Friday, July 22, 2016

One Pence Does Not Buy Much

Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Before we go down to Chinatown for lunch, let's take a look at popular culture.  Today's paper refers to "the running squabble between Ms. _____ and Mr. ____, a gripping but unfortunate beef that puts two of the leading pop stars of the day at loggerheads."  If I had not read the article, I would not have any idea how to fill in the blanks.  I don't know about you, but even when the names are revealed to me, I don't give a damn.  My exposure to their work has been fitful, probably a few minutes here and there on "Saturday Night Live."  That gave me no reason to further explore their work; I can only distinguish them by gender and race.  

Am I missing something?  At what point does being an old coot take over your critical faculties and lock you into a negative mindset about anything new or different?  Or, has experience given you an ability to fast forward through the riot of entertainment/cultural offerings available?  How much time and effort should we divert from enjoying Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis or Joan Baez to attend to the latest pop phenom?  And there's my petard, waiting to hoist me.  How did those greats emerge?  Do I have the responsibility to help uncover future greats?  Can I trust someone else to do it?

I went downtown to meet Ilana M., a former colleague from the court system, for lunch at aux Epices, 121 Baxter Street (April 16, 2013, August 22, 2014).  Behind the French name, aux Epices has a pan-Asian menu.  It's a small place with tables close together, close enough to encourage the two women next to us to ask us we recommend what to eat and where to shop nearby.

I ordered three "small plates," crispy anise duck rolls (3 four-inch cylinders, $6), Hijiki fish dumplings (5 boiled dumplings, $6), and a crab cake (served with a small salad, $8).  The crab cake was excellent, with a mustardy aioli sauce.  The other two dishes were well prepared, but nondescript.  The rolls did not taste of duck and dumplings did not taste of fish.  Their flavor came from the sauces accompanying them.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2016
I'm still trying to work out the math when someone's third wife, speaking in her second language, only plagiarizes 7% of her speech.

In case you don't want to wait until November, the New York Times tells us that Hillary Clinton has a 75% chance of winning the presidential election. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/upshot/100000004525876.app.html?_r=0#state-by-state
Thursday, July 21, 2016
I was privileged today to have lunch with Joe F., my rabbi.  Joe isn't ordained or anything.  He's a successful lawyer, who has met a lot of people during his career, always honoring his commitments, keeping secrets and promises, and standing up for friends in need.  That's what I mean by a rabbi.  He is nimbly handling a serious medical problem now, as he has handled challenging personal issues for himself and others over the years, myself included.

We ate at Joanne Trattoria, 70 West 68th Street, the family enterprise for Lady Gaga's parents.  While I think that prices reflected a celebrity bonus of a buck or two, little else about the restaurant evoked show biz glitz.  The food was quite good.  We shared a Tuscan bean salad ($18.95), big enough for three hearty eaters.  I had an oven-baked frittata ($19.95), with mushrooms, spinach, mozzarella and hot Italian sausage, chosen from a long list of ingredients.  This was one of four breakfast items served at lunchtime Wednesday through Sunday, in addition to the fairly conventional Italian menu.  No one sang.  

Friday, July 22, 2016
In these stressful days, you sometimes come across some cheerful information.  In this case, it is the high density of libraries in the Czech Republic, about 10 times per capita more than the USA. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/22/world/what-in-the-world/why-libraries-are-everywhere-in-the-czech-republic.html?_r=0

If you don't want to take the trouble to read the article, at least enjoy the photograph that accompanied it, a little bit of heaven in my eyes.


Since Irwin P., another CCNY grad, was willing to venture forth in the 90+ degree heat, I joined him for lunch at Wa Jeal Sichuan Chili House, 1588 Second Avenue.  Its good reputation attracted me, even though it is far removed from my cherished Chinatown.  The restaurant is not very big, about 20 two tops in different arrangements.  It is decorated in tasteful Chinese restaurant style.  Service was attentive, although only two other tables needed to be attended to while we were there. 

Wa Jeal's regular menu shows prices befitting its Upper East location, but we made a wise and strategic choice by sticking to the lunch menu.  It offers 38 dishes mostly at $8.95, a few at $10.95, soup and rice included.  We ordered 3 lunches to provide variety -- spicy eggplant, chicken with mushrooms and beef chow fun (all $8.95).  We accepted the waitress's offer to substitute spring rolls for the hot soup.  All the dishes were good and generously proportioned for lunch specials.   However, the spicy eggplant was not particularly spicy hot.   The big glass of water that I kept immediately at hand, prompted by the restaurant's name, proved unnecessary.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Equal Time

Monday, July 11, 2016
This weekend, I did what many people might consider impossible, I purchased a smart TV.  Not that my spending money was inconceivable, but rather the near-oxymoronic idea of a "smart TV."  A device gains this label if it adds Internet and video streaming services, such as Netflix, to the basic television system.  I made the purchase, with the able assistance of Mossad Moshe, in order to provide a better picture when I retreat into the den/music room/guest room/study/computer room/library to follow the fortunes of the New York Mets and the New York Rangers. However, I have already come to appreciate having unfettered access to John Oliver, among others, on YouTube. It amounts to one less remote control to fumble with and a single source for all my visual delight, interpersonal activities aside.

I had lunch today with Marjory Fields, retired New York State Supreme Court justice, the person who gave me my first job in the court system, may she be forever blessed.  She retired ten years early to work on domestic violence policy issues that could not be addressed adequately from the bench.  These days, she is as likely to appear at a conference in Tokyo as at a hearing in the Bronx.

We went to Land, Thai Kitchen, 450 Amsterdam Avenue, a long, narrow space, with 10 two-tops inside and another 4 on the sidewalk.  Marjory ordered the lunch special, one of 8 first courses and one of 10 second courses, for $9, choosing green papaya salad and Wok Vegetable Medley with Tofu (but asking them to skip the tofu), a reasonable amount of food for the money.  I was hungry, so I ordered full size portions, satay chicken ($9) and Pad See Ew with Beef ($11).  The latter was a very well prepared Thai version of beef chow fun, broad noodles, in a rich, dark soy sauce.  The satay though was a disappointment, three paper thin rectangular strips of white meat chicken, about 5 inches by 1 inch, accompanied by peanut sauce.  Peanut sauce is always good, like drawn butter with seafood, hot fudge with ice cream or honey mustard with fried chicken, but it didn't make the dish worth more than half the price.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016
I am reading When Affirmative Action Was White by Ira Katznelson, a book that I should have read 10 years ago when first published.  It's a book that should have been written 50 years ago before the sophistry of the claims of reverse discrimination took hold.  Every paragraph seems to identify policies overtly legislated or administered to disadvantage black Americans, forgetting, if at all possible, legally mandated segregation.  For instance, New Deal wages and hours laws specifically excluded farmworkers and domestics from coverage, categories holding more than a majority of black workers at the time.  Only in 1954, a Republican administration opened the rolls.  Benefits under the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Federal Housing Authority, Aid to Dependent Children and the GI Bill, among other programs, were administered locally, without any attempt to avoid disparate racial treatment.   This, of course, was responsive to the critical role of southerners in the Democratic Party.  Ironically, many black men were kept out of harm's way by bigoted local draft boards during World War II, but thereby denied the educational and economic advantages of military service.

