On turning 30: I want to make the world a better place


Huh. I turned 30 today. Weird.

I feel a need to take inventory of all the good in my life, because really, there’s a bunch. Sure, I deal with struggles, both internal and external, but I’m here. Despite all the odds. Do you realize how inhospitable outer space is? That humans even had any chance of evolving into a species, on a giant rock (with a blazing hot core, mind you) that’s hurtling through the universe at incomprehensible speed? And how lucky am I to have what I have? Not so much in the material sense, though, yes, I’m also lucky to have a nice roof over my head. But let’s just acknowledge the basics here: clean water, nurturing/support from friends & family, access to food, and freedom. As much as we take these things for granted—and not that we negate them, but we just don’t think about them… because we don’t have to. Most people reading this, I’m guessing, have these fundamental things and don’t worry about where they’ll come from each day. But there are millions in the world that aren’t free. That don’t have clean water. That don’t know whether they’ll have three meals tomorrow, let alone one.

Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.

Now I decided that I could: a) feel guilty about it, though that doesn’t really help anyone; b) feel nothing about it, and just sweep it under the rug; or c) I can do something about it. Karma, the Golden Rule, and the idea of “pay it forward” have really come to guide my decisions. The work of countless people before us has allowed for the developments of technology that lets us focus on bigger questions. How would someone ever be able to design a spaceship if they had to worry about whether or not they’d have access to food or water? (more…)

I choo choo choose you

Choosing Myself


I choo choo choose youA thousand pardons… you’ve caught me in the middle of a quandary.

Though I suppose the same sentiment could be expressed at any given time. I’m finding that I’m a very cerebral person, for better or for worse. Am I on track to become one of those tortured writers? Maybe. But I don’t think so. I think I’m pretty happy, but I suppose it could be interesting to see if I go downhill from here. I honestly don’t think I will, though.

So, here’s what I’m up against… I feel like I’m at a precipice. Like this is the point where I decide if I want to be a writer or if I simply want to write. Perhaps that sounds douchey to you; to be honest, I’d venture to say that it would sound douchey to me if I read it on someone else’s webpage. But here I am… trying to deliver a message that doesn’t particularly have a message behind it. Simply that I’m going to actually be a writer.

But I’m already a writer, you might say. Technically, yes. I write. And I have written. And I’m fortunate enough to have gotten paid for said writing. But even still… it’s very strange. (Rest assured, this is no complaint. I’m unbelievably grateful for any and all opportunities I’ve been given!) Have you ever heard of impostor syndrome? So sayeth Wikipedia:

The impostor syndrome, sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.

My buddy Tim originally told me about it when he first began teaching music classes; as a lifelong student, it was difficult for him to accept a new role as a teacher. “But isn’t this what you prepared for?” Yeah, I suppose. I mean, I’ve been writing now for close to a decade, but I didn’t ever think it would be something I’d call a profession. Yet, here I am, collecting a comfy little check for royalties on three cookbooks every six months. What do I do with that? I mean, duh, it goes in the bank… but what does it mean?

Elementary school lead me to middle school, which prepared me for high school, which was hellbent on getting me into college, which in turn would assure me a job in the system. Something to keep the wheels turning at the prescribed time. But I knew deep down that I wasn’t built for such a job. So here I am, having built a sizeable enough reputation for my writing, but still unable (or unwilling) to accept myself as a professional writer. What’s not professional about me? Is it the fact that I still tell/enjoy dick and fart jokes? Or that I don’t take every single thing seriously? Break it down, Randy. You get paid to write. Someone somewhere enjoys your writing, and more importantly, YOU enjoy writing. And what’s more important than that?

WRITE. Never stop writing. When you look back on the past NINE years that you’ve been writing, all the while, you’ll find supporters along the way, and at this point, it bears asking: “What the hell have you been waiting for?!” Obviously, there’s at least one person that sees things your way. And judging by your own reading habits, it bears mentioning that your entire worldview has been entirely uplifted and changed for the better by reading other peoples’ writing. So why can’t your writing provide the same opportunity for others? It’s obvious that you think differently than most, so share that shit. Sorry if this sounds pompous, but this is what’s been going through my head for the past few weeks/months/years, and I’m finally taking the time to scribble it down in a massive stream-of-consciousness dump.

