Posts Tagged ‘running away’

Fat-or-Flight Response

August 5, 2020

Steel City Fruit_fat flight

soundtrack

(Dedicated to jocks)

Some people have no idea why their father never spent time with them when they were kids. But I have a pretty good idea why mine was never there.

Growing up in a dying industrial town, I was always disappointed by how few really revolutionary or even creative people were around. “Whatever happened to all the creative agents of change who could make a difference in our dying town’s future,” I used to wonder.

Later, as a young adult in college, I did some research into the 20th Century history of Steel City. And what I found out was that, in the 1930s, there were lots of really smart and revolutionary people doing some very brave and innovative things. There were several types of communist activists, trade unionists, socialists and radical egalitarians. All of them were armed with texts and had large followings in the steel mill and coal mines.

And while these socially-active groups were different from each other in tactics and ideological inspiration, one thing that they had in common was that the Federal Government had the army shoot all their leaders dead in order to maintain our failed capitalist system during the Depression. Literally hundreds of the brightest and bravest Steel City activists were brutally murdered by either the armed forces, or by the Klan or other imported terrorist organizations. And this was a PPP project – private public. Both the government and industry were involved in hiring the killers.

This mass murder of the smart people didn’t just eliminate the most vital and well informed citizens of Steel City –  it also had the (perhaps intended) effect of reducing the value that locals gave to intelligence or education. These things – intelligence and education – had both been growing by leaps and bounds with general literacy and universal school attendance, both introduced in the early 1900s. But by the Great Depression, the powers-that-be decided that education had gone too far – that the steel workers and miners of Steel City had to go back to being ignorant serfs, scared of their own shadows. And that’s exactly what Steel City became.  Along with a haven for drunken hopelessness, of course.
Firing squad

One of the many tragic side effects of the elimination of the smart people of Steel City and the death of ideas in general, was an increased prevalence of morbid obesity. I guess that when people realize that they can be killed for being too smart, all that’s left to do is to eat yourself to death. Also, the inhuman work routines that bosses can dictate in the absence of smart people are often sedentary and psychologically unrewarding or, inversely, physically damaging and mentally exhausting. Being someone’s pet, a serf, is a sure ticket to a decreased life quality and a shorter lifespan. In many people’s eyes, a shorter lifespan might even be a gift to humans trapped in this kind of racket.

Forty years after the killing of the smart, my father was hired as an assistant manager of the paint store in Steel City, the underling of an incredibly obsese manager named Kenneth Trimmenson. Ken weighed almost 300 pounds, and he joked that his girth was due to his social popularity : when he wasn’t sitting down at work with a client, he was sitting down with friends having many, many beers, or sitting down with his family watching movies. Or driving his station wagon – the wood-paneled one with the vista windows in the roof.

When Ken suddenly died of obesity-related causes at the young age of 41, leaving behind a wife and three little girls, my father replaced him as manager. Dad inherited the well-worn vinyl seat that Ken had broken in, returning the picture of Kenneth’s three daughters to Ken’s widowed wife, tears in everyone’s eyes.

Even though Dad was no doubt thrilled to have his salary doubled, I remember him saying to a client how worried he was about becoming obese and unhealthy like Ken. His new Manager position was a purely administration job, and it required him to stay almost motionless for hours at a time, every day. And the busier it was at the store, the less opportunity there would be to burn calories, to go outside – to live some semblance of a healthy, normal human life.

So in order to keep his weight down and his spirits up, my father decided to spend all his free time playing sports, even if this meant never spending more than a few token minutes each day eating or sleeping in proximity to his family. He even brought his golf clubs to family get-togethers, usually escaping from the family within minutes to go shoot some balls far, far away. Anything to control weight and muscle tone. There was no time for getting to know him, or for him to get to know us, his “family.”

This is why I hated sports when I was a child, and it’s why I hate capitalism now.

(Note. Any resemblance to real human beings is unintentional. This story – like other Steel City Fruit stories – is purely fictional.)

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