Unlike the current Chief Justice of the United States and other newly-minted egalitarians, Katznelson recognizes that generations of economic, political, educational and social repression continue to make a difference.  We are still far removed from leveling the playing field that our white predecessors so effectively tilted.

Wednesday, July 13, 2106
Stony Brook Steve met me for lunch at Bonmi, Vietnamese Sandwiches & Bowls, 150 West 62nd Street, a Frenchified name for Banh Mi, the Vietnamese national sandwich.  It's a bright, clean, airy place, just down the block from several units of Fordham University and across the street from Lincoln Center.  It might be any fast food joint and we agreed that it's unlikely to draw a pre-opera crowd because of its casual seating arrangements (high tables, low tables, a ledge) and ordering procedure.  Also, Steve observed that the layout of Lincoln Center brings almost all foot traffic in through Broadway or West 65th Street, avoiding the public housing project on Amsterdam Avenue, the western boundary of Lincoln Center.  Only those who found cheap parking south and west of the complex are likely to come down West 62nd Street on their way to a performance. 

You go up to Bonmi's counter, pick a base -- sandwich, rice bowl, noodle bowl, salad greens -- then a filling -- chicken, pork, beef, tofu -- and, finally, a sauce -- lemongrass, five spice, BBQ, chili garlic or red curry.  The filling determines the price, $8 to $10.50.  I splurged on the "18 Hour Beef" with red curry on a baguette, dressed with pickled onions, shredded carrots, and cilantro ($10.50).  The shredded beef sandwich was very good and very spicy.  Unfortunately, it was about twice the price of a downtown banh mi, but, on the other hand, we weren't downtown.  Bonmi's pricing reflected the expensive real estate on which it sat.   And, if you are heading to Lincoln Center, it offers an interesting, low cost alternative to the array of restaurants in the immediate vicinity equipped waiters and tablecloths and liquor and menus, as long as you can find it.
       
Friday, July 15, 2016
The fabled Four Seasons, 99 East 52nd Street, founded in 1959, closes tomorrow.  I first entered the Four Seasons in 1980, shortly after starting work as a management consultant at the Park Avenue headquarters of the massive international accounting firm Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co., since poetically renamed KPMG.  I soon benefitted from the firm's custom of taking new employees to lunch and quickly joined a group of marauders who constantly scouted the cubicles filling the 35th floor for new faces to bring to table. 

Partners of the firm regularly used their expense accounts at the tony restaurants found around us in the East 50s, the Le's and the La's, as I used to characterize them -- La Caravelle, La Grenouille, La Côte Basque and Lello's (a personal favorite although it did not properly have an article and a noun). We did our best to follow in the footsteps of our betters in spending the firm's money and closest to our office and best of all to my mind was the Four Seasons. While the other joints flashed wealth and glamour, the Four Seasons reeked of power and influence.

The food was consistently good; I've never had better duck in China, Chinatown or France. The markup on wine was less outrageous than most other places. The setting was elegant; the decor, changed four times a year, couldn't be more tasteful. But, what really grabbed me was the level of haute equality at which it operated. Even if your old school tie was only Stuyvesant High School, as long as you (male) wore a jacket and tie, you were treated professionally and efficiently. No smarmy gestures of familiarity; no frosty postures of formality. When Orson Welles sat at the next table, service at my table proceeded respectfully and evenly.

I came to appreciate the total experience at the Four Seasons enough that I would periodically spend my own money there.  I hope that you also had at least one afternoon or evening there, allowing yourself to enjoy, even briefly, how good life can be.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Mazal Tov, Mr. Bloomberg

Monday, July 4, 2016
If you think that merely singing "Happy Birthday" over the telephone to your three-year old granddaughter is adequate, you are sorely remiss in following the "Grandparents' Bill of Rights and Responsibilities."  Accordingly, the Upper West Side's Power Couple drove to Massachusetts on Saturday in order to participate in Sunday's Exciting Birthday Celebration, featuring a pink-frosted, otherwise all-chocolate, layer cake made with TLC by the only Harvard-educated member of our family.

Saturday night, our total group of nine went to Chinese Mirch, 140 Worcester Road Framingham, MA, for dinner.  Mirch is a chili pepper used in Indian cooking and the restaurant's name signifies the combination of cuisines.  Another branch had operated in Manhattan's Curry Hill, but is now closed.  I could not keep track of everything that appeared on our table, but I fondly recall what I consumed, namely Vegetable Ball Manchurian (minced carrot, corn and green bean fritters), Cumin Lamb (stir-fried with Xiao-Shing wine and dried chili flakes), Lettuce Wrap (with crisp corn), Hyderabadi Chili Chicken (with Chef's Indian Spice Mix) and Shag Paneer (cheese cubes sauteed in spinach).  The women and children, with the notable exception of my young bride, sought refuge in the figurative lifeboats of bland, unspiced food, unrepresentative of the kitchen's prowess.  Fortunately, the hearty young man seated opposite also enjoyed the hot and spicy cuisine as much as I did.  

New York has a kind of business called an appetizing store.  I doubt if the term is used anywhere else, with the possible exception of colonies of displaced Jews in Southern Florida.  It is not the opposite of an unappetizing store.  Rather, it is a grocery store specializing in Jew food -- lox, whitefish, pickled herring, bagels, and such.  While there used to be one in every Jewish neighborhood, now there are a few eminent establishments remaining that draw from far and near, notably Zabar's and Russ & Daughters.  Thanks no doubt to an aggressive PR person, the New York Times has an article this weekend on Sable's, a successful appetizing store on the Upper East Side. 