So what am I going to do? Well, perhaps you’ve noticed that I’ve already started posting one recipe a week that I create spontaneously from a farmers market visit; I’m also going to try to post a recipe review from a different cookbook each week, and I’ll hopefully have some kind of mental outpouring such as this. And maybe you’re thinking: “What’s the big deal? Share what’s on your mind! It’s your blog!” But reflecting on my upbringing, I feel as though I was raised to be polite… maybe even slightly complacent… unless I felt there was some kind of injustice going on. And even then, I was only to speak up if I felt there was some difference I could make.

Sounds awfully arbitrary, no? I agree. So, am I reactionary or am I proactive? Shit, I don’t know. What kind of question is that? I’m just me. Yet through whatever extraordinary set of circumstances, there are a number of people that look to what I say as guidance. And whether that number is one or one million, it’s a number, and I need to treat that with the utmost of respect. Rest assured that nothing I post here will ever be facetious or contrary to my personal moral compass/beliefs. I’ll continue cranking out recipes and the occasional mental unload… and while you may or not agree or like what I have to say, know that I’m only sharing it because I felt as though by not posting it, I was disrespecting my reason for living. I want to be a writer… so I’ve chosen myself because nobody else would.

I accept this responsibly proudly and humbly, and assure you that I’ll never do anything to betray your trust. Anything I present to you that may seem insensitive or unintelligent, I assure you, comes from a place of love and perhaps misunderstanding. I guarantee I’ll be misinformed at times, as any of us would be, if only because we’ve never experienced anywhere near all there is to experience. With that in mind, I hope you treat my thoughts, and your own, as an exchange of possibilities. There may or may not be a grand architect that rules this universe, but in case one does, I’m keeping it civil… sharing my ideas in the hopes of having them corroborated or improved or disproven. Whatever the case may be, I’ll die knowing I spoke my mind and instigated a conversation. There are some crazy ideas in my brain that I sincerely hope will bring about positive change in our world… and I’ll share them soon enough, but for now… you’ve been warned. I’m gonna be speaking my mind on this website from time to time.

Unsubscribe… or forever hold your peace.

The Veggie-Lover's Sriracha Cookbook

The Veggie-Lover’s Sriracha Cookbook: Now Available


The Veggie-Lover's Sriracha CookbookIt’s still a little surreal to get to announce that my third book, The Veggie-Lover’s Sriracha Cookbook, is now available on better bookstore shelves everywhere. It seemed to be the natural progression, since I went vegetarian a little over three years ago, and my love of Sriracha certainly hasn’t died down in the slightest bit. All the recipes are vegan, but it isn’t chock full of gross fake meat soy nugget crap. Nay! This is an ode to the almighty vegetable! Stuff from the earth. It isn’t just for vegans or vegetarians; it’s for anyone looking to incorporate a little more produce into their diet without skimping on flavor.

My third book… it sounds crazy to think it, let alone say it. It’s hard to believe that my first little restaurant review for the now-defunct Sherman Oaks Sun newspaper back in May 2005 would become the genesis for hundreds of magazine pieces, ultimately encouraging me to pitch The Sriracha Cookbook to Ten Speed Press back in October 2009. (more…)

My beautiful mom, Bonnie Clemens (right), with her friends Joanne Maginn (center) and Laura Desmond (left)

Goodbye Mama. You Did Great.


Mom’s eyes closed forever last night around 10:30pm, and her last breath in this life was full of peace and relief. I had just left home about 20 minutes before, but said a good-bye just in case she passed while I was out.

As difficult as it was at times to see her fighting against cancer, my good buddy Chris Cochran gave me some really nice perspective on my Facebook page:

“Not quite sure what to write and what to say Randy… and you know that’s not like me. However, you know it’s been almost two years now that I lost my Mom so unexpectedly, and I know what you’re experiencing. I think about the recent times you’ve shared with her, and how you two must have bonded like never before. Hold that dear and close to your heart. I never had that in my Mom’s last days and regret that she was here one minute and gone the next… but obviously her spirit and life live on, and always will in my heart.”

