Saturday, August 19, 2017

Flavors of Justice

Monday, August 14, 2017
The Upper West Side's Power Couple hit the road yesterday, first stop Northampton, Massachusetts, in order to visit friends in the area.  We had a lovely lunch today at the home of Barbara and Dean Alfange, with other friends dating back to my graduate school days.  While such a gathering can be an occasion to lament the passing of time and the personal losses along the way, I reacted otherwise.  I vividly remembered the good old days, ignoring the old part and delighting in how much and how well we shared.  

Later, America's Favorite Epidemiologist got equal time when we had dinner with Shelley and Richard Holzman, her friends for many decades.  We ate at Amanouz Cafe, 44 Main Street, Northampton, which features Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisine.  While this is a small, very casual joint, the cooking proved to be relatively authentic.  I had chicken tagine, basically a chicken stew cooked in a traditional conical clay pot, including olives, zucchini, green peppers, red peppers, rice, potatoes, and lemon ($14.95), as good as it sounds.

Since we were in downtown Northampton, it was a two block stroll to Herrell's Ice Cream & Bakery, 8 Old South Street, for an extra treat.  I had two scoops, coconut chocolate chip and the aptly named "More cookies than cream" and felt amply treated.  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017
We drove to Natick, Massachusetts to present ourselves at the most important Seventh Birthday Party held in North America today.  Besides the general joviality, we enjoyed a dinner of pizza and chocolate cake.  
. . .

The high spirits of the celebration went a long way in helping us contend with the moral and intellectual vacuum that passes for presidential leadership.  Answering questions about his "fair and balanced" initial response to the Charlottesville tragedy, the loser of the popular vote said, "Before I make a statement, I need the facts."  Yeah, but what do you do with the facts then, fella?
. . .

I was surprised by the survey that claimed that 83% of Bay Area renters plan to move out of the area, probably the most expensive real estate market in the country.  https://sf.curbed.com/2017/8/15/16150828/survey-bay-area-leave-sf-renters

When I turned to the Oakland Heartthrob, my source of Bay Area real estate expertise, he said for everyone who leaves, two more show up.  Census data are a bit more conservative, but the market remains hot, hot.    

Wednesday, August 16, 2017
On the other hand, there is cool news from the ice cream front.  Ample Hills Creamery, a source of excellent ice cream, is expanding and going national.  

It is moving from a 900 square foot facility to a 15,000 square foot plant.  May their tribe increase proportionally.  

Thursday, August 17, 2017
I am reading The Chosen, by Jerome Karabel, a detailed study of the admissions (and rejection) process at Harvard, Yale and Princeton in the 20th century.  Since I am only halfway through the 557 pages of small print plus 116 pages of footnotes, I remain immersed in the "Jewish problem," the result of taking merit seriously.  You don't know whether to laugh or cry when you read "that only seven students from the large and heavily Jewish Bronx High School of Science -- arguably the nation's most academically distinguished high school at the time -- entered Yale between 1950 and 1954.  In contrast, Andover sent 275 students to New Haven during the same period."  

Now that the Jews have gotten their disproportionately large seat at the table, it is Asian Americans who are sometimes denied the benefits of academic rigor, with the old arguments against the Jews retooled.   http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-uncomfortable-truth-about-affirmative-action-and-asian-americans   

Through all this is the tragic exclusion of African Americans from equal enjoyment of educational opportunity.  The irony is that, while Princeton University barred enrollment of African Americans until the 1950s, its class of 2021 reports itself as 8% African American and 5% multi-racial (non-Hispanic).  https://admission.princeton.edu/how-apply/admission-statistics 

Meanwhile, the current first-year class at Stuyvesant High School, which never had institutional barriers to diversity, is 1% African American.  At Princeton, which attempts a holistic approach to admissions, the "others" are 57% not "students of color" and 22% Asian Americans, while at Stuyvesant, relying solely on one written examination, they are mostly 20% white and 77% Asian Americans.  

