“I have a friend” who is packing at least 2x her recommended
body weight. And like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie used to, she champions it
as a reasonable “lifestyle choice.” She’s kind of militant about it,
going so far as to share photos of lavish, heaping, lovingly-prepared meals
that otherwise distributed could feed a family of 16 Tasmanian beet-pickers for
By all accounts, she isn’t running from her Brobdingnagian
appetites either, she is embracing them. Like I said, she sees it more or less as a
civil rights issue. And I guess, cast in that light, she would be correct. We
do have the right to let our bodies go to shit. I did for years (and years?)
and The Missus was the only who ever said anything. And now when I see pictures
of fat me, I wish a lot more people had said something, anything. Anyone. My God, I
look like I’d been stung by a swarm of bees.
Putting themselves in a class that includes cutters,
smokers, alcoholics and people who masturbate while choking themselves with a
nylon, these are intelligent, otherwise clear-headed taxpayers who make the
informed decision to take out their personal issues on their bodies. And if
anybody gives them shit about it, they whip out the “I have a dream” speech and
talk about their freedom to eat like they’re defending against alQueda planting
roadside bombs on the Disneyland monorail rather than the fact that it won’t be
long before someone is prying a Big Gulp from their cold, dead fingers.
And they hang on to any piece of data released, however
spurious or questionably-sourced, that suggests a new study has found that
morbid obesity actually isn’t bad for
you like FOX is hanging onto Benghazi. (I have provided a link for readers who are non-FOX viewers and have no idea what this last reference refers to.)
Maybe he should ask Bill Clinton how he did it, although Clinton
could have his own reasons for not reaching out to help.
Of course, Christie is deflecting questions about the
surgery by repeating the same line politicos use for absolutely everything,
“I’m __[fill in the blank]_ for the good of my family.” And that’s cool, too.
It’s the game, man, and that’s how the game is played. It’s always about your
family; it’s never about your mistress, the indictments, your drug/booze/weight
problem, the guy in the stall next to you going to the press…
Personally I’m happy for him. Although I don’t agree with
most of Christie’s policy positions (pretty run-of-the-mill old school
conservatism), he also doesn’t strike me as a vainglorious madman just waiting
to fulfill his role as foretold in the Book Of Revelations. As Republicans go, he’s a fairly level-headed
fellow. If one of them is going to take up residence in 1600 Pennsylvania
Avenue next election, I’d hope it would be him. Not indebted to FOX News or the
Tea Party, this guy could actually chase the hard-core assholes out of the body
of the Republican party proper and do the GOP, and the country, a real service.
But this isn’t even about him. It’s about my friend. I can’t
talk or even write to her. I don’t know her that well, and she would be well
within her rights to tell me to fuck off thank you very much.
At the same time, as someone who at one time or another had
myself convinced that almost any deviant, self-destructive behavior was fine as
long as no one else got hurt, I’ve been down that road before. Except I
was never an advocate of my unhealthy lifestyle, just an eager participant.
(For years before I stopped drinking, I would meet new people in social
situations with, “Hi, I’m Fang [beat] and I’m an alcoholic.” Oh my God, it
threw everybody off their game.)
I’m beginning to drift. Must focus.
I’m still engaged in what some would consider to be an
unhealthy lifestyle, but those parts of my life, I’m not necessarily proud of and I’m
certainly not an advocate for. I owned my guitar for about 3 years before I
ever picked it up. I have a stationary bike in my office that’s been gathering
dust for over a year now. sigh
All this stuff I’ve put off or am putting off, at least I’ve
always been honest enough with myself to admit that what I was doing was not/is
not an intelligently arrived-at, commendable decision. Even if I found an
article tomorrow on the dangers of stationary bikes, in the face of
overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I would categorize it as an outlier and
look closely at its source, not run it up the flagpole and stand beside it,
What to do about my friend, then? I got nothin’. I’m a
pretty shitty example of making smart lifestyle decisions. Pot, kettle. Kettle,
pot. (The hilarity of that unintended, doubly on-point pun is causing a brief
delay in wrapping this up.)