What caught my eye was this sentence: "In 2005, Sable’s provided the caviar for the wedding of Michael R. Bloomberg’s older daughter."  Just think, the Bloombergs, inevitably lured by their genetic ties to millennia of Hebraic civilization, rushed to Sable's to evoke the flavors of the shetl for their simcha.  Next, we will find out that Bernie Sanders bought a jar of mustard at the Second Avenue Delicatessen.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016
While we are celebrating New York, after a fashion, let's note another distinction.  New York is not now considered the rudest city in America.   http://www.travelandleisure.com/americas-favorite-places/rudest-cities#new-york-city

It seems that we have been outclassed (??) by Miami and Phoenix.  But, don't ask me.  I can't think of any reason to visit either place.

Thursday, July 7, 2016
The Boyz Club had lunch at New Style Hand Pulled Noodles, 23 Pell Street, née Shanghai Gourmet, a longtime favorite.  Branding aside, the interior appeared unchanged, but the menu effectively combined new and old.  We tried several items that SG had done so well, specifically the soup buns (very good) and scallion pancakes (superb).  We also shared String Bean with Szechuan Style, beef chow ho fun (wide noodles, presumably hand pulled), and spicy cumin lamb with spongy buns, and agreed that each dish was excellent, notable because this group rarely agrees on anything.  Generous souls that we are, we rounded way up and paid a total of $16 per.  Kudos to the New Style Hand Pullers for making such a successful transition.  

Friday, July 8, 2016
Has our choice boiled down to killer cops or cop killers?

Stony Brook Steve and I ventured forth and had lunch at El Mitote, 208 Columbus Avenue, a small Mexican café, my second visit.  With the temperature in the high 80s, we passed right by the handful of outside tables, and sat in the almost comfortable inside.  I ordered the Barbacoa (origin of the word barbecue) braised lamb tacos, shredded, spicy lamb generously piled on three small, soft tortillas.  I partially rolled each one up and somehow covered only my hands with the shower of sauce that emerged with each bite.  A fine, messy dish.

An added benefit of going to El Mitote is the immediate next door presence of Magnolia Bakery, 200 Columbus Avenue, originally of Greenwich Village, now with branches around the world.  Once upon a time, Magnolia might be avoided because of its association with Sex and the City.  However, a serious devotion to carbohydrates now requires patronage at Magnolia, which has retained its focus on cupcakes, layer cakes, dessert bars, pies and cookies (a/k/a the work of the Lord).  No salads, soups or sandwiches drain the time or energy of the creative kitchen crew.  In fact, the only vegetable found in Magnolia goes into the carrot cake.   Delicious, too.

Friday, July 1, 2016

There and Back

Monday, June 27, 2016
We drove north to Caesarea, an ancient city on the Mediterranean.  Our target was the Ralli 1 Museum, a strange and wonderful place that I had never heard of before.  Ralli 1 is really the third museum in the Ralli Museum group, founded by Harry Recanati, who made his fortune in banking.  The others are in Uruguay, Chile, and Spain.  The museum is remarkable for many reasons.  It is funded privately.  There is no admission charge; there is no commercialization, that is, no gift shop, no bookstore, no T-shirts.  Photography is banned.  Simple explanatory materials were kept out of sight behind a counter.  

The building is also notable.  It is large, airy, bright, Spanish.  It reminded me of the hacienda where Zorro spends his downtime.  Internally, it is a very large octagon, containing smaller octagons.  It has five galleries on three levels, two levels filled with contemporary Latin American art as well as a collection of two dozen or so Dali sculptures.  Scattered throughout the premises were hulking, blackened bronze sculptures of native women.  On the bottom floor, there was a fascinating archeological exhibition about the origins of Caesarea as a Roman colony founded by King Herod 2,000 years ago, and its growth under successive regimes.  On display were artifacts throughout the ages.  Mirabile dictu, the wall plaques explaining the exhibits were mostly in clear English.  The Hebrew seemed to be an afterthought.  While I have admitted previously that gift shops are usually my favorite parts of museums, Ralli 1 gets my enthusiastic endorsement even though it's only art for art's sake.

Sunday, we went to Jerusalem to visit Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, where neither of us had been  in 20 years or so.  Even after three hours, we could not absorb all the ugly truths that it tried to present.  It's hard to ignore the contemporary parallels, yet the geographic and   numeric enormity of the Holocaust protects its vicious uniqueness.
 
Today, we went to the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv.  Although we did not take advantage of it, this museum sits right next to the Palmach Museum and the Yitzhak Rabin Center, which visited together would make a long and highly diverse day.  The Eretz Israel (Land of Israel) Museum is itself really a collection of small institutions in separate quarters including a numismatic pavilion, a postal history and philately pavilion, a ceramics pavilion, a glass pavilion, a copper mining pavilion, and a planetarium, surrounding an archaeological excavation.  

It may be that everything in the museum(s) may also be found somewhere else in one form or another.  However, what I found special was the connection to the place where I was standing, give or take a few dozen kilometers.  Two thousand year old coins, fifteen hundred year old mosaics, four thousand year old wine jugs, used and unearthed right here.  By contrast, the well-stocked gift shop was purely contemporary and centralized in one convenient location.
     
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Mark Nazimova sends along this interesting article on the Chinatown produce scene.  http://www.wsj.com/articles/why-fruits-and-veggies-are-so-crazy-cheap-in-chinatown-1466762400

While it's no surprise that the Wall Street Journal extols a market, any market even one in fruits and vegetables, I have been a happy customer of these street vendors for years, especially pursuing champagne mangoes, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.  So, stroll over to the intersection of Canal Street and Mulberry Street after your hearty lunch at Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, and pick up some natural sweetness.

I believe that Brexit will lead to some unfortunate political and economic consequences, but, short term, it has produced some good humor.  Michael Makovi, an Israeli studying for a Ph.D. in Texas (what a formula for chutzpah) has produced this list of successors: Grexit, Departugal, Italeave, Czechout, Oustria, Finish, Slovakout, Latervia, Byegium.  "Only Remania will remain."  

I recommend the Bakery, 260 Dizengoff Street, for excellent bread, croissants, muffins, pastries, and other vital ingredients in a modern man's diet.  One of their wonderful creations is a chocolate halvah muffin.  Unlike most of their other customers, I don't pause at one of the half dozen tables on the sidewalk, instead rushing off to our apartment two short blocks away to overindulge in private.  They have four other locations around Tel Aviv.  

I did have a dispute with the young woman at the counter this morning (her English was flawless) about babka.  When I admired the chocolate babka she was handing over to a customer in front of me, she corrected me (always risky business).  She said that babka could only be cinnamon, not chocolate.  Well, I told her that when she comes to New York, with ideas like that, she better avoid the entire Upper West Side.