I am plagued by the issue of affirmative action. The "intangible qualities" of character, leadership, and well-roundedness that the Protestant establishment governing the Ivy League found lacking in Jewish applicants (examples drip off almost every page until the 1960s in Karabel's book), are often the current basis for increasing diversity of student bodies.  In the latest, but certainly not the last, word on affirmative action, the United States Supreme Court held by a 5-4 vote that "[c]onsiderable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission."  Fisher v. University of Texas, 579 U.S. ___ (2016).  By the way, save the lamentations for Ms. Fisher, the white plaintiff.  "The claim that race cost Fisher her spot at the University of Texas isn't really true."

The ugliest part of the affirmative action debate is the cynically ahistoric view of many conservatives, pretending that our racist past contributes no insights to the on-going quest for equality.  "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in 2007, “is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."  This pristine statement accompanied his decision that two urban school systems could not take account of the race of students, even in a small minority of cases, in order to prevent certain magnet schools from becoming racially isolated because of neighborhood housing patterns.  Hey, the world began this morning and what's fair is fair.  

Of course, fair was never fair.  One year ago, I extolled Ira Katznelson's work, When Affirmative Action Was White (July 12, 2016).  This weekend, Katznelson offered a brief summary in the New York Times, to the effect that a big, fat white thumb was on the scales when economic benefits were being doled out through much of the 20th century. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/12/opinion/sunday/making-affirmative-action-white-again.html?mcubz=1&_r=0 

Friday, August 18, 2017
Jue Lan Club, a new restaurant, describes itself as "[a]rtistically minded and ultra-trendy, this famed Flatiron eatery is the place for elevated Chinese." That's enough to keep me away.
. . .

Just in --- The South lost the Civil War.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Your Favorite Nebraska-Themed Movie?

Monday, August 7, 2017
Let's begin with a celebration.  It was reliably reported that a bride from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, now working in New York City, married a groom from Los Altos, California, also working in New York City.  Somehow or other, the couple arranged for the wedding to take place in Budir, a hamlet on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in Iceland, 236 miles from Reykjavik, if you could fly there which you can't, or 404 miles driving.   https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/06/fashion/weddings/alison-macbeth-daniel-cook.html 
. . .

When and if the happy couple ever find their way back to New York, we might want to treat them to chocolate chip cookies, from a choice of recipes offered by the New York Times.   https://cooking.nytimes.com/68861692-nyt-cooking/7204666-our-best-chocolate-chip-cookie-recipes?hide-chrome=true&debug=viewport
. . .

Chocolate chip cookies, however, will not make us feel better about Wells Fargo Bank.  We all remember how it invented about 2.1 million phony bank accounts to satisfy corporate goals.  Now, it expects to disclose a “significant increase” in the number of phony accounts.  But, that's not enough.  It just admitted to charging auto loan customers for auto insurance that they did not want or need involving "800,000 customers according to an analysis commissioned by the bank.  Some 274,000 people were pushed into delinquency as a result, and 25,000 cars were wrongly repossessed."   https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/07/business/wells-fargo-insurance.html?ref=business&_r=0

Hold on.  The cowboys on the Pony Express didn't stop there.  They "charged military veterans illegal fees to refinance their mortgages, costing taxpayers money when those government-guaranteed mortgages defaulted," paying $108 million to settle the claims.  

Now if you or I presided over this potpourri of lying, cheating and stealing, we might be accused of criminal activity, maybe even prosecuted for racketeering under RICO.  Instead, John Stumpf, the bank's deposed CEO, is being forced by its board to return $69 million that he earned while at the helm.  This has to hurt, but only so much considering that his total pay from 2011-2016 was $286 million.  The other 5,299 Wells Fargo employees who lost their jobs probably did not fare as well as he did.  

Wells Fargo is America's third largest bank, with 268,800 employees.  As this series of offenses shows, it has shown little sign of cleaning up its act, treating the many millions of dollars paid in fines as simply the cost of doing business.  Should we shut it down, regarding the fate of some of its possibly innocent employees as collateral damage, akin to civilians shredded by drone strikes on demonic terrorists?  Would other corporate malfeasors take notice and get on the path of righteousness, or, as they did after the giant accounting firm Arthur Andersen collapsed under government pressure, hire more lobbyists and public relations agents to paint themselves as weak reeds, threatened by MERCILESS REGULATION.  While the United States Supreme Court gave corporations a voice by the Citizens United decision, they still seem to lack a conscience.  
. . .

