Friday, June 24, 2016

Tourists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

Ghetto Fighters Museum, Nahariya

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 17, 2016

Here and There

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 10, 2016

Reunions

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 © UNIVERSAL MUSIC PUBLISHING GROUP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 3, 2016

Does House Arrest Include Wi-Fi?

Monday, May 30, 2016
We saw the documentary "Weiner" this weekend.  It was fascinating to watch the downfall of a bright, energetic public servant in the grasp of compulsive sexual behavior.  Weiner, who resigned from the House of Representatives and later ran in the Democratic primary for New York City mayor, had to know from the start how risky his conduct was (he adopted the nom de Internet  of Carlos Danger), yet he persisted even after his first very public fall from grace.  Even though some commentators consider his wife complicit, at least in sticking with him and aiding his campaign for redemption, I felt she was an undeserving victim of his mania.

Beyond the immediate details of this sad story, I think that it illuminates a persistent issue, the tension between the public and the private.  How do we regard a person's public life when we know entirely too much about his (no need to be gender neutral when we are really talking about male depravity) private behavior, whether Anthony Weiner, Bill Clinton, Aroldis Chapman, Gary Hart, Woody Allen, Elliot Spitzer, Phil Mickelson, David Vitter, Ray Rice, John Edwards, Jose Reyes, et alia?  Of course, our athletes, such as, Chapman, Rice, and Reyes, often make it easier for us to judge by committing criminal offenses, even if not always prosecuted.  However, the willingness to forgive seems to be more readily exercised for your hometown favorites regardless of the gravity of the offense.

So, should good public works be the measure of a man in spite of private debauchery or venality?  Or, may bad judgment anywhere be an omen of bad judgment everywhere?  And, are we willing to forgive bad deeds unless packaged with lies?  Unfortunately, Weiner and Spitzer as Jews, although very secular Jews, were unable to embrace Jesus and be born again, a path often taken by the Gentility on the road to redemption.

I found an interesting pairing of headlines in the Sunday New York Times: "Top C.E.O. Pay Fell — Yes, Fell — in 2015" and "A Worrisome Pileup Of $100 Million Homes."  

I certainly am not worried about the tippy top of the real estate market, and I imagine that our MBA-armed corporate warriors are pleased that their slightly diminished income may not inhibit their empire building.  My own unexceptional morality and wealth insulated me somewhat from the matters above.  But, a question to an employment counselor advisor stirred a memory.   http://nyti.ms/1U07cFb

An employee's superior commented, after a meeting, "You know what will happen — our business partner will Jew the price down.”  The employee was Jewish, unknown to the speaker, and was "flabbergasted . . . [by this] blatant bigotry." Forty years ago, I managed a group of 30 computer programmers and business analysts in Los Angeles.  My top assistant was a conscientious sweetheart of a guy, from a non-big city, midwestern background.  His last name would have been taken for Jewish in New York City, but he wasn't.  In the course of a pleasant conversation, he said something very similar to what was spoken above.  Sorry to say, but I can't remember what I said or did 40 years ago, although the positions of power were reversed from the published anecdote.  The term "politically correct" was not in common usage back then, although offensive speech seems to be a constant over decades.  

While crime reporting is at the heart of most tabloid journalism, the seemingly serious New York Times carries its share of crime stories.  However, not all such are presented as such.   The Sunday real estate section, as it usually does, featured a neighborhood to consider for purchases/rentals.  This week it was Belmont in the Bronx, the classic Bronx Little Italy (recall Dion and the Belmonts?).  

Along with median home prices and description of local features and attractions, the Times provides information about neighborhood schools.  Elementary Public School 32 (865 students) has 16% of students meeting state standards in English, 22% in math; elementary Public School 51 (240 students) has 25% of students meeting state standards in English and 29% in math; elementary Public School 205 (1,080 students) has 22% percent of students meeting standards in English, and 25% meeting standards in math; at Middle School 45 (740 students) 13% of the students met standards in English and 7% met standards in math.  This is a crime, or a series of crimes, in progress.  It's not only child abuse, I think that taxpayers can rightfully cry, "Stop, thief."

