It’s funny how we come to learn certain things. Sometimes revelation steals into your brain in the wee hours, while you’re deep in REM sleep. ‘The solution’ just slams into your mind, causing you to pitch straight up and shout “By golly I’ve got it!” (or some such). With self assurance,  you slink back under the covers… wondering why you hadn’t figured it all out long before now… but still confident… knowing that you’ll  remember “the answer” in the morning.

At other times, epiphany comes during the daylight hours, when you are thinking about or doing something else entirely. Knowledge just surreptitiously seeps into your brain like some kind of osmosis. You don’t know how you learned what you now know and you sure as hell ‘can’t show your work’, but all of a sudden know: ”x equals 2y,” “the butler did it”… or that… well… you’re fat!

At other times, you obtain knowledge  in other ways. Take what happened to me a few weeks ago:

I’m driving on fumes… doin’ seventy-five and hopelessly in the wrong lane. An eighteen wheeler, one that looks like it’s got a hundred and eighteen wheels is barreling down on me… and doin’ ninety.  The gas gauge’s needle is below “E” and the light behind the gauge on the rented Mini-Cooper is flashing off and on… “S.O.S – S.O.S – S.O.S.”

The hundred and eighteen wheeler is gainin’.

I wouldn’t find myself in this predicament back home – on “285”, but this situation occurs nearly everywhere whenever the driver is “not from around here.” Today, “here” is U.S. Route 13, Chester Pike, Darby Township, Pennsylvania.  I’m on the second day of a three day soiree to Philadelphia, the place that four, maybe five lifetimes ago I called home.

It’s been awhile since I’ve strayed back to Philly.  I look around and can hardly recognize anything anymore. Is this what Thomas Wolfe really meant?  “You can go home again… you just won’t be able to recognize it. Any of it.”

At the moment, I’m distracted – caught up in figuring out my exact whereabouts on Chester Pike. I forget all about the fuel gauge. If that lady inside the navigation system, the one who’s always telling you “where to go”, really wanted to do something, she’d keep track of the gas gauge too. “You’re about to run out of gas, you idiot!” she’d say.

Now, it’s either make a hard right turn – in front of the runaway eighteen wheeler – cut over three lanes to Exit 21 or run out of gas right in the middle of Chester Pike. Or maybe even get squeezed by the semi “doing” ninety…

I see an opening and make a move that a stunt driver – or James Bond – might envy.


No serious blue lights of State Patrol cars are flashing in the rearview mirror. No cops see me…

…but a lady in a yellow Isuzu does. “I see youse…#@&^%$, ya fat bastad!” she yells…  and  throws up  an arm… and a middle finger. Then… suddenly… she’s lost in off ramp traffic.

Thinking about Ms. Isuzu’s epithet: “She didn’t really mean that did she? She didn’t really call me fat did she? Did she? Maybe she really meant that “new kind of fat”, that politically correct, acceptable kind of “fat”…”P-H-A-T”… you know, “Pretty Hot And Tempting”?

Maybe “#@&^%$, ya fat bastard” is the new Yankee term of endearment?

Twenty minutes later, the car’s fuel tank is full and I’m sitting in one of those ubiquitous northern roadside diners. I await a pretty, dark haired waitress to serve me Manny’s special of the day, the cheese steak platter for $6.95. Bar-be-que would be better but you can’t get good ‘que north of the Mason-Dixon line. You just can’t. Then again, you really can’t get a good cheese steak too far away from South Philly. You just can’t.

Out of the blue – without warning – I pop the front button on my cargo shorts.  “What the…!?” The  button  flies off and lands on the plate of a blue-haired lady, who’s eating a bowl of something.  Heck… if I  just a little better aimed…

Anyway, I apologize profusely to the blue haired lady and offer to pay for her meal. She demurs, gives me the button and gets back to her soup or whatever it is that she’s eating. Blue haired lady keeps one eye focused on me for the rest of her meal. “Don’t be embarrassed,” I say to myself.  “Yeah, the button did fly about six feet… and almost hit someone in the eye… but you’ll never see these people again… and they’ll never see you. Fuhgetaboutit! (as they say in Jersey)! Just fuhgetaboutit!” But still… maybe the lady in the yellow car – “Ms. Isuzu” – had a point. Maybe she had merely been making a scientific observation… well, except for that part about my parents not being married.

Awhile later, I manage to find some bathroom scales. “Damn it, Will!”  I quietly scold myself. “You’ve let gravity sneak up on you… Do you need the lady in the car’s navigation system to watch your weight for you too? Sheesh Baby!”

Still later, I get online and look for those evil insurance industry weight charts.

“Hmmnnn.  It says here that I need to lose twenty-two and a half pounds.”

“You’re not going to be getting any insurance anyway, you dolt. So why even worry?” I talk back to myself. But then it dawns on me that someday – and sooner rather than later – I’ll be entering my dotage. “You don’t see a lot of fat old men,”  I remind myself. Old men are skinny. Or dead. Well mostly, anyway. And while I don’t think of myself as old, I’m not getting any younger. I’ve also made a vow to myself and a few others to live long enough to have my picture be on the side of a Smucker’s jar.

“I have to slim down,” I tell myself. I have to.

“Hush,” my brain kicks in. “Here she comes with the food. We’ll discuss this weight loss thing  later… after we get home… as soon as we eat the Philly Cheese-steak and onion ring platter.”

Losing twenty two and a half pounds will not be easy.  It just won’t be.

