When you’re a columnist, editors are always stopping by your desk with a press release they’d like to offload. The some-magazine-just-named-us-something boilerplate was only the most irritating. “These are designed to get the magazine’s name in the media,” I would point out. “Look at the data they used. This is pure bullshit.” This was never met with anything other than a shrug. I’d round-file most of these, but every so often I’d feel inspired to answer bullshit with more bullshit. Published October 2000.
The word had scarcely gone out that no less a tribunal than the editors of Self magazine had declared our little town “least fit” (for women, anyway) in America than the hand-wringing began.
“What can this mean for our future efforts to be the next Indianapolis?” fretted town boosters, many of them picking over egg-white omelets and dressing-on-the-side spinach salads at tables with lovely views. “What does it say about us when an obscure women’s magazine catering to the solipsistic says we’re a city full of people with sofa cushions stuffed down the back of our pants? Does this mean we’re a no-go for the NAIA?”
Does it ever stop? wondered a put-upon soul at one economic-development office or another. Sighing, he launched his word processor and drafted a memo on damage control.
In other quarters, the news was appraised with a cooler eye. Restaurateurs made mental notes to add an extra roll to the bread basket, and underlined “butter” three times on the “must-have” list, just so the suppliers wouldn t forget.
At the health clubs, the bickering was fast and furious. “It doesn t surprise me,” offered one indifferent block of chiseled masculinity. “You thought Monica Lewinsky was overqualified for thong underwear? I won’t even tell you what I was able to make out through Ms. L’ s spandex yesterday.”
That’ll be enough of that,” retorted a blonde — zaftig, but in that apple-cheeked, I-could-bench-press-a-Holstein farm girl way. “It’s well-known that your media-promoted model of skinniness is based on an unhealthy model of living. Not for me the Tic Tac diet, the quiet after-dinner hurl with the water running. Life is a sandwich, and I intend to eat it. With mayonnaise.” With that, she turned and sauntered away, swinging her 42-inch hips — quite fetchingly, the chiseled block thought.
A lone cardiologist, torn between the Porsche and the Mercedes, decided to take both. Business was looking very good, after all.
A high school speech teacher sought to make it the central question for debate class. “Resolved: We are a city of wheezing fat people.” For the affirmative, a sophomore named Heather gamely held her ground. Later, everyone continued the colloquy in the student lounge, over snacks from the vending machines.
Meanwhile — and this next part is true, while the preceding is, fairly obviously, not — plans for a city-county master parks plan are moving forward, in the sense that a company has been hired to prepare one. There is talk of extending the Rivergreenway, rumored to be a place where much exercise takes place, into New Haven. There is no talk of repairing the existing Rivergreenway, a huge chunk of which was torn up earlier this year for sewer work and remains so. And there is that unfortunate washed-out stretch near Lakeside. Just a reminder.
At the same time the rivers flow past their greenways, someone awakens on a sunny morning, filled with resolve. He prepares oatmeal without butter, black coffee, orange juice. He opens the newspaper turns to the classifieds, scans down to the “exercise equipment for sale” listings. Stationary bike treadmill, rower, stepper — the choices seem endless. He dials a few numbers.
In all likelihood, the piece he buys will make a second appearance in the paper in a few months, or else be covered with clothing in that peculiar household sculpture of the late 20th century. The pair of athletic shoes he bought at the same time will be the frame he watches basketball through, when the recliner footrest is up.
In the meantime, we’ll continue to super-size our fast-food meals, no matter how many heart attacks that nice Dave Thomas suffers. We’ll remember he got his start in Fort Wayne, a true son of the city, the city that just made the national news, if only for a moment, but for the same old depressing reasons.