Sad Vegetables

“You must make decisions,” Major Danby disagreed. “A person can’t live like a vegetable.”

“Why not?”

A distant warm look entered Major Danby’s eyes.  “It must be nice to live like a vegetable,” he conceded wistfully.

“It’s lousy,” answered Yossarian.

“No, it must be very pleasant to be free from all this doubt and pressure,” insisted Major Danby.  “I think I’d like to live like a vegetable and make no important decisions.”

“What kind of vegetable, Danby?”

“A cucumber or carrot.”

“What kind of cucumber? A good one or a bad one?”

“Oh, a good one, of course.”

“They’d cut you off in your prime and slice you up for a salad.”

Major Danby’s face fell.  “A poor one, then.”

“They’d let you rot and use you for fertilizer to help the good ones grow.”

“I guess I don’t want to live like a vegetable, then,” said Major Danby with a smile of sad resignation.

pp. 446-447 from Catch-22

I’ll get to the vegetables in a second.  I always do.

First, I just have to get the word out: Catch-22 is an excruciatingly maddening novel.  It goes nowhere… intentionally, and repeatedly.  It is cleverly and deliberately crafted to make the reader want to ram his or her head into a wall.  It took me over a year to read.  I read Atlas Shrugged faster.  Admittedly, I did take intermittent, well-deserved breaks from Catch-22 over the course of the year to indulge in such undeniable classics as the Hunger Games series and Steven King’s It – I am an American, after all –  but it really should not have taken so long to get through.  Nor should it have been nearly as painful.

The thing was, I couldn’t not finish it. I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself.  A book on a bookshelf with a long-forgotten scrap of paper marking a long-forgotten page makes me exceedingly uneasy and anxious… probably similarly to how most mothers feel when they watch someone put a cool, sweating glass of water on a wooden table without a coaster.  So, I guess you could say that for the past year, I have been living out a kind of catch-22 scenario of my own.  Damned if I do read it, damned if I give it up.  Catch-22.

… Wow. That right there is nothing other than profundity.  My old Contemporary Fiction professor – shout out to BENJ! – is surely squirming with eager intellectual anxiety back in his stone-walled basement office.  Well, either that or he’s pedaling around campus on his bike, drinking tepid Brita-filtered water out of his biodegradable Sigg and chomping heartily on a locally grown organic apple.  I hope, for his sake, that it is the latter, as it is October and the leaves are probably turning.  Fall effectively transforms Princeton into a wonderland – forgive the sentimentality.  But really.  Think Harry Potter meets A Walk to Remember.  (There were some enchanting outdoor fall scenes in that depressing Mandy Moore flick, right?  I seem to remember some wistfully warm-colored scenery behind her increasingly pale and sickly face.) 

You know, maybe the season would be worth a trip back to Princeton for a quick visit… that is, if I can get past my lingering fear that the English department mis-graded my senior thesis and, upon my arrival on campus, would immediately strap me down into my carrel, deep in the bowels of Firestone library, and force me to rewrite it from scratch.

That’d be almost as bad as reading Catch-22 a second time through.

But seriously. It has gotten to the point where even just a quick half-glimpse of that blue book cover elicits an immediate, involuntary bodily cringe.  I finally finished it yesterday.  Then I got trashed.

ANYWAY, why have I quoted a passage from Catch-22?  Well, I guess I just figured that, since my parents did pay five million dollars for me to go to an Ivy League school (no, they did not bribe the school in exchange for my acceptance, I’m just exaggerating), and all I have to show for it at the moment is a knockoff alumni license plate frame I got at the flea market, I should at least try to smarten this blog up a bit.  Maybe do a little analysis, a little close reading, a little research. Mix it up.  Use my noodle.  That’s why I’m throwing in a reference to a literary work, something from the “canon”, something that has contributed to shaping the American… I’m just kidding.

I put that passage in here because it made me think, and I mean really think, about what it would mean to be a vegetable, and about how truly awful it would be to be certain particular types of vegetables.  Sad Vegetables, as I have christened them, are the ones that nobody in their right mind goes out of their way to eat, the ones that people pick around and end up throwing away, the ones that people on diets buy with good intentions but leave to rot in the fridge before going back to the store and buying them again, the ones that invariably necessitate an accompanying flavor or condiment or bucket of salt to be reasonably qualified as anything other than rabbit food.  I’m talking celery, cucumbers, spinach, jicama, what have you.

Well, I guess if I’m being completely honest, I really only mean celery.  I can get on board with the rest, but celery is just depressing.

The way I see it, we should quit lying to ourselves and get realistic about the situation.  No one wants celery, and it ends up going to waste 98% of the time anyhow.  Why don’t we cut out the middlemen (i.e. the people supplying the celery to the stores, and the people buying it from the stores) and simply transport the celery straight from the celery farm to the garbage dump?

Well, okay, maybe not all the celery… we should probably save some for the rabbits and some for brunchtime bloody mary’s.  But I’m pretty sure that covers it.

If you’re thinking, But what about my favorite childhood snack?  Haven’t you ever heard of “Ants on a Log”??  You know, the thing where you spread peanut butter on a celery stick and line a few cute little raisins along the top?   Well, to that I say: Let us simply euthanize the raisins as well.  After all, they’re nothing but Sad Fruits.

Down with the Ants

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