Being a lifelong skier, I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that the Eskimos have 30 different words for “snow.” wouldn’t it be amazing if we had that many ways to describe love? With Valentine’s Day approaching this month, it’s a great time to reflect on what love means to you. Here at Sensi, we are all about showing love. And we invite you to join us.
We’re living and carrying forward the ethos of Sensi as we continue to celebrate a new year and a new decade.
“In a world where so many have fought to love one another, February is our month to celebrate that love is love,” Sensi Pittsburgh publisher Gina Vensel told me last month as we were putting this issue together. “And the love we share is compassionate and filled with a giving spirit and understanding heart.”
But one thing we know to be true: When you think about love, you think about music. And given that music is one of our greatest loves here at Sensi, we wanted to bring you as much musical inspiration as possible this month. February is also Black History Month, and in this issue, we take a look into the history jazz, a truly American musical genre, forged in large part by African Americans, that many of us feel a special connection to and gratitude for.
Thanks for picking up the magazine and for coming along for the ride. We love you.
Check out our intrepid roundup of things to do to follow your desires during the month of love. From jazz to opera, classic cocktails, networking sessions, and love-themed events, get out on the town during the month of February. There’s a medical marijuana educational seminar you don’t want to miss, along with a talk on Buddhism and Psychedelics (we’ve added that one to our personal calendars). Whether it’s fashion, music, art, food and drink, or polar plunges you’re interested in, we’ll help you find it. Read on for events to fill your own calendar. Now get out there, Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh Opera’s production of The Last American Hammer (Feb. 22, 25, 28; March 1) at the Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters in Pittsburgh’s Strip District promises an engaging and surprising introduction to opera for new audiences. With a run time of only 75 minutes, it’s approachable to first-time operagoers.
The Last American Hammer will star current and former Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artists and be performed in an intimate setting. The opera is sung in English with supertitles projected above the stage. The Pittsburgh events mark only the second set of performances of this opera. It premiered in Washington D.C.’s Atlas Performing Arts Center in September 2018.
The action of the performance unfolds in a rural Toby jug museum in rural Ohio, where conspiracy theorist Milcom Negley holds a rare, 17th-century British pitcher hostage with a hammer. Negley, a one-man militia, rages against the tyranny of federal overreach.
Negley is a “Thirteenther”—he believes an obscure, would-be Thirteenth Amendment negates the authority of our government. He occupies the museum because it is the only place left in town to receive federal funds—a grant for the upkeep of a rare 17th-century British pitcher known as “Sir Oswyn.”
Although Negley expects to be swarmed by military drones, attention is paid only by Agent Reyes, a young rookie FBI field specialist. Negley explains that the town’s only major source of employment—a hammer manufacturer—has gone under, leaving the residents lost. He is armed with the last hammer to roll off the plant’s line and intends to hold a proxy trial against the US government using Toby jugs as physical stand-ins for a court. Toby Jugs are pottery jugs in the form of a seated person. (The real American Toby Jug Museum is in Evanston, Illinois.)
Though many think of opera as a waning 19th-century art form, a tremendous wave of new operas is currently revitalizing the genre with timely stories and fresh approaches. “People have stereotypical views about operas such as: ‘they’re all hundreds of years old, set in other countries, and are performed in large concert halls in a foreign language.’ Those operas do exist (we are doing two of them later this spring–Carmen and Norma), but The Last American Hammer is different. It’s in English, it premiered last year, it takes place in present-day America, and it’s being performed in a 195-seat venue,” says Chris Cox, director of marketing and communications for the Pittsburgh Opera. “This show could definitely change the way some people think about opera. The art form is actually in the midst of a Renaissance, with a large volume of new works being produced, many of them contemporary chamber pieces—in English—designed for intimate venues like ours.” It’s also notable that Pittsburgh Opera is doing a brand-new production of Hammer. The company will make its own sets and costumes—different from those featured in the world premiere. “That’s also something many folks don’t realize about opera: it’s not a traveling Broadway show that rolls from town to town. These performances will have their own separate cast, musicians, sets, and costumes,” Cox says. “Another little-known-fact about opera is that the singers don’t use microphones.”
The production highlights members of Pittsburgh Opera’s Resident Artist program, which has been a launch pad to international prominence for many young singers. Urban Arias, which commissioned the piece, describes it as “a satirical but heartfelt examination of the fallout that occurs when the American Dream fails to materialize. [It] features a bluegrass-infused score that brings American roots to the operatic stage.” Composer Peter Hilliard will attend the Feb. 25 performance and librettist Matt Boresi will be in town through opening night.
Jan. 20–Feb. 18 Aquarius Sometimes you do know what’s best for the people you love, but this month is all about celebrating what people can do without your assistance. Explore your own potential without the burden of helping others.
Feb. 19–March 20 Pisces Don’t be surprised if a new job or major project presents itself to you. As reluctant as you may be to let go of your current situation, your legacy may be better served by considering what the universe is offering.
March 21–April 19 Aries Concentrate on loving yourself this month. It’s not about proving yourself; it’s about filling yourself up and supporting your unique energy. February resonates with the signs of Aquarius (power of mind) and Pisces (power of intuitive). These are the elements to balance.
April 20–May 20 Taurus You will meet two amazing people. The man is a leader in his industry who has earned everything he has. The woman is unconditional love in action. Pay attention to the impression they leave with you.
May 21–June 20 Gemini You may feel frustrated that some people are questioning your credibility. They may not be the people to align with in the future. However, if these people have struck a nerve, that may indicate a skill to hone.
June 21–July 22 Cancer Ignore any past “stuff” this month. Although you may feel an innate obligation to heal, it is not your responsibility to do so. It’s time to forget the past and move forward. Trust yourself enough to enjoy this life.
July 23–Aug. 22 Leo Claim your spotlight this month. This is the month of announcements and commitments to a new future. The unjust element of last year has finally fallen away, and as such, your mojo and energy are (again) being celebrated.
Aug. 23–Sept. 22 Virgo Are you being stingy with your power? Have you done for people at the same level that they have done for you? Have you kept your promises? Are you telling the truth (not your version of it)? Balance the scales: reciprocity is your gift this month.
Sept. 23–Oct. 22 Libra Perhaps your dream is about to be fulfilled because you take an interest in your art or hobby. The more interested you are in the people who have followed their dreams, the more ideas and inspiration come to you.
Oct. 23–Nov. 21 Scorpio There are people who deserve your forgiveness. The grudge(s) you’re hanging onto could hinder the good energy coming toward you. There may be a new career opportunity that presents itself by the end of May, though you may hear about it this month.
Nov. 22–Dec. 21 Sagittarius You’re discovering what love means. You’ve figured out the emotional and financial issues and gotten yourself back on track. Your priorities are moving in the right direction, and you’ve accepted what you can and cannot do. Blessings on all of this!
Dec. 22–Jan. 19 Capricorn There’s a mistaken belief that Capricorns are cold and unemotional. Nothing could be further from the truth. You are drawn to puppies and kittens and are incredibly loyal to long-time relationships. You feel things to the core of your being; it’s time to let others see a glimpse of that.
Loneliness is a killer, more dangerous than obesity and smoking. Studies have found it leads to heart disease, stroke, and immune system problems, and it could even impair cancer recovery. A researcher at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark found loneliness a strong predictor of premature death, declining mental health, and lower quality of life in cardiovascular patients, and a Brigham Young University professor’s meta-analysis of studies from around the world found that socially isolated adults have a 50 percent greater risk of dying from any cause than people who have community.
That’s sobering, especially when you consider that 40 percent of American adults suffer from loneliness, according to an AARP study. And it’s one reason coliving—a new form of housing in which residents with similar interests, values, or intentions share living space, costs, and amenities—is exploding.
