Monday, August 20, 2007

Coming home to Colorado (BFP State #20)

Dear Faithful Ladystalkers-
Please forgive our two week hiatus. Like all good things, The Break Free Project's first survey of small town American innovation, ingenuity and community enrichment came to an end on August 11th with our concert at the Mesa Theater and Club. As Mavi pointed out, it was a complete thrill to share a stage with Crowded Agnes a very cool and promising local band AND with one of our high school musical heroes, Trevor Adams of Jones/Adams Duo. I'm sorry for people who can't see these bands live and psyched that our hometown still possesses such coolness.
Unfortunately/Fortunately, this trip was such a tremendous success and overwhelming learning experience that it's taken me-and I'm sure Julia, Mavi and Jeff-a little bit of time to process everything, to reflect on the wonderful people we now call friends and to put my thoughts in order. Once we arrived in Lafayette Louisiana, our days went into fast forward, there was just so much to learn and try to comprehend. We met people and gathered information at a breakneck pace through Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. I can't wait to share it all with everyone here and in the documentary when it's finished.
It can't be overstated how much we appreciate the people that we met from Philadelphia to Taos, from Boston to Breaux Bridge, Athens, Tuscaloosa, Jackson, New Orleans, Raceland, Baton Rouge, Austin, Taos, Durango and Loma, Colorado. We were overwhelmed by a few common themes as we went from place to place; kindness, altruism, genuine care and stewardship of the land, and caring, open-minded people who are invested in their local communities and working hard to make them more beautiful, productive, livable and healthy in every sense. A trip like ours would convince anyone that this country is in very good hands. Unfortunately for all of us, we did not see the whole story.
It's obvious every time we see strip malls, parking lots, crowded highways, feedlots, urban sprawl and small towns that have entirely vanished that not everyone in our country is able to live their lives in these community enriching ways. It's up to all of us to try to be more like the people that we met, many of whom I'll write more about in the coming weeks.
For now, here are a few pictures of us in the home stretch. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more updates, profiles of some of the great people we met and information on future Break Free Project odysseys! ~Kate

Home again, home again, jiggity jig.

Here I sit, enjoying the comfort of my childhood room, myspacing my brains out, barely cognizant of the fact that not two weeks ago, I probably had one foot on a bucket full of strained grease, the other on a grease-saturated sand bag, one hand gripping the towl rack of our RV bathroom as I suspended my rear expertly above it's moving target. I'm also barely cognizant of the fact that for the last month people have had nothing but my crampy mug to look at. I don't have any photos to share because my purse was stolen back in Louisiana, but we made it! In short, the Ladyhawke has some repairs in Durango, we've had a fabulous time in GJ: Sukato flew out from NY and rocked the mic like some kind of musical terrorista, we teamed up with heart-throbs of yore, the Jones-Adams Duo. We're now in the process of finding a home for the lovely Ladyhawke, so if anybody has $5-$100,000 to spend, let us know. Hopefully Kate will have some photos for you soon.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Where's my sugarteat?

Shortly after our radio interview for KTAO in Taos, NM a since-the-80's solar powered radio station, we decided to get some New Mex-Mex for Breakfex. Unfortunately, we had an unwelcomed guest-CRAMPS! I didn't believe in the healing powers of Julia's hands when she worked her magic on a skateboarder's collarbone back in Athens, GA, but I'll be damned if her hot little hands didn't feel good on my woman regions. I still could've used a whiskey.

Here's us on some road outside Big Springs, TX. We changed a filter here because we didn't have any cardboard and we figured noone would be around to scold us for spilling veggie oil on the road. Noone scolded us but several truckfulls of gentlemen cowboys asked if we needed help. Jeff got a shot of us driving into the distance and some guys stopped and were concerned that Jeff was hurt. Jeff said no, but was unable to turn around and acknowledge them because he was

So then we were merrily, merrily, merrily on our way to Big Springs to check out some wind farms. We found one and drove through the front gate. They had a sign that said you have to sign in at the visitor center, so I hopped out and wrote my name and organization on their clipboard. Most of the other visitors were from GE and the like and had a contact name, but I figured that didn't matter. Fortunately we were able to get some good footage before the turbine police discovered us and told us we were not authorized. I have my suspicions that they heard about us from Exxon in Baton Rouge.

Wind Turbine. Much cooler/larger in real life.

We had a heck of a time finding grease in both Austin and Big Springs. All the grease in Austin was already under contract by biodiesel companies and so we started to get desperate. Much like so many settlers braving the wild frontier before us, we started to see a meal for the Ladyhawke in the most loathsome and rancid of grease barrels. We found two barrels worth that smelled deceptively stomachable behind Hunan Garden of Big Springs but miles and miles of bellyaching from the L.H. let us know that when in doubt, don't fill your flippin gas tank with it!

