All posts by JackEdwards

My Short Lived Life as a Vegan

Eat Meat

By Jack Edwards

It all started when my friend, a normal friend, told me he stopped eating meat.  When I say normal friend, I mean normal person, as opposed to a few friends I have who are not normal.  (This should be sufficient explanation for those of you who are normal.  If you are confused or upset by this explanation, I hate to be the one to drop the 411, but you are probably not normal.  I say “probably” to spare your feelings.)  This friend, who I will refer to as “Chris,” because his name is Chris, told me that he had watched this movie called Forks Over Knives, and the movie convinced him to stop eating meat.  So, of course, I couldn’t believe it, and I told him that I couldn’t believe it, and that should have been the end of it.  Only it wasn’t.  Three weeks later, I realized that Forks Over Knives was on Netflix.  The real mystery is how this void in the entertainment universe emerged and swallowed up every other thing which might have caught my fancy.  It doesn’t take much to entertain me (e.g. I occasionally watch CSPAN.  Yeah…I know.), but alas, Forks Over Knives miraculously stood alone.

The movie is a documentary about these two skinny doctors who do a bunch of complicated studies using graphs and statistics, and this is the mind blowing part – even look at historical data.  They conclude with very serious faces that if you don’t become a vegan, you’re going to die immediately.  Possibly by the end of the movie.  I know this sounds crazy, but they’re very convincing, kind of like that guy at the fair who sells the slicer-dicer.  If the slicer-dicer guy used a bunch of graphs.

So anyway, about two thirds of the way through the movie, I say to myself, “Jack, in the unlikely event given your non-vegan ways that you live to see the end of this movie, you’re going to start eating a ‘plant-based diet.’”  See, that’s what they call it, a “plant-based diet.”  But it’s really a vegan diet.  I figure they just changed the name to appeal to more people and not sound like a bunch of crackpots, like when Philip Morris changed its name to Altria.  The long and the short is that I jumped into the deep end of the pool.  If it had parents, or came from something that had parents, it was off the menu.  Even stupid parents, like fish, which I always considered more like vegetables without roots.  Plus anything that was highly processed or contained refined sugar.  Unfortunately, I discovered that if you take all those things literally off the table, what you’ve got left is grass.  Nonetheless I put my head down and marched forward.  The whole time I’m thinking, ‘How am I going to get enough protein?’  According to some random website on my iPhone, I needed 56 grams of protein per day.   Was I supposed to eat tofu every day?  (My iPhone said that too much tofu was toxic).  One of the skinny guys on the show ramble on about how everything has protein in it, even potatoes.  Beans supposedly have a lot of protein.  But I did the math, I was going to have to eat like fifty pounds of beans a day.  I’d be creating enough gas to light a small municipality.  Nonetheless, I struggled forward, week after week.  I even spent a few days in Oklahoma visiting my daughter.  Oklahoma!  That state’s official motto is: “We eat red meat three times a day, and sometimes we even cook it.”  Do you have any idea what it’s like to order a veggie burger in Oklahoma?  I’m one of the few who’s lived to tell about it.  And that’s only because I confessed that I was visiting from a liberal commie part of the country and I would be leaving forthwith.

At week nine, I hit the vegan wall.  I wasn’t hungry, I was exhausted from trying to eat enough protein without swallowing a wheelbarrow of beans and quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”) every day.  I majored in Language Arts Education in college not nutrition.  I just didn’t have the ganas (or desire, as Edward James Olmos would say).  I was unable to Stand and Deliver.  So I yanked the plug.  I wished the two old skinny guys the best, and went back to my previous diet, the one I now call Knives Over Forks.

No Mud Balls on the Menu

No Mudballs on the Menu

by Jack Edwards

It doesn’t take long once your oldest kid enters those joyful teenage years to realize that, for all practical purposes, you have unwittingly engineered a panhandler into your home.  Sure, the kid doesn’t carry a cardboard sign saying, “Anything Helps!  God Bless.”  (Frankly, most parents wish their kid would throw in a God Bless now and then).  Another difference being that many of them are deeply antisocial and struggle to interact in normal society – the teenagers I mean.  Other than that, they’re DNA twins.

At this stage, fathers begin reminiscing to their children about their first jobs.  Stories to inspire their children for the rough road ahead.  I was no different.  At every opportunity, I interjected a comment about one job or another, often to my little panhandlers chuckling in response.  They baahed like sheep, “Daaad!”  It was ancient history.

