Friday, August 28, 2015

Hey, Dude

Monday, August 24, 2015
Proof reading in the New York Times is far from flawless. So, when I read a wedding announcement (as I invariably do on Sundays) that said that the officiant was "a priest of the Church of the Latter-Day Dude," I was aroused to investigate. Indeed, as an example of which side of the generational divide that I fall on, I learned that the Church of the Latter-Day Dude exists. As described on its web site, it is "the slowest-growing religion in the world – Dudeism. An ancient philosophy that preaches non-preachiness, practices as little as possible, and above all, uh . . . lost my train of thought there." 
http://dudeism.com/?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=email_this&utm_source=email

This is all rooted in The Big Lebowski, a 1998 movie written, produced and directed by the Coen Brothers. It is evidently a cult favorite today, another cult that I seem to have missed joining. I have been hesitant to expose myself to the Coen Brothers’ oeuvre since attending a prerelease screening (free!) of Barton Fink in 1991. I hated this fictional look at the travails of a New York intellectual in Hollywood. After all this time, I still remember trying to wrench loose my seat in order to throw it at the screen. I was patient with and rewarded by a few of their works, Fargo and Miller’s Crossing notably, but left physically or mentally several others within the first half hour. Therefore, when I saw a trailer for The Big Lebowski, in which bowling seems to play a prominent role, I passed, and thus may have missed my chance at apostledom.
We start this week with the stock market experiencing heavy losses as a result of the weakening of Chinese currency. I wonder if that will benefit me in Chinatown?

A medium bowl of cold sesame noodles at 456 Shanghai Cuisine, 69 Mott Street, for $4.25 did not represent a serious market correction. In fact, the last time I was here, June 12, 2014, I had the same thing for $3.75. Not really the same thing, actually, because then I found "noodles were stuck together and the sesame sauce was weak and sparse." Today, I give the noodles a strong A, with sesame seeds, chive rounds and threads of cucumbers on top. The asymmetrical serving bowl added a nice visual touch. The sauce was thick and presented no danger to my clothes. The only flaw was a slight leaning to the salty over the sweet.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015
There are many things that I know about and I’m not shy about expounding on them. However, there are also many things that I am not just uninformed about, but rather simply unable to understand, for instance, quantum mechanics, macroeconomics and modern dance. It’s not that I lack facts, but I am unable to order them in a coherent fashion. I don’t have a feel for the subject.

It is the field of macroeconomics that currently befuddles me. Not too long ago, many Americans decried the strength of Chinese currency, which allowed the Chinese to acquire assets and influence all over the world. While our exporters must have been delighted, US consumers were pressured by the relative high cost of Chinese goods (and what wasn’t made in China?). Last week, responding to internal economic stress, the Chinese devalued their currency, cheapening their goods and muting somewhat their ability to access and control foreign enterprises. The result? Cries of Foul from some of the same quarters who recently assailed Chinese economic growth. I don’t understand.

Then, we have the matter of oil prices. For decades, many of us have been disturbed by the geopolitical and environmental costs of our dependency on oil, especially foreign oil. Even as the price of gasoline rose to over $4 a gallon, oppressing our transportation industry and the movement of goods from anywhere to anywhere else, as well as many manufacturing operations, while enriching not-so-nice people, many of our politicians sat idle and pundits kept silent. But now, lo and behold, there is a crisis. Headline: "From Venezuela to Iraq to Russia, Oil Price Drops Raise Fears of Unrest" The international price of a barrel of oil has fallen from $103 to $42 in one year. Aw shucks. Those pussycats in Venezuela, Iraq, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Texas may now have to go to work for a living, create something, rather than wake up sitting on natural deposits going back millions of years. But, what do I know?

Of less global consequence is the glut of underemployed or unemployed law school graduates.
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/25/opinion/too-many-law-students-too-few-legal-jobs.html?hpw&rref=opinion&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well
Their plight is compounded by a large debt burden. "Students now amass law school loans averaging $127,000 for private schools and $88,000 for public ones." One suggestion advanced by President Obama, among others, is to shorten the law school experience by one year, cutting the costs proportionally. I’m not enthused about this approach for a number of reasons, including the likelihood that it would attract even more students to law school because of the shorter period of incarceration and the lessened expense. In the end, there would be more law school graduates driving for Über, although carrying less individual debt.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Don’t reward failure. The same gang that orchestrated the disaster in Iraq now stands solidly opposed to the Iran nuclear deal.

There are too many good observations in Frank Bruni’s column in today’s New York Times to pick and choose. So, delight in it yourself. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/26/opinion/frank-bruni-trump-ward-christian-soldiers.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region

I made my weekly visit to Wok Wok Southeast Asian Cuisine, 11 Mott Street, today. Business was good, almost every table occupied, and service was coping. Except my request for Chinese tea, accompanied by my imitation of a tea pot, did not prevent the delivery of a cup of hot water with a tea bag. This was corrected and I ordered a Street-Style Oyster Omelette ($9.50). It was very good, containing some sort of cheese, a surprise, but not an unpleasant one, along with 4 or 5 plump oysters. There was a sweet red, peppery sauce and hoisin sauce on the side. I liked them both, but they were unnecessary. The omelette sat on some lettuce leaves, but, on the whole, a side of rice, which I failed to order, would have made for a more filling meal.

Thursday, August 27, 2015
I like hot dogs, but I probably eat them twice a year, partially because I am rarely a guest at a suburban barbecue. It’s been three or four years since I bought a hot dog at Gray’s Papaya, 2090 Broadway (at 72nd Street), maybe 18 years from Katz’s Delicatessen, 205 East Houston Street, and, the best that I can remember, 1967 at the original Coney Island location of Nathan’s Famous, 1310 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn. Except for some of Nathan’s franchise locations, I can’t even imagine buying a hot dog from any other place than these, and you can see how bad a customer I have been. This comes to mind because of the upcoming showing of a new documentary on Nathan’s that might interest the fressers among you. http://symphonyspace.org/event/9060/Film/famous-nathan

The visit to Nathan’s Coney Island was memorable not just because of the food. I went with Andy P., a dear friend whom we lost far too soon, and Debbie H., a good friend to both of us. Andy had his draft physical the next morning. Some context – 1967 saw the third most US combat deaths in Vietnam; 1968 and 1969 were worse. The lottery system for drafting young men had not yet been introduced. Andy was 22 years old, out of school and selling business computers, not a privileged position in the eyes of Selective Service. Andy was always overweight, not just pleasingly plump, but he thought that a little extra might help keep him on this side of the Pacific Ocean. I think that there was a 300 pound maximum weight cut off, but I only have been able to find evidence of a 130 pound minimum. In any case, he ate seven hot dogs that night and got a 4-F classification the next morning. I only had four hot dogs, but I already had an occupational deferment.

