One thing that surprises me about vegetarians is their ferocity. I would have thought that people who nibble at buds and plants would be more doe-like. But to my chagrin, I have recently learned otherwise.
Not long ago, I noted that anti-beef vegetarians were waging a crusade against McDonald's because that company does not offer a veggie burger.
This struck me as illogical. If I wanted a glass of buttermilk, I wouldn't go to a tavern for it. And I wouldn't picket the tavern for not keeping some on hand.
So why would vegetarians nag a company that has prospered by selling beef because it doesn't offer an item of limited appeal?
Oh, my, you would think I had come out in favor of eating babies.
Consider the response of one Scott Palczak, 36, a computer graphic artist, who lives in Longmont, Colo., and is a dedicated vegetarian.
Putting his graphics skills to work, he created and distributed a poster that shows me with horns coming out of my head, with the title: "Weak-Willed Wimp -- Chicago Tribune Hedonist."
And he wrote:
"The more I look at Mike Royko, the more he looks like the son of Rudolf Hess -- with the personality to match."
(For those weak on World War II history, Hess was a top aide to Adolf Hitler and was a loony. I don't know if I look like his son, never having met the unfortunate lad.)
Palczak goes on: "Here's a man so hedonistic that he probably can't go three hours without a cigarette and a martini or a raw steak."
(Actually, I can go as long as four hours without any of the above. Not that it is any of Palczak's business, since I don't ask how long he can go without eating a radish.)
"I'm sure he has the willpower of a gnat and is as grumpy as he looks because he wants and demands constant gratification. His whole crusty life is devoted to pleasing the senses and satisfying his lust for raw meat.
"As you will note, in his picture, Royko looks constipated. It's obvious he's not getting his fiber. His crusty, old, leathery body is desperate for precious vegetable fiber and enzymes. Look closely and you'll agree. His crusty, alcohol-diluted mind cares neither for his fellow creatures nor even his own body. This man lives only for today."
(That's not entirely accurate. I also live for yesterdays, when every special-interest twit didn't try to impose his fanatical beliefs on the rest of us.)
"If you go to a McDonald's, you may see Royko hiding in the corner looking like a dirty old man with a bottle of Red Rocket, a pack of Lucky Strikes and a stack of Macs. He'll look as content as you'll ever see him outside of a stripper bar.
"He and many others like him are what I call Weak-Willed Wimps. They will eat until satisfied and then eat some more. Various vices control their lives; they live and breathe only to eat, drink, smoke -- and if they're lucky, have sex."
(Luck? If you depend on luck for sex, Palczak, maybe you should order a steak now and then.)
"They are shallow, calloused, selfish people concerned entirely with their own immediate gratification. Sure, once in a while, they do a good deed to relieve their guilty conscience, but it goes against their nature. They are basically too self-centered and unevolved to care about important issues. And never do they want to be reminded that the steak they're eating was once a live, feeling animal.
"His cynical, cholesterol-saturated brain sees every worthwhile cause as just another pain in his wrinkled butt. He doesn't want to be bothered by animal rights. . . . His small, unevolved conscience doesn't want to be reminded that there may be a right way to live -- that maybe there's a world of things he never thought about or cared about. But he sure cares about eating his raw meat. Would you like some blood for dessert, Mr. Royko? How about plasma?"
All that because I believe that if a company wants to sell hamburgers and not veggie burgers, it ought to be able to sell hamburgers and not veggie burgers. And if people want to eat veggie burgers, they should go to a restaurant that sells veggie burgers.
Is that unreasonable?
A phone call to Palczak's number in Colorado was answered by his mother. She said he was out for the day. Possibly nibbling on leaves? She didn't say.
But his mother did say that her son "is as vegetarian as you can get. No meat, no eggs, no chicken, no fish. Me, I'm a fish eater. But I have to admit, when you eat meat, you get bloated."
And she said her son is a staunch environmentalist. "All the causes. You name 'em. Anything that moves."
Why, if one may ask, does his mother answer his phone?
"He lives here. Intermittently."
A computer artist. Age 36. And he lives with his mom and says that sex is a matter of luck.
And he calls me a wimp?
It's enough to make me chuckle over my prime rib.