My mini lectures featured three jobs of my youth.  The first was carpet shampooing.  Not normal carpet shampooing, like driving a van to somebody’s house and cleaning some old lady’s living room while she shuffles around and fusses and you do ten minutes of work.  Then she offers you a piece of rhubarb pie.  Not hardly.  No, my shampooing job at the ripe old age of way the hell too young, was shampooing dormitory carpets at a local state university.  This is in the summer, so the buildings are empty.  Floor after floor, building after building.  Conservatively, a billion square feet of carpet.  The good news was that this was before state institutions were required to pay the federal minimum wage.  So I was raking in like 18 cents an hour.  At least I received training my first day.  Some old guy who moonlighted as Father Time pointed his boney finger at this honking machine that I had absolutely no idea how to operate and said, “There it is.  Soap’s in the closet.”  It wasn’t until late that first morning that I realized the shampoo was supposed to be diluted at a ratio of one cup per gallon of water.  Until then, I didn’t know that water played any part of the equation.  Yeah – pure shampoo concentrate.  I must have burned through ten gallons by the time the light went off in my head.  Thirty years later, the place probably still smells like shampoo.  (This is why you don’t save money hiring untrained labor.)  My second job was advertised with a very specific description: “Manual Labor Needed.”  Perfect, I thought, I can do manual labor, anything’s better than subminimum wage shampooing.  The screening process was intensive.  I was hired about one nanosecond after I called the number and said the first half of my name.  I was told to show up at a house in a suburban neighborhood.  Once there, our boss, a guy who announced that we would get paid in cash at the end of the day, directed me and three other young laborers to the backyard.  We walked around to the back and then stood in awe.  The boss never explained how a mud ball pile the sized of Mount Everest got there, only that we needed to move it to a truck out front.  At first we tried using shovels to pick up the balls and put them in a wheelbarrow, but it didn’t work.  They were too sticky.  We were left with no choice other than to actually grab these basketball sized mud balls and set them in the wheelbarrow one by one.  We looked like creatures from the black lagoon by the end of the day.  So, at that early point in my life, I’m thinking, this is it.  I’ve hit the bottom of the mud ball barrel.  But I’ve always been one to reach for the gold ring.  And unfortunately, I managed to grab it.  The local school district was remodeling a building.  In retrospect, a chiropractor must have been on the school board and actively engaged in the planning.  Our task was clearly designed to exact an almost intolerable amount of pain from us “construction assistants.” I use this term loosely because those of us who were fodder for this particular cannon weren’t helping to construct anything.  We were actually cogs in what I have ever since referred to as the Human Conveyer Belt of Rubble.  Numerous brick walls were demolished in the building’s basement, thus leaving piles of old brick with abrasive angles of 100 year old mortar still attached to them.  It was reminiscent of the mud ball job, only with stairs and without a wheelbarrow.  We piled bricks into two five gallon buckets and then hauled them up to ground level.  I’m not sure what was worse, climbing up with the crushing weight of a bucket in each hand, or walking back down for another load, which created just slightly more mental anguish than waterboarding.  You may have seen this type of activity if you are a fan of films depicting mid-fifteenth century China.

With my children well versed in the mental, physical and financial challenges of entry level teen jobs, I stood back and waited to see how my oldest child fared.  What indignities would arrive at her doorstep?  And then it happened.  Her first job.  The horror of it.  All I could do was shake my head.  No shampoo, no mud balls and certainly no Human Conveyer Belt of Rubble.   Much to my crushing expectations, she landed a job as a hostess at an upscale restaurant.  Not only was it devoid of cancer causing chemical agents, dirt and debris, it was required to be so.  It was inspected by the government to ensure it.  And she was earning well above minimum wage.  There was only one thing I could do.  When she came home after her first shift, a grin on her face no less, there I was standing just inside the front door holding my sign:  “Anything Helps!  God Bless.”

Support the Endangered Sauce Act!