Unlike hot dogs, I eat bagels with great regularity, at home and on the road, as it were. This article, contributed by my brother, addresses what might be considered the Death of the Schmear.
http://www.slate.com/articles/life/food/2015/08/why_do_bagel_places_serve_too_much_cream_cheese_the_economy_and_philosophy.single.html

Friday, August 28, 2015
As demonstrated yet again on live television in Roanoke, Virginia, hand guns possessed by civilians inevitably lead to tragedy. The Domestic Enemies of Sanity have successfully prevented the collection and publication of public health data concerning gun violence. 
http://www.propublica.org/article/republicans-say-no-to-cdc-gun-violence-research
However, even the anecdotal evidence demonstrates that good guys with guns and good guys without guns consistently get killed by bad guys with guns. The NRA aids and abets murder.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Pompous and Pampas

Monday, August 17, 2015
Even had I known that Donald Trump was coming to the courthouse today for jury duty, I would not have left grandson Noam’s birthday party early.  As a practical matter, I would have had to leave the crowd of children, modal age 5, even before the cake was served on Sunday in order to get home from Massachusetts in time to get a good night’s sleep and prepare myself for a date with destiny.  Actually, I had no reason to expect that a date with destiny was in the offing, because of Trump’s failure to do what any of you might do and many have done in a similar situation, call ahead and ask for a restaurant recommendation in Chinatown.  Of course, I am unsure whether I would have, as I have often done, insisted that we lunch together.  I’d have to consider the crowd of reporters and photographers who might take the fun out of our chow fun, or the possibility that we could not even find a joint that was big enough to hold our two egos.  Instead, I proceeded, at or beyond the speed limit, to our hideaway high above Amsterdam Avenue with vivid images of particularly adorable children (ours) fresh in our mind.

Please read Oliver Sacks’s latest essay, if you haven’t already.  If you have, I am certain that you have commended it to others. Http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/opinion/sunday/oliver-sacks-sabbath.html?_r=0
While Sacks writes of a spiritual victory of a sort, there is news of a physical victory.  B&H Dairy, 127 Second Avenue, has reopened after suffering collateral damage in the fatal gas explosion that destroyed several buildings immediately south of it.  For decades, I have enjoyed its unparalleled French toast and superb soups.  It is often incorrectly identified as a Kosher restaurant, but, except for an ill-considered interval in the 1980s, it has not bothered with meeting all of the demanding and somewhat irrational demands of Kosher certification.  Instead, it offers a dairy menu, without any meat or meat products.  If you want something with your scrambled eggs, it’s lox, cheese, onions, mushrooms or peppers, not bacon.  A stool at the counter is the preferred seating.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
It was no surprise that Shanghai Asian Cuisine, 14A Elizabeth Street, served nearly A+ cold sesame noodles ($4.75).  It is a sister establishment to Shanghai Asian Manor, 21 Mott Street, the first, and so far the best, provider of cold sesame noodles in this quest.  The large portion was coated with a thick sauce, having a distinct peanut butter note.  There was no danger of splattering, as the sauce stuck closely to the noodles.  There were slivers of very baby green peapods on top, but no sesame seeds.  The restaurant was busy, both tourists and locals filled the 18 or so small tables.  The airconditioning met the challenge of the 88 degree, feels like 92, temperature outside.  Mission accomplished.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Those who don’t know me well might think that I am somehow connected to AL’s Place, pronounced the #1 new restaurant in the US by Bon Appetit magazine.
First of all, it is located in San Francisco’s Mission District, where I visit only once or twice a year.  Second, its name comes from the chef/owner Aaron London.  The rest of the list is almost as far removed from me except for #4 Semilla, 160 Havemeyer Street, Brooklyn, which announces that it is “a vegetable-forward restaurant.”  It seats 18 people at a U-shaped counter, somewhat like Benihana or Friendly’s.  They offer a set menu for $75, comprised of 10 dishes.  After you.

Every Wednesday, Time Out New York gives away free its weekly issue, at or around subway stations.  It likes to publish lists, too.  Today, the cover article names the 20 best hamburgers in New York, according to a reader survey. http://www.timeout.com/newyork/restaurants/battle-of-the-burgers-20-best-burgers
Again, my reclusive life has kept me away from every one of these joints, although I recollect that I set foot in a couple for drinks only in the distant past.  As a practical matter, I am more likely to follow Time Out New York’s list than Bon Appetit’s in the decade to come.  
Associated Press – “Islamic State militants beheaded one of Syria’s most prominent antiquities scholars in the ancient town of Palmyra and then hanged his body from one of its Roman columns, the Syrian state news media and an activist group said on Wednesday.”  Efforts to connect this to Israel are currently underway.

I paid my weekly visit to Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street.  It looks like Wok Wok will take its place alongside (literally and figuratively) Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, as a reliable provider of Chineseish food.  The dozen or so customers did not tax the wait staff today, but I was still served a cup of hot water and a tea bag even when I asked for Chinese tea.  My bark was sufficient to send the waitress back to the kitchen to get the real thing without lingering to see if I would bite.

I ordered curry beef bowl ($6.95), a big mound of rice, 8 or so chunks of beef, small cucumber spears and peanuts, in a mild but tasty sauce.  I mushed them all together, making for a very filling dish.  While eating it, another waitress came over with a second order of the same dish, demonstrating some remaining roughness in service.   

Thursday, August 20, 2015
I probably deserved what happened today.  I agreed to have lunch at Pig and Khao, 68 Clinton Street, which received a two-star review from the New York Times.  Like other  fashionable new restaurants on the margins of Chinatown, it usually opens only for dinner.  So, when X told me that it had select summer lunch times, we hied off to the depths of the once classic Lower East Side.  (I think that my father lived on Clinton Street as a new immigrant from Poland.)  In fact, I did what I had never done before for a weekday lunch, I took a taxicab, because the 1.3 miles that separates the restaurant from the courthouse is too long to venture to and fro on foot in the middle of a work day, especially one with summer temperatures and humidity.  The one-way fare alone cost more than my typical lunch.   