Coliving situations run a spectrum, from the resident-driven model to small homes with a half-dozen or so people to massive corporate complexes like The Collective tower with 550 beds in London. Residents, who stay anywhere from a few days to several years and usually don’t have to sign a lease or pay a security deposit, sleep in their own small private rooms (sometimes with bathrooms) and share common spaces such as large kitchens and dining areas, gardens, and work areas. They’re encouraged to interact with one another, often through organized happy hours and brunches. Ollie, which operates coliving spaces in New York and other cities, advertises that “friends are included.”
“Coliving is different than just having roommates, who may be people you found on Craigslist and just happen to share [your] living space. It’s done with more intention,” says Christine McDannell, who lived in unincorporated coliving houses for years before she launched Kindred Quarters, a coliving operator with homes in San Diego and Los Angeles, in 2017.
Author of The Coliving Code: How to Find Your Tribe, Share Resources, and Design Your Life, McDannell also runs Kndrd, a software company for coliving managers and residents, and she hosts the weekly Coliving Code Show every Wednesday on YouTube, iTunes, Soundcloud, and coliving.tv. She has watched—and helped—the industry grow up, and she’s amazed at how few, if any, horror stories she hears. That’s largely because millennials—by far the largest demographic among colivers—are accustomed to sharing and being held accountable through online reviews, she adds.
“You just don’t hear the crazy stories about roommating with strangers in an unfamiliar city,” she says. “When people write bad reviews, it’s usually about the Wi-Fi.”
As companies fat with funding expand into cities across the globe, coliving is newly corporatized—but it’s hardly a novel concept. Boarding houses provided rooms and shared meals for single men and women in the 19th and early 20th centuries; one of the most famous, the Barbizon Hotel in New York, was a “club residence for professional women” from 1927 until the 1980s.
People lived communally throughout most of history until industrialization facilitated privatization of family life and housing throughout the 20th century—with a few disruptions. In Israel, people have been living in communal villages called kibbutzim for more than 100 years. In the US, hippies attempted to create communes in the 1960s, but they were destroyed by free love, drugs, and egos (which did a lot to discourage coliving, even today).
At the same time in Denmark, however, cohousing (an earlier iteration of coliving) was emerging as a way to share childcare. Today, more than 700 communities thrive in Denmark. In Sweden, the government provides cohousing facilities.
A handful of cohousing communities following the Danish model have been established in the US, and hacker houses are common in tech capitals like Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas, but the concept has been slow to catch on until recently.
As it becomes increasingly impossible for mere mortals to afford skyrocketing rents in desirable cities, Americans are coming around to coliving and finding creative solutions to all sorts of social issues. Older women are shacking up together following the Golden Girls model. Coabode.org matches single moms who want to raise kids together. At Hope Meadows in Chicago, retirees live with foster kids.
The opportunity to pay lower rent (in many but not all cases) and share expenses makes all the difference in places like New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Los Angeles. When New York–based coliving operator Common opened a development with 24 furnished spaces in Los Angeles for between $1,300 and $1,800 a month, more than 9,000 people applied.
McDannell says coliving is exploding because it solves important challenges that plague modern society. “People are signing away their paychecks on rent and feeling increasingly isolated,” she wrote in “Why We’re Building a CoLiving Community Ecosystem” on LinkedIn. “It is due time that HaaS (Housing as a Service) disrupts the antiquated industry of property management and real estate.”
A new book explores the evolution, style, and intrigue of the running shoe. Read
The Prairie State becomes the first state to legalize recreational marijuana by state legislation. Read
The newly opened Bar Botanico in Lawrenceville is a hip new spot. Read
Pittsburgh’s blossoming Sharpsburg neighborhood has a hip new gallery called Zynka. Read
Our editor-in-chief’s hottest hits of the month. Read
Seattle-based OLEO offers a variety of delicious powdered CBD drink mixes that are 100 percent THC-free. Read
Indulge your sweet tooth this Valentine’s Day at Pittsburgh’s first Chocolate, Wine & Whiskey Fest. Read
Backes discusses the crucial differences between unregulated and medical marijuana. Read
Calling All Sneakerheads
A new book explores the evolution, style, and intrigue of the running shoe.
In Kicksology: The Hype, Science, Culture & Cool of Running Shoes, author Brian Metzler delves deep into the stories and hype of shoes and brands that have made running cool—and certain kicks that are collectible-worthy. He examines every facet of this lucrative, innovative, and massively popular industry with insider access, following the rise and innovation of running shoes through major cultural fads, attempts at injury prevention, and techy experiments done in the name of speed and performance.
To research the book, Metzler went overseas to factories where shoes are built and into brick-and-mortar shops facing extinction. Adding to the wealth of shoe intrigue, he interviewed Olympians, ultrarunners, and other celebrities of the sport like Kara Goucher, Scott Jurek, and Deena Kastor, who add personal anecdotes around their own favorites. Metzler is a sports journalist who has tested more than 1,500 pairs of running shoes and has raced every distance from 50 yards to 100 miles.
Illinois Goes Legal
The Prairie State becomes the first state to legalize recreational marijuana by state legislation.
The state legislature of Illinois rang in the new year and made history as the first state in the US voting to pass a cannabis regulation and tax act as a piece of state legislation. All other sales legalizations have been passed in their respective states through voter initiatives, so the Illinois state legislature has distinguished itself by being the first to legally support and organize the cannabis industry in such a way. The Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act will help to support the 96,000 and counting Illinois residents who rely on medical marijuana programs, as well as offer an organized atmosphere for recreational users. The act will also provide the state of Illinois with billions of dollars in cannabis sales funds and set a precedent for other states.
The newly opened Bar Botanico in Lawrenceville is a hip new spot on Butler Street that takes “chef’s choice” to a whole new level. The eatery has no set menu. Diners discuss their likes, dislikes, and dietary needs with their server, and then the chef prepares a custom meal based on those preferences. When the plate arrives, it’s a surprise. For foodies looking for fresh meals and craft cocktails, check out this inventive new hot spot.
Debut Exhibition Sizzles
Pittsburgh’s blossoming Sharpsburg neighborhood has a hip new gallery called Zynka, owned and operated by Jeffrey Jarzynka. The success of the opening exhibit Current: The Art of Now in Pittsburgh, a collaboration with The Andy Warhol Museum, was so successful that it was extended into early January.
By Stephanie Wilson, Editor in Chief
1. Primary Focus A New Hampshire law requires the Granite State to be the first presidential primary in the nation. This election cycle, that goes down on February 11, after which my home state becomes irrelevant for another four years.
2. Leap of Faith While the calendar year is 365 days, it takes the Earth 365.24 days to orbit the sun. Every four years, we add an extra day to the month of February because without it, the calendar would be misaligned with the seasons by 25 days after just 100 years.
3. Born This Way The odds of being a “leapling”—a person born on a leap day—is 1 in 1,461.
4. Right On On February 29, some places celebrate Bachelor’s Day or Sadie Hawkins Day—both a nod to the old Irish tradition that gave women the right to propose marriage to a man on leap day. If he declined, he was required by law to pay a penalty, often in the form of gloves so she could hide the shame of her bare ring finger.
5. Modern Love Since we’re not all Irish, but we are all feminists (because we all believe in the equality of the sexes, of course), any of us can propose to whomever our heart desires whenever we want. Except Valentine’s Day. There’s no law prohibiting it but, sweetie, pay-as-you-go forced romance is anything but romantic.
