|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
32nd World Vegetarian Congress 1996
|How I Spent My Summer(fest)
by Allen Schubert
At last, the university campus and the first sign for the Vegetarian Summerfest! Quite a relief after leaving the PA Turnpike two exits too soon and driving down country roads hoping to find Johnstown, PA. (BTW ... what did that sign (many miles back), "Bowser's Meatmarket" really mean?! There was only an empty lot there ... but was it a place that once sold dog meat? Or ... perhaps it was a nightclub with a name indicative of it's clientele.... :) )
Into a parking lot and ... plenty of out-of-state license plates and many Veg and AR bumper stickers! This was the place!
A short walk and into a building ... and a door with a sign taped to it: Vegetarian CyberCafe. This was the place to start! (Thanks to Maynard Clark, for letting us all know about it!) And while wandering around the lobby, I heard, "Allen!" and turned around. It was Mark Wisdom, of World Guide to Vegetarianism fame. After a brief exchange of greetings and handshakes, Mark quickly ushered me into the CyberCafe (a very popular place at various times of day -- more about that, later) and took my picture for the web page. Also working in the CyberCafe was Yvette Norem of Veggies Unite. Together, they spent many, many hours working on the website for the Summerfest, loading up pictures (with a goal of getting a picture of each and every participant!!!) and articles, as well as helping many 'net neophytes navigate Netscape. The two of them were often there from shortly after breakfast until midnight or so!
I had to tear myself away from the CyberCafe, with it's mix of networked Macs and Gateway computers (yes, apples and cows in harmony!), and go see the rest of Summerfest -- and, yes, I knew I would return to the CyberCafe quite often.
Withing about ten seconds of leaving the CyberCafe, I encountered two events about five minutes apart. As to which came first, I do not recall. One event was someone walking into the lobby with Howard Lyman, having him wait a moment while he called up someone to, I guess, give Howard a phone interview -- Howard had just been elected President of the International Vegetarian Union! I quickly congratulated Howard, explaining I had been at a VSDC potluck where he announced his candidacy for the position. Then, within a couple minutes, still on my way out the door, I ran into Kevin Pickard, President of the Toronto Vegetarian Association (largest "local" veg org in North America) ... "Hi Allen," said Kevin, "Toronto got the World Congress in 2000!" -- a few quick exchanges, and Kevin was off to inform TVA. Meanwhile, I scurried back to the CyberCafe, hot with a newsflash, with visions of reporters in old black and white films racing off to telephones to call the newspaper with the breaking story -- only I was racing to the CyberCafe to get on a computer to telnet to my ISP to e-mail people about the news. (Would I ever leave the CyberCafe?!)
Finally, I was back outdoors on the sidewalk and seeking out other areas of the Summerfest. Along the way, I ran into many people from VSDC (and the DC area), such as Saurabh, Madge, and ... well, I can't remember when I ran into all of them, but within a few hours, Liz, Ruth, David, Scott, Lynn and Dave, Amy, and so many others. In fact, the whole weekend was like that, including meeting so many people that I met last year, at the International Vegan Festival (IVF95) in San Diego. I got to meet Maynard Clark again, as well as Donna (I'll send you those pictures from the IVF95, really!), as well as several who are nameless (but not much longer, as soon as they are loaded into the Summerfest website!).
Anyway, I soon made it into the student union and within moments I'm chatting with Scott Williams, staffing (please note, I'm avoiding saying sexist stuff like, "manning") the FARM table. Somewhere during our conversation, Scott mentioned the talk Stanley Sapon gave, titled: What's In A Name: Vegetarianism's Past, Present and Future, proposing a new, more ethically oriented vegan (plant based) definition of vegetarianism. (This is something I have heard many people talk about in the past few years in varying shapes and forms -- it's an idea whose time has come!) Over the weekend, I would learn that many others agreed, in principle if not exact wording, with the goal of redefining vegetarianism in more "vegan" words (hey! milk and eggs ain't vegetables, y'know!).