Wednesday, June 1, 2016
I want to warn you of an unwelcome trend illustrated by two restaurant reviews in today's newspaper.  The headline reads "Tiny Stages With Outsize Performances."  I considered going to one or the other of these commended establishments for lunch today.  However, neither is open for lunch on a weekday; one serves lunch on weekends only.  What's worse, one is described as "a tiny lunch counter."  This exclusivity is becoming all too frequent.  The second iteration of Mission Chinese, for instance, is only open for dinner.  This is frustrating whether I was still fully employed or having all afternoon to gambol about seeking new thrills and chills.

While the days of the three martini lunch are far behind us and were, in fact, rarely in front of us, a person should be able to have a good meal even in daylight.

I smoked cigarettes for about 25 years, sometimes 2 packs a day. I never pretended that it wasn't harmful, but, befitting a full-blown habit, I made no attempt to stop.  Each Yom Kippur, I fasted for the requisite time, approximately sundown to sundown, not smoking as well.  When the Holy Day was over, I reached for a cigarette even before looking around for a salami sandwich. I never tried to leverage that one day hiatus into a permanent halt.  However, one day, I decided that when I finished the current carton (never one to be wasteful) I would stop smoking and I did.  I never backslid; in fact, the few times that I was handed a marijuana cigarette subsequently, I barely put it to my lips and took the gentlest of puffs.  I did not want to experience the sensual pleasure of labial contact, very much part of the smoking experience.

This brief reminiscence introduces the topic of withdrawal symptoms.  When I stopped smoking, for a time I had trouble with my hands when standing up in public, since I wasn't holding a cigarette.  Otherwise, the transition was only mildly challenging as I fought the urge to reach for chocolate-covered raisins as a substitute for cigarettes.  However, this afternoon, I could not resist rushing off to Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, for lunch, unable to stay away too long now that I am retired, when I used to have lunch there about once a week for several years.  I ate shrimp egg foo young and brown rice, smiling when I wasn't chewing.

Thursday, June 2, 2016
The New York Times reports today on a pattern of fabulously rich defendants asking to be let out on bail in surroundings of their own design.   http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/02/nyregion/rich-defendants-request-to-judges-lock-me-up-in-a-gilded-cage.html?_r=0

Prosecutors fear that these perps, with almost unlimited material and financial resources, including multiple passports, would manage to fly the coop.  Also, meanwhile ordinary human beings may not even be able to meet conventional conditions of bail and therefore remain in jail until trial.  

Here comes Grandpa Alan to the rescue.  Allow the filthy rich to create and inhabit their gilded cages until they get their day in court, on the condition that they share their quarters with a respectable number of other apprehended criminal suspects.  Have our elite perps host fellow unfortunates, accommodated four to each bedroom, far less density than found in our typical municipal lock-up.  Such facilities will, of course, save money for local government, while clearing our streets free of some car thieves, drug dealers, muggers, and billionaires.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Sweets To The Sweet

Monday, May 23, 2016
Decades ago, my doctor diagnosed a condition that was aggravated by sugar and asked me to curb my intake.   Fortunately, I outgrew that horrible affliction, but I have continued to read labels on food products with care since then.  I was surprised how many things contained added sugar, often where you would least expect.  The most outrageous example that I recall was salt, specifically Lawry's Seasoned Salt, described currently as a "unique blend of salt, spices and herbs [that] tastes great on prime ribs, steaks, chicken and casseroles."  Sugar is identified as the second largest ingredient on its label.  Go know.

The Food and Drug Administration has just modified its requirements for identifying sugar in food products, since plain English provided cracks and crevices to hide the sweet stuff.
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/22/upshot/it-isnt-easy-to-figure-out-which-foods-contain-sugar.html?_r=0   Another retreat from greatness.

A few weeks ago, Sam Sifton, New York Times food critic, printed a recipe to emulate his "most favorite sandwich . . . fried eggplant, mozzarella and roast beef on an Italian hero, with hot peppers and a slash of mayonnaise. . . . It is a beautiful torpedo of food, crunchy, silken, sweet and spicy all at once." He found the original at Delfonte's Sandwich Shop, 379 Columbia Street, Brooklyn.  So, Stony Brook Steve and Little Ken joined me on a road trip today.

While Columbia Street runs right through scenic Brooklyn Heights, Delfonte's is much further south in Red Hook, a neighborhood of old clapboard homes, light industry, auto mechanics and small businesses.  We pondered how soon the march of multi-million dollar condos, designed by starchitects, will arrive.  In fact, next to the long-entrenched sandwich shop is a parking lot with 5 picnic tables for those who choose to eat "in".  