I can’t talk to her about it, we’re not close enough and
it’s legitimately none of my beeswax. But it’s hard sitting on the sidelines,
watching the Titanic sail dreamily
toward a date with an iceberg that should have been easily predictable but was
overlooked until it was too late. And being too damned cowardly to do
anything but write about it in a blog that statistics prove nobody even reads.
(Spellcheck doesn’t even recognize ‘blog’ anymore.)
If Chris Christie can man up, cut down and recant all his
earlier statements about his weight not being a health issue, certainly someone
who’s not in the public spotlight—who is not not-running for president in
2016—can be convinced to do the same, right?
So I’ve done it again. Another birthday and I yet contain
mass and volume. I exist in time and space and the government demands financial
tribute. I meet or come close to all the standard benchmarks one requires to
proclaim, “I am alive!
That’s the good news. On the other hand…
Idaho continues to give me very little love. For three years now,
I’ve tried everything I could to make friends and fit in. With anyone. I tabled
for the ACLU until Citizens United made
that task impossible. (They also didn’t care for the time a guy walked up in
Renaissance Faire drag and I went off on a tirade about the Visigoths.) I went
to a few NORML meetings, but apparently in Boise, I am what narcs look like. I
even took a desk job at the local uni to make friends and influence people
which ended up a near-catastrophe. I tried to inculcate myself in The Boy’s
school community, but after an unfortunate shouting incident in the school
parking lot one day, that avenue closed to me. I’m sure there’s other that
stuff I’m forgetting or deliberately omitting, too.
The problem is three-fold. One, I work from home, so there
is no one at the office for me to “click” with. Two, Idaho is culturally and
politically a backwater. People like me, the bleeding hearts and the artists,
and anybody who isn’t a gun-toting fire-breathing conservative is an outlier
here. And three, the communities where I might find like-minded folks are
pretty goddamn insular, what with Boise being so isolated and our type so
unwelcome. They circle the wagons and I haven’t found a point of access yet.
Besides what I brought with me—my family—I can only think of
a couple things I’ve enjoyed about my time here. Because I want this to be a
My weed connection is great. Great weed and always a
welcoming environment. But then I’ve always got along well with the LBGT
community. Outliers like me.
The people who run The Boy’s martial arts academy have also
been very good to us. Besides what you’d expect from a martial arts curriculum,
these people—gun-toting, fire-breathing conservatives that they are—have been
extraordinarily welcoming. And they have several families of the “Timmy Has Two
Mommies” variety in their classes, so underneath all the God, Guns and Guts
bluster there beats an accepting heart. Good people and I am grateful for them.
That’s about it except for family, so let me say a few nice
words about The Missus and The Boy.
The Missus feels bad for ‘dragging’ me out here where I have
successfully failed to flourish, but she shouldn’t. For one thing, her wedding
ring is inscribed “Wither thou goest,” because I thought I could hang out my
shingle anywhere and get by. I was pretty confident back then. I was at the top
of my game. I had two job offers waiting when we moved to northern Cali.
Unfortunately, my game is/was newspapers.
Yah. And that isn’t her fault. And almost all of the other setbacks I’ve enjoyed would have
occurred wherever we were living, too—mostly the result of a lifetime of youthful indiscretions finally coming home to roost. It just happens that Fang’s Very, Very Bad
Three Years happened to fire up a few months after we moved here, when the dog
nearly pulled my arm off my torso and I was in a sling and constant pain for
six weeks though the holidays. Also not her fault.
And I have been a misery to live with. If our situations
were reversed, I would be despondent. It’s horrible living with that much
negative energy in the house, ready to pop off at the slightest real or
imagined provocation. I pity her, and I am enormously grateful that she has not
kicked me to the curb yet.
She is a star at her job and an amazing Mom. She was
everything I ever wanted in a lifemate the day I married her and she still is.
The Boy will soon transition officially to The Little Man.
