On Asheville, Snowballs and Greener Grass
Here’s the deal with Asheville, which is by no means fair as I was there for four days: some fabulous vegan restaurants; non-vegans, at least who work in restaurants, know what a vegan is; and when you go to a non-veg restaurant and say you’re a vegan, you just might get some really tasty food (though not necessarily the most healthy food). Best of all, the non-vegans don’t mock you for your diet that’s an expression of your nonviolence. How refreshing! I almost wanted to move there.
Oddly, it’s more like "the South" than South Florida, which is really just a bunch of whiny New Yorkers and other northerners who’ve had enough of shoveling snow and chipping ice from their windshields.
I lived in Manhattan’s East Village, and Asheville is reminiscent of the thrift stores and non-Starbuck’s coffee shops of my old neighborhood, complete with young people who look as if they could use a shower, a haircut (or at least a comb) and a fresh set of clothes. I discovered that the young rebels would hang out around veg places, which told me that not much has changed since I was their age: people with non-mainstream beliefs make it a point to create an appearance that expresses their edgy-ness, and they congregate around places that support their choices. And once again, now that I’m old enough to be their parents, I see them as my parents and other grown-ups saw me: as trying really hard to tell the world that they don’t want any part of the way the establishment does things.
It’s like wearing a uniform to protest the uniform everyone else is wearing. I observe their interactions with others and the way people avoid them if they’re not on the same team. And I wonder whether they’re hurting or helping (or neither) my cause, because a lot of my time must be allocated to explaining the obvious–they’re young and rebellious (so get over it and move on).
Appearance is far more important than it should be, for all of us, but I feel like vegans are particularly under a microscope. It’s just another area where non-vegans are lurking to see if they can catch you being a hypocrite. What are your shoes made of? What on earth is that purse–chain mail? (It’s made of recycled soda tabs.) Where was it made? I hope not in China. And what’s up with the nail polish? Didn’t that at some point go into the eye of a rabbit? And isn’t it terrible for the environment? And how do you justify wearing diamonds? Didn’t you see that Leonardo DiCaprio film?
Talking about veganism is like going downhill with a snowball, and I used to resent all of the implications that I’m a communist (yes, "I’m a vegan" is sometimes met with "Are you a Communist?" or at least it was in the late 1980s. Now it’s met with "Are you an atheist?"). But the good news is that although mainstreamers have a list of connections they make based on stereotypes and generalizations, at least they’re engaged and giving us multiple opportunities to address and debunk the myths and misconceptions.
As "progressive" a city as Asheville is, I still spent a lot of time explaining that there’s no such thing as a humanely-produced egg and that perhaps if you’re going to get a dog only to chain her to a tree all day, you might want to rethink that proposition from the dog’s point of view. And while you’re at it, you might want to reconsider that giving money to TerraPass for its investments in turning cow manure into electricity (via methane) isn’t as effective a solution to ridding the world of the methane as not breeding and slaughtering cows needlessly to begin with.
Though I mock Palm Beach County for the many ways its residents appear to be entirely clueless about the needs of nonhuman animals, my trip to Asheville demonstrated that the grass is always greener until you get there . . . wherever it is.