The Casual Blog

Tag: veggie burger

An eye exam, a veggie burger, and a new ballet

It was a busy week at work, with many new issues popping up as I tried to address the existing backlog. I also made a visit to the Duke Eye Center for an exam in preparation for my eye surgery next week. My ophthalmologist, Dr. Prithvi Mruthyunjaya, seems both brilliant and humane, but his patients have to spend an awfully long time in the waiting room. This was also true of Drs. Denny and Casey. Is this a retinological tradition? Are damaged retina patients more-than-usually patient? Dr. M. described my prognosis as “guarded.” At a number of levels, I felt not so great.

On Friday Sally and I did dinner and a ballet. For dinner, we made our first visit to Chuck’s, a new place on Wilmington Street that features in gourmet hamburgers. We quit eating cows many years ago, and so initially assumed Chuck’s was not for us, but then were told on good authority that they made the best veggie burger in town. It was, in fact, really good. It had flavor and pleasing, chewy consistency. And it didn’t fall to pieces.

The Carolina Ballet led off with a new work called A Street Symphony by Zalman Raffael. It was set to hip hop music, which, as almost everyone knows, is music emphasizing pulsing polyrhythms and rhyming gritty lyrics, and deemphasizing melody and harmony. I developed a taste for hip hop a few years back, when I found the Sirius radio hip hop channels, and found it to be good music for driving a sports car. I liked the raw immediacy and experimental transgressiveness. It is also, of course, good dancing music, but hip hop dancing seems worlds away from the ballet tradition.

Combining radically different movement vocabularies could be a banal experiment or a disaster, but Raffael succeeded brilliantly. His work Rhapsody in Blue, presented earlier this season, was soundly designed and had some marvelous flashes, but seemed more the work of a skilled apprentice than a master. With A Street Symphony, he has arrived, with a strong sense of architecture and humor.

The work is made up of seven songs, with the dancers arrayed in solos, couples, and ensembles. The set and costumes are minimalist, with the women wearing gauzy tutus of various colors pulled above their tights. In the beginning, the pounding rhythm is unsettling, and the first piece, Clockwork, uses a robotics theme that is fairly familiar. But Alicia Fabry’s replicant is both energized and vulnerable, with limbs shooting about at amazing speeds and a startled doe-eyed gaze.

I also really liked Jan Burkhard and Yevgeny Shlapko in Best of Me. Jan is a dancer with an sensual quality, and here she was fearless. Classical dance walks a fine line with respect to sex: it candidly reveals dancers’ bodies and deals with intimate subject matter, but almost never references the act itself, and is careful not to push the red button. But hip hop is sexy, and Jan embraced it. So did Eugene, who had a rangey freedom that recalled the hood.

Lindsay Purrington was really touching and beautiful in Cry Me a River. She did various transformations, including a streetwise tough and a Swan Lake swan. At one point her tutu started to fall to pieces, which added an unplanned degree of tension to the performance, but she dealt with the issue with grace, eventually ditching the thing stage right, and strutting boldly forward. Adam Crawford Chavis lifted her magnificently overhead.

This was unquestionably ballet, with pointe shoes and the traditional vocabulary, but augmented with exciting movements from urban street culture. The most successful dancers seemed to personalize their roles, though some stuck close to the familiar classical lines. For one, Margaret Severin-Hansen, who is a fantastic classical technician, was sharp and intriguing, but seemed to me to hold back a bit from the street. On the other hand, I thought Sokvannara Sar, Nikolai Smirnov, and Cecilia Ilieusiu all found interesting individual ways of combining the upmarket and downmarket.

Anyhow, I really liked A Street Symphony, and also Robert Weiss’s new work Idyll, set to Richard Wagner’s lovely Siegfried Idyll. It featured three couples and flowing lines. I was looking forward to The Rite of Spring, but it came after the second intermission, and I was just too tired to take it all in. Sally thought it too was wonderful.

It’s time to subscribe to next year’s ballet season. We’ve been going on Friday nights for fourteen years and have excellent front-center orchestra seats, but I think we’ll switch to Saturdays. On Fridays I often find myself tired after a busy week that includes 5:30 a.m. workouts, and not always able to hang in there intently for a full evening of beautiful performances. Our NC Symphony subscription has been on Saturdays, and so we’ll have to manage some conflicts, but it seems worth it.

A difficult but ultimately satisfying swim, beautiful blossoms, and some good news regarding veggie burgers

It seems that the greater the struggle to swim some laps, the better I feel afterwards. At 6:00 a.m. this morning, I got to the pool with a plan to swim 40 lengths of freestyle (more than half a mile), and felt my heart racing uncomfortably after the first 4. But I struggled along, finished the 40, and then did 8 kickboard laps, 8 backstroke, and 8 breaststroke, and then 15 minutes of yoga. The endorphins were excellent! Driving home, I just couldn’t get over how beautiful everything looked! Blossoming dogwoods and cherry trees, blooming azaleas, and thousands of dewy green buds.

For breakfast I made myself a green smoothy in the blender with rainbow chard, apple, and banana, with some orange juice and soy milk. It tasted earthy — not delicious, exactly, but satisfying as a kindness to the body. And, reading the NY Times, along with frightening and disturbing news (nuclear plant catastrophe in Japan, mayhem in Libya), I found a cheery story: veggie burgers are getting better and more popular. Admittedly, veggie burgers have a checkered history, but the ones in the Times story sounded delicious. According to the story, there was a 26 percent increase in menu items labeled vegetarian or vegan between the late 2008 and late 2010. That’s a remarkable increase.

I’ve been a committed plant food eater for about 15 years now, and my personal experiment has been highly successful in this respect: I feel happier and healthier than I did 15 (or even 30) years ago. But as a social matter, the veggie life has been a challenge. My non-veggie friends don’t get the point, and there’s way too much friction in figuring out ways to eat out together. It’s cheering to think that help may be on the way, in terms of increasing numbers of veggie menu items. Cheering also to think more people are eating plant-based diets that will help them be healthier.