He’s become a voracious reader,* is holding doors, ordering from merchants by
himself, taking guitar lessons and becoming damnably more perceptive around the
house. Just last night we had our first Birds & Bees talk with him, because
all the comedy shows we watch, they talk a lot about S-E-X, and from the
audience reaction, he could tell it was a pretty funny something. So we told
him the bland, not even just-the-facts version and hopefully made the word less
interesting to him.
*One of the things I especially loved this last year was
reading comics with him, him aloud on the iPad and me following along in the
print version. He seems to have lost interest in that activity, which bums me
out, but God it was great while it lasted. And he still reads comics, just to
himself, so it is a total net win.
Looking forward to spending the summer pushing him hard.
Thinking up new Firsts to conquer, new challenges to be met, more steps outside
his comfort zone. The world is not a particularly comforting place, and he
needs to be prepared to meet it in kind as necessary. I’m old and I won’t be
So that’s my job and my joy. The Missus cooks and cleans and
nurtures and will one day make damn good and sure he goes to college; and I
push his buttons and will one day, hopefully, provide him with enough Daddy
Issues to sustain his art through the slow patches.
There’s the report. As I write this, it’s Friday morning and it’s cloudy and gloomy out. TV
weatherman (we call him Larry’s Liver because of my opinion that he looks like
a bit of a tippler) calls for 80% chance of rain. But I have The Boy here with
me, due to another one of the mandatory monthly charter school
auto-gratification days off, so if I can tear him away from his book,
confidence is high for a pretty good day. Guitar practice, work on some
taekwondo in the front yard and scooter around the block (if it’s not raining),
maybe watch a superhero cartoon or two, Fuddruckers, Oblivion, then off to four hours of intermittent taekwondo
classes. Home, ice cream cone, bed, read, sleep.
I could do this every day.
Addendum: Birthday card from The Boy. Better than hitting the lotto:
If he wasn’t working 14 hours a day, he was out bowling or
fishing or at the track or playing golf. His generation (the Greatest, or so I
hear) didn’t go in for belly-itching or foot-shuffling. Or lavishing praise on
sons who would rather be artists than Flying Leathernecks.
And on vacation or at BBQs or parties—or the bowling
alley—he was always right in the middle of things, laughing with and making his
friends laugh. Knocking back cans of domestic beer and chain-smoking like the
Regular Joe he was. Taking my little sister and me out into the desert to shoot
empty cans with his 22 semiautomatic…
But as I said, if he was given to introspection, he was
never inclined to share it. His generation wasn’t into that like mine was. Or
would be soon. But I never took the opportunity to ask myself—let alone ask
him—any of the questions I can’t escape now. We worked together one summer
driving a truck, and even at 18, legally mature, I just sat there in stoned and
Which was aces with my Dad. He did not need to talk about
shit. Still, his long-haired problem child was in money trouble, so he cut me
in on his driving deal, and paid me out of his own wages. My gratitude at the
time, I’m sure, did not amount to much.
But his generosity extended far beyond his own back yard.
People came from miles around to take advantage of his trusting nature and
exploit it for everything they could. Oh, it’s a long and ugly list. But my Dad
never learned. No matter how many times other peoples’ mendacity and avarice
would knock him down, he would always bounce back up in time for the next guy
with a story to come along, always convinced that this time he was dealing with
a fellow straight-shooter. But he was usually dealing with dead-eye Dicks.
My Dad died 17 years ago today, and was incapacitated for
years before that. He never lived to see me step out of the shadow of my own
self-interests and take a look around at the other people in the world and
I never became a steeplejack or a major league ballplayer,
but I’d like to think my Dad would have made his peace with my manly
shortcomings by now and loved me for the parent and relatively decent fellow
It’s taken me a long time to try to follow my father’s
example—short of falling prey to every scheming confidence artist between Maine
and California—but I finally understand that part of him. The giving part, the
part that looked at a stranger’s face and said, “This man too is my brother.”
I’m sorry it took me so long; I sure wish he had said
something. If he hadn’t assumed his pothead son would simply notice his example
and follow it, I might have become a Regular Joe like him a long time before I did.
The following is a verse from a Steve Goodman composition.
