The Way Out There / Episode 5: Sara Clow

sara gf

Subscribe to the Way Out There podcast here.

Sara Clow is a native of the Garden State, and one of my very best friends. We grew up together in the New Jersey suburbs, playing soccer and spending days exploring our extended outdoor “neighborhood.”

Sara is also General Manager of Growfood Carolina, a food hub based here in Charleston, SC. Since being recruited by the Coastal Conservation League to Charleston in 2011 to start-up and lead GrowFood, Sara and her dedicated team have built relationships with more 80 local producers and 250 wholesalers. To-date GrowFood has returned nearly $5 million to South Carolina farmers and helped ensure that rural working lands continue to flourish. We talked with Sara at the GrowFood Carolina warehouse about her passion for food, farming, and the outdoors.

I’ve outlined a few “chapters” below for your listening pleasure. Simply jump to the time stamp in the podcast. Happy listening!

2:15 Berkeley Heights, Gardens, Soccer, & Trespassing at Bell Labs

7:25 Telluride, Colorado

9:45 The Love of Feeling Small

20:56 Meet Me In San Francisco

23:40 Rock & Fred Tackle The Hedge Fund World

30:30 How We Almost Lost Sara To New Zealand

45:30 Career Angst

56:30 GrowFood Carolina (code word: Blue Indigo)

GrowFood Carolina team

GrowFood Carolina warehouse

South Carolina radishes

CCL team

Show Notes:
Guest – Sara Clow
Host – Jenny Badman
Music / Audio Production – Nic Lauretano
Editing – Nic Lauretano
Location – GrowFood Carolina Warehouse, Charleston, SC

Eight Stops

I look up as we pause between stations.

Into her eyes, slate flecked with flame.

Seven seats between us.

Also acres, miles, millennia.

As one does when one locks eyes with a stranger, I pretend I didn’t.

I let my gaze drift to those beside her.

And then, long beat, to her.

I watch her expressions shift.

Smiling, not.

Brow knit, not.

Flashes of light through trees, shadows play across her face.

Patterned light then dark.

Like a hundred dreams I’ve never had.

Her hands fold, unfold.

Her eyes fixed on mine.

I forget transit etiquette.

I don’t look away.

I feel the question inside her,

Have we met?

No one speaks.

Molecules move.

Internal circuits flicker off, on.

Time collapses against a backdrop of bakeries, bookstores, cafes, trees, blurred city.

She rises as we reach the next stop, her gaze still on mine.

She steps through the doors, looks back as they slide shut.

I smile, watch as she ascends stone stairs, into a crowd, into honeyed light.

The train moves toward Central.

The W-L Club

I write about my childhood quite a bit. Perhaps because my memories are so vivid, I feel compelled to write them down. Perhaps if I understand who I was a child, I’ll better understand who I am now.

The other day, I got an email from a dear childhood friend. She was one of the original stomp girls about whom I’ve written. We who sang Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘N Roll at the top of our lungs at recess.

See, I had forgotten what started us in the first place. Until my friend Laura faxed me the gem below:

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 8.07.24 PMIt reads (with typos and misspellings included):

W-L Club

Women have rights. But how come their not equal? Some say that women are weak or to fragile to do a man’s job. For instance men think that women will never play football or baseball because we might break a fingernail. They don’t know about women inside. So I’ve started a club called W-L (Women’s Lib.) It will be at recess. You may ask questions and we’ll think about what to do to make a woman’s life better. We will work as a team. Why do some men act this way? Well they want to be A#1 of course they have to be better and stronger than women. Can we fight this for equal rights? I have know idea. Alot of women feel the same way we do. For more information, call Laura or Jenny.

Thank-you.

P.S. Keep this club private.

When I stopped laughing at how totally awesome and hilarious this little manifesto is, I felt that old feeling. I remember when the boys stopped letting us play football with them. I remember how some friendships vanished because we had reached the age when differences started creating distance. And, I remember how mad we were about it. Because all of a sudden, we weren’t just uninvited, we were no longer equal. Holy junior feminists, Batman! I get it. Now I remember the source of the stomping. If we were no longer invited, we would make our own party. We would sing loud. We would raise our fists. We would stomp. We would raise our fists. And one day, we would be equal.

