Saturday, July 14, 2018

Educating A President

Monday, July 9, 2018
Hello?  Is my cousin Barbara out there?  Why do I ask?  Because, leaving a showing of "Three Identical Strangers", the fascinating documentary about triplets separated at birth, we saw Harry Belafonte in the  lobby of the movie theater.  Now 92-years old, he was gaunt and needed the support of a cane and the arm of his companion, but still elegant in his bearing.  

The last time that I saw him in person he was performing at Barbara's Sweet Sixteen party in April 1957, held at Ben Maksik's Town & Country Club, on Flatbush Avenue at Avenue V in Brooklyn, which billed itself as "The World’s Most Magnificent nite club" (sic). 

Belafonte was at the height of his popularity, with successful recordings, television appearances and movie roles, although circumscribed by the racial conventions of the day.  His album Calypso was the best seller for 31 straight weeks in 1956-57, with more sales than any previous recording.

My uncle Arthur was very generous and treated his daughter (the only girl among 7 cousins) to a lavish party.  Town & Country was supposedly the largest night club in the world and booked the top talent in the days before they were diverted to Las Vegas or massive sports arenas.  

Belafonte put on a great show, as I recall; most of his songs were already familiar to us and included that Brooklyn anthem Hava Nagila.

Our group was entirely white, all Jewish except for Barbara's half-Jewish friend Michelle.  The rest of the audience was mixed, definitely some Italians.  The good old days.
. . .

My memory was not as sharp when I read in The New Yorker that "New York’s subway system now has fewer miles of track than it had in the nineteen-forties."  My quick mental inventory disputed that.  While I knew that the Fulton Street El wasn't torn down until after we moved to Queens in 1955 and the Third Avenue El still ran when I went to Stuyvesant High School nearby, I figured that the extension of the A train into East New York and acquisition of the Long Island Railroad's line to the Rockaway peninsula made up for the lost miles.  Also, I knew that the Sixth Avenue El had stopped running in the Thirties.

The Internet soon set me straight.  In 1940, when the IRT and the BMT were acquired by New York City, which already owned the IND (my regrets if these designations are meaningless to you), there was a Second Avenue El, a Ninth Avenue El, the Fifth Avenue [Brooklyn]-Bay Ridge Line, the Lexington Avenue [Brooklyn] line, the Culver Line, a different Myrtle Avenue Line, the World's Fair Subway Line (that existed from 1939 to 1941), along with the Third Avenue El and the Fulton Street El that I remembered.  The administrative integration of the transit system allowed the elimination of duplicative routes. 

If you are anywhere as nutty as I am about subjects like this, you certainly want to see a list of closed subway stations.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Professor Barry Seldes, CCNY '61, sends me this collection of Chinese restaurants established north of Chinatown, on the traditional lower East Side. 

I only know a few of them, most being quite new.  I'll try to plow through them and report for the sake of posterity.  My initial reaction is quite positive; from what I can tell, they generally seem to eschew the pretension that is inherent to many new downtown joints.  The dividing line is usually the willingness to operate in daylight, open for lunch as well as dinner. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Tom Terrific was able to join me for lunch while the sun was shining at Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles II, 648 Ninth Avenue, a tiny joint, seating 14 very close friends.  It never got crowded; most of its business was takeout or delivery.  The menu is built around 8 types of noodles, served in soup or dry.  Additionally, a few dumplings and vegetable dishes are offered.  We shared 8 pan fried chicken dumplings ($9.50) and a very large plate of beef and shrimp chow fun ($13.50).  Both were very good, but $3 or so higher than they cost at the Chinatown mother ship, 1 Doyers Street.   

Fortunately, we left a little room to warrant a stroll over to Gotham West Market, 600 11th Avenue, to ingest the handiwork of Ample Hills Creamery, ice cream at its finest.  A Chinese meal should always end with ice cream.  I had two scoops, Oatmeal Lace - dark brown sugar cinnamon ice cream with pieces of oatmeal lace cookies - and Chocolate Milk & Cookies - all-chocolate cookies and cream.
. . .

I got home in time to watch the second half of the Croatia-England World Cup match.  What intrigued me was the sight of enormous numbers of Croatian fans in the stands, distinctive in their red and white checkerboard shirts, appearing to be a vast undulating Italian restaurant.  I visited Croatia in October 2016 and got the impression that it suffered vast unemployment.  Tourism seemed to be the most dynamic part of the economy, but it was limited to the warmer months when the long Adriatic coastline attracted boaters, swimmers, water skiers, sunbathers and those serving them.  In fact, during our visit, many resorts and restaurants were closing or had closed for the season.

So, the average employed Croatian would be in the midst of his busy season right now and might be understandably reluctant to take off to Moscow to see a soccer game.  An unemployed Croatian, on the other hand, might be eager for the diversion, but unable to muster the financial resources to enjoy it.  Round trip airfare Zagreb to Moscow on Expedia, right now, is $1,724 non-stop and $692 one-stop.  For a bargain, you can bundle a non-stop fare and space in a hostel (a bunk bed in a 6-person dormitory room), starting at $1,884.  Additionally, the lowest price ticket in Luzhniki Stadium, on StubHub, for the finals on Sunday the 15th is $1,675.  In all, a hefty sum for Ivan Q. Javno (Croatia's John Q. Public).