Except for substituting “cigarettes” for “cigars,” I’d like to thank him for
remembering my father so eloquently in song. From My Old Man.
I miss the old man tonight And I wish he was here with me With his corny jokes and his cheap cigars He could look you in the eye and sell you a car. That’s not an easy thing to do But no one ever knew A more charming creature Upon this earth Than my old man.
I wish I could remember how I came across this article. I
think it was when I was trying to find a comparison between the number of kids
killed in senseless home tragedies compared to the number of criminals
apprehended red-handed by gun-wielding citizens.
Not being any kind of Google expert, I did not find the
stats I was looking for, but I did come across some interesting stuff as you
may imagine. One piece entitled “12 Children A Day” caught my eye. I thought it
might contain the numbers I was looking for.
After perusing the piece, I would have clicked the “Share on
Facebook” button except apparently keepandbeararms.com is not equipped with
this technology yet. Or perhaps Facebook is part of the vast, ever-shifting
socialist conspiracy to relieve Americans of the burden of their Second
This pugnacious Pulitzer-pursuer goes to some length to
argue that the Left’s repeated, bleating whine about 12 American children a day
dying from gun violence is a lie, a dodge, an exaggeration used to score
The real number, the author goes on to argue, is only 11.5
children a day shot dead. He’s done the math and he has the figures to prove it
(my fifth-grade math teacher would have loved him).
That extra half a dead child a day is a deliberate partisan
lie, plain and simple.
If it seems callous to split hairs between twelve dead
children a day and eleven and a half, you may not want to click through to the
column. I should have mentioned that earlier.
The author goes on to enumerate his own set of facts to
counter all the hokum and slick ‘mathematics’ the Left uses to promulgate its
lies. Here are a few of my faves:
A toddler has more to fear from a backyard pool than from
This is true! Toddlers don’t have the upper body strength to
lift a gun and accidentally shoot a playmate or sibling. And parents don’t usually
put their kids in their gun closet to play and then get distracted by a phone call.
His next hypothetical is a beauty, and shows he’s really let
his imagination roam in preparation for this piece:
Even with homicides, a child is 5 times more likely to die
by fire than at the hands of someone with a gun.
Then he buttresses his argument with the truly puzzling, “Of
course, fire extinguishers are a good thing for putting out fires just like
guns serve a purpose for deterring crime.”
Uh… true dat?
And on he goes, listing one by one all the ways he’s found
to kill more kids than guns every year. He’s like the John Wayne Gacy of gun
advocacy. Unsurprisingly he completely ignores the fact that if we had the
power to stop any of those other things that kill all those kids every year, we
would. We’d be all over Congress like Bill Clinton at a press availability.
Then he introduces a bunch of important-looking numbers that
I wouldn’t understand even if I agreed with them—numbers are my kryptonite. But
here’s how he sums up his opinion about children committing suicide with
legally purchased firearms: “Suicides don't count in a rational debate about
the criminal misuse of guns;” maybe that’s
where he’s getting his .5 children a day. To prove his point, he adds, “Japan's
gun laws are RESTRICTIVE, and they have more suicides than America.”
In the author’s entire elaborate… bizarre defense of what to
do about all these dead children accruing, only the discussion of guns is off
the table. Drownings, cars, soccer practice (I’m not kidding, he brings up
soccer practice in a conversation about gun violence), these ought to be
considered too, but only in the context of the author’s list of ways to kill
As soon as the context changes to guns and gun safety,
however, 5,000 dead kids a year is just the price we pay to protect our
As if the author’s conservative cred hasn’t been thoroughly
established by this point, he then spends his longest talking-point excoriating
the plague of inner-city gang violence. It never hurts to throw a few
red-button words or phrases in to stir up the base, and pushing racist buttons
has never failed to produce results, from the “Dixiecrats” of the ’60s who fled
their party in opposition to integration, to this last election’s primary
candidate competition regarding which would-be American president would build
the highest, longest, deadliest wall to stave off the threat of illegal Mexican
Lest we think the author uncompassionate, he actually opens
his final paragraph with, “The loss of life however it happens is a
tragedy--even in the case of the gang members shooting gang members.”
