It all started when I was 21 and moved into a share house with three vegetarian women who were so holistic they felt bad about having to kill the insects that were destroying their herb garden. In fact, they had a funeral for the insects in the backyard and burned incense by a little shrine they fashioned from ChupaChup sticks and Blu-Tack. I was desperate for a place to live, so I lied to them about being a committed vegetarian and told them I had access to cheap grass. At least the part about the grass was true.
We all ate together every night and took turns in making dinner. This was in the days before mass public access to the internet, so every few days I had to hit the library and find a new recipe to maintain my charade. I maintained it for a while until I came home drunk one night and dumped a Big Mac wrapper in the kitchen bin without covering it with other bits of rubbish. The next morning I woke up feeling a little worse for wear and decided a coffee and joint would sort me out. When I went into the kitchen, the three of them were sitting around the table with the Big Mac wrapper placed in the centre of the table covered in cling film, next to a pair of rubber gloves. They told me I had corrupted the sanctity of their home and threw me out. On the way out, I stole the insect shrine and for two years I would have my photo taken with it in different locations around the globe and then mail the photos back to the house.
Being a shallow young man in my early twenties, I maintained the vegetarian illusion because I worked out that it was the early 90s and women in Melbourne seemed to like that sort of thing. I met Sarah at a Hari Krishna canteen style restaurant not long after I was thrown out of the House of Cling Film and we hit it off immediately over dahl and an illustrated edition of the Bhagavad Gita. Three weeks later she moved into my place with her cat, Starship. These were halcyon days of pot smoking, regular sex, vegetarian curries and unemployment benefits, until Sarah got a job in a secondhand bookshop down the road from the flat. Back then this was righteous employment and I was proud of her.
While Sarah was at work, I was going to uni and writing essays at home. I was also eating ham sandwiches for lunch and having a bacon roll whenever the fancy took me. One afternoon I received a phone call from a mutual friend informing me that Sarah had been spotted eating a chicken Zinger burger in KFC. I asked him if it was definitely her and he said, “Fuck man. I’m so sorry dude”. I was ecstatic thinking I’d met my perfect match, so I went out and bought in a couple of porterhouse steaks for dinner. When she arrived home I had them sitting, uncooked, on the chopping board, awaiting seasoning and adoration. What I didn’t expect was her face when she saw them. It was like she’d arrived home to find a dead kitten stuffed down the toilet. Turns out that she’d suspected I was eating meat on the side and got our mutual friend to flush me out of my Ralphie Wigam style House of Lies. The upside was that I didn’t have to move out. Sarah and the mutual friend got married three years later.
For a few more years, I limped through life with my gastronomic mendacity slung over my shoulder and avoided being rumbled by my vegetarian brothers and sisters. However, we were coming to the end of an era and the age of holistic enlightenment was drawing to a close except for the people who were genuinely actually into it and very glad that people like me were about to jump ship and hopefully drown.
At this particular point in history, people were turning their backs on crystals and vegetarianism and entering the cathedral of vinyl in droves to experience a more experiential form of spirituality through the healing qualities of MDMA. I was not one of those people, although I did partake in large quantities of MDMA. When I saw friends of mine give up their vegetarianism I became a committed vegetarian and began fighting the good fight for Quorn and Linda McCartney ready meals. Why? Because somehow being a vegetarian became something worth fighting for, it was like I’d finally found my cause in life. When the rats begin leaving the sinking ship I tend to take the helm and sail the ship into martyrdom.
I became a zealot, a spoilsport at BBQs, a boring, preaching, predictable shite-hawk with a bicycle I made from scrap and prayer flags hanging out of my arse. After years of being a pretend vegetarian I had finally seen the quinoa on the wall. I even felt really guilty about the insect shrine and sent a long apologetic letter to the women from the shared house I’d desecrated all those years before. I’m pretty certain they’d probably moved out long ago, so a complete stranger/s probably received a very confusing letter about an insect shrine and a Big Mac wrapper that they slapped on the fridge for the amusement of guests.
However, like every close relationship I’ve ever had in my life, disaster was always lurking around the corner, next to the shamed gynecologist and the retrenched bloke who still pretends to go to work every day. Once again, I was skint, living back in the UK and on the verge of yet another eviction. The job market was bleak and, based on experience with these situations, I’ve learnt to take the quickest option to resolve my problems. In this particular instance, a ‘friend of a friend’ from my local pub needed an assistant manager to work in Grubbs Burgers; a trendy burger joint for people who have ethical problems with MacDonald’s or reprobates who are so drunk they’ve forgotten where MacDonald’s is located. I checked my bank balance and said yes. After three shifts, meat and I were back on track, in the form of a blue cheese burger with shoe-string fries, washed down with a can of coke and a Camberwell Carrot sitting on the chest freezer in the storeroom. And that was the end of the line.
I have never gone back to my lying vegetarian ways and, to be honest, it’s all rather embarrassing now, but like all fuck ups, I did learn some valuable lessons and these are:
- When you’re young ‘being true to yourself’ isn’t much fun and lacks imagination; you need to play around with your personality before you even know what the ‘truth is’.
