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.
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:

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?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Street and Road Food

Monday, July 6, 2015
I read the New Yorker regularly.  With the Sunday paper, it takes most of my weekly reading time.  I also give a gift subscription, one now, 2 or 3 in the past, to friends far removed.  Therefore, I was bothered by the recent renewal notice for the magazine -- $99.95 for the first subscription (mine) and $89.95 for each and every gift.  That's already money.  It seemed like 50% more than when I last noticed.  I didn't want to curb my generosity, as limited as it is, or cut myself off, but I felt squeezed.  So, I put the renewal notice aside for a time.  

Then, I noticed what we naturally ignore, those flimsy postcard inserts that flutter out of a magazine's back pages.  They are called "blow-ins" and are properly considered an annoyance.  Calvin Trillin once suggested that we all deposit those blank postage-paid cards into the mailbox to teach publishers a lesson.  This evoked a harsh response from a spokesperson for "serious direct marketers."

Muttering over the prospect of paying almost two hundred bucks for a magazine, I saw that the card dropping to my feet from the latest copy of the New Yorker claimed to be offering a good deal on subscriptions.  As little as $1.47 a copy for 47 issues (a year's worth with double issues) plus a tote bag.  I called the customer service line found on my renewal notice and went over the math with the customer servicer.  Indeed, 47 times $1.47 equals $69.09, considerably less than $99.95,or even $89.95.  She reupped me (and my beneficiary) and threw in two tote bags, for $138.18.  Silence ain't golden.

Sesame Street is proving to be a bit of a rocky road.  I walked in and out of several joints today that don't serve cold sesame noodles: Wonton Noodle Garden, 56 Mott Street; Golden Mandarin Court, 61 Mott Street; Amazing 66 Restaurant, 66 Mott Street; Big Wong Restaurant, 67 Mott Street; 456 Shanghai Cuisine, 69 Mott Street.  Finally, I connected at Canton Lounge, 70 Mott Street.  The medium large portion was sprinkled with sesame seeds and generously sauced ($3.95).  The sauce was a tad sweet, keeping the dish from the top ranks.  It was good, though, and I made all gone.   

Queen Anne, Rainier or white cherries, they may not be the same, but I bought two pounds for $5 from the little lady on the southeast corner of Mulberry Street and Canal Street, a reliable source of fruit.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2015  

My logic may not be fool-proof, but I see a parallel between the Confederate flag controversy and the Arab-Israeli conflict.  In both instances, it is the losers who have been trying to set the terms for the future.  Admittedly, the quagmire in the Middle East has several critical elements, but the refusal of Arab states to accommodate and assimilate their displaced brethren, pretending that return to territory lost in battle is a viable option, is no better than celebrating the flag of a defeated (and dishonored) cause.

The New York Times gave the results of a survey of 3,244 subscribers, not meant to represent the public at large.  The question was "How old were you when you first traveled out of the country you were born in?"  I can't find the link, so I'll repeat the results: 9% under 5 years old, 14% 5-9, 16% 10-14, 19% 15-19, 24% 20-24, 18% 25 or older.  Since I did not come from a household that offered me anything but a junior year in a part-time job in the bar association library, I thought that I would land on one end of the bell curve with my first trip to England at age 43, even though I've picked up the pace since then.  

However, I started thinking back – 1982, corporate conference in Toronto; 1974ish, vacation in Montreal; 1973, day trip to Tijuana; 1972, business junket to Germany; and, from the deep recesses of memory, 1950, family vacation trip around New York State in brand new, pea-soup green, 4-door Dodge sedan, including Niagara Falls, both sides.  So, I am more well-traveled than I first thought, but I doubt that many recent college sophomores would trade their upcoming academic year for all my early travels put together.  

