Monday, September 26, 2005

Fun at the festivals (National Book and Green Festivals review)

Overall, I had a very good time at both the National Book and Green Festivals on Saturday. D.C. was a happening place this weekend. In addition to these two fests, there was an anti-war protest (which I also saw a bit of), and several other festivals/conventions at the Convention Center. Here are some of the highlights of the Book and Green festivals.

I only stayed at the National Book Festival for maybe an hour and a half. I went there primarily to see Neil Gaiman's reading, and got there just as he was being introduced. He was extremely funny and warm (and not to mention cute, and all dressed in black, as usual ;) ). He mentioned that one of the reasons he wrote 'Anansi Boys' was because, after he had children, he began to understand that all children are embarassed by their parents, and he wanted to write about that and family ties. He also wanted to write a funny novel because it's been 15 years since he wrote one ('Good Omens' with Terry Pratchett) and people are convinced that he actually wrote 'Good Omens' as a serious novel, and that Terry ran after him like a pixie inserting all the funny lines and footnotes :). He read what he called one of the 'Anansi stories' from his new novel, which were based on actual Anansi myths. Another highlight was that that when he mentioned (at the beginning of his reading) that he was utterly bookless (from being shuffled all around, since he's on tour right now), one of his fans rushed up to the stage and handed him her copy of the book. I loved his reading, but it was way shorter than last year (I think last year each writer had at least 45 minutes if not an hour to speak, instead of 30 minutes like this year's). But I enjoyed it immensely.

After eating and listening to some poetry, I headed to the Green Festival (the reading was packed, and since I didn't have time to buy any books earlier, I knew that by the time I bought one and got to the line, it would be insanely long. Also I wanted to really go to the Green Festival, so I didn't bother to get anything signed). I had such a good time at the Green Festival. I talked to a lot of non-profits, including one of the directors of Defenders of Wildlife (whom I'm supposed to e-mail to get more information about Congress's attempt to undermine environmental laws like NEPA). I also found out that D.C. has a Vegetarian Society; I never knew that! I got lots of yummy recipes from them and a vegetarian restaurant guide of the area. I also bought a lot of natural cosmetics and got to talk to the owners of Terressentials, James and Diana, who are are really nice, and meet Nadina of Nadina's Cremes, who is a sweetie! (And I got the contact information for the vice president of Dr. Bronner's/Sun Dog's Magic (he wasn't there so I didn't get to meet him), so I could contact him and get some information for my paper on their lawsuit with the Organic Consumer Association against the USDA, for their attempt to weaken organic standards in natural cosmetics.) I got some free samples of a few products: lotion (Dr. Bronner/Sun Dog), laundry detergent and dish soap (Seventh Generation), and drank free tea. I also talked to a few yoga schools in the area, and inquired about classes.

Another totally cool thing that happened, was when I came upon the table for one of the herbal schools, and overheard the conversation between one of people at the booth, and an interested lady, talk about natural medicine and how this natural doctor in the area helped her. I pulled out my courage and asked the lady (the festival go-er) if I could have the name of her doctor. She kindly gave me the doctor's card (she happened to have it on her), and then gave me a hug, gave me her e-mail, and said to let her know how I'm doing in the future (I told her I had some health problems and all these western doctors couldn't help me). You know it's times like this when I truly feel like people actually do care and help each other; it helps me hold onto my faith in humanity, even when things look down.

And also totally awesome, as I was leaving I bought some african black soap (which I've never tried but heard so much about) from this local company called Divinity Vegannatural. However because of the reception, my credit card took forever to go through their machine (the signal kept going in and out). After walking around and coming back twice (so I could sign the slip), one of the nice owners said that it was ok, and that I already waited around long enough, and if I had to leave, it was fine. I offered to leave my contact information, but she said it wasn't necessary and she was sure it'd go through once they got outside, and if it didn't then I'd get free soap since I'd already earned it by waiting so long. So I shook their hands, and was about to leave, when one of the other owners hands me a small jar (for free) of their vegan hempchocolate body butter! They were so cool and nice. I do hope that their machine began working after I left; I know my money is good, but I wasn't so sure about their machine!
(the black soap is marvelous and the hempchocolate butter is absolutely delicious, by the way)

Most of the companies and organizations there were truly green, and the cosmetic ones were really 100% natural--even many that I hadn't even heard before. That said there were a few 'green washers' did show up; like Nature's Gate, a cosmetic company who claims to be 70% organic but whose products are cock full of synthetics. Their products are better than a lot of the other (conventional) cosmetic brands out there, but having any amount of synthetics in your product really defeats the whole purpose of being organic or natural!

All in all, I really enjoyed myself at the Green Festival today, and all the people I talked to were super friendly and nice except for this one company, Al-Qemi, whose TWO reps TOTALLY ignored me for several minutes, by concentrating on talking to someone else at their booth. Didn't even acknowledge my presense, so I walked away. Also they were supposed to have a community talk on natural cosmetics at 3 pm, that I was looking forward to, but they cancelled it! Didn't get to try out the free yoga though, not enough time.

Once I go through the ton of literature (I really DID get a lot), and sort through it all, I will report on all the different companies. Eventually.

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