Because I am impatient and because parking is very difficult in our neighborhood, I went downstairs around 4:40 P.M. to wait for our friends Itamar & Phyllis Nacht, who entertained us so well ten days ago at their home, who were joining us for our last evening in Tel Aviv.  It's a busy spot, but Double Standard, the bar on the corner, doesn't open until around six, so I positioned myself to see and be seen from all directions.  

After a while, a young woman, 20ish, simply but carefully dressed and made up, came to the corner and started looking around, discreetly looked me up and down, and waited.  Several minutes passed.  Oh, no, I feared that she was waiting at the popular corner of Nordau and Dizengoff for the "Tall, prematurely gray, non-observant, European-appearing man, no tats, no piercings, wishes to meet sincere woman for walks on the beach, candlelit dinners and maybe more," who she found on J-Date.  She soon walked away, no doubt muttering something about "truth in advertising" in Hebrew.

Our friends arrived a bit later and we headed to Neve Tzedek, the first Jewish neighborhood to be built outside the old city of Jaffa.  While many buildings and streets there  show their age, gentrification has also taken hold, which seems to be characteristic of any part of Tel Aviv that has a building standing more than 30 years.  We ate at Goshen, 30 Nahalat Binyamin Street, a Kosher restaurant about to move across the street to quarters twice as large.  It is known for its meat and we dug in.  We shared roasted chicken livers on stewed fruit (mostly raisins) (38 NIS, $9.80) and lollipop wings (36 NIS), panko-coated, deep-fried chicken wings.  There was a particularly pretty salad that tasted good, too.  

They served us complimentary rice balls, arancini di riso as my grandmother never called them.  I ordered lamb chops (130 NIS for 300 grams), accompanied by a mashed root vegetable (otherwise unidentified).  An excellent plate.  The other folks enjoyed their steak and hamburgers.  It was a fitting conclusion to our two weeks in Israel, although I hope that young woman returns to the corner of Nordau and Dizengoff soon on the arm of מר צודק (Mr. Right).

Wednesday, June 29, 2016
We awoke to the news of the deadly bombing at the Istanbul Airport, which had been our original transfer point for our flight home today.  Instead, I found a good deal on a non-stop El Al flight leaving this afternoon.  If all goes well, we will be back in the Holy Land before the day ends.

Thursday, June 30, 2016
Yesterday was a long, dull day, which is probably the best that you can hope for when flying from the Middle East to the United States. 

I can't blame it on jet lag or the dramatic time difference (7 hours) which got me out of bed by 5:30 AM, but today's New York Times crossword puzzle really puzzled me.  I finished it, that wasn't the problem.  However, Thursday invariably has a gimmick, sometimes different letters in the same box across and down, or a word instead of one letter in a box.  This time the answers eventually emerged from the fog, but purely by deduction.  Even with the puzzle complete, I had no idea how the clues -- strings of capital letters and numbers -- connected to the answers, even after one of the answers was identified as the key to these opaque items.  For example,  TB8L = Adored superstar.  If you share my pedantic obsession, or a similar one of your own, an explanation is found at http://rexwordpuzzle.blogspot.com/

Friday, July 1, 2016
Up again at 5;30 AM, half past noon back there.  Somewhat impatiently, we waited several hours before calling our adorable granddaughter on her third birthday.  Then, I went back to sleep.  

I met Mossad Moshe for lunch at the Hummus Place, 305 Amsterdam Avenue, to make up for a glaring oversight on our trip to Israel.  I never had any falafel, prized by Jew and Arab alike throughout the region.  Hummus Place, always busy, often too noisy, did a good job filling this gap. I gave Moshe some confidential information, which might be mistaken for gossip, and passed one secret document -- a picture of him appearing to have a good time.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Tourists

Monday, June 20, 2016
[I fixed the problem with the type face last week.  Sorry.]

We made the one hour and 15 minute drive to Haifa on Saturday to do some sightseeing.  We visited the Israel National Museum of Science, Technology, and Space, which fascinated Huey, Dewey and (Ms.) Louie as well as some older folks, too.  For lunch, we made a world class discovery, Elkheir Druze Cuisine, Sderot Hanasi 139, Central Carmel, Haifa.  Mind you, it's not a secret; it's at the top of the list for local restaurants.  But, the menu is quite special, even if you are familiar with other Middle Eastern cuisines.

The Druze speak Arabic and follow a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion, which is otherwise distinct from Judaism and Islam.  About 140,000 live in Israel, about one-tenth of the estimated worldwide population.  Israeli Druze are generally cooperative with the state and serve in the army and the police.  And, they cook good.

To start, seven "salads" were served, including hummus, cole slaw, bulgur (cracked wheat) in tomato sauce, rice, and olives, which the owner insisted he grew personally.  There were fewer salads than Benny the Fisherman offered, but it left more room for the meal.  I shared "Suniya with Tahina" (75 NIS, $19.40), veal and lamb and bulgur, covered in hot tahina cooked in a taboon (an oven), and "Mk'rodah" (65 NIS), a sausage made with veal, lamb, bulgur, onions paprika and bharat (a word that seems to defy translation).  I also had some "Fatayer Za'tar" (49 NIS), pita covered with Za'atar leaves ("an aromatic perennial herb in the mint family"), chopped onion, olive oil and "homemade" cheese.  Just wonderful.

Sunday afternoon we took a walk into the center of Tel Aviv where there was a book fair and an outdoor show for children.  Leaving, we came upon the exact spot of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination in 1994, an event that changed history, as the assassin Yigal Amir wished.  Dan Ephron wrote an excellent book on the subject, Killing a King, if you wish to pursue the subject.  JFK's assassination also made a significant difference, at least domestically I believe, but we have no way of knowing how that met Lee Harvey Oswald's intentions.  Another contrast between the two events was their foreseeabilty.  No one, with the possible exception of his wife, had any idea of what Oswald planned.  (I never joined the ranks of the conspiracy theorists.)  Amir, on the other hand, made his intentions known at several times to several people, including his brother who was convicted with him.  Also, even in retrospect, the cautions surrounding Kennedy seemed reasonable, while Rabin was notoriously imprudent regarding his security, which seemed to foster laxity in his minders.

I grew up believing that tattoos were forbidden to Jews and they were applied involuntarily only under the worst of circumstances.  Indeed, the Torah teaches (Vayikra 19:28): “You shall not make gashes in your flesh for a dead person; you shall not etch a tattoo on yourselves."  Cf. https://www.ou.org/torah/machshava/tzarich-iyun/tzarich_iyun_jews_with_tattoos/

I remember a bakery in Brooklyn where a woman behind the counter handed over a bread to my mother, exposing a set of blue numbers on her arm.  Now, in Tel Aviv and Haifa, the secular centers of Israel, not to speak of downtown Manhattan and gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhoods, Jews with tattoos are omnipresent, and I am old-fashioned enough to be put off by the sight.  Some young people have gotten numeric tattoos claiming to link with the past.  https://beittshuvah.wordpress.com/tag/empathy/  However, the flora and fauna that I have observed most often on exposed skin seem to say "Look at me," rather than "I remember."

