Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Twigs and Berries: A Tale of Retaliation on the Elementary School Playground

It’s not easy being a vegan. There are a lot of misconceptions out there floating around. The first major misunderstanding is that people think I’m on a life-or-death mission to convert them to an animal free lifestyle. In my perfect world, it would be great if we all participated in veganism. However, I realize that this option is neither attractive nor even feasible for many people. For instance, people that suffer from diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome are advised to adopt a diet that is higher in protein and lower in total carbohydrates. So I’ve always held to the idea that people will choose the option that best fits their health and lifestyle needs. Far be it from me to try and influence anyone wrongly.

The second misunderstanding is that meat-eaters assume I don’t enjoy eating. Nothing could be further from the truth. I absolutely love to eat, and I strive to eat really good-tasting food. I’m not going to lie. There is a lot of absolutely terrible vegan food out there, mostly within prepackaged food. I remember the first vegan “meat patty” I got my hands on. I was in week two of my new eating lifestyle and was perusing the frozen food aisle at my local grocery store. I ended up buying two boxes of them, each containing six patties comprised of brown rice, pinto beans, and mushrooms. It sounded like a winner, but when I got home, the taste was something else. I remember staring down at the inedible hockey puck of mashed bean curd, with one neat bite taken out of it, and wondering if this was what veganism was all about.

“I will grow to love you,” I said mournfully to the patty on my plate.

Then comes the biggest misconception of all. I like to call it the Inevitable Question. I know what you’re thinking it could be, and you’re wrong. The question is never “So what do you eat?” This would be an appropriate question, one that deserves serious attention because it’s an opportunity to showcase just how diverse a vegan diet can be. But no, I do not get asked this.

The question always goes like this: “So…do you just eat twigs and berries then?”

Yes. I eat frickin twigs. Way to go, genius.

Wait. I take that back. I have eaten a twig. One time. And it wasn’t so much voluntary as it was retribution against an evil deed I had committed against an innocent.

Let me explain.

In fifth grade, there was this annoying kid who sat in the back of the classroom. His name was Jeremy. I only ever saw him do three things: Sniff his armpits, pick his nose, and flick boogers onto unsuspecting classmates’ backs. His biggest crime was that he talked incessantly, at top volume, about nonsense crap.

Looking back on it, he was your typical irritating ten year old. But none of us liked him.

One day at recess, a few of us came up with a plan. It was a plan I was not particularly proud of at the time (nor am I to this day), but the idea of it all was too hysterical to pass on up (and it still is). Our evil plan was based on the fact that all of the outside school restrooms were being renovated at the time, so several porta potties had been placed on the outskirts of the playground for temporary use. We just had to wait for the right moment to happen.

When this poor kid briefly ducked into a porta potty one fine afternoon, we seized the day and locked him inside. We stuffed the lock and handle opening full with fistfuls of branches and twigs that we had been collecting over the past couple days in anticipation of this very opportunity. There was no way he was going to get out by himself.

But wait! Just like a bad infomercial, there’s more. We immediately forgot all about him and ran back to class when the recess bell rang five minutes later. We left him alone and defenseless in that disgusting porta potty. It wasn’t until the teacher started asking the whole class where Jeremy was that we remembered what we had done. Of course, none of us spoke up out of fear of getting into some serious deep shit, so we kept our mouths shut and our eyes guiltily glued to the tops of our desks.

Jeremy was eventually freed, three hours later, by a groundskeeper who was about to mow the soccer field when he heard the banging of small fists against hollow plastic walls. Jeremy was unharmed, a bit stinky, and aching for revenge. But he didn’t rat us out, even though he knew the six of us that did it. I immediately felt bad that he refused to give names, because I knew I deserved some kind of penalty for my poor behavior. On the other hand, I wasn’t about to turn myself in. So I approached Jeremy and asked what he thought would be an appropriate punishment for me.

He was quiet for a moment. “You should eat a twig,” he responded finally, “Because you used all those sticks to jam the lock of the porta potty.”

I was horrified. “A whole twig?” I asked, incredulously.

He conceded. “Well, maybe just a bite.”

How could I back out now? Grating as he was, no one deserves to be locked in one of those things and then forgotten about for several hours. But what was my other option? Let the guilt overcome me until I turned myself into the principle, who would then notify my mother, ending with me subsequently grounded until I was 47 years old?

I had no choice. I had to eat the twig.

It was the cruelest, toughest, most grimy lesson I’ve ever had to swallow. The ultimate message here being, “Don’t act like a shit, or you’ll be forced to eat a dirty twig.”

