Nature Boy

Has anyone ever told you that you look like Vincent Gallo? “No.” Hmmmm, do you think you look like Vincent Gallo?[Pause.] “I don’t know. . . . I’ll have to look at a picture of him again.”Wild-haired Mario Zamarripa has weighed almonds, granola and other dried organic and raw goods for some three years at the Nature Mart Bulk Bin. An anomaly here in bling-bling Los Angeles, the Bulk Bin, the modest annex to Los Feliz’s only health-food store, is more something one might expect to find in Northern California. There is no place to sit, or stand, yet when the affable Zamarripa is working, regulars find a way to hang out anyway.With his penchant for vintage shirts and caps, Bob Dylan mix tapes, and that head-turning resemblance to hipster filmmaker Vincent Gallo, Zamarripa (who also makes the best mate around) is an emissary of grooviness for the Eastside wheatgrass lovers, smoothie enthusiasts and yerba mate heads who frequent the Bulk Bin’s drink bar. “They’ll camp out near the register,” he says, referring to the colorful assortment of customers, who make a small, albeit notable, Eastside subculture all their own.“They’ll ask me about their relationships, and their diets, and talk to me about music,” the 34-year-old L.A. native explains in his down-to-earthy cadence, which could soothe, or possibly taunt, even the highest-strung show-biz beasts, who sometimes wander down from their nearby manses, more often than not ignoring the handwritten sign that reads: “Please, No Cell Phones Inside.”Though he insists that no one has ever mistaken him for the loudmouthed and self-mythologizing Vincent Gallo, he admits that he is often approached by strangers who ask him if he is a musician or an artist, because, as they tell him, “You look like a musician.”Zamarripa says he plays “a little bit of saxophone,” and he likes to silk-screen anarchist propaganda in his spare time, but he would not categorize himself as either a musician or an artist. He’s a full-time nursing student. Which means he does know a thing or two about health food. So he’s a little better prepared when people ask him nutrition stuff like “What are the healing properties of ­strawberries?”Do you think it’s a case of “I’m not a doctor, I just play one on TV”?“Yeah,” says Zamarripa. “I think they assume, ‘If that guy works here, he must know everything.’ ”Zamarripa grew up in Boyle Heights, right by the 10 freeway and USC’s county hospital. There weren’t any gangs there, but he did see escaped mental patients, in their robes, regularly cruising down the sidewalk in front of his house.He became a vegetarian in high school, and it was, of course, a girl who turned him on to the world of fasting. He’s done a number of fasts, including Dr. Shultz’s, Dr. Jensen’s and the monthlong Rise and Shine, which he describes as “very satisfying.” After high school, he moved to Santa Barbara, where he met a different girl, in a health-food store, who two weeks later became his wife. He began working there with her, until they bought a van and drove cross-country to Ithaca, New York, started a candle business and bought a house of their own. He got an apprenticeship on an organic farm, dug up their backyard and planted a garden. He gave away the excess produce to neighbors for free, and they both started working at a local food co-op.During that time, he went raw for four years, but ended that after he realized that he felt great but was lonely because he stopped seeing his friends. “Everything revolved around food,” he says.The marriage fell apart, and, a mere two weeks after they split, his ex hooked up with one of their co-op co-workers named Sherwood.Zamarripa bought another van and drove back to the West Coast, bumped into his ex and Sherwood once in Portland, Oregon, and otherwise hasn’t seen her since.Now he has a new old lady, a fellow nursing student, and eats a primarily vegetarian diet. But he doesn’t “freak out,” as he puts it, if he has a piece of barbecued chicken at a party. He also drinks wheatgrass juice every day and eats only organic, locally grown produce.Zamarripa’s father, a hardware-parts builder, always urged his son to question authority. And, though he says his father’s views stemmed from a reaction to the Catholic Church, not party politics, he credits him with planting the seeds of his current political worldview. (It should be noted here that Gallo, unlike Zamarripa, is an outspoken supporter of the Republican Party and President Bush.) Zamarripa has read the works of Emma Goldman and Noam Chomsky and books like Peter Kropotkin’s Memoirs of a Revolutionist. At the heart of his political belief system is the notion that absolute power corrupts and that “too much money is just as bad as no money.”He has no faith in the electoral process, has never cast a vote, and believes that the left and the right are essentially one and the same.“They deal with the issues when they first start off, but as soon as they accumulate more power, they start to lose sight of what they were dealing with, and the underprivileged get pushed to the side.”How would we go about making the world a better place, then, if we were all to become heath-conscious anarchists?“I’m still grappling with that. But, for me, it always starts on the community level, really opening up and educating the people on how to be self-sufficient. Learning how to grow your own food and not be so involved with the accumulation of wealth and things.”Today he’s dressed in a vintage denim button-down and a thick, dark leather belt, which makes him look like, well, a musician? Artist? Revolutionary? An independent health-food-store employee? Maybe, sometimes, they are all one and the same.Hey, Mario, one last question: Have you ever been in the same room with Vincent Gallo?“No. Not that I am aware of.”

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