Now, let's turn to something really controversial.  The New York Times has asked its movie critics to pick their favorite New York-themed movie.  The five finalists are:
Crooklyn
On the Town
New York, New York
Desperately Seeking Susan
The Wedding Banquet  

Readers are asked to vote and the winner will be shown simultaneously in theaters and public parks across the city on the night of Wednesday, September 13.  But, just like Russia, I'm going to meddle in this election.  I am withholding the link to cast your vote as a protest against the quality of this list.  Brilliant choices are omitted, such as Manhattan, The Godfather, On the Waterfront, All About Eve, Taxi Driver, 42nd Street, Rear Window, Sweet Smell of Success.  

If you Google the topic you'll find lots of best New York movie lists.  My list would include the obscure, but often dead-on, satire of New York Jewish intellectuals, Bye Bye Braverman (1968), which packs a collection of academic and literary types into a Volkswagen Beetle heading to the funeral of their friend, the unseen Leslie Braverman.  The cast notably includes Godfrey Cambridge as a Yiddish- speaking, African-American taxicab driver and Alan King as a rabbi.  

One reason that I'll never forget this movie is the impossible route that they take trying to get from Greenwich Village to a funeral home in Brooklyn.  My obsessiveness buttons were constantly pushed as they made wrong turn after wrong turn, for instance crossing a street in Flatbush directly into East New York.     
. . .

I went into midtown today to make an installment payment on the addition to my periodontist's summer home.  It also gave me the opportunity to have lunch at newly-opened and well-reviewed Little Alley, 550 Third Avenue, named for Shanghai’s network of alleyways, long tang, the origin for much of the food served.  Possibly to give a feeling for old, dark spaces, there is a lot of black paint and wood stained a grayish brown.  Also, standing in the room was an on old wooden telephone booth that might have been lifted from a Shanghai street corner.  

I was about the tenth customer at lunch, but the number more than doubled by the time I left.  There was still ample room, about two dozen 2 tops occupied the space.  The lunch menu offers 13 dishes, priced from $9 to $12, accompanied by hot and sour soup and a choice of spring roll or marinated cucumbers spears.  Additionally, for some reason, the regular menu is presented folded in an envelope.  Were I not alone, the regular menu would have definitely come into play.

The soup was very good, hot and sour and hot, welcome on this rainy, murky day.  I chose and enjoyed the cucumbers, a rare rejection of a deep fried alternative.  My main dish was a medium size portion of Shanghai thick noodles, with shredded pork, shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and bok choy in soy sauce ($12).  It was quite good, but needed a hit of spiciness to be memorable.  

Little Alley deserves to succeed, but it is awkwardly located on Third Avenue between East 36th and East 37th Streets, more than a quarter of a mile from the office towers around Grand Central Terminal and even further from the massive NYU medical complex on First Avenue, both suppliers of huge lunch crowds.  It is closer to the entrance of the Queens Midtown Tunnel than to any subway station.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017
The New York Times has come up with another interesting graphic presentation, the geographic profile of popular music support.  Who is enthusing over whom.  "Each map shows relative popularity in different parts of the country."

An additional feature is the ability to identify the favorite musical personality by Zip Code, yielding the information that the Palazzo di Gotthelf is located in a Drake-leaning zone.  This makes very little difference to me; I doubt that Miles Davis or Thelonious Monk appears at the top of any Zip Code.  However, I am relieved that I am decades removed from Woodhaven, where Justin Bieber is the people's choice.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017
The Wednesday food section features exotic ice creams produced by many Asian enterprises, here and abroad.  

What the article admits, however, is "in a social-media-dominated world, the picture can be more satisfying than the dessert."  My own limited samplings confirm this.  Instead of waiting around for the decorating of some of these concoctions, you can be digging into some superior Häagen-Dazs.  


Thursday, August 10, 2017
Again, the New York Times has come up with unexpected and unsolicited information, job opposites.  Based on U.S. Department of Labor analysis of needed skills and tasks, the paper posits opposites, for instance, “the opposite job of a writer and author is a  mobile home installer.”  Go figure.   

