What in the world is going on? Essay: Even after a week of abstaining from newspapers, television and radio, he's sure there's nothing he's missed.

January 28, 1998|By Chuck Salter | Chuck Salter,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I'm at the doctor's office last week perusing magazines that date back approximately to the beginning of civilization when this headline grabs my attention: "Spontaneous Healing: Cure tiredness. Beat stress. Lose weight." Never mind that the magazine is For Women First. I'm game.

Besides consuming more omega-3 fatty acids and decorating with fresh flowers, Dr. Andrew Weil, author of the book "Eight Weeks to Optimum Health," prescribes a "news fast": "Do not watch, listen to or read any news this week."

Maybe he's onto something. Maybe my recent fatigue and stress is a result of watching, listening to and reading too much news, like all those Larry Young stories. It's time for this news junkie to kick the habit for a week.

Let the healing begin!

Day 1

You know, I don't think I could have picked a better time for this fast. They say January is a slow news month, so I'm not going to miss a thing.

Instead of poring over the paper, I spend the morning shopping for flowers, as Weil suggests. I don't even think of the day's news for 45 whole minutes. But in the checkout line, I face my first temptation. Two women behind me are talking about President Clinton's deposition with Paula Jones' lawyers. This could be very newsy -- and incredibly unhealthy. I cover my ears and sing "Tubthumping" to drown out their conversation.

It works. Well, sort of. I don't hear another word, but the florist kicks me out before I can buy my lilies and roses.

For the rest of the day, I just can't get that whiff of fresh, gossipy news out of my head. If I weren't fasting, I realize, I'd be feasting on a smorgasbord of Paula and the prez stories around the clock. Tonight, I don't dare turn on the TV. Must ... resist ... CNN.

I tell myself the deposition is not much of a story anyway. Old news. Now if Clinton were hitting on the White House staff, that'd be something.

Day 2

When my clock radio comes on, I hear someone mention Chris Webber before I can yank the plug from the socket. I can only imagine what they're saying about Wizards' star forward. He's having such a terrific season, he was probably named to the All-Star team. I sure hate to miss out on the good news, but a fast is a fast.

For the second day in a row, I toss the paper in the trash. Through the thin plastic wrap, though, I manage to read part of a headline. Something about the pope going to Cuba. It's only a nibble, a puff, a sip. I have a twinge of guilt, but that tidbit carries me through the day. At least I know what the big story is this week.

Day 3

In a moment of weakness, I turn on the TV, but I'm careful to surf past CNN, C-SPAN, MSNBC, Fox News, ESPN, even the Weather Channel. During commercials, I hit the mute button and leave the room to avoid the promos for local news.

Still, I catch a snippet about some woman named Lewinsky. I can't tell what she's done, but her picture is followed by a photo of the pope greeting Castro. I think I understand. His Holiness must have performed a miracle involving the young woman and Castro is expressing his gratitude. I can't believe it -- more good news!

Day 4

John Glenn isn't the only one offering himself to science as a guinea pig these days. Me? I'm breaking out in hives from news withdrawal.

Instead of feeling relaxed, I'm worried. What if the biggest story of the year -- no, the decade -- is going on? My mind reels with the possibilities. What if we're at war with Iraq? Or Ted Kaczynski is acquitted? Or -- tell me this isn't happening -- those Texas cattlemen somehow silence Oprah?

I need resolve. I re-read Dr. Weil's article. The news fast, he explains, is part of a "program of preventive maintenance" that reduces my risks of premature illness and death. I'll feel better, more energetic. Dr. Weil suggests relaxing music. I turn on the radio and hear "Blue Suede Shoes." The Carl Perkins' version. Right then, I decide that after the fast, I'm going to Nashville to see him in concert. I feel better already.

When the DJ breaks in with a special report from the White House, I switch the radio off. It's probably nothing, I tell myself. Another update on how Buddy and Socks are getting along.

Halfway there. I'm going to make it, Dr. Weil!

Day 5

Got a cryptic e-mail from my friend David this morning: "Do you think he really did it?"

He must be referring to the miracle the pope performed on the Lewinsky woman. "I certainly hope so," I reply. "I find the whole thing so INSPIRING! We should all be so lucky."

Speaking of luck, tonight I stumbled across a "Hawaii Five-O" marathon on the tube. I bet Jack Lord doesn't worry about the news. He's probably lying flat on his back on some tropical island right now, as tan as ever.

Day 6

At the gym, I overhear something on the TV about the White House and internships. Thank goodness, those poor folks interned in World War II finally getting their due. What was I so worried about? Everything's coming up roses this week!

My friend Gabe e-mailed today: "Tough week for Clinton, huh?"

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