarian fairs and were surrounded by the support and love of the tight raw community. Returning to Los Angeles was quite a brick wall in contrast. I wanted to ask everyone I saw, the guy in the BMW convertible, the centerfold with the push up bra, “What’s so wrong, guys?”
Face it; life is good! And now – finally – all my discombobulated rays of Los Angeles sunshine, we have a place of refuge right in Hollywood where you can look someone deeply in the eyes and feed your body all the colors of the rainbow: the Taste of the Goddess Cafe on Santa Monica Blvd.. The cafe was opened in July 2004 by two young women whose hands now personally prepare the fare, and is host to raw support groups, health education classes and quite possibly the perfect salad: arame, dulse, nori, cucumber, clover sprouts and avocado atop romaine lettuce with a sesame dressing.
I actually ordered next to a celebrity on my first visit to the Taste of the Goddess Cafe – a blond guy with a nasal voice who is famous enough that even this non-television-watcher is aware that he has his own show, though I couldn’t tell you for the life of me what his name is and am not interested enough to figure it out. What I do know however, is that he, myself and an overwhelming number of people on the movie set are including more raw foods into their diets, discovering an elevated level of health, and are falling so in love with nature’s religion that we simply can not be bothered with puffed up pasta or greasy skin potato chips ever again.
Raw Vegan Book of Genesis: Rubber grapes beget rubber grapes. Life begets life.