So you finally get yourself off the farm for a little time to see some country. And where do you go? Hollywood, of course. That place is crawling with farmers. It's wall-to-wall rural hipsters.
While I was in Los Angeles last year, I didn't see every single tourist attraction, but I did catch a few of them. My Uncle Jerry took me for a tour on a couple of occasions. We even took some photos just to prove I was there. At the top of our list was a shot of me standing next to the street signs at Hollywood & Vine.
Once we got that photo gem checked off the list, we moved on to some other outlets nearby. This was February. There is nothing Hollywood likes to do more than give its collective self a rotator cuff injury from excessive self-back-patting. You can't do that low-key, either. Not in Hollywood. You want to make it a big production where a couple billion people around the world can watch with you. The first thing I noticed about all the work being done in preparation for the Oscars the following week was that none of the multitude of trailers set up in front of the Kodak Theater were made by Featherlite in Cresco. All that pomposity and no one was using a totally-decked-out tour bus from li'l ol' Cresco as their control center? Looked like a marketing opportunity missed, to me.
We kept driving. In a Buick.
Once we got to Beverly Hills, there was plenty of stuff to see. A quick trip down Rodeo Drive revealed not a single John Deere dealership anywhere. Glancing at the population, I decided that any denim clothing showing signs of wear was not from hard work on the part of the wearer. The fade would be phony. Phony appeared to be contagious, perhaps even epidemic.
There was one other establishment I noticed on our way down Hollywood Boulevard. Uncle Jerry and I pulled up across the street from the landmark. It was a restaurant. No, it wasn't Spago, or Dan Tana's, or Morton's. It was an Italian place. It was an Italian place a certain Irish guy from Iowa would love, if only because of the name.
Two Guys From Italy.
This was genius. Pure genius. This wasn't exactly an exclusive location, because there is more than one of them around the country, even in Minneapolis. Still, it was a name and a sign I needed for my own personal memory, so I decided to get my picture taken in front of it.
Uncle Jerry grabbed the camera and I headed across the thoroughfare to get myself set up in the shot. This was probably late afternoon, so we weren't in the middle of the big rush. Foot traffic was slow. Things were looking good for a great photo without any interruptions or distractions. We took several shots from a couple of angles.
Just before I was about to head back to the car, a restaurant employee — let’s call him Guy No. 1 From Italy — walked out the front door. He was wiping his hands with a towel as he came up to me with a look on his face that didn't scream, “Midwest friendly!”
"You are taking pictures of the restaurant," he declared with a certain smugness.
That seemed like more of a statement to me than a question. Now if he could just figure out a way to structure his sentences like a contestant on Jeopardy, we could turn this into the interrogation I was afraid it would become. Perhaps we could exchange declarative statements, call it a draw and return to our respective corners of the globe. It was worth a try.
"Yes, I am."
He got so vigorous with the towel, I began to wonder if he had some OCD issues. Then he broke the awkward silence and moved us to the bonus round.
Congratulations! You phrased your answer in the form of a question! Don Pardo, what do we have for our winner?
Rather than acknowledging our transition to the Q & A part of the competition, I decided to be vague.
"I like it because of the name."
He still looked skeptical, but he switched to salesman mode and opened the front door for me.
Again with the statements! I was now expecting to find a counter staffed by several people shouting, "Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger!" once I got into the place. Fortunately, that was not the case. A couple staff members were standing around near the door.
In a show of consistency, the First Guy From Italy let fly with this gem: "He's taking pictures of the restaurant. He likes the name."
With that, I went to my old standby and reached for my Two Guys Farming business card. Guy No. 1 From Italy got the first one. Another guy took the second one and started to laugh as soon as he read it. He turned around and called a lovely young waitress over to the counter. “Hey, c’mere. You gotta see this!”
I reached into my pocket and grabbed another card as the lovely young Blondie walked up and began to read the card her coworker handed her.
"You're a FARMER? Are you serious? I mean, is this actually the name of your company?" she asked.
Yeeeeeeeeeaaaaahhhh, it's real. So am I. (Not to go against any local trends or anything!)
"Oh my God, that is so cool!"
"What do you raise?" Guy No. 1 From Italy asked from the background.
Oh boy. At first blush, I was thinking I probably shouldn't lead off with pigs. I decided to go the agronomy route instead. List the crops. No one doesn't like corn, soybeans, alfalfa and oats! Makes me sound very Whole Foods.
The second staffer had my Atkins tendencies pegged. “How about animals?” he inquired.
"Yeah, beef cattle and, uh, hogs," I said somewhat sheepishly, afraid of what it may incite.
The second guy started to laugh. He pointed at Blondie and said, "She'll love that!"
I had a hunch where this was going. Blondie looked incredibly pale. It probably didn't come from all the overcast skies in southern California. Chances are it came from a strict avoidance policy on her part.
"I'm a vegetarian," she said quite emphatically. "Do you kill all your animals and eat them?"
"No, I don't." The key emphasis in that sentence was on the word “I” and not the word “don't.”
"Somebody else does it for you, don't they?" the other Guy No. 2 asked. "But you still eat them."
Well, yeah, but only because they're delicious.
That got the two guys roaring with laughter. They started teasing Blondie right away about her dietary choices and how meat comes from tasty animals raised by regular people, not quite like the way she had apparently been telling them. They especially liked my fortuitous appearance that day. It sounded like Blondie had been nagging them about the whole vegetarian thing recently.
"Look at him. He's healthy. And he's a pretty big guy, too. See what a little meat can do?"
As an olive branch before I walked out the door, I asked Blondie to hand me my card. I turned it over, wrote down the Web address to my Farm Industry News column, explained what it was and told her to check it out.
If she gets in touch, I will be amazed. If she asks how to get her hands on some Two Guys Farming beef, I may need to speak to the people in Cardiac Rhythm Disease Management at Medtronic.
Right after I get in touch with Ripley's Believe It or Not.
Guy No. 2