6. PETA Violation The origins of the canned-love holiday are as cruel as a red rose delivery in February is clichéd. According to NPR, V-day traces back to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a brutal fete during which naked men sacrificed dogs and goats—and whipped women with the animal hides. Stop, in the name of love.
Oleo CBD Brand Plays to the Active Lifestyle
Ideal for athletes, fitness enthusiasts, outdoor adventurers, and anyone enjoying an active lifestyle, Seattle-based OLEO offers a variety of delicious powdered CBD drink mixes that are 100 percent THC-free and are designed to help support total body recovery and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle on-the-go. OLEO is the only CBD company using proprietary and patent-pending micro-encapsulation technology that converts 100 percent THC-free, pure CBD oil into a water-soluble powder known as OleoCBDTM. OleoCBD powdered beverage mix offers double the bioaccessibility in comparison to regular CBD and CBD oil. That means that your body can absorb the highest possible amount of the active ingredient because this proprietary powdered CBD is twice as absorbable. The micro-encapsulation process also removes any bitter aftertaste, allowing OLEO to offer a variety of drink mixes that range from completely flavorless to delicious and rejuvenating flavors.
Available in single-serving, on-the-go packets or multi-serving jars, OLEO drink mixes combine the benefits of 25 mg of OleoCBDTM per serving with the power of functional ingredients such as freeze-dried coconut water and real rooibos and black tea, available with or without caffeine to either energize or unwind. All of OLEO’s drink mixes dissolve quickly into cold or hot water (or even in your post-workout smoothie), making it easy to consume at any point throughout the day to help support full body recovery after physical activity. The entire product line not only offers consistent made-in-the-USA quality, but it’s also guaranteed to consistently be 100 percent THC-free with zero intoxicating effects.
Trifecta of Worldly Pleasures
Indulge your sweet tooth this Valentine’s Day at Pittsburgh’s first Chocolate, Wine & Whiskey Fest, slated for February 15 at Rivers Casino. A celebration of all things rich and decadent, this festival boasts unlimited tastings of luxury chocolates, fine wines, and smooth whiskeys alongside treats like a fondue fountain and savory bites to balance it all out.
Solevo Wellness hosted author Michael Backes in Pittsburgh with a full house on December 16 to discuss medical marijuana and his book, Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijauna. Backes lays claim to founding the country’s first evidence-based dispensary over a decade ago, and he remains a leader in the medical marijuana industry. In his book, Backes discusses the crucial differences between unregulated and medical marijuana, how research into the character of the marijuana plant has helped establish safe and specific treatment strategies, and the rumors versus realities of proper medical marijuana practices. Solevo Wellness itself represents a slice of the cannabis industry dedicated to intensive medical marijuana care, and the brand welcomed Michael Backes as a valued partner in the community.
You know you need to exercise and socialize, but it’s all you can do to drag yourself to work in the dark, try to focus while you’re there, then drag yourself back home in the dark.
Maybe you rely a little too much on your favorite substance to numb your aggro. Maybe you binge on pretzel crisps, then beat yourself up because you should be eating kale chips—or no chips at all.
You wonder why you’re even on this cold, bleak planet. Every morning you want to pull the covers over your head and pretend your life isn’t happening. Some days you do.
For about five percent of Americans, this nightmare is a recurring reality. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) settles in just as winter does and doesn’t lift until spring. It’s been plaguing humans for centuries—French physician Philippe Pinel noted the onset of mental deterioration in psychiatric patients in his 1806 Treatise on Insanity—but it wasn’t included in the American Psychiatric Association’s official manual until 1987.
While studying the impact of light on mental health in the early 1980s, National Institute of Mental Health researcher Norman Rosenthal discovered Seasonal Affective Disorder, a recurrent annual depression characterized by hypersomnia, social withdrawal, overeating and carbohydrate cravings, and a lack of sexual energy that seems to respond to changes in climate and latitude. About 1.5 percent of Floridians have SAD, Rosenthal found, compared with nearly 10 percent of New Hampshirites. No one knows why some people get SAD and others don’t. There seems to be a link to alcoholism as well as a genetic history of depression and bipolar disorder. Numerous studies have shown a correlation between SAD and the reduced ability to transport the mood-regulating neurotransmitter serotonin. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), people with SAD produce too much serotonin transporter protein in winter, leaving less of the “feel good” hormone available.
Rosenthal suggests lack of sunlight throws off circadian rhythm and interferes with the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for hormones. This causes abnormalities in the genes responsible for both serotonin transmission and retinal light sensitivity. Just recently, Johns Hopkins researchers discovered a third photo receptor in the eye that syncs our internal clocks with daylight and provides a direct pathway to the areas of the brain that affect mood—backing up the ocular part of Rosenthal’s theory.
When your brain stops producing serotonin, it starts pumping out melatonin, the sleep hormone that responds to darkness, instead. This naturally makes you lethargic and groggy, and your brain’s instinct to correct serotonin deficiency could be the cause of your monster carb cravings, according to NIMH.
Studies have also found a link between vitamin D, which the skin produces after sunlight exposure, and serotonin production. In northern climates, rays aren’t strong enough to trigger vitamin D production during winter months. This suggests that vitamin D supplements might help with SAD, but studies have been inconclusive.
There is no cure, per se, for SAD. The most prominent treatment is light therapy to replace sunlight with bright artificial light. You need to sit for about 30 minutes in the morning in front of a light box (readily available online) that exposes you to at least 10,000 lux of UV-free cool-white fluorescent or full-spectrum light—20 times more than regular indoor lighting. (You get 50,000 lux on a sunny day.)
The treatment is not unlike indoor tanning beds (but without the tan), and researchers speculate that frequent tanners might be self-medicating for SAD as much as getting their tans on. (Excessive indoor tanning is now recognized as a psychological disorder.) Red River College in Manitoba, Canada, offers light therapy stations for students who are suffering and also loans out portable SAD lamps.
Response to light therapy generally begins within a week or two, and its effectiveness seems to depend on how severe your SAD is. Studies have found that light treatment in the morning causes remission in two-thirds of patients with mild episodes but less than half with moderate to severe cases.
Light therapy is also being studied as a treatment for other types of depression, sleep disorders, and dementia, among other conditions. It’s not safe for people with diabetes and retinopathies and may contraindicate with certain medications.
Greens and Goals
Experts will try to tell you that your best bet for dealing with SAD is to get yourself up and out there, living your best life. This is clearly easier said than done when your serotonin-deprived, melatonin-drenched brain is begging for a long winter nap. You need outside help.
Lean on a good therapist or coach, in person or online, and let your inner circle know you need a little extra attention. Tell them not to take no for an answer when you try to weasel out of the Mardi Gras party. Find a workout buddy.
No matter what, succumbing to the urge to sink back under the covers will only make things worse. Sunlight is most effective against SAD in the morning, so that’s the time to get out there. An intense morning workout can do a lot—but again, be nice to yourself if you can’t make that happen. Taking a brisk walk whenever you can—even on cloudy days, sunlight filters through—is powerful medicine.
Moving your body, whether running or practicing yoga, and eating a diet rich in protein and greens are helpful when SAD is hovering. It also can’t hurt to give yourself something to live for as the dreary months drag along. Set short-term goals and see yourself reaping the benefits in the spring. This could be as simple as knitting an afghan, reading a classic, or trimming your fall harvest—anything you find worth getting out of bed for.
Those instincts to pull the duvet over your head and sleep the winter away aren’t wrong, by the way. Humans evolved to be less active in winter because they needed to save energy when food was scarce, but modern Type A culture never cuts us any slack—even when we’re going to and coming home from work in the dark.
