Showdown in Silverlake, or: Trouble at Trader Joe’s

I was not surprised at the line all the way around the Trader Joe’s, but the store wasn’t even open yet. Was I there too early, or too late? No time to think about it. I found my slot and lined up.

grocery store trader joe's showdown

I stood behind a man in a tie-dyed shirt that has a heavy-duty mask on, the kind with two plastic puck-shaped filters on the front, the metal band across the back of his head glinting dully in the sun.  Soon, another guy arrived and took the spot behind me. He had on a t-shirt that said SPACE FORCE. After a few moments, people lined up behind him. It was 8:15. We had forty-five minutes to go.

The more people lined up, the better I felt about my spot in line. I was in the perfect spot. The people in front of me were suckers. They weren’t going to get into the store any earlier than I was. The people behind me were assholes. They had no commitment and if the store ran out of Joe-Joe’s before they got in, so be it.  I had no pity for them.

I saw one woman ask another if that was really the line, then sigh heavily and trudge past us all in shame. My heart swelled with pride. I was achieving, just by being there. That’s right, look at my spot. This is my spot, and it’s delineated by two spray painted lines. I wondered if we’ll need them long enough to touch them up, or whether a year from now, they’ll fade into the tarmac, as the urgency and panic of this time fades in our minds.

Time passed. I did squats, trying to impress the guy in the Space Force t-shirt. He gave no indication of being impressed. I listened to a podcast, checked my phone, sniffed the air. It was heavy with the smell of eucalyptus bouquets and hand sanitizer. It was almost time.

What Happened Next

I heard her approach before I realized what was happening. She stood near the space between Corner Woman and Man After Corner for a moment, testing her chances. Looking down the line of people waiting in the sun, she stepped into Corner Spot, which wasn’t really a spot at all. HEY yelled Big Filters. THIS IS A LINE. She turned away from him, shielding her face in the sun. Masks make anonymity and boldness.

She carried herself like masked Casanova at an orgy- she could have anyone she wanted and none would be the wiser. She’d just blend into the crowd, with her shitty yellow floral top and her shitty curly hair. The woman in front of the corner turned to see what was going on, but she didn’t really care. It was, she thought to herself, no skin off her dick.

But it wasn’t over. Man After Corner tried a gentler approach, explaining to her at a distance that she had broken the rules, the only thing keeping us all from dying in the streets. Again, she turned away, raising her shoulder to him. The line moved forward again, faster. They were letting us all in. We had to make a mob decision, and we had to do it immediately. A woman not too far behind me threw the first stone. It connected to yellow shirt’s head solidly. A moment passed, but only a moment.

One Moment Later

A hail of rocks, keys, shopping baskets rained down upon her from all directions. She screamed, trying to protect her head with her hands, but she couldn’t dodge everything. It only lasted a few seconds. She made a dash back to her car, her yellow shirt spotted with blood among the flowers. We heard the opening, then the closing of the door of a Honda Accord. The line erupted in glee, but also it was time to be anointed with hand sanitizer and to enter the Trader Joe’s. My Joe-Joe’s would never again taste as sweet as they did this day.

Extraordinary Facts About Vegans!

I stopped eating meat 30 years ago today and this is what I’ve learned:

Tell people you had to stop eating meat for health reasons.  Say you were gonna die if you didn’t stop.  That will make them feel better.  If you say it’s for moral or environmental reasons,  that makes them feel bad.  They will hate you.

Hitler was a vegetarian for health reasons and everyone liked him, I guess.

If you go to someone’s house who eats meat, they will give you something covered in cheese. They are not sure what else there is.

Sometimes vegans are annoying but that sometimes carnivores are annoying and also smell like dead flesh.

Discourage romantic partners from veganism because when you break up, the next time you see them they will eat a rolled up hamburger patty over a fire.  It will be weird.

BBQ sauce is still delicious, because it’s just ketchup and liquid smoke.

“Tofurkey” is a spoonerism of Faux Turkey, so you can stop wondering about that.

If a consumer package is green, I know it’s for vegans, if it’s black it might be for fancy vegans!

I have never, ever, not for one day in the past 30 years, gotten my RDA of protein of 65 grams a day. How am I still alive?  God’s will.  Or else, that RDA is bullshit.

Every cup in a breakfast place stinks like eggs from the dishwasher.  Now you have a superpower.

Before we had Garden Burger, we made veggie burgers out of falafel that we made kind of flat.

Meat is Murder made me a vegetarian, even though it’s not a very good song and has cow noises in it from those little turnover cow things.

Did you know that if a neighborhood has a good coffeeshop, bike lanes, and a vintage store, it must by law have a vegan cafe?

