Most of the milestones I’m mentioning in this weight loss trip will be related to the pounds lost. This one is mostly for the time stamp.
It has been six months since I started again on a concerted effort to shed weight and this is the bottom line. In six months I have lost 81 pounds. It also gets me to a significant number, or equation.
There is a story I tell often, one that I haven’t presented in a podcast yet, but one I plan to someday. It’s all about how one woman in an unlikely place, New Orleans, helped me land a job in Oregon.
A story from this weekend’s This American Life program draws me to at least consider the possibility that I have some details wrong. Michael Lewis, who has had so much success as a writer of books like The Blind Side and Moneyball that he doesn’t need any promotion from the likes of me, tells the story of how a kid from Bosnia stole a library book before emigrating to the United States, and how plagiarizing from that book helped him get into Harvard. A woman who was in his life for no more than a couple of weeks helps him do it.
The show hires a private investigator to find the woman, who has no reason to hide but is inconceivably difficult to find. Lewis, after demonstrating just how much effort had gone into finding this woman, crafted what I thought was a particularly eloquent statement of the perspective he had when the boy’s former temporary teacher appeared forever lost:
After a couple of months of this you couldn’t help but wonder why was this woman the most difficult person on Earth to find. Was it because she wasn’t an earthly creature? Not once, but twice, this boy had found himself in a world more intent on destroying him than in building him up. Maybe he needed evidence that people weren’t all bad. Maybe that’s where angels always come from.
Fortunately the woman is found. The surprise, one I’m not spoiling much, is that her recollection of how things played out differs in some pretty significant ways.
In my story I’m still certain I have the basic facts right. It helps that I didn’t lose contact the woman who helped me. I stayed in touch with her for at least a few months. I might have even sent her flowers to thank her, which is something I’ll have to ask her to confirm. We’ve since become Facebook friends, though we haven’t discussed how we know each other.
Despite my certainty about those events from 19 years ago, I have to hold open the possibility that I’ve got some facts wrong. This might be no small problem for someone who tells personal stories in a podcast once a month. But from the very first podcast I came to accept that my stories are my version of what happened. On those stories that are particularly personal to me, I’m usually the only fact checker I can find.
TBTL podcast host Luke Burbank, who is also a frequent panel member on NPR’s Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me, was away for two weeks. This was great for me, because the TBTL shows were reruns, and I had only recently begun my role as one of the show’s time bandits.
The final two days were old shows featuring conversations with Stephen Tobolowsky, shows I hadn’t heard before.
You know Tobolowsky if you have ever seen a few movies or a handful of television shows. Chances are good Tobolowsky, a character actor, was in at least one of them. I always enjoyed his work as an actor, but in the last couple of years I learned about his storytelling abilities. Many of the baseball players today grew up wanting to play like Ken Griffey, Jr. Ever since hearing Tobolowsky, I have wanted to tell stories like he does.
After my dad began living in a nursing facility it was a regular thing to go see him on Sundays. Often that meant taking a drive after church and taking a scenic path, giving me the chance to listen to Tobolowsky’s hour-long broadcast on Seattle’s KUOW.
I got into the podcasts months, maybe years, after they started, so I can’t say for sure the following excerpt from his book “The Dangerous Animals Club” came out from the podcasts, but some of the stories I’ve seen in the book were ones I did hear on Sundays.
When I was five, I had an invisible monster that lived alternately in my closet and under my bed in a kind of winter-home/summer-home arrangement. His name was “Eye the Monster.” Eye would come out of hiding when I was alone and we would talk.
I had an up-and-down relationship with Eye. I often appreciated his middle-of-the-night visits. We would talk about school and about girls I had crushes on. You would think that Eye the Monster didn’t care about the opposite sex. But he did. He always argued for patience and honesty. He urged me to be more aggressive with the ladies on square dance day. It was hard advice to take. I was never a player. I thought five years of age was too young to be married. But not Eye. He thought I could be a trailblazer and be married and have children before I was in fourth grade. And this was years before MTV.
My drives are over and so is The Tobolowsky Files. Reviews of the book say his storytelling translates as well in writing as it does on the radio. In just the little bit I read that seems true.