Posted on September 17th, 2012
Last night’s crowd at the reunion show of Vegan Options was small but fierce. Raging early into the evening, Jeff, Brian, and I drank seven dollar beers, debated whether unicorns would eat mayo or aioli, and screamed our protest of corporate takeover and profit off human suffering. We wrapped it up around ten-thirty; we had to work in the morning, after all, and that black eye-liner is a bitch to get off.
Vegan Options, active during the winter of aught nine, was born in the cubby between registers five and six at an organic grocery store somewhere in the continental United States. As cashiers, Jeff, Brian, and I bonded over our shared struggle with working for a huge, corporate box store – especially one that tried so hard to hide that part of its identity. We all cared deeply about good food and good people and though both were to be found at our place of employment, the overarching corporate structure ultimately squandered both. Cashiering – one of the most repetitive and dehumanizing jobs in retail – weighed on our souls. Compounding the issue was our new boss, a woman unanimously agreed to be the illegitimate
offspring of Professor Umbridge and Beaker. We were disillusioned, we were bored, and we were really tired of asking customers to push the green button on the credit card machine. So we did the only thing we could do: we formed a punk band.
Joining the ranks of many a theoretical band gone before, Vegan Options never played a show, never even had a practice, but was discussed in enough detail to take on a life of its own. Jeff shredded on the mandolin; Brian was our lead singer and carried the show on guitar, while I was the not-very-good-but-hot girl drummer à la Meg White. We wore work aprons that had been ripped up and sewn back together with dental floss. Just aprons. Punk isn’t punk if you don’t violate dress code. We started conflicting rumors about shows. I told someone from the bakery that we’d played at a local bar the night before while Brian invited the cheese counter to the house party tomorrow where we were definitely going to
debut. We planned to all show up at a party and keep promising that we were going to start in just a few minutes until, hours later, we’d quietly depart, then tell people the next day that they must have missed our set. The legend of Vegan Options simmered quietly under the smell of rotisserie chickens just out of the oven in prepared foods.
At last night’s reunion, Brian dug our old set list out of his wallet. Scrawled on a torn off strip of thermal receipt paper, the list of song titles read like exactly what it was – the attempt of educated, passionate minds to anchor themselves within the numbing chrysalis of corporate speak and health food propaganda. Heading up the list was our hit single and the title of our LP, *Everything’s Conventional*. Following this were the classics, *Gluten Free or Die! * and, *Macrobiotic Diet*. Lesser known but worth a listen were tracks four through six: *10 Foot Rule; Mac’s Mustache; *and *Down Time, Clean It.* Track seven was our ballad, *4-Pack of My Soul*, while track eight was the sleeper hit, *Tare It Up*. Rounding out the list were *Ancient Grains* and *Buycott*, leading up to the last track on the album, *Hungry for Change*, a rousing anthem that called a generation to action. If you can get your hands on a copy of the limited UK
release, you’ll get the bonus track, *Your Mom’s a Whole Paycheck*.
Vegan Options ultimately dissolved; I started grad school, Brian disappeared for a while – his only communication to me a three sentence postcard from some tourist trap in Appalachia, and Jeff quit the company in true punk style, submitting his letter of resignation – a manifesto decrying the company’s hypocritical labor practices written on the inside of a brown paper bag and signed in blood – then walking off the job to go work as a cook at a locally owned restaurant. The band was bigger than just the idle shenanigans of some disgruntled employees, though. It was an outlet for all the things that we saw wrong with the world yet found ourselves complicit in. Brian did keep that list in his wallet for three years, after all, and as I watched him refold and tuck it gently back in last night, it struck me that Vegan Options is alive and well. We may never have touched an instrument in the fight, but all of us are still raging. We call things like we see them, we try to live by our principles, and we believe in the possibility of simultaneously paying rent and creating a better world. And we have fun doing it. So next time you find yourselves in line at that certain store – because hey, we all need organic quinoa sometimes – remember Brian, Jeff, and I. Remember to rage. And keep an eye out for Vegan Options: coming to a farmer’s market near you.