I ordered Sam's sandwich ($10.50 for a small, which was large enough), although I forgot to add the hot peppers for another $1.50.  The other guys ate fried eggplant with mozzarella ($9.95).  Should I return, I'll try the meatball parmesan with fried eggplant ($10.50).  Again, these are all size small.  Maybe right after Yom Kippur, I'll go for the large.

Delfonte's is definitely worth a visit, but be advised that getting there easily may require being born in the neighborhood.  The Metropolitan Transit Authority recommends taking a subway to downtown Brooklyn, catch a bus and then walk 5 more minutes.  If that's too complicated, you can stay on subways and walk 14 minutes from the closest stop.  Car is a quicker alternative if you are willing to pay $8 toll each way, $5.54 if you have E-Z Pass.  Using the kind of no-toll route that I favor adds a lot of time to the trip from Manhattan.  Maybe you have a great aunt who lives nearby.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Happy Birthday to the Oakland Heartthrob.  And, remarkably, today is Bob Dylan's 75th birthday.  While no longer viewed as the radical innovator that he once was, he remains vital and productive after so many years in the biz.  I don't claim to have caught him in a Greenwich Village basement in 1961, but I vividly recall attending his concert at Cornell University in 1965.  Then, almost exactly a quarter century later, I heard him at the Concert Gebouw in the Hague, Netherlands.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016
It is our wedding anniversary today.  Thirteen years ago, America's Favorite Epidemiologist became my personal favorite.  I thereby assumed a supporting role in the world of infectious diseases.  To celebrate appropriately, I met the Boyz Club in Chinatown to have lunch at Wok Wok Southeast Asian Cuisine, 11 Mott Street.  The happy couple were honored by the consumption of roti* wrap with beef, roti wrap with chicken, K.L. Hokkian Char Mee (thick noodles in a dark sauce), tangerine beef, and eggplant stir-fried with‏ dried shrimp, fresh chili, cilantro, garlic.  As always, we tipped generously, spending $15 each in total.

*Roti, a/k/a chapati, is a thin pancake widely used in South Asian cuisine.  Population movement entrenched it in the Caribbean as well, cf., Ali's Trinidad Roti Shop, 1267 Fulton Street, Brooklyn.

Going to Chinatown allowed me to inquire of the fate of Shanghai Gourmet, 23 Pell Street, now closed.  It had been my original destination for today's fête, before I learned of its demise.  I found that the space is not now vacant; New Style Handpulled Noodles is the new operation at 23 Pell Street.  I'll get there soon and see if they have built on the strengths of Shanghai Gourmet (excellent soup buns and scallion pancakes, among other things).  

Thursday, May 26, 2016
At first, I chuckled when I read a review of a new Broadway show this morning.  The critic wrote that the show "achieves the singular feat of being simultaneously frenetic and tedious."  Then, I thought how apt a description that is of so much that surrounds us today, beginning, of course, with the American political scene.  

"Prisoners of War," the Israeli original that bred "Homeland," by contrast, is intense and compelling.  We just completed the first season on discs borrowed from the library and I have requested the second season.  A third seems to be in the works.  Note that the violence is vivid and frightening, but I hope that does not deter you.  The ethical and psychological issues that are presented will stay with you a long time.

Friday, May 27, 2016
I explained the Cuban Chinese phenomenon recently (May 2, 2016) when I went to La Dinastia, 145 West 72nd Street.  Today, I went to La Caridad 78 Restaurant, 2199 Broadway, a long established joint that is a model of its type.  It offers a wide variety of Chinese and Latin dishes at a corner location mostly enclosed in glass.  I took a middle ground, or maybe an off-the-road path, by ordering a fried chicken lunch special ($9), more Norte Americano than Chino or Latino.

They called their fried chicken "crackling," as La Dinastia did.  The lunch plate had four chunks of white meat in a crispy coating, needing more spice both inside and outside.  A hefty serving of rice, white or yellow, and beans, red or black, came with it.  I chose yellow and black.  The meal was filling and satisfying, but not special.  Next time, I'll try to make a more distinctively ethnic choice.

The movie industry is focused on a battle of battles right now.  Warner Bros. released "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" on March 25th.  Disney followed six weeks later with "Captain America: Civil War."  It seems that Captain America has proved to be a greater favorite worldwide, grossing over $1 billion in less time than Bat/Supe has taken in $871 million.  While I will not seek either venture for entertainment, I have some mixed feelings about this confrontation of confrontations.  