Today, I went to the Palmach Museum, honoring the ideological opponent of the Irgun.  The Palmach was formed in 1941, with the cooperation of the British, to fend off a Nazi invasion of Palestine.   It served as the strike force of the Hagana, the central military arm of the Jewish independence movement.  




The Hagana, founded in 1920, generally took a defensive posture against the British and the Arabs, while the Irgun actively sought confrontations.  The Palmach eventually blended into the Hagana, which, in turn became the Israeli army, the IDF.  In June 1948, shortly after Israeli independence, IDF troops opened fire on Irgun forces manning the Altalena, a ship carrying troops, weapons and ammunition that the new Ben Gurion government wanted to keep out of Irgun hands, not yet responsive to centralized authority.  16 Irgun fighters and 3 IDF soldiers died in the battle.  This ugly incident was isolated, though, unlike the murderous rivalries among the Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War.

Beside the Etzel and Palmach museums, Israel has several other military museums:
Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum, Haifa
Israel Defense Forces History Museum, Tel Aviv
Israeli Air Force Museum, Hatzerim Airbase in the Negev desert
Armored Corps Memorial Site and Museum, Latrun
Lehi Museum, Tel Aviv (Lehi -- the Stern Gang -- was a more radical offshoot of the Irgun)

Ghetto Fighters Museum, Nahariya

Additionally, there are other important historic sites, such as, Yad Vashem - Holocaust Memorial, Ayalon Institute Museum (a secret bullet factory during the British Mandate),
 Masada, Ammunition Hill Memorial and Museum, and Independence Hall, where you also might regularly find groups of schoolchildren on tour.  (I don't know whether Israeli Arab schoolchildren customarily are included.)  Given the relatively small size of the population, this seems like a heavy dose of chauvinism.  However, most of the Jewish children are destined for national service after high school, the IDF or other options, so reminding them of their country's history of strife may serve a practical purpose.  In the US at present, only "Hamilton" seems to remind younger generations of life before Wi-Fi.   

Tuesday, June 21, 2016  
“No one wants terrorists to be able to buy guns or explosives,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said on the Senate floor on Monday.  Just that some of us are not willing to do anything about it. 


We had dinner with our cousins Donna and Judah Haklai, who live in Ramat HaSharon, a northern suburb of Tel Aviv.  One of their two sons and a granddaughter joined our crew for a festive evening.  The Natick Delegation left for the airport and return to the US immediately afterwards, leaving us  grandparents all on their own, but not idle.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016
I reported last year that Eli and Hana Gothelf, an Israeli couple, moved into an apartment directly opposite the main entrance of the Palazzo di Gotthelf.  With four children of their own, all of whom have young families, the Gothelfs chose to have a New York City nest to enjoy frequent visits.  I informed Eli in advance of our trip to Israel, but I was surprised to receive along with his welcome greetings last week an announcement of the birth of his latest grandchild and an invitation to the bris (circumcision ritual) this morning.  A bris is an event that Jews strive to attend, a celebration of new life and community growth.  Also, a chance to connect with a whole bunch of Gothelfs, not begrudging them the loss of a T.  In fact, my crude research points to my original family name possibly being Gotelf, an extra T and an H picked up along the road from Zuromin, Poland to New York, New York.

The event was fabulous, well over one hundred in attendance.  A lavish feast, desserts by the dozen.  Eli and Hana pulled us all over; meet a sister-in-law, meet a grandchild, meet a brother, meet a great grandmother.  And, we were given special attention by everyone we encountered.  They did not even need to know who was America's Favorite Epidemiologist to offer warm embraces and sincere greetings.

The corker was meeting a niece who lives on the fourth floor of 27 Nordau where we have rented an apartment on the second floor for our two week stay.  How about that!

After starting the day so well, we retreated to our apartment to escape the midday heat, emerging again at 4 P.M. to go to Old Jaffa, sort of the Greenwich Village of Tel Aviv.  We reserved a table by the window at Kalamata, 10 Kedumim Square, recommended by several sources. We tried to explore Old Jaffa first, but the heat drove us into the restaurant a bit early.  The Greekish menu looks somewhat conventional, but the dishes delivered were mostly special.  First, at no charge, we were given a plate of babaganoush, dotted with feta cheese, chopped olives, and small pieces of red pepper.  We  also shared a salad of artichoke hearts, radishes, cranberries, fennel, slivered almonds, parmesan cheese, parsley and olive oil (40 NIS, $10.40), going near the top of the best salad ever list.  I had "Greek lamb gyro" (70 NIS), or a deconstructed version thereof.  It had shredded spicy lamb on a flat pita, spread with yoghurt, onions and mint.  Madam had fish kebab (62 NIS), really sea bream croquettes with chickpeas and tzatziki, not as interesting as the other items we tried.

A major attraction of Kalamata is the view.  It sits on a high spot in Old Jaffa, right on the Mediterranean.  Patrons are given a two-hour time limit to allow others to share the view of the sea and the sunset.  Unfortunately, we sat down at 5:25 P.M., more than 2 hours before the sunset, so we had bright, bright sun reflecting off the water during our meal.  So, plan ahead and reserve about 30-45 minutes before sunset.  Note that there are only about 7 tables inside where you are able to enjoy the view.  Another 7 or 8 tables are in front of the restaurant, on the square, pleasant enough, but lacking the wow factor.

Thursday, June 23, 2016
This morning, days before it appears in print, I was able to read on-line this personal essay by Ralph Blumenthal, another distinguished CCNY graduate.  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/26/travel/berlin-world-war-2.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news


Jews, Holocaust, Israel.  Is that all you people ever think about?  Others have suffered and continue to suffer; what about them?  Maybe it's a rationalization, but I am only one degree separated from those millions of Jewish victims.  While that does not make their destruction more important than what others suffered, it simply hurts more.  They were mine and it could have been me. 

Our plans to go to Jerusalem for a day of sightseeing were quickly abandoned when we saw the forecast of temperature reaching 95 degrees.  Tel Aviv has been recording temperatures "only" in the high 80s, but the cloudless skies get you feeling uncomfortable pretty fast.  The beautiful waters of the Mediterranean are only about 1/4 mile away, but, as the original Pale Male, I have stayed away so far.  At best, I can imagine walking down to the sea shore, taking off my sandals, walking into the sea (but not as far as James Mason did in "A Star Is Born"), turning around, putting my sandals back on (which qualifies as dressing formal in Israel), and returning to our air-conditioned apartment. 

