Many years ago, friends invited us to join them for lunch at the Yellow Deli in Vista, California. The menu is what you expect from a deli with food for all preferences and tastes and the atmosphere is in line with a hippie deli in California.
The waiters and waitresses wear groovy garb, many have long hair, some have dreadlocks, and it all fits. But their demeanor was slightly off, somewhat creepy almost, like something was not right. I remember thinking that maybe this was run by some commune. Still, being part of a commune does not make you act – well – creepy.
Then I came across this news article about the Twelve Tribes religious sect, and it all fell in place. The Twelve Tribes sect recruits its members, makes them give away all their worldly possessions and incorporates them into the community. Now they are indentured servants. As I searched further, articles abounded about the Twelve Tribes and the Yellow Deli. It turns out there are many of them around the country.
Here are some more links:
The signs are classic for the behavior of religious cults. I experienced this first hand myself in the 1970ies in the Moonies. Members give everything they have away, including real estate, cars, cash, when they join the group. Once all is gone, it’s virtually impossible to break away – how would you even get taxi fare or buy a plane ticket to get away if you wanted to? Members are made to work for no pay in highly stressful environments, like cooking and serving in restaurants, or hard labor working on a farm. Members work 16 – 18 hour days, usually two shifts, so they are too exhausted to think for themselves, think critically, and possibly rebel. An exhausted member is a pliant and conforming member.
To get members to give everything they have away, the cult must have something to give in return. On the Appalachian Trail, obviously, having a free hostel and serving free food for hikers is one way to draw them in. Then, making sure life is all about love, will cement the relationship. Voilà, a free labor source.
I get a kick out of these small town websites. Go check out the website of the University Echo and tell me where this university actually is located. I gave up after checking all the pages on the site. Would you not think they have a hint about their address, even their city or state? UTC could stand for all kinds of places. You got me. Obviously, it a very local rag and they don’t expect anyone from the outside to stumble there. Well, they got me. And they got a Yellow Deli!
But do check out the comments about the Yellow Deli on the bottom of the linked page.
And that’s what I did notice at the Yellow Deli so many years ago, when something just seemed off and creepy.