Then ... events blurred ... I checked out so many different tables from different organizations (some businesses, too). Found the Vegan Action table -- and they were still selling the "old" McVegan t-shirts!!! Naturally, I grabbed up one (and payed for it) as soon as I could (my McVegan t-shirt was getting a bit worn). I was happy to get the "prelawsuit" t-shirt, the one with the disclaimer/parody on it! And ... somewhere in there, I met Leor again (also met him at the IVF95).
The evening Plenary session was worthwhile by itself, including speakers such as Michael Klaper and Neal Barnard! Plus, it was nice to hear Dana Lyons sing, "Cows with Guns" again (something I first heard at the March for the Animals. And ... I still miss that one funny Mad Cow page.
That evening, after the Plenary, I was again off to the CyberCafe ... the CyberCafe ... only dormant during the wee hours of the morning and occupied after breakfast (vegetarians gotta eat and sleep sometime!). Mark and Yvette were working steadily at the website stuff and taking pictures. Plus, getting the people to make comments to go with the pictures. For some people, this was a very strange thing to do, so Mark, Yvette, and many passersby (including me) helped people make their entries. Plus, the CyberCafe was the place to meet so many people, especially (surprise) so many people well known on the 'net.
I got to meet several people there, such as (no particular order) Kevin, Maynard, Dennis (of Winnipeg Vegetarian Association), Leor (discussing how Berkeley terminated his e-mail access after he announced Josh's protest statement -- some of you may recall that event), Steve, uh, Peter McQueen (VUNA President), John (okay, he wasn't on the 'net yet, but I recall him from IVF95 as well as my recent cross country trip) ... just a few names I could remember. Plus, helping a few people learn there way around the web as well as helping to explain some things about the internet -- several of us performed such functions over the days, allowing Mark and Yvette to concentrate on their work or take short breathers. (I just hope that if Mark and Yvette do this again next year, maybe we can get a few people together to work in teams under their guidance to help out so the two of them can enjoy the festivities more!!)
Mark and Yvette ... what can I say? Despite the workload, they explained many features/aspects of their respective web pages to me! And ... I'm glad that there are people like them to handle CGI scripting and other such advanced stuff -- HTML is hard enough for me (it took me a long time to learn how to spell, "HTML"!?). Plus, they showed me some features of their respective websites.
Mark pointed out a new feature on the World Guide to Vegetarianism, the "map". This is a "clickable" feature when you are looking at the restaurants. Depending on the accuracy of the street address for a given restaurant, you will access a street map showing the exact location of the restaurant! And ... Yvette showed me the "shopping basket" on Veggies Unite ... as one browses through recipes on her site, you can load them into your "shopping basket" and, when you are finished, you have a shopping list!
Okay ... back to the real world ... 11pm and at the student union people are doing folk dances or just mingling, chatting about veg*ism, lectures, or, well, whatever!
Meals at such conferences are a great time for talk and to meet new people ... and Summerfest was no exception. I had a delightful time talking about various organizational topics with Dennis (of WVA), as well as conversation with many others. So good and enjoyable were the conversations that I missed part of Howard Lyman's speech in the morning Plenary! Networking is half the fun, eh?
Later that morning (did I say this was Saturday? ... and that I was only on the weekend plan?), I thoroughly enjoyed Gary Francione's talk on, "Racism, Sexism, Homophobia, Speciesism: The Common Ground of Discrimination". Any time Gary speaks, the content of his talks are thought-provoking, to say the least! And ... in this one, he related Animal Rights as part of the spectrum of Social Justice issues. For instance, it is difficult to separate, from a "rights" standpoint, an animal from a human. Any attribute you can use to distinguish animals as a "lower" form of life with fewer rights can also be attributed to some class of humans ... and vice-versa. Plus, he criticized certain AR organizations (he didn't want to name them -- but we all knew which particular one he meant!) for using sexism to support AR -- thus alienating feminists ("we'd rather go naked than wear fur"). Plus ... on animal testing, some AR and Veg activists have made statements such as, "I'm against animal testing ... testing on human is better, such as on prisoners..." -- uh oh, major slam on oppressed minorities! One important thing Gary hammered home, was that when it comes to Social Justice issues, AR is about as far left as you could possibly get. (I might add here, that, in the eyes of some in the general public, AR deserves the same stature as UFO abductees, Kennedy Assassination Conspiracies, etc.. (Naturally, that is not my view of AR, just my opinion of what some people think.) "Any publicity is good publicity" is a policy that should be strongly reconsidered!)