When California was in heavy drought,  some restaurants had tabletops suggesting eating vegetarian to save water.

I laughed, vegetarians have been saying that for years but everyone acted like we were nuts.

The first vegan I ever met in the world was Derron Pulley, and he ate nothing but fried tofu and brown rice, because we lived in Dallas, and this probably scared me off trying veganism for a decade.

Vegetarians think they’re 90% like vegans and vegans think vegetarians are one late lunch from eating cooked ground beef by the handful.

Eating vegan is easy.  Everything that the earth makes, that grows from the ground or from the trees is vegan until you start shoving animals into it.

I’m Vegan, Don’t Hate Me

virginia jones by zachary foster
photo by Zachary Foster

I performed this at Greg Walloch’s great food-based storytelling show, Eat Your Words, at the Standard hotel Sunset.  

The first thing I have to tell you is I’m sorry for the second thing I have to tell you.
Here’s the second thing.
I’m vegan.
Don’t hate me. I don’t hate you.
It started this way.

Long ago, we didn’t have Pandora or Spotify or even Pitchfork or Myspace to find new music. Not even Myspace. In my generation, if you wanted to find cool music, you had to go home with an older guy. Maybe one who had a college radio show. Go through his record collection. That’s what you did. It was a gamble. You might get a free t-shirt. On the other hand, you might find a collection of Styx records.

That means you wasted a night of your youth.

The Record

There was this one time I found a Smiths record.  It was called Meat is Murder and it had a song on it called Meat is Murder.
Meat is Murder, I knew even then, is not a good song. It’s stupid and overblown and it has bad logic. The lyric is: It’s death without reason, and death without reason is murder. That’s not true. If anything, murder has MORE reason than other death. If my aunt gets hit by a bus, is that bus a murderer?

The song has cow noises that sound like those little toys you flip over. But I had not really thought about meat before, and I became a vegetarian that day, for the best reason, which is for Morrissey.  This was moral high ground Morrissey, before he was supporting Brexit and saying awful things about minorities all the time.

The Last Meat

The last meat I ate on purpose was a Fishwich from McDonald’s in August 1987. If that was before you were born, please- release yourself from the responsibility of telling me that. Also, know that every time you say- I wasn’t even born then- you’ll get it back in time. Sometimes in spades.

My sisters made fun of me. My Dad told me I was going to die from malnutrition.

I went to Thanksgiving with my best friend in college and her grandfather turned to me and yelled “You ever try meat? You might like it!”

Another friend’s mother served me spaghetti with meat sauce and said it was walnuts. When I said it was OK, I could eat salad she said “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I just thought it was all in your mind!”

In the 80’s and 90’s, many people continued to ask questions about why I was vegetarian, but I think the most hurtful one was- how do you keep your weight on? Touche, custodian lady.

The Next Step

In the early 2000’s, I stopped drinking milk. It turns out, I was lactose intolerant. It was a revelation. I didn’t know you could just live a life without farting all the time. I cut out eggs, because I didn’t care about eggs.
When people ask you why you don’t eat meat these days, they ask if it’s for health or moral reasons. If it’s health, they’re ok with it. If you had to stop eating animals because your blood is mostly cheese, you’re not judging them. I think it’s like how people who don’t drink get asked if it’s by choice or court order.  I’m not judging you.

I have never asked anyone to be vegetarian. If a boyfriend spontaneously becomes vegetarian, his friends will all think you did it, and after you break up you’ll see him at a party, laughing and eating a rolled up hamburger patty with his hands over the grill with his new girlfriend, who is paleo and teaches crossfit.

Eventually, my sisters went vegetarian, then they cut out milk. My mother said “I’m too old to be vegetarian.” My sister calls me to complain about my mother eating ice cream and farting up her house. She doesn’t think there’s any other way.  My mother says it’s too hard to remember what is and isn’t made of an animal.

How Can You Tell What’s Not An Animal?

Think of it this way.  Everything that grows from the earth, from every plant, every grain, every fruit, every vegetable, I eat. I’m not crazy about pumpkin or sweet potatoes, probably from holiday related trauma. Everything that comes out of the ground in the world, I eat. If it can be plucked or shucked or harvested, I’ll eat it. If it’s something that has to be trapped and killed, I don’t eat that. So that’s easy to remember. And I can eat any food that doesn’t have animal parts put into it. It’s really lots of foods.
It’s carnivores who are complicated. Over here, there’s animals you eat: big fish, big pigs, cows, chickens. Over here, there’s animals you love, cats, small fish, small pigs, and depending on where you grew up, dogs and horses. You can be doing really great but you screw up and eat a cat one time and people never let you forget it.

