Sunday, January 25, 2009

550 Calories

Raving fans and gentlemen,

My name is Chris Lauer and I disgust myself.

Today, I committed the cardinal sin of yuppiedom: I ate a double quarter-pounder with cheese. Plain. No ketchup, no onions, no damned pickles. Dripping with guilt and grease, I wolfed the fucker down faster than you could ask for two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions on a sesame seed bun. I guess I should feel proud about myself. I guess.

As an omnivore, it's my natural duty to munch on everything that comes my way, my physique be damned. Equally important is my dedication to behaving like a good son. So when Mom takes orders for McDonald's, what kind of self-loathing, arugula-eating ingrate would I be if I turned my poor mother down? On the filial piety front, I swung for the fences. But in every other way, I waged a war on decency. For starters, no self-respecting human being should eat McDonald's fast food, let alone inhale a burger in a few short seconds. Arteries cinch tight, arms go numb: this is the stuff hospital visits are made of.

Clearly, because I'm 21 years old and invincible, only the most immediate health concerns--flesh-eating bacteria, spiders, gunshot wounds--faze me. Seeing as no substantial part of my anatomy threatened to fall off or stop working on account of a miserably unhealthy lunch, I refused to let health issues bother me.

My environmentalist friends know all too well that the American meat industry dumps extraordinary quantities of methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Like the wife of a dictator, I'm an enabler, and for that I apologize. If the difference between climate correction and the heat death of the planet boils down to half a pound's worth of ground beef, I will personally assume all responsibility for global warming.

For whatever reason, I can't get Dave Brubeck's "Suicide is Painless"--the M*A*S*H theme song--out of my head. Could it be that I've had a small stroke and these are the last guilty paroxysms of a dying subconscious? Did a brick of cholesterol get sucked straight into my bloodstream and go on a demolition derby through my cerebellum? The smart money says my higher brain is imploding and it's taking everything down with it. I give myself a few minutes to test the hypothesis. Both sides of my body still work. Memory is still solid. Dave Brubeck is still stuck in my head. I resolve to watch fewer reruns.

Convinced that renegade blood clots pose no imminent danger to my person, I loosen up a bit. I'm not out of the woods yet; a bad hamburger can do strange things to a guy. Fifteen minutes after my bout with gluttony, I'm filled with something my guidance counselor said I'd never have: initiative. I tell my sister to get in the car because we're going for a workout. Before the angels of my better judgment can save me from myself, I'm at the gym pounding out reps on the rowing machine.

100 calories later, Larry King and John McCain are shooting the shit. The owl man asks standard questions, Mac parries like a good beltway insider. The squirming is political and hollow. Fun, but still political and hollow. This is how drug users start bad trips. As I break the 200 calorie mark, the pain in my knee informs me that my days as a rower are numbered. Time to hit the elliptical.

Something is wrong about this workout. My face isn't beet-red, I'm not gasping for breath, and I... I enjoy it. What's wrong with this picture? Shouldn't I be vomiting blood in a urinal in the men's room? 300 calories. I've lost my front row seat to ogle Larry King's strigiforme features. Instead, I have the luxury of watching snowboarders compete in the X Games. I confess, I've never given two shits about snowboarding or the X Games, and even in closed-captions the sport fails to impress me. I've convinced myself that the commentators are morons.

"He was totally steezin' down that pipe 'til a bogus slip-up ruined his day," said one burnt commentator.

"Totally, brah," said the other, "he was straight illin' and then the lip was all 'fuck your day, bro,' and he was like 'you aren't my real dad,' and then the mountain totally slapped him in the face like my jerk step-dad who thinks weed is a crime."

The first anchor offered words of consolation and commiseration. "Totally, brah."

To be fair, I didn't read the captions. At all. After 450 calories of strenuous exercise, everything from the shoulders up shuts off. Hallucinations set in. These anchors could be Oxford scholars for all I know. But frankly I don't care: snowboarding bores the urine out of me. 500 calories, and my second wind is all but exhausted. For however much I bought into the hagiography of the Unites States' favorite illiterate swimming star, my body is no blast furnace like Saint Michael's. There's no pain, only exhaustion. Nothing but sheer inertia pulls me to the magic number of 550.

There has never been a good reason to vacuum up a fast food burger and hit the gym in the same 30-minute span. Oddly enough, my stomach never bubbled up, cramps never overtook me, and I came out of the exercise session like a bat out of hell. But all isn't roses for the self-abusive exerciser. After toweling off my sweat and downing some much needed water, I caught up with my sister and we set off for home. Katie has a funny look on her face. She sniffs the air and winces.

"Chris, you smell like McDonald's."

"Are you fucking kidding me?"

"No, dude. You're like a deep fat fryer."

This is the kind of scent that takes painful scrubbing, powerful deodorant, and numerous herbal cleansers to evict from the body. I knew better, you should know better, and there is no call for ever making the same mistakes I make.

Raving fans and gentlemen, my name is Chris Lauer and I smell like French fries.

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