So no, my dear carnivores, contrary to popular belief, we vegans do not eat twigs. No one does, at least not willingly. Twigs are simply not fit for human consumption. Gastronomically, there is nothing redeeming about its rough, woody texture, nor the bits of grit that flake off from the exterior when you try and bite off a piece.

The flavor is absolutely terrible. It tastes of oversight. It tastes like little boy vengeance.

This I something I can personally attest to.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lessons in Vegas for the White Bitch on the Block

I had a feeling that Vegas was not exactly what I was expecting when I first stepped out of the apartment to retrieve my mail and said hello to the elderly man two doors down who chain-smoked Camels while constantly barbequing bacon on his patio.

"Yo fuck you, white bitch!" He growled at me through a cloud of smoke and continued to furiously flip the bacon with his hot pink spatula.

I'm ashamed to admit that up until that point, I was practically skipping down the concrete with my newfound love for Vegas. But his response put an immediate end to that. I blinked a few times and actually stumbled backwards. My brain fired off rhetorical questions. What the hell? Who is this man? What's his problem? Hold on a minute! I'm so loveable! Everyone loves me! How could he not love me too?

This was the first of many lessons to come for me, here in Las Vegas.

For instance, the weather doesn't change here. Oh sure, the temperature can range anywhere from a boiling 115 degrees to a bone-chilling 16, but I guarantee you this: It will always be sunny and dry. Painfully, overbearingly, sunny and dry. When we first moved here, people told us it rained about ten days a year. I think it's more like three.

Lying bastards.

But I digress.

You learn to adjust here quickly. You have to, I think, in order to survive. Our first night here, Josh and I laid on our backs, eyes wide opened, hands firmly clenched with one another's while listening to constant screaming and crying, lawn furniture being thrown, and those ever present sirens wailing. We had unsucessfully barricaded the door with my boxes of books and the flimsy cat carrier. If anyone were to break in, and they certainly could've if they wanted to, we hoped the cat would be enough of a hostage.

Neither one of us wanted to admit to the other that we were terrified that night. Or that we wanted to turn around and go home immediately.


But times change, and so do attitudes. About a month ago, Josh and I were getting ready for bed, and I noticed ten cop cars had surrounded the apartment complex across the street.

I wasted no time. I flung the door open wide and pointed out at the action.

"Incident!" I yelled cheerfully at Josh, and we both scurried out onto the patio to watch. Diet cokes in one hand, Marlboro Menthols in the other.

Maybe I'm becoming too hard and bitter for my own good, I thought to myself as I took a drag and watched three cops drag their kicking and screaming suspect out to a car. Maybe I need to try a little harder to not let this city get the best of me. Maybe I need to be the better person here.

I looked over at my neighbor, still smoking while barbequing his bacon. It's one in the morning.

"Hello," I called out softly to him and smiled. I even waved.

"Shut up, white bitch!" he hissed back, without hesitation.

And maybe I'm not becoming cynical. Maybe I'm adjusting to my surroundings in the way that I'm supposed to. Perhaps we make a joke out of the latest drive-by shooting because the reality of the situation is much scarier.

Everyday, I strive to be better than the last day. I can feel myself becoming wiser. Stronger. Happier. I am one step closer to being the person that I want to be.

And then I go and deteriorate rapidly, usually within a restaurant. In a 24 hour town, there are far too many choices to be had at any given hour. It's no secret that I love to eat, and now I can get anything I want at any given time.

In a one word answer, it's overwhelming. Two college degrees by the age of twenty, ability to converse in three different languages, IQ of 143...yet I can't even make a single decision on what to order at 2:45 in the morning.

"So what'll it be, hon?" the weary waitress asks me for the fifth time.

I've learned that there is such a thing as too many fucking choices in life.

"I'm starving!" I cry back, while desperately flipping through the sixteen page glossy menu.

And that there is something to be said for the limited late night menu at Denny's.


My whole life, people have always told me that you cannot change others. Rather, you have the power to change how you react to them. And this is true.

But just recently, I've come to discover that you don't have to let people change who you are. If you do a good deed and it goes unthanked, does this mean you should stop doing those good deeds? If someone doesn't say hello back, do we become bitter, angry and misanthropic in nature? Why give others that control in life? Why let them influence your true nature for the worst?

As I left for work today, I looked over at my nemesis two doors down.

Ghandi once said, "Everything we do is futile. But we must do it anyway."

I closed my eyes and sharply inhaled. I sauntered over to him.

"Hello!" I called out to him.

The man turned to me. His expression softened. For the first time ever, he removed the dangling Camel Wide from his mouth.

My breath caught in my throat.

"Hey white bitch!" he said cheerfully and smiled before jamming the cigarette back into his mouth.

Progress, I thought.

And I started to laugh.