Friday, August 11, 2017
Today's dilemma seems to be the woeful visage of the Nebraska state flag, which is so ugly that it defies my attempts to reproduce it.  
https://www.google.com/search?q=&client=safari&tbm=isch&tbs=rimg:Cb3i7VmJzWGVIjiAmrXa7BjCDqNNjUAsITFKbYRN4uSLZed58pzSLPnjIXFT8lOc4jhy8Duva003U6UfKrdE3bnhOCoSCYCatdrsGMIOETwrtLnZ4JX7KhIJo02NQCwhMUoRYaayr0v4oAEqEglthE3i5Itl5xGkgpgYIe1tQSoSCXnynNIs-eMhESKyLB0GgBSPKhIJcVPyU5ziOHIRcfeEmMDyQXwqEgnwO69rTTdTpRGNDOBrBgxLGSoSCR8qt0TdueE4EcKxQm5x2qi0&tbo=u&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjj4PTRzM_VAhWB7oMKHREIBrsQ9C8IHw&biw=1440&bih=838&dpr=1#imgrc=veLtWYnNYZW54M:

Some graphics artists have suggested replacements.  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/10/us/flag-state-nebraska-design-logo-artist.html

More interesting to me is the role of the North American Vexillological Association.  What a wonderful name.  It would take a far better lexicographer than I to recognize what vexillologic (vexillology?) means.  Does it pertain to kid brothers, fine print, mothers-in-law, plastic packaging material?  Rather, we have an organization "Focused on Flags -- The Shorthand of History."
https://nava.org


     

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Thank you, Bill Freund

Monday, July 31, 2107
Today's paper has an interesting article about New Yorkers growing food right here, often items not native to the Holy Land.   https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/30/nyregion/food-from-around-the-world-homegrown-in-new-york.html?_r=0

Besides the energy and resourcefulness of these farmers (what else should we call them?), the story conveys a very interesting statistic, "[a]bout 3.2 million New Yorkers, or 38 percent of the city’s population of 8.5 million, were born in other countries."  This is not an historic departure for us.  In 1910, just after the Goldenbergs settled in, New York's foreign born population was just under 41%.  See a century's worth of statistics at  https://web.archive.org/web/20110628223103/http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/census/nny_table_5_3.pdf

This profile of mongrelization seems to terrify folks beyond the Hudson River.  On the other hand, it wasn't people with 212 area codes who bought my "Hamilton" tickets for $1,200 each.

Tuesday, August 1, 2107
The Boyz Club met at Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, to have a farewell lunch for Anthony Scaramucci.  It was a somewhat emotional affair.  Mooch, we hardly knew ye.  Our grief was substantially mitigated by the good food that we shared: 
Fried crispy noodles
Cold sesame noodles
Beef chow fun
Beef with scallions
Shrimp with lobster sauce over shrimp fried rice
Honey crispy chicken
Pork fried rice
It cost us $15 each including our normal 36% tip.
. . .

I was reminded of George Carlin's infamous seven dirty words when I read about (Red) China's "seven unmentionables," officially labelled as "Noteworthy Problems Related to the Current State of the Ideological Sphere."  http://www.chinafile.com/document-9-chinafile-translation
The Chinese dirty words include "universal values," "Western Constitutional Democracy," and "freedom of the press."  As this week's New York Times Sunday magazine reported, Chinese human rights lawyers are being systematically harassed, jailed, and brutalized.   https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/25/magazine/the-lonely-crusade-of-chinas-human-rights-lawyers.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fmagazine&action=click&contentCollection=magazine&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=7&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0

The Carlin case did not have the grave implications of the Chinese situation, but it set a constitutional standard for (un)free speech.  In 1972, Carlin released a comedy album entitled Class Clown containing "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television."  Later, he produced another version, "Filthy Words," which was played on WBAI-FM, a decidedly countercultural, non-commercial New York radio station.  Very conveniently and very suspiciously, an active opponent of pornography and obscenity was driving around with his teenage son, who should have been in school, when he tuned to WBAI just in time to hear the recorded Carlin routine.  The father complained to the Federal Communications Commission, which ruled against the station.  On appeal in 1978, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the FCC did not violate the First or Fifth Amendment by punishing the use of the filthy words.