Thursday, July 12, 2018
Mother's Day is behind us this year, but a little advance planning might be appropriate for next year's celebration.  Why not follow the example of Jared Kushner, that nice Jewish boy, and put millions in assets in a trust controlled by your mother to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest?  That allows you to wheel and deal freely on the international stage without you personally appearing to benefit from your actions.  For Mom, it's better than a scarf.
Friday, July 13, 2018
On this propitious day, I decided that enough was enough with our current dismal political atmosphere.  I want light and bright and cheer, so I invited William Franklin Harrison to lunch.  As you know, I have been an early proponent of the candidacy of WFH for the American presidency in 2036, when he will be well past the constitutional age threshold.  It's with renewed optimism about the future of the American Republic that I contemplate WFH's ascendancy as the 48th President of the United States.  His very name says "Let's get going."
Not only will WFH be distinguished by his youth, but his (contemplated) career in computer graphics and digital cartoon creation will bring previously untapped skills to the White House.
As part of his preparation for the duties that will loom so large in his future, I took him to Chinatown for lunch.  We went to Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street.  As nominally a Malaysian restaurant, it combines the cuisines of China, India, Vietnam, and Thailand, bringing WFH closer to almost 3 billion people on Earth.  
We shared roti canai ($3.95), a lovely Indian crêpe served with a buttery curry sauce containing small pieces of chicken and potato; 4 deep-fried Vietnam spring rolls ($5.95); and Char Kway Teow ($8.95), flat rice noodles stir-fried with shrimp, sausage, squid, eggs, bean sprouts, and chives in a mix of soy sauce.  I considered lunch a foreign policy triumph.


Saturday, July 7, 2018


Monday, July 2, 2018
We were on the road this weekend and I stopped for lunch today at Commonwealth BBQ, 659 South Street, Wrentham, Massachusetts, about 28 miles south of downtown Boston.  It's the real deal.  You can smell the hickory smoke about a mile away.  Most of their business is takeaway, but I sat at one of the 5 outdoor picnic tables even though the temperature was over 90˚.  I'm not completely crazy; there is no indoor seating.

The menu centered on pork, beef, chicken and the proper accompaniments.  I ordered the Mason Dixon, a beef brisket sandwich dressed with cole slaw (yes) and baked beans (no) ($11.95).  I selected French fries at no extra cost from the list of "Cowboy Beans, Cole Slaw, Black Bean Rice, Collard Greens, Seasonal Fresh Veggies, Mac n’Cheese, Potato Salad, Fries, Sweet Potato Fries."

The beef was very good, but machine-sliced, making it much less interesting and harder to hold one of the three sauces that you can squirt on.  I asked if they would hand slice, but I think they would sooner vote for Hillary Clinton. 
. . .

I am having trouble with the World Cup and not because the United States is absent.  The tournament is conducted by FIFA, the international federation of football associations, an enterprise more profitable and more corrupt than the Mafia, without even bothering to fire a shot.  The games are being held in Russia, a crime ring with a flag.  Further, they are being shown on television by Fox.  Talk about an axis of evil.  

Regardless of these contextual factors, the games display great athleticism in the near total absence of sportsmanship.  Players fall to the ground (dive) when an opponent stirs a breeze passing by.  Once on the ground, grown men writhe, grimace and clutch body parts in a display of agony that, I imagine, rivals childbirth.
Celebrations after scoring are also conducted with such wretched excess that I wish that only Presbyterians be allowed to play the game.  The worst displays of unsportsmanlike conduct by the multimillionaires on the field usually follow calls by referees that are even modestly disputatious.  Big shot international soccer stars rush at, surround, beseech and beleaguer the referees with a passion usually reserved for closing arguments in a capital punishment case.  Time is wasted and all concerned look stupid, the referees for appearing ineffectual and the players for the intense insincerity in pleading their case. 
. . .
After watching the dreadful Spain/Russia contest, I sent a message to the Oakland Heartthrob, who is traveling with wife and children in Europe.  Their first stop is Barcelona, so I asked him about the local reaction to Spain's embarrassing performance.  He responded that it was considered a defeat for Spain, not Catalonia which was anxious to secede even before the match. 
. . .
The weekend's real estate section told us where to find the most expensive homes in America by zip code.
Six of the top 10 are in California, leading with Atherton 94207, in the heart of Silicon Valley, having a median asking home price of $11,997,550, almost double the next location.  This is far from me physically and financially, but I am at least able to close the physical gap between me and the two most expensive Holy Land zip codes.  Rather than Fifth Avenue or Park Avenue, 10013 and 10007 are downtown locations that became desirable only in recent years.  Much of the housing in these areas is contained in repurposed buildings, once factories, warehouses, lofts, offices.  I am tickled by the fact that the courthouses that I worked in, 60 Centre Street and 71 Thomas Street, are respectively in those zip codes.  Will they eventually be converted to condominiums as happened to the former police headquarters at 240 Centre Street, with its marvelously Beaux Arts architecture?  Or might they be leveled to allow new glass fingers to reach high in the sky?  In any case, the properties would attract dazzling prices and seduce politicians anxious to fill a budget gap.