Wednesday, July 8, 2015 
I'm not eating cold sesame noodles every few days in order to see how many cold sesame noodles I can eat every few days.  Rather, I think that this popular dish is a natural for lunch as the weather turns warm and warmer.  By popular, I don't mean as popular as chopped liver at a Shabbos dinner.  In fact, I'm discovering that cold sesame noodles aren't as popular in Chinatown as I first imagined.  Today, Delight 28 Restaurant, 28 Pell Street, and Nom Wah Tea Parlor, 13 Doyers Street, said no noodles.  However, Shanghai Gourmet, 23 Pell Street, came through as it does consistently.  Their cold sesame noodles ($4.25) rated A- (I'm abandoning the mealymouthed use of Good and variations thereof in discussing cold sesame noodles).  The portion was medium large; slivers of cucumber on top, but no sesame seeds.  It was amply sauced, but the sauce lacked an edge.  Maybe a bit of soy sauce or hot sauce was needed.  Since I was at Shanghai Gourmet, I ordered a scallion pancake as well, since I have praised it here often enough.  However, I could have given a little more consideration to the choice of starch plus starch.  I'll try to remember next time.

Maybe I have not been following Republican politics closely enough, because I only learned today that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker does not have a college degree.  This distinguishes him from all of his competitors for the Republican presidential nomination, although occasionally the benefits of higher education appear to have eluded them.  The question then arises, "Would that make him a bad president?"  
This article by two political scientists concludes " we don't think so."  Their opinion is backed by their recent dry-as-dust academic paper on the subject:
Whatever your opinion of Scott Walker or of the value of higher education in general, I find the study far from conclusive.  The major problem is that they cast their net too far and include  "randomly audited municipalities in Brazil" alongside "data on close elections in the US Congress."  While I am not an American exceptionalist, I find it easy to separate Brazil, ("where the nuts come from," quoth Charley's fake aunt Donna Lucia D'Alvadorez) from the US Congress (where the nuts go to).  

Friday, July 10, 2015
Today begins a seven day vacation in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where my young bride has rented a house to gather in our three generations under one roof to celebrate her birthday.  I am sure that we will eat during this interlude, but I am uncertain how far east the menus will extend.  I will try to continue reporting even thus inhibited.
In fact, on the way up, we stopped at one of our very favorite on-the-road joints, Another Fork in the Road, 1215 Route 199, Red Hook, New York, just a short distance from the Red Hook exit of the Taconic Parkway.  If you have any reason to be in northern Dutchess County or southern Columbia County for breakfast, lunch or an early dinner, take Another Fork in the Road.  They make their own soda, use local products as much as possible, and offer surprising and surprisingly well-prepared dishes, such as Warm Duck Confit Salad, eggs benedict with smoked trout and shakshut, the spicy Israeli egg dish.  It made a great start to our vacation.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Right Reason

Monday, June 29, 2015
I continued my trip down Sesame Street today.  However, Ping’s Seafood, 22 Mott Street, one of the nicest restaurants in Chinatown, did not serve cold sesame noodles, nor did Hop Kee, 21 Mott Street, sitting directly beneath Shanghai Asian Manor, where I started on a high note.  I turned the corner and found cold sesame noodles at Sichuan Hot Pot Cuisine, 34 Pell Street ($5.25), but I was disappointed.  The portion was large and sesame seeds were sprinkled on top, but the sauce was salty and sharp, almost acrid.  I only ate half of what was on the plate.

Reviewing the US Supreme Court’s opinion on same-sex marriage, much attention had been paid to Chief Justice Roberts’ dissent, wherein he is unable to find same-sex marriage in the Constitution.  Allow me, a mere New York State law clerk to edify him.  First, marriage of any flavor does not appear in the Constitution, but that has not removed it from constitutional law.  Most appropriately, we have a precedent in Loving v Virginia, 388 US 1 (1967), where the Court held that a state violated the 14th Amendment by prohibiting “white” and “colored” people from marrying each other.  The state law deprived plaintiffs of liberty, the “freedom to marry [that] has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men [and maybe women?].”  Roberts and many conservatives choose to agonize over what is marriage, when the issue is what is liberty.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2015
We went to the bris for Bari and Howard’s son this morning.  If you stand far enough back, a bris is a very lovely event.  The food afterwards was superb.  I concentrated on the sable (smoked cod) and whitefish, not even pausing at the lox.  In order to save room for the rugelach and pain au chocolat, I skipped the blintzes and the omelet station.  The coffee was very good, too.  Mazal tov to all, including the caterer.

