4 adults in a car, we argue about the things you'd expect, like whether a man can be feminist. Well, can he? Please enlighten us, because they refused to agree to disagree and I refused to tip the scales in any one direction.
We are on our way to Montreal to eat in a restaurant run by a man who calls himself the Veggie Nazi. We're all a little worried. We have heard the kind of shit that goes down at the Spirit Lounge: there is no menu. You eat whatever vegan crap he sets in front of you, every last crumb. That's his Golden Rule - no waste. Waste is sin. If you leave something on your plate, he either charges you extra, or he throws you out on your ass. This isn't rumour, these are actual possibilities. The stuff of sitcoms, yes, and it's funny when it happens on Seinfeld but will it be funny when it happens to us?
Once the miracle of parking in Montreal has been performed, my anxiety is such that I must immediately find a bathroom, and I refuse to let it be the one in the restaurant (I am afraid that he will dole out 4 paltry squares of toilet paper and tell me to be wise with their usage). I actually, bafflingly, find it preferable to use a gas station toilet. The one I frequent is equipped with that ubiquitous sharps container I keep meeting up with, and is lit solely by a black light above the mirror. It's great for not being able to see the Hepatitis that is probably swarming all over the place, and even better for making my zebra-print panties look cool.
The restaurant exceeds our expectations, especially the unfavourable ones. The decor involves copious amounts of foil, a collection of crucifixes, and a gold-sprayed collage on the wall that gives a second life to dominoes, GI Joes, and bits of broken license plates. The tables are cobbled together, and the layers of Salvation Army table cloths do little to hide staples in the plywood.
Soup, slivers of bread and tap water were presented to us with a flourish. This is prison food, according to my mother (though I was astonished later in life to learn that actually, felons eat quite well). I'm not going to lie: the soup was delicious. I ate it willingly, practically with gusto. The bread was...dense. And damp. This is food without preservatives, I told myself, until I caught a whiff and thought this is food that should have been thrown out 3 days ago. It smelled dank, the way dungeons smell, or a wet bathing suit that was balled up and thrown in the trunk of your car and slept on by a sweaty dog, or the forest floor's wet mushroomy, earthwormy rot, or, you know...mouldy bread. I elected not to finish mine, breaking the golden rule, but I was clever and hid my crust on the other side of the bowl. A fellow dining companion was not so lucky. Sure he talked the big talk before sitting down to dinner, boasting that he would purposely break the rule just to get a rise out of the owner, but when the Veggie Nazi spotted his uneaten portion and commanded Eat your bread in his smarmy french accent, he ate that bread like he suddenly believed that it would grant him superhuman strength and lifelong immunity to...well, the perils of eating putrid food.
We'd survived the appetizer, mostly, but were feeling shaky about the main course. It was described as a casserole consisting of mainly cereals and eggplant, and as delicious as it sounds, it looked even worse. But there was no getting away with leftovers, so we ate dutifully, grimacing, chewing apprehensively, fearing the worst with each tension-filled bite. Raw vegetables and fruit were served on the side, marinated in a salty oil-based dressing that was nice for broccoli and just dreadful on apples. I began sneaking pieces onto someone else's plate, not because he enjoyed the food but because I knew he would rather vomit on the sidewalk outside that engage in open conflict with the Veggie Nazi.
And then came dessert. By this time, I was smart. I ponied up on someone else's, and between the three of us, we managed to get it eaten. And with the dinner portion of the evening out of the way, thus came the show. Rozman, as the Veggie Nazi has chosen to rename himself, bestowed upon us one of the rants he is famous for, an incomprehensive diatribe against Coca Cola, women named Natalie Tremblay, and capitalism. I notice however, a few holes in his arguments:
1. It's great that he's got these lofty anti-capitalist ideals now, but where were they when he used the welfare funds provided to him by us working pigs to upstart his business?
2. While I suppose it's possible that he really is the only person to ever really understand anything, I find it just a smidge more possible that he's naive and immature and pretty fucking high and mighty.
3. When you tell a paying customer that You don't know what urine smells like and mean it as an insult...maybe you need to work on your customer service skills a little bit.
4. The traditional definition of 'asshole' is not someone who does not finish their dessert. Although suddenly he's got more in common with my grandma that I would have imagined possible.
5. When you use finger pointing and spittle to emphasize your point instead of, say, rationality, it may be time to reconsider the point.
Now, I do admire a man's passion and convictions, but this guy is ridiculous. He doesn't have beliefs, he just believes he's better, and that's probably a more dangerous concept than any of the things he rants about from his pedestal.
But that's not all Montreal had in store for us....
With our bellies full of asparagus puree, we headed over to Le National because les boys bought me tickets to see The Weakerthans in concert. Don't feel bad if you don't know The Weakerthans, just feel bad if you don't immediately go look them up. The show was awesome. The band was great, beyond great, and that's not just the rum and cokes talking.
Even the opening band was fantastic, because they provided so much fodder for ridicule, from the leader singer wearing Mom jeans and sipping a glass of red (wine is sooooo not rock & roll!), to the guitarist who played as if he was actually being stung by 13000 bees, and then would switch spots with the keyboardist who played as if he were a marionette with invisible strings being manipulated by a man with a severe cramp, to the bass player whose instrument was either under a different gravitational pull than every other atom on earth, or was under the influence of a giant bass-attracting magnet hidden cleverly across the room.
It was a great night. A grrrrrrreat night. We all agreed we'd even go back to the restaurant because it's not really about the food, it's about the experience.
But next time, we'll stop at McDonald's first.