Thursday, September 4, 1997
New health plan a winner,
art prize isn't

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Every time they come up with something new that isn't good for you, it is something I especially like.

Don't smoke. Don't eat cheese. Don't eat eggs unless you cook them at 940 degrees for four days. Don't sit in the sun. Don't sit on the couch. In fact, don't sit down at all, except to floss your teeth. Don't have wild, erotic, promiscuous sex unless vicariously on daytime television.

Don't. Don't. Don't.

This is why I was so enthusiastic about a new report warning people not to eat squirrel brains. This is a diet hardship I feel prepared to endure.

In addition to squirrel brains, doctors have issued a warning that we should all curb our desires for the brains of elk, deer, mink and rodents. I am thinking of giving them all up for Lent.

The low-squirrel diet

Squirrels, according to a study by the neurology department at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, might carry a variant of mad cow disease. In the last four years, 11 people in rural Kentucky have contracted this rare disease.

"All of them were squirrel-brain eaters," says Dr. Erik Weisman, clinical director of the Neurobehavioral Institute in Hartford, Ky.

Well, I don't have to be hit over the head with a brick. Beginning right this minute, I am swearing off squirrel brains for good. If I find myself about to fall off the squirrel-brain wagon, I will distract myself with Graeter's mint chocolate chip ice cream. Or Nacho Cheese Doritos, which so far have not been part of any official warning.

The next time I'm wondering whether I should climb on the treadmill for an hour, I'll notice that I haven't been eating any squirrel brains. When I'm filled with self-loathing after a popcorn hog-orama, I'll remind myself that somewhere in Kentucky, people who have no regard for their health are gorging on you-know-what.

You'd think learning that you're not supposed to do something you didn't want to do in the first place would be about all the good news a person could get in one week.

But, as it happens, my personal cup runneth over.

After years of filling out Reader's Digest sweepstakes forms and licking Publisher's Clearinghouse stamps, I received notice of a prize I would be horrified to win. Even a lecture on a time-share condominium in Tennessee wouldn't tempt me to collect.

A prize package

If you go to the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) between Saturday and Nov. 2, you might win a phone call from Yoko Ono.

This is part of a work called "Telephone Peace."

Also on display will be an interactive work, "Cleaning Piece," which instructs visitors to move river stones from one pile to another, "assigning emotions to the rocks such as sorrow and happiness," according to a CAC spokesperson.

"She'll call Friday during the members' premiere," says Carrie Creighton, the CAC's director of communications. "And she's supposed to make more calls, but we don't know how many or when. You just have to be lucky enough to be standing next to the exhibit when the phone rings."

I don't know how to break it to her, but most people's idea of a lucky break is Ed McMahon showing up on Super Bowl Sunday with a check for a million dollars. And I'd rather move around a big rock representing sorrow than chat with Yoko Ono.

What would I say?

"Uh. Hi. Yoko. Howzit going? Say, I don't mean to be rude, but why did you ruin the Beatles? Also, why were you always taking off your clothes?"

Then, no doubt, somebody from the Contemporary Arts Center would wrest the phone from me and hand me a rock that represents being a big embarrassment to my hometown. I hope they'd give me one more chance to say something important and meaningful.

"Yo, Yoko. Peace. Love. And don't eat any squirrel brains."


Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8493. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and is a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.