But, let's return to Atherton, California.  While it may have the most expensive homes for sale, it is only second to Miami, Florida, as the home to the richest Americans.  May we conclude that Latin American expatriates are better off than Harvard dropouts?

If you don't have millions lying around, but still want a comfortable nest in an urban area, look at "Where to Find the Best Bargains in America's Biggest Cities."

The list took commuting time and crime rates into consideration in identifying least expensive median one-bedroom rentals.  Choices ranged from Fairbanks/Northwest Crossing in Houston at $733 monthly to Parkmerced in southwestern San Francisco at $2,588.  For a bargain in the Holy Land, you have to go to Arrochar, Staten Island at $1,475, but remember the ferry is now free.   

Tuesday, July 3, 2018
The "National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement" provides some very interesting information.

US college and university students voted at a higher rate in 2016 than 2012; women students vote at a higher rate than men; Hispanic and Asian student turnout increased from 2012 to 2016, while black turnout decreased; social science majors voted at significantly higher rates than STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) majors.  Overall, student turnout in 2016 was 48.3%, compared to 59.7% of all eligible Americans.
. . .

Last week, I enjoyed gelato and ice cream back-to-back and, in close proximity, the tastes were distinctive, which is not always the case.  Here is a concise explanation; "gelato . . . uses more milk and less cream, and is churned at a much slower speed, resulting in a lower fat content and a creamier texture."

While not defining, many fine ice creams (cf. Ample Hills Creamery) are loading up with stuff -- chocolate chips, Oreos, pretzels, cookie dough, peanut butter cups -- while gelato tends to be served straight up.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018
I've noticed that the number of telephone calls soliciting political contributions has definitely increased.  That means that I have heard from the DNC, DGA, DSCC, DCCC as well as a few individual candidates. I feel privileged to singlehandedly support the various tentacles of the Democratic Party.  

While caller ID usually tipped me to these political calls, if not by caller name, then by the metropolitan Washington area place of origin.  However, my mobile phone has attracted another breed of caller.  Every day lately, at all hours of day and night, I have gotten calls from Tonga, a Polynesian kingdom.  I customarily refused to answer and subsequently blocked the calls, not knowing what I was missing.  Tonight, though, I succumbed to curiosity.  After all, maybe one of my errant relatives had his passport and wallet taken in downtown Tonga and he is trying to reach me for an immediate infusion of funds.  Unfortunately for Robinson Crusoe Gotthelf, the telephone company aborted my call to Tonga 676-848-9283, citing "technical difficulties."  Sorry, guy.  Give me a call when you get home. 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

I Like Ike

Monday, June 25, 2018
Looking at my notes, there is so much to cover that I might be able to take the rest of the week off after I deal with the weekend.

First, there is the food; there is always the food.  Actually, there is the ice cream, the very top of the food pyramid.  Saturday night, after dining out with friends on the Lower East Side, we went to il laboratorio del gelato, 188 Ludlow Street, seemingly founded by a descendant of e.e. cummings.  It occupies a large corner spot, just across from the world famous Katz's Delicatessen, on what was a parking lot for decades before the developers turned their attention to the neighborhood that earlier generations couldn't wait to flee.

Its retail counter fronts a large work space where the gelato is made during working hours.  And, unlike some others, the smoothness and creaminess of their product distinguishes it as gelato from regular ice cream.  About 2 dozen flavors were on sale from a mind-boggling list of about 170 gelati and 65 sorbets.  I'm not sure whether it's the same as résumé inflation, but some of the flavors listed seem to have more of a pedantic than a practical distinction, for instance, cinnamon, cinnamon mexican, and cinnamon vietnamese (still with the lower case letters). 

In any case, I enjoyed two scoops in a cup ($4.25), orange and chocolate bourbon pecan.  Note that il laboratorio del gelato has very few seats, although there is a lot of floor space to stand around in.  Service was efficient; I recall 4 scoopers kept busy.

Sunday, after lunch with other good friends, we went to the really small ice cream counter attached to Bubby's High Line, 73 Gansevoort Street, across the street from the dramatic new building of the Whitney Museum.  It wasn't just convenience that led us there.  This little space, ironically with about the same seating capacity as the ten times larger il laboratorio del gelato, serves Ample Hills Creamery ice cream, which may be the finest around. 