Humans have used color to express ideas and emotion for thousands of years, according to color specialist and trend forecaster Leatrice Eisman. As executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, Eisman is the world’s leading authority on the topic of color, authoring many books on the subject. In The Complete Color Harmony, Eisman describes how even the most subtle nuances in color can result in shades that excite or calm, pacify or energize, and even suggest strength or vulnerability. “They can nurture you with their warmth, soothe you with their quiet coolness, and heighten your awareness of the world around you. Color enriches our universe and our perception of it,” she writes.
According to her research, we all respond to color at a very visceral level, associating specific hues with another time or place. “Color invariably conveys moods that attach themselves to human feelings or reactions,” she notes. “Part of our psychic development, color is tied to our emotions as well as our intellect. Every color has meaning that we either inherently sense or have learned by association and/or conditioning, which enables us to recognize the messages and meanings delivered.”
It’s with all this in mind that she and a team of experts choose the Pantone Color of the Year, which the institute has named annually for more than two decades, gaining more attention and having more impact with each passing declaration. So this year, expect to see a lot of blue. The 2020 Pantone Color of the Year is known as Classic Blue.
Describing the shade as “evocative of the nighttime sky,” Eisman explains the choice: “We are living in a time that requires trust and faith It is this kind of constancy and confidence that is expressed by Classic Blue, a solid and dependable blue hue we can always rely on.”
She contends that Classic Blue encourages us to look beyond the obvious, expand our thinking, open the flow of communication. Her comments are rooted in color theory, which says that a good part of the emotions that colors evoke is tied to natural phenomena. Classic Blue is the color of outer space (look beyond), of the celestial sky (look beyond), of the deep ocean (open the flow).
One of the earliest formal explorations of color theory came from German poet and politician Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. His 1820 book Theory of Colours explored the psychological impact of colors on mood and emotion. Yellow, Goethe wrote, is the color nearest the light, yet when applied to dull, coarse surfaces, it is no longer filled with its signature energy. “By a slight and scarcely perceptible change, the beautiful impression of fire and gold is transformed into one not undeserving the epithet foul; and the colour of honour and joy reversed to that of ignominy and aversion.”
Of red: “All that we have said of yellow is applicable here, in a higher degree.” Goethe’s theories continue to intrigue, possibly because of the lyrical prose rather than its scientific facts.
Today, it’s generally accepted that shades of blue are associated with steady dependability, calm, and serenity. Yellow evokes the color of the sun, associated with warmth and joy. Green connects with nature, health, and revival. White stands for simplicity; black for sophistication.
A 1970s study on the body’s physiological responses to colors revealed that warm hues (red, orange, yellow—the colors of the sun) aroused people troubled with depression and increased muscle tone or blood pressure in hypertensive folks. Cool colors (green, blue, violet) elicited the reverse, but the important finding was that all colors produced clinically tangible results.
It’s not woo-woo science; humans have been using color as medicine, a practice known as chromotherapy, since ancient Egypt. In fact, chromotherapy is as tested a practice as any other alternative medicine—Ayurveda, acupuncture, homeopathy, aromatherapy, reflexology. While it is widely accepted that color affects one’s health—physically, mentally, emotionally—more studies are needed to determine the full scope of impact as well as its potential to help heal.
This isn’t a new theory, either. In the late 1800s, rays of color/light were shown to affect the blood stream. Later research found color to be “a complete therapeutic system for 123 major illnesses,” according to a critical analysis of chromotherapy published in 2005 by Oxford University Press. Today, bright white, full-spectrum light is being used in the treatment of cancers, seasonal affective disorder, anorexia, bulimia, insomnia, jet lag, alcohol and drug addiction, and more. Blue light is used to help treat rheumatoid arthritis. Red light helps with cancer and constipation. And that’s just the beginning.
On the Bright Side
When your physical landscape is devoid of bright, vibrant hues, your emotional one is affected as well. That’s where color therapy comes in. It has a deep effect on physical, psychological, and emotional aspects of our lives, and it comes in many forms: light sessions that include color wheels. Colored crystal lights. Breathing in colors through meditation. Infrared saunas with chromotherapy add-ons.
There are actually many ways of adjusting the color in your life, and not all of them require a trip to see a specialist. Unlike trying to self-administer acupuncture (don’t do that), techniques can be as simple as putting on colorful attire or getting some bright throw pillows or plants. You can never have too many plants. And you should eat more plants, too, filling your plate with healthful fruits, vegetables, and spices from every part of the spectrum.
If a lack of sunlight has you feeling a lack of joy, paint your home or office—warm, vibrant yellows and oranges showcase excitement and warmth; browns and neutrals decidedly do not. Choose wisely. Painting not an option? Consider temporary wallpaper or hanging large artworks. On a budget? Head to the thrift shop and repurpose an old canvas by painting it white and then adding whatever hues you are vibing with this winter. If it doesn’t turn out well, cover it up with more white paint and start again.
Have fun with it, consider it art therapy.
There are also an array of therapeutic options popping up as add-ons, as wellness studios, spas, and alternative medicine practices incorporate chromotherapy treatments into their offerings. Many infrared saunas are starting to offer chromotherapy benefits, and the combination of the full-light spectrum and the heat effectively tricks the brain into thinking it spent a full day basking in the sun, causing it to release those sweet endorphins that flood your body when the warm rays of spring hit your face when you step outside. It feels good and really, that is everything. Color is everything.
We all know the great legends of the Pittsburgh sports teams and the legendary culinary contribution of Primanti Bros putting French fries on sandwiches, but many people may not be aware that the jazz legacy and heritage of Pittsburgh rivals any other city in the world.
Did you know that Pittsburgh–born pianist Mary Lou Williams was one of the first to pave the way for women instrumentalists in jazz? Or that Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington’s right hand man in composing, was also from Pittsburgh? How about that Pittsburgh-born Kenny Clarke took the drums from being an instrument strictly for keeping time to an instrument of wildly expressionistic purpose, paving the way for other drummers such as Pittsburgh’s Art Blakey and eventually Elvin Jones, who then deeply influenced rock ’n’ roll drummers such as Keith Moon and John Bonham? There are many more stories of luminaries from Pittsburgh who made such an important contribution to America’s classical music.
First, though, you have to understand what jazz music is. One way to understand jazz is as the confluence of African rhythmic sensibilities and European harmonic sensibilities on American soil, which is what makes it one of this country’s great exports.
In Pittsburgh, because of the city’s hills and limited transportation back in the day, schools were unable to enforce segregation like other cities were. Therefore, young black children were studying music with white European school teachers, learning European harmony way ahead of the curve, before others of the same age had the chance.
Back then, rivers were basically the highways, and Pittsburgh was more directly connected to New Orleans (the number-one jazz city historically) by River Boat culture. The musicians who played aboard the boats frequently stopped off and shared their music culture.
Also, because of the steel mill boom, the economy was strong and everybody had work. This led to many popular live music clubs, like the Hurricane and Crawford Grill in areas such as the Hill District and East Liberty, all hosting musicians playing popular music of the day.
There are more Steel City legends to celebrate. Pittsburgh Singer Billy Eckstine redefined jazz, singing through his rhythm and lyricism and in 1944 started one of the most important big bands of all time featuring future jazz luminaries Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Sarah Vaughan. Pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines, born in Pittsburgh, is regarded to be one of a small number of pianists whose playing shaped the history of jazz.
Two other pianists who many would agree belong on that short list as well are also Pittsburgh natives, Earl Hines and Ahmad Jamal. You can pretty much name an instrument, and there is a jazz musician from Pittsburgh who contributed greatly to its development within the jazz genre. Saxophone? Stanley Turrentine. Upright bass? Ray Brown. Trumpet? Tommy Turrentine. Guitar? George Benson. Trombone? Slide Hampton, and the list goes on.