Before I got to Pig and Khao, I was concerned about the name of the place.  However, I rationalized that the chef/owner is Leah Cohen, and that X has been an outstanding contributor to the liturgy of West End Synagogue.  But still, finding Pig and Khao dark, with the corrugated iron gate pulled 2/3 down, was not a total disappointment.  X was more upset than I was, because he had received (and shared) notice of the special summer hours.  In any case, we looked around and, while there was no sign of a good corned beef sandwich or a knish in the neighborhood, we found our way into Balvanera, 152 Stanton Street, at the corner of Suffolk Street, an Argentine restaurant.  The bright, square, high-ceilinged room was empty, but still seemed inviting.  Sammy, a semi-lapsed Orthodox Jew from Chicago, was a friendly host and waiter.  
The lunch menu offers a three-course special at $19, a particularly good deal because it included main courses priced at $13 to $17 alone.  X and I decided, with Sammy's guidance, to order one lunch special and one sandwich, splitting everything along the way.  So, we had two empanadas, one with roast beef and one with vegetables, both excellent, accompanied by a mustardy aioli and chimichurri, a cilantro-based dressing.  Then, we each had half of the hamburguesa Balvanera, a thick cheeseburger, with "provoleta," an Argentine version of provolone, and the Choripan, a typical Latin American sausage sandwich, with a big slab of pimento and pickles.  Both sandwiches came with shoe string fries, a little under cooked. 
Dessert was three 1 inch diameter scoops of mate ice cream.  Mate (mah-tay) is an unpleasant hot beverage, very popular in Argentina.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mate_(beverage)   
Fortunately, the ice cream, made by a local supplier, had only faint notes of mate, and was a pleasant end to a very good meal.  Unfortunately and undeservedly for Balvanera, no other customers came in while X and I enjoyed the food and Sammy's company. 
Friday, August 21, 2015
Right now, I am reading the deposition of a seven-year old girl whose parents are suing a neighbor for trespass.  The parties live in Manhattan; the father works on Wall Street, the mother stays at home.  The girl testified that she takes classes in art, gymnastics, dance and reading (with a reading tutor), after school.  On Saturdays, she takes karate.  Uncle Hymie used to say "America, I love you!  Say it three times a day." 
My mother was born about 9 months and one week after my grandmother arrived in the US from Poland, reunited with my grandfather who left Poland three years earlier.  That made my mother, along with Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, an anchor baby.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Whose Ox Is Gored?

Monday, August 10, 2015
While Excellent Dumpling, 111 Lafayette Street, is consistently very good, where it is excellent is in the speed of getting your food to the table (June 9, 2011, September 13, 2010, February 17, 2010). They have mastered the constant flow of people in and out of this busy location, just south of Canal Street, without sacrificing quality. Today, it was their turn to serve up cold sesame noodles, and they delivered a huge portion worth an A grade ($5.25). The sauce was a little soupy, falling to the bottom of the bowl, requiring constant stirring with my chopsticks to get somewhat even distribution. I used my handkerchief as a bib to try to catch the spattering sauce with near perfect results. I only see one spot on my shirt. However, a droplet managed to fly into my left eye as I sucked in a mouthful of noodles. There were no sesame seeds, no chives, but a few bean sprouts mixed in with the sauce. Wear dark colors.  

If there is something that I know almost as much about as Chinese food, it is obesity. So, this article about Coca-Cola’s funding of a new "science-based" weight control program interested me. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/09/coca-cola-funds-scientists-who-shift-blame-for-obesity-away-from-bad-diets/?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

The science that Coke relies upon though has a dubious basis. "A recent analysis of beverage studies, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, found that those funded by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, the American Beverage Association and the sugar industry were five times more likely to find no link between sugary drinks and weight gain than studies whose authors reported no financial conflicts." http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001578#s3
Money talks.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Who’s reading whom? While I admit to using the New York Times as a point of departure for many of my commentaries, I have to point out the sudden appearance of an article by one of its leading food writers about cold sesame noodles, even as I am engaged in a long-term review of Chinatown’s versions.
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/12/dining/cold-sesame-noodles-without-the-wait-for-takeout.html?hpw&rref=food&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well
The article offers a recipe for preparing cold sesame noodles at home, relatively simple if you have access to a Chinese grocery store. It does require peanut butter, a taste that I’ve always felt distinguished the best cold sesame noodles. Do not hesitate to follow the recipe and remember to call me when it’s done. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to work my way through restaurant noodles on your behalf.
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
You have to feel bad for John Riggi, not just because he died the other day. After all, he lived 90 years. However, as his obituary pointed out over and over again, he "was often mistakenly cited as an inspiration for the acclaimed HBO series ‘The Sopranos.’" Of course, he was an ally of John Gotti and spent 20 years in prison. He was nominally employed as business agent of a New Jersey construction workers’ union. But, try as he might, he failed to reach it to the top, to be the inspiration for Tony Soprano. He went so far as to arrange sweetheart deals and no-show jobs with building contractors, promote loan-sharking, gambling, and arrange hits on opponents and potential witnesses. What more did a guy have to do? Poor John. At least, at the end, he did not have to read what no one dared say to his face. 
Today’s memorable headline: "Jeb Bush Blames Hillary Clinton and Obama for Iraq’s Decline" Once upon a time, there was a peaceable kingdom named Iraq. It was beloved by its neighbors and home to happy people. Then, in 2009, a mean man named Barack Obama and his wicked friend Hillary Clinton decided to make all the vacationing American tourists in Iraq come home before they wanted to. Iraq’s peace and quiet soon disappeared as bell hops, taxicab drivers, waiters and tour guides lost their main source of income, as well as the friendship of the American visitors that had made them happy for so long. It’s no surprise that there are now so many unhappy people in Iraq. All of us here in the forest know that President Bush will make it better.  