Captain America is, pardon the expression, foreign to me.  While he originated in March 1941, according to Wikipedia, "the Captain America comic book was discontinued in 1950, with a short-lived revival in 1953," and revived again in 1964.  I was at the peak of my comic book collecting period in the early 1950s, when the Captain was mostly retired.

On the other hand, along with Donald Duck, Superman and Batman were the object of my affections for at least half a decade.  I spent dime after dime acquiring each comic book issue as it hit the shelves of Joe's candy store, one store in from the southeast corner of Pitkin Avenue and Crescent Street.  I not only joyfully read and reread these works, but they became sort of the contemporary version of Bitcoins, used in trades and as ante for poker games among us prepubescents.  

With my history of early devotion to Superman and Batman, I am distressed by the thought of them battling on the screen.  Clark, Bruce, step back, chill.  Can't you find a way to get along?

Speaking of getting along, I am intrigued by this situation in Switzerland, where schoolchildren customarily shake hands with their teachers each day, "considered an important sign of politeness and respect."   http://nyti.ms/1WmVIBV

Two teenage brothers, Muslim Syrian immigrants, have refused to shake female teachers' hands on religious grounds, subjecting their parents to fines.  This behavior is not entirely unfamiliar to me, because some orthodox Jews also bar any physical contact between the sexes outside the family.  Alan Dershowitz, for once making someone else the center of attention, tells of a friend who, as a devoted Mets fan and an observant Jew, would purchase the seats around him at Shea Stadium to avoid unwanted contact with strange females.  

I remember meeting a friendly neighbor in the lobby of my former residence who beamingly introduced me to his fiancée, a nice Jewish girl newly arrived from Belgium.  I stuck out my hand to greet her, with the enthusiasm of a politician on the campaign trail, causing her to hurl herself against the wall of mailboxes behind her, risking whiplash.  As my neighbor started to explain, I indicated that I understood.  He was a much shorter guy, so he probably was unable to see how high my eyebrows rose.

In the Swiss instance, the case for moral relativism was substantially weakened, in my eyes, by the comments of one of the young men that, as paraphrased in the newspaper, "the brothers were trying to protect the dignity of women with their refusal to shake a woman’s hand."

Friday, May 20, 2016

Cookie Monster

Monday, May 16, 2016
While I have frequently announced my devotion to chocolate chip cookies, with the masterworks of Jacques Torres (9 locations currently in Manhattan) at the top of the list, I leave room for other cookies, such as, the chocolate-covered graham cracker and the chocolate-covered wafer.  This latter cookie seems particularly popular in Central and Eastern Europe, see, for instance, https://www.google.com/search?q=polish+chocolate+covered+wafer+biscuit+bar&espv=2&biw=1212&bih=616&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjFz6GvmurMAhUEKx4KHZMaApEQ7AkIKA 
                       
The leading American version of the chocolate-covered wafer is the Kit Kat bar, a Hershey's product.  It turns out, though, that the Japanese have become devoted to Kit Kat to an unmatched degree.  They supposedly have almost 300 varieties of the Kit Kat bar, including such favorites as wasabi and miso, flavors we normally encounter in a sushi restaurant.  
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/14/world/what-in-the-world/kit-kat-japan.html?_r=0

I prefer the slightly-exotic dark chocolate Kit Kat bar, not as common as the standard milk chocolate version.  As with almost any chocolate concoction that comes my way, I have it sit in the freezer before eating.  A better alternative is this Austrian product with a hazelnut filling that Fairway sells for $6.79, the 14 oz. package.  



According to an article in the New York Times, Monday may be the gloomiest day of the week. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/15/opinion/sunday/why-are-you-laughing.html

An examination of Google searches containing the word "jokes" reveals that Monday is the slowest day.  As the week progresses, we apparently are more tickled or tickling, until Sunday, when we may be hiding copies of Mad magazine in our hymnals.  But, I see another possible explanation: We supply our own mirth when we return to work (present company excluded) until we remember where we are and we seek some external amusement.