We waited until after 4 P.M. to head out to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, a minor major museum with an eclectic collection.  We then walked the few blocks to the Sarona Market, the site of a deadly attack on June 8th to have dinner.  It's a big complex, about 2 dozen buildings containing restaurants and retail stores spread around a park setting, and a big indoor section containing food stands, food and wine shops, and other small retailers, packed underneath three high-rise residential towers.  

The exact site of the shooting, leaving 4 Israelis dead and 16 wounded, was as busy as almost all the other businesses tonight.  It seemed that we weren't the only ones who waited for evening and lower temperatures to get out.  Other than guards wanding people entering the indoor space, the scene was disgustingly normal.  That's what I found so strange and wonderful about Israel right now.  People were living, not cowering.  While I don't know what the local politicians are saying, the Israelis that we have spent time with (three different family groups) and the voluble taxi drivers all spoke of the need for a peace settlement.  Cynicism hasn't triumphed, at least not yet, and that is so encouraging.

Friday, June 24, 2016
At the suggestion of Mossad Moshe, we visited Beit Bialik, the home of Chaim Bialik (1873-1934), considered Israel's national poet, although he spent only the last nine years of his short life here.  Aside from the quality of his thoughts, Bialik made a vital contribution by writing in Hebrew, then struggling to be revived after thousands of years in hibernation.  He moved to Israel in 1924 and had a custom-built house made for him, looking stately even 90 years later.  Imagine that, a poet being treated like a big shot.  

When traveling, we have tried to attend Jewish services in order to experience the universal and the particular aspects of Jewish life.  So, tonight we did what few people in Tel Aviv usually ever do -- we went to shul.  We went to Beit Daniel, a constituent of the Daniel Centers for Progressive Judaism and found a full house.  Well over two hundred people, all apparently homies, showed up, attracted by two special events -- an aufruf, the blessing of a couple before marriage, and the welcoming of a new baby boy, son of a single male member of the congregation, born to a surrogate in America.  There will probably be empty seats next Friday night, but we were so fortunate to again participate in a happy gathering of Israelis, building and expanding their lives.  It helps keep a glimmer of optimism alive, me and the taxi drivers. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Here and There

Monday, June 13, 2016
I am fascinated by the depth of the feelings aroused by the death of Muhammad Ali. I well remember his rise as the highly-skilled, braggadocious Cassius Clay, then his conscious distancing from the role of All American sports hero by converting to Islam and opposing the draft. I was no more understanding of his position than most (white) Americans. It took time for Ali to be vindicated, while we sent tens of thousands of young Americans to totally unnecessary deaths in Vietnam. Our racists, hawks, and chickenhawks ultimately abandoned their public scorn of Ali, as he proved more prescient than they. Now, Barack Obama is constantly pilloried by many of these same voices. It's not just because he is black, although I don't underestimate that, but they will not forgive that he has been invariably right when they were wrong.

The bandwagon of gun violence has temporarily parked in Orlando. All I seem to have heard in the last 24 hours is the need for love, the power of love, the value of love, in response to the acts of a crazed man. I choose to call him crazed, because it fits conduct motivated either by wretchedly excessive ideological or psychological fervor. In any case, don't give me love. This isn't a time for pop music platitudes. Give me laws. Get military weaponry out of civilian hands. Maybe Orlando or San Bernardino or Sandy Hook could not have been entirely insulated from violence, but AR-15s were used at each location, as well as inevitably at other scenes of civilian slaughter. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/10/03/us/how-mass-shooters-got-their-guns.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=image&module=span-abc-region&region=span-abc-region&WT.nav=span-abc-region

The Washington Post describes the AR-15 as "the preferred weapon used to kill the enemies of the United States." Obviously, the enemy seems to be in the eyes of the beholder.

The New York Times has a feast for you political junkies out there, a detailed breakdown of group voting patterns. They don't just limit themselves to the broad demographic categories of race, religion, age and wealth, but they slice and dice the numbers to a remarkable degree. Want to know the turnout and support of black women in Nevada, ages 30-44 with postgraduate degrees in 2012? 74% voted and 96% of them voted Democratic. How about white men in Georgia with high school degrees? 61% turnout, 14% voted Democratic. Eat it up. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/06/10/upshot/voting-habits-turnout-partisanship.html

Tuesday, June 14, 2016
I'm sitting in the departure lounge at JFK reading Balkan Ghosts, by Robert D. Kaplan, an excellent history of that tortured region, written in the early 1990s. Kaplan points out that while the Balkans have a history of violence for centuries and were the flashpoint to start WWI, the West (Americans particularly) know and care little about the area. We visited Greece, Bulgaria and Macedonia exactly three years ago. What impressed me then and Kaplan confirms is the almost biologic link between identity and the soil, the homeland that may have been lost hundreds of years ago, every precious inch to be recovered now at any cost. Archbishop Stepinac, the leader of the Roman Catholic church in Yugoslavia and a Croatian nationalist, said in 1941, when Croatian fascists proclaimed independence on the heels of the invasion of Yugoslavia by Germany and Italy, "it is no longer the tongue which speaks but the blood with its mysterious links with the country, in which we have seen the light of God."

Kaplan notes the unfortunate parallels with the Arab-Israeli situation, each side able to point to a moment, long or short in the past, when it controlled that square centimeter of arid soil and claims it as of right forever more. On to Israel.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016
We landed at 5:36 A.M. in Tel Aviv, one minute later than scheduled even though we took off one hour late. The El Al 747-400, the Papa Bear of commercial aircraft, was full with about as many Jews as I have ever seen at one place. Of course, many of my Jewish fellow travelers would not be caught dead in the vicinity of West End Synagogue, where men and women sit together, women read from the Torah, women wear pants, women allow their hair to be seen by anybody and everybody, and some of us, men and women alike, hunt Chinese food with almost archeological fervor.

With a late morning nap, I was able to enjoy part of the first day here. We had dinner at "Benny the Fisherman" a/k/a Benny HaDayag, Port of Tel Aviv, Hangar 8, a very popular restaurant on the waterfront. My young bride and I had been there on our last visit, exactly four years ago. This time, we were 5 adults, Mila the other grandmother joined us, and three children, three generations eating together. I had yellow snapper fillet baked in olive oil with herbs, quite delicious (89 NIS, $23). It came with paprika-coated French fries, or maybe they should be called Hungarian fries. But, what made the meal an extra special deal is the group of 12 "salads" that come out first, a typical Israeli/Arabic presentation. That included hummus, babaganoush, sautéed carrots, yogurt with herbs, beets, tomato puree, and fried cauliflower in a sweet and sour sauce, a major triumph. You can have the salads alone, with bread, for 45 NIS; add beer for a lovely evening.

