I went on a run down to the Waterfront yesterday, only to be thwarted from my customary route back to the eastside by closures on both sidewalks of the Hawthorne bridge. As I headed north on a detour, sweating in the heat, a woman near a booth asked me if I wanted a juice sample. Hell yes I wanted a juice sample. (Unfortunately, none of the people manning the booths on the other side of the Hawthorne bridge at the Hemp Fest offered me any free samples--phooey.) At the booth were wine bottles--jesus juice? Nope, it was MonaVie, and little did I know that MonaVie might just be the most controversial juice on the market. Made with concentrated açai ("ah-sigh-ee") berries from Brazil, the drink has a cult following among health nuts, who claim it has aided them in the fight against everything from wrinkles to insomnia to leukemia to cancer. Awesome. I love that kind of shit. It tastes a lot like the berry version of Odwalla superfood, real thick and seedy, with a tangy m élange of berries beyond the precious açai. Speaking of precious, I now know why the sample they gave me was so insultingly minute--this stuff retails at $40 a bottle! I asked which stores carried it, and it turns out that MonaVie is the Amway of juices--you have to buy it through independent distributors a la Tupperware parties and such. Hmm. I gave them my email address (who cares, it's publicly available), and am now awaiting an invitation to a tasting party, with high hopes that there will be juice baptisms and other fountain-of-youth berry rituals. We'll see what I've gotten into: Newsweek had an article last month on the juice, the company, and its controversies, and Wikipedia also mentions warnings from the FDA for false medicinal claims on the company web site, as well as founder and CEO Dallin Larson's--a Brigham Young graduate--previous multi-level marketing experience in the juice world, including as a senior executive at a company that was shut down for illegal business practices by the FDA. As for the distributors, there's a crazy web site called Purple Horror, where people vent about the product and company. It's belligerent stuff.

But does it work??