I could be on great terms with soy… I
could even be caught having a pint with the occasional bean
sprout, eggplant, flax seed, wheat grass, veggie burger or
tofu lump. (Okay, that last one’s a lie. I can’t
eat food that’s served in a semi-soft white cube—it
feels too much like a Kubrick film in my mouth). But living
in Boulder, one of the healthiest cities in the United States,
has split my brain like a non-fat coconut, pitted my medulla
with a Ginsu knife like an organic avocado, and left me lying
in the Brussels Sprouts BoGo bin to die.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against being
healthy. Boulder’s firm determination to eat well, play
outside and live long, happy lives filled with black Labradors
and running shorts is a pretty decent idea of having a good
time. But if one chooses to live by extreme caloric moderation,
one also becomes extremely vulnerable to a social-life-threatening
disease called KnowItAll-ism. Symptoms include extreme preaching,
exaggerated finger pointing, and all too often, a very incorrect
but hilarious run-through of scientific evidence.
living in Boulder, I have been informed under no uncertain
circumstances that the turkey sandwiches I make will kill
me (yellow mustard is the Devil’s Jaundice; all bagged
lettuce is rancid with e.coli), the pollen allergies I have
are actually a manifestation of wheat entering my blood and
pillaging my village, and the hummus I eat with baby carrots
is rotting with unnamable, unspeakable chemical additives
(first ingredient: chick. Second ingredient: peas).
Once, while standing in front of the microwave at work, I
was tackled at full-speed by a co-worker. “What are
you doing?!” he gasped, wiping organic sweat
from his forehead. After an eternity of ellipses, I explained
that I was heating up my lunch. His eyes widened, and then
filled with sympathetic tears. “Don’t you know
that the gamma rays will enter your brain and practically
make you radioactive?” he whispered, horrified.
In the city of fat-free, sugar-free, preservative-free, gluten-free,
meat-free, dairy-free, taste-free, fun-free, and willy-free,
there is one church whose beacon shines brightest above the
rest, casting a glow of immortality and inflated prices over
our fair, mountain-studded land. I will change its name to
protect the innocent and call this religious institution something
clever, like Whole Foods.
Whole Foods really is a religion in Boulder. And much like
the trendy Catholic church in my hometown that offers a bi-weekly
transvestite bingo night, this institution also has a little
sumpin’ for everyone. Hippies, Yuppies, Soccer Moms
and Trustafarians crowd into its pleasantly lit pews on Sunday,
Friday, and Saturday to be humbled by the divine righteousness
of produce. They take communion from the bulk bins of cereal
and dried fruit (“Communion”—a doctrine
that says thy might have thee a free lunch if thine hands
art stealthy enough), they order $250 worth of vegan cruelty-free
veal (perhaps made from a rutabaga youth strapped to a wooden
stake in the garden), and sometimes a few stragglers simply
raise a hand as an act of Witnessing— or as an act of
claiming their order of Tempeh bacon from the twenty-plus
I’m going to take our Gourd’s name in vain here
and go as far as venturing that the marketing directors of
Whole Foods are goddamned geniuses. Upon entering the Temple,
I must venture far, far away from the store’s sole entrance
to get to the promised land, which is guarded by a fleet of
Mom ‘n Pop cash registers. The worn wood floor panels
lead me to the chocolate cakes (I allow myself to eat these
in one sitting because fat particles don’t exist in
this magical land of health).
After eating an entire chocolate cake, I usually find myself
lying against a table of various squid parts, unbuttoning
the belly-section of my shirt and weeping tears of salt-free
joy. Unable to rock my body into a standing position, a Team
Member (yes, really—“employees” don’t
exist between these gilded walls) gently helps me up off the
floor, wipes the frosting from my mouth, picks a few stray
crumbs from my eyebrows and steers me toward the beverages
(“One must always hydrate and stretch after working
out,” she tells me with a voice like a carb-free angel).
I select a bottle of SmartWater and stumble back into the
crowded aisles. All those years drinking RegularWater at home...
I could’ve aced my SATs, I could’ve BEEN somebody!
O’ SmartWater, take me to your Litre! (sorry... sorry.
It’s been a long day at work.)
There are no clocks. There are no loud noises. There are
no recognizable trans fats. Tiny carts wheel their way around
me like sheep grazing in a vast Swiss meadow. Even after paying,
a newspaper-filled countertop forms the shape of a magical
rainbow toward a row of masseuses beckoning me toward halo-shaped
massage chairs. Who could leave this sacred place?
been several hours, but I finally make my way out into the
dark night, still smiling as I stumble through a sea of hybrids
and Vespas. I have lost weight already—at least two
and a half pounds straight from my wallet. I have dined on
Healthy Food. I have sipped from the Fountain of Youth. But
once I return home, the sturdy paper bag a pierced and dreadlocked
Team Employee hooked me up with always bears disappointment.
The chicken looks like chicken... the carrots suspiciously
Where are the magical leprechauns, promising me flat abs
and a lifetime without wrinkles?
Which part of my bagels are gluten-free?
Where are the unicorns frolicking in the silver waterfalls?
Across from my apartment, a man dressed in teal spandex rappels
down the side of his building after a Free Trade coffee-filled
day at his software development job. Above him, his golden
retriever clips a carabiner to his collar and begins the same
ascent, eagerly anticipating a sausage-flavored WeightWatchers
From the floor below me, the smell of vegetarian Chick’n
Nuggets wafts up from the pottery kiln used for cooking by
the Bludy-Stake family (their children, Medium and Rare, only
make noise when they’re playing Grand Theft Auto on
their hemp PlayStations).
This is the loneliest part of my day... when I gaze out into
the city around me and wonder why am I so alone?
Like Thoreau, who fled to his beloved Walden to breathe nature
in and exhale oppression out, this is the time when I quiet
my mind, stand silhouetted against the burnt umber sunset
in my doorway, and let the wind gently toss my hair.
The Team Employees would tell me to liberate my mind and
feel this moment.
I feel this wind. I feel these thoughts.
Immediately afterwards, I will also feel the speed
dial to the pizza place.