I actually sat across from Chris when I worked at Stone Brewing Co., and remember when he got that awful phone call nobody ever wants to receive. I’m so fortunate that I was able to spend these last few months with my mom. I got to witness her strength, and lend a lot of support, in some small way returning some of the care she showered upon me these past 28 years. Because we were so close, in such a small place, and I needed to play bad cop making sure she kept up on her treatment schedule, we began getting on each other’s nerves a touch (this whole experience reinforced my notion that I would NOT make a good parent… nowhere near enough patience) but we also shared some very special moments, like when we danced together during her stay at the Gerson clinic in Mexico. It was very emotional and we shared a damn good hug after that.

My beautiful mom, Bonnie Clemens (right), with her friends Joanne Maginn (center) and Laura Desmond (left)

My beautiful mom, Bonnie Clemens (right), with her friends Joanne Maginn (center) and Laura Desmond (left)

My mom always took care of others first and put her own needs second—even when she shouldn’t have—and it’s this trait I’m perhaps most proud of inheriting. (Though I’m learning that there are times when it’s perfectly all right to put my own needs at the front of the queue.)

Also up there in importance to me is how much she valued the Golden Rule. We were never a religious family, and I’m so glad that the manmade laws and hateful/intolerant doctrines present in most religious texts were never crammed down my throat. It all boiled down to one simple principle: Do unto others as you would wish others to do unto you. (Or as Wheaton’s Law states: “Don’t be a dick.”) Be tolerant. Be kind. Be strong. Be generous. Forgive others and forgive yourself for honest mistakes, but be sure you learn from them. Accept that people have different views, and it doesn’t mean that one has to be wrong and one has to be right… they can be simply that… different. Not only is that OK, it’s beautiful, and it’s why the world will never be a boring place to live. Approach it with curiosity, awe, wonder, humility, and excitement. This was our religion and it has served us incredibly well in our decisions, interactions, and undertakings.

There were many places she never got to go and many things she never got to do, and she sacrificed so much to make sure that I could have the opportunities I’ve been afforded. I was told to chase my dreams and passions, and I think it’s pretty safe to say that’s what I’ve done and will continue to do until I squeeze the very last drop of juice from my own life. I’ll take her with me in my heart always, and let her moral compass continue to be my own, guiding me and keeping me virtuous and on the level. I am the man I am today because of her, and for that, I am eternally grateful. May I continue to grow and learn, and inspire others to do the same. And beyond carrying her in my heart, she is scheduled to be cremated early next week, and I fully intend to scatter a small bit of her remains everywhere I travel so that she might continue to live on vicariously through my journeys, and leave an essence of her grace around the world.

When I first announced that she’d thrown in the towel and asked to stop her treatments, so many of the comments from those who’d never met her could instantly grasp the quality and caliber of her character simply by how strong and inspiring I’ve been. (Their words, not mine, but I’ll humbly and happily take the compliment since it does so accurately reflect what an amazing job she did raising me.) The support and words of encouragement for both of us from all of you has been nothing short of overwhelming, and it touched both of our hearts more than words can say. THANK YOU.

And thank you mom. For everything. Best wishes on your next cycle through life, and may you be rewarded beyond your wildest dreams, as I have been in this cycle through mine. I love you, and I’m so glad we got to be together until the end.

Bonnie Rae Clemens, née McDannold. 24 April 1952 – 06 June 2013.

You will be missed eternally. Namaste.

A memorial service celebrating her life will be planned shortly, and I’ll be sure to post the details here. No boring scriptures, no dressing in black… just food and beer and laughs recounting the warm memories we shared with her.

Also, in lieu of flowers, should you wish to contribute to her legacy and give someone else a renewed chance at life where hers ended, we’d begun a fundraiser to help others who may not be fortunate enough to afford the alternative Gerson Therapy cancer treatments we pursued after her unsuccessful round of chemotherapy. It is quite costly, and is NOT covered by insurance. While we were able to scrape together the money for ourselves, we really wanted to do more and turn this ugly circumstance into something positive. Click here if you’d like to contribute to our fundraiser and help those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to finance their recovery. We’re working with the Gerson Institute to find the perfect recipient for these funds and should have an announcement about that shortly. No amount is too small.