The counter serves about a dozen flavors at a time, but I don't think that Ample Hills ever stopped to make a list.  I had the wonderful combination of Chocolate Trip, a medium chocolate ice cream with "Baked by Melissa" cookie dough, chocolate cookies and chocolate cupcakes, and Ooey Gooey, vanilla ice cream with hunks of St. Louis-style "Ooey Gooey Butter Cake" (with far more hits on Google than you would ever imagine), two scoops for $5.35.  
. . .

Vital information about immigration was presented this weekend in this article.

It teaches us that worldwide "overestimates [about immigration] are largest among particular groups: the least educated, workers in low-skill occupations with lots of immigrants, and those on the political right.  They overstate the share of immigrants who are Muslim and understate the share of Christians.  They underestimate immigrants’ education and overestimate both their poverty rate and their dependence on welfare."  How do we get the overestimators to recognize the facts?
. . .

The New York Times has a bit of a puff piece about Slice, an app that allows pizza ordering from mom-and-pop joints, in competition with the national chains.

What interested me was Slice's owner statement that "many of his employees, including those working on data entry, sales and customer service, are based in Macedonia."  I have been to Macedonia, which is 6 hours ahead of New York time.  That might not interfere with data entry, but I am very skeptical about relying on sleep-deprived Macedonians for my sales or customer service. 
. . .

Feeling good?  Headline for you: "Obama-Era Investor Protection Rule Is Dead"
. . .

If you need some comfort food after that, consider:

However, are they "fast-food Frankensteins"?  Is that what you would call "a fried egg and bacon held together by a glazed doughnut sliced in half"?
. . .

Maybe you just want to go home and lie down.  Regard the minimum annual income needed to buy a median-priced home in each of the country's 50 largest metropolitan areas.

The Golden State takes on another meaning, with 4 of the 5 most expensive locations in California, topped by an income of $262,116 needed in San Jose to purchase a median-priced house.  The Holy Land comes in a mere seventh at $97,565.  At the other end, Pittsburgh is the bargain site, putting a roof over your head with an income as little as $34,555.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018
For the last two years working in the New York court system, I spent one day a week working with Ilana Marcus, a young, bright, diligent attorney assigned to a particular judge.  We also shared an affinity for Peking duck and tried to systematically compare them in Chinatown.  It's not worth revisiting the results, because Chinatown and its ducks seem to experience constant change.  Now, Ilana is running for Civil Court judge in Manhattan and she has my unqualified endorsement.  Better than that, she might be running unopposed.  That's the end of the judicial good news for the next decade.
. . .

There was an interesting Democratic primary race yesterday for a congressional seat covering parts of Bronx and Queens Counties, an area that banished white Protestants decades ago.  The incumbent was an Irish Catholic, who held the seat for 10 terms and was considered a likely successor to Nancy Pelosi to lead the Democrats in the House of Representatives.  The challenger was a 28-year old Latina, a former bartender and left-wing activist, who won with more than 57% of the vote. 

Put aside for now the lackadaisical approach the incumbent took to the race, although there is a big lesson to be learned (Hello, Hillary).  This contest raises basic questions about representative government to me.  While the challenger professed more "radical" policies than the incumbent, I don't believe that their votes on the House floor would differ once bills were actually up for a vote.  

Will the people in New York's 14th Congressional District benefit from this change in representatation? Arguably, keeping the wily old fox around, with his knowledge of the ins and outs of the legislative process and its participants, might produce better results for his constituents than inserting a very young and very green (although smart and energentic) outsider.  Or, is this outweighed by having a representative more representative in age, attitude, and ethnicity?  I led discussions along these lines more than half a century ago in classes on American government and I still find the topic intriguing.

Thursday, June 28, 2018
The Boyz Club gathered for lunch at the Golden Unicorn, 18 East Broadway, one of Chinatown's major dim sum purveyors.  As its wagons spin around the floor, they offer the helpful feature of a sign identifying their contents, saving a challenge to your Mandarin language skills.  As always, I failed to keep up with the number and variety of the dishes that the six of us consumed.  I am guessing that we had 16 dishes, 10 items repeated 6 times.  Did we enjoy?  What kind of question is that?

Friday, June 29, 2018
Here is another question.  Why did the president, in a speech in Wisconsin yesterday, say that he was the first Republican to win Wisconsin's presidential vote since Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, when Eisenhower repeated in 1956 and Nixon and Reagan won both times as well?

Doesn't the prospect of being considered the worst president in American history sufficiently appeal to his sense of uniqueness? 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Good Eats

Monday, June 18, 2108
Based on existing research, Professor Ryan Murphy of Southern Methodist University writes that "occupations that were [found to be] most disproportionately psychopathic were CEO, lawyer, media, salesperson, surgeon, journalist, police officer, clergyperson, chef, and civil servant.  Those that were least psychopathic were care aide, nurse, therapist, craftsperson, beautician/stylist, charity worker, teacher, creative artist, doctor, and accountant."