Today, 39 years later, the words are still not heard on network television, bleeped when uttered, but are commonplace on cable television and some even were printed in the New York Times when reporting the Scaramucci Soliloquy.  I wonder how long it will take for the Chinese to air their unmentionables.    

Wednesday, August 2, 2017
I have a problem with the list of the supposed 50 best college town food purveyors.  Akin to the Electoral College, it reserves space for each state.  https://www.tastingtable.com/travel/national/best-college-town-food

If, in fact, the Moscow Alehouse in Moscow, Idaho, home of the University of Idaho, is one of the country's best, OK.  But there are "57,799 full time students, [in] the 17 colleges and universities of Idaho" to be fed.  http://www.collegesimply.com/colleges/idaho/  
By contrast, the millions of students at the 761 four-year colleges and universities in Illinois, Texas, New York and California get one superlative choice per state.  On the other hand, this might be a form of affirmative action.  
  
Thursday, August 3, 2017
The White House press secretary announced yesterday that a 10-year old had volunteered to mow the White House grass.  At first, it was thought that the child volunteered to cut the president's hair.
. . .

An obituary today for a founder of Costco said that "[t]he company’s unusually generous salaries and benefits for workers rankled Wall Street stock analysts."  After all, according to a current New York State survey, "the average Wall Street[er] made $388,000 last year, or five times the average of what workers in all other industries got paid."  If we can drive down the pay of Costco employees, our deserving friends on Wall Street will have a greater multiple than they do now.

Friday, August 4, 2017
Nancy Freund Heller recently accompanied her 90-year old father to Germany, where he was born.  He was invited to speak to high school students by the Jewish Museum Berlin.  I think that it is important to read a portion of his journal as some in Washington yearn to launder the stream of immigrants seeking entry to our shores.  Also, just as German students heard about the events first hand for the first time, we might be hearing about them first hand for the last time.

I met with three high school classes over three days with each session lasting more than three hours. The students were 15 to 18 years old. Some had studied the 
Holocaust; all would eventually, as it is required in German high schools. None admitted to having heard about the Holocaust from their parents or grandparents. For the students, six million murdered Jews, and millions of other victims, seem to have been just data points, abstract numbers that don't spark an emotional reaction. Hitler is just a character from a history book, like Napoleon or Otto von 
Bismarck. It takes a personal witness to bring history alive, to help young people reflect on what really happened. 

Each class sat in an informal circle. I told them about long-standing Jew-hatred in Germany, about the annual Nazi party rallies in Nuremberg, about the Nuremberg laws that stripped Jews of rights and citizenship, and about my personal experiences. What happened to me as a kid interested them most. 

I told them how I was chased down a street by a gang of boys shouting "Jewish pig". When they caught me, they shut me in a wooden crate used to store sand for slippery winter streets. The lid was too heavy for me to lift. I banged on the lid 
frantically until a passerby helped me escape. I never got over the trauma.

I talked about happy vacations with my grandmother in the small town of Miltenberg. I told the students that my family had lived in Germany for 500 years and that we considered ourselves thoroughly German, until the Nazis arrested my 
father and beat him so badly that he knew we had to leave our homeland or die. I described what a near thing our emigration was, hinging on my father passing a medical exam (he never fully recovered from the beating the Nazis gave him) and providing an affidavit from a US resident to ensure that we would never become a “public charge”. Fortunately, my father had a generous cousin in the US.

I talked about settling in New York City’s Washington Heights, which in the 1930s was a magnet for German Jews. Our family of four arrived with furniture, clothing, and seven dollars in cash. My parents found menial jobs, my mother on the line in a lipstick factory, my father wheeling carts in a hospital morgue. I shined shoes on the street and delivered meat for a kosher butcher. Times were hard for Americans, too, but I wanted to be American. I stopped using the German-sounding “Kurt Wilhelm” and called myself “William Curt”, which I 
officially adopted when I became an American citizen in 1944.