Aaron and His Dad

Aaron Draplin is an incredibly talented and prolific graphic designer, and I’m a huge fan. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak a few years back. Even got to shake his hand (solid, warm grip), get a signed South Cackalackee Draplin poster, and grab a photo with him. He was as great in person as I had imagined him to be. Who lives up to that? Awesome.

I follow Aaron’s blog and work, and like all of his friends and fans, I was shocked and saddened to hear the news of his Dad’s sudden passing last October.

If you’ve been on this site before, you know I did a lot of writing about my Dad after he died in 2009. I did a lot of reading, too. All, I suppose, in an attempt to make sense of his death, his life, my feelings, and who in the world I was supposed to be without him. And, I suppose, to keep him “alive” even after he was gone.

Aaron wrote about his Dad, too. His 30 Day Sad For Dad series is full of heartbreaking, funny, warm, and honest moments of grief and memory. And I couldn’t be more grateful that he wrote his way through them. Some men speak kindly about their Fathers. Some men revere them.

Meet Aaron’s Dad:

http://www.draplin.com/2013/10/james_patrick_draplin_19432013.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/10/dads_obituary.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/10/sad_for_dad_day_03_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/10/sad_for_dad_day_04_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/10/sad_for_dad_day_05_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/10/sad_for_dad_day_6_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/10/sad_for_dad_day_7_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/10/sad_for_dad_day_08_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/10/sad_for_dad_day_09_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/10/sad_for_dad_day_10_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/10/sad_for_dad_day_11_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/10/sad_for_dad_day_12_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/10/sad_for_dad_day_13_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/10/sad_for_dad_day_14_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/10/sad_for_dad_day_15_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/10/sad_for_dad_day_16_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/10/sad_for_dad_day_17_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/10/sad_for_dad_day_18_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/11/sad_for_dad_day_19_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/11/sad_for_dad_day_20_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/11/sad_for_dad_day_21_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/11/sad_for_dad_day_22_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/11/sad_for_dad_day_23_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/11/sad_for_dad_day_24_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/11/sad_for_dad_day_25_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/11/sad_for_dad_day_26_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/11/sad_for_dad_day_27_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/11/sad_for_dad_day_28_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/11/sad_for_dad_day_29_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/11/sad_for_dad_day_30_of_30.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/11/post_1083.html

http://www.draplin.com/2013/12/one_day_in_2013_was_the_worst_day_of_my_life.html

http://www.draplin.com/2014/01/2014_kicks_in_and_missing_dad.html

And meet my Dad, if you haven’t already.

https://jennybadman.com/2012/03/08/day-30-like-milk-in-the-fridge/

https://jennybadman.com/2011/10/07/moonlit-ride/

https://jennybadman.com/2010/03/18/eight-months/

https://jennybadman.com/2011/02/03/sighting/

https://jennybadman.com/2010/08/23/moment/

jennybadman.com/2010/05/26/all-the-way-back-to-ohio/

jennybadman.com/2012/08/15/late-summer-love-letter/

jennybadman.com/2011/07/18/july-18-2011/

jennybadman.com/2012/03/29/store-bought-baked-goods-lukewarm-coffee/

jennybadman.com/2010/09/30/pals/

jennybadman.com/2012/03/06/day-28-golf-lessons/

jennybadman.com/2010/04/16/peanut-butter-john/

jennybadman.com/2011/06/17/the-words-of-my-father/

jennybadman.com/2011/09/07/driving-home/

jennybadman.com/2013/03/07/hey-fella/

jennybadman.com/2013/01/30/a-portrait-of-the-loud-laugher-as-a-young-girl/

jennybadman.com/2012/10/24/songbird/

jennybadman.com/2010/09/01/when-youre-here-youre-family/

jennybadman.com/2011/01/14/a-funeral-story/

jennybadman.com/2010/03/29/happy-birthday-dad/

jennybadman.com/2011/03/08/a-note-about-dad/

jennybadman.com/2010/08/14/dolphin-shoe-dad/

jennybadman.com/2010/01/18/dear-dad/

https://jennybadman.com/2012/06/18/on-our-dads/

It’s strange. When Dad died, I learned that the fathers of two friends from high school had died around the same time. In those early days when my grief was at its most raw, I thought of my friends and imagined what they were going through. Sometimes they commented on posts I wrote about Dad, and I think somehow it all helped us feel a little less alone.