The beautiful thing is that the jazz scene is still alive and well in Pittsburgh today, with world-class players, avid jazz fans, and a growing honor for the city’s jazz legacy. Pittsburgh is still known as a place that holds musicians who “swing hard” and play with deep soul. A friend told me about meeting world-famous jazz drummer Louis Hayes in New York City. My friend mentioned to Hayes that he was from Pittsburgh, and the drummer responded with one word: “Soulsville.”
One of the few remaining jazz drummers from the golden age of jazz is the 75-year-old Pittsburgh native Roger Humphries, who plays every Thursday at Con Alma in Shadyside. To hear Humphries play is to get a real glimpse and feeling of that deep soul and swing that Pittsburgh has contributed to the music.
There are also so many important jazz families in Pittsburgh whose third generation musicians carry the torch today, continuing to explore this incredibly important music in a way that is somehow so naturally Pittsburgh.
Maybe it’s something in the water or in the valley air. Whatever the reason, it’s a part of Pittsburgh’s identity and should not be forgotten, no matter how time rolls along like the lazy rivers that made this town. Some people say it takes a certain marriage of intellect and soul to not only play jazz music but to listen to it. This connects us back to that intersection of African rhythms and European harmony that makes this music so unique to American history and its continuing development. As Pittsburghers, we should be proud of and celebrate this great heritage.
The Anchor of Our Jazz Community
The Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG) is a school and musical preservation group rooted in the common vision born from founder Bill Strickland’s personal experience that, “Through direct involvement in the making of art and through exposure to the masters who teach and perform it, our lives will be enriched, even transformed.” As an extension, MCG Jazz’s mission is to preserve, present, and promote jazz, which they’ve been doing in a unique format with some of the greatest international names in the genre for more than 30 years.
In its private music hall near downtown Pittsburgh, MCG Jazz hosts performances that the guild says “strengthen the longtime Pittsburgh jazz community and contribute to the overall cultural and artistic diversity of the region.” Its live recordings reach a global audience. The guild’s educational programs allow students to attend sessions at a reduced cost, make artists available for master classes, provide internship opportunities.
Jazz greats including Joe Williams, Billy Taylor, Dizzy Gillespie, Stanley Turrentine, and Ray Brown have helped create more than 300 CDs in the MCG Jazz Archives, representing the past, present, and future of jazz music. The guild says the performance series—one of the oldest in the nation—is an anchor of Pittsburgh cultural and community life. Artists frequently return to create unique recordings on the MCG Jazz label, generously donating proceeds back to the guild in support of future programming.
Two years ago, the guild produced an incredible documentary entitled We Knew What He Had: The Greatest Jazz Story Never Told that explores the social conditions and historical events that came together to make Pittsburgh one of the leading contributors to the legacy of jazz music in the world. This one-hour program is packed with interesting interviews, historical photographs, and more than 20 live performance clips of the Jazz Masters, including George Benson, Ahmad Jamal, Stanley Turrentine, Billy Eckstine, Kenny Clarke, Art Blakey, Billy Strayhorn, Mary Lou Williams, and more—all Pittsburghers. The film was produced for a general audience and captures the spirit of a distinctly American art form, the character of a regional locale, and the soul of a hardy and determined people. Check your local listings and mcgjazz.org for programming.
Opened just last June on Ellsworth in Shadyside, Con Alma is nothing less than a continuation of the great Pittsburgh jazz tradition. This new restaurant and jazz bar is also an embodiment of the booming locavore trend—especially when it comes to consuming local music.
“The local movement…we’re doing that with a music genre, championing Pittsburgh jazz and its legacy exclusively. For it to exist on such a world-class level in a city of this size is really unique and special,” says John Shannon, music curator and co-owner of Con Alma.
Shannon says they almost exclusively book Pittsburgh-based jazz musicians: “Every night of the week, you can hear world-class jazz musicians because they live here.The scene here is really all about playing the music and serving family, or simply existing in a city that’s still livable. There’s really no other smaller city in America that has a jazz scene like this.”
Open seven nights a week starting in February, this new jazz bar is quickly becoming the “it” spot—and not just for the music.
Shannon says Con Alma, named for the 1954 jazz standard by Dizzy Gillespie, gets is cachet from the trifecta of its offerings: “It’s the sum of its parts—the music, food, and drink—that creates this other element, the atmosphere, throwing back to the days of an old Pittsburgh spot like the Hurricane or the Crawford Grill.”
Partner and chef Josh Ross, of the former Pirata downtown and Pan in Lawrenceville, has created a menu with nods to Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America. Meanwhile, partner Aimee Marshall heads up the beverage program, which features, not shockingly, Prohibition-style cocktails and drinks inspired by Old World Cuba.
The holidays are the best time to indulge with Southern Italian cuisine in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh. Browse and shop at the Downtown Holiday Market that takes place in Market Square and take in the tastes and smells of Italy with dishes crafted by one of Pittsburgh’s most renowned chefs, Domenico Cornacchia. Molinaro’s knowledgeable and famously friendly staff will assist you in selecting the best wines to pair with your holiday celebrations and toasts to the final days of 2019.
This cozy time of year can be hardon many people. Short days bring on depression, and the call to be happy and close to family can trigger difficult and deep-rooted pain. The city of Pittsburgh can be cold in the winter. But I think the stories in the pages of this magazine also prove that it’s a place where the community rallies to help those facing tough times. Our feature story on 412 Food Rescue proves that point. That people in Pittsburgh see themselves as a big family.
It’s a tough city. It’s a city that has seen boom, bust, and hard-nosed revival—and it’s a city full of love.
Gina Vensel, the publisher of Sensi Pittsburgh, epitomizes the way this city can unite to build a better place for everyone. I was lucky enough to be paired up with her during a team-building exercise at the annual Sensi Leadership Conference. She was born and raised here. She’s connected to Pittsburgh, from the nonprofit world to the local music scene. And she’s seen the community come together over tragedies and support one another after devastation.
When I asked Vensel what makes Pittsburgh such a powerful community, she said this: “To truly be Pittsburgh Strong, we need to set aside what makes us different and focus on what we share in common—living in one of the best cities in the world. My hope for Sensi Pittsburgh is to create a community of caring and compassionate readers who want to help one another and uplift the community. What better way to end the year than with community in mind? Smile at a stranger, donate to a cause that matters to you, take time for an old friend. When we take time to acknowledge that we are all in this together and to connect authentically, that is the true meaning of being Pittsburgh Strong.”
It’s people like Vensel, 412 Food Rescue’s Leah Lizarondo, and others you’ll read about in this magazine—whether they are working to ease pain though medical cannabis solutions, helping to feed the hungry, or just mixing up a holiday treat—who bring light to the dark days. Let’s all celebrate the vibrancy of this city this season.
I’m sitting at my desk in the early hours of the morning struggling to write the anecdotal opener to this story. There’s soft music playing, so soft I can hear Gidget’s content snores coming from the pineapple dome she sleeps in when I’m at my desk.
If the music were too loud, she would stomp as much as a chihuahua could out to the living room to get in her pressure-activated heated bed, engulfed by the soft white throw blanket I bought for myself. Gidget saw it, she liked it, she wanted it, she got it.
This is the way it works. The nails on my fingertips are past due for a manicure (Gidget got hers done today). My dinner was peanut butter spooned from the jar. Gidget dined on a gourmet blend specially formulated to deliver the exact level of antioxidants, vitamins, fiber, probiotics, and minerals she needs for optimal health. After dinner, she got a bath and a towel massage before tucking into the pineapple. That’s when I sat down to start writing.