Before leaving Germany, my resourceful mother Paula bribed a pastry chef to teach her to bake lebkuchen, the Nuremberg Christmas cookie shipped all over the world. Our family could not start a business on arrival since we had no capital, spoke no English, and knew nothing of business practices in the U.S. Nor could we compete with genuine lebkuchen imported from Nuremberg. However, when war started in Europe in 1939, Germany could no longer export the product. And so 
the Freund family rented a store, produced the cookie in quantity, and sold it to fine stores under the name Paula's Lebkuchen. We succeeded beyond our expectations, especially after a leading newspaper featured our shop in a big story. After the war, Nuremberg resumed exports and Paula sold the bakery and recipe. My father had died. I earned a PhD and eventually became a professor of economics and chief economist of the New York Stock Exchange. I told the students that success is the best revenge. (I wrote up this story in an illustrated children’s book sold on Amazon.)

In answering the students’ questions, I told them that our family brought German culture—cuisine, homemaking, music, habits—to America. The Nazis exploited a German history of Jew-hatred to expel me and all other Jewish kids from public 
school, rob me of my home and my childhood friends, and kill or exile my entire extended family. But in America, we adapted and thrived.

The students told me that they never had asked their grandparents and great-grandparents about what their families had done during the war, except for one student who said part of his family had gone to Argentina. It seems that I was the first person to give them a personal story of life under the Nazis.



Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Past Is Present

Monday, July 24, 2017
We went to a pleasant brass quintet recital at Tanglewood on Saturday afternoon aimed at families with young children and/or old grandparents.  Afterwards, we headed to The Scoop, 51 Church Street, Lenox for an intermezzo.  This time cookie dough and salted caramel ice cream flavors seemed to predominate in our crowd.  However, I ate to a different drummer and had scoops of piña colada and Almond Joy, variations on a theme.  So, naturally, the question arises, "SoCo Creamery, Great Barrington or The Scoop, Lenox?" 

To aid in resolving this issue, we returned to SoCo Creamery Sunday night, after having dinner with Burt and Gerri at Tangiers Cafe, 286 Main Street, Great Barrington, which featured authentically spiced tagines at very modest prices.  For my after dinner treat, I had scoops of espresso cookie and black raspberry ice cream.  I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but the memory of The Scoop's piña colada lingers on.
. . .

The week out of town has left me a lot to catch up with.  Allow me to go back to the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle of July 16th.  The clue for 34 across is Polish rolls.  Well, bialys are Polish rolls only if you believe that Bernie Sanders is "the son of a Polish immigrant."

Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Besides a lot of mail and old newspapers to be examined upon our return from the Berkshires last night was a telephone message from Shlomo, the widowed husband of my ex-wife, Ellen.  He and I had a long and friendly conversation in 2013 when I learned of her death from lung cancer.  I did not hesitate to return his call and he told me a strange story.  

He had received a telephone call a couple of days earlier from a stranger asking permission to rent the time share in Las Vegas that Ellen and I purchased in 1976.  What's wrong is that Ellen and I never purchased a time share in Las Vegas or anywhere else, and I certainly did not pursue such folly on my own at any time, at any place.  Adding to the mystery was how the caller reached Shlomo at an address and telephone number that Ellen did not share until about 18 years after the alleged 1976 transaction, and when she had also independently changed her last name in 1980, long before she remarried.  Further, Shlomo told me that the caller had my correct New York home telephone number, but had not yet called me.  I told Shlomo that he had my permission to rent the property and we would split the proceeds.  I await further developments.

Wednesday, July 26, 2
The following recipe not only features chocolate with chocolate, but requires no cooking, only some time in a refrigerator. 
https://www.tastingtable.com/cook/recipes/no-bake-espresso-mud-pie-recipe-chocolate-dessert
In case you are worried about how good it turned out, invite me over. 
. . .