Reading Aaron’s posts about his Dad made me remember those feelings, even now, 4 1/2 years later, and again, I feel less alone.

Thanks to Aaron for writing down the things we’re often afraid to even say. And, for sharing his Dad with us. I wish I could’ve met him. And I wish he’d met mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Family

Last week, a 14 year old girl and her Mom; a Southern-born, Indian-bred self proclaimed “fat, hairy, brown femme-trans-masculine queer bodied magic pony;” an engineer/activist transgender woman; and a critically acclaimed actress, African American transgender woman made me cry and made me proud all in one night.

Sera, the 14 year old, was born Seth. Every night, starting at age three, she asked her Mom, Amy, “When is God going to make me a girl?”

Over the course of several years, Seth began being Sera…at home. By the time Seth was in fourth grade, he began transitioning at school, growing out his hair, dressing more femininely. By sixth grade, Sera was fully transitioned at school.

That transition, as you might imagine, was not always readily accepted. Sera was and is bullied…by kids and even parents.

Her Mom always told her, “You are an individual.”

And she is. She’s a bubbly 14 year old girl, talking excitedly with her hands in front of 500 people. She and her Mom both seem nervous, and utterly brave.

At the end of their tag teamed speech, Sera addressed us as if we were all going through what she has been going through, as if our mere presence in that auditorium meant that we understood, as if we were all still 14. And I realized that we all do understand, because no matter how old we are, if we think back, we can tap into that feeling of insecurity and uncertainty that comes with being a teenager, that overwhelming desire to belong, that unbelievable angst and longing for something you cannot name.

Anne Lamott wrote, “This is a difficult country to look different in…and if you are too skinny or too tall or dark or weird or short or frizzy or homely or poor or nearsighted, you get crucified. I did.”

Whether you think back to your teenage years and acknowledge that you were the bully, the target, the popular kid, the fringe kid, or the invisible kid, you know now (at least I hope with all of my bleeding heart that you do) that we are all much more alike than we are different.

After the speeches and the candlelight vigil, there was an after party where the keynote speaker and Orange Is The New Black star, Laverne Cox graciously posed for photographs with party-goers. And when the music got started (courtesy of Megan Jean and The KFB), the kids from We Are Family started dancing. Laverne quickly joined them, and everything, the room, the air, the light, just got brighter and lighter and together and better. And I thought to myself, “God, we all need to dance more,” because remember what it feels like to be in your body and move and feel free? It was music and dancing and laughter and people being exactly who they are.

WAF

And it was miraculous.

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 6.28.59 PM

Sera and her Mom weren’t at the after party, because after all, she’s only 14, but this is what she left us, her fellow, forever 14 year olds, with:

“People are going to say to you that ‘it gets better’ and you’re not going to believe them. And the truth is, it hasn’t gotten better for me yet, but I promise to come back and tell you guys when it does.”

Of Moms, daughters and showtunes

58053_478240036596_4588631_nThankfully, my Mom was never one of those Moms who commented on weight or personal appearance, other than to say things like, “Stop slouching. Stand up straight.” Or, “Are you sure there’s enough room in the crotch?”

I count myself lucky for that.

Both my Mom and Dad taught us from an early age that the world was not fair, that it didn’t owe us anything: a job, a car, or even love. It was, after all, up to us to learn everything we could; to be good people, good friends, good citizens in order to secure these things. As a result, my childhood was often like an ongoing lecture series in self-sufficiency, entitled: Here’s How, starring my mother.

“Here’s how to hold the potato when you peel it…”

“This is how to make a hospital corner…”

“How on earth have you gotten through life this far without knowing how to ____?”

“Ask the doctor questions. It’s your body.”

“Look it up.”

When my sister and I were young, Mom kept our hair short.

famShe says she kept it short because we screamed whenever she touched our hair, although I have no recollection of this. I do, however, remember her scorching the tips of our ears with the curling iron as she curled our short, Dorothy Hamill hairdos under.

