The last two years have been absolutely brutal for Unity Wilson. A long time protestor, for years she has railed against corporations, profits, production, corporate farms, CEO’s, high prices, foundries, gasoline oil refineries, child labor, exploitation of females, and global pollution. She has a few cohorts in Hubbard who regularly join her in protest, but they don’t make much of dent in a town where most people are obsessed with raising their kids and keeping bread on the table. Once in a while, to get her “protestor batteries” recharged, Unity goes up to Minneapolis to visit her sister, Serenity.
Hubbard contractor Jose Gonzales calls folks like Unity and Serenity “Granolas”. The name is probably derived from their “back to earth”, organic approach to life. In south Minneapolis, where Serenity lives, there are thousands of Granolas. Unity calls south Minneapolis “Conscience Heaven”. Many of south Minneapolis’ Granolas are fifty or older and purchased their homes years ago. They live in homes that most of them couldn’t afford if they had to purchase them at the market prices paid by their stockbroker, business analyst, investment banker, and accountant neighbors.
Granola homes are easy to recognize. Granolas don’t have lawns, choosing instead to plant wildflowers and native grasses. This is, after all, how the land looked before their evil ancestors came to ruin the country and rape the landscape. Folks like Craig Johnson, who lives in the suburbs and dutifully applies all five stages of Scott’s fertilizer and crab grass control on his carefully manicured lawn, think the Granolas are just plain lazy. According to Craig, the Granolas’ claim to the “restoration of prairie grasses” is a big, fat excuse to justify a yard full of weeds.
If one looks past the prairie flowers and potted plants on the porch, it becomes apparent that most Granolas aren’t really very good at fixing things. The screen doors have holes in them and a close look at the siding reveals a lot of peeling paint. The Granolas often look at their maintenance-deprived premises as some kind of vow of poverty, as if they should not be bound to meaningless activities like painting and roof repair. Jose, who is one of the few Hubbardites who will work for the Granolas, is put off by their lack of foresight in repair matters. Rather than putting new shingles on the house, the Granolas opt for a cheap repair of the roof, which will again leak in a few months. Time after time Jose explains the virtue of doing the job right the first time, but his advice usually falls on deaf ears. The Granolas don’t generally have a lot of extra income, so they never want to spend what it will take to actually fix the place. Then there was the Granola who wanted Jose to provide him with a data sheet detailing every input and production process used in the manufacture of wood shingles, just to make sure that he wasn’t guilty of damaging the environment. Jose just walked out the door, smiled, and told the guy to call him when he got tired of putting buckets on the floor.
There are distinct physical, fashion and spending attributes that separate the Granolas from the rest of the human race. Men wear long ponytails and dress in khaki pants or jean cutoffs, with button down shirts. Women wear their hair long, almost like the 60’s, hanging loosely down their backs or tied up like the men. Women wear loose fitting 100% cotton garments that reveal no female shape whatsoever. Earthy, muted-colored tunics are often worn with baggy slacks underneath. Accessories include Birkenstock sandals and knapsacks in lieu of purses. Granolas shop at 2nd hand stores, both for economy and to avoid channeling their money to the fashion industry. Women don’t wear makeup and probably don’t shave their legs or underarms, but no body knows for sure. Granolas home school or send their kids to public schools. No private, elitist schools for the offspring of Granolas! One place where the normally thrifty Granolas don’t mind spending lots of money is the local coffeehouse, where they purchase expensive herbal teas and ten-dollar sandwiches bulging with sprouts. Probably one of the biggest reasons the Granolas go to the local coffee places is the fact that there are a lot of other Granolas there to commiserate with. Granolas think themselves to be quite intelligent compared to other human beings. In reality they are urban mystics who often believe that they have the answers to all of the world’s problems, if only the rest of humanity would listen! No Starbucks for the Granolas; that would be selling out to corporate America!
To their credit, Granolas are not generally obese. It is rare to see a really fat Granola. They may have a bit of a tummy, but after all, you can’t get very fat on homegrown cucumbers, pure grains, and tomatoes. Because the Granolas don’t spend a lot of time watching television (except for PBS), they have a lot of time to wander in their jungle-like yards and to (badly) repair their houses.
Global warming is something that really troubles the Granolas. Convinced by Al Gore that humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb, the Granolas believe that we have less than 10 years to avoid the ultimate destruction of the earth. Many Granolas think that we have already reached the “tipping point” where it will be impossible to avoid floods, famine, and killer heat. Frankly and sadly, this has caused tremendous depression in the Granola community. Both Unity and Serenity are deeply depressed. If there are Granola shrinks, they must be doing a land office business!