The news of the opening of the uptown branch of Jing Fong, the Hong Kong-style dim sum palace, reached us in Great Barrington last week.  So, I made a date with Stony Brook Steve to have lunch there today, wondering if I had had too big a bowl of cereal for breakfast to allow room for maximum consumption.  No worry.  The sign on the door at the corner of West 78th Street and Amsterdam Avenue said "Soft opening, Dinner 5 PM - 10 PM."  A lot of good that did us at one o'clock in the afternoon.  We retreated to a nearby bagel shop, determined to dim our sum in the near future.  

Thursday, July 27, 2017
This afternoon, I was reminded of the classic recording by Oscar Brown, Jr., of "But I Was Cool," lyrics by Albert Collins.  It begins, 
"I've always lived by this golden rule,
Whatever happens 'don't blow your cool.'"

It happened as I entered an elevator at NYU Medical Center and walked into the seventh floor waiting room of the internal medicine practice, in lockstep with Steven Van Zandt a/k/a Little Stevie of the "E" Street Band and Silvio Dante, consigliere to Tony Soprano.  There was no mistaking him; he was in full Little Stevie mode, tight jeans, boots, floral shirt buttoned just above his navel and, most noticeably, a schmatte around his head, not unlike what a very orthodox Jewish woman would wear in the absence of a wig.

Ask him to stand still for a photograph?  Worse, a selfie with me?  But I was cool.

Friday, July 28, 2017
Today, I did what I have promised to do for years, search for the graves of my mother's parents, Joseph and Mollie Goldenberg, the name Goldenberg replacing Cherkowsky once they arrived at Ellis Island.  I was inspired by the expert genealogical research of Ittai Hershman and Stony Brook Steve, who prefers to operate behind a nom de blog.  In fact, I was very fortunate to be accompanied by Stony Brook Steve and my cousin Barbara Goldenberg Belovin Siegel on the trip to Mokom Sholom Cemetery, edging on the Brooklyn-Queens border in Ozone Park.  

It's an old cemetery with a somewhat random layout.  While Joan in the off-site office was able to confirm that my grandparents were buried there, Joseph in 1945 and Mollie in 1978, she had no information as to where to find them on the rambling grounds.  So, the three of us headed in different directions, guided only by my memory of a visit to my grandfather's grave in the 1960s (with my grandmother) in a very densely populated (?) section of the cemetery.  I expected to traipse the grounds for a couple of hours, setting a reasonable time limit on this warm, bright day.

However, about 15 minutes after we fanned out, Stony Brook Steve miraculously found the plot.  


Since my Hebrew language skills are about 60 years out of practice, I immediately sent photos to Ittai, who is as talented in languages as he is in research.  Jewish gravestones traditionally provide basic family lineage, something that we Goldenberg descendants lacked.  Here is what Ittai read:

Here Lies
A Woman of Valour
["Eyshet Chayil" Proverbs 31:10]
Our Dear Mother
Esther Malka
Daughter of Reb Yehuda Tzvi

Here Lies
Our Dear Father
A Humble and Honest Man ["Ish Tam Ve’Yashar" 
Genesis 25:27]
[Who] Feared God All His Days
Yoseph Son of Reb Aryeh Leib

(Reb is the equivalent of Mr., applied to a pious man.)   Now, I've taken one step further into the past, with the invaluable assistance of my friends.  Is there a better way to start the Sabbath, at least without ice cream?




Saturday, July 22, 2017

Away From Home

Monday, July 17, 2017
I'm sorry to have to report the untimely demise of a dear one.  Another Fork in the Road, 1215 Route 199, Milan, New York, a joint that properly could be called funky, has closed (July 10, 2015).  It had a ragtag collection of kitchen tables and chairs, a counter with half a dozen chrome stools, and a few broken sofas to hold you while waiting for a place to eat.  It was a very reliable spot for breakfast and lunch, about one mile off the Taconic Parkway, convenient if you were traveling to Rhinebeck, further north in the Hudson Valley or over to the Berkshires.  We discovered the sad news today as we headed to Housatonic, Massachusetts, to spend a week with our second and third generations in a large rented house with bedrooms and bathrooms to spare.

The closing of Another Fork in the Road was not the only disappointment that we faced on the trip up.  At the intersection of Seekonk Road and Boice Road, a mile or two from our destination, Officer Krupke allegedly observed that I ignored a stop sign and brought the full and expensive majesty of Massachusetts motor vehicle law down on me.  While his version of events may be correct (and unimpeachable), I remain unconvinced because I was driving slowly, looking at road signs carefully, due to the imprecision of our GPS.  
. . .