I work hard so my dog can have a better life. The meme is real.
Hoomans and Floofers
I wouldn’t have it any other way. Gidget may be a furry freeloader, but she’s my furry freeloader and I love her hard. Because she is awesome. All dogs are. Fight me: I’m an elder millennial, and I’ve got a generational army of pet-pampering 20- and 30-somethings to back me up.
Millennials have been accused of killing a whole host of things.* Really, we’re just redirecting our limited discretionary funds to things we deem more worthy than, say, an intrinsically worthless shiny stone that De Beers’ marketing firm convinced Americans is a token of love and esteem that lasts forever. (Read: millennials are killing diamonds.)
Millennials do spend money on pets. This year, the US pet industry is projected to rake in $75.28 billion, up more than 30 percent since 2010 according to the American Pet Product Association (APPA). A majority of millennials (76 percent) would be more likely to splurge on luxury items like expensive treats or a custom bed for their pets than for themselves.
“The pet care industry is booming, as people around the world—especially millennials—blur the line between human child and animal,” according to Business Insider. The senior brand manager of Purina, Ryan Gass, suggests that millennials are putting off marriage and having children, turning to pets to “fill that void,” but I don’t know what void he’s talking about, so we’re moving on.
Millennials’ love for their pups is so intense, it’s spawned its own language. Us hoomans chase our heckin floofers, iPhones in hand, snapping pics of their snoots and bleps to share with frens, posting with captions about the goodest boy in the world.
This has all led to a rise in what more serious folks call the “humanization of pets.” Sounds ominous. But it indicates how much our lives and our pets’ lives are intertwined—and therefore following the same trends. And what’s trendier or more millennial than wellness, wellness everywhere?
In 1979, veteran journalist Dan Rather quipped during an episode of 60 Minutes, “Wellness…that’s a word you don’t hear every day.” Fast forward 40 years, and we’re hearing the word so much every day it’s almost lost all meaning. The fresh “pet wellness” phrase could mean pets are doing well overall or it could mean pets are judging you for not drinking kombucha.
Don’t worry, dogs don’t judge. But they are getting more probiotics in their diets, just not from kombucha. Probiotics in sales of pet foods grew by 139 percent last year, according to the Nielsen market report, “Trends in Pet Care Mirror Those of Pet Owners.” We eat super foods; our dogs eat super foods. We take CBD; our pups take CBD. We get massages; our dogs get massages. We have fitness studios where you can work out with your dog, acupuncture for pets, doggy day spas with swimming pools you can rent out for puppy parties.
Laying on Hands
Oh, yeah, and dog Reiki is a thing here, too. Gidget hasn’t tried it yet; she—like me—thinks it sounds a little bit woo-woo.
This is how Health mag describes the basic principle: “Energy medicine (or biofield therapies) is the act of channeling and manipulating the energy that courses through your body in order to heal it. This can be done with hands-on practices such as acupuncture and Reiki, as well as sensory-based experiences, like the use of crystals, sound baths, and aromatherapy.”
In Denver, Zen Pet is all about these modalities. Run by Dr. Becca Klobuchar, the mobile holistic veterinary medicine’s range of services is rooted in energy balancing and Chinese medicine.
“I began exploring holistic therapies in an effort to provide pets with additional healing options when traditional treatments were unsuccessful,” says Klobuchar. “The intuitive treatment modalities I use approach pets’ health from the physical, energetic, and spiritual perspectives.”
The energy balancing service is based on the concept that all living things have their own energy field that, when not in balance, can lead to disease, emotional stress, and pain. During a session, the ancient practice of “laying on of hands” transmits the healing energy of the universe through the practitioner to the animal for healing effects.
While energy medicine is the farthest mystical extreme of the modern wellness world, there are some forms backed by science. Acupuncture, for one, and even Reiki. Health reports that a 2010 review of research in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine found strong evidence that bio- field therapies such as Reiki and therapeutic touch can alleviate pain.
The caveat: It could be a placebo effect, and our pups aren’t swayed by the power of suggestion. But if you think it’s working for her, then the session is working—for you. It’s called the “caregiver placebo effect,” and there’s nothing wrong with it. As long as it’s used in conjunction with traditional vet visits—a supplemental part of a whole wellness plan.
Chiro for Canines
Dog chiropractic is an another emerging field gaining traction as a beneficial supplemental treatment therapy. At Denver Central Chiropractic (DCC) in Centennial, Dr. Erin Moran is providing holistic health care to both people and pets—“holistic health care for you and your dogs.” While it’s still an emerging field, animal chiropractic at its core follows the same principles and practices as the human kind. She suggests you consider chiropractic treatments if your pooch is showing signs of pain: reluctant to climb stairs, difficulty getting up after laying down, constantly licking or chewing paws, walking differently.
“Dogs get the same back issues as people, and chiropractic is a great option to address those issues without the use of drugs or surgery,” says Moran. “People get great results from seeing a chiropractor, and I want people to know that their dog can experience the same benefits.”
It’s a nonsurgical, drug-free option for correcting disorders related to a fixation in the spine or joint. When vertebrae become immovable through trauma, injury, or standard wear-and-tear, the joints between them become jammed, often affecting the nerves in the congested area. Those nerves are the communication link between the brain and the spinal cord, so when they are out of order, it can set off a cascade of effects that leads to pain and loss of function.
But pets can’t tell us where they hurt or why they’re limping, so treatments are a bit more complicated. When working with animals, Moran looks for abnormal or restricted movement, with a goal of restoring it to reduce pain and improve mobility.
“The results I’ve seen have been amazing,” she says. Moran has helped dogs who have lost the use of their back legs because of slipped discs; after adjustments, they’re able to regain use of their legs and walk again. She also treats arthritic dogs, “getting the pep back in their step so they can have a better quality of life.”
Healthy pets can experience benefits of spine checkups, too, she points out—especially active and athletic ones. The DCC website is clear that the practice is not meant to replace veterinary medicine. Rather, animal chiropractors work in conjunction with veterinarians, treating areas that often go unnoticed by traditional care.
And that pain in your back as a result of hunching over your desk spoon-feeding yourself peanut butter while your pooch snuggles in your new comforter? As it turns out, living with a dog is good for human health as well. Having a pet lowers stress, reduces blood pressure, and may even help you live longer. So says science. So they deserve to live the same aspirational lifestyle to which we have made them accustomed. It’s the least we can do to repay the unconditional love
At the end of October, the Wall Street Journal ran an article titled “Cannabis Open Houses Are Putting the High in High-End Real Estate.” The trend piece by author Katherine Clarke revealed the emerging discovery being used by developers and real-estate agents to move luxe properties in communities where recreational cannabis is not just legal but widely accepted.
It’s not unlike Los Angeles, where the rising industry is being hailed as an untapped source for buyers of high-priced homes. Throwing cannabis-related events—everything from elaborate seven-course pairing dinners with vapes in lieu of vino to live trimming classes—at multimillion-dollar properties on the market is garnering attention, building social buzz, and attracting buyers with money earned in, around, or on cannabis.
Not everyone sees the genius behind the trend, however. Clarke spoke to one agent in New York, where recreational cannabis is still a pipe dream and old tropes live on about munchie-motivated stoners. “When I think about cannabis, I don’t think about buying an expensive house,” says Warburg Realty’s Jason Haber. “It’s not a call for action as much as a call for Doritos.”