It would have been piggish (decidedly not Kosher) to go out for lunch after such a big late breakfast. Also, the airconditioning in my office was particularly effective as the afternoon heated up, so I stayed at my desk.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015
A birthday for a beautiful granddaughter.

Bite of Hong Kong, 81 Chrystie Street, is brand new.  It is bright, decorated in white and brown. There are 9 large 4 tops and three large booths which can easily hold 6 people.  Fresh pink carnations were on every table, about 2/3 of which were occupied, only one other by a non-Asian.  The menu is pretty typical and includes 35 lunch specials, either $6.25 or $6.75.  That also gets you soup, a small bowl that looks like dishwater, but tastes a bit better, rice and tea.

I was hungry so I ordered seafood siu mai ($4.95) to start and beef with pepper and black bean sauce ($6.75), a lunch special.  It was fortunate that I chose two things because the portions were small.  In fact, the siu (shu) mai were tiny, four small spheres barely 1/2 inch in diameter.  The contents were so finely ground that you could not tell whether they originated on land, in the air or in the sea.  The beef dish was very good, however, containing green and red peppers, red and yellow onions, celery and sliced beef in a pungent black bean sauce.  The area, still the informal terminal for a lot of Chinatown buses, is getting "nicer" and Bite is a sign of that.

I have excluded my sex life, real and imagined, from these writings for prudential and practical reasons.  Ultimately, it has been relatively ordinary and I would be more embarrassed by boring you rather than scandalizing you.  This distinguishes me from Tavon White, an occupant of the Baltimore City Detention Center, who has fathered five children with four of the female guards while inside the prison.  He seems to be the natural successor to Dale Carnegie, author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

Thursday, July 2, 2015
Stony Brook Steve is here for lunch and we returned to Sesame Street.  We went to Yeah Shanghai Deluxe, 50 Mott Street, and found it to be as reliable as it has been in the past (February 19, 2010, July 12, 2010, April 12, 2011, May 8, 2013, June 12, 2013, September 19, 2013, November 6, 2103, March 18, 2015).  We shared cold sesame noodles ($3.95) and two lunch specials, orange flavored beef ($5.75) and diced chicken with black bean sauce ($4.95).  Each lunch came with a tasty bowl of egg drop soup.  The beef was very good, with the sticky, gooey sweet sauce that you spoon up after the plate is otherwise clean.  The chicken was well prepared, but the black bean sauce was bland, in contrast to yesterday's at Bite of Hong Kong.

The sesame noodles were very good, the portion medium to medium-large.  A few sesame seeds were sprinkled on top and the sauce very good, but not quite as good as Shanghai Asian Manor's.  Overall, though, we ate well, in decent quantity, at a very reasonable cost.  I'll continue on Sesame Street next week.

Friday, July 3, 2015
The jurisprudence of Antonin Scalia:
On voting to uphold DOMA -- "We have no power to decide this case.  And even if we did, we have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation.”
In oral argument before voting to repeal the Voting Rights Act -- "That’s the — that’s the concern that those of us who — who have some questions about this statute have.  It’s — it’s a concern that this is not the kind of a question you can leave to Congress.”

This inconsistency is quite characteristic of the Supreme Court.  Felix Frankfurter was probably the last justice to attempt to practice a consistent jurisprudence, and he wound up isolated and ignored by his peers, and many legal scholars as well.  Scalia simply pretends that he is not peddling his politics, while his chirpings sound right at home amidst the ever-expanding roster of Republican presidential candidates.