One serious observation emerges from this study.  In contradiction to conventional wisdom about humor, it does not seem to be a rapid response to trauma.  It usually takes time for people to start looking for jokes dealing with a recent tragedy. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016
In case you have been waiting to spend money on a fancy meal, here is a link to the James Beard Foundation's best list of 2016.
http://www.opentable.com/m/james-beard-foundation-2016/

The list covers the entire country and only a few local joints rise to the top.  Maison Premiere, 298 Bedford Avenue, a new seafood restaurant in Brooklyn, is labeled the Best Bar Program, although what caught my attention is its claim to serve over 30 varieties of oysters, none of which ever made it onto Mother Ruth Gotthelf's Friday night dinner menu.   Eleven Madison Park, 11 Madison Avenue, is cited for Outstanding Service, which seems to be an absolute necessity in managing its 12-15 course tasting menu.  

Sad to say, but I've never visited any of the winners whether here in the Holy Land, or anywhere else.  Of course, the awarders never seem to have been near Wo Hop.

Speaking of Chinatown, today I went to visit Taiwan Bear House, 11 Pell Street, a new joint that allegedly does a good job with fried chicken.  However, a special event kept the doors closed to the general public.  So, I went around the corner to AA Japanese Noodle, 45 Bayard Street, which was called AA Noodle the last time I was there, on December 15, 2015.   Little seems to have changed otherwise, except the two people in the window were stuffing dumplings rather than pulling noodles.  

I ordered Handmade Noodle w. Meat Sauce ($6.99), a tasty bowl of lo mein-like noodles, shredded carrots, bean sprouts and cucumber slivers with a very dark meat sauce that looked and tasted more like fermented black beans.  I hope to tackle the Bear sometime soon, proverbially that is.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Even though I couldn't get into Taiwan Bear yesterday, the New York Times managed to spend enough time there to write a favorable review today. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/18/dining/taiwan-bear-house-hungry-city.html

Thursday, May 19, 2016
Michael Ratner and I headed to CitiField last night to see the Mets play their hottest current rival, the Washington Nationals.  We came away disappointed by the 7-1 loss, in spite of the enthusiasm that we brought to the contest.  That enthusiasm was fueled by having dinner first at Ben's Best Kosher Delicatessen, 96-40 Queens Boulevard, Rego Park, which we both believe to indeed be the best in New York and thereby the Western Hemisphere.  Michael, ever the gentleman, did not hesitate going back to Ben's, even though his name has been removed from the #4 combination, corned beef, turkey, chopped liver.  I ordered the "Daily News Sports Final Special", corned beef, pastrami, rolled beef, sweet pepper and cole slaw ($20.25, and worth it to a serious eater).

Friday, May 20, 2016
The Mets put in another miserable performance last night, but, at least, I was home and able to quickly turn to recorded episodes of "The Last Panthers," a joint French-British crime series, that jumps from Marseille to London to Belgrade to Budapest and points in between.  It's pretty hard to follow, since the #1 Serbian bad guy and the #1 French cop, of North African lineage, look a lot alike, and each scene takes place hundreds of miles from the last.  But, I find it great fun anyway.

My persistence paid off today.  I went back to Taiwan Bear House, 11 Pell Street, and found them open and busy.  The smallish space is airy and bright, with a storefront entirely of clear glass.  The ceiling and part of one wall is knotty pine; 5 small tables have blond wood tops and sit opposite a long padded bench on the left side of the room.  There is also a narrow ledge on the right side with 3 high stools.

The menu is simple, focused on Bento boxes, 6" circular containers made of thin poplar wood.  Each box holds white rice, wilted cabbage, a piece of tofu, half a hardboiled egg and two spoons of minced pork plus a topping of chicken or pork (except the vegetable version skips the minced pork) ($9.99).  I had the "night market crispy chicken," 5 big chunks of boneless fried chicken cooked with spicy salt and pepper.  Unlike the traditional compartmentalized Japanese Bento box, this version is built vertically, not horizontally, allowing the flavors to mix quite successfully.  To drink, I had "Taiwan root beer," actually Hey Song brand sarsaparilla, and when was the last time that you used that word in a sentence.  

By the way, the name Taiwan Bear House does not refer to any delicacy on the menu.  Ursus thibetanus formosanus is a white-throated bear endemic to Taiwan (Formosa).  It has been adopted as their national symbol, akin to our bald eagle.  
I stopped in Fairway on the way home and found a cookie surprise there.  Their bakery counter now offers that wonderful handmade, slivered almond adorned version of the Milano ($9.99 a pound), which I encountered at a grocery store at the corner of Third Avenue and 39th Street (see February 14, 2014).  