Since I haven't blogged since Alabama, this blog's all about me! Here's more pictures of ME!
Here's some seriously suspect grease which the Ladyhawke turned her nose us at. It ain't no Cafe' Du Monde.

"go tropical!"

That was the advice that Jim, a local tattoo artist in Austin, TX told me recently when I asked him where he'd like to live most (this was after he told me that he didn't like where he lived). He had a couple of parrots on his forearms to prove just how serious he was about being in that sort of climate. Jim proceeded to tell me, as he was giving me a tattoo, that he accidentally messed up a client's rose thorns recently because he was distracted by a conversation about a television show. Luckily, I don't watch much TV and was able to harness his concentration in that regard. Shortly thereafter, we did not go tropical, but NW through Texas, stopping in Amarillo, TX for the Cadillac ranch which was incredibly meditative. Pictures attached! Love to all, Julia

Friday, July 27, 2007

Louisiana on the Front Lines

Things here have been good. We are in Lafayette tonight. The show at 307 went really well and the place was really nice too. Lafayette is interesting because it's apparently much more Cajun, (historically lower-class, more recently-arrived French-Canadian outcasts) and less Creole (like upper-class New Orleans French). We met a guy, Devon, who grew up down on the Bayous south of here and he gave us a tour of Grand Isle and the rest of the swampland. Devon told us that Grand Isle used to be a mile away from the water, but since the Mississippi River was damned in the 50s coastal errosion has brought the Gulf of Mexico within 100 yards of town. Someday, he said, the water will overtake the town.

Then we had dinner with his dad who fixed us a boiled shrimp dinner. It consisted of 20lbs of shrimp and vegetables boiled in a ten gallon pot over an open propane torch in a garage. He stirred it with a wooden boat paddle and it was served straight onto a newspaper-covered folding table. Very authentic and very delicious.

Before that we were in New Orleans and the guy who ran the RV Park we stayed at, Corry, lived in a parish just outside the Ninth Ward. He took us around to see the devastation. At first it didn't look too bad. Most of the houses were still standing in his neighborhood. But then you looked closer and you could see most of the houses were completely vacant, with very few people returning. Every one had an X spray painted on the front of it. Corry told us that the X meant that rescue workers had searched the house for bodies and then there were other marks that meant they had found someone or not, or if they had found pets, etc. Then we drove over to where the levee broke and there were only cement staircases with tall grasses for blocks and blocks. The experience was profound and I hope it transfers over into the film.

All told, Louisiana is, as Kate has said before, the front lines of industry and the economic trade-offs we've made in bringing petrolium into our lives here in this country. Almost everyone here lives off oil money, yet oil has been cause for some of the worst problems the state faces.

How to Lose an ExxonMobil Security Guard in 10 Minutes

After a long day of driving and touring around Louisiana with our gracious and informative tourguide, Devon, The Break Free Project convinced me that driving to Baton Rouge at midnight would be worth it because we'd get great shots of the oil refineries there. I tried to get a good attitude about it after David, Devon's dad, treated us to a feast of a shrimp boil and veggie-oiled it to the second biggest city in LA.

As we approached the city an hour and a half later, we saw what looked like the Magic Kingdom over the Mississippi. These lights, however, outlines tower after tower of oil refinery engineering. It was a sight to behold. So much so, that we decided we wanted a closer look! Forgetting that it was probably 2:30 AM by that time, we turned down a street that gave us a great shot of the place on either side, only to notice another vehicle with, uh oh, red and blue lights shining like a cop car!

Turns out, we weren't really supposed to be there and we spent the next few minutes trying to figure out how to NOT get our vehicle searched and avoid an interrogation from an "intelligence officer." We quickly discovered, though, that by chumming it up with these hospitable southern security personnel about their families, the oil business, Katrina, and the weather, we were limited to getting our IDs xeroxed and sent on our way with a friendly wave.

I just wish that Mavi caught on camera the main security guy saying "you can't mess with Mother Nature" as the steam poured out from the refinery behind him. Luckily she did manage to catch me asking if she was taking pictures with it (on his behalf), as well as her own response: "Oh no! I'm just looking at the pictures I took today!" This, of course, took place while she held the camera directly at him. Just another day for the Ladyhawke, who consumed that veggie-oil like I consumed Po-Boys for the last week! More from Texas and New Mexico soon!