Last weekend, the New York Times published an investigative report on DT's wealth. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/nyregion/donald-trump-atlantic-city.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

I quickly sent a letter to the editor, which, until now (I read the paper on-line), remains unpublished. "Had bankers done their job, Donald Trump today would probably be parking cars at one of the properties that once bore his name. Instead, as your article amply demonstrates, succumbing to bluster and bluff, they supported enterprises that brought financial harm, even ruin, to investors, vendors and employees, with the exception of Mr. Trump."

Thursday, June 16, 2016
Our clan went to a museum dedicated to the radical underground of the Israeli independence movement, led by Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky (the Etzel Museum, 38 King George Street). More than 75 years after his death, he remains a divisive figure in Israeli history and politics. The current regime, with its unrelenting nationalism, inherited his philosophy. In the museum, as in many enterprises of this type, its heroes did no wrong.

For dinner, the Upper West Side's Power Couple went off to Nini Hachi, 228 Ben Yehuda Street, a Kosher Japanese/Chinese restaurant. It's a busy operation, two levels indoors and about 9 tables on the sidewalk outside. The very mild temperatures made eating outdoors more pleasant than I usually find. We shared the Classic Sushi Combination (72 NIS), 3 rolls cut into 22 pieces. There was a tuna avocado roll, salmon avocado roll and a vegetable roll. By avoiding a few items, shrimp, eel and sea urchin notably, it's easy to have Kosher sushi, something we have encountered at weddings, b'nai mitzvahs and other by the book celebrations. On the Chinese side, we shared Sichuan noodles (44 NIS), lo mein cooked with yellow, red and green peppers, bean sprouts, carrot slivers, yellow and green onions, and mushrooms in a mild sauce, not the sweet and spicy identified on the menu. B all around.

Friday, June 17, 2016
How delighted we are to be celebrating America's Favorite Epidemiologist's birth day in Israel, with our second and third generations. Additionally, we were all invited to the Nachts', longtime family friends, to spend the day with their children and grandchildren.

I woke up this morning and started the day with a cup of coffee made with our newly-purchased French press, our otherwise fully-furnished apartment lacking a coffee maker. The Israelis like to sit around and drink coffee for extended periods, but they appear to prefer to do it outside the home, relying upon instant in case of emergencies. Not ready to face the world physically, I started reading the New York Times on-line and I came across the following article by that excellent journalist and CCNY graduate Joseph Berger, echoing my comments on Kosher sushi written last night. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/19/nyregion/kosher-sushi-in-brooklyn.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fnyregion&action=click&contentCollection=nyregion&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=9&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0

I admit to being an admirer of the quality of the Jewish gene pool and proud of the many accomplishments of my beleaguered antecedents. However, we have just ceded first place in a very unpleasant ranking: Victims of hate crimes in the US. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/06/16/us/hate-crimes-against-lgbt.html?_r=0

According to FBI statistics compiled well before Orlando, L.B.G.T. people have replaced Jews as the most frequent target of hate crimes. We haven't left the charmed circle, only moving down one slot. Muslims and blacks take third and fourth, reversing their positions from 10 years back. The good news, the very good news seems to be the overall reduction in these crimes from 2005 to 2014. However, the white guys are pushed to the bottom again, drawing only small dollops of violence and abuse. I can understand their frustration.

The Nachts live on a moshav, Tal Shahar, a cooperative agricultural community equidistant between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem that combines shared resources with private property. It's been their home for about 40 years, where they raised three sons, Matan the oldest having spent enough time in New York to have gone to Mets and Rangers games with me, a firm bond across continents and ages.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Reunions

Monday, June 6, 2106
Whether we use conventional prisons or luxury penthouses to keep our villains off the streets, danger still lurks from a seemingly innocent source.


This warning posted on a construction site on lower Broadway comes from the irrepressible Jeff Boss who claims that the US government engineered the 9/11 tragedy.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Boss   Ironically, Jeff asserts that the NSA masterminded the vastly complex World Trade Center catastrophe, hiding its complicity for 15 years, even while failing to whack him, as he insists it is intent on doing. 

One of our presidential candidates indulges in this sort of high/low competence paradoxical reasoning, which was also prominent during the Vietnam War, when many leftwingers shared C. Wright Mills's view of the omnipotence of The Power Elite, while the best and the brightest were being outwitted by the pajama-clad Communist peasant army.

Yesterday, I experienced the dark underside of living in Manhattan when I was returning a car borrowed from a friend.  She lives in an area where all street parking is governed either by alternate side rules or short-term payments.  Land is too precious to allow for parking lots, and the buildings almost exclusively date from the late 19th century when underground garages were inconceivable.  Alternate side parking clears one side of a street for typically two hours when street cleaning along the curbs may proceed.   Subsequently, the other side of the street is cleared.  In the West 70s, Monday at 9 AM begins one period and Tuesday at 11 AM the alternate. Being a civilized gent, I aimed to find a Tuesday space to allow my generous friend an extra 26 hours of rest.  

So, at 3:40 PM Sunday, I started east on West 76th Street (even east, a handy mnemonic), then went west on West 75th Street and then east on West 74th Street, and round and round, connecting northbound on Amsterdam Avenue (short-term paid parking) and southbound on Columbus Avenue (short-term paid parking) and northbound and southbound on Central Park West (alternate side parking).  As the afternoon went on, Monday spaces started to open up, but I rolled right past them in search of a safer haven.  Finally, at 4:45 PM, 65 minutes later, I found a delightful spot on West 76th Street, three spaces in from Central Park West.  