Speaking of Middle Eastern countries starting with an I and an R and an A, please read the following from one of leading voices of the International Jewish Conspiracy, unless you don’t want reality to get in the way of your opinions.
http://forward.com/news/318930/a-jewish-journalists-exclusive-look-inside-iran/
East Noodle Village at 86 Chrystie Street, is a new restaurant, having replaced 85 Chinese Restaurant (March 3, 2014). It is long and narrow, with blonde wood paneling on the walls matching the pale wood tables and chairs. There are three large round tables at the rear, with 15 or so two tops mostly pushed together to seat four people. All but one other of the 16 customers were Chinese. East Noodle has a very big and eclectic menu. It offers toast and hot dogs for breakfast and 49 lunch specials at $5.75. Another dozen more exotic lunch specials go for $6.50 to $7.50. Soup and white rice are included. I ordered oxtail with chestnuts ($7.50); that’s the kind of mood that I was in. The almost bland, pale soup had a couple of tiny pieces of oxtail in it and the main course was only slightly more substantial. The oxtail was braised in a brown sauce, but true to ox, was much more bone than meat. With the white rice, it made a very modest lunch and a couple of spots on my shirt and tie.

Some foreign tourists were puzzled at the crowd outside the federal courthouse around the corner from my office at lunchtime. They may have understood that the presence of so many reporters and photographers connoted something important going on inside, but I took the trouble to explain briefly why a dozen or so people were wearing flattened footballs on their heads. While an American professional basketball star might have evoked appreciative nods of recognition, the mention of Tom Brady, appearing in federal district court trying to overturn his four-game suspension from the National Football League, seemed to leave them cold.


Thursday, August 13, 2015
For the third time in its three week existence, I had lunch at Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street. Last week, I enjoyed the food, but lamented the inadequate service which caused several people to leave without getting some food, or any food. I had mixed feelings at seeing the place no more than 1/5 full near 1 PM today when I walked in. That small a group would not put much of a demand on the wait staff, which seemed to be augmented from last week. On the other hand, I want the joint to succeed, because it seemed to be offering good food. However, people kept coming in and the wait staff seemed to cope as more than half the seats were occupied before I left. 

I ordered Pi Pa duck ($14.95) and a side of coconut rice ($1.75). The duck was very good, roasted to a near-crispness and served on a plate coated with hoisin sauce. If I had a loaf of white bread, I could have improvised Beijing duck. While there inevitably was fat to deal with, the duck was very tasty. The only hitch came when I asked for water and tea when I sat down. My waitress came back soon with a glass of water and a cup of hot water with a tea bag in it. I looked at her and said, I want real tea. Oh, Chinese tea, she replied. I skipped making a snarky remark about being in the center of Chinatown asking for tea, and she quickly returned with a classic, squat, cast iron Chinese tea pot and a tea cup no larger than an egg cup. Very enjoyable, and quite authentic except for not having a kimono-clad tea pourer.

Friday, August 14, 2015
In spite of the National Rifle Association's claim that the best way to stop bad guys with guns is for good guys to have guns, the evidence shows that good guys with guns (law enforcement officers) get killed more often by bad guys with guns where it is easy for anybody to get a gun. http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2015.302749

On November 3, 1993, then New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan introduced legislation to raise the federal excise tax on bullets, scaled to those most frequently used in criminal actions. Chris Rock has a contemporary view of this. www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuX-nFmL0II
It’s not too late to save lives, including those of law enforcement officers.

Just when Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO, seemed to emerge as the anti-Trump in the Republican race for the presidential nomination, the gravitational pull of the Domestic Enemies of Sanity has taken hold: "Carly Fiorina waded into the politics of vaccinations on Thursday, explaining to a group in Iowa that she believes parents should have the option not to vaccinate their children."  And here I thought that we had so much in common, since both of us were fired from computer companies.

Meanwhile, one of her opponents, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, famed for his cost-cutting (including reducing the budget of the University of Wisconsin by $250 million), signed a bill this week to subsidize the building of an arena for the Milwaukee Bucks professional basketball team with -- wait a minute -- $250 million in public funds.  For some reason, he could only muster short, white people to witness this historic moment for the National Basketball Association.


Friday, August 7, 2015

Bombs Away

Monday, August 3, 2015
Life offers many challenges and often resulting in disappointments. Therefore, it’s understandable that a random victory may evoke rabid enthusiasm. So, when the International Olympics Committee with only two options, very bad and maybe really bad, chose Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, many locals were crowing with pride. "Winning the bid will surely make more people know about China, that we are a major power now, and we are no worse than the United States," said Zhang Zhaoshi, 76. Sorry, Zhang. All things considered, China is worse than the United States.  

Joseph Berger, CCNY graduate and distinguished reporter for the New York Times, was born in a displaced persons camp in the Soviet Union. His mother escaped the Nazis in Poland and his father in the Ukraine. Recently, Joe and his sister visited their parents’ birthplaces and attempted to detect any sign of a lost Jewish presence. Please read about it. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/02/travel/poland-jewish-heritage.html?_r=0

My European roots are almost two generations more removed than Joe’s and much more obscured by time and loss, but I am considering a similar trip next year with my second cousin Jerry Latter – grandmother Gotthelf was a Latter (Lato in Poland). Once, I had no interest in time and places past, but the excellent genealogical work of Jerry, Ittai Hershman and Steve ("Stony Brook Steve") Schneider has awakened me, I hope not too late, to what has gone before.

By coincidence, yesterday afternoon, the Gotthelfs met the Gothelfs. We invited Eli and Hana Gothelf, the Israeli couple who recently moved across the hall, over for dessert. Eli and I are both at a loss about our Got(t)helf ancestry, but Hana insisted that, after observing us together for a couple of hours, we must be related. I’m not sure whether this will ever be settled. My Gotthelfs, unlike the Latters, have left very little to go by.

A favorable book review of The Conservative Heart, by Arthur C. Brooks, includes a summary of the author’s view on raising the minimum wage. "Brooks believes that the key to personal happiness is ‘earned success.’ A higher minimum wage means that fewer people have the opportunity to experience it." If Brooks sincerely believes in earned success, he should be advocating a sharp increase in inheritance taxes. Let’s really spread personal happiness up and down the economic ladder.

