Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thursday - My Flight to Southern California

It was the summer of 1973, and I was sitting on a hotel bed with both my older and younger brothers, as well as my Mom, in a small room in Glendale, California. My father was standing there in a white T-Shirt, khaki trousers and spit-polished black shoes as he went over the instructions for the fourth time. I was 5 years old, and we were living in a motel for a few weeks before moving into our home in Chatsworth. It was hot. Too hot; so the green door to our room, with paint chipped along the bottom showing it was once blue, was open for some fresh, smoggy, air. The Game Show program, “Joker’s Wild,” was on TV. He showed us again, and in a very deliberate fashion, how it was unloaded. At my mother’s suggestion Dad closed the door. “Now,” he said, “You hold it like this, but you must point it downward, not at anyone or anything!” He seemed more scolding than instructional. Dad was always happy when he instructed us how to throw a baseball, but now there was no smile, he was teaching us something in a deadly serious manner.

As a recruit in the Los Angeles Police Academy, with three small children, my father was taking away our dogged curiosity by letting us briefly hold his unloaded gun under intensive supervision. It was black, heavy, shiny, and could kill someone – it was more than my 5 year old mind could comprehend. I was scared. My imagination forever evaporated in that instant and my orange, plastic, toy water-pistol would forever be just that. He followed to the letter what the LAPD suggested recruits do, in regards to their gun, with children in the house (briefly satiate the curiosity and then put the fear of God into them. Mission accomplished). What followed was years of the gun being under lock and key whenever in our house for the rest of his career. It was a vivid memory of fear and awe that I will never forget.

On Thursday’s flight from New York to Orange County, CA. we were not given a choice for the meal – we received a small salad and a piping hot cheeseburger in a plastic wrapper. I picked up the warm plastic pouch, and holding this cheeseburger in my hand summoned the same fear and awe I experienced 37 years ago.

OK, that was melodramatic exaggeration!

BUT, it certainly felt weird holding a cheeseburger in my hand, and when I tried to draw a parallel in my head it was not long before the gun story surfaced from my memory, as ridiculous as that sounds!

In the world of cheeseburgers ranked on delectability, and freshness, airplane cheeseburgers steamed in a plastic bag must rank somewhere near the bottom between burgers from a Jr. High school cafeteria in late June and any heat lamp-fortified fast food restaurant at a Rest Stop off the New Jersey Turnpike. So, no, this greasy, spongy burger in the plastic bubble burning my finger tips was hardly tempting. But, it still felt weird…like meeting an old friend after many years who still owed you money.

I have taken hundreds of airplane trips in my lifetime, and for the first time ever my two seat mates were attractive, personable women. One an advertising executive, the other owned a gym. Soon enough, questions surfaced as to why I ate the small salad and left the cheeseburger alone. Both women, incredibly fit and trim, ate their burgers. Well, the vegan quest became the talk of seats 24 A, B, and C. The advertising executive, who swims in the pool of advertising buyers whom I take out on business lunches and dinners, quizzed me on how I navigate the typical advertising entertainment playground – steakhouses. I explained how I happily order a salad, then talk about my veganism for an hour, squeezing in any business talk as we leave the table. The gym owner thought it was hilarious that I ordered a salad at a steakhouse saying, “You’re like the girl.” Ouch. My manhood was challenged! Never mind that the day I was born the top three songs in the nation were Lady Madonna, Young Girl, and Cry Like a Baby - not exactly a soundtrack that a young man coming into the world wants to hear, and that my nickname, Terry, was a name found on more girls than boys all through school. I went vegan, and my manhood has been challenged repeatedly. Now I was being called a girl! Well, I've come a long way, and I was able to laugh it off on the plane. And, I am no longer ashamed to say I am vegan. What was once something I discussed in whispers, I now discuss enthusiastically because of the results.

Real men do eat a plant based diet!

Thursday night I rolled into my brother and his wife’s place, and my Sister-in-Law’s parents were kind enough to make sure their refrigerator was stocked with all my favorite dishes found at Trader Joe’s!

My weekend was to be a very interesting, and adventurous one!

1 comment:

seo said...

Terry, Your tale really made me laugh! Because of those icky little cheeseburgers, I never get on a cross country flight without my usual bag of nuts, fruit (and cheese - sorry; I'm vegetarian but not vegan). I vividly remember the time I forgot to bring something and that sad little salad was all there was to eat for 5+ hours. Never again.
Sounds like your new lifestyle is making you even more of a chick magnet than having a puppy.