The geography of psychopathology is also quite interesting.  "The top five observations in psychopathy are the District of Columbia, Connecticut, California, New Jersey, and a tie of New York and Wyoming for fifth.  The states that are least psychopathic are West Virginia, Vermont, Tennessee, North Carolina, and New Mexico."  The pattern is pretty consistent, psychopathology accompanies population density.  However, the question remains, does someone get wacky living in a crowded space or does someone get wacky living in the middle of nowhere and then goes looking for company?
. . .

As most of you know, yesterday was America's Favorite Epidemiologist's birthday, but it was also Father's Day.  So, we decided to celebrate seriatim, first having brunch with some lovely people, fathers and mothers, on Sunday.  Then, tonight, we went high hat, having dinner at Jean-Georges Restaurant, 1 Central Park West, resulting in a near perfect experience.  This was not Chinatown or Curry Hill, no hand held food, eating standing up or coupons.  It is one of five restaurants given 4 stars by the New York Times, one of 11 local restaurants with 2 Michelin stars, having lost that rare, precious third star this year.

The room is bright, open with an understated decor, using white and gray as the basic color scheme.  The 20 tables were amply sized, decently spaced.  We came early at 6 P.M., but soon all the tables were occupied.  Service was excellent; careful attention was paid to your water glass and bread plate.  

Jean-Georges offers only three menus at dinner.  The Jean-Georges Menu ($238) has 7 set courses, featuring signature dishes.  The Spring Menu ($248) also has 7 set courses, featuring seasonal produce.  We went for the Prix Fixe Menu (a mere $148), allowing a couple of dozen choices for 4 courses.  Some dishes came at a supplement, as did several caviar dishes.  

I had Yellowfin Tuna Ribbons, Avocado, Radish and Ginger Emulsion, a brilliant creation, the strands of fish lightly coated in a slightly sweet sauce.  I followed that with Caramelized Foie Gras, Black Olive Seasoning*, Lychee and Brioche.  Then I had lamb two different ways, Roasted Lamb Loin and Crackling Riblettes, Smoked Chili Glaze*, and Broccoli di Cicco ("an heirloom, old-fashioned kind of broccoli" according to the Internet).  

The starred items dropped my appraisal to near perfect.  Neither was necessary to the well-conceived, flawlessly-executed dish it accompanied.  And, contrary to what I imagine the way that you appeal to old, rich folks, each had a sharp, pungent taste.  Maybe if I were not a charter member of the clean plate club, I would have taken a pinch of each seasoning and left it aside.  Instead, I made all gone with slightly disappointing results.  

Jean-Georges recovered almost entirely with dessert, a choice centered on a flavor.  Naturally, I chose chocolate and got it five different ways, one better than the other, a  Möbius strip of deliciousness.  

Demonstrating the domestic harmony in our household, my young bride ordered a completely different meal.  She had Mushroom Salad with Wild Greens and Herbal Pine Dressing, White Asparagus with Lemon Crumbs and Herb Vinaigrette, and Black Sea Bass Crusted with Nuts and Seeds, Sweet and Sour Jus.  The theme for her dessert was cherry.

Befitting such an elegant joint, four different amuse-bouches came during dinner and handmade chocolates, nougats, champagne-flavored gummy bears and hand cut marshmallows came with the check.  A final touch was the chocolate confection presented to madame for her birthday as we left, avoiding any giddiness in the dining room. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Just 36 hour ago, I was deep in sybaritic pleasure.  Now, I am about to have my kishkes examined from the top down by doctor/lawyer/rabbi Morris Traube, a man for all seasons.  To afford him the best view, I have had nothing to eat or drink for more than 12 hours.  That, in itself, could make a person sick.
. . .

In an address at Yale's recent graduation, Hillary Clinton urged the audience "[t]o try to see the world through the eyes of people very different from ourselves and to return to rational debate, to find a way to disagree without being disagreeable, to try to recapture a sense of community and common humanity.”  Sorry, but my sense of community and common humanity does not extend to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, quoting scripture to justify kidnapping refugee children; Fox News host Laura Ingraham, describing holding facilities for refugee children as "summer camps"; commentator Ann Coulter, identifying refugee children as "child actors"; and former Trump campaign chairman Corey Lewandowski, mocking a girl refugee with Down syndrome being taken from her mother.  

Thursday, June 21, 2018
Yesterday's medical procedure went swimmingly.  All my pieces seem to be working right.

Friday, June 22, 2018
As announced last week, we made our pilgrimage today to Ben's Best Kosher Delicatessen, 96-40 Queens Boulevard, to mark its close of business on June 30th, after 73 years in operation.  It seemed like we had more people than attended the inauguration on January 20, 2017.  One cause of Ben's Best's challenge to remaining in business was evident as soon as we got off the Long Island Expressway.  Countless parking spaces on the Queens Boulevard service road have been lost to a bike lane, parking spaces closest to Ben's Best.  While the Rego Park-63rd Drive stop on the M & R trains is just a few feet away, it is on a somewhat isolated spur.  Even if Queens Boulevard was flooded with bike riders (I saw none), I doubt that many would want to test the elasticity of their Spandex by filling up with cold cuts and knishes

Pastrami sandwiches predominated among us, but I combined mine with corned beef.  Dr. Brown's flowed freely.  Appropriately, expressions of satisfaction in Yiddish emerged frequently.  
. . .

