The Breakfast Table

Ed’s Head and Other Woes

Good morning, Maud:

In response to your question from yesterday, I can’t swear to what Jane Brody looks like, but I have an image of nice cheekbones and dark hair that curls under. Perhaps someone can write in and confirm?

My own eating habits are appalling. I am cursed with a vending machine in my office that sells only cellulite-producing foods, and I use it. Why? Because my office is in Times Square. In Times Square, you can’t walk two feet without people thrusting fliers in your hand, or piercing your eardrums with barbaric yawps because Whitney Houston is within clawing distance, or threatening to trample you in the rush to get to Chicago (the matinee, not the city). I woke up the other morning bewildered by a dream in which Ed McMahon was suspended on a platform over Broadway beneath a sign with a giant reproduction of his head. The head was grinning. I was desperate for coffee. And then I realized, it was no dream. It was a ghastly spectacle I had encountered on my way to work. Is it any wonder that I’m afraid to go out for lunch and that my thighs are getting lumpy?

I know, I know. This is the new Times Square, so spiffy with underwear models the size of Godzilla. What a relief that the peepshows are gone and we have these amazons on billboards instead. And of course, Times Square will be ground zero for tomorrow’s New Year’s Eve festivities. The New York Post reported “the addition of a massive light show powered by 40 searchlights, including the world’s largest beacon.” So you see, I can run from the place, but I can’t hide.

Speaking of Broadway and peepshows, did you catch the crack of Frank Rich’s whip in the New YorkTimes this morning? He used his column to savage The Blue Room for offering so much hype and so little substance, except in the one place where substance was not wanted, namely, Nicole Kidman’s much-touted nude scene. In essence, he sees the play as “The Emperor’s New Clothes” in reverse, with theatergoers paying extortionate prices to admire a dimly lighted flash of fanny–“and what New Yorker wants to admit he’s been had?”

But I have used more than my allotted word count, and I haven’t begun to talk about news that really matters. So please weigh in with your thoughts about the Times’s lead story on the many states that are meeting the work requirements of the 1996 welfare law. Could it be that this law, which alienated so many of Clinton’s liberal supporters, might prove to be more than a cynical shuffle to the right? I dedicate a respectful moment, too, to the memory of Pulitzer-winning columnist Mike McAlary, who died on Christmas Day at the age of 41, and whose funeral is covered movingly today by his paper, the New York Daily News.

As always, eager to hear from you.