The sadness of sauceless fries

By Jack Edwards

I’d like to take this opportunity to draw your attention to an emerging crisis.  A crisis that looms even larger and more ominous than our country’s staggering deficit or our precarious interests in the Middle East, one stands firmly at the forefront:  the puzzling disappearance of fry sauce.  I realize I may have just lost 90% of my audience, but it is a sacrifice I, as a patriotic American, am prepared to make.  I now continue with my core audience, the enthusiastic 10% who have just simultaneously high-fived the air and grunted an unintelligible sound.  My comrades who take their fries seriously and appreciate the intense carnal pleasure that a little mayonnaise and ketchup concoction can provide. Sure, a few diehard burger joints have hung on, but fry sauce is simply not as available as it used to be.  Not only in fast food restaurants, but in most restaurants – diners even.  And don’t get me started with fancy restaurants that call their french fries “pommes frites.”  Ask for sauce in one of those grand establishments and the snooty waiter looks at you like you’ve coughed up a hair ball.  Fry sauce used to be everywhere.  You couldn’t come within half a block of a burger joint without some pimply faced kid pushing fry sauce on you like a dope dealer pedaling smack.  That heavenly pink concoction made of mayo, ketchup, a dash of Tobasco, and something that gave it texture – perhaps asbestos.  Recently, rather than continue to sit back and complain (mainly to myself), about this travesty, I threw on my tweed jacket and popped in my meerschaum pipe.  “Step aside,” Sherlock I said admiring myself in the mirror, Jack Edwards is here, and it’s time to do some digging.

First stop, the nearest fast food restaurant.  For legal reasons, its name will be withheld.  Instead, I will use the code name “McRonalds.”  (That should keep my lawyer off my back.  Just saved myself $500 skipping that little telephone conference Q&A.  Nyuck, Nyuck.)  Anyway, the manager of that fine establishment agreed to an interview on the condition of anonymity.  I will therefore, in keeping with the highest of journalistic ethics, refer to him by a code name as well, Yum Yum.

Yum Yum:  “Look, rush hour’s coming, and I’m going to be flinging burgers out the drive through faster than your precious fry sauce shoots through a goose.  So let’s keep this snappy.”

Me: “Two words: fry sauce.  Give me the skinny.”  (I cringe as these words leave my mouth, because indeed there is nothing skinny about Yum Yum).

YY:  “Look Fonzi, fry sauce started going belly-up in the late sixties.  It struggled on life support through the seventies.  People wanted ketchup, the hard stuff.  Straight up.”

My journalistic antennas shot to attention.  Plain ketchup?  Fry sauce died for lack of demand?  I felt like a senator holding a hearing in 1972 listening to the CEO of a major tobacco company testify that there wasn’t any evidence that (cough cough) cigarettes caused cancer.  Somebody was trying to dupe somebody, and that somebody was me.  (I may have thrown in too many “somebodies” here, but you get the point.)  This guy was feeding me a pile of used cattle feed.

Me: “Who’s kidding who here, Yum Yum?”  (Except I used his really name, Brian – whoops).  “Ninety-nine percent of all french fry eaters love fry sauce!”  (Based on my made up and biased research – the final one percent being in a coma and eating their french fries through a feeding tube.)  “They didn’t just stop eating it.  You and yours pulled the switcheroo.  ‘Hey, folks, guess what, you have the choice of ketchup, or hey you can have ketchup.’  Give it up Yum Yum, this is about the almighty dollar, isn’t it?”

Bri… Yum Yum:  “Okay buddy, you want the truth?  Yeah.  It is about the money.  That burger revolution in the seventies?  The one putting all those crazy ideas into the heads of customers?  Have it your way?  A one-dollar burger they could have made to order?  ‘Extra pickles,’ or say, ‘extra onions’.  I once had a guy ask for his tomato slice extra thin.  Yeah, I was there on the front line.  Heard it with my own eyes!  ‘Tomato slice extra thin.’  I’ve got cars backed up to the street, and this guy wants his tomato slice extra thin.  Well, you don’t get “have it your way” and fry sauce.  You know how long it takes to whip up, package and store fry sauce?  Thank goodness the majority of us agreed: It’s ketchup and ketchup only.  An antitrust violation?  An anticompetitive monopolistic maneuver?  Complain to your congressperson.  Otherwise, welcome to the real world.”

I’m not really sure what happed after that.  I came to in an alley tilted against a dumpster with mayo smeared on one cheek and ketchup on the other (and I wish I were talking about my face).  But alas, the truth was out.

So a call to arms, my brethren!  We gather at the Lincoln Memorial next week, and march united across the mall to the Capital.  If not us, who?  If not now, well, you get the point.  And based on the size of many of our representative’s bellies, I am confident that we will find an attentive audience.  A swift, bipartisan solution is at hand!