Finally, try this on for size.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Confucian Confusion

Monday, June 11, 2018
I finished reading Operation Chaos by Matthew Sweet, a study of how an informal band of Vietnam War GI deserters morphed into the Lyndon LaRouche movement.  I expect that many of you don't know who LaRouche is and I am conflicted about filling that information gap.  If your taste runs to paranoia, he's the man.  At one time, he maintained that Nelson Rockefeller intended to subject this country to a totalitarian regime.  After Rockefeller's death, LaRouche turned to Queen Elizabeth II, sometimes abetted by Henry Kissinger, as the head of a worldwide heroin ring.  Enough said.

What interested me, in my idiosyncratic fashion, was the use of an apartment at 65 Morton Street by the LaRouche claque in 1965.  It was the same building where 20 years earlier Julius Rosenberg and co-conspirators met to exchange information and purloined documents.  John Belushi lived at 64 Morton Street, when he died of a drug overdose in 1982.  Elliott Gould moved into 58 Morton Street after he separated from Barbra Streisand in 1969.  Henry Roth wrote much of Call It Sleep at 61 Morton Street in the early 1930s.  Wally Cox, the actor who starred on television as "Mr. Peepers", lived at 55 Morton Street early in his career in the 1950s.  Rumor has it that he cohabited there with Marlon Brando, a boyhood friend. 

So, what's the big deal, Grandpa?  I also lived at 55 Morton Street from November 1968 until June 1971, in a tiny, roach-ridden apartment and look how far I've come.
. . .
There was sad news this weekend.  Ben's Best Delicatessen, 96-40 Queens Boulevard, announced that it is closing on June 30th, after 73 years of operation.

In my pursuit of tikkun olam, "an aspiration to behave and act constructively and beneficially," according to Wikipedia, I have often taken pains to distinguish Ben's Best Delicatessen, at its sole location, from Ben's Kosher Delicatessen, a small chain of restaurants in the metropolitan area and Florida.  I have maintained that Ben's Best was, indeed, the best Kosher delicatessen in the Holy Land, that is until recently when I went to Pastrami Queen, 1125 Lexington Avenue.  However, after June 30th, the issue will be moot.

To mark the passing of this venerable institution, we are conducting a pilgrimage to Ben's Best on Friday, June 22nd at 12:30 PM, Jewish time (12:40, ten to one, whatever).  The 63rd Drive-Rego Park station of the M & R trains is a few feet away; key transfer points are 42nd Street--Times Square and Jackson Heights–Roosevelt Avenue/74th Street.  Jay Parker, owner, will meet with us and attempt to defend his decision.  Additionally, I will underwrite the cost of the first 8 cans of Dr. Brown's sodas, any flavor.  Be there or be square.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018
There is simply no good news today.  I read the New York Times carefully without finding a note of encouragement or pleasure.  The fact that two dictators spent time in each other's company does not comfort me.  The science section warns against an expanded waist size.  Net neutrality ended yesterday.  The slim reed that might sustain me until bedtime is the hole in the Mets' schedule Monday, a day going by without a loss or an injury to a key player. 
. . .

In a recent interview, New York City's school chancellor discussed the admissions process for Stuyvesant and other "specialized" high schools.  He said: "We can't treat everybody equally.  We have to have equity."  An attempt to explain his comment probably would torture most sincere people.  Further, equality evokes measurement, science, mathematics; equity evokes fairness or the perception of fairness.  Equity emerged in British law as a response to the rigidity of common law, which relied on principles honed by precedent.  Fairness ultimately lies in the eyes of the beholder and is immediately challengeable by the guy standing next to the beholder.  

While the parents of Eric Holder, former US Attorney General, Stuyvesant '69, may have been comfortable with the Stuyvesant admissions test, I understand why many other African-American parents may not be, with their children gaining so few seats in the school.  But, what of the Chinese-American parents, whose children, collectively in the last several decades, have demonstrated mastery in this area of competition?  Here is an anecdotal example:
For a blessed interval, white privilege is on the sidelines.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018
I bought lunch at Yaso Tangbao, Shanghai Street Foods, 220 East 42nd Street, a semi-fast food dumpling joint, on the way to a gathering of the Feingold Faction, which remains active even after Stanley Feingold's death.  In fact, we have been spurred on to collect his writings and sponsor a speech/forum at CCNY in his memory.  For some appreciation of the man and his legacy, read these two articles by Joe Berger.  