My young bride brought the following article to my attention, which asks us to deep six a modern collection of clichés.  Indeed, many of them should be taken out to pasture, but imho they at least consist of full words, not the telegraphed letters that have moved from teenspeak into general usage.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/please-stop-saying-these-ridiculous-phrases_us_59667e51e4b07b5e1d96ecd9?ncid=engmodushpmg00000006

Tuesday, July 18, 2017
To celebrate the (partial) gathering of our clan, we engaged Austin Banach (banachaustin@gmail.com), a talented young chef to prepare our dinner tonight.  In all, a night to remember.  The menu was roasted beet tart tatin with herbed chèvre and nasturtium salad, sweet corn soup with micro pea tendrils, pan seared cod with ginger and chili salsa, asparagus with egg and caper vinaigrette, faro risotto with mushrooms, and frisée salad with fresh apricots and walnut vinaigrette.  For dessert, Austin made us blueberry and lavender galette with vanilla ice cream (the only store-bought component of the meal).  The children had been fed earlier and he served them a thick, chocolate moussey dessert that reminded me of the superiority of chocolate to all other items on the Periodic Table.  I confess that I selected the otherwise excellent blueberry creation, a bow towards adult respectability that I will forgo next time when such a chocolate experience presents itself.  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Once upon a time, I managed or employed white collar staff, office workers and computer people.  It was long enough ago that I did not have to face the plague of flip flops, skimpy slabs moved out of the shower stall onto the office floor.  I would object to them even in a back office setting, unless cars or circus animals are being washed.  For a discussion of the topic, see  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/19/nyregion/new-york-today-workplace-style-etiquette-womens-rights-convention.html?_r=0
. . .

Today's paper, which I am reading on-line even on vacation (as if a retired person can go on vacation), has a much more disturbing article about a steam pipe explosion immediately adjacent to Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan.  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/18/nyregion/steam-pipe-explosion-con-edison.html
  
One person died, many were injured by the scalding steam and flying debris; there was extensive property damage and disruption in the densely-occupied area.  All of that might or might not be considered under the heading of an accident beyond normal human control.  What troubles me is the report that the trial of liability for the July 18, 2007 event is first scheduled for October in New York Supreme Court, my last employer.  Technical and factual complexities and the number of parties, plaintiffs and defendants (anything that happens on the streets of New York always pulls in lots of defendants), added to the delay, no doubt.  However, I am sure that my former colleagues did not cause this seeming rupture of the judicial process and probably pushed, pushed, pushed to move things along.  Yet, it is ten years later and justice seems not only blind, but severely hobbled.    

Thursday, July 20, 2017
We all had a mid afternoon treat at SoCo Creamery, 5 Railroad Street, Great Barrington, originally South County Creamery.  It was impossible to track all the flavors that we ordered among the 7 of us, but Dirty Chocolate was a popular choice.  Far be it from me to quibble, but it was mislabeled.  I anticipated a deep chocolate with nuts, raisins, maybe coconut mixed in.  Instead, it was a blend of chocolates, very nice, smooth, with nothing chewy or granular, however.  Other options included banana brownie, ginger and peanut butter mudslide.  Worth a visit.

Friday, July 21, 2017
I read another woe-is-me commentary about America's neediest -- white men, Christian more often than not.  These lamentations usually point to those liberal college professors, social workers, lawyers and politicians who have relegated them to the socio-economic sidelines, while advancing all sorts of undeserving strangers to positions of power and influence.  Of course, the current collection of billionaires assembled in Washington will, no doubt, reassert the greatness that was wrenched out of real American hands.  

What caught my attention in this particular cri de coeur was the claim that the New England Patriots professional football team is widely disliked because they are called PATRIOTS.  The writer obviously knew as little about professional football as he did about American history and politics.  The New England Patriots are widely disliked because they are the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS, a team noted for inventive methods of cheating.  Everyone does it?  Where have you heard that one before?