The Day I Met Jack LaLanneBy Ian Fortey
Those of you who know me know I love me some juice. That grammatically atrocious sentiment has sustained me for many years. Juice is like nature’s water. Or water is nature’s fruit juice, I forget which. But the fact remains if I can squeeze the ever loving crap out of a beet and then drink it, I am literally tickled pink. And by literally I naturally mean figuratively.
It’s no surprise then that when I first discovered the Jack Lalanne Juicer I had to purchase one. My love of juice combined with easy access to a credit card and near-criminal drunkenness guaranteed that I would probably buy any hunk of shit I saw on the Home Shopping Network that night. But the hunk of shit I saw was a juicer and my heart skipped a beat.
After defibrillation, I ordered the juicer and 4-6 weeks later I was discovering that when you mix apple, carrot, celery and papaya it tastes like a foot. But apple all alone is exquisite.
I’d enjoyed my liquid diet for a few weeks when I gleefully learned that Mr. LaLanne himself would be coming to my town for a convention to show off his latest product development and espouse the virtues of a juicy lifestyle. The very idea that there was some new, more efficient way to wring liquid from a pear was too enticing to avoid. I purchased my ticket and then sat on my ass for two more weeks until the fateful day arrived when I could witness a man who was nearly a century old, who made a career out of being handcuffed and towing boats while swimming, made juice. Fuck, I need a hobby.
The convention was as exciting as a convention full of the elderly and shop-at-home products could be. My keen senses soon determined I was the only individual in the building either under the age of 50 or who had been voluntarily out of the house in over a month. Shut ins apparently love juice, storage solutions and Mighty Putty.
I perused various tables hawking what could best be described as absolute shit before my stomach began cramping with hatred for bringing it to such a ridiculous place. Ginsu knives, curtain steamers, Orange Glow – what the fuck was I thinking? A woman wearing slippers shoved a boney, avian elbow into my ribs while I tried to watch a ShamWow demonstration and told me to “bugger off.”
I escaped to the nearest washroom as my guts twisted in knots. Possibly because this place was so preposterous but more likely because of the Hot Pockets I’d decided to eat for dinner the night before and breakfast that morning.
As I sat in contemplation in the end stall of the restroom, appreciating the colorful graffiti on the walls and wondering why so many people took a shit with a pen and a desire to bang another dude, my reverie was interrupted by a gruff voice.
“What did you eat for breakfast?” it asked me. I arched an eyebrow and continued about my business, confident that, despite seeming to come from the next stall, there was no way in hell this person was talking to me because the first thing any human in a civilized society learns is that you never, ever converse with strangers on the shitter.
“It sounds like you’re giving birth, what did you eat for breakfast?” the voice demanded again. For starters, I did not sound as though I was giving birth, I was maybe breathing a bit heavy, but that was all. You eat 8 Hot Pockets and see how your insides like it.
Suddenly, a tiny mirror on a metal stick appeared below the wall separating stalls. I may have screamed but if I did, it was manly.
“Hey buddy, you deaf?”
“No…” I foolishly answered. Fuck. When someone gives you an out, always take it.
“Then speak up. What was for breakfast? My God, look at you. What do you weigh? 220? Have you ever lifted a weight in your life? Can you even get off that toilet when you’re done?”
The mirror shifted and suddenly I could see, glaring down at me, the cold, steely eye of Mr. Jack LaLanne himself. Jack LaLanne was trash talking me while we were both on the toilet.
“Yeah, you’re not blind either, are you champ? So answer the question. Breakfast!”
“I had some Hot Pockets,” I answered, unsure of why I felt I needed to answer to Jack LaLanne.
“Hot Pockets? Good grief, what the hell is a Hot Pocket?”
“It’s like crust with pizza toppings inside. In a pocket.”
“And it’s hot? You heat it? You make it warm and consume it for some cockamamie reason? With cheese and sauce and, what? Sausage? Are you eating pork sausage?”
“They were pepperoni.”
“That’s a sausage, Einstein. My God. I can see you sweating.”
There was a moment of silence while Mr. LaLanne just stared at me. I could see his expression in the mirror, hard and disgusted. I tried to smile.
“Are you pushing? Is that a grimace? If you have to push a bowel movement it means you’re killing your bowels. Do you know that I’ve not had to push out a single bowel movement since 1931? Do you know that? I’m asking you a question.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“And why would you? Too busy stuffing your pork pie with pockets. Look at you. I can smell butter.”
In fairness, there was a curious butter-like odor in the bathroom but it wasn’t from me. It was there when I came in.
“Listen, do you know who I am?” he demanded of me. His mirror shifted, I think he was trying to look me in the eye.
“I think you’re Jack LaLanne.”
“If you could think you wouldn’t be such a mess. A sick body breeds a sick mind. I bet you look at girly magazines. I bet you’ve never had a job or loved a woman. How many pushups can you do?”
“Why do you have a mirror on a stick?”
“Thank your lucky stars I do! Do you have any idea how many chin ups I can do? That’s the power of juice, my friend. Not your sausage pies. If a man made it, don’t eat it. Processed food will kill you deader than a bullet.”
I wasn’t convinced that statement was factually accurate was but I was afraid to bring it up lest it breed another tirade from Mr. LaLanne. Suddenly the mirror vanished and a moment later a hand, the wrist encircled by what looked to be a velour cuff, appeared.
“Take my hand,” Jack LaLanne said. I frowned and noticeably clenched the majority of my body. “Curse your hide if you don’t take my hand, I’m trying to save your life.”
“Don’t you feel this is the wrong time?”
“It’s never the wrong time to care about your health now give me your hand or so help me I will come in there and take it!”
Ashamed of the palpable fear I felt of a man in his 90’s, I reached a hand down. LaLanne grabbed me in a grip like steel. His hand was like ice cold tissue paper around a rock, I had never felt anything so offputting in my life.
“I’ve been on this toilet for over a half an hour purifying my mind, soul and body and I want to share that energy with you. Hot Pockets? Of all the cock and bull stories, why don’t you just eat cheese curds off of the diseased carcass of a prostitute?”
“I was in a hurry?”
LaLanne’s grip tightened and I stifled a cry of pain.
“A hurry? No time? How much time will you have when you’re an actual, literal whale? Hunted for your precious blubber by the Japanese and basking in the sun to try to keep warm.”
“I don’t know.”
“Nobody does, my lad. That’s the rub. You need to take the time now. Juice is the key. Have you seen my juicer? How do you think I’m able to live the way I do? How do you think? Curse you, I know you’re not deaf give me an answer!”
“Right! Juice! You’re not a lost cause, friend. You can do this!” LaLanne continued to compress my hand in his vice-like grip for another moment of silence before his hand pulled free. I heard a rustling and suddenly the mirror reappeared.
“Take this. Use it. Spread the word,” he demanded. I reached down and took the mirror on a stick. A second one appeared right after. “I have more, don’t you worry. Now go. GO!”
I sat still a moment, not wanting to move under his watchful, mirror eye. He began chanting “go” over and over, and, after about five minutes, I forced a calm on myself and proceeded to wipe my ass. LaLanne’s mirror turned, watching me as I left the stall. It popped out of the front as I washed my hands very thoroughly and left, never to see Jack LaLanne again.