I was fueled for our discussion by "Chicken Soup Dumplings w/ Activated Charcoal" (4 pieces for $3.95) and "Shanghai [sesame] Cold Noodles ($7.45).  The dumplings in a charcoal grey wrapper were very good, although the risk of scalding when taking the initial bite was mitigated by the two block walk to Sid Davidoff's office. The large portion of noodles, fettuccine flat rather than spaghetti round, topped with slivers of onion, cucumber and bean sprouts was a disappointment.  Although the dish contained lots of sauce, splattering with every mouthful, it was bland.  That rich taste of liquid peanut butter was missing.  
Thursday, June 14, 2018
"In school districts that are mostly rich, white and suburban, boys are much more likely to outperform girls in math."  
"On English tests, girls test better than boys regardless of their parents’ socioeconomic status."
With improved education and better research into human behavior, you might think that stereotypes are on the decline.  A new study seems to establish a few new ones.

Of course, a stereotype is often unflattering, but usually factual.
. . .

Speaking of the lack of Jewish athleticism, Michael Ratner sent me the following article: "5 Jewish baseball players hit home runs on the same day."

Both the 5 Jewish ball players and their 6 home runs were a record in a sport that slices and dices numbers more than any other.  And, starting with the Ten Commandments, through the Four Questions of Passover, the Seven Blessings of Marriage and the Eight Nights of Hanukkah, we are a people who love to enumerate.
Friday, June 15, 2018 

In apparently a tacit attempt to limit Asian-Americans, Harvard applies a "whole-person admissions process," regarding "traits like 'positive personality,' likability, courage, kindness and being 'widely respected'" in which Asian-Americans consistently scored below other groups.  For decades, Jewish applicants to the Ivy League faced similar obstacles, according to The Chosen by Jerome Karabel.  Observing Jewish students at Columbia University, a writer noted that "[a]bsent is the grace, the swagger, the tall sleekness."  P. 87.  Indeed, the president of Harvard in 1919 found that Jews have "feebled, stunted, undeveloped bodies, and morbid nervous systems."  P. 91.  Yale's scholarship program in 1928 placed "Manhood, force of character, and moral leadership," ahead of "Literary and scholastic ability."  P. 216.  Harvard adjusted its scholarship program in 1948 "to aid men whose greatest strength lies not so much in the scholarly line of endeavor as it does in the direction of useful citizenship."  P. 193. 
Reading those comments, it's hard not to endorse a meritocratic approach for Harvard and Stuyvesant, one that seems to be based on equality of opportunity, that is the opportunity to get to the front door.  However, getting through the front door may be inhibited by the inequities of the past, a history of violence, deprivation, segregation, exploitation and oppression, far from eliminated even yet.  As one famous Asian said, "It's a puzzlement." 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Goodnight, Irene

1 Down - Fifth place?

Monday, June 4, 2018
Yesterday, I had a conversation with Dan T., a very smart Millennial, about music good for a campfire, easy and familiar songs.  I suggested The Weavers as a source, with hits such as Wimoweh, Kisses Sweeter Than WineTzena, Tzena, and On Top of Old Smoky.  I got a quizzical look.  "The Weavers?", he asked.  I wonder how long before The Beatles fall into obscurity?
. . .

I harp.  Certain topics preoccupy me and I am sometimes too lazy to abandon them.  Stuyvesant High School, where I spent 3 years taking up space, is one of those topics.  New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom I support, but don't like, has proposed replacing the admission-by-test-only policy for Stuyvesant and other "specialized" secondary schools.

As I have pointed out several times, specialized for Stuyvesant has meant few African-American students for most of the 85 years of its selective admissions policy.  Yet, I am unwilling to drop the present meritocratic approach, in spite of the evident inequitable results.  The problem is not with Stuyvesant or the other high achieving secondary schools in the New York City educational system.  They are easy targets, involving a few thousand students, at best.  How about the hundreds of thousands of students confined to segregated, low achieving elementary schools?  I don't suggest that there are easy fixes, but dabbling at the top of the pyramid seems to divert energy and resources from confronting the rotten base.  Parents, teachers, principals, politicians, you, me are all needed to rescue the most critical element in our continuing local experiment in democracy. 
. . .
In what appears to be a successful public-private partnership, Turnstyle Underground Market at the Columbus Circle subway station, continues to thrive.  There has been some turnover, but an interesting variety of food merchants, led by the wonderful Bolivian Llama Party, are doing quite well.  Today, I tried one of the newest shops, Zai Lai Homestyle Taiwanese.  

As is the case with most of its underground neighbors, Zai Lai has a limited menu, 4 rice bowls, a noodle soup and a noodle plate, one bun and two miscellaneous items.  It was these latter two items that I ordered,  Caleb's Braised Beef Roll ($7) and Ex-Girlfriend's Oyster Omelet ($7).  The slivers of beef with Hoisin sauce are wrapped in a scallion pancake, a tasty package.  The omelet, on the other hand, can only be called interesting, not an enthusiastic endorsement, possibly what I might get from an ex-girlfriend.  There were few oysters sitting on a 6" round omelet, sort of. 