- Generally speaking, lies will result in homelessness.
- Learn to spot a cunning ruse when it’s dangled in front of your nose.
- Bacon is the best food in the universe and I’ve watched many a vegetarian be swayed by its spellbinding aroma.
- Building a shrine to insects that were destroying your herbs is weird, especially when you’re serious about it.
- Stealing weird shrines is also a bit weird but taking photos of them on a Thai beach, sitting next to a bottle of Chang beer, is brilliant.
- Always know when the battle is lost and, instead of crying about it, learn the valuable lessons of defeat.
Having had a checkered dalliance with vegetarianism, I have infinite respect for vegetarians who demonstrate conviction and restraint. It takes a particular kind of person to put faith in their beliefs, and in turn live their life based upon those beliefs. However, people who claim they’re vegetarians but still eat chicken and fish are fucking idiots.
Anybody who has known me for more than a day will know how much I dislike Johnny Depp’s acting. He is the most overrated actor of all time and serves only to enable straight men to feel what it’s like to be gay for 90-120 minutes at a time. Granted there are a couple of his films I quite like, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (I thought De Caprio really was a special needs kid and at the end of the film I commended the producers for ‘giving him a go’) and Donnie Brasco. However, the rest of his films are crap and this is why.
Two words, Tim Burton. The merest mention of this man’s name has me taking shelter under a pile of soiled mattresses. I remember going round to a friend’s house circa 92’ for a movie night and I was told that she’d found ‘the most amazing film ever’ and that I was in for a treat. Thirty minutes after I arrived I found myself running down the street towards the nearest pub in a state of abject agitation. I’d just sat through the first twenty minutes of Edward Scissorhands. I’ll never forget Depp’s simpering face under all that make-up and the thieving pikie, Winona Ryder swanning around enjoying the halcyon days of her short-lived career. Every frame of that film exemplified everything that’s wrong with post modernity, a concept dreamt up by the French and promptly denied in true postmodern style.
The world Burton delivers is occupied by the kind of people this world has been built to oppress. It’s a cross between The Big Bang Theory and Hansel and Gretel, basically, Saccharine Gothic, peppered with good intentions and half-baked homilies. Depp is in most of Burton’s films, pretty much reprising the same role over and over again: the hapless hero, often misunderstood by the community, who obviously wins the day because that’s the whole point of Burton’s transparent philosophical outlook; the weak endure and succeed if they try hard enough. I remember being told that in primary school and thinking, “Well, that’s that sorted. Can I go home now?”
The next reason I dislike Depp is because he has desecrated the good name of one of my heroes, Hunter S. Thompson. I first read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when I was 19 and I’m confident in saying that it completely fucked up my life in a good way. It served as a green light to a life of hedony and self-indulgent abandon, and I’ve been staggering up that tarnished road ever since. I’ve never found God but I have found something similar in books, and Fear and Loathing is up there in my top 5.
Depp crucified Thompson with one of his worst characterisations to date. Instead of portraying one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century, Depp gave us a bumbling journalist devoid of Thompson’s sense of style and erudition. The book is replete with deep philosophical insights into life and it charts the death of the American dream. Depp and the director, Terry Gilliam, placed far too much focus on the magical realism of excessive drug use and not enough on Thompson’s unique stance on life. And don’t even get me started on The Rum Diary.
Exhibit three is Chocolat. 90 minutes I will never get back and I did it for sex. Years later, I was to do the same thing for The Notebook, whilst seeking medical attention for drug and alcohol problems in a facility that taught me how to effectively conceal what’s really on your mind. Chocolat is the worst film I have ever seen and the Irish nation should have sought the extradition of Depp for the worst Irish accent in a film or television series since Brad Pitt in The Devil’s Own. All Depp did in that film was smolder on cue and openly denigrate one of the finest Celtic accents. He didn’t even try to make it county specific. To make matters worse, I had to put up with Juliette Binoche getting sexy with chocolate and not in a good way, like Nigella Lawson does but in a preconceived kind of way devoid of Nigella’s sensual movements of the fingers.
When I announce my dislike for Depp’s acting it upsets people, to the point where they’ve written me off or I’ve been asked to see myself out. Especially by men. I’ve noticed that men are the greatest defenders of Depp, which used to confuse me until I thought it through. As I said earlier, Depp enables straight men to experience homosexuality in short bursts. There is no denying that Depp is a handsome man and he’s always well turned out but there’s that twist of femininity to him that straight men are unconsciously drawn to. The immaculate skin, the symmetrical features, the deep brown eyes, the lithe, perfectly formed body and the underplayed masculinity of his roles – a straight man’s guilty wet dream, wrapped up in fame and fortune. He is the heterosexual man’s pin-up boy.
But let me finish with this irrefutable fact: Even if you love Depp and regard him as one of the greatest actors of our time, can you forgive him for the Futterwacken Mad Hatter Dance at the end of Alice in Wonderland? Did that moment make you doubt Depp? Perhaps, even for a nanosecond, force you to reconsider your admiration for the actor? Burton should be ashamed of that film, truly ashamed but Depp should be cast out into the wilds for that dance, and told to see himself out.