Paul H. forwarded this article on Yiddish, which should evoke nostalgia in many of you.  The rest should envy us.

This is the Birthday of all Birthdays.  We have, in order of seniority, David G., Aryeh G., Nate P. and Meredith S.  Happy Birthday to all.

Finally, a little puzzle to start your holiday.  It's simple, but has some serious implications, or not.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Open Sesame

Monday, June 22, 2015
I spend a lot of time at West End Synagogue, and not all of it eating. I was, therefore, able to recognize an error in biblical history in a profile about a Brooklyn nun who is devoted to work among the poor. The New York Times wrote (in print), "Ms. Martinez de Luco likes to cite a biblical passage from Leviticus in which Jesus tells farmers to leave some fallen grain behind for the needy." Even I know that Leviticus is the third book of the Torah, together the five books of Moses, the Hebrew Bible. While it describes earlier events, it is considered to have been written 500 to 600 hundred years before Jesus appeared. He was definitely not in the original cast. When I went to the on-line version of the article on Sunday, I found, "Ms. Martinez de Luco likes to cite a biblical passage from Leviticus in which farmers are told to leave some fallen grain behind for the needy." Obviously, someone from the Times got religion overnight.

My favorite idiot of the week:
"Houston-based lawyer Charles Cotton, listed as a national NRA board member . . . said that one of the nine people slain, church pastor and [South Carolina] Democratic state Senator Clementa Pinckney, had voted against legislation in 2011 that would have allowed concealed possession of handguns in restaurants, day-care centers and churches. ‘Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead,’ Cotton wrote."

Not far behind is "Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry [who] on Friday suggested the fatal shooting of nine black people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white male was a drug-induced ‘accident.’"

Honorable mention to several Fox commentators who claim that the South Carolina massacre was an attack on Christianity.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Amazon joined Walmart, Sears, Kmart and eBay in announcing that it would stop selling Confederate flag decorated merchandise. If you think that’s just a couple of T-shirts, think again. According to the New York Times, "[s]uch items numbered more than 29,000 on the Amazon website Tuesday morning, including bikinis, shower curtains, ceramic coasters, cupcake toppers and a tongue ring." That blows my Hanukkah gift list sky high.

The Four Seasons, 99 East 52nd Street, is my favorite restaurant. The food, the service, the setting are all superior. However, my visits have become much more infrequent over the decades as my work and residence have moved further away. So, I am only mildly saddened at the news that it will move after 57 years because of a rent increase of over 5 times. My memories of good times there are now older than my favorite shoes.

The landlord explained his thinking about the future of the space in the current issue of the New Yorker. "You want to have the guy coming to the Four Seasons who has the ripped jeans and a T-shirt equally as much as you want the guy with the Tom Ford suit." Well, no. While I don’t wear Tom Ford because he doesn’t make anything in XXL, I find the guy in ripped jeans usually acceptable company only in a subway car. (I exclude honest working men and women who must toil in sharp-edged or abrasive surroundings.)

I know it’s all about free choice and the market, but choosing to wear rags, as opposed to having no choice but, is, I freely choose to say, stupid. And ugly, too. What of the rationale that the wearer is disdainful of fashion, freed from the bourgeois concerns surrounding appearance? OK. Then, explain why Dolce & Gabbana sells "ripped denim jeans" for $537 (marked down from $895), Les Hommes "slim distressed jeans" for $352, and MCQ Alexander Mcqueen "distressed slim fit jeans" for $250 (marked down from $500).

