Friday, March 10, 2006

The Antioxidant Life

BY MICHAEL WATT Ask Mr. Long Island

Antioxidants are the new black.

At least it would seem that way. You can’t swing a toxic substance in the supermarket without hitting some product that promises to rid you of every horrible thing in your body, with the possible exception of that worm at the bottom of the Tequila bottle you were introduced to freshman year in college. From the Green Tea to the blueberries to the red kidney beans, seemingly everything on the shelves is designed to expunge deadly toxins that are clearly the cause of every bad thing that has happened since the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped.

It didn’t used to be that way. We used to be proud of the toxins we consumed, bragged about them like some badge of honor. I have a friend, for instance, who says he has a picture of his mother when she was pregnant with him. She has a lit butt in one hand and a tumbler of Scotch in the other. If she did that today she would be brought up on charges. Even our daily existence was toxin-oriented. There was a time when the ideal breakfast was slices of bacon flanking fried eggs, pieces of white-bread toast slathered in real butter, washed down with a cup of strong coffee (made slightly more palatable with a splash of Half & Half). If you invited people over to your house or to a catered affair you made sure you put plenty of ashtrays about to accommodate the smokers in the crowd. Some people even put out bowls of cigarettes.

I know I used to be the Toxin King of Long Island. When my older brother and I were kids and hit the beach with our parents, for instance, we’d sneak off to the concession stand and help ourselves to the packets of sugar that were there for the coffee drinkers. Packets in hand we would then take off as if we had just committed the Crime of the Century and pour the White Powder into our mouths. What a glorious high. Of course this may explain why my teeth have more fillings than the back room of a Dunkin’ Donuts and also why to this day I can consume a bag of jelly beans in one sitting.

But I don’t, not anymore. Now I drink Green tea. Decaf Green tea. My favorite soup is Lentil because, well, let’s just say if you have Lentil soup for lunch you best not have anything important planned for the afternoon. When I read a menu in a restaurant the words “dark, leafy lettuce” cause my heart to pound the same way “I never believed the letters in your magazine until this one night when…” used to back in the day. I can’t help but think that if somebody told me dirt was full of antioxidants I’d probably sprinkle it on my oatmeal in the morning.

I’m not sure why or when I became so obsessed with ridding my body of God knows what. I enjoyed my toxins as much as the next guy and on occasion reminisce about the good old days of chowing down a microwaved Bean Burrito from 7-11 after a night of imbibing and otherwise engaging in dance of the single peoples at a local pub while cloaked in the smog of cigarette smoke and barroom BS.

Even the bar scene isn’t the same anymore. The other night I was invited to consume a few pints with some other fine fellows from the neighborhood. The men comprise a group called the “Saint Mary's Men's Monthly Reading Club,” or SMMMRC – so named, I guess, because rare is the male who went through Catholic school without being told to “wipe that smirk off your face” by a well-meaning but clearly tortured Woman of the Cloth. It is not a Catholic group by any means – it is so named because they meet at Mary Carroll’s Pub – nor is there much reading involved, at least judging by the meeting I attended. A considerable amount of drinking takes place, however, as it should be.

What struck me as odd – besides the fact that it had literally been years since I spent a Friday night in a bar – was the lack of smoke in the air. All the smokers, God bless them, were forced outside to indulge their habit. In my toxin-consuming prime, on the other hand, if you spent any extended time in a crowded bar the next morning your clothes smelled like Morton Downey’s pillowcase. Now, of course, by law the only toxic substances allowed inside a bar are the alcohol served and the Barry Manilow songs on the jukebox.

Which brings us back to trying to explain the popularity of the antioxidants. I have a theory but it is somewhat paradoxical: We love them because we love our toxins even more. We know that if we don’t counteract every Pastrami Reuben with a three-bean salad eventually we’re either going to learn more about the concept of the compacted colon than anyone outside of the medical profession should ever know or die.

The benefit to dying, of course, is that we will never again have to worry about detoxifying. And our loved ones get to wear black, regardless of whether it’s old or new.

Thank you for reading this column.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great Article - Another Dave Barry!

I have this theory.
When we're young, we eat and do anything we want and we're as healthy as the proverbial dogs.

Then, as we get older, we start worrying. We change what we eat and what we do and mysteriously begin to develop all kinds of problems.

Maybe we just shouldn't detoxify in the first place!!