October 9, 2012

Why I Don't Do Facebook Birthdays Or Cancers

Have you ever thought about whom you would tell if you had cancer?  Or whether you would tell anyone at all? It is a question that I constantly wrestle with.

I have, once upon a time, loudly announced on Facebook that I don't do Facebook Birthdays, not mine, not yours. Very few people know when my birthday is - I'm not sure that my most cherished friend on the whole planet (let's call him Bunny Ears) knows.  He probably doesn't care, and he doesn't need to know.  Bunny Ears lives 3,000 miles away, but he's not the kind of "friend" that you hear from only once a year.  He's always been there when I needed him.  He answers every single text message - promptly.  I see him online; we don't chat that often, but we have our water cooler ritual conducted over IM and iMessage, and our mobile connectedness gives me a profound sense of comfort.  Many people would say, who cares about your Foursquare check-in's or what you're having for breakfast or your rants and raves about crazy cats and beautiful fonts and Uber cabs and Verizon dropping calls?  I care, because from this open sharing I know that my friend is alive and well and ranting and raving.  Bunny Ears will tell a funny joke on demand. He never asks why I want to hear a funny joke; he just tells it.  I try not to bother him too often, because he does have a girlfriend and he pretends to have a job, but I think we both understand that it's not about the joke but the response - that there is one, and it's immediate.  When I'm sad and suicidal (let's just go along for the dramatic effect) and I get a text with some hipster joke that I never quite understand, my mood always lifts immediately.  When I request an upbeat song on Twitter, and my dear friends respond with their suggestions, I know them to be true friends, because they are listening and paying attention.  

Being a real friend means keeping your antenna turned on.  Social media facilitates that, if you are able to tune in and put together a composite picture of a person's state of mind and current needs from various platforms.  "Oh, you're checked in on this flight.  Can I pick you up from the airport?"  I use quite a few social apps, and I have many so-called "connections," but it's the same small group of people that I consistently engage with across platforms - MY friends, MY peeps, MY tribe.  My A List people (as they're labeled in my Google Circles) are in my life, day in and day out, in a very real and tangible way.  These are the people that I'd want to spend my birthday with.  What makes a celebration special is not the occasion itself but the people involved.  Every time I interact with my close friends, I feel special, I feel cared for, I feel grateful.  I have the most amazing people in my life - everyday is like Christmas.  Who needs birthdays when you are celebrating and honoring your friendships all the time?  Before I go to bed each night, I send good wishes to a few individuals.  I don't "pray" per se, but this is my spiritual practice.  I feel secure in the knowledge that my special people don't give a shit that I'm not among the 339 people wishing them "Happy Birthday!" on Facebook.

There have been people that I was quite fond of, whom I would have liked to spend more time with.  But they never seemed to have time to do anything - "I'm too busy," "I have too much on my plate," "I have a deadline coming up."  If I told them it was my birthday, however, they would happily volunteer to take me out to dinner. I appreciate that - it's a genuine gesture.  But I knew I was not a priority in their lives, and I would not get to hang out with them until the next birthday rolled around.  It is fine - we can't be best friends with everybody - and I'm not the type to milk a birthday for all it's worth.  Relationships that are not based on relatively equal commitment levels can bring pleasure but not the enduring peace and sustained joy of knowing that someone will be there for you in good times and bad.

I have noticed that people who post their cancer status on Facebook get a lot of attention.  Friends are always "sending thoughts and prayers" and volunteering to help with the kids.  I write stuff like that too, so I'm not ripping on it.  Compassion is a practice; you have to start somewhere and fake it till you make it.  But I will be completely honest here: unless the person is a close friend (in which case I will already be doing something and not writing about it on Facebook), I always secretly hope that my offer of service will be gratefully declined.  I will have the satisfaction of having acted in a saintly manner.  This is why I have also pledged not to do Facebook Cancers: I'm not going to give people like me the satisfaction of playing saint publicly.  You know what really happens when they sit down at the dinner table?  "Sweetie, did you hear that XYZ* has metastatic liver cancer?" Makes sad face.  "Oh, that's too bad. That's the guy you went to grade school with, right?"  Puts some foie gras in his mouth.  I'm not sure that our collective exercise in doing Facebook Birthdays and Facebook Cancers has any practical value other than making us feel good about ourselves.  Are we doing so little in real life for our loved ones that we need this extra little ego booster?  *I didn't use a real name because I didn't want to jinx anyone!