Wow. Even in the case of gang members. This fellow is like a
regular Mother Theresa, except instead of devoting a lifetime ministering to lepers
in the slums of Calcutta, he expresses pro-forma regret at the loss of life,
even of black people he implies probably had it coming anyhow.
God. When this guy was on the street corner with a
misspelled sandwich board and a rolled-up pizza box he was using as a
megaphone, he was an object of curiosity. Now, instead, he no doubt has a
Sometimes I really wish you couldn’t find absolutely
everything on the internet.
And other shocking revelations that ought to come as no
Maybe the pope really is quitting for health reasons. I
mean, he’s looked like a sickly villain out of a Bond film from day one and
hasn’t aged particularly gracefully since. Maybe what I took for nature taking
its toll on his natural boyish glowering looks was actually evidence of a
losing battle with ill-health.
But it still doesn’t pass the smell test because it’s the
pope’s job to die in office. It’s like the last line of the Pope Contract. The
job security on this gig makes Supreme Court justices look like migrant workers
lined up outside a Home Depot.
The news reports all agree it’s been 600 years since a pope
quit. Again, probably because all popes know that their last official act is supposed
to be dying in office. Then with the mourning period, the conclave of
cardinals, the white wisp of smoke… We’ve all read Dan Brown. We know how it
And popes milk their lifetime gigs. For 600 years now, not a
one of them has said, “Gee, I’m getting a little long in the tooth. Maybe I
should slow down and enjoy my golden years. Turn the store over to someone
younger, with fresh ideas.”
So why did this pope break with tradition? The new plan
still involves him dying on Vatican grounds, just at a cloistered nunnery
within, instead of on the golden throne.
The question arises unbidden: What is the advantage of going
from spiritual leader of umpteen million human beings and being one of the
richest men in the world… to moving in with a bunch of sexually-repressed women
who aren’t even allowed to speak? At a job where it’s part of your job
description to get sick and die while in office anyhow?
I gotta think it’s the whole not-speaking part. The last
thing I heard about this pope were allegations of his own
first-hand complicity in shuffling suspect priests off to unsuspecting new communities in the pedophile scandal that I expect will ultimately
financially destroy the Catholic church.
My suspicion is it’s more than Ratzinger not wanting to
preside over the demise of the venerable institution; I think he doesn’t
want to be the smoking gun that causes its extinction.
I can’t think of a better place to dodge both extradition
and media attention than a cloistered nunnery on the grounds of the Vatican,
officially its own country since 1929 when it was declared so by Benito Mussolini.
(Yes, that Benito Mussolini.)
Out of the public eye, this pope is guaranteed to take any
secrets he has with him to the grave. Out of the papacy, he won’t put a pope’s
face on the public scandal that is convulsing the church.
Nicely played, sir.
But without trying to be unkind, if you absolutely had to put a face to a centuries-long pedophilia
cover-up, you could do worse than this one:
After the latest—ongoing now—spate of horrific acts of gun
violence, people in power are finally talking about doing something about it.
They’ve narrowed the problem down to three components: the Media (an omnibus
category apparently composed mostly of Hollywood Job Creators who voted for
Barack Obama), mental health and the reigning third rail of American politics,
I’ve already looked at guns in this space and put them at
the top of the to-do list.
I don’t know what to do about the mental health aspect of
the problem. Fix crazy? Fix crazy and the problem goes away. But everyone has
tried to fix crazy at some point, either in their own lives or that of a friend
or loved one. How did that work out for you?
Alternatively, are doctors going to be required to report
patients who meet a government-determined profile? Will there be anything like
due process, a fair question in this, the golden age of unmanned drone strikes?
How about camps? And how crazy, exactly, will be too crazy? Wearing tour
t-shirts after May?
It’s crazy. The simple fact is, you just cannot crack down
on future-crime. Without resorting to a dystopian police state utilizing
technology that doesn’t yet exist, future-crime is going to remain darn near
impossible to head off at the pass.