Someone should tell him friends don’t let friends make tired stoner jokes anymore. Especially ones implying cannabis consumers indulge their munchies with mindless consumption of unhealthy snacks when the reality is cannabis appeals to what The Economist dubs the “health-conscious inebriate,” citing a poll that 72 percent of American consumers thought cannabis was safer than alcohol. A 2018 The New Yorker headline declared cannabis to be a wellness industry in California where, in fact, a cannabinoid cousin of THC and CBD is starting to garner a whole lot of buzz. Instead of stimulating appetites, THCV may suppress those hunger pangs. When 2021 is declared the year of THCV, you can say you heard it here first.
Consumption and consumerism
Cannabis has moved so far beyond the clichés of yore. Tie-dye tees, bell-bottom cords, dancing bear patches, plastic bongs, Ziploc baggies: these tired trends are so out of style, some have already circled back and left again. (Looking at you, tie-dye.) The stoner kids of yesterday are the cannabis entrepreneurs, enthusiasts, and connoisseurs of today. And as they’ve aged, their tastes in cannabis aged with them, like the fine wine they can now afford. Cannabis consumers have money to burn.
And since we live in a capitalist society (an unjust one where people remain locked up for nonviolent drug charges in states that earn taxes off now-legal cannabis sales—that’s a whole layered story for a different day), money makes things happen. And what’s happening now is the emergence of a cannabis experience elevated to a higher level.
If you were paying attention to the pop-culture cues over the decades, you would have seen the high-end highs coming. When cannabis prohibition began its slow-and-steady march to its forthcoming end, it emerged from the black market with an established following of consumers—loyal cannabis consumers with no brand loyalty, because cannabis brands didn’t exist. Dealers did, growers did, activists, advocates, and believers, too. But the concept of cannabis brands was all brand-new.
With strict laws surrounding where the substance can be marketed, sold, advertised, distributed, and more, establishing customer loyalty in this industry is more difficult than it would seem on the surface. What differentiates one edible brand from another, one vape pen from the next is complicated to discern for those who aren’t well versed in the modern verbiage or its meaning. (Full-spectrum distillate, live resin, 2:1 ratios, oh my!)
This is where marketing and branding comes into play. And with marketing and branding comes the emergence of new market segments, including the ultra-luxury category. It is from within that category that future trends are likely to emerge. That’s how trends play out, as Miranda Priestly (played by Meryl Streep) explained to her new assistant in one iconic scene of The Devil Wears Prada. (If you haven’t seen it in a while, a quick refresher: “The color of the shirt you are wearing right now was determined years ago by high-end designers preparing their collections for fashion week runways.”)
Trickle-down trends are a hierarchical process whereby individuals with high status establish fashion trends, only to be imitated by lower-status individuals wearing cheaper versions of the same styles.
“It’s always been a thing,” says Karyn Wagner, CEO of Paradigm Cannabis Group, a women-owned extraction company specializing in pre-rolls and extracts made from small-batch sun-grown flower. “There’s always been those products that are better than others. But now, with adult use, we have to be more brand-conscious. With that, how do you distinguish yourself from someone else? Why is this better? What makes it better?”
Some like it haute
With any luxury good, consumers want the assurance of quality and efficacy, Wagner says. But you can never underestimate the prestige that comes with a high price tag. “The moneyed class always loves expensive items,” she says. “This normalizes it in their world. It brings in folks who didn’t normally have the desire. It made it OK in their class. Expensive breeds expensive things. You wouldn’t have expensive cannabis if you didn’t have people who wanted to buy expensive cannabis.”
Jenny Le Coq, president of Le Coq & Associates, a marketing and communications firm in San Francisco that represents Kikoko cannabis-infused botanical mints, points out that most people typically don’t seek out a cheap bottle of wine, but look for something fine, trustworthy, and familiar. They want to know the winery, its reputation, who recommends the vintage. “People are looking at wines today with a more discerning eye—how their grapes are grown, for example,” Le Coq says. “People are looking at cannabis in the same way: with a discerning eye.”
“Discerning” can add up to big money, for sure. Anecdotal stories abound in national media outlets, suggesting couples in Colorado will drop several bills on “cannagars” and other high-end party favors to celebrate weddings and anniversaries. At The High End, Barneys New York’s luxury cannabis lifestyle shop in Beverly Hills, shoppers can splurge on a $1,475 sterling silver bud grinder or a $950 water pipe. New York fashion brand Alice + Olivia partnered with luxury cannabis brand Kush Queen to debut a CBD wellness line earlier this year—bath bomb, body lotion, bubble bath with lavender. Alice + Olivia packaging features CEO Stacey Bendet’s signature “StaceFace” motif, with big sunglasses and a bold red lip. A timeless statement-making style that trendsetters of every era make their own while trendy types try to emulate the overall aesthetic. That’s just the way things work.
To be fair, luxury doesn’t have to mean $$$$. What it must indicate, however, is quality. “Luxury is an assigned label. It is typically assigned by marketers,” Le Coq says. “So, what do you want cannabis to be? As a consumer, how do you perceive luxury? The concept is really defined differently by every person. We want people to experience something that is luxurious. Not only the packaging is beautiful, the taste is beautiful, the place you are put into mentally is a nice, beautiful place.”
I drink badly, and I have a lot of fun doing it (when I remember). That’s a lethal combination, and when you throw in my unfortunate discovery of White Claw—I can drink as many as I want and never feel full!—I flamed out with alcohol last winter.
On February 1, just as everyone else was celebrating the end of Dry January and just ahead of the Summer of the Claw, I swore off the seltzer. I figured I’d give myself one month (note: the year’s shortest) to reset. It wasn’t an easy 28 days, but when March 1 rolled around, I felt better than I’d felt in years. The chronic inflammation I had attributed to everything from gluten sensitivity to genetics was clearing. I saw the light, and there was no going back.
I thought sobriety would be lonely, that every Saturday night would be Netflix. I forgot the Brett Kavanaugh generation isn’t in charge of culture anymore (thank God).
Millennials and Gen Xers aren’t interested in swilling beer until they black out like we did in the ’80s. Sober is sexy—or, as hipsobriety.com sees it, “sobriety is the new black.”
On Instagram, there are influencers such as @stylishlysober, @thesoberglow, and the darker @fucking_sober and hashtags like #soberliving, #soberAF, and #sobercurious. Millie Gooch, who posts as @sobergirlsociety, encourages her nearly 60,000 followers with inspirational messages like “Mocks not cocks” and “Sobriety: a surefire way to improve your wellbeing and your Uber rating.”
Just like that, I’m a cool kid—with a huge range of new options on Saturday night (and beyond). I’m exploring elixirs made with raw cacao, maca, and horny goat weed at Tonic Herban Lounge just a few blocks from my home in downtown Boulder (I can walk home after imbibing, and it amuses me that I don’t need to). I can do yoga and shake it before dawn at a Daybreaker dance party (daybreaker.com) in Denver, one of 27 cities where the alcohol-free early morning rave pops up and invites people to “sweat, dance, and connect with ourselves in community.”
I’m surely not alone in this realization that life is better without booze. Worldwide, alcohol consumption fell by 1.6 percent last year. Led by young people, heavy-hitting countries like Russia, Canada, Japan, and the UK are seeing drinking rates as well as tolerance toward intoxication decline. An international survey found that about a third of people wanted to reduce their alcohol intake because of everything from sexual regret and embarrassment to physical health. A 2018 survey found that nearly 40 percent of global consumers want to drink less for health reasons.
In the US, CNBC reports, 52 percent of adults are trying to lower their alcohol intake, and underage drinking has steadily declined in the last 10 years. But only 21 percent of US adults in a CivicScience poll said they had any interest in drinking less or not at all, and most of those were 21- to 34-year-old, vegan-leaning flexitarians who practice yoga and consume cannabis daily. Women, especially those in their 30s and 40s, are drinking more than ever.