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

US Highway 90 West

Jeff, here, riding shotgun as we cruise down the coal black stretch of US Highway 90 West through rural Southern Louisiana at night. The Ladyhawke is bound for Lafayette tonight for our next show tomorrow at a club known as 307.

It’s about 9:30pm right now and we’re running late as usual. This time it was a clogged pre-filter and it hit us at a bad time too. We had just fueled ourselves to the gills on beautiful amber-clear grease from the back of the world-famous CafĂ© Du Monde and we expected smooth sailing and the faint smell of beignet-scented exhaust so we set out late in the evening – about seven.

Everything seemed peachy for about an hour when the telltale lethargy of a clogged fuel line overcame the Ladyhawke’s engine. We changed the main filter, as we had always done. No good. Kate poked her head back under the Ladyhawke’s rear end and discovered that the normally clear pre-filter was dark and cloudy. The only problem was we didn’t have a replacement and the stores would all be closed soon.

Frantically calling all the phone numbers my Google Maps would give me, we finally found an O’Reilly Auto Part in Houma, Louisiana and Kate sweet talked the old man that answered into staying open a few minutes later than he normally would. Of course we then realized that Houma is about twenty minutes south of the main highway, so we had to bust our ass to get down there before the old man gave up on us.

All this frustrated me something fierce, but what could we do? All of our pockets feel a little too light after a few nights in the French Quarter so we didn’t want to just run on diesel for the next 120 miles.

The store was open when we got there (thanks, old man). I decided not hide behind the camera this time, so I got under the Ladyhawke myself. Sure enough, there sat the fuel line with it’s clogged pre-filter looking like a garden snake if it had eaten a small rat. It came out easily enough and we popped the new one in. I didn’t even get a face-full of vegetable oil like I’d expected.

By now it was 8:30. I should know by this stage of the tour to expect antics like this every time we set out for a destination in our little grease-powered gordita, but it still gets to me.

Oh well. The air is cool as we barrel down the road and with the tilt and sway of the Ladyhawke as she listens to Clifton Chenier from our boom box and with the blackness of the Louisiana night to keep me company I’m doing just fine.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Cultural Textbook

We are shocked by just how perfect the Southern states are for the purposes of this documentary and our own enlightenment. We are so glad that we chose to come to the South for the following reasons:
1) The landscapes and the people are beautiful. Traditions and community investment are deep and strong. The people we've met are kind, generous, hospitable, natural storytellers and very interested in the multidimensional health of their communities.

2) People are eager to talk to us and are enthusiastic about where they come from. Diversity is high.

3) Many people here are already way ahead of the curve when it comes to biofuels, vegetable oil conversions and sustainable living. Some of the nations leading experts and best environmental minds are living in the South. As just one example, check out . This Atlanta company has already done over 1500 veggie oil conversions.

4) Lots of fried food=Lots of GREASE!
5) Hot temperatures= nice thin grease= good viscosity=good veggie oil engine performance

6) Agriculture VS Industry, Agriculture AS Industry, Agriculture AND Industry.
The South, like all regions in the nation, continues to redefine itself based on balancing each economic force. We are seeing oil and gas refineries right next to shrimp boats and sugar cane fields which border Polymer factories. Agriculture IS industry because industrial plants and factories are sharing land and water with agriculture.

With former chef and our hero Joseph Petit who raises his own chickens, veggies, rabbits, herbs etc. etc. the old fashioned way (with tons and tons of hard work and attention rather than pesticides)

There are 100 people...

When we pulled off into the French Quarter RV resort yesterday for our first night in New Orleans, we were greeted by a Cory Cosse, a 9th Ward-raised, Louisiana-loving, trout-fishing, RV resort-attending, father and grandfather whose friendly smile and personality was detectable immediately. He had survived Hurricane Katrina in St. Bernard's, a port just outside of the New Orleans city proper and agreed to let us document his story of the storm through a personalized tour under one condition upon which WE insisted: that we could take him out to lunch (my recent exception of fish into my usually vegetarian diet could not resist another oyster po' boy).

Jeff filmed his account, so I won't elaborate all that he shared with us in this blog, but I will say this: anyone who can survive being bitten by hundreds of fireants, shivering through hypothermia, and navigating a fishing boat through 160 mph winds and 30 foot tidal crashes AND save upwards of 100 lives and call it "what anyone else would do" is exceptional. Incidentally, New Orleans is the only place he says he'll ever want to live.