Me, screeching: “You’re burning me! You’re burning me!”

Mom, flatly: “Don’t be silly. That’s just my finger.”

Really?

Because I had short hair and dressed in jeans and t-shirts, I was often mistaken for a boy.

This pained Mom to no end.

One might think a nifty solution to this problem might be say…grow the child’s hair out. Put it in pigtails. With ribbons even.

But if you did that, you’d miss the magic that is my Mother.

Rather than let my hair grow out, she decided it was a better idea to sew white eyelet lace around the back panel of my jean jacket.

My jean jacket.

It looked as horrific as you are imagining.

Even at six, I knew it was awful.

I refused to wear the jacket.

I joke with her now and again that white eyelet lace is the reason I’m gay.

She laughs. Most of the time.

Actually, she and I were folding underwear in her bedroom when I came out to her.

I chose neither the venue nor the timing of this discussion, but when she specifically asks me if the bar where I’m going that evening is a gay bar, I say yes.

I wait.

She says nothing.

I fold and refold a pair of Dad’s underwear three times and realize this is the moment.

I say, “Is there anything else you want to ask me?”

She says no, and I am certain she means it.

Something inside me clenches with fear so fiercely that rather than come out, I tiptoe forward.

I say, “Well, I’m pretty sure that I’m gay.”

She stops folding and says, “I’ll go get your Father.”

Also not in the plan.

The other night I went to see a friend perform in a production of Oklahoma! She was amazing, and the bunch of us that attended were very proud. Also, we sat in the second row which is really not the best idea for a musical. The truth is, you need a little physical distance from people who burst into song every few moments.

At any rate, there’s a scene in which the “bad guy,” Jud, sings a song that turns into a monotone dirge about his own death. The line he sings is: “Poor Jud is dead. A candle lights his head.”

This is the very line my Mom would sing to us when she woke us when we were kids, or if she caught us dozing off somewhere, or if we were being overly dramatic teenagers who might “die” if we didn’t get to [insert the thing we wanted to do here]. So here I am at the play the other night, laughing uncontrollably at a scene which is decidedly not funny, all because my Mom sang that bit to me at least a thousand times.

I am certain that using that line to wake her slumbering babes was never part of her plan. I mean, at least I hope it wasn’t, because talk about dark…However, it is for just this reason and a thousand others that I love her, that I find her maddening and irreplaceable and funny and frustrating and perfectly mine. Happy Mother’s Day, Mama, there’s simply no one quite like you.

Love,

Jenny

Tales from the “way back”

This is for you, Steph.

I grew up in suburban New Jersey in the late seventies and eighties in a tight-knit neighborhood full of kids. In those days, my best friends and most everything I loved or needed was a short walk away.

We played outside for hours at a stretch – in the creek, trees, streets, backyards, and basements.

We lived by simple truths:

Older brothers and sisters were in charge.

Mr. Rosenberg made the best pancakes.

The O’Connors had the biggest kickball team (11).

But perhaps one of the greatest but forgotten places to be during my childhood were the far flung regions of my friend’s parents’ station wagon – what we called “the way back.”

1970-Kingswood-Wagon“Can we sit in the ‘way back’?” was our plaintive plea at the announcement of every road trip, grocery store run, or rainy day ride to school.

In literal terms, the “way back” was so physically far from the front seat it may has well been in a different universe, which I suppose, lent it its magic.

I remember crawling over the back seat to the “way back,” the scratchy feel of the avocado felt, like the fuzz of a new tennis ball, wiry enough to give you a rug burn, soft enough for hours of travel or adventure.

1976_Chevy_CapriceSometimes we leaned against the leather-covered sideboards. Sometimes we lay on our backs, heads close to the back door and watched the sky whisk by, thin clouds racing, sunlight and shadows making patterns across our faces. On long trips, we made beds out of sleeping bags and pillows in Stars Wars and Muppet Show pillowcases.

The “way back” was a safe zone. You were much less likely to get pinched or punched or kicked or glared at by an older sibling if you were there.