And you never know who may need the help, but chances are that someone close to you will. The American Cancer Society estimates that 1 in 2 males and 1 in 3 females will develop cancer in their lifetime; 1 in 4 males and 1 in 5 females will die from it. The time to change that statistic is NOW.

Me and my mom at my book release party

Mom Says “I’m Done” and Ends Her Fight with Cancer

Me and my mom at my book release party

Me and my beautiful mom, Bonnie, at my book release party back in January 2011

About 10 days ago, I awoke to find that my mom’s condition was noticeably worse. She’s had some pain and swelling in her feet and ankles for about a month now, but it’s been somewhat manageable with combinations of castor oil packs, soft tissue massage, acupuncture, and aspirin. Her seemingly incurable anemia only served to compound the problem by making her weaker and weaker. Even as other health markers—like her white blood cell count—were looking to be on the rebound, no amount of iron supplements and other tweaks to her treatment could seem to get her red blood cell/hemoglobin count up.

That morning, as she was eating her oatmeal and drinking her orange juice, it was clear that something was wrong. Her hands were twitching occasionally and she was having some serious trouble forming complete sentences or answering simple questions, such as who the current President is. I called our doctor from the clinic in Mexico where we began her alternative cancer treatments through the Gerson Institute in mid-March (this was after an unsuccessful round of chemotherapy) and let him know that I was going to take her to the emergency room. After getting her admitted, she was given some electrolytes via an IV drip, followed by a blood transfusion to help curb the anemia.

We stayed in the hospital overnight for monitoring, and we got to chat with the doctor the following day. He was a very kind and gentle man—apropos that his name was Dr. Gandhi—and was respectful of her choice to seek alternative therapies. While the nurse had asked several times if we had any interest in speaking with an oncologist about further chemotherapy or radiation treatments (uh, definitely not), the doctor was quick to note that her cancer had progressed so far, chemotherapy would likely not be effective and would take away what little quality of life she’s already left with.

He examined her and noted that the lymphoma had likely spread to her bone marrow, which would explain the lack of red blood cell generation and her anemia. Dr. Gandhi again expressed his respect for her treatments, and offered that if there was anything he could do to help or make her more comfortable during this time, that we should never hesitate to call or come back to see him.

In speaking with our doctor in Mexico and explaining the prognosis, he advised that we cut back to a minimum on the Gerson Therapy so that we could focus on bringing her strength back up before attempting any more strong detoxification: three juices daily along with her meals, and one coffee enema every other day. In our first full day back home, she refused to drink a third juice, resorting to a childlike tantrum when I pressed that this was the bare minimum that the doctor can recommend. And with that, I let her sleep after just two juices, and knew a more serious conversation would follow the next day.

Mom’s spirits have been in the shitter for the past month. Understandably, of course, given the cards she’s been dealt lately, and this trip to the hospital certainly didn’t do much to help that. But I don’t know if she was ever fully invested mentally in these treatments, the alternative or the allopathic. That is to say, I think she thought both could be a “magic pill” so to speak that could just wash away the cancer if the treatments were followed as prescribed. But the fact is that either route requires a huge amount of mental fortitude and determination… a voice in your head constantly reminding yourself that you can beat the cancer, and that indeed you are beating the cancer. As much as I tried and others tried to instill that strength in her, it must come from within, and it just wasn’t something she could manage to muster up. At the age of 61, she still bears emotional scars from her cold, demeaning mother and an absentee father. She’s kept the burden of anguish from her ex-husband’s verbal and physical abuse, and she’s long shouldered self-inflicted blame for the fact that her other son (i.e. my half-brother) never amounted to much besides a drifting opportunist. And while she’s largely let go of those feelings, now that her final days are approaching, they’ve plagued her for far too long, and their heavy weight took a toll on her ability to stand up for herself… her ability to know she could fight and be strong. Loved as she was—and still is—by me, her sister and brother-in-law, and a wonderful circle of friends, I don’t feel that her mental resolution was ever fully convinced that she could, and would, beat this disease. A tenacious drive to overcome the odds is essential when pitted against such a vicious ailment. Endlessly telling yourself that your treatments are working, and sending a constant, clear, conscious message from the mind to the body that you will win is crucial.