Wednesday, June 24, 2015
In the past, I attempted systematic evaluations of scallion pancakes and Peking duck in Chinatown. Now, with summer fully upon us, I will pursue cold sesame noodles hither and yon. I thought that I would take a structured approach, working my way up Mott Street, traditional Chinatown's Main Street. I was thwarted immediately when I found that Noodle Village, 13 Mott Street, in spite of its name, did not serve cold sesame noodles. I moved on to the Mother Church, Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, skipping Wo Hop City, 15 Mott Street, where, for the only time in the last 5 1/2 years, I stopped eating a dish after a few bites and left without paying – cold sesame noodles (July 6, 2010). However, (the good) Wo Hop was overcrowded, and I would have to wait halfway up the stairs to get in. So, I continued to Shanghai Asian Manor, 21 Mott Street, also full, but I decided to stay when I spotted a couple in a booth pulling out currency.

Good move. The cold sesame noodles ($4.75) were excellent. Lots of thick, gooey sesame sauce, although the total portion was barely medium-sized. It also lacked that sprinkling of sesame seeds on top, but it still tasted wonderful. It will be hard to do better, but duty calls me to walk these streets, these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.

The weather is gorgeous today, and my simple lunch gave me time to linger in Columbus Park. The most northeastern corner of the park was occupied by an avid musical ensemble – a (European) violin, a tenor saxophone, a banjo, an Erhu (the two-stringed Chinese fiddle), and a flute, backing up an intense altoish female singer. The results were interesting, what would five musicians and a vocalist sound like if they had nothing in common?

Thursday, June 25, 2015
Robert Sietsma, formerly food critic for the Village Voice and author of The Food Lover's Guide to The Best Ethnic Eating in NYC, has an updated list of cheap restaurants for those of you garbed neither in a Tom Ford suit or ripped jeans. He is worth regarding.

His list includes only two (Manhattan) Chinatown spots, XO Kitchen, 148 Hester Street (July 2, 2010, January 15, 2014), and Big Hing Wong Restaurant, 300 Grand Street, and there some confusion ensues. On May 12, 2011, I reported that I went to Big Wing Wong at that address, the same name as a joint at 102 Mott Street, which later changed its name (Big Wing Wong on May 6, 2010, 102 Noodles Town on June 15, 2012). So, I walked over to 300 Grand Street to settle the name issue. There I found a busy Big Hing Hong. All 11 tables were occupied, if only by 1 or 2 people. The very large menu has about 40 lunch specials at $5.75, including soup and white rice. I skipped that and ordered dim sum, a dozen items for $2.25 or $2.50, prepared to order. I had dried shrimp rice noodles, steamed buns and pan fried vegetable buns. All of them were very good, freshly made and hot, not lukewarm from circling a big room on a cart. The four steamed buns were actually small soup buns. A couple of the staff knew English well enough to deny that the name had ever been Big Wing Wong, as I once thought. Of course, I am omitting Big Wong a/k/a Big Wong King, 67 Mott Street, from this discussion. 

Friday, June 26, 2015
I'm not sure whether to look to sociology, theology or psychology to understand the conduct of radical Muslims. Everyday on almost every continent, they are responsible for violent episodes that often don't discriminate in their victims. Their co-religionists probably have physically suffered at their hands more than any other group, and unquestionably bear the brunt of the scorn, fear and worse from the rest of us. 

The nihilism of radical Muslims seems to result from the tenacity of modern civilization in opposition to their romantic visions of ancient Caliphates. The last time that we shared common ground might have been the seventh century. No, I don't have an answer.

I resumed my sesame noodle review at Hop Lee, 16 Mott Street. It distinguished itself from Shanghai Asian Manor by serving a heaping plate of noodles, with sesame seeds scattered on top ($6.95). The only problem was the flat taste, lacking that wonderful salty/sweet peanut butter flavor that normally elevates this dish to culinary heights. I left over about 1/3. Not recommended.

I intend to eat cold sesame noodles twice a week throughout the summer, if possible, and report my findings.  More than that might be almost as foolish as having Chinese food for lunch everyday. 

