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Sorry, but 'New Age' Does Not Rhyme With 'Sewage'

October 08, 1992|JIM WASHBURN | Jim Washburn is a free-lance writer who frequently contributes to The Times Orange County Edition

I've been having my own little Gulf War on ants lately. After massing outside, they invaded my oil-rich kitchen. I can sympathize with George Bush because I have to admit that, against better advice, I'd secretly sent them aid for years in my trash, and boy was I chagrined when they turned on me.

While I may have left their leader still in power deep in his ant bunker, I did wreak holy havoc on the ground troops. I'm opposed to toxins in the home and--this is the absolute truth--made do for a while by steaming them to death with an iron. As a child I used to kill ants with a hammer and still have visions of someday opening a pest control service with a personal touch: one exterminator, one hammer, one mighty amount of whacking in your home.

But now I've found an ecologically sound product that slays ants' little thoraxes off. It's made from some ground-up flower, inert in regard to warm-blooded things but a vicious nerve toxin for cold-blooded ones. Before it kills ants, it first makes them writhe in extended agony, so that a dosed bunch of them looks sort of like a Club MTV for insects.

This, incredibly, is a product purchased from the same health food restaurant/store where, once when I pointed out that a beetle was crawling out of my salad, my waitress acted like I should be grateful that its little life force was gracing my plate.

I love the New Age. I buy it all, up to and including herbal radiator flush, but I'm entirely surprised when any of the stuff actually--to use a Eurocentric notion-- works .

You can no sooner walk into one of the county's health emporiums before a Grateful Dead-looking sales representative is foisting a wad of environmentally chummy bathroom tissue at you, saying, "We believe you'll agree that it's facial quality."

Yeah, Ernest Borgnine's face maybe. You could load a belt sander with the stuff.

Tofu isn't cheese. Carob isn't chocolate, and "Vegetarian Salisbury Steak" isn't Salisbury steak--a good thing, considering that's like trying to replicate cat hairballs.

My favorite health food store, Mother's in Costa Mesa, has a restaurant in the middle of it where the environmentally correct chic-ness of the food--"Say, are these pancakes cruelty-free?"--is only matched by the highly Californian quality of the conversation. Some of the healthiest, most centered folks you've ever seen are here, looking like their biggest worry is figuring a way to tan their past lives.

I overheard one fellow at a tableful of diners asserting that if you learn the correct mantra to say when the Highway Patrol pulls you over--something about maritime law--the officer is powerless to ticket you, even if you were doing 110 with no license and a Butterball turkey on your lap.

I buy into all the divergent philosophies at work in a health food store. I use Essene soap and eat organic Bible bread, as well as cereal made with Amaranth, "the mystical grain of the Aztecs," which is hip because there's a maxim that the ancient earth-rooted cultures were perfect.

I'd probably go for the Aztec's practice of ritual human sacrifice, too, if there were a pyramid near here without dreadful parking problems.

Once I'm full of wheat grass and burdock root, I wander over to the vitamin section, whence I wind up taking more pills than Elvis. I can hear them clacking together when I walk. My favorite ones lately are the new generation "smart pills" such as a memory-enhancing ginko leaf concoction that I actually have forgotten to take for several days running now.

Like Hallmark cards, there are pills for all occasions. In the "male" section, for example, there's the romantically named Raw Prostate Glandular Concentrate, which guys presumably take to raise their studliness. In the women's section they're upping the ante by popping something called "Women's Essence." Maybe they should just mix the pills together in a jar, shake it and see if it smokes afterward.

These are real products, by the way, as is Ginseng Mint Shaving Creme and a wealth of other personal-care products I can't figure, such as shampoos with honey, egg, spirulina plankton, fruit juices and other foodstuffs that typically would find their way into your hair only if you had a malicious brother.

One thing that's only recently sunk in with me about bio-degradable products: Not only are they able to bio-degrade, but they do . I had some perfectly fine guava-based hair mousse I used several months after purchasing, and my hair suddenly smelled just like bologna, something which did finally earn me admiring glances from my cat.

Which brings us to the subject of these stores' sections of health food for pets. Let me tell you something about pets: They don't care! They drink gutter water. They eat mice! They'll eat you, given the chance, and could care less if you're gluten-free or not.

This column appears regularly in O.C. Live!

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