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 I say to residents of Embarrass, Minnesota and other towns and hamlets across this vast nation: Don’t envy us till you’ve walked a mile in our Birkenstocks. We have plenty of problems of our own.
First, there is no parking in Los Angeles. None. As of last week, there were four spots left, but the city just sold them on eBay for ten million dollars to Sony Pictures, which plans to use them to park their catering trailers. Worse than the lack of parking is our surfeit of actors, whose unnatural good-looks can wreak havoc on a community’s self-esteem.
Yet these pale in comparison to our most severe problem: vegans. I’m not kidding, the place is swarming with them. Next to Portland, Oregon, L.A. has more vegans per capita than any other city west of Bhopal.
True, vegans tend to be gentle sorts, not even hurting a bean sprout. I have never seen a vegan cut in line. They are obviously eco-friendly, and if you go out to lunch with one you won’t have to share your hamburger. But you see, vegans are too clever for overt manifestations of greed or violence. They use stealthier methods to pursue their bean curdled agendas.
For example, yesterday I bought groceries at my neighborhood wholesome foods type of store, where the cashier, Blaze, and I exchanged pleasantries about our weekends. As we bagged my groceries together in the spirit of comradely cooperation, I casually mentioned my success with a new chicken recipe that my guests enjoyed very much.
“I don’t eat chicken,” Blaze said, deftly packing a dozen yogurt containers in the recyclable paper bag that would probably become my next shopping bag.
“No, vegan,” he said, carefully adding a dozen 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 that he was wearing canvas shoes and carried a wallet made of nylon or erstaz leather. I knew he voted Green Party in the last election; that he lay awake at night in a panic over global warming; and that he had posters of sweet-looking sheep in his apartment. It was obvious that he considered himself a political activist, and he probably thought Yoko Ono was musically gifted. He brushed his teeth with a cruelty-free toothbrush before getting into bed and curling up with a book about biofuels. I mean, I’d only met the guy three minutes before and he already bored me.
Their utter predictability is only one reason why vegans are trouble. If you meet someone and learn that he prefers fish to chicken, or vanilla to chocolate, at least the rest of him remains a mystery. You have yet to discover his personality, politics, and position on Wal-Mart. But once a vegan has spilled the mung beans about his refusal to eat meat, chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy, or cover himself with a down comforter, his dossier is complete.
He hid it well, but I knew Blaze disdained me and my omnivorous ways. Since his diet was really a political manifesto for the cruelty-free, bio-sustainability lifestyle, did he really have a choice? He knew that just hours ago, I had eaten chicken. And I would do it again! And hamburger, too! I, who was heedless of the erosion of our topsoil needed to support animal agriculture! I, who consume animal fats, flirting with hypertension and obesity! I, who didn’t even bother buying the cage-free eggs! How he must have loathed me.
I wanted to redeem myself, so I asked Blaze if he had enjoyed any special meals on the weekend. His answer reminded me of the wisdom of never asking a question if you aren’t prepared to hear the answer.
“First I took a sprouted tortilla wrap with avocado. . . .”, he began, like a waiter enthusing over the evening’s specials at a four-star restaurant. He listed many delicacies, including soy “chiken,” gluten “steaks,” seitan “burgers,” bean spelt oat spread, and other types of “food.” I tried to appear interested, but I was appalled. This guy had lavished hours of precious time on comestibles whose names required quote marks.
“What are you going to give up next?” I asked, him, just joshing around.
“I’m probably going raw soon,” he said in total seriousness. “Living in this polluted air, you’ve got to detoxify,” Blaze said, giving a little shudder. I nodded in assent, as if I, too, couldn’t wait to give the heave-ho to all every type of food in the universe except for Tebetan goji berries and germinated and dehydrated cashews.
“Well, I hope you have good teeth!” I said, hoping he took it the right way.
Mercifully, we had reached the last bag, since I had run out of questions about Blaze’s dietary plans and was in no mood to begin a discussion on globalization and free trade. I had to hand it to the guy: he seemed pretty energetic for a man who hadn’t eaten a steak since 1985. I held my head high as I headed out the door, trying to deflect the contempt oozing from Blaze’s detoxifying pores. I refused his offer of help to my huge gas guzzling car.
Guys like Blaze are all over town, here in L.A. Girls, too. One exercise teacher I know, no wider than an exclamation mark, is also a vegan. I realized this when she insisted that we in the West really have it all backwards because we do not spend enough time squatting each day. In more enlightened countries, such as Nambia, people squat when eating, reading, and doing other things. I was tempted to ask whether they got stuck squatting because they had eaten too many Tebetan goji berries, but I didn’t want to be accused of being a haughty imperialist sort.
Look, there’s no way I’m going vegan, but I can at least try to love vegans, which means I cannot try to eat them up in a philosophical argument. So all those who may dream of the good life in Southern California, don’t say you haven’t been warned. Not only will you not have a place to park, but guys like Blaze are waiting to bag your groceries, secretly pitying you with their vegan eyes.
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