All Vegetables Go To Heaven

Note: This post is not about Pixar.

However, speaking of Pixar, Anthony Lane in the New Yorker: “What is it that drives each employee to take more pains than the next one – to pedantry, and beyond?”

I was called into an indy animation studio in Emeryville to help the writing team work on a new vegetable movie. I was to help tweak the tomato dialog. My agent told the company that I grew my own tomatoes and was famous in Hollywood for my homemade catsup (Ketchup v. Catsup is a landmark Supreme Court case involving tomato-based condiments. You could look it up.) My agent just made up the catsup thing, but that’s what good agents do.

I found a lot of anger and dissention in the fruit team when I arrived. That whole thing about whether the tomato is a fruit or vegetable started it, somebody told me. The other fruits just didn’t want any tomatoes in their group. Also, the script called for a beefheart and the vegans thought that this meaty tomato sent totally the wrong message. The meateaters just grinned and said moo, because the manager of the tomato animators agreed with them, and in the company food chain, the animators are way above the writers. Hoffman’s tomato rant had nothing on any of these guys.

Before I could write a line, I was shifted to the potatoes, because the tomato carnivores and vegetarians both hated those of us who will drink, snort, or ingest anything, irregardless of phylum.

The potatoes were the real heavies in the movie, which initially featured a struggle between the bad guys – roots and tubers – and the good guys – fruits, nuts, and greens. I was to come up with some Irish-type dialog for the head potato, but this was scotched by Brendan Gleeson, who was signed to voice the driver of a honey wagon, because he thought that the bad Irish potato is nothing more than a racial stereotype and slur. So I was told to write the dialog with a Russian slant. An executive producer, a Jewish immigrant or refugee from St. Petersburg, put an end to that. The potatoes were finally assigned Polish accents, as all the Poles in the company were just lucky to be working there. However, it developed that nobody knew what a Polish accent sounded like (nobody ever talked to the Poles), and anyway, the thrust of the movie by then was moving away from the notion of vegetable bad and good guys. “Vegetables are all good, by Christ!” said the V.P. of Vegetables. “You want bad, stick to poison fracking mushrooms or belladonna.”

Then it was The Road meets Toy Story. Rusts and mosaic viruses send most of the vegetables to heaven. A parsley and his son are left on Earth, where Venus flytraps are ignoring the flies and eating any weed they can reach. If you’ve ever tried to grow parsley, with that damned tap root they have, you know how neurasthenic the plant can be.

At this point, most of the vegetable personnel faced layoffs and I expected to be escorted out through the front gate at any moment, especially since instead of catsup, I was showing the writers how to make vodka from potatoes and helping the young kid writing the grass dialog to “mow” his stash. But we were all saved by a corporate decision to focus the movie on vegetable heaven.

What is vegetable heaven like, you ask.

First of all, no wings. That’s an insect thing.

Pollen and seed is spilled on the ground, but this is ok in heaven.

Weeds, sadly, go to Hell.

You know that joke about lying in the sun and having sex all day, and the guy says, “Heaven? No, I came back as a jackrabbit in the Arizona desert.” Well, the cacti are all alone out there, but they’re so used to Hell, they can’t tell the difference.

There are no undocumented workers to be seen.

The century plant doesn’t bother to bloom because a hundred years in heaven is like that little bird that flies a thousand miles and pecks on the granite mountain once a year and by the time the mountain is worn down, there is still an eternity to go, so why fracking bother. In fact, why bother going to the movies, come to think of it.

Frank Zappa:

Call any vegetable Call it by name
Call one today When you get off the train
Call any vegetable And the chances are good
Aw, The vegetable will respond to you

(Some people don’t go for prunes…I
don’t know, I’ve always found that if they…)
Call any vegetable Pick up your phone
Think of a vegetable Lonely at home
Call any vegetable And the chances are good
That a vegetable will respond to you

Rutabaga, Rutabaga,
Rutabaga, Rutabaga,

(A prune isn’t really a vegetable…
CABBAGE is a vegetable…)

No one will know
If you don’t want to let them know
No one will know
‘Less it’s you that might tell them so
Call and they’ll come to you
Covered with dew
Vegetables dream, Of responding to you

Standing there shiny and proud by your side
Holding your hand while the neighbors decide
Why is a vegetable something to hide?

4 Responses

  1. Did the veg heaven movie get made? I’m guessing not, but at least somebody who’s not Polish and probably not yet thirty now knows how to make vodka from potatoes and somebody else (same age group) now knows how to groom his weed.

    • If you live in Berkeley, as WordPress guesses that you do, pop over to Emeryville and take the Pixar tour. After ten or fifteen minutes, sneak away from the group, claiming that you “have a stomach bug,” and take the stairs to the third floor. Go down the east corridor toward the north end and when you come to the ninth door, peek in. Those wearing dark red shirts are the tomato writers. Pale red and pale green shirts signify apples.

      • Wow, the shit wordpress knows! I drive by pixar all the time on my way to drop my son off at the secret skateboarding spot under the freeway that only he, his friends, and an encampment of homeless people know about. Now, at least, I will have some anti-social behavior of my own to indulge in while he’s out doing the same and I’m waiting to pick him back up and take him either home or to the emergency room. (Does sneaking into the veg room count as anti-social behavior? It doesn’t seem edgy enough somehow.)

      • There is only one Berkeley and it is an honor to welcome a denizen of it.

        The Pixar vegetable writers welcome all writers who show up, no matter how you get into the room. It helps if you’re shaped like some kind of vegetable.

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