Today, I experienced a spot of déjà vu all over again when I got an e-mail late morning from Eli S., Sharon C.’s husband, who was down here on jury and wanted a restaurant recommendation. As I told his lovely and talented wife last week, don’t move an inch, I’ll be right over. Eli mentioned the V word, but did not insist on a pure V experience. Therefore, I was able to take him to the ever-versatile Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, where we had mushroom chow fun and eggplant with garlic sauce. I did not feel at all denied and Eli was delighted with our food. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015
If I don’t help destroy the health and welfare of future generations, someone else will:
"A group of lawyers, lobbyists and political strategists started devising a strategy for dismantling President Obama’s climate change regulations before he had even put forth a draft proposal." 

The following allegedly appeared in a British periodical:
Sir: I haven’t got a computer, but I was told about Facebook and Twitter and am trying to make friends outside Facebook and Twitter while applying the same principles. Every day, I walk down the street and tell passer-by what I have eaten, how I feel, what I have done the night before and what I will do for the rest of the day. I give them pictures of my wife, my daughter, my dog and me gardening and on holiday, spending time by the pool. I also listen to their conversations, tell them I ‘like’ them and give them my opinion on every subject that interests me . . . whether it interests them or not. And it works. I already have four people following me; two police officers, a social worker and a psychiatrist.
Peter White, Holbrook, Derbyshire

Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Jeb Bush, candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, has worked hard on presenting himself as Jeb!, an unscripted and candid individual. His attempt to be free from any entangling alliances, including his family, has led to his one-name persona, the Liberace of American politics. However, on Tuesday, addressing a Southern Baptist conference, he said that "I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues," to an audience firmly committed to prayer and tightly-crossed legs as the answer to women’s health issues. As a result of his remarks, Jeb has rightly regained the name of Bush.

I returned to Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street (July 27, 2015), now in its second week, to see how it’s doing and to delve into its varied menu. Nasi lemak ($7.50), Malaysia’s national dish, was an easy choice. Tiny anchovies in a hot, hot onion pepper sauce (sambal), coconut rice, fresh cucumber spears, half a hard boiled egg and a potch of chicken rendang (stewed chicken). It was very good, spicy/mild, hard/soft, hot/cold. I started with a scallion pancake ($3.50), which I didn’t expect to even see on the menu, but always a seductive choice for me. It turned out to be an exceptional scallion pancake, differing from any other that I’ve had. Unlike the normal flat disc, 8 or so inches across, 1/4 inch thick, cut into 6 or 8 wedges, this scallion pancake was a roti, the thin flat crêpe that accompanies the curry dipping sauce in a roti canai, another favorite that I had here last week. This roti had slices of scallion in its batter and was served folded in undulating waves. I did not lay it out flat, but it might have been 14 inches in diameter. The sauce on the side was very good, rice wine, more scallions, but far too little to cope with this supersized pancake. I wasn’t able to get my waitress’s attention, so much of the roti went undipped, but not unconsumed.

That brings up the problem with Wok Wok – success. Today, as the lunch hour continued, the joint became more than half full. The two waitresses were overwhelmed taking orders, fetching from the kitchen, settling tabs, accepting payments. I was there early enough not to experience a problem, except for a refill of dipping sauce. The threesome next to me paid and left after getting only some of the dishes that they ordered. A nearby couple left after waiting several minutes for someone to take their order. Another couple appeared about to do the same as I was leaving. I’ll be back and I hope many others will, too, with ample service provided. Wok Wok seems to have very good food, but it has to get to the table to be enjoyed.

"After a long delay and plenty of pushback from corporate America, the Securities and Exchange Commission approved on Wednesday a rule that would require most public companies to regularly reveal the gap between the compensation of the chief executive and the pay of the rest of their employees. . . . Representatives of corporations and the Republican commissioners had a particular dislike for the pay ratio rule. They disputed whether it would be helpful for shareholders, and they asserted that it was motivated by a desire to shame companies into paying their chief executives less." And what’s wrong with that. "Fifty years ago, chief executives were paid roughly 20 times as much as their employees, compared with nearly 300 times as much in 2013, according to an analysis last year by the Economic Policy Institute." http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/06/business/dealbook/sec-approves-rule-on-ceo-pay-ratio.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

Thursday, August 6, 2015
The controversy over the Iran nuclear deal is founded on fear and hatred, the motive forces for so much human behavior. For a moment, let’s try to be coldly practical. My concern is for the safety of Israel, although Iran’s neighbors, Arab Sunnis, have longed feared this strong non-Arab Shiite country. In fact, through the Shah’s regime, Israel and Iran were allied at many levels, including recognizing common enemies. Today, of course, Iran is led by religious fanatics who swear to annihilate Israel, making the prospect of increasing their destructive power unacceptable. But, for a moment, let’s give Iran what so many fear, a nuclear weapon or two. Israel is assumed to have at least 80 nuclear warheads. http://fas.org/issues/nuclear-weapons/status-world-nuclear-forces/

At least since 1967, the Israel Air Force has been recognized as among the world’s most powerful aerial fighting forces. Additionally, Israel had made a substantial investment in missile, anti-missile and anti-aircraft technology. However, it must be assumed that one or more nuclear weapons could hit Israel.

Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, with its concentration of government agencies, seems at first to be the likeliest target. However, Jerusalem has a very large Arab (admittedly not Iranian) population, and, more critically, is home to Qubbat As-Sakhrah, the Dome of the Rock, one of Islam’s most sacred shrines and the oldest extant Islamic monument. Since a nuclear weapon promises to make a big hole, and entails substantial collateral damage, the Dome of the Rock may effectively insulate Jerusalem, and the Israeli government, from damage.

Next stop, Tel Aviv, with a smaller population than Jerusalem, but almost entirely Jewish. Destroying Tel Aviv, however, does not hobble Israel’s ability to react to attack, with a large nuclear arsenal and formidable delivery systems. So, Iran will have to trade Tel Aviv (population 415,000) for Tehran (population 8.4 million) and likely several other major population and industrial centers. Additionally, Tel Aviv is the home to almost every foreign embassy, including Russia (120 Hayarkon Street), the United States (71 Hayarkon Street), Germany (3 Daniel Frisch Street), China (222 Ben Yehuda Street), France (112 Herbert Samuel Promenade), Japan (4 Berkowitz Street). Even if other nations might tolerate the killing of Jews (as they did in the past), the killing of so many foreign diplomatic and support personnel may evoke harsh international reprisals.

Haifa is Israel’s third largest city, and the most secular of the three, although largely Jewish. A nuclear attack would kill many civilians, but not inhibit Israel’s ability to attack Iran.