We are all crying for attention, to a greater or lesser degree.  The thought had crossed my mind (in my less enlightened days) that I would fake terminal cancer for a year.  Everyone is so much nicer when you have cancer. The guy you want to go out with will escort you to every play and concert and ball game.  He will appear such a loving dude to all his friends.  Gets to put "selfless caretaker" on his resume.  I'd be really, really happy.  The problem is, Dream Boy is only nice because he knows this is a limited-time offer with an expiration date.  I'd be expected to die so folks could get on with their lives.  When people help you check off items on your bucket list, the unspoken understanding is this is a close-ended contract; you are only getting a lucky break because you've been given a death sentence.  The question then becomes, is there anything that I want badly enough that I'd be willing to off myself by the end of the year to fulfill my end of the contract?  I can't say that I'm beyond such melodrama, but currently the answer is No. Though if anyone wants to give his or her life to make a dream come true, if life is otherwise drab and hopeless, who are we to judge?

Three weeks ago I found out that a friend of mine had died of cancer.  "Friend" in the Facebook sense.  We had met through Bunny Ears actually, at a random dinner that I decided to tag along.  John was a bit out of shape but he managed to travel from Santa Clara all the way to San Francisco a couple of times for kettlebell lessons.  This was in August 2011.  He knew he was sick but he didn't tell anyone.  He asked me to go to Hawaii with him, said he somehow ended up with an extra plane ticket.  Obviously he had a thing for me.  I wasn't interested - I hardly knew him, and I like guys who are super athletic and he wasn't.  I politely declined.  Now I feel bad.  To know that I was on someone's bucket list, and it would have been an easy thing to do - going to Hawaii! - with no expectations of taking any clothes off.  If I had known, would I have gone?  I think so.  In a way, I'm glad that John did not play the cancer card.  He was kind to have not put anyone on the spot.  But I am also sort of mad that he denied himself the opportunity - I make very good company and it would have been a happy, harmless trip.  I would have let him tag photos of myself on the beach.  Why not?  He'd be dead in a bit, and I'd write RIP under the pictures, and my future suitors would not get the wrong idea.

I don't know what to think.  Everything is fucking complicated on Facebook.  I had wanted to write about this topic for a long time; it took a real death to make it happen.  I had an unambiguous message, but now I'm ambivalent.  Only the friends who make time for ice-cream with me will have the honor of being at my death bed, that's for sure.  But birthdays?  I may start telling a few select people (not via Facebook) who can afford to take me out to dinner.  A girl likes to be treated well, if only once a year!  If I ever get to have a wedding, I'll tell the whole world because I want presents.  (And Bunny Ears will be my bridesman.)  As for the funeral, if you are not already sending flowers while I'm alive, then don't bother.  (My international mystery man Agent Rutabaga will bring roses.)  The "in lieu of flowers" option would also mean a lot more to me if you make your donations before I go climb Mt. Kilimanjaro at the end of this year.  I may not make it back, but at least I'd have the knowledge that I did something meaningful as my last crowd-sourcing act.  Please click here: Point Reyes Trails Challenge.  Bunny Ears will get all my kettlebells, my Facebook page will linger on in purgatory fashion, and you people can write all the shit you want on it.  (And please click on the ads - Mark Zuckerberg sends happy condolences.)

April 28, 2012

Go Big Or Go Home

March 31st was a stormy Saturday morning, with gale-force winds and a torrential downpour that threatened to derail my plan to walk out the front door in my Vibram shoes.  We were about to climb 52 flights of stairs, and my feet would not have had it any other way.  @dbt1959 was going to pick me up, and had hinted that Brigid, two weeks fresh with a learner's permit, would be at the wheel.  No way, I had thought.  Not in that kind of weather, not all the way from Novato via the Golden Gate Bridge.  But sure enough, the vehicle showed up with a fearless teenage girl steering.  And thus we rolled, rather slowly but adventurously, towards the Bank of America Building in downtown San Francisco.  We had passed the first test: no pansies on board.