And ... hey, Gary was so entertaining (and, as I've said before, thought provoking), I followed him to Biddle Hall for, "Know Your Legal Rights: A Guide for Activists" ... originally, to be presented by his SO, Anna Charlton, who was ill that weekend. A very informative lecture it was!
Lunch ... Maynard was asking opinions of people on the food ... there was some disagreement on which was better ... the current Summerfest fare, or the IVF95 food. I leaned more towards IVF95 ... but that's just my opinion.
The afternoon Plenary included Victoria Moran's, "The Spirit of Simplicity" ... hmmm ... I had been thinking about some changes, anyway, so I slipped in and out of her lecture (mentally), making adjustments in my lifestyle. This will be something I'll work on in the future (well, I hope!).
And ... well, I missed some lectures ... more networking with people (blab, blab, blab -- call it what it is!) ... listening to someone explain to me about cross-species transfer of disease (quite a bit of that was too technical for me!) ... talking with Maynard about many things ... plus, the Mother to End All Fund-Raisers, the Howard Lyman-Gary Francione act -- hilarious -- and quite successful in raising money for the North American Vegetarian Society, organizers of the Summerfest ....... and, close to midnight, strolling back from the CyberCafe, I stopped off at the student union ... much dancing to rock n'roll tunes (I always felt like being vegan gave me more energy -- but these people were a living example of that!!).
Morning ... checked e-mail at the CyberCafe ... had breakfast ... and found a note on my car from university security warning me that my car would be towed. Yeah, there was a sign nearby about the parking area -- my bad! So ... I went to my room and threw my luggage in the back of the truck and moved it back to the main lot. Better safe than sorry. (However, I never saw a car towed -- they were really pretty cool about stuff like that.)
Sunday morning ... the last day... :(
Dashed off after breakfast to catch Howard Lyman's talk on, "Trade, The Grand Charade" ... I'd heard it before, at the IVF95 ... but here, he urged us to look at _all_ political parties, especially alternatives, to make a difference at a grassroots level. Plus ... I felt he gave a fair amount of support to Ralph Nader (for President) in his talk.
Later that morning ... "How to Avoid Activist Burnout: Action Based on Compassion Not Anger" by David Kidd ... gave me much to think about ... some applied specifically to me ... some to others I've seen in the Veg and AR movement(s).
The afternoon Plenary ... plenty to think about ... Victoria Moran (again!), on "The Magic of a Vegetarian Home" ... making me realize my apartment was not a vegetarian home, but a place where a vegetarian ate and slept. :( ... And ... George Eisman talked about, "What to Take Home, What to Leave Here" ... and, like Gary Francione, brought back the subject of Social Justice (hmmm ... recurring themes...).
I didn't feel like staying after the afternoon Plenary, though there were still some lectures ahead. Many people had started leaving as early as 7am. (Some had even left the night before due to long driving distances!) I, too, felt it was time to leave ... I strolled into the CyberCafe -- empty. (I had just seen Mark and Yvette get on board a bus to the airport.) Back at the student union ... some organizations were clearing their tables, loading stuff into vans ... by Monday morning, probably anyone visiting the campus wouldn't even know that the Summerfest had been there. Yet, more important, was what we would all take back with us, to all parts of the world -- that sense of community, sharing, and celebration of life!
I looked around realized that I really didn't want to say goodbye anymore. I was looking forward to next year's "hellos"!!
Allen - firstname.lastname@example.org