I’ve added an additional, separate class to the list of
culpable parties: news/entertainment-news. Media outlets from CNN to Entertainment
Tonight to NBC Nightly News could exercise
responsible editorial restraint and cover that day’s spree killing without doing an entire package on the shooter, his life
story and what drove him to do what he did. I can save you the time, ‘news’
people: The guy was nuts and he had access to a tool made for killing. That’s
the common thing about all these shooters. Let’s talk about that instead of
lionizing these clowns for posterity.
You’ll never see a shooter’s name in one my columns. Ever.
That leaves the entertainment media, and they’re the ones
I’ve come to damn today. Because they’re the ones who could start doing
Everybody cries, “Hands off the media! First Amendment,
First Amendment!” And by everybody, I mean mostly the same people who are
working feverishly to limit the reach of the Second Amendment.
(How come nobody ever complains about the Third Amendment,
the one about citizens being required to house troops in times of war? I guess
it’s true—everybody does like a man or woman in uniform.)
But all the conservative voices that are wrong on almost
everything else—if one judges by recent national elections—are right about the
media’s culpability in helping create a society desensitized to violence.
When Night Of The Living Dead came out in 1968, it was rated X. Its scenes of people eating people
were considered too repulsive and over-the-top for anybody but adults high
enough to want to see that sort of thing. Today, AMC’s wildly popular The
Walking Dead equals or bests the worst of
its forebear on a weekly basis, on basic cable.
I’ve been watching The Walking Dead since the first episode. It’s a smart TV show.
Well-written and acted, thoughtful in its own way. But after Newtown, I really
did reconsider the level of gore. I won’t even describe the ways they show
human bodies being torn and chomped to offal shreds. Factoring in advances in
technology, it’s actually worse than Night Of The Living Dead.
If I had seen that show as a kid, I would have freaked. The
Wizard of Oz and the original Star
Trek gave me nightmares. Now the Walking
Dead’s animated corpses are on the cover of
TV Guide and my 7-year-old son sees it and says, “Cool, zombies.”
Not cool with me. I pitched the magazine and then deleted the show from the DVR queue; if you don’t take a stand for something, you’ll stand for anything.
There’s a whole franchise of shows out there that starts
with, “Crime Scene: [city name].” All kinds of TV pathologists are seen
eviscerating ‘corpses’ on camera, in stomach-churning detail. Quincy did the same TV job in the ’70s, and never showed a
single entrail or severed limb.
There’s a show starring Kevin Bacon that just started, with
the promise of a new serial killer every week. First-person video games where
the player gets to experience the thrill of actually mowing down an enemy in a
spray of bullets are wildly popular. Some rap and metal music exists solely to
extol the virtues of death and violence. And on and on.
The Right is right. Culturally, we are a cesspool.
And while I’m on a tear, let’s talk about a related beef.
I was at a movie last year, something rated R and loud and
violent and dumb, and there was a mom next to me with her maybe 5-year-old kid.
Even before the opening credits rolled, I thought it was an irresponsible
parenting decision. As the movie unspooled, I observed that mom had no problem
with all the death and graphic mutilation playing out in front of her child,
but when it looked like a female breast was about to shown on camera, mom
quickly covered the kid’s eyes.
Friends, that is a snapshot of a culture which is both
upside down and backwards.
We owe it to ourselves, and more importantly to our
children, to take a serious look at how we entertain ourselves at this ugly
juncture in our history. It isn’t fascism or censorship for an industry to take
a look at its impact on society—ie: their customer base—and decide, for the sake of that society, it needs to upgrade its business model.
Born in the wild to Canadian Timberwolves, Fang was wrestled from his mother's teat at an early age and placed in the custody of a government-sponsored think tank in New York City. He escaped at age seven by gnawing off a dew-claw and has been riding a wave of self-righteous indignation to Nowheresville, baby, ever since. He is currently enjoying being a PhD (by marriage), but on the advice of his attorney has refused all comment except to assert an apparently deeply-held conviction that frozen strawberries should be thawed, not microwaved.