Much to my surprise, I remained in relatively good cheer throughout my period of circumnavigation, aided by Woody's Children, a weekly folk music program on public radio.  It featured American songs of WWII, many written and performed by Communists and fellow travelers, having abandoned their pacifism of 1938-1941 once Uncle Joe came under attack.  One of my favorites is "Stalin Wasn't Stallin'"

Stalin wasn't stallin'
When he told the beast of Berlin
That they'd never rest contented
Till they had driven him from the land

So he called the Yanks and English
And proceeded to extinguish
The fuhrer and his vermin
This is how it all began

 © UNIVERSAL MUSIC PUBLISHING GROUP

June 7, 2016
New York City has a population of about 8 million people. Our election ballots contain races for president, vice president, United States Senate, House of Representatives, governor, lieutenant governor, state attorney general, state comptroller, state assembly, state senate, mayor, city comptroller, public advocate, borough (county) president, county district attorney, city council, and various judgeships.  But, we have never approached the distinction of Draguseni, Romania, a village of 2,500 people where the incumbent mayor, Vasile Cepoi, had to face four challengers, two of whom also named Vasile Cepoi.  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/07/world/europe/romania-mayoral-election.html?_r=0

I simply don't recall anything approaching that synchronicity here in the Holy Land.  While I  wouldn't be surprised to see a multiplicity of Larry Cohens or Daniel Lees or Michael DiGiovannis or Jose Rodriguezs competing on a local ballot, it hasn't happened here yet.  A search of the Internet (411.com and whitepages.com) fails to uncover even one Vasile Cepoi in the entire United States of America.  Considering that the latest census shows that about 92% of the Romanian population is Christian, almost all Eastern Orthodox, it would probably safe to offer at least one Vasile Cepoi political asylum.  

There have been shows that have opened and closed on Broadway in one day, but today I encountered a different short term enterprise on the street of dreams.  Northbound M5, M7 and M104 buses stop on Broadway at 69th Street, a short spear throw from the Palazzo di Gotthelf.  Sitting right there is Albertina's Fine Foods, 2020 Broadway, open since March.  Albertina's was an amalgam of grocery store, salad bar, and sandwich shop, that replaced a semi-hip shoe store (that means it never carried my size) after a thorough renovation.  Poof, Albertina's was closed I saw as I got off the M7.  Of course, it was never destined to thrive on my patronage, averse to its faux gourmet trappings, and loyal to the Holy Trinity of Fairway, Trader Joe's and Zabar's arrayed along Broadway from 72nd Street to 81st Street.  In fact, I looked inside Albertina's only once briefly without making a purchase.  The markup on cookies and ice cream was outrageous.  I wonder what venture will now risk the challenge of outrageous rents, vigorous competition and so-hard-to-please Upper West Side residents.  I should note that there is no Chinese restaurant closer to my happy home than that location. 
   
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
I was an active lawyer for about 14 years.  In fact, tomorrow night is my law school's 15th reunion, which I will address later.  True to my sometimes exaggerated search for independence and the lack of a thought-out plan for moving up the ladder of professional success, I never joined any bar association.  Today, I am particularly proud to having avoided membership in the American Bar Association, because it "decided not to publish a book by the human rights lawyer Teng Biao because of concerns about upsetting the Chinese government and putting at risk its Beijing office, which aims to build up the legal system in China," according to the New York Times.  

Of course, the ABA, in a letter to Senator Marco Rubio, boldly refuted this interpretation of its behavior.  "The decision not to proceed with publication of the book was a business decision made by the ABA Publishing Services Group after an assessment of projected book sales, including advice from the ABA’s retail distribution partner.”  Besides applying the standards of the souk to a critical human rights issue, the ABA also threw one of its staff under the rickshaw in order to distance themselves from any appearance of being concerned about anything except adding dues-paying members in China.  "An ABA employee’s initial communication to Mr. Teng of an offer to publish his book and that employee’s subsequent communication regarding the reasons for withdrawing
that offer were misguided as well as erroneous."  
Maybe I should join the ABA, just so I can quit.

Thursday, June 9, 2016
Even though I rely upon probabilities far more than possibilities, I was worried when I heard that there had been a murderous attack in a public area of Tel Aviv.  Our kids and grandkids are visiting there and have regularly reported that they are seeing and doing as much as possible, day and night.  However, it was already after midnight in Israel when we got the news and a telephone call was likely to disturb sleeping parents and children, who might not even have been aware of the terrible events.  So, we were patient until 7 A.M. here, when they answered our telephone call while sitting on the beach of the Mediterranean.  Of course, not all families received such reassurance.

Stanley Feingold is in town and, in addition to meeting with him and another two dozen plus CCNY graduates yesterday, I had lunch at Ben's Kosher Delicatessen, 209 West 38th Street, with him today in a small group.  While the Hebrew term mitzvah literally means commandment, it is widely used to identify an act of human kindness.  So, it was definitely a mitzvah to invite Stanley and his lovely wife Fumiko to a Kosher delicatessen, since they have been moving about Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon and Savannah, Georgia, spending time with their dispersed family, eating whatever.  Had we met for breakfast, Ess-A-Bagel, 831 Third Avenue, would have been our likely destination.  I have lived outside the New York Bagel Zone and I know.

Thanks to Barbara F. for sending me this marvelous recording which is ultimately more important and memorable in respect to the law than the recent conduct of the ABA.  Please listen to the moving story.  http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2689603980

Friday, June 10, 2016
Today is the 15th anniversary of my graduation from Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School and the reunion was held last night, combining my class with others at five year intervals.  Cardozo is a relatively new school, founded in 1976, so there aren't any real old timers, that is if you ignore me.  I was the oldest student in the class of 2001, and probably still its only grandfather.  

The event was held in the Harmonie Club, founded in 1852 by rich German Jews denied admission to the city's fancy schmancy private clubs.  It now occupies a very handsome building designed for it by Stanford White early in the 20th century.  In all, it's an example of living well is the best revenge.  

I wasn't enthusiastic about the reunion, although I sat on the organizing committee, because I did not expect to recapture the joy that I felt as a very old law student.  In fact, barely 10 members of my class of 300 showed up and I could not even put names to the five faces that seemed familiar.  I had a chance to speak to two professors whom I had cared for and who gave the impression of caring for me.

I actually had a happy reunion, but not with members of the Cardozo class of 2001.  As I walked into the lobby of the club, I immediately recognized the friendly face of Abe Foxman, CCNY '62 classmate, who held the very challenging position of national director of the Anti-Defamation League, arguably the most influential Jewish lay organization in the United States, for 28 years.  

Abe's personal story is fascinating.  He was born in a part of the Soviet Union just taken from Poland in time to be captured by the Nazis.  His parents gave him to his Catholic nanny for safekeeping when they were forced into a ghetto.  Abe was baptized and raised as a Catholic until he was reunited with his parents (not without a struggle) at the end of the war.  They survived, although many family members were exterminated.  

Abe has been in the middle of many of the difficult human rights and geopolitical issues of our times, and, while I sometimes differed with his stance, I respect that he was not a captive of mere tribalism.

If you ignored my advice and skipped the audio clip above, I'll give you another   chance to do the right thing.   http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2689603980