I first learned about the American Lung Association's Fight For Air Climb in 2008, shortly after earning my RKC certification.  Eager to put my newfound strength and endurance to the test, climbing up a tall building sounded like the perfect challenge.  But I had nobody to do it with.  I did not have friends who were hardcore athletes, and it would take weeks and months of inculcation to instill in the minds of my existing pilates clients that henceforth we would train as upright animals with the sole purpose of cultivating the power to play.  Fast forward to 2012.  I have amassed a tribe of like-minded folks around me who delight in the pursuit of strengthiness and happiness.  When I found out that the Stanford Club of San Francisco was putting together a team for this year's Climb, my first thought was, "I'm going to do it this year."  Second thought, not surprisingly, went exactly like this: "Fuck it, I'm going to form my own team."

It's the tall brown building.  I used to work
there in the mid-90's as a financial analyst. 
I went into this with the mindset that it's a life experience that I would like to include on my CV, or Cupcake Vitae.  Certainly we, Team prAxis, are well differentiated from the hamsters who spend 45 minutes on the StairMaster for their "cardio workout."  We climb real stairs.  You have to lift your feet off the ground.  God forbid!  My inner posse is small but full of awesome: Micah, the pistol freak (check out this video of him at 1:31 doing a 70 lb. pistol at 120 lb. bodyweight) and @dbt1959, who is my one and only workout partner.  (Brigid did not officially get on the team roster because her dad signed her up the day of and obviously fucked it up.)  What we set out to do, I wrote in my Manifesto.

I didn't really train for the event.  I took my class on a field trip to Moraga Steps for Super Bowl Sunday, but we were racking kettlebells and stopping to do swings along the way, so it wasn't anything like climbing 52 flights of stairs straight up.  I figured I was generally well conditioned, had strong legs, and did not have a lot of ass to haul.  I had this notion that I would do a steady-pace jog all the way up, but I really had no idea.  When we arrived at the venue, the building lobby was a scene of utter chaos, and I mean UTTER CHAOS.  Live music rendering all announcements inaudible.  Hundreds milling around. Volunteers with a look of confusion on their faces.  It was a miracle that my team separated and united and separated and re-united and actually found ourselves at the starting line co-mingled with the 79-person strong CrossFit Palo Alto team, slowly being prodded along like cattle to the stairwell, where the sensor strip attached to one shoe would trigger the clock to start ticking.

To the organizer's credit, we had a staggered start, and the stampede that a former participant alluded to did not materialize.  I am a sprinter, not an endurance athlete - that mid-life crisis that compels one to attempt a marathon having apparently eluded me - so I bounded out the gate and upwardly, and reached the fourth floor with nary a breath, that is to say, anaerobically.  The subsequently burn was breathtaking.  Ooh la la.  I needed a Plan B that did not involve aborting.  The ignominy of jogging meant that my only other option was to walk up briskly.  Switching gears proved to be surprisingly fatiguing: fast twitch muscles still bathing in lactic acid, slower twitching ones kicking up to speed, legs not wanting to cooperate.  Much to my relief - if you've never done a test run, everything is a surprise - the ramping up did not last forever.  Beyond the tenth floor, I settled into a rhythm, which I will grudgingly call the ignominy of steady state aerobics, and so it became a mental game of counting down till done - 30 more, 20 more, 10 more ...  On the 32nd floor, this volunteer girl was cheering, "You're halfway through!"  Her imprecision irked me.  I composed a snarky Facebook update in my mind to break the monotony of my surroundings.  If you can't do math, you should just shut up.  But it is rather striking that I clung on to the import of being more than halfway through.  "This, too, shall pass - at a precise endpoint" turned out to be such a powerful motivator.  If I had been tasked to run up as many floors as I could, I might have stopped at 30, or 51.  Knowing the destination makes the journey easier.  It's not just the journey, stupid.

(Life is full of unfinished businesses.  So is this post.  C'est tout.)  

January 9, 2012

Before And After

One of the joys of weight loss is that you are well entitled to go shopping.  There is only so much belt-tightening you can do before the whole mid-section looks like a cinched up garbage bag.  Client #1 reported that his pants were falling off when he removed his belt for the TSA - time to go shopping.  Client #2 had lost more than 30 pounds following the dietary advice proffered in The 4-Hour Body, and a holiday trip to the Southern Hemisphere (beach! swimsuit!) was upcoming - time to go shopping.  They didn't have any before-and-after pictures to show, just inches vaporized to the point of necessitating new outfits.  If people have lost inches but still complain about weight gain (from building lean muscle mass), if people look anorexic but still want a fat-loss workout, they will most likely be blind to the story told by before-and-after pictures.

