By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
I can't help but imagine the marketing scum in a Meridia focus group.
Scum 1: Well, what can I say? This is the result of all that right-person, right-reason, it's-not-for-everybody crap. I mean, why don't we just sell the stuff with a goddamn blood-pressure monitor and hospital gurney?
Scum 2: Exactly - where's the sell-through, where's the critical mass?
Scum 3: And all this pussy-ass shit about 5 percent, 10 percent weight loss. What's that about? Who the hell wants to be 10 percent less rotund?
Scum 2: Especially if fatty's partner is taking Viagra and is all pumped up about his increased, uh, lengthened, uh . . .
Scum 3: Stroke?
Scum 4: Impact?
Scum 1: Now we're getting somewhere.
I must admit: Knoll has been laudably circumspect about Meridia so far. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the nation's busily enterprising weight-loss clinics. Evidence of their approach is easy to find. I flip through the L.A. Weekly, chock-full o' liposuction, plastic-surgery, colonic-irrigation and herbal-detox ads. There's Meridia all over the place.
One of the paper's longest-running ads is for a weight-loss clinic that, as a subspeciality, offers "passive exercise" via electronic stimulation of muscles. "Can you do 1,000 sit-ups? Can you do 500 push-ups?" it asks. One of the other unique features of this unchanging ad is a photo, taken from derriere, of a well-toned young woman in a string-bikini bottom peeling off her tight T-shirt, apparently to show her boyfriend the results of the electronically induced 500 pushups.
Today I see three new words inserted next to her passively exercised ass: Meridia Now Available.
This better be working.
Day 28: I can't decide whether to weigh myself now or to wait another two days until the entire 30 pills are gone. Meridia makes me a little impatient in general, and today I'm walking in circles.
To get calm, I go to my favorite spa and sit around in the steam for a while with a couple of Korean guys with quite glorious guts. To get those images out of my mind, I throw myself into the cold plunge and then stretch out for a nap.
I can't stop thinking about President Taft and those special chairs everybody made for him. If only I could sit in one, I muse. Wouldn't that be magic?
I vaguely remember that, in the folklore of the little college I attended as an undergraduate, there was a story about a visit by the 27th president. I con the spa guy out of a dozen extra towels so I can dry my entire body off, and then drive over to the library of my alma mater. On its shelves are about a dozen scholarly books on Taft, and a handful of old campaign literature.
It's fun reading - mainly because of the old photos. For a big guy, Taft certainly got around. There are photos of him golfing with millionaires and riding horses with English nobles. There's a photo of Taft, jolly and bewhiskered in a natty white linen suit, being carried along in his own (especially made) palanquin while visiting Shanghai. Political photographers apparently having the same sophisticated sense of humor then as they do now, there are a variety of "fatty" shots: Taft walking up the steps to a meeting, his derriere nearly bursting from his pants; Taft looming next to his tiny wife, Nellie; Taft inspecting a bathtub made especially for him. Ha ha ha. Fatty fatty fatty!
Finally, there it is: A picture of the president pouring out of his motorcade car and up the steps to my college, circa 1911. He's smiling and happy; there is a festive air to the scene. You can't help but like the guy.
I ask the school historian about the location of the Taft Chair. He smiles and sends me to the history department. There I'm greeted by a kindly woman, who interrupts my highly sophisticated prelude with a wink and a "You want to the see the chair, right?"
Suddenly I'm in the presence. It's a squat, green leather affair with wooden arms and a brass plate commemorating the occasion. It's wide, but not that wide - designed not so much to announce itself as to present His Corpulence like a giant ruby on an invisible setting.
I imagine Taft sitting on it that day in 1911, doffing his hat to the ladies, mopping his brow in the Southern California heat. Perhaps his head lolls as he endures the warm-up speeches. He fights off sleep, a constant test of will. Then he is on his feet. The crowd cheers and then falls silent, swept away by the words of the attractive fat man they have elected to lead them.
I lean back. It's a comfortable chair. But it is also firm enough to keep one alert and paying attention. Mrs. Garcia would probably not like it much. Then I notice that my hands are resting on each side of me, inside the arms of the great man's chair. Apparently, I still have a lot of wiggle room.
Bring on the scales.
After four months on his Meridia regimen, Greg Critser has lost 22 pounds. He is still not sleeping.
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