Booze still rules for most Americans, and “increased stress and demoralization” is actually pushing more women, minorities, and poor people to the bottle, according to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry. The national Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 17 million adults in the US are alcohol dependent, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one in six binge drink—defined as drinking four or more drinks over two hours or until blood alcohol reaches 0.08—nearly once a week. For this White Claw guzzler, that definition is, well, sobering. I called that happy hour.
Giving up alcohol isn’t a hashtag for a lot of people. It’s not even a choice. As Sean Paul Mahoney writes on The Fix, a website about addiction and recovery, “I didn’t get sober to be cool. I just got sober to stop dying.”
A Little Bit Addicted?
“Sober curious” became a thing after HarperCollins released Ruby Warrington’s Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol in 2018. Warrington also has a podcast, runs Club SÖda NYC (featuring sober events like Kundalini Disco), and stages events (“Sober Curious: Choosing Sobriety for Focus, Presence, and Deep Connection” is February 14–16, 2020, at Massachusetts’ renowned wellness retreat center Kripalu). Her take is that a lot of Americans might not have a “problem” with alcohol but see it as getting in the way of their healthy lifestyles. “We eat well. We exercise. We meditate,” the press release for Sober Curious states. “So, why do we…still drink?”
Warrington wants to know why the only people who don’t drink are the ones who can’t and asks, “What if I am just…a little bit addicted?”
Call me old school, but a little bit addicted sounds a lot like a little bit pregnant. I worry that people who shouldn’t will take the advice of John Costa, who writes on twentytwowords.comthat being sober curious is like being bi-curious—you don’t always hook up with people of the same sex, and you don’t have to cut out drinking forever. “Be sober half the time,” he writes, “and sauced the other half.” He’s joking, but those are dangerous words for me. That’s the life I was living: sober by day + tanked by night = balance.
Like all disorders (and pretty much everything in our culture), alcohol use runs on a spectrum. I was at the end that spent hours upon hours researching whether drinking while on this antibiotic would really make me projectile vomit and scoffed at friends as they struggled through Dry January, Dry July, Sober September, and Sober October. I wasn’t interested in giving up drinking for any reason or any amount of time, until I had to give it up for life.
Warrington, who sees reducing alcohol intake as another step in the wellness revolution, is at the other end of the spectrum—and she is aware of the difference between recovering from alcohol addiction and feeling better during yoga. I hope all of her followers are, too, because the last thing most drinkers need is a loophole.
I want to believe the trend Warrington is leading toward spirits-free activities and thoughtfulness about alcohol’s role in our culture—where every ritual, celebration, loss, entertainment, and even sporting event is cause for a drink—is not a trend but a movement. That we’ll look back at “mommyjuice” like we shake our heads at “mother’s little helper” pills from the ’60s and ’70s. The infrastructure to support sobriety is being built, and public opinion is turning. After centuries of going hard, America is getting woke, not wasted.
According to the USDA, an estimated 1 in 9 Americans were “food insecure” in 2018, equating to more than 37 million Americans, including more than 11 million children. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.” And if you’re wondering what that 40 percent figure on food waste looks like, it’s about 20 pounds of food per person per month, worth about $165 billion per year in the US.
Adding to these startling stats, the United Nations says that if we recover all the food that is lost or wasted, we would have enough to feed all those who are hungry, four times over.
There’s a group of folks in Pittsburgh who are doing something unique to eradicate this issue, a problem that we often think of as happening in other countries, but not right here in the United States. Founded in 2015, 412 Food Rescue simply wants to keep perfectly good food from entering the waste stream. Doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
This Pittsburgh- born startup is creating a national impact, driven by the belief that good food should go to people, not landfills. It works to redirect healthy food from the waste stream to nonprofits that serve food to populations in need.
According to the group, in the US, one in every seven people goes hungry, while 40 percent of food produced is wasted. The 412 Food Rescue group addresses both these problems through technology-coordinated, community-powered networks. As the only organization in Allegheny County focused on food that would otherwise be discarded, 412 Food Rescue has developed innovative solutions to eliminate food waste in the region—and is now expanding its model to cities nationwide. The solutions are tested right here in Pittsburgh, as they are developed, benefiting local communities, then scaled up for what works nationally. To date, 412 Food Rescue has redirected more than seven million pounds of perfectly good food from landfills. The organization works with 1,600 food retailers, 650 nonprofit partners, and more than 8,000 volunteers.
There are also environmental consequences to food waste. According to stats available on the group’s website, food production uses 10 percent of the energy budget, 50 percent of the land, and 80 percent of all fresh water consumed in the US. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 97 percent of food waste generated ends up in the landfill. It makes up the single largest component of municipal solid waste—generating a large portion of US methane emissions (a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide).
Appetite for Life
Of note, 412 Food Rescue is the parent company of Food Rescue Hero, a platform that helps food rescue and hunger organizations launch and scale food recovery, tackling the growing problems of food waste and food insecurity. In 2016, the group launched the Food Rescue Hero app, and that has saved more than seven million pounds of food by mobilizing the largest on-demand network of volunteer food-recovery drivers anywhere on the planet. Food Rescue Hero has been thriving in Pittsburgh, and now measurably reduces food insecurity in Cleveland, Philadelphia, San Francisco, northern Virginia, and soon, Los Angeles—with a goal of 100 cities by 2030.
“I like to call myself an ‘app-stalker.’ If I’m already running errands, I always check the app to see if I can fit a food rescue into my day. I usually can,” says 412 volunteer Lorien Benet Hart, also a member of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. “Everyone is busy, but we all have 30 minutes or an hour to rescue food that will make a huge difference in someone else’s life. When you see the impact that a little time makes, you’ll want to go back for more.”
The group’s 2018 Impact Report details its new transport and distribution model, which, leveraging technology, civic engagement, and public-private partnerships, effectively responds to the opportunity of retail food surplus and has significantly impacted hunger in the Pittsburgh community.
An active advocate for food, health, and innovation, Leah Lizarondo cofounded 412 Food Rescue a year after her TEDx Talk entitled, “Why the Farm is Not Getting to the Table.” By 2017, she was named by SmartBusiness as one of the individuals “poised to shape the Pittsburgh region in 2017 and beyond” and one of FoodTank’s “17 Food Heroes to Inspire Us in 2017.”
Lizarondo brings a 15-year track record of leadership positions with global corporations and nonprofits. She left her career as a product manager in Southeast Asia, where she worked in consumer-packaged goods and technology, moving on to pursue her passion in food and health advocacy. She has also trained at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City and received a Certification in Plant-based Nutrition from Cornell University.
Built on the “Impossible”
Lizarondo is interested in the intersection of social good and technology, and she has mined her experience in launching startups as she works to grow 412 Food Rescue.
“412 Food Rescue’s model is fully built around something we were told was ‘impossible’: our unwavering belief that people will step up,” she says. “That people will take action. One day at a time. Thirty minutes at a time. Over and over again. And our volunteers deliver (pun intended!). Together, we’re proving that change is only possible if all of us participate, if all of us take responsibility, if all of us let the good in our hearts prevail.”
Lizarondo is one of five We Empower honorees recognized for advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. During the UN General Assembly in New York City, September 23–27, the group participated in summits and a pitch competition hosted by Diane von Furstenberg. Lizarondo won, receiving a $20,000 grant.
“We have set audacious goals for 412 Food Rescue. We are aiming to truly end hunger in communities here in Pittsburgh, working with some amazing organizations to do so,” Lizarondo says. Our tech platform, Food Rescue Hero, is also expanding nationally. By the first quarter of 2020, we will be in 10 cities.”