As the week ends, I see that I have avoided political commentary, snarky or otherwise.  I might remain stumm, since the presidential campaign shows no sign of stopping its decline at the level of junior high school rhetoric.  "Wall" - "guns" - "huge" - "great"  May we expect a return to polysyllables?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Music To My Ears

Monday, May 9, 2016
A jury of our peers?

Do you suffer from "word aversion"?  That doesn't mean being repelled by hearing the name of a certain presidential candidate, rather, a negative reaction basically to the phonics, the actual sound of a word.  According to research, "moist" although "not a taboo word, it’s not profanity, but it [typically] elicits this very visceral disgust reaction.”

The effort here is to distinguish the sound of a word from its meaning, the more conventional source of antagonism. See http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/words-came-in-marked-for-death

I'll try to develop a "do not speak in my presence" list, but I don't think that I can easily separate sound and fury.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016
We have another example of American bravery in the face of adversity.  A flight from Philadelphia to Syracuse, two American cities with very foreign names, was delayed while an Italian economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania was questioned about possible links to terrorism.  His seat mate, a vigilant patriot, observed this dark-complected man with an accent scribbling strange notes and summoned help from the airline crew.  Read it for yourself.
  
Wednesday, May 11, 2106
A funny thing happened on the way to Jamestown.  George Carlin's daughter is donating a large trove of the late comedian's memorabilia to the not-yet-open National Comedy Center in Jamestown, New York.  This site,   several hundred miles northwest of New York City, is looking to follow in the footsteps of Cooperstown in establishing a destination where little existed before.  

Jamestown does not, however, start entirely from scratch.  It was Lucille Ball's birthplace and now is home to the Lucy Desi Museum & Center for Comedy. http://www.lucy-desi.com/  An annual comedy festival is scheduled for the first week of August, including Lewis Black who is worth traveling serveral Thruway exits to see.

I went to midtown today for my Spring shearing and, even though I lived in the neighborhood for 23 years, I was still surprised by the crowded streets at lunchtime.  There are more high-rise office buildings and apartment houses in the area than ever before, but that growth has fostered a raft of of fast(ish) food joints.  There are countless pizza, Chinese, Mexican, Thai, hamburger, salad, Japanese, Indian and Irish (pub) places packed into a few square blocks.    

I went into Food of Vietnam, 708 Third Avenue, a ten-foot wide space serving a large volume of takeout orders at a fast clip.  I ordered a smoked duck banh mi (the Vietnamese baguette sandwich), dressed with mayo, cucumber, cilantro and daikon radish ($9 including tax).  The bread was fresh, about 10" long; the duck was somewhat overcome by the other strong flavors, especially one very hot pepper.  Other choices were chicken meatballs, BBQ pork, grilled beef.  Rice bowls, salad bowls and noodle bowls had many of the same ingredients as the sandwiches at the same price.  I stood by a small ledge, the only person to remain on the premises with his food as dozens of office workers marched in and out. 

Friday, May 13, 2016
Even if one were superstitious, today must be considered a very lucky day.  It is Stanley Feingold's 90th birthday.   Feingold, as the admiring but irreverent crowd I belong to identifies him, graduated CCNY in 1946 and then taught American government there for several decades.  I for one took five undergraduate courses with him, constituting the bulk of my major.  However, unlike many who sat at the feet of a Leo Strauss or a Herbert Marcuse, I came away with a greater appreciation of the questions, not the answers.  That legacy unites a large cohort mostly of academics and lawyers (commerce was rarely the goal of my generation) who periodically gather to loudly wrestle with the same issues of public policy that agitated us half a century ago.  Oy, Feingold, you did so much for us.  Today, at least, don't be humble.  Take a deep bow.

Allow me to mention some others on my honor roll today: Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, Art Tatum, Fats Waller, Errol Garner, Thelonious Monk, Red Garland, Mary Lou Williams, Bud Powell, John Lewis, Nina Simone, Fats Domino, Andre Watts, Scott Joplin.  I cite them in response to the head of the National Association for Music Education, who resigned this week after he said that his organization was not ethnically diverse partly because “blacks and Latinos lack the keyboard skills needed for this field.”

I have to make this stupid point in 2016.  What is wrong with us?