I am feeling slightly overweight and out of shape. As I get older, my once exemplary metabolism has slowed down, and my thin frame has started taking on more bulk. At first I panicked. I made resolutions to eat better and to exercise more regularly. But then I spread out on the couch to watch "American Idol," and that feeling passed like a 24-hour flu. Later, after much reflection over a burrito and a cola, I came to my senses and realized that this was not a problem of discipline and exercise -- but one of zoning.
Yes, zoning. The problem, you see, was not that I made bad choices or neglected my health. The problem was that others had been allowed to build fast-food restaurants in my neighborhood. I was just a victim of bad zoning, unable to make decisions for myself.
The first step to recovery was to deal with my denial. I had been working out and eating the right foods. But it turned out that what I needed was an expert to guide me through the process of finding a better body. Friends made recommendations -- Billy Blanks, Jake (as in "Body By"), the Dalai Lama. I scoffed at their simplistic, unenlightened views. I needed a real expert. I needed a politician. I needed Jan Perry.
I felt if only Perry could take away everyone's freedom in the name of a noble cause, I would be on my way to a more svelte body in no time.
Perry is the Los Angeles city councilwoman who has proposed a two-year moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in South Los Angeles. Under her plan, the City Council would be the arbiters of whether a restaurant is healthy enough to open in her district.
I suppose that city councilperson training makes one qualified to determine which restaurants should be allowed, by the grace of government, to be opened in certain neighborhoods. I knew that her unchecked power was necessary to fix the free market and the out-of-control liberties that allowed people to choose where they eat.
My next step was to decide on a strategy that Perry could implement. Luckily, there are plenty of models for her to follow.
The L.A. City Council in 2004 had already essentially outlawed Wal-Mart in my neighborhood. Now that residents, by bureaucratic fiat, are freed from the evils of "always low prices," they can subsidize union box boys at $17.50 an hour while waiting in line at an inefficient, union-controlled supermarket to buy overpriced groceries.
Smoking had already been outlawed inside, outside and around most buildings. But smoking was a freedom I could do without, so its absence did not bother me much.
I know there are also efforts to limit liquor stores. I was not enlightened enough before to know that my light beer was apparently not light enough. I am also pretty certain that milk will clog my arteries, but I feel confident that the City Council will zone away milk when it has the time.
When zoning the proposed building that is taking over my downtown parking lot at work, rather than more replacement parking, we'd have fewer spaces. The theory behind this enlightened zoning policy is that the lack of parking spaces will force the unenlightened to walk or use mass transit instead of cars. I do wonder, though, which bus goes to the Orange County courthouse, and how many days it takes to get there.
All of this is healthy, but we can do better. I'm going to suggest to Perry that we zone gas stations out of existence. I think it will encourage more mass transit while also cutting down on pollution. Besides, the candy bars that they sell in the mini-marts go straight to my thighs.
While I initially hesitated at the thought of more government control at the expense of personal freedom, I simply repeated those warm and fuzzy words that always accompany attempts to limit our freedom: "It's for the children." I can already feel the pounds melting away.