It Happened This Way

One day, I get the call.
My sister called me to say: OK, while I was living in England, there was this green apple and sage sausage that British people eat, because most things they eat are some kind of sausage. And they had a vegetarian kind at the store, and I was craving them recently, and I found them, and it was at Whole Foods, and it was in a brown paper wrapper, and I took it home, and I cooked it, ate it, and read it, and that was the wrong order, because it was made of pork!
I started laughing and I couldn’t stop.
She said, You don’t understand, I’m a vegetarian!
I said, well, I love you, and people make mistakes, but what do you think I am, vegetarian Pope? I can’t absolve you from pig eating.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter- It’s about intention, not execution.

Vegan Superpowers

Don’t think I don’t have vegan superpowers. I do. You know breakfast places? Like, not brunch places necessarily, but places with several different flavors of pancakes and everything comes with bacon and potatoes. What I know that you don’t is that every single drinking glass smells like cooked-on egg from the dishwasher, and you guys can’t tell. It’s like seeing into another dimension.

No Gracias, Madre- my review from

  I have always loved Gracias Madre SF and was looking forward to checking out the new Melrose location.   Every time I’d been to San Francisco, I’d made it a point to visit Gracias Madre, even though it was always a wait and jam-packed with happy customers.  I had been talking our local outpost up to local and far-flung vegans.  It was a bit of a wait, as usual, but our spicy Purista tequila drinks and cauliflower and cashew cream were fantastic.

When I got my entree, however, I bit down hard on a tooth-sized shard of glass that had been inside.   I felt that unpleasant nausea and tasted blood as I scraped my tongue.  We called the waitress over and she apologized and told the kitchen.  The manager came over and apologized again.  I graciously accepted the apologies.

I was offered a comp dessert, but I found that my appetite was reduced after the glass chewing.  The last thing I needed to deal with was glass-filled Mexican wedding cookies.  I was pleased to see that the tab was reduced to just drinks and one entree and we sent our card to pay.  An apologetic waitress came back over and said she’d gotten it wrong, she was only supposed to take off the entree that had the glass in it, and brought us a new tab.
Look, I’m not complaining that I got a large, sharp shard glass in my food, which ruined my dinner and evening.  I know that this stuff can happen, and in their defense, glass is totally vegan.  I’m just surprised that the comp was only for the food that had glass in it.
I hate to review a vegan restaurant like this, but I really feel that this was handled poorly.
See the receipt with the code for foreign object discount, which for some reason made me laugh.  In short, gracias but no gracias, man.

My receipt, showing the discount for a foreign object in my food. Yum!

It’s a Very Vegan Christmas!

My talented best friend Pete Ellison (designer of my website, music impresario, DJ and artist- previously mentioned here, here, and here, and here and here!)  has made this adorable t-shirt, suitable for you or your vegan/vegetabletarian friends and family!

  It’s available in yellow, green, or blue, and is hand-printed in Pete’s home studio in soft, eco-friendly waterbased inks.  I like this tee especially because it doesn’t have the “and you’re a dick” subtext of a lot of veggie tees, it’s just a fun burger that loves you and wants to be eaten, because everyone knows that tofu is a very masochistic food.  Click HERE to order!

This first run is limited to 75 pieces!  You’ll be wearing the only tofu burger tee in the whole vegan grocery/yoga class/tall bike ride/waterpark/DJ night/transgender dance party/coffee bean tasting/hula hoop class/laundromat dance party/bear bowling event!

Happy Anniversary to My Gaggia Titanium

My Boyfriend, The Automatic Espresso Maker

This Friday is a very special anniversary for me.  I had a furious one-sided battle with Starbucks last year, who at first lured me in with the promise of free soymilk in exchange for unquestioning fealty and then took it away, so I bought a Gaggia Titanium espresso machine and started making lattes at home, despite not really knowing how.

How fast a year flies by, especially when your heart is palpitating!  I am at 1700 espressos pulled (double shots) and have cleared $5,000 in savings.  I have put fancy beans (David Lynch, my favorite local Groundworks, Lord Windsor from Long Beach) and cheap/normal beans (bulk from Costco, no-name sale beans at Fresh & Easy) and I’m sorry to say, every single pull has been fucking delicious.   The  beans create a variety of flavors but I’ve never pulled a shot I didn’t care for.

When I’m away from home, I have been using an Aeropress rig that I’ve used to pull shots in the Catskills, in my sister’s place in New York, on set in Van Nuys and Simi Valley, and in the adorable hipster paradise that is Hicksville trailer park in Joshua Tree.  Pulling hot espresso shots on the fly makes you very popular with musicians, comedians, writers, actors, and directors.  This is also very fun to use and makes a delicious shot, but it’ll never replace my main man.

I mean, what does love mean if it’s not slowly killing you?