So, what does the worst case scenario, peddled by heavy-handed Israeli leadership and cynical American politicians, yield? Am I being too casual with the threat to other people’s lives? Not as much as those who flee from negotiation and wrap themselves in sanctimony.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Bagels and Bad Guys

Monday, July 27, 2015
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/26/magazine/why-is-it-so-hard-to-get-a-great-bagel-in-california.html
Or, in the words of an expert local baker, “San Francisco has struggled with the bagel.’’

Wok Wok Southeast Asian Cuisine, 11 Mott Street, is brand new.  It opened yesterday, replacing the quirky Lobster Boat Restaurant that served garlic bread with everything.  The premises were completely gutted and the new interior is very spacious, holding 50-60 people at tables with light natural wood surfaces.  The walls are freshly-painted cream color, and the floors are an off-white ceramic tile.  Only 7 other people were eating while I was there, but I hope that patronage improves.

The menu is wide ranging over several national cuisines.  There are distinct Indian, Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese and Thai elements, with a thread of Indonesian cooking.  I was in a Malaysian frame of mind, so I ordered roti canai ($3.50) and satay chicken ($5.50).  The roti was perfectly balanced between flaky and flexible, but so large that it long outlasted the tasty curry dipping sauce.  The four skewers of chicken, grilled over an open flame, were, by contrast, too skinny.  There just wasn’t much meat there, and it was gone before the interesting peanut sauce was finished.  Still, the quality was evident, and the long, diverse menu warrants more extensive examination.

On my convoluted way back to the courthouse, I found good-looking donut peaches at my favorite fruit stand, southeast corner of Mulberry Street at Canal Street, 12 for $2.50, weighing close to 2 pounds.  If they taste as good as they look, it will be the buy of the year.

A woman is mugged, her diamond engagement ring stolen.  It is uninsured, and never recovered.  She subsequently breaks the engagement, and her former affianced, who purchased the ring, demands reimbursement, pursuant to New York law, which normally supports return of an engagement ring.  Believe it or not, this has never been litigated.  Do you have an opinion?
http://www.newyorklawjournal.com/home/id=1202732615808?kw=For%20This%20Ring%2C%20I%20Thee%20Sue&et=editorial&bu=New%20York%20Law%20Journal&cn=20150727&src=EMC-Email&pt=Special%20Report&slreturn=20150627144249
   
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Another hot day, perfect for cold sesame noodles, but not at Cha Chan Tang, 45 Mott Street. However, old favorite 69 Bayard Restaurant, 69 Bayard Street, came through with flying colors.  The walls there at each visit are even thicker with layers of dollar bills pasted on.  It’s hard to measure, but the surface photographed here on August 29, 2012 may have been entirely covered by new contributions since then.  The bills are not just pasted on, but messages of all sorts are written on the currency, a federal crime pursuant to United States Code, Title 18 - Crimes and Criminal Procedure Part I - Crimes Chapter 17 - Coins and Currency § 333.  

The cold sesame noodles earned a high grade, A+ ($5.50).  The portion was huge, a critical element in Jewish cuisine.  A lot of sesame seeds and even more bright green chive ringlets topped the dish. The noodles were thoroughly coated with the characteristic sticky, salty, sweet sesame sauce.   

Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Trump/Jenner ‘16

The Boyz Club met for lunch at Shanghai Gourmet, 23 Pell Street, on this very hot day.  Even though a heat advisory was in effect, we cool dudes dug into a scallion pancake, cold sesame noodles, soup buns, steamed vegetable dumplings, hot and sour or egg drop soup, chicken with orange flavor, beef with scallions, shrimp with egg sauce, sauteed filet of fish Szechuan style and sauteed filet of fish Shanghai style.  The seven of us paid $12 each, except for the two guys who left early paying me $20 for the privilege of an early departure.

Thursday, July 30, 2015
The donut peaches have peaked and are delicious, one or two cut up in your breakfast cereal.  I’ll look for them again tomorrow to carry me through the weekend.

I was delighted to get an e-mail message from the lovely and talented Sharon C. mid-morning asking for a restaurant recommendation since she was downtown for jury duty.  Better than that, I suggested that we have lunch together. Thus, we went to Kori Tribeca, 253 Church Street, the best Korean restaurant in the area (May 28, 2013, July 15, 2013, March 26, 2014, April 11, 2014).  Well, also the only Korean restaurant in the area.  However, even with competition, Kori would stand out. 

We both ordered lunch boxes, which might be called Bento boxes if Japan has not been such a brutal occupier  of Korea.  Each box had romaine salad, a fried dumpling, cold Japchae, slices of omelette, potato salad (I don't know why), rice - brown or white - and beef short ribs ($14.95) for me and tofu ($11.99) for Sharon (so she's not perfect).

Japchae are sweet potato noodles stir fried in sesame oil. Delicious.  They are not offered as a course by themselves, although other noodles are on the menu.  I intend to go to Kori at some off hour and ask for a pile.  Then, I probably will have found the best cold sesame noodles in Chinatown.

Friday, July 31, 2015
There are Big Bad Guys and Little Bad Guys.  Much of the time, I am agitated by the destructive conduct of Big Bad Guys, Madoff, Mugabe, the Koch brothers, impelled by their lust for wealth and power.  They take a large toll of people and institutions.

By contrast, Little Bad Guys only hurt a few people, usually quite close to them.  However, often the stupidity or ugliness of their behavior leaves me despairing for the human condition, ready to tear up my ACLU membership card.  

Today's paper has a couple of ripe examples, although tragedy was avoided in the first instance.  Sheldon Richardson is one of the best defensive players in the National Football League, playing for the New York Jets.  He is currently suspended for the first four games of the upcoming season, because he violated the league's substance abuse policy.  In spite of that, he managed to get arrested a few days ago for driving his car, a 2014 Bentley Silver Spur, MSRP $200,500, at 143 miles per hour.  According to the police report, the car also contained a 12-year-old, a fully loaded handgun and smelled of marijuana.  

No one in Sheldon's car or in any vehicle in his path was injured, although the potential for disaster was very high.  Will he ever understand the benefits of delayed gratification?

