March 29, 2006
BOLD ROBBERY AT THE HOTEL SHERATON
My wife, the beautiful Judy Licht, and I along with my son, J.T are on the road scouting colleges for him to apply to.
It's beginning to feel like the Batann death march. Every college has a young healthy 19 year old who will walk your legs off while he or she touts the college you're touring. By nightfall we are weary and confused and we are living on a diet of pizza, burgers, pretzels, candy, and food that no one over 25 years of age should attempt to eat. Last night at 4 a.m. I raided the hotel's little bar refrigerator and ate Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, washing them down with three of those tiny little bottles of Scotch.
I've put on 10 lbs. in the last seven days. I got on a plane the other day and could barely get the seat belt around my waist.
I'm going on a diet. I searched my files and came up with a column I wrote in 2002 — the last time I attempted a diet. Hope you enjoy it.
BOLD ROBBERY AT THE HOTEL SHERATON
Have you ever sat at a public affair — a luncheon or a dinner — next to a stranger, finished eating your food, and coveted a morsel on his or her plate? A piece of shrimp or lobster that they clearly are not going to eat? Of course you have, it's another one of our little secrets that we don't even discuss with our spouses. I actually make elaborate plans to reach over and snare it should my seat partner's attention be diverted. But I never get up the nerve and just sit there brooding and watch as a busboy comes over to take the dish away.
It happened to me the other night when I was close to passing out from self-imposed starvation. But let me tell you the complete story of how I got into this sorry state.
It all started with a jacket I spotted in the window of a clothing store. I went in and tried on a new jacket and saw this fat guy wearing the same jacket on my left. Then I noticed this other fat guy was wearing the same jacket on my right. Then I realized both those fat guys were me wearing the same lousy jacket. I left the jacket and rushed out of the door muttering that "three-way mirrors are the work the devil."
So, now I'm on this self-imposed diet: no alcohol, no salt, no bread, no nothing.
I don't know what I miss more, the booze or the salt. I guess it's the booze because I hate this creepy feeling of being alert and clearheaded all the time. If God had wanted me to be alert and perky, he would have made me into Katie Couric.
On the other hand, I crave salt all the time. The first thing people tell you when they hear you're on a salt-free diet is that they never touch salt. It turns out I'm one of the last people on earth still salting his food. I come from a family of over-salters. My late dad, at age 92, poured a ton of salt on everything from prosciutto to anchovies. I wanted to get his doctor to tell him how bad salt is for him but unfortunately his doctor died of hypertension 30 years ago at the age of 62.
My friends have tried to help by telling me all the things I can use to substitute for salt. "Try fresh pepper," someone told me. "Try sprinkling lemon," said another.
It doesn't matter. Pepper, lemon, fresh herbs do not taste like salt. They taste like pepper, lemon, and fresh herbs. Nothing tastes like salt but salt. I am amazed that this nation, which can put a man on the moon and discover Viagra, cannot produce a salt substitute that won't make you barf when you sprinkle it on your food.
This diet horror came to a head the other night when I attended an event at the Sheraton Hotel in the city. The event was wonderful. I was invited by Dr. Rock Positano, "Foot Doctor To The Stars." Dr. Rock is the sweetest, kindest man ever put on this earth and he was nice enough to ask me to sit on the dais where Rudolph Giuliani (who will someday be a great President of our country) was to receive the Joe DiMaggio Award from the Xavier School. So there I was on a dais with Henry Kissinger, basketball great Chris Mullen, Ralph Branca, sports cartoonist Bill Gallo, and the heads of every major hospital in the city.
It was pretty heady stuff for me. I was honored but I was also starving. I had walked through the cocktail party drinking glass after glass of club soda — not a smart thing to do when you are going to sit on a dais for an hour where you cannot suddenly get up and rush to the men's room.
My seat on the dais was between two empty seats. On my left was an empty chair where Rudy was going to sit and on my right was an empty chair where the Mayor's lady friend, (now wife) Judith Nathan, was to sit. Seated next to her seat was one of the top lawmen in the country, District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.
I was so hungry I was having trouble concentrating. Now you must know the food at the Sheraton Hotel truly sucks. If there is ever a Nuremberg Trial for serving inedible food, the Sheraton chefs are going to be hanged. The rule is eat the salad; there isn't much they can do to screw it up. Now I must admit the salad was pretty good with lettuce, two shrimp, and a little piece of cheese. I inhaled it and was still starving. Then I noticed the Mayor's lady friend's salad was just sitting there.
Both she and the Mayor hadn't arrived. Naturally, I started to think. I wanted her shrimp and cheese. How is she going to know there were shrimp and cheese in the salad, I rationalized? Of course, I realized that I was sitting in a fishbowl on the dais. I mean, you can't just reach over and take the shrimp. I imagined the eyes of 1000 people in the audience saying, "Look at that pig, he took those two shrimp and that piece of cheese from that dish." On the other hand, I reasoned could just casually reach over and take it without anybody noticing.
Then I started talking to myself: "You're so hungry you might pass out. Isn't it better to take some food than pass out from hunger?" I decided to reach for the food.
I had my fork in my hand ready to spear the shrimp and the cheese with one stroke when Robert Morgenthau reached over, fork in hand, and stole Judith Nathen's shrimp and cheese. In a flash, he swallowed the evidence. I was incensed.
What kind of a country is this when a man who has sworn to uphold the law has stolen the Mayor's girlfriend's food? My first inclination was to stand up and shout, "Stop that man! He's stealing the Mayor's girlfriend's shrimp and cheese." But then I wondered if I was empowered to make a citizen's arrest. Morgenthau just sat there with a satisfied look on his face.
No wonder he's such a great District Attorney. He knows how to move fast and decisively. He was probably planning this caper from the moment they put the dish in front of that empty seat.
I went home hungry but when I got on the scale it showed I had lost two more pounds. That night I had weird dreams about food where at one point a gang of men dressed like salted pretzels were chasing me.
There's a positive side to this diet stuff. I've lost 15 pounds in three weeks. So if, in your travels, you come across a tall, slim, incredibly handsome sad-looking bald man, say hello. It's me.
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