Kelly Clarkson, 2009 - "Before" & "After"
Yet those same folks who possess distorted self-images are also more likely to succumb to the media's not-so-subtle misrepresentation of weight loss success.  We (meaning the 1%) are well aware that extensive re-touching and faux-toshopping happen rampantly and manipulation is the norm when it comes to "fitness" models touting the magical qualities of diet pills and exercise programs.  But who needs to lose weight when you can appear svelte and toned on the cover of a health and fitness magazine with just a few clicks on the mouse?  Shown here is the digitally slimmed version of Kelly Clarkson on the cover of Self.  There is no lack of controversy surrounding such blatant distortion of reality, yet sadly, some people will continue to see what they want to see.  We (of the clear-headed variety) know that you can't trust everything you come across on the internets.  You don't need before-and-after photos.  Just go sit on the toilet, pull up your shirt, and look down.  Say to yourself in Steve Jobs' stay-hungry-stay foolish voice, "Be objective!  Be realistic!"  Welcome to the Field of Undistorted Reality.

The truth of the matter is, I don't really care for shopping.  And I don't need or want to lose any weight, at least not so much that I would need to drop another clothing size, because "-2" does not exist.  My butt is the product of Hard Style kettlebell swings - firm and lovely if you ask me - yet I'm having to shop for panties, again.  And I need to justify this to the world, because heaven knows I'm a frugal Asian girl and I don't like spending money on lingerie, especially when it's coming out of my own pocket.  So, despite everything I just said about meaningless before-and-after pictures, I'm going to post one - unaltered and untouched.  (Sorry, it's not of my ass.)

What you're seeing is not evidence of butt shrinkage. These are two pairs of panties of similar style and cut, and they are both sized "XS/TP" - as cookie-cutter as what GapBody is capable of producing from its panty-cutter (in Thailand).  Once upon a time, about 18 months ago, the larger one hugs my buttocks (imagine Forrest Gump saying "buttocks") perfectly.  Of course my buttocks did not expand - and I don't think I need to explain the benefits of swinging kettlebells yet again. Who's the culprit here?  What happened?  The answer is ... LAUNDRY!  Cold water, gentle cycle, line-dry only! Laundry can do this to your clothes.  There is a linear function that can be expressed thus: y = mx + c, where y is the final panty size, c is the original size, m is the coefficient of stretch, and x is the number of times laundered.  It would behoove a PhD candidate to investigate the value of m across clothing brands.  Value shoppers like myself would appreciate that kind of information when making our purchasing decisions.  We the 1% get to become the 1% not from squandering our hard-earned dollars.  (My father would wear a wife-beater to death - till holes do they part.) But we also don't dress in granny's panties.  We must Occupy The Underwear in style.

November 13, 2011


November 12, 2011.  What an unlucky day.  Thousands of fans from all over the world pinned their hopes on the guy in the #12 jersey, Heisman-hopeful Andrew Luck, to lead the Cardinal to certain victory, blazing the trail all the way to the BCS Championship Game.  Sadly, Stanford's fairy tale run came to an abrupt halt, having fallen - once again - to the Oregon Ducks, 53-30.  Of course, this is hardly the end of the world.  Football is just a game, after all.  (Let us lay down our cynicism and disregard the money, the television rights, and the pure evil that is StubHub for the moment ... )  But for the young men on the team, the loss must have been particularly devastating, more so because they are young, and hopeful, and they have come farther along, and closer to the prize, than all of their fore-brothers in recent and not-so-recent memory.  Our student-athletes are bright and intelligent, and I trust that they have the emotional wherewithal to re-group, lift each other up, and finish the season strong and proud.  One day they will graduate, having received a fantastic education, and go on to become productive members of society.  (We can pause for a moment and pick up our cynicism here.  College football is a farce, each year unleashing a torrent of barely literate sociology majors to the workforce.  Some will make it to the NFL, where there's no pretense that it's not all about money, television rights, and the pure evil that is StubHub ... )

November 12, 2011.  It was also a day of celebration, because Joan was in the mood to celebrate, and she wouldn't have had it any other way.  If I heard it correctly, over the din of beer and cheers, it was her 74th birthday.  In Joan, I see a kindred spirit, someone who goes out and does things - even something as un-intellectual and lowbrow as walking into a sports bar with tons of Marina girls and their frat boys / sugar daddies to watch a football game.  If you can let go of being judgmental or self-conscious, if you give up any pre-conceived notion of what having a good time should entail, and just show up, chances are you will have a good time.  It's what you bring to the table.  Joan brought cupcakes to the table.

