Friday, October 27, 2006

Walking in the fog

ST. LOUIS -- Most people will learn of the Cardinal's third World Series victory tonight either through television news or next morning's newspaper. A lucky few watched it in person.

I knew they won from the incredible noise made by all their fans' car horns that caught my attention as I wandered the waterfront of the Mississippi River near the Gateway Arch. I'm here in St. Louis until Sunday for a college news media convention that has been a blast.

I've been eating expensive meals courtesy of student publications and watching unreleased movies courtesy of a few companies that want to get in good with collegiate press. One representative admitted to me that their main hope is that we'll write reviews. We saw "Borat" and "Stranger than Fiction" tonight. The former was a raunchfest that burned several unpleasant images into my mind, the latter was excellent.

I went down to the river after the movies in search of something; a piece of my childhood, perhaps. I've been to St. Louis three times before, the most recent was about eight years ago. The place looks different now, I'm two feet taller, almost a decade wiser and the waterfront is much sparser. I remembered there being a lot more casinos and boats moored at the water's edge, now it was empty.

To the very edge of the river I went, stepping on loose stones slowly losing their uniform layout to the passage of time. A barge made its way upriver, a few tourists walked under the streetlamps and the two sides of the arch disappeared into the fog, their location marked by a big white blog made by the dozens of spotlights trained on it. The majesty of the scene overcame me.

I bent down and touched the Mighty Mississippi's surface, I let the great river coat my hand. I had been searching for that elusive soul that things develop over time. I'd found both the river's and the city's, and they were beautiful.

I walked downriver a ways in search of the floating McDonald's where I'd eaten breakfast so long ago. It was an unsuccessful effort, but there was a fun moment. About thirty yards ahead of me and on the other side of the street walked a nervous little mman who continually looked over his shoulder to make sure I wasn't getting eny closer.

He kept trying to walk quickly and keep away from me for about a hundred yards before walking square into a sign. It was then I decided to give up the search for fear I'd give this man a heart attack.

I remembered a trip with my brother Drew and sister Caitlin where our mother had us lean against one end of the Gateway Arch for a picture. I walked up the hill to the mighty monument while the sound of Cardinals fans' horns filled the air and made my way for the side of the arch where we'd taken the picture.

With no one but a cop standing guard to watch, I walked up to the shining surface and gazed into it. I stroked it with my hand, turned around and leaned backward. The arch caught me and I relaxed for a moment as I stared down a long gap in the trees. I imagined my siblings next to me and sighed.

You can never, ever truly go back. But you can come pretty darned close sometimes.

In other news, a travel columnist for the Miami Herald interviewed my father earlier this month and mentioned him in her column. You can read a copy of it here, or read the paragraph about him here:

"And at Adams Auto, the owner not only filled my tank and checked my oil, he stopped long enough to chat about my Florida tags and tell me about his son, away at the University of Kansas. His pride, and his time, made me feel that for once, I'd touched America on the shoulder, and it had grinned back."

Please note that she got the name of my father's business wrong, along with the fact that both his sons are at Kansas State University. Tsk Tsk.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

You'd think I'd be happy that my gut is about an inch or two smaller than it used to be. Logic would say that a man who is showing results in his plan to lose his excess weight and be healthy for the first time since he was a toddler would be glad to weigh 25 pounds less.

But I seem to be proving that wrong. I feel strange, odd and confused about it all.

I keep putting my hands over my stomach and remembering where how far it used to stick out, and noticing how different it is now. I still have some girth, just less.

It reminds me of what Garrison Keillor said of the obese middle-aged men in his fictional hometown of Lake Wobegon; how they never hid their bellies or tried to excercise them off. They just couldn't imagine being without their giant lumps of fat, like their guts were good friends they'd known all their lives.

I don't know what it's like to be skinny, or trim, or even close to what society considers "normal." Now that I'm determined to be fit and am actually getting there, I don't know how to deal with it and the prospect of it all actually scares me.

Being big has always been a part of my identity. For better or worse, I was the fat kid. I was teased, missed out on some activities and never really felt like I belonged with all the other kids. I keep wondering to myself: "If I lose this weight, will I still be myself? Or will I be someone different?"

The answer to both questions, though, is yes. I'll still be me, just a different sort. New & Improved, as they say.

But it still freaks me out. I was in the supermarket last month (five pounds ago) and looked at some packages of ground beef. I saw four five-pound parcels and thought "Gee, that's how much extra stuff I've been carrying around."

But what messes with my head the most is this: what will I look like? Seriously, I have no idea what my face will look like with all this extra stuff gone. My cheeks, my lips, my forehead and neck will all be different.

I guess I'll have to do a bunch more self-portraits, huh?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

My iPod is dead. Long live the iPod.

I'm unhappy with Apple.

First, they release iTunes 7, which royally screws up my iPod, ruining the hard disk. Now it makes loud grinding sounds whenever I hook it to my computer and it refuses to connect to iTunes, and all the data on it is gone.

Then their support turned out to be worthless, and their repair service downright ridiculous. They said they'd charge me $275 to fix an iPod I bought for $250 and could replace for a brand new, video-playing one for the same. They also suggested I just buy a new one, but since when do I reward a company for screwing me over?

Instead, I fled to eBay, where I found another iPod just like with a 30-day warranty that it would work perfectly. End price? $86.

And now I have a spare iPod that would work if only it had a new hard drive. I might turn it into a news story. We'll see.