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Meet Frank, Kindred Spirit April 11, 2010

Remember I mentioned I met this guy Frank at my solo show last week? Well it so happened that a screening of the documentary film about his experience was taking place yesterday. It just so happened that I was able to make it. I was so glad I went.

I started tearing up right away, pretty much at the opening credits. There were a few moments when I was out and out crying. It was terribly moving.

This is the film in a nutshell:

May I Be Frank documents the transformation of Frank Ferrante’s life. He unknowingly stumbles into a local restaurant in San Francisco, Café Gratitude, a raw, organic and vegan café…where he feels welcomed and free from his collapsing personal life. Frank is asked by Ryland, one of the servers, “What is one thing you want to do before you die?” Frank replies, “I want to fall in love one more time, but no one will love me looking the way I do.”

Inspired by the possibility of helping Frank, Ryland invites him to come into the café everyday for the next month. Armed with a camera and a wide open heart, Ryland soon enrolls his brother Cary, and Conor, his best friend, to participate in supporting Frank’s transformation. The final agreement is made that for the next 42 days, Frank will turn his life over to three twenty-something young men committed to his healing and prepared to coach him physically, emotionally and spiritually. Frank will eat only raw food, practice gratitude, visit local holistic practitioners, and get a weekly colonic. Ryland, Conor, and Cary get to support and witness Frank’s miraculous transformation. Frank gets a new body, a clearer mind, and most importantly, a soaring spirit.

The film is pretty much a “Supersize Me” in reverse. I wasn’t sure how they arrived on 42 days for this “experiment,” but he chokes down his wheatgrass shots every day. He eats all his meals at Cafe Gratitude.

Now it’s no secret that I am not a big fan of Cafe Gratitude. I don’t think I will ever be a vegan or ever convert to eating raw food. But I AM grateful to them for what they have done for Frank and probably countless others. And I do not  think I will ever, ever have my colon cleansed. But I am a complete sucker for transformation, and of people having Second Chances, and turning their lives and health all around. I am very interested in forgiveness and in cleaning up one’s relationships in order to clean up one’s overall health. The second installment of my solo show is going to be all about that very topic.

Frank looks like a million bucks now. He’s so healthy looking, and vibrant and athletic. And he’s a blogger! (I was fascinated by his blog post in which he describes feeling objectified for the first time in his life).  I am so happy for him. And it also makes me think about being in this place, of achieving some up-until-now-unachievable goal. Health or a certain clothing size or a number on the scale. Then what? A while back I found myself feeling terrified. That I got to enjoy it for a small period of time but that it was going to be snatched away. (by home? by my own inner troll self that doesn’t WANT me to be healthy OR happy) I could see people gaping at Frank in awe and I was wondering if he ever feels that same terror. That this is just a nice dream and one day he’s gonna wake up to that other life again.

Today I am feeling like my own health and good place is not as tenuous as I feared a few months back. But that’s just today. I wonder if some of this might not be behind my continually striving and pushing that bar up: 5k, marathon, triathlon, WW staff, solo show. What’s next? If I keep doing more and more will I be immune?

No.

So I just have to keep doing what I’m doing, doing what feels right, trying to be mindful every day.  Trying to be gentle with myself.

And in the meantime it feels great to have found yet another kindred spirit on the journey.

 

I Am Ungrateful. March 21, 2009

So, in my continued quest for healthy and yummy food, today I paid a visit to the (in)famous Cafe Gratitude. I first learned of this place when a friend of mine wrote about it in her novel, and I swear I thought she had made it up, it was sooooo crazy. But no, it is quite real.

There are so many aspects of this place that are really laudable, but really it like some bizarro New Age raw food experiment gone completely, completely awry. Just click through their website if you think I am kidding. But I did that before going, and it was nothing like the real experience. Believe me, I did this today so that none of you ever, ever have to.

First, the hostess. “Find where you want to sit, and I’ll follow you around and give you your menu.” She can’t just HAND me the menu and let me find a table. So I wandered through the front room, the back room and almost out to the patio and she’s trailing me like a puppy dog. Finally after perusing the entire place I decide I want to go back to the front room, which is quieter, less crowded and has smaller tables. She gave me my menu with an annoyed look like, “It sure took you long enough, and why didn’t you sit here the first time you saw it?”

