We who live in sunny, star-studded Los Angeles are often envied by people who live in less glamorous, climactically inhospitable places, such as Embarrass, Minnesota. But to those who live in Embarrass, Minnesota I say: Don’t envy us till you’ve walked a mile for parking in our Birkenstocks. We have plenty of problems of our own.
In addition to there being no parking left in Los Angeles, we have a surfeit of actors whose unnatural good looks are rough on our self-esteem.
But our most severe is problem is vegans. This town is swarming with them, and they are especially annoying at holiday time, when normal people are daydreaming about moist Thanksgiving turkey with all the fixins’. Just yesterday, I was companionably bagging groceries at my neighborhood Trader Joe’s with the cashier, Blaze. “Looking forward to a satisfying Turkey dinner on Thanksgiving?” I asked.
“I don’t eat turkey,” Blaze said, boldly meeting my eye.
“Vegan,” he corrected me, carefully balancing a carton of eggs into the bag. Eggs that he, personally, would not touch on moral grounds.
As soon as he uttered the V-word, I knew everything I needed to know about Blaze. I knew he was wearing canvas shoes and carried a wallet made of nylon or hemp. He voted for Obama and had recurring nightmares about our city suddenly being submerged by the Pacific Ocean due to climate change. He had a poster of white polar bears in a “bear hug” in his apartment, clueless that these cute-looking beasts would eat him for breakfast if they could. He considered himself a citizen of the world, and actually believed Yoko Ono was musically gifted. He brushed his teeth with a cruelty-free toothbrush before getting into bed at night and curling up with a book about the dangers of biofuels. I’d only met the guy two minutes before and he already bored me.
Although he gamely tried to hide it, Blaze must have viewed me with contempt. Since his diet was really a political manifesto for the cruelty-free, bio-sustainability lifestyle, what choice did he have? He knew that I planned to eat turkey on Thanksgiving, and that I had had a dietary rap sheet filled with chicken, beef, fish, and eggs, and that I had no remorse for such carnivorous behavior. I hadn’t even bothered to buy the cage-free eggs.
In the spirit of promoting mutual understanding, I asked Blaze what he planned to eat on Thanksgiving. Suddenly he brightened, and spouted off like a waiter describing the evening’s specials. He listed delicacies as sprouted tortilla wraps with avocado, including soy “chicken,” gluten “steaks,” seitan “burgers,” bean spelt oat spread and other ersatz foods that required scare quotes around them. I tried to fake fascination and awe.
“Do you feel healthier being vegan?” I felt obligated to ask. Another mistake.
“It was a good start, but I’m probably going raw soon,” he said earnestly. “Living in this polluted air, you’ve got to detoxify,” he said, giving a little shudder. I nodded in assent, as if I too couldn’t wait to give the heave-ho to every type of food in the universe except for Tebetan goji berries and dehydrated cashews.
“Well, I hope you have strong teeth!” I said, thankful that we had reached the last bag. I had exhausted my curiosity about Blaze’s dietary future and was in no mood to segue to a discussion on globalization and free trade. But I had to hand it to the guy: He seemed pretty energetic for a man who hadn’t eaten a steak since 2004. I held my head high as I headed out the door and declined his offer to help me with my cart to my gas guzzling minivan.
There’s no way I’ll ever go vegan, but I can at least try to love vegans by talking to them and trying to pretend I think their gastronomic agenda is sound. So to all of you who dream of the good life in California, don’t say you haven’t been warned. Not only will you have no place to park, but vegans like Blaze are everywhere, waiting to bag your groceries as they thinly disguise their contempt for your carnivorous Thanksgiving cravings.
If you enjoyed this Mirth & Meaning, please forward to a friend! Not a subscriber yet? You can remedy that right now by submitting your email on judygruen.com. You’ll be glad you did!