I walked into The Republic by myself shortly before kick-off.  There was going to be a section reserved for Cardinal fans.  I wouldn't say that I had no expectations.  I thought I was going to meet some hot guy who would buy me a drink and then sign up for my next kettlebell workshop.  But mostly I just wanted to experience the game in a rowdy setting, which meant getting out of the house, and going to a bar.  (Fuck you, ticket dealers.  Fuck you, StubHub.)  I was appropriately attired in school colors, and I made my way to the crowded back room where there were five big screens going, the biggest one showing Cal winning at AT&T Park.  I glanced around quickly in search of a likely kettlebell victim; people seemed to be clustered loosely in the categories of Hipster Start-Up Guys, Marina-Type, and Random.  I chose the Random table.  There was Joan, and a Chinese couple (I thought) that turned out to be brother and sister from Texas.  After a round of introductions, two older gentlemen from the East Bay showed up.  Class of 1969, still friends after all these years, escaping the occupied and besieged town of Oakland to enjoy the game and the camaraderie of fellow Cardinal fans.  One of the guys pitched for the Dodgers, and I told him about the neurophysiology-based training that I do, and he said he wished this knowledge was available back then - it would have helped rehab his bad arm and extend his professional career.  Joan overheard our conversation (with her hearing aid) and walked over to tell me she's a retired physical therapist.  She then returned to perch on top of her seat back so she could see the screen over the Marina men who blocked her view when they stood up, not exactly inebriated but nonetheless oblivious.

Sometime during the second quarter, Joan announced that it was her birthday, and the best gift for her would be a Stanford win.  At half time, she disappeared for a while and came back with a box of mini cupcakes from the store down the street.  Two each of lemon, chocolate, and pumpkin for our table :)  We got half the room singing Happy Birthday together for her.

Every cupcake is a potential birthday cake.
Joan later told us that this was the first time in 60 years that her family could not spend her birthday with her.  But she was determined to celebrate regardless. So she drove across the Golden Gate Bridge from her home in Sausalito and showed up to a sports bar and bought cupcakes for random people.  We became part of her celebration.  And I want to honor that - the spirit and the "Just Do It" chutzpah that shows true mastery of the Art of Living.  (And thanks, Phil Knight, founder of the "Just Do It" empire, for the millions you gave to the University of Oregon, and the not-enough-millions that you gave to the Stanford Graduate School of Business.  How can you make Cardinal fans like you better?)

Live life fiercely and make every day special.  Even when you think all your friends are dead (literally or otherwise), you don't have to stay at home and sulk.  Promise yourself a good time, take a breath, step outside, and make it happen!  When in doubt, buy me a cupcake.  It will make your day!  

October 16, 2011

Portable Potables

I never venture far from home without a water bottle.

Now I must digress.  Unlike most women that you see walking down the street, I don't covet or carry oversized leather handbags.  Anything wider than one's ass is superfluous and not an efficient or humane use of cows.  Furthermore, a large bag will often hinder shoulder and arm movement, resulting in compensations that adversely affect gait and posture.  The men who want to date me may breathe a sigh of relief to know that I find this Gucci bag expensive, pointless, and ugly.  This Sherpani Luna cross-body bag (alternative link), however, has won the @twiddlebells seal of approval, and currently occupies a prominent spot over my door knob.  Made of 100 percent cotton canvas and sporting compact dimensions of 9.5" x 10.5" x 1.5", it is quite perfect for short trips around town, and the maroon-gray color scheme plus "LOVE" printed art perhaps will soften the "fuck-off" aura that I try to project when I run my errands.

Thus my quest for a water bottle that sleekly and discreetly fits in my bag.  And what I found was a douchebag that functions like a penis - a 0.5L Vapur foldable water bottle in the smokey color of "smoke."  Vapur bills itself as the Anti-Bottle, is free of BPA, and claims to be ultra durable.  It appeals to me primarily because of its relatively flat shape, plus its foldability and freezability.  I went to Rainbow Grocery, which sells everything that you need - and no, you don't need meat - to look for a stainless steel flask (that one might use to sneak alcohol into a football game), but when I saw the Anti-Bottle on display, I became inceptioned with the bag-within-a-bag idea.  I could fold this thing and not have to put it in a tray for the TSA.  I could use it as an ice-pack if the decade-old bag of frozen peas in my freezer finally got eaten.  Plus, I now get to make douchebag jokes.  When full, the Vapur bag stands erect; otherwise, it withers like a weenie.  The sports cap allows for a satisfying flow, unlike some other designs that make you suck water out one drop at a time.
A bag that stands erect.
Just like any big iron ball would.  