On some summer evenings, while our parents sat in lawn chairs, talked and smoked (it was the ‘70s) in the backyard, we kids hung out in the front yard and driveway – sometimes sitting in the parked “way back” with the door open, like a kind of club house.

What I didn’t realize when I started digging into my “way back” memories is that the station wagon was much more than fun for us kids. It was a literal vehicle of empowerment and independence during the ‘70s. It was a call to take to the open road.

Don’t think so?

Think of The Brady Brunch journeying to the Grand Canyon.

snapshot200911012324144109

Think of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, the movie on which the sitcom “Alice” was based. Alice packed up everything she owned in her station wagon, and she and her young son set out on a journey to find a better life. The station wagon their transitional home, big enough to hold all or most of their possessions, big enough to sleep in if they had to.

alice_p3

Think of One Day At A Time. Ann Romano as the quintessential ‘70s single Mom divorcee. She dumped her husband and packed up her girls and her life in their station wagon – and unpacked and remade them all in an apartment of their own, on their own.

bonniefranklinAnd, let we forget, perhaps the most memorable station wagon of all, from National Lampoon’s Vacation.

national-lampoons-vacation-1024x576

I’m assuming the station wagon went out of fashion fast when the gas crisis hit, and when times got better, someone came up with the next generation: the minivan.

God, forgive us.

I guess the “way back” is gone forever. Children without seat belts romping around in the backs of fast-moving cars? Well, no.

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Oh, 1970s, we miss you and your cavalier attitude, your winged hair, your independence.

Kristy+Mcnichol+11

But mostly, we miss the “way back.”

Hey Fella

Dad in the middle.

You put yourself through college playing gigs and working odd shifts at the local hospital.

Were you buddies with the other guys in the picture?

Is one of them actually Al Anderson?

In my head I hear you say, “They were all nice fellas.” That was one of your words.

Years later, when I was about eight, you said to six of my boy friends who were playing a bit too rough for your liking, “Hey fellas, take it easy.”

To this day I’m not sure if they stopped because of the inherent authority of your presence, or because they were so startled by the word “fellas.”

You called Steve, my brother, “Ace.”

Even me, once in a while too.

Neither of us knows from where that came.

I imagine you taking a break at that gig in the picture. Outside the back door of this school auditorium? Dance hall? It’s freezing cold, and you’re all hunched over in stiff tuxedos with smoky breaths rising, cigarettes cupped in your hands. You talk about what song to play next, which girl is the prettiest, how much snow will fall.

Isn’t it funny, this life you had? I’ve spent countless years trying to understand the Dad you were. These days I wonder about the younger you…before you were a Dad, a husband, a businessman, a coach. When you were just a horn player. Just a fella.

Love

Love is patient, kind…and sometimes wears a monkey hat.

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Love is not proud…unless it has a mink stole and a walkin’ stick, y’all!

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Love keeps your food delicious…and free of extraneous hair.

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Love is a DRAG QUEEN.

Duh.

Everyone knows that.

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Love is freedom and equality for all.

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Love is the Pig Power t-shirt your Grandma did not understand, nor approve of, but never said a word about.

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Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours.

A portrait of the loud laugher as a young child

My Dad was a sensitive guy.

Sometimes it seemed like the whole world was too much for him.

Too loud. Too odiferous. Too crowded. Too bright. Too fast.

When overwhelmed by his senses, he raised one eyebrow in disapproval, lowered his newspaper, looked over at whoever was nearby, shook his head, muttered something inaudible, raised the paper again.

Mom called him, “The Nose,” because he could sniff out even a hint of spice or seasoning the second he walked in the door.

“Is that garlic?” he’d bellow, nose wrinkled in disgust.

Hardly.

Due to his sensitivity, we were raised on the blandest food, only ever-so-slightly salted.

Which might explain my lifelong longing for flavorful food.

Please, pass the garlic!

One night at home many years ago, I laughed hard at something and saw him out of the corner of my eye, fake-wincing in pain at the decibel level of my guffaw.

Which made me laugh even harder.

I said, “Sorry, Daddy,” not really meaning it.

He smiled broadly, shook his head in disbelief and said tiredly, but with love, “You’ve had that laugh since you were a little, little girl.”

Young loud laugher
Young loud laugher