Obamacare and same-sex marriage, two historic decisions by the US Supreme Court, back to back. Both decisions will inevitably wind up in constitutional law case books for law students, and produce learned commentaries. It's the other voices that interest me. Among politicians, opposition to one often seems to correspond to opposition to the other. While their arguments may be cloaked in fancy language, their message too often boils down to -- I have it, but you can't. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

I Scream

Monday, June 15, 2015
A&W is not just root beer anymore. It now signifies the newest engaged couple on the North American continent.  

All New York court employees statewide are on the same email system, thousands in number. That explains the following message that I sent this morning:
"In the 21st century, our email system should not require searching on a first name basis. We may be friendly, but there are simply too many Johns, Marys, even Alans, to have to scroll through myriad alternatives to find the person you need to communicate with."

According to today’s New York Law Journal, the 100 largest law firms in New York State employ about 21,500 lawyers in New York State, ranging from 778 employed to 85. Manhattan is where most of these lawyers are concentrated. In fact, over 88,000 lawyers are registered in New York County. Less than 10 of these firms have only one office. Other locations seem to be London or Hong Kong as likely as Los Angles or Chicago. Total number of lawyers employed by these 100 firms worldwide is almost 88,000 (as of December 31, 2014). Wow! Is that good news or bad news?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Can you suggest another side dish? "No support for eating placenta." New York Times headline.

I started the MilkMade superexpensive ice cream last night. It was sheer coincidence that America’s Favorite Epidemiologist was away delivering a paper to other epidemiologists. A Midsummer Night’s ‘Scream, containing Ronnybrook Farm Dairy milk and cream, sugar, egg yolks, lavender, organic pansies, and crisp (sugar, flour, brown sugar, butter, oats), can only be described as interesting, the wonderful adjective that deflects judgment. Much more enjoyable was the June Gloom, containing Ronnybrook Farm Dairy milk and cream, sugar, cream cheese, blueberries, and Mast Brothers chocolate. Note that MilkMade is proud of its local suppliers. This was excellent blueberry ice cream which did not benefit from the addition of chocolate. In fact, the chocolate clumps were a bit of a distraction. If they wanted to include my favorite food, they should have used those chocolate slivers that Häagen-Dazs calls chocolate chips, or those chocolate shavings found in good stracciatella gelato. In all, we had a C+ and an A. My future with MilkMade does not look bright.

Reuters: "Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said he had settled a libel suit against the Forbes magazine group over its reporting on his fortune, which he claimed was billions of dollars larger than the magazine estimated." Has anyone written about the size of his penis?

I was actually glad to receive an e-mail message this morning from my cousin Barbara informing me that she was in Kharkiv, Ukraine, where she hurried on short notice to aid an ill cousin suffering from kidney disease. She explained that she needed $2,550 to transfer the patient back to the USA for a transplant operation, a much better venue than downtown Ukraine. Barbara said that her credit card couldn’t work there. It had been a while since I gotten such a plea and I feared that I had been forgotten by my many friends whose overseas travels so often entailed a financial crisis. I am so pleased to still be regarded as someone with something to offer.

The large bowl of soup offered by Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, isn’t very large, but it usually has wall-to-wall wontons, leaving little room for the soup. This makes the special that they run early each week (I think Monday-Wednesday only) in the warmer months more special. $2 a bowl, half price. Add their unequaled crispy noodles ($1) and you have a very good lunch. I didn’t think that I was hungry, but I had a second bowl for an even better lunch.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015
What a special day. The Boyz Club headed for lunch at Shanghai Gourmet, 23 Pell Street, to see how well it continues to turn out superior scallion pancakes. It turns out that the entire joint was sold out for a Bar Mitzvah or the Buddhist equivalent thereof.  So, we went next door to Joe's Ginger, 25 Pell Street, and consumed scallion pancakes, soup dumplings, Yellow Fish Filet with Rice Wine Sauce, Spicy Pepper Salt Fish Filet, Orange Beef, Crispy Pork Chop with Pepper Salt, and Eggplant with Garlic Sauce.  The food was very good, even excellent. The scallion pancakes went right to the top of the list. We paid $20 each.   