Don’t Fight “Therapy” Dogs, Join Them!

Therapy Animal Sign

I’d like to draw your attention to an emerging crisis.  A crisis that looms even larger and more ominous than our country’s staggering deficit or our precarious interests in the Middle East.  I am, of course, speaking about the proliferation of therapy companion animals.  In less time than it took us to move from cell phones the size of bricks to the size of Kit Kat bars, therapy animals have swept over this country like locusts.  The ancestor of these “therapy companions,” which now enjoy equal space in our grocery stores, theatres and airliners is, of course, the gallant “seeing-eye dog.”  That loyal animal which escorts its master safely down sidewalks and across perilous streets.  From such humble and practical beginnings, we now have an animal for every conceivable illness, malady or syndrome known to WebMD.  I spotted a wiener dog the other day wearing one of those little red vests that said Anxiety Therapy Companion.  Not twenty-four hours later, I see a mom and three kids marching into a dance performance with a golden retriever wearing a vest that read: Autism Therapy Companion.  It didn’t seem to be aware that it had a job to do.  It wasn’t standing alert or, as far as I could tell (albeit I’m no expert) doing anything special.  It seemed to lay down on its side as often as it got the chance.  Perhaps to my untrained eye, I’m missing the nuance of his assistance.

Recently, it came to my attention that a group of concerned citizens has formed a nonprofit group to raise and train therapy dogs for overweight children.  They assign the dogs to the children by weight, both the child’s and the dog’s.  The chubbier the child, the chubbier the dog.  The concept, as I understand it, is that by being around a dog that is more robust than the child, the child feels thinner, and thus better about him or herself.  The society providing this assistance is using labradors, because, as anyone who has spent any time around a lab will tell you, those things will eat ten meals a day if you let them.  The program has been hailed largely (no pun intended) as a success, but there have been challenges.  In a few instances, children have, how shall I put this, “outpaced” their dogs in girth.  The animals had to be returned to the association’s kennel for “retooling” (i.e. placed on a strict regimen of high-fat liver flavored doggy shakes and other tasty caloric snacks). 

I put a call into the White House to alert First Lady Michelle Obama about this program, and to my pleasant surprise, she called me back.  As many of you know, the First Lady launched a campaign to battle childhood obesity and promote a healthy diet.  After explaining the program to her, Michelle (as I now call her), told me that she was concerned that this cutting edge therapy program might actually be enabling these children to continue to live an unhealthful lifestyle.  Michelle inquired whether these companion therapy animals might better be trained to, for example, throw themselves between their chubby masters, as, say, they were reaching for a piece of chocolate cake.  I replied to Michelle that might be pretty dangerous for the animals, but that I would see what I could do to communicate her thoughts to the association. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I am pro companion therapy animal.  I even decided to borrow my neighbor’s weimaraner, Gus, a dog bred over centuries to fulfill its essential role of being photographed wearing human clothing – in short, an animal harboring little to no remaining dignity, to act as my therapy companion.  (My family is not able to have a pet, as my wife is allergic to having hair on the couch, that and muddy footprints). 

As I have settled into middle age, I have found myself often plagued with the discomfort of gas buildup and bloating, especially after enjoying a large Mexican meal.  So I thought, perhaps an anti-acid therapy companion might help.  You know, calm me, and aid in settling the digestive juices. Truth be told, Gus is getting up there in years, eleven on his last birthday.  Which, of course, in human years is 385.  So he’s a little slow off the dime.  And they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but, he already has most of the necessary skills.  He walks as slowly as I do, doesn’t pull on the leash, and he collapses at my feet the moment I give him the chance.  As I was hesitant to invest any actual money into my new endeavor, I was challenged to come up with a suitable, but necessary “official vest” for him (So I could take him anywhere I wanted, places where others might ignorantly consider his presence inappropriate).  The only thing red I could find in the house was a kitchen apron my sister-in-law gave my wife for Christmas last year, with “Kiss the Chef” printed across the front.  However, by folding it in half and flipping it upside down, I was able to loop the neck stringy thing over Gus’s head and tie the back strings under his belly.  An artful black marker job later announcing Gus’s status as an Anti-acid Therapy Animal, and I was in business.  I even embellished a bit by printing in smaller letters “Please Don’t Pet Me, I’m Working!” beneath his title, for official effect.  If you see Gus and me out and about, please stop and say hello (but don’t mention anything about his “vest”).