The downside of the Vapur bottle is that it is not a hand-job but a hands-job.  First, you have to pull hard to remove the outer cap.  Then, you have to pull on the sports cap to unplug it, so pretty much you have your dirty fingers all over the drinking surface.  Most significantly, if you hold the bag and angle the spout as you would a rigid water bottle (in the traditional cock-sucking position), the rest of the Anti-Bottle goes limp on you.  The water is below the fold.  If you know how gravity works, you'd realize that fluids aren't going to spurt into your pie hole.  You will have to use your other hand to hold the other end up.  Which will cause your steering wheel to become unattended.

Needs Viagra.
Other than that, the Vapur bag is probably the most douchey hipster item that does not actually annoy.

August 21, 2010

How To Eat A Mango: A Photo Ass-ay

It has come to my attention that nobody knows how to eat a mango.  There are so-called experts on these internets who tell you to carve a grid on an upturned cheek, then turn the skin inside out and slice the dices onto a receiving bowl.  No.  This is like chopping a baby up before you send it to a receiving blanket.  You don't eat a baby that way.

The Definitive Guide To Eating A Mango
Written & directed by the Mandarin Menace :::
Starring my good friend @thatadamguy :::
Many thanks to the big sweet juicy organic mango from Rainbow Grocery :::

2 clean plates
1 sharp knife
1 dessert spoon

Steps 1-9 must take place at the kitchen counter.

Step 1.  Wash and towel-dry your hands and the mango.  We must practice good hygiene at all times.

Step 2.  Slice off two fat cheeks as close to the pit as possible.  Do not saw.  Use a plate instead of a chopping board in order to capture the juice.

Step 3.  Transfer the two cheeks to a clean plate.  Set aside.

Step 4.  Then, still keeping the mango upright, tightly follow the contours of the pit and slice off the remaining fruit to create two long strips.

Step 5.  Hold each long strip in a smiley-face position, and eat right there as you would a slice of watermelon.  Smile.

Step 6.  Now back to work.  If you did Step 2 correctly, there should be some clean, non-slippery real estate where you can grip onto to pin the pit down.  Hold the pit firmly and scrape off as much fruit as you can.  This part takes some practice. After 10,000 mangoes, you will have acquired a functional level of proficiency.

Step 7.  Whatever you failed to scrape off in Step 6, you are now going to inhale.  Put the pit into your mouth and suck.  DO NOT USE TEETH.  SOMETHING WILL INVARIABLY GET STUCK.

Step 8.  Pick up the plate to mouth level, and use a spoon to guide all the fruit to your pie hole.

Step 9.  Lick the plate.  Use tongue.  (It should now be apparent why we insisted that you clean the mango in the beginning.)

Step 10.  And finally, you wash your hands, take the two cheeks that you have previously set aside, and go sit down somewhere and pretend to eat like a civilized person.  Use a spoon.

~ The End ~

The product placement is inadvertent.
The model has a ton of Google swag.

June 28, 2010

Pink Fail: A Sober Pride Weekend

It was the biggest party weekend of the year, and while I decidedly felt out of place late Saturday afternoon, trekking around the Castro in my Vibram Five Fingers amidst beautiful men in lavender boa necklaces and four-inch heels, I did set out a few days prior to procure a pink fuzzy drink to enjoy with the very gay flavors being served up at Three Twins Ice-Cream.

And what did I encounter?  Empty fridges.  My favorite booze, Synergy's Guava Goddess kombucha, was nowhere to be found.  Apparently, Whole Paycheck took the raw, fermented beverages out of circulation 12 days ago, with the distributor UNFI soon following suit, suspending delivery of several brands to retailers, and depriving me of my pink drink of choice.  (I first became aware of this when shopping at Rainbow Grocery.  While this is a lesser act of corporate spinelessness than when it pulled raw milk, Whole Foods' style of McGanic Marketing consistently fails to impress me; I don't shop there anymore.)
At issue is that left to its own devices - it is alive! - bottled unpasteurized kombucha may continue to ferment, resulting in a final alcohol content that exceeds 0.5 percent.  This triggers labeling requirements that none of the kombucha manufacturers are currently in compliance with.