Do you know what a feinkuchen is?  Yiddish dictionaries define it as scrambled eggs, but in practice, eggs that have been scrambled before being put in a frying pan, not scrambled as they cook in the frying pan.  This yields a round, flat, somewhat even-surfaced dish.  Here, though, that was only half the story.  The yellow bottom was clearly a feinkuchen, but above it sat a layer of warm, gooey, near transparent aspic covered with "Taiwanese ketchup."  Yes, yucky.  
. . .
Let them eat cake, except if they're gay.
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
I went back underground today, to Turnstyle Underground Market at the south end of the very large Columbus Circle subway station.  While Zai Lai gave me little reason to return, other joints beckoned.  I chose Chick'nCone, directly opposite Bolivian Llama Party.  This is apparently a startup venture and it's perfect for tight spaces with walk up customers.  The menu consists of Chick'nCone ($8), Cajun fries ($4) and drinks ($2), that's all.  A combo of all three is $12 and a very good deal, as I will explain momentarily.

But first, what is a Chick'nCone?  A large waffle cone, just as you might have at an ice cream parlor, is made when you order.  It is filled with crispy cubes of deep fried white meat chicken, then dressed with a choice of six sauces, Kick'nRanch, "Slightly spicy, creamy ranch sauce"; Yello BBQ, "Mustard based tangy BBQ"; Traditional BBQ, "Sweet BBQ sauce"; Cinna-Maple, "Classic chicken & waffle maple syrup"; Buffalo Blue, "Wing sauce with a hint of blue cheese"; Peri Peri, "Spicy South American chili sauce".  I chose Yello BBQ, similar to what you would get in eastern North Carolina, where tomatoes are eschewed in barbecue sauce.  The combination was delicious. 

Unsure of the portion size when I ordered, I asked for the fries, too.  Since I was already at $12, I went for the combo, although I had carried my own can of Diet Coke down from the newsstand at the corner of Eighth Avenue and West 57th Street, at the head of the stairs to Turnstyle.  You see, that guy sells soda cans for $1 each, while Turnstyle vendors charge $2 or $3.  However, the drink that Chick'nCone includes is no watered down fountain Coke, but real stuff, including San Pellegrino Arianciata Rossa (sparkling blood orange beverage), my choice, which I carried home after finishing my Diet Coke.
. . .
As of yet, the "Top 100+ North American Cheap Eats Restaurants" does not include Chick'nCone, but give it time.

Holy Land entries include Katz's Delicatessen, Ess-A-Bagel, Patsy's Pizzeria, and Xi'an Famous Foods, all reasonable choices.  The list, though, is notoriously weak on Chinese food.  Not only is Wo Hop ignored, there is only one other Chinese restaurant joining Xi'an in the top 100 throughout North America.  It's like we are back in the days of the Chinese Exclusion Act. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018
Happy Anniversary to D & I.
. . .
And now, the Case of the Mysterious Keynote Speech.  Yesterday, America's Favorite Epidemiologist received an e-mail message from a professional associate, apologizing for missing her keynote speech at the upcoming conference "Autoimmunity in 2018; Where Have We Gotten To?"  Who? What? Where? was the response on this end.  America's Favorite Epidemiologist has no such appearance scheduled and isn't even aware of the event. 

She followed the trail to the conference organizer, who was delighted to hear from the author of "Post-September 11, 2001, Incidence of Systemic Autoimmune Diseases in World Trade Center-Exposed Firefighters and Emergency Medical Service Workers," and, from its abstract, thought it would be the ideal keynote.  However, while the article appeared in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, January 2016, my young bride never forwarded it or its abstract to the conference organizer or its sponsor, and was completely surprised to see her name and work included on the program. 

Three possibilities come to mind: 1) Someone wanted the work to gain wider exposure; 2) Someone thought that the conference needs padding; 3) Someone planned to kidnap my wife.
. . .

I found some surprising information in this article on college costs.

Some of the country's most selective colleges do not pose a financial challenge to a broad range of American families.  There may be significant cultural and psychological factors associated with the have-nots entering the academic domains of the haves, but money, or the lack thereof, will not stop them.

Thursday, June 7, 2018
I had gone underground for lunch on Monday and Tuesday, but yesterday I reached a new low.  I went to see the Mets play the Orioles, the team with the worst record in baseball.  Sure enough, the Mets lost the game 1-0, obviously forgetting that the game is played with bats as well as balls.
. . .
I had lunch at Bento Sushi, 685 3rd Avenue, a bright, deep space, where a long counter on your left takes up about a third of the floor space.  First comes an array of packaged sushi items.  Then, an area to order hot food, noodle bowls, ramen bowls, rice bowls and bento boxes ranging from $7.99 to $9.99, to be picked up at the end of the counter.  I had a bento box with two pieces of salmon sushi (fresh tasting although made in advance), one gyoza dumpling, salad, and sukiyaki beef over rice ($8.99), a reasonable amount of food for the money.  However, unlike some of its competitors with lines outside their door, Bento was unbusy, which allowed me to look at my phone and read a few pages of The New Yorker before proceeding to help my periodontist refurnish his summer hideaway.
. . .