The other story was a real tragedy that seems to confirm my belief that the moral arc of the universe bends towards chaos.  T.R. is a Brooklyn teenager.  Her story just came to light, because she was charged with murder yesterday.  According to the New York Times, "[a]t 14, she went into labor with her first baby before her mother even knew she had conceived a child.  A year later, prosecutors say, she secretly gave birth to a second baby, this time in the bathtub of her apartment.  That baby has disappeared.  The Brooklyn teenager kept yet another pregnancy secret from her family, giving birth in October 2013 in the bathroom of a friend’s apartment in Queens. The birth came to light only because the next day, she and her friend were arrested on shoplifting charges at the Victoria’s Secret store in Manhattan’s Herald Square.  A security guard, smelling a faint rotten odor, found a dead 8-pound boy in her tote bag, along with a stolen pair of pants."  

Spare me the sociology. That's evil.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Post-Modern Ice Cream

Monday, July 20, 2015
The theological insight of the week emerged from Donald Trump’s appearance before a Christian conservative conference on Saturday. Becky Kruse, of Lovilia, Iowa, noted Mr. Trump’s comment about not seeking God’s forgiveness. "He sounds like he isn’t really a born-again Christian."

I’m back to Heaven on Earth, Chinatown and my pursuit of superior sesame noodles. It is 93 degrees, so, fortunately, the first place I went into, the very close by Tasty Dumpling, 42 Mulberry Street, had them for $3.50. Tasty is a reliable source of good, inexpensive food in a totally characterless setting. The plates are paper and the forks are plastic. Much of its business is takeout which allows the 4 four tops to accommodate those of us who are either preoccupied or insensitive to our surroundings.

The large portion of noodles had ample sauce, many slivers of cucumber on top, but no sesame seeds. It rates a B, not memorable, not offensive.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015
The Palazzo di Gotthelf is normally occupied by only two people, quite a contrast to last week’s time spent under the roof with 7 others, not all of legal drinking age. I keep looking around to make sure that a toy or a small child is not underfoot as I move about. There is a noticeable difference in background noise, as well. Last week, it was the sounds of nature, primarily the wind and winged creatures, interrupted by shouts of "it’s mine," and "no" from the youngest generation. This week, I listen to the traffic noise, the sirens on emergency vehicles, and the Hound of the Baskervilles who has been ensconced in a nearby apartment. I am not prepared to declare a favorite.

Trip Advisor has declared favorites including the supposed 25 best zoos in the world. http://www.tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Attractions-cZoos-g1-a_Mode.expanded
I don’t consider myself particularly chauvinistic, although my own list of favorite anythings has a distinctly New York tilt. The reason is my familiarity with local sights, sounds, flora and fauna, and my investment in distinguishing among them. In any case, I was surprised that the Bronx Zoo did not make the top 25 list of zoos. I’m not familiar with any of the selected group, but I think I know why the Bronx Zoo was overlooked, when the Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, Nebraska, the Colchester Zoo, Colchester, England, and the Taronga Zoo, Mosman, Australia made the list. With all due respect to the civic leaders of Omaha, Colchester and Mosman, the Bronx Zoo has some formidable competition for tourist time and money that might overshadow its efforts at animal husbandry. The out-of-towner, who is likely the source of and audience for Trip Advisor ratings, may never get to the Bronx Zoo after delving into some of the other pleasures of a visit to New York City. A trip to the Bronx probably targeted Yankee Stadium at most. So, it is left for us 8 million New Yorkers alone to enjoy the gorilla forest, the giraffe house, the pheasant aviary, the bison range and the monkey house and, as we do in so many other regards, keep our opinions to ourselves.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015
The New York Times takes an early look at the bagel: http://www.nytimes.com/times-insider/2015/07/21/1946-the-times-explains-the-bagel/?_r=0

In an interview posted on-line, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. railed against the "post-modern" concept of liberty allegedly adopted by the majority in the same-sex marriage case, Obergefell v. Hodges. "It’s the freedom to define your understanding of the meaning of life." However, the freedom to define your understanding of the meaning of life is precisely what Alito touts in writing for the majority in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., which permits corporations to limit insurance coverage to employees based on the religious beliefs of the owners who "assert that funding the specific contraceptive methods at issue violates their religious beliefs . . . [a]nd protecting the free-exercise rights of corporations like Hobby Lobby, Conestoga, and Mardel protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control those companies." In sum, Samuel "God-forbid-you-call-me-post-modernist" Alito finds that the meaning of life as understood by the owners of Hobby Lobby is Good Old Fashioned Liberty while those rainbow-bedecked creatures are trying to assert Post-Modern Liberty.

I thought that I would wait a while until I had more cold sesame noodles and then I didn't. Old Sichuan Cuisine, 65 Bayard Street, is a small dreary place, with any interior that appears to have been no more than half finished, and the completed half ill conceived and ill executed. That didn't stop the "cold sesame glass noodles" ($4.95) from rating an A.

The portion was large, with sesame seeds, cucumber slivers and little chive ringlets on top. There was a generous amount of sauce, which, if a little stickier, would have earned the dish an A+.

Thursday, July 23, 2015
10 Below Ice Cream, 10 Mott Street, is still in its first week of operation, but three column inches in the food section of Wednesday’s New York Times has called attention to it. It is "a shop that uses a Thai method. Cream or custard is poured over into a chilled metal container and worked with trowels until it freezes to a creamy consistency. . . . Fruit and other ingredients can be folded in. It’s then scooped, in rolls, into a cup with optional toppings." You have to see it to understand. 

In any case, I was there with about a dozen Chinese-American teenagers who were so giddy that I can only imagine that they had just received their Ivy League acceptances. I ordered S’mores Galore, too safe and dull a choice. The base ice cream is vaguely vanilla for all concoctions, the add-ons providing taste and identity. A generous cup is $6, tax included. The small space, actually down 6 steps, is newly-painted battleship gray. There are two ledges, two small, high round tables and about 10 stools to park yourself. Right now, it serves nothing but ice cream. If I return, it will be to try the peanut butter and fig jam combo.  Sounds very post-modern to me.

Friday, July 24, 2015
Kiki’s Greek Tavern, 130 Division Street, got even more space in Wednesday’s New York Times. The favorable review noted that it is somewhat of an anomaly, a Greek restaurant planted in the expanded turf of Chinatown. Indeed, the name on the awning is "written in Chinese characters, with no English translation," an equal challenge for a visitor from Athens or the Upper West Side.