I have very little tolerance for alcohol, red wine gives me a headache, cocktails are expensive, and half a beer can cause me to end up naked somewhere.  I like the innocuous buzz that kombucha gives me.  I rarely drink anything other than plain H2O or green tea, but every so often when I've overdosed on heavy foods, a glass of kombucha can help kick-start digestion, cleanse and detoxify the system, and help me quickly regain my appetite for dessert.  Plus, Guava Goddess really does look pretty in pink.  It would have been great to have some on hand to celebrate a USA win in FIFA World Cup's Round of 16 Saturday morning, but alas, victory was not forthcoming.  It would have been great to have some on hand to wash down the pizza I inhaled while watching the ABC / ESPN broadcast.  But no dice.  The commentator went "Going, Going, Ghana" and that was Team America's fizzling finish to a feverish run, no champagne here nor there, and I was left with a heavy feeling that I ate too much pizza.

*          *          *

If Lindsay Lohan is emblematic of all that is wrong with America, perhaps it's really not that much of a stretch to say she's the mother of Prohibition 2.0.  On June 6, after the MTV Movie Awards, her SCRAM bracelet recorded a positive alcohol reading, prompting TMZ to speculate that Lindsay's favorite drink on her "Allowed" list may have set off the SCRAM device due to its possibly not-so-negligible alcohol content.  While Los Angeles County officials had subsequently determined that Ms. Lohan was in compliance with her probation requirements - "her pee was clean," as TMZ puts it - who is to say that the suits at Whole Foods didn't ponder over the spectacle of this kombucha-pounding American Idle and decided they should make themselves look busy and do something to earn their keep?  (This, by the way, is called CYA.)
Corporate America Takes The Lead.
Government Bureaucrats Push Paper In Support.
Fuck Yeah!
Enters the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB (the first "T" being operative here, if you ignore the two substances.)  Upon learning of Whole Food's initiative, TTB released a statement which in part says, "Anyone who produces alcohol beverages without payment of tax in violation of the [Internal Revenue Code] is subject to liability of tax, penalties, and interests."  Now, if I were a kombucha manufacturer, I would think I am seriously fucked at this point.  If existing products are field-tested to be alcohol positive (> 0.5 percent), the manufacturer is legally exposed for having violated labeling laws.  And going forward, what are the alternatives?  (i) Change the label to indicate that the product may exceed a 0.5 percent alcohol content, with all the associated warnings about fetuses and so on, pay excise tax, make less money.  (ii) Change the formulation of the product to limit fermentation.  I am not a scientist.  I don't know how this would be done, or if it would diminish the potency of kombucha as a health beverage.  Neither option is very attractive.  Thank you, Whole Foods.  You just hurt a bunch of innocent suppliers over a minor issue and non-existent problem.

TTB also says it's coordinating with the FDA "to ensure that kombucha products that are currently on the market comply with Federal laws."  Yes, the FDA, owned and operated by AgriBiz and Big Pharma.  What this means, in practice, is that UNFI has advised retailers to DESTROY kombucha beverages unless they have been tested and cleared for sale.  Unnecessary destruction really hurts my brain.  A common sense approach would be to put a note on the refrigerator case informing consumers that certain kombucha drinks may have an elevated alcohol content, caveat emptor.  But lawyers write corporate directives, so we get senseless destruction instead.

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What to do? 
  • Bitch, moan, and commiserate with fellow kombucha fans on Synergy's Facebook page
  • Get a kombucha culture and DIY. 
  • Scour local, independent health food stores for their rapidly dwindling stock.  (In order to not jeopardize the store owners, I shall not divulge where certain secret stashes are still available.)  
  • Dine at restaurants that have kombucha on tap.  If these establishments already have liquor licenses, they can for sure serve anyone 21 or older.     
  • Switch to rejuvelac ... maybe.
  • Develop a black market. 
  • Wait, just wait.  I'm sure GT Dave (from Synergy) and other kombucha bosses are scrambling to get themselves out of this predicament.  We must be patient.   
Meanwhile, I will try to not eat too much pizza.  And I won't ask you to get me a beer.