Oh, it is also my bedmate’s birthday. Almost forgot.

Thursday, June 18, 2015
To celebrate that special birthday last night, I bought ice cream sandwiches from Jacques Torres, his fabulous chocolate chip cookies (slightly reduced in diameter) holding one of his ice cream flavors. We shared one made with "Wicked" flavor ice cream, a dark chocolate with ancho chilli and chipotle chilli, a bracing combination. We have another sandwich, with hazelnut ice cream to share tonight. I must note with sadness that the MilkMade ice creams played no part in our celebration. I don’t question the care in selecting and combining ingredients by MilkMade, but the final product is simply priced several times higher than the results warrant. The best ice cream that I have ever had was at Berthillon, Glacier Depuis 1954, 29-31 rue Saint Louis en l'île, 75004 Paris. It is also sold at other sites, but, as my favorite hotel is just down the block, going to the source is the natural choice. Current prices are 1 scoop for 2.5 euros, 2 scoops for 4 euros. Don’t hesitate.

Friday, June 19, 2015
Good Good Taste, 13A Market Street, will not be found in any travel guide.  In fact, it's hard to find even if you are standing ten feet away.  It's a long, narrow space, about 50 feet south of East Broadway, in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge.  It contains 4 two tops and 4 four tops, with little folding stools to sit on.  I have no idea how long it has been operating, but its surfaces need a good steam cleaning.  Even if a tourist wanders in, the menu will discourage lingering -- Crispy Pork Intestine, Duck Tongue, Fish Head w. Bean Curd Casserole, Pork Blood w/ Baby Chive. 

I ordered Pan Fried Oyster, Home Style ($12.95) and got a good good tasting 12" oyster and scallion pancake.  The young waitress asked me several questions about maybe what I was ordering, maybe how I wanted it prepared, maybe what else I might want, or maybe not.  By combining hand gestures, lip twisting and brow lifting, I indicated that I'll take it the usual way.

My communications skills failed me however when I tried to get a cup of tea.  Nothing that I said came close to anything that she and several fellow homeboy customers recognized.  When I switched to asking for Diet Coke, she brightened up, but told me regular Coke only.  I wonder if the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement would have made a difference?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Mission Impossible

Monday, June 8, 2015

The New York Times must have a building somewhere just full of numbers, because it frequently offers us such fascinating statistics.  Today, it publishes a study of the geography of sports championships, where do the trophies go?  Or, as the headline suggests, where don’t the trophies go?
Cleveland, now in the finals of the National Basketball Association championship, leads the way, in a manner of speaking, having won it all never since 1965 in any of North America’s leading professional sports.  That encompasses 147 seasons of fruitless competition in all of those sports combined.  

The other side of the coin is found in Boston, whose teams have won titles in 10% of the seasons in which they have competed over the last 50 years.

Ars gratia artis – “Pole dance routines by exotic dancers in an Albany-area juice bar are an expression of artistic merit, but the private couch dances performed for individual patrons are not, a state tax department administrative law judge has ruled.”  New York Law Journal, 06/08/15.  

Tuesday, June 9, 2015  
Michael Ratner and I are going to the Mets game tonight, but first, on the way, we are eating at Ben’s Best Kosher Gourmet Delicatessen (as it styles itself), 96-40 Queens Boulevard, Rego Park, really the best Kosher delicatessen standing.  Michael’s business, before he retired, was located not too far away from Ben’s and he used it frequently for catering and his own meals.  As a result, he had a sandwich named after his company, the Richter & Ratner.  I recall that it was turkey, pastrami and chopped liver, piled very high.  America’s Favorite Epidemiologist and I would share it, although we sometimes substituted roast beef or corned beef for the turkey, when we visited my mother, who lived nearby.  This was a happy byproduct of my mother’s longevity.  