Stony Brook Steve, having seen the same article, ventured downtown to join me for lunch.  The place successfully aims to be funky, with an interior resembling an old warehouse.  It uses a lot of wood, barely finished.  There are two rooms, the front room off the street has 10 tables for 2 or 4 people, and a side room, set at a right angle, has 6 high tables for 2 or 4 (tightly squeezed) and a long, high counter for 8, all with high wooden stools.  We estimated that any two patrons might not exceed the age of either one of us.

Service was very friendly and the very typical Greek-American menu was moderately priced.  We shared a plate of taramosalata ($6), creamy fish roe, and a portion of grilled loukaniko ($10), sausage with barely discernible orange peel.  Instead of pita, they served a (whatever the Greek word for) Tuscan bread, brushed with olive oil and toasted over an open fire. 

Steve ordered a Greek salad (horiatiki $10) for his main course, while I, having to lift the scales of justice this afternoon, had moussaka ($11).  It was very good, even though it came without the side of heartburn that I was used to.  In fact, all the food was very good and made Kiki's worth visiting and reporting.  However, in spite of its location and the writing over the front door, it does not make in onto the list of Chinese restaurants.  

Friday, July 17, 2015

Country Idyll

Monday, July 13, 2015
We are staying in a beautiful house in Great Barrington.  It is large and carefully finished and furnished.  The 5 bedrooms and 4 ½ bathrooms offer the 6 adults and 3 children, plus an occasional guest or two, ample room to interact or hide.  There is also over 12 acres surrounding us with green space and trees and a pond full of frogs.  While there is no swimming pool, there is a serious hot tub.

Normally, I avoid reporting ordinary pleasures, but we had so many interesting and pleasant experiences that were characteristic of the region that I have to pass them on.

On Saturday, we went to the Berkshire Botanical Garden, 5 West Stockbridge Road, Stockbridge, on 15 acres of cultivated land.  It had flowers and trees and shrubs and vegetables presented with attention to information and aesthetics.  Not the sort of destination that Grandpa Alan usually seeks, but definitely worth a visit.  Lunch, for those of us who could sit still without banging a toy on a table, was at Prairie Whale, 178 Main St., Great Barrington, with somewhat untypical, better than average pub food.

Saturday night, the second generation feted America’s Favorite Epidemiologist (Mom to some) with a dinner prepared in house by Chef Marianna Morrison.  The Moroccan menu included eggplant croquettes with tarragon aioli, watermelon, mint and feta skewers, babaganouj, hummus, labine, spiced salmon with chermoula (cilantro-based) sauce, couscous with citrus, pomegranate and pistachios.  You may be drooling just reading about it, and, while sloppy, that would be an appropriate response.  Consider using Chef Morrison for a celebration anywhere in the Berkshires.

Sunday morning, we went to Tanglewood for an open concert beginning at 10 AM.  We sat on the lawn under a cloudless sky, necessitating moving around to stay in the shade, except when I fell asleep.  The 2+ hour chamber music program was eclectic and far reaching, including Mozart, Debussy and a couple of modern composers, Marc Neikrug and Natalie Draper.  For the giddy among you, the overall theme of the concert might have been Bach to Bach, Johann Sebastien Bach, Cantata No. 155 (Mein Gott, wie lang, ach lange, appropriately translated as "enough already") to Jan Bach, a contemporary American horn player and composer.

Monday, we visited Mass MOCA in North Adams.  While some of the works on display are opaque, to be polite, there were some particularly interesting items, notably Clifford Ross: Landscape Seen & Imagined, featuring a 24' by 114' (yes, feet) photograph of a mountain.  For dinner, we had grown to 11 people, and headed for a pizza joint in Great Barrington.  Although we thought that, in spite of the size of our group, an early dinner on a Monday night would not be a problem.  Wrong, especially when ahead of us was a party of 21.  20 Railroad Restaurant, 20 Railroad Street, Great Barrington, a popular pub found room for us, with very good results.  The Oakland Heartthrob and I shared a delicious portion of “Dragon Wings,” chicken wings in a sweet and spicy sauce laced with bourbon.  I followed that with a chili Thai burger, what an excellent hamburger would taste like in Bangkok.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Given the close quarters with our three grandchildren, my fund of knowledge was increased.  I learned, for instance, that there is a video game entitled “Plants vs. Zombies.”  The official description is “A mob of fun-loving zombies is about to invade your home, and your only defense is an arsenal of 49 zombie-zapping plants.”  The scary part was not the zombies, but how the 4-year 11-month old grandson had completely mastered this bizarre arrangement of lights, sounds, colors and shapes.  Remarkably, the game requires a strategic sense in selecting and placing your zombie-zapping plants, which this kid handled with the aplomb of an eight-year old.  

Ten folks came over for drinks in the afternoon, and to swoon over our (temporary) lavish accommodations.  And they started swooning even before they started drinking.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Everyone but me went to the Clark Art Institute, 225 South Street, Williamstown, a gem of a museum abutting Williams College.  I had a couple of errands to run, so I went driving over hill and dale for a few hours.  Back together, we went to Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, 358 George Carter Road, Becket (or, 1 mile from Burt’s place), for the free 6:15 PM “Inside/Out” show.  New Generation Dance Company, a tango-inspired company, performed on an outdoor stage in front of an expansive green landscape.  All of our generations enjoyed this, one of a large number of free programs now offered at Jacob’s Pillow.  If we were staying around longer, I’m sure that we would go back.

Thursday, July 16, 2015
We had lunch at Spoon, 26 Housatonic Street, Lenox, an excellent choice for breakfast or lunch.  I had two small pieces of fried chicken on a waffle, drizzled with maple syrup.  Really good.  The congenial Cohens came over for drinks and stayed for dinner, helping us wind up a wonderful week.

Friday, July 17, 2015
Our drive home was uneventful, no traffic until we hit area code 212.  Clearly, I stayed away from the BIG ISSUES while on this vacation, but I had a joyous reentry to the real world when I read the bold words of Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, on the trail to the Republican presidential nomination.  A reporter in New Hampshire asked him yesterday if he was a conservative or an independent.  While we know that Walker never finished college and, therefore, may not have taken a full sequence of political theory, he responded thoughtfully: “I’m an American, that’s what I am.  I’m an American.”  Could Fillmore, Harding or Bush have said it better?