And so, the next morning, I asked what it was that she wanted to do. Did she want to continue with these treatments? Was three juices a day manageable until she got her strength back up? We’d gotten on each other’s nerves a bit as I had to often struggle getting her to keep with her regimen. I didn’t want to argue with her any more, and I needed to know what it was that she wanted. She looked me right in the eye and said, “I’m done.” This spurred a longer conversation in which I made sure that she was certain of what she’d decided. She was through fighting; she’d given it much thought and ultimately chose to live out her remaining time enjoying some of her favorite foods. I had her call her sister as well to discuss it with her, who then called to chat with me. My aunt and I were both saddened by the decision, but as she was quick to note, it’s my mom’s decision to make, and the best thing we can do is offer her our support and honor her wish, making her as comfortable as possible as she peacefully fades in her twilight time.

Her health and appetite have diminished significantly each day since, as has the time spent with her eyes open. Her dynamic, contagious smile is all but gone. She’s become weak and disoriented, and I know she’s ready to go. We started hospice care yesterday with no orders to extend life; our goal is simply to enhance comfort with oxygen and low doses of pain medication, along with visits from nurses who can help her with bathing, etc. Her time left with us is short, and while it is most unfortunate to have her taken so early, I’m at peace with the decision she made. She gave the treatments her best try, and I’m so proud of her for being as strong as she was.

The support of friends, family, and strangers has been invaluable. To those who have offered their words, their wisdom, their time, and their energy: THANK YOU. To those who brought over food and little trinkets, or donated money to the fundraiser we started for other potential Gerson Therapy patients: THANK YOU. Which brings up a point worth addressing: my faith in the Gerson Therapy remains as strong as ever. I witnessed some incredible transformations while we were at the clinic in Mexico, and felt a HUGE positive shift in my own health from following their guidelines. To the many great people who we met there, and to those elsewhere who may be undergoing similar alternative treatments: STAY STRONG. To anyone who reads this and thinks to themselves: “Pffff! See? Those hokey naturopathic pseudoscientific therapies are just a sham.” Don’t. In my humble opinion, more research and respect for programs like the Gerson Therapy are what will ultimately save mankind. We must proactively nurture and strengthen our minds, bodies, and spirits with healthy, organic plant-based foods, while working to remove the toxins that are becoming ever-present in our society. And when disease strikes, rather than masking symptoms, we must strive to treat the underlying cause by supporting the immune system and restoring the body’s natural ability to heal itself. The “prescribe a pill, send a bill” method that’s overtaken Western medicine will be the death of us all.

I will miss my mom dearly, but I am grateful for all that she taught me, all that she’s done for me, and all that she’s sacrificed from her own life to further enrich mine. I will live life to the fullest, so that her selfless efforts to raise me right will not have been in vain. She always encouraged me to work hard and never shy away from my passions. The Golden Rule was her guiding principle and it shall always be mine, too. Never was I told that my dreams were too wild or outlandish to be realized, and I was taught that the strongest questions in the English language are “Why?” and “Why not?” I’ve never been afraid to ask them and that isn’t bound to change any time soon.

I believe in me. And I hope you believe in you. It’s a vital piece of your overall well-being. And if you can’t take my word for it, ask your mama… she’ll tell you the same. After that, give her a hug and tell her you love her. A day will come when you no longer can, and it’s going to be a very strange feeling, so do it now while you can. I just did, and despite what’s coming soon, she still managed to crack a little smile.

Before heading down to the Gerson Clinic, my mom and I began a fundraiser to help others who may not be fortunate enough to afford these life-saving alternative cancer treatments. It is quite costly, and is NOT covered by insurance. While we were able to scrape together the money to pursue the Gerson Therapy ourselves, we really wanted to do more and turn this ugly circumstance into something positive. Click here if you’d like to contribute to our fundraiser and help those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to finance their recovery. We’re working with the Gerson Institute to find the perfect recipient for these funds and should have an announcement about that shortly. No amount is too small.

And you never know who may need the help, but chances are that someone close to you will. The American Cancer Society estimates that 1 in 2 males and 1 in 3 females will develop cancer in their lifetime; 1 in 4 males and 1 in 5 females will die from it. The time to change that statistic is NOW.

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