Ben’s has removed the R&R from the menu, but Michael seems to hold no grudge (which would not be true of your humble servant).  We both had corned beef on rye, eschewing more elaborate combinations.  I yearned for a Dr. Brown’s diet Cel-Ray, long discontinued, so I settled for diet black cherry.  

Michael plink plinked his mobile phone to arrange for an Uber ride to the ballpark, a short distance on the map, but awkwardly reached by public transportation from where we were.  I marveled how an available ride popped up, advising us that it would arrive in three minutes.  After several minutes, Michael’s phone rang, the Uberman asking where we were.  Standing right in front of Ben’s door, I bellowed to overcome any deficiencies in electronic telecommunications.  No, he insisted, he was at the right address.  Well, the Uber app displayed his location on Michael’s phone, about one mile further east on Queens Boulevard.  When I tried to explain how he might close the gap between us, he displayed such confusion that I told him to forget it, which apparently generated a charge to Michael’s account nevertheless.  

We decided to deal with that later and got a regular taxicab to the ballpark, arriving just before the teams took the field.  It turned out to be an historic evening, a no-hitter, the first that I have ever witnessed in person.  Of course, it was the other team that registered the no-hitter, the Mets registering no hits.  Actually, the Mets got three hits, that is three batters were hit by pitched balls.  Each was then allowed to go to first base where they remained stock still as their succeeding teammates proved unable to place their bats in the path of pitched balls.  

 “Jeb Bush Tells Germans He’d Confront ‘Ruthless’ Putin.”  We have to hope that this Bush, unlike his brother, does not confront Putin face to face.  After all, when they held a summit meeting, George said, “I looked the man in the eye.  I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy, and we had a very good dialogue.  I was able to get a sense of his soul.”  

Wednesday, June 10, 2015
A bill passed by the Wisconsin legislature, pending approval by the governor, eliminates the 48-hour waiting period to purchase a handgun.  This will reduce the time that a bad guy will be asked to hold still while a good guy rushes off to buy a weapon.

I'm getting annoyed with Mission Chinese Food, relocated to 171 East Broadway.  After all, I visited their initial East Coast iteration (January 2, 2013), an interesting dump beneath a tenement on Orchard Street, and I have attempted to visit new/renewed establishment.  The inquiries that I have received about Mission should increase after today's favorable review in the New York Times.
But, as I wrote on January 20, 2015, you can't go there.  The place doesn't open for lunch, as if it were some swanky nightclub.  That's no way to get my money. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015
Even though Jaya Malaysian 888, 90 Baxter Street, had its walls and windows wide open to the street, I found a cool corner in the back as I continue to seek to elevate it to the best Malaysian restaurant in Chinatown.  I wasn't hungry enough to order anything more one dish from the lunch special menu -- beef with curry sauce ($6.95).  The promised soup of the day never appeared, as it never has on any prior occasion.  I didn't mind because the large mound of rice and the 6 ounces or so of curried beef cooked with a lot of onions made for a good portion.  The only problem with my quiet, cool back corner was the poor lighting which made finishing the crossword puzzle a little difficult.

Friday, June 12, 2015
MilkMade Ice Cream delivered its two pints of extravagantly priced ice cream for the month last night – "June Gloom" containing Ronnybrook Farm Dairy milk and cream, sugar, cream cheese, blueberries, Mast Brothers chocolate, and "A Midsummer Night’s ‘Scream" containing Ronnybrook Farm Dairy milk and cream, sugar, egg yolks, lavender, organic pansies, crisp (sugar, flour, brown sugar, butter, oats).  Let’s see if we enjoy these more than last month's flavors.  We'll do our tasting after the weekend.

The anarchic Jews of West End Synagogue are holding their annual retreat this weekend.  The theme is “Reconstructionist Judaism: L’dor  v’dor (Generation to generation).”  We are leaving in the early afternoon for a camp site just over two hours north of New York City.  No Chinese food will be served. 

P.S. Removing me from the isle of Manhattan resulted in this delay in publishing to the world.