Mayor Mike Bloomberg wants to save us from ourselves. Problem is, not everyone wants a guest pass to salvation.
Critics claim the mayor is turning New York City into a "nanny state" with endless ideas on nourishment and clean living.
You don't stop Bloomberg that easily.
No sooner had the mayor suffered a courtroom setback in his famous crusade to downsize soda portions when he bounced back with a scheme to keep cigarettes off retail shelves so as not to distract young people who had in mind nothing more than jalapeño Pringles and Double Stuf Oreo cookies.
Even then he wasn't finished. Bloomberg's latest? A move to ban tobacco sales in the city to anyone under 21.
This is a man possessed.
At a United Nations summit, Mayor Mike declared: " . . . governments at all levels must make healthy solutions the default social option. That is ultimately government's highest duty."
In the past, Bloomberg forced fast food joints to reveal the calorie count of menu items -- as if fans of double bacon cheeseburgers really cared -- and pushed a ban on smoking in public places.
He's against too much salt and trans-fats in foods. There were reports that Bloomberg is plotting to limit liquor sales. He urged hospitals to stow infant formula so new mothers would breast-feed and, these days, subway posters warn teenage girls not to get pregnant. "Got a good job?" an adorable infant asks in one ad aimed at potential parents. "I cost thousands of dollars a year."
Mayday! Nanny State Madness!
Who does Mayor Mike think he is, anyway, opponents demand? If we want to smoke, salt, booze, procreate and formula feed -- if we want to go entirely cola-crazy -- what's it to him?
When the mayor launched his big-soda showdown, the Twittersphere trembled:
"Hey Bloomberg!" proclaimed another. "Worry more about infrastructure, jobs, & crime, and less about soda. OK?"
"What happened to individual self control & free will?"asked a third. "If I want a 32oz soda I should be able to drink one."
There it is. That's what the excitement is about -- "individual self control & free will."
To tell the truth, at this age, I find both overrated and perhaps, at 71, so does the mayor.
Self-control is great unless you don't have much of it, and free will -- oh, please, no one who drives on the Long Island Expressway believes in anything of the sort.
Starting out in Brooklyn, restraint was not my style.
I was addicted to Mission cream soda and Hostess orange cupcakes. Tootsie Rolls also were a favorite and Clark bars -- mmm, excellent. Packs of Good 'n' Plenty assured survival during hours of Saturday cartoons and Hopalong Cassidy westerns at Loew's Alpine in Bay Ridge. An order of oily chips from the fish store fryer was a fine way to set up the palate for dinner. Exercising free will meant choosing between Fig Newtons and Mallomars.
My mother and father were splendid, though hefty, folks who believed kids should have some size to them. Wide was good. Happily, I did my part.
Before long, I was wearing "husky" sizes and carrying enough weight to earn a nickname on the street. My father was a truck driver who delivered Bond Bread and when neighborhood fellows wanted to razz me, I heard choruses of "Fred-a-Bread, the Big Fat Loaf of Bond Bread!" I was not traumatized by the treatment -- these were pals, after all, and meant no harm -- only inclined to eat my way out of any temporary despair.
Had Mayor Mike been counseling restraint back then, Mom and Dad would have been holdouts, for sure. "What's next," Mom might have asked, "a law against Ebinger's chocolate layer cake?"
And me -- who knows? Cutting back couldn't have hurt.
Once, because I was pudgy and girl-shy, fellows on the block persuaded a pretty kid named Blanche to stop me on the way back from Gerken's deli, where I had purchased a liverwurst sandwich, mayo, on rye.
"Hi, Freddie," she said in a whispery voice. "Wanna take me out?"
It was a stunning idea for an overweight, 13-year-old boy with glasses -- Blanche? Me? Out? -- and I did what seemed the only sensible thing: held tight to the liverwurst and ran home.
"Why did they do that?" I asked my mother. "Am I funny looking?"
"Of course not, dear," said Mom. "You are perfectly fine. How about a piece of Ebinger's?"
All things considered, I think Bloomberg is doing a serious public service. Most of us -- in New York and elsewhere -- could use a little help just saying no. We should thank the guy for caring so much about our health and welfare.
Call him a nanny, if you want, but if Bloomberg had been around in 1953, I might have whispered sweet nothings to Blanche long before she said a word to me.
Let us hear from you
Do you eat healthier now that you're older, or do you indulge because you refrained for years? Are there favorite foods/treats you've given up for good or that you can't find anymore? Have you given up on fad diets; grown comfortable with elastic-waist pants? Share your food story for possible publication. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Act 2 Editor, Newsday Newsroom, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747. Be sure to include your name, address and phone numbers.