The menu. Not only do they give everything a faux-New Age cutesy name like “I Am Satisfied,” rather than “small green salad” or “I am Sensational” for a bogus “pizza” (with no crust and no cheese) made with hemp seed – not only that, but they FORCE YOU to SAY “I’d like “I am Sensational,” or they will not bring you your food. You can’t just mumble, “Hemp seed pizza, please.” I AM NOT KIDDING. I had already learned this from reading some Yelp reviews, and I did not want to get into a whole power struggle with my server, so I just sucked it up and said, trying to snort back my laughter, “I Am Satisfied, I am Thriving, I am Refreshed.” (translation: small salad, small mushroom soup, small lemonade with agave syrup)

I could tell they were getting their hemp panties in a twist because I was Twittering into my iPhone rather than doing seated yoga while I waited for my food, but I did not care.

Finally it arrived. The mushroom soup, while pretty tasty, was only lukewarm. I should add that 90% of the food at Cafe Gratitude is raw, ie. uncooked. Even the pizza. (whyyyyyyyyyy do they even bother to call it pizza? I suspect just to completely enrage people. A buckwheat “flatbread” (ie cracker) topped with “cashew parmesan” (It’s crumbled nuts!!!! It’s NOT CHEESE!) and cold tomato sauce is not, by any stretch of any imagination, pizza.

I think they really believe that to heat a food is to mortally harm it. Thus, my soup was borderline room temperature. I really like my hot food hot and my cold food cold, so this was annoying. Then my salad came. It was no more than a handful of greens with some shredded carrots, oil and vinegar, more nut “cheese” and two delicately placed “teriyaki almonds” on top, as decoration. Almonds are very key ingredients over at Cafe Gratitude. All dairy products, like milk shakes and ice cream, are made with almond milk. What, they think almonds don’t hurt when you milk them? They think almonds don’t have SOULS just because they don’t have eyeballs, or footprints? Please.  My lemonade was the favorite part- lemony, sparkly, sweetened with agave which I have been curious to taste (one of the very few natural sweeteners with a low glycemic index) with a nice sprig of mint. Mmm! It WAS refreshing!

I happened to be sitting nearby the barista, who would prepare a drink, and then bellow out, “MARISAAA! YOU ARE REJUVENATED! (wheatgrass cocktail)” or “AMY! YOU ARE ECSTATIC! (vanilla latte)” It was actually too surreal for words.

This place takes Mindful Eating and shoves it down your throat. After I ate, my server took my dishes and said, “Our question of the day (QUESTION OF THE DAY?!?) is, ‘What makes your heart open?’” My jaw almost dropped to the ground. But again, not wanting to get into a scuffle or accumulate too much bad karma, I said, with a straight face, “My daughter.” (which happens to be true) She said, “Awww!! Great answer!” and glided (glid?) away.

She returned with my bill. I glanced at it. Then I took another look and my eyeballs almost popped out of my head. Unfortunately, I had not paid close attention to the pricing on the menu, so distracted I was by all the “I am Blissful” menu items.

My bill for a “small cup” of lukewarm soup, a “small salad,” and a Very Small Lemonade, however refreshing, came to $23.

I was like, not amused.

Nor were the blue-haired grannies who were sitting near me. They had been escorted into CG by their two ratty-haired twenty something granddaughters. They looked absolutely bewildered, appalled and frightened by the place (and rightly so). After getting a long-winded orientation to the menu by the server, I heard one of the granddaughters say, “Grandma, it’s ALL VEGETABLES.” And no, they don’t really cook them either. It’s going to be a long luncheon, ladies.

What could I do? I paid. I left. I went home and looked up the menu for world-renowned Chez Panisse, which is just a block or two down the street. Guess what? Their salads and soups (for the DINNER menu!) was the exact same price as this vegan nuthouse.

Mindful: I “checked in” with my stomach about 45 minutes after lunch, and I was a ravenous, gaping cavern of hunger. I was So. Not. Satisfied.

Went home and had some nice Irish Cheddar with Guinness Stout. (the stout is cooked into the cheese; it’s awesome) Felt better immediately.

 

 
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