Everything To Lose

April 6th, 2017

A while back, I heard sardonic comedian Dennis Miller say that somebody – I forget who – was so fat, “Pavarotti looked at him and said, ‘You should try the salad.’”

Well, my friends, Pavarotti isn’t with us anymore, and whomever Miller was talking about probably isn’t either and if we’d like to be around a while longer, we – collectively and individually – should try the salad.

I wrote the above introduction to a column in 2014, about how fat we were as a city and a country. Well, in the ensuing three years we’ve gotten even fatter ­– in fact – we’re only one city away from being the most grossly overweight bunch of people in the nation.

And we’re gaining on them.

As published in The Daily News, April 7, 2017, and in The Memphis News, April 8-14, 2017

Graduationburgermac Copy


I’m paraphrasing Marie Antoinette. She didn’t say “and die” – but then she probably didn’t say “let them eat cake” either when told that the poor had no bread. History suggests that some other arrogant French aristocrat did. The reason the quote lives – and the point – is that the rich have always pretty much ignored the plight of the poor and done so at their own risk.

In Memphis, we are eating cake, and we’re dying. 

If not right now, much sooner than we should. From diabetes and heart failure and hypertension. If not actually our lives, our livelihoods, from lack of energy and mobility, joint failure and organ failure.

You and I are fat, not just run-of-the-mill overweight, but obese. Friend Rob recently sent me some statistics from a WalletHub article ranking “The Fattest Cities In America.” We’re #2 out of 100, on the very chubby heels of #1, Jackson, Mississippi.

This isn’t about getting to the gym – there’s no gym and no money for one for so many of us. This isn’t about Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, South Beach Diet, or whatever weight loss in a box being delivered to well-off overweight doorsteps, nor is this about organic veggies and farm-to-table pretension – there are no veggies or much of anything fresh in the vast food deserts of our city. 

This is about education – a big helping of it – with a healthy side of pride.

There’s a funky little restaurant on the edge of Downtown with a school lunchroom theme and their menu has much to teach us:

Principal’s Office Link, smoked hot link crowned with fried eggs, lettuce, tomatoes, house sauce sandwiched in a spicy grilled cheese.”

I can’t even. But yet, I did. And I ate the whole thing. And I know better. I don’t blame the restaurant. They’re serving what their customers want, and a lot of it:

Homeroom Chicken & Grids, our version of chicken & waffles is deep-fried chicken sandwiched between two golden brown cheddar waffles, topped with muenster cheese served with whole grain honey mustard or green tomato relish.”

We have to change what we want as a city. With applause for all the food efforts, the urban gardens, etc., we have to mount a much bigger, coordinated citywide effort to promote better eating and health as a matter of self-interest. We have to get the haves on board – civic and corporate leaders ­– to help the have-nots understand that this is killing all of us and our future.

Back to my opening metaphor, when the French aristocracy continued to ignore the problems of the poor, they lost their heads.

So I’m calling on you, Mr. Mayor, to be brilliant with the basic need for better health. Set up a task force; challenge the whole city, set goals, measure results, and reward success. Hold contests in every city department, corporate office, church sanctuary and small business, on every factory floor and neighborhood block.

Take it off, Memphis.

I’m a Memphian, and that’s the skinny.


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