Ever since I began my journey from a 400 pound victim to a slimmer and healthier victor I’ve been asked “What do you do for fun?” The assumption is that hiking and cycling and canoeing and whatever outdoor activities I indulge in are work, and not pleasurable in themselves. For instance, when I’ve gone on vacation camping, or on a bike tour, I’m invariably asked at some point what I DID. This means, “what tourist-type attractions did you see?”
Well, I usually disappoint my questioners. However, during my July trip to Ohio I visited one such attraction and reminded myself of something I’d forgotten about my weight loss, with the help of my friends Matty and Aaron. And some electric sex gleaming in the window.
This year is the 30th anniversary of A Christmas Story, a classic holiday movie. The film, set in the tail end of the Depression and adapted from the short stories of Jean Shepherd, is now as familiar a staple at Christmastime as It’s a Wonderful Life or the various adaptations of A Christmas Carol. While the movie is set in Hammond, Indiana, it was shot in Cleveland, and the little frame house the Parker family lived in still stands on the outskirts of of the city. In 2005 it was purchased and restored to match its appearance in the movie. The owner subsequently purchased two other buildings in the same block, opening them as a museum of film artifacts and as a gift shop. If you want to visit, and you should, you can find information at http://www.achristmasstoryhouse.com/

While I never saturated myself in A Christmas Story, and I missed the endless marathons of back to back showings cable channels indulged in, I’d seen it and enjoyed it. I knew most of the story line and found the restored house didn’t miss a detail. There was Lifebuoy soap in the bathroom and the blocks on the shelf in the boy’s bedroom spelled out “Oh Fudge.” And yes, that’s me holding the Red Ryder carbine action 200 shot model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time. While holding it I could hear my mother’s voice saying “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

But this visit might never had happened. My original suggestion for this trip, the first time Matty and Aaron met, was that we ride on the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath. It would have to be a short ride, because Matty was recovering from a near-fatal auto accident nine months before and hadn’t ridden a bike for a couple of years before that. Fortunately, Aaron had a better idea. He suggested the short hike in downtown Cleveland and subsequent trip to the A Christmas Story House, and it turned out to be the perfect day for the three of us.

At times I get caught up in the idea that more is better, and I constantly have to be doing more – riding longer and harder, hiking further and faster. But losing weight and becoming active means celebrating the small as well as the large. When I was 400 pounds I couldn’t hike six miles, but I couldn’t walk a block either. Spending a day walking around with friends, climbing steps, is as much a reward of changing my life as my century in 2007 or any mountain I’ve hiked up. That is the major award, becoming active. And unlike the lamp in the movie, it’s not fragile. 

By the way, if you want to turn a group of middle-aged men into snickering twelve year old boys, let them pose with the leg lamp.