when i worked at a nonprofit animal hospital, fur-industry exposé videos made the rounds like pornography. to this day i'm not sure why we circulated them among ourselves; most of us had eschewed animal products for years already (i've been a strict vegetarian since i was 14), some of us protested in front of the neiman marcus in san francisco's union square, and none of us wanted anything to do with fur. there's something to be said for becoming better-informed and for keeping one's righteous indignation at a fever pitch, sure, but i wonder if i should have tried harder to make joe watch one with me. i never even thought about looping in other family or friends.
i stopped buying new leather a year or two ago. since then i've picked up a few pairs of used leather shoes on ebay; i wasn't contributing directly to the demand for new leather, i reasoned, and i wasn't buying up the flimsy faux stuff which enters the market with a foul petrochemical belch. better, right? i also started saving up for a fancy-ass, new-to-me purse (as the one i've been carrying every day for the last four years has started degrading with gusto): as of this winter, for every kilometer i've run, i've added a dollar to a big old matzo-ball soup jar which lives on a shelf in my closet.
sprained ankle notwithstanding, i've been running quite a bit, and a custom ebay alert informed me this past weekend that a gal in poland would sell me her gently-used, authenticated bag for a price my jar could handle. here is one of the many points in this narrative at which i probably sound like a dipshit: i opened a new browser window and called up google images of lambs (the fancy-ass bag in question is made of pebbled lambskin). morrissey skittered through my head: a death for no reason / and death for no reason is murder. oh, hell. i couldn't buy a lamb's skin, no matter why or how long ago it died.
lifestyle modification I: no more purchasing leather, period. i'll use the pieces i still have, repair them as i can until they fall apart, and replace them with non-leather products.
in my four-hundred-and-fifty-first conversation with joe about whether or not the polish gal and i had a deal, i was wandering the corridors of how to carry used leather without telegraphing the idea that i condoned it all. joe noted that i was attempting to convince him of something with which i myself didn't seem especially comfortable. i tried to argue around that for another half hour, realized i had to let go, and felt...free.
Suddenly [Kafka] began to speak to the fish in their illuminated tanks. "Now at last I can look at you in peace, I don't eat you anymore." It was the time that he turned strict vegetarian. If you have never heard Kafka saying things of this sort with his own lips, it is difficult to imagine how simply and easily, without any affectation, without the least sentimentality—which was something almost completely foreign to him—he brought them out.i came across that excerpt, on kafka's visit to a berlin aquarium, in jonathan safran foer's eating animals, a book i avoided for years and finally picked up a few weeks ago. it's kicked up dust in my chest as well; that's the next story.
(max brod, from franz kafka)