If it were up left up to me, I’d weigh the exact same as I did in high school. I’d also have a 30 inch waist and be frequently mistaken for Denzel Washington. Instead of craving Haagen-Dazs, Fig Newton’s and bar-be-que, I’d crave arugula and cherry tomatoes.

Sadly, none of it is up to me.

Most assuredly, losing weight isn’t.

For one thing, my body has a mind of its own. It has for decades now. It began getting “uppity” when I reached the age of thirty. Ever since, it just does whatever the hell it wants to do – whether I give it permission to do so or not. Even when I tell it to… “act like it’s got some ‘home training,’” my body persists with ill-timed burps, belches, and poorly-timed, gaseous noises. And unauthorized weight gain. It’s all like dealing with unruly teenagers, laptop computers, space aliens, cats, and first wives. My body doesn’t listen to me at all. It just does… like…’whatever.’

My body’s mind regularly goes behind my back and makes trouble in other ways too. Say, I’m at the mall, performing in a role that I was born to play: accompanying a female member of the Cantrell clan as a “shopping mall pack mule.” Say also that we walk by those “outfitter” stores that overrun the malls these days, call it Extreme Urban Outfitters.’ Next, out of the corner of my eye, I spy one of those tall and svelte manikins.  Immediately, my body’s mind – the same one that does not listen to me, sends my legs a text message: “GIABT!” Go in and buy that!

“That” is a skin tight, form fitting body suit that looks great on the manikin. It is made from some sort of new lycra-spandex-Velcro blend. The outfit is perfect for rappelling down mountains, snorkeling – or, in my case – raking leaves in the backyard. Now, my mind knows that the rest of me can’t possibly fit into this get-up… but it encourages me anyway. And even if I did somehow manage to paint the mountain climbing/snorkeling/leaf raking outfit on me, it will never – ever– look nearly as good on me as it looks on the manikin.

My body’s mind makes much mischief.

My body’s mind is decidedly unruly when it comes to matters of weight-loss. It refuses to comply with any of the accepted Universal and Time-Honored rules of weight loss. I’ve tried everything: counting calories, not counting calories, subliminal suggestions, drinking smoothies, exercise and increasing the amount of roughage in my diet.

My body’s mind responds – and only slightly – to the most extreme of weight-loss measures, such as the Devil’s Island Torture Diet, eating pine straw or perhaps kudzu as fiber.  It has, on occasion, responded to starvation but finds that ultimately too, to be unacceptable. Last year, I had a Diet Buddy. For six months, my Diet Buddy and I worked hard, supporting and ‘being there’ for each other. My Diet Buddy lost twenty pounds and then stopped taking my phone calls!

During the time that cross-country skiing was the diet-exercise ‘rage.’ I ended up having traveled half way across the country on ski’s, but still fat.

I’ve roller-bladed to work and even attempted cross training. As I was about to begin the latter, my body’s mind informs me that when “it” suggested that I try cross training, it really meant “crucifixion.”

Once about three o’clock in the morning, in a semi-conscious state of mind and in the middle of an episode of diet induced insomnia, I once bought one of those heavy rubber ‘Fat Slasher’ suits from those people on the PDQ Shopping Channel on TV. It was advertised to sweat off – or as the brochure said – “slash off” the fat.  About the only thing that got slashed was my wallet.

On occasion, my body’s mind will become a smart-ass and send me little reminders that say things such as… “the moon has 1/6 the gravity of Earth. If you lived on the Moon, you would weigh a lot less and none of this would be a problem. Why don’t you sign up to be an Astronaut, Cantrell?”

In the end, my body ignores all of my efforts to lose weight and reminds me of the first line of fine print in the Contract of Life: Individual Results May Vary. Especially yours.

Nothing has ever worked in my efforts to “get it off  – and keep it off.” When it comes to weight loss, my body and my body’s mind thwarts me at every turn. I figure that I’ll finally lose weight when I’m dead. Of course, with my track record, my body will find a way of gaining weight even then. My tombstone will likely read “Here lays Will, one fat so and so.”

I gonna tell them to bury me in that Fat Slasher Suit though. Gotta get my money’s worth.

Until then, I’m also going to stay away from women driving yellow Isuzu’s.

© Copyright  2011 Will Cantrell


Thanks “masses” to Arnold Perkins of Perkins Technology Group for saving my computer, my life… and this piece. Cantrell “takes back” everything that he’s ever said about computer technicians being domestic terrorists. I didn’t mean it Arnold. At least not about you! Thanks again. Will

Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell (a pseudonym) is a writer, storyteller, and explorer of the milieu of everyday life. An aging Baby Boomer, a Georgia Tech grad, and a retired banker, Cantrell regularly chronicles what he swears are 'mostly true'  'everyman' adventures. Of late, he's written about haircuts, computer viruses, Polar Vortexes, identity theft, ketchup, doppelgangers, bifocals, ‘Streetification’, cursive handwriting, planning his own funeral and other gnarly things that caused him to scratch his head in an increasingly more and more crazy-ass world.   As for Will himself, the legend is at an early age he wandered South, got lost, and like most other self-respecting males, was loathe to ask for directions. The best solution, young Will mused, “was just to stay put”. All these years later, he still hasn't found his way but remains  a son of the New South. He was recently sighted somewhere close to I-285, lost, bumfuzzled and mumbling something about “...writing' his way home.” Of course, there are a lot of folks who think that “Cantrell ain't wrapped too tight” but hope that he keeps writing about his adventures as he finds his way back to the main highway.