And his recommendation of Tony's restaurant in St. Bernard's was just as exceptional. Altogether, just another example of what I love about humanity. And you'd better believe I'm coming back--he promised me a day of fishing.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Jackson MS-Music in the Air

Below are a few pictures of our time in Jackson, Mississippi where we made so many new friends and experienced the unique flavor of the city.
Here's Julia in the studio with our multitalented entrepreneur/musician, youth pastor and new friend, B2wice (aka Juan Wilson) and Wendell, sound engineer extaordinaire.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Jackson and want to thank Juan and our new friends Adam and Jackie Hammack (pictured below with Jeff, Mavi and Julia who gifted us with the DELICIOUS homemade pickles) and EVERYONE at the Rainbow Grocery- especially Jenny, Josh, Daniel, Bart and Charlotte (from Computer CO-OP) who showed us so much kindness

Jeff shows us all why we pay him the big bucks. Gaffer, camera-op, chief cook and bottle washer -not to mention booking agent and google map wizard- We just couldn't do this without Jeff Larson!
Kate and Mavi onstage at the impromtu Rainbow Grocery show
Julia and Kate at The Rainbow Grocery- Jackson MS
Julia and Mavi change a filter...again
Jeff greases the gasket

On the road again

Near Rocky Springs, the abandoned town that Adam showed us.

On the Natchez-Trace Parkway

Thank you Mississippi for the delicious food and the amazing hospitality. We loved Mississippi!

Spanish moss out the church window

Mavi thinks she's a real jokester with Brandon as they squish a mushroom at the RV park

according the Adam, most of Mississippi is forested

Thursday, July 19, 2007

This Blog Needs that Masculine Touch

Does this apple and cookie platter make me look too girlie?

Hey all,

Jeff here, the documentarian on tour with the Break Free Project girls. I’ve been silent here on the blog until now, but it isn’t out of protest, I’ve just had my hands full. Full of mini-dv tape to be precise. If you are reading this and you live in New York City and you would like to spend hours and hours watching raw footage, most of which is going to be completely boring, and you don’t even want to get paid for it – GIVE ME A CALL. I am going to be up to my neck in footage when I get back and start the Sisyphean task of editing this project.

Enough shop talk! The readers want to know how it is out here on the road. Let me tell you about it.

Jackson roads are giving us a tilt-a-whirl ride, but as long as we don't bottom out too much everything is okay. The Ladyhawke continues to fly with a slight tilt to the right!

Lots of politics in the air down here in Jackson. It seems everywhere you go you see ads for this or that local candidate. I personally like Robert Schuller Smith for Mississippi District Attorney. We met him the other day and he’s a real stand up kind of a guy. Really interested in developing the poorer southern parts of Jackson in Hinds County.

Its fun to live with three girls in extremely close proximity! Surprisingly peaceful. I think I’ve absorbed more estrogen than is healthy for me lately. I’ll be lactating soon if I’m not careful. Either that or all the great food has caught up to me. Look! I’m already talking about how overweight I am. I have been around girls too much.

I’ll hopefully be posting here again sooner rather than latter. Until then I’ve got to start watching some college sports and visiting a nearby gym or whatever it is real dudes do to boost their testosterone levels.

tell me church, where are your citizens?

After we feasted at the local Rainbow co-op for free (courtesy of an incredibly supportive and friendly staff), the BFP headed out of town for the afternoon with Adam Hammack, a Morrisey-loving, yellowjacket-fearing, Monte-Carlo-driving, soda-pop-prescribing, enthusiastic musician from Jackson who took it upon himself to introduce us to a town called Rocky Springs. As we passed through the thick woods and interspersed corn fields of the Mississippi outskirts on the way to this abandoned town from the 19th century, the BFP was treated to Adam's first album: an electronica interpretive 40 minutes that takes synthesizers and recording technology to its limit through a self-admitted drug-induced musical trip. He mentioned something about peyote, if I recall, but concluded that the synthetic drugs (much like his music) were preferable in his mind. Adam's generosity of spirit and expertise on the area gave us a much better idea about the state. Notably, he told us that Mississippi leads the country in statistics for teen pregnancy, crime, and segregation, but was also careful to mention that it is also the #1 state for charitable contributions per capita--turns out, it truly is "the hospitality state."
(Adam and his lovely wife Jackie)
When we arrived at the abandoned town of Rocky Springs, whose remains include no more than a church, cemetary, and a few artifacts, Adam brought us to a historical recording that described what happened in the area through a Garrison Keillor-esque inquiry to the church itself asking questions of the building like, "tell me church on the hill, where are your citizens? Are they sleeping?" Seeing as how the church could not answer save for standing silently above the recording machine, we decided to go up and take a look around. I think the church would have probably responded with "I don't really care about where the citizens are or if they're sleeping, as long as I'm here to provide a sanctuary to all passersby."