The Nation's Pulse

Fat, Sober, and Happy

Striving unsuccessfully to be angry in America on a perfect spring day.

By 4.25.05

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BOSTON -- Spring comes fast in New England and, ironically enough, always just in time to validate the latest seemingly absurdist prediction from that contrarian Midas, the local weatherman. When he says snow, there is rain. When he says no snow, there is two feet. When he says blizzard, there is sunshine and chirping birds singing in unison with the cries of a thousand schoolchildren, homework incomplete in ritual prayer for a snow day.

Maybe synchronizing once a year with the ridiculous is God's way of preventing these goofy, cocky-for-no-reason specimens of humanity from being lynched en masse. Or perhaps, as with the Dodo, we just expect them to do away with themselves.

Anyway, divine intervention or not, I awoke a week ago to my wife advising me on the latest sign of the apocalypse: "It's going to be 80 next week, but today it's snowing," she said, as the heater grudgingly rumbled back on, convinced as I had been that the worst was over. I shook my head watching the large flakes fall and promptly forgot the rest of the prediction until the other morning when I stepped outside to get the paper and the world was all aflutter with tank tops and shorts, convertibles and sunglasses.

So this is what bears feel like coming out of hibernation, I thought, noting that I'd been wearing basically the same clothes for four days (I said basically), a period that now, pathetically, stretched across two distinct seasons.

With the sun shining warmly through the window for the first time in months, it is tough to be a curmudgeon searching for the latest outrage that allows polemicists to join in the daily Chorus of Indignation. (Tryouts are Wednesday nights, bring a piece by one of the two sanctioned political viewpoints and be prepared to sing it for life.) But I'm a professional, damn it, so I dig into the paper and start looking.

Maybe I should complain about non-Catholics whining about the new Pope? I muse. Why should they care who is issuing proclamations from Vatican City?

Not the most original impulse, I'll admit, but it will probably land me on a couple of radio shows, or, if it's steamy enough, television! The goalposts of success for the modern writer are in sight! Not to mention, everyone knows writers reach more people nowadays by talking rather than writing. Who has time to read these days anyway, aside from checking out the comments section of your own blog?

The idea dies on the vine: Maybe I'll let a Catholic (i.e. someone who knows what he's talking about) defend the vote that brings the white smoke. Also, I don't need various friends and family members
staring at me with that Well, you're the one who thought this was so great look while I'm sitting in purgatory.

This decision to abandon the Pope story complicates things significantly, though, since the Boston Globe is hardly covering anything else -- which is to say, something that has little to do with the 77 percent of the American population who are not Catholic. But I'm a professional, damn it, so I go online.

Once again, I am thwarted by the first story I encounter. It turns out the Journal of the American Medical Association has rethought that little thing about carrying 10 extra pounds or so around killing you faster than a heroin addiction. In fact, fatness has dropped five spots on the Centers for Disease Control Greatest Hits list, from number two to seven. So for the second time in a single day sitting back and I'm smiling instead of frowning and typing. On one hand, it will be hard to stay fat if I cannot find anything to be paid to write about, but, on the other hand, do you know how much a gym membership costs in the city? I might still come out even.

However, as I said, I am a professional. I do my Pillsbury Doughboy impression for a couple minutes, share a bag of microwave popcorn with my gerbils, and get back to seeking the aforementioned latest outrage.

The obesity-ain't-so-bad story has a link to a related story about how the Centers for Disease Control has determined that the benefits of occasional drinking to the cardiovascular system have been "over-exaggerated." Hilariously, Tim Naimi, M.D., an internist and medical epidemiologist at the CDC's Chronic Disease Center, adds in the official review synopsis, "If we compared this (alcohol) to a pharmaceutical drug, there's no way in hell the FDA would've approved it," essentially proving the FDA keeps itself afloat via a campaign of taxpayer-financed paranoia.

Nevertheless, this change of rhetorical course can have nothing but a positive effect on the small number of adults in America who choose of their own free will not to drink, myself included, as this "fact" about the medical benefits of alcohol is relentlessly thrown about by drunks who cannot stand to think someone, somewhere out there may not be inebriated. (I'm conveniently ignoring the part of the study that says moderate drinkers are smarter and have better social lives.) There has never been any reaction against this sort of reverse-teetotalism, even as it has always been exceedingly clear to anyone who has ever spent time with a drunk that it is not thinning the blood or health of the heart that draws this moth to that particular flame.

Fat and sober. Fat and sober. Fat and sober.

The chirping of a dozen golf ball-sized birds finally interrupts my reverie. I share my leftover dinner roll with them. Carbs for everyone, great and small! Carbs for everyone, one and all!

Still...I'm a professional, damn it. There has to be something to get worked up about.

Just read some blogs, find out who the target of the week is, and either pile on or offer a magnanimous defense to show everyone what a thoughtful young fellow you are, the devil on my shoulder offers. (Note that he doesn't suggest writing about the Pope...typical devil.)

Striving to be fair and balanced, I turn to get the angel's take on my options. But he's flown out the window. I think I'm going to follow him. All it takes is faith that out there in cramped cubicles and dingy apartments across America there are other writers, liberal and conservative alike, ready and willing to complain in my place for the day. Somehow I don't think I'll be disappointed.

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