On a cool October morning 20 years ago, my college roommate, Dunst, awoke early and decided he was through eating meat.
This startling decision was made known to everyone at lunch that day in the cafeteria.
As I pressed a 2-story-high hamburger topped with pickles, lettuce, tomato and onions into my mouth, Dunst whispered: "Murderer!"
"Beg pardon?" I managed to choke.
"Steer-killer!" he said.
Then he turned his attention to my man Witte, who was inhaling a cheese steak sandwich.
"You make me sick!" Dunst said.
For some reason Witte, who stood 6-foot-3 and weighed 240 pounds, elected not to reach out and squeeze Dunst's head until it popped like a balloon.
But the incident sure ruined lunch, as it is very hard to concentrate on your food when some nut is going on and on about cows being clubbed over the head with sledgehammers.
Dunst, until then a wonderful fellow, turned out to be the worst C kind of vegetarian, a zealot and a tireless proselytizer of the cause.
Soon he was heading a cabal of dewy-eyed hippies who tacked pictures of mournful-looking cattle in slaughterhouses to the dorm doors of known "meat-eaters."
Dunst's Beef Maoists would also gather en masse in the hallways to hiss whenever someone returned from a run to the local Jack-in-the-Box.
Naturally, since I was Dunst's roommate, our relationship suffered. There were many times when I fantasized about murdering him, perhaps even smothering him in his sleep with a London broil.
Thankfully, by the end of the semester, much of the anti-meat hysteria had dissipated from the dorm.
Most of Dunst's crackpot followers had long since gone back to eating the flesh of farm and ranch animals.
And then, at a cookout sponsored by one of the fraternities, we spotted Dunst gnawing on a pit beef sandwich the size of a bowling ball.
"What happened to The Great Protector of All Living Things?" I asked.
"Waiter! More meat here!" he cried. "A great, heaping platter for my friends!"
Since those dark days, I have run into my fair share of vegetarians, both the whacked-out variety and the more approachable live-and-let-live types.
Still, it was a little unnerving to hear, during a recent visit to my sister Maura's house, that she was no longer eating meat.
"Is this a cows-whacked-over-the-head-with-sledgehammers thing?" I asked.
"Hormones and antibiotics," she said.
"The meat," she said. "It's filled with hormones and antibiotics."
Then my eyes glazed over as she lapsed into a 20-minute rant about the antibiotics in animal feed, the danger of eating farm-bred shrimp, poultry farms where chickens are made anemic in order to produce white meat and blah, blah, blah.
Yeah, yeah, I said, easing away, as it was obvious she had gone completely around the bend. Later, I had a beer with her husband Bill, who had now gone four months without a hamburger, since meat was no longer allowed in the house.
"Two words of advice: Holiday Inn," I said. "Sixty-nine bucks a night and you're away from all this."
Look, my philosophy is: You run from one poison, there's another poison there to take its place. If it's not asbestos, it's acid rain. If it's not carcinogens, it's cholesterol. So you exercise constantly, give up smoking, drinking, meat, salt, eggs, and even the occasional ice cream cone.
Then one day, trim and vigorous and with terrific blood pressure, you step outside your apartment and a piano drops 27 floors and lands on your head.
And at the wake, everyone stands around your casket and says: "Yeah, but he was in great shape. You gotta give him that."
In any event, on the second day of our visit to my sister's, we discovered that she had now taken to "juicing."
This became apparent at 7 in the morning, when we were awakened by an unearthly wail coming from the kitchen.
It turned out to be the high-pitched whine of a Hamilton Beach juicer working overtime on a hideous mixture of something green and yellow.
"Cabbage and carrots," my sister said brightly.
"Mmmm," I said. "Sounds yummy."
"Sometimes I throw in cucumbers and broccoli."
"I see how that would perk things up."
"Great for the immune system," she said. "Helps remove toxins from the body."
There was a strange new glow to her eyes. Dunst had that glow once. So did the Moonies, although that is another story altogether.