Friday, February 5, 2016

Mangez, Mon Amis

Monday, February 1, 2106
There are times when my physically big head seems to contain a very small mind.  One example is in the realm of gender.  Recently, "the 127-year-old American Dialect Society anointed 'they,' the singular, gender-neutral pronoun, the 2015 Word of the Year . . . where they is used for a person who does not identify as male or female."  See http://nyti.ms/1m49DMS.

I didn't have a vote, but I would not have chosen to abandon the classic distinction between singular and plural when an obvious alternative exists when he or she is inexact:  It.

My interest in Chinese food is well known, but now there may be reason to classify it as an addiction, not merely an affinity.  It seems that some restaurants in China have been adding poppy capsules to their food.  They are "made from the dried pericarp of the ripe fruit of an opium poppy plant."   
http://nyti.ms/1ShzuQ5

Yes, I looked up pericarp -- "the walls of a ripened fruit."  So, chopsticks may be as dangerous as hypodermic needles.  

Here is a headline that probably delights old and young alike: "Grandparents Who Babysit Are Less Likely To Develop Alzheimer's."  http://www.redhotawesome.com/breaking-grandparents-who-babysit-are-less-likely-to-develop-alzheimers/ 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016
I'm sorry but I missed a very important dispatch late last year, possibly because it appeared on Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/12/dining/la-liste-france-worlds-50-best-restaurants.html?_r=0

France’s Foreign Ministry has compiled La Liste, "an ambitious ranking of what it claims are the 1,000 best 'tables of exception' in the world."  The top spot in the world went to Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville, Crissier, Switzerland. http://www.restaurantcrissier.com/uk/restaurant-hotel-ville-crissier-official-site.php#restaurant-crissier-lausanne-creation-maison.php 

Dinners start at $297; a fixed price lunch is $196.  However, the joy of victory was short-lived.  The 44-year old chef, Benoît Violier, promptly committed suicide. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/02/world/europe/benoit-violier-chef-dies.html

Per Se, 10 Columbus Circle, New York, is ranked #2 in the world and #1 in the USA.  Before you spend $325 to curb your hunger (but not your thirst, that's extra) at Per Se, you might check out the its latest review in the New York Times, containing "Slips and Stumbles" in the headline. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/13/dining/pete-wells-per-se-review.html

While we have never been to Per Se, America's Favorite Epidemiologist took me for a belated birthday dinner at the French Laundry, 6440 Washington Street, Yountville, California, the senior creation of Thomas Keller, on April 1, 2003.  The nine course dinner cost $135 back then plus drinks plus an 18% service charge.  It was good, as I recall, but only the copy of the menu that I saved reminds me of what I actually ate.  

La Liste brings back more vivid memories of what I consider the finest meal that I have ever had.  It designates La Maison Troisgros, Roanne, France, as #8 in the world.  http://www.troisgros.com/

I went there alone on my first trip to France in October 1985.  I chose the dinner menu for 350 francs, plus drinks and 15% service charge.  David Goldfarb, bon vivant, helped me with the translation of the menu that I removed at the time and kept ever since.  The meal consisted of
Mixed salad greens with currants
Soft-boiled egg with caviar
Fillet of salmon in sorrel sauce
Lobster poached in tomato sauce
Veal kidney with sweet peppers
Cheese platter
Dessert cart
Petit fours

I remember particularly the egg and the lobster.  When the captain wheeled over the dessert cart for me to make a choice, I unleashed my high school French and said, "Tout."

By the way, 350 francs converted to $45.50.  That you don't forget.

Thursday, February 4, 2016
Headline: "Health Care Signups Exceed Hopes, With 4 Million Newcomers to Federal Marketplace"
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/05/us/politics/latest-obamacare-sign-ups-exceed-expectations.html?_r=0

Marco Rubio's web site tells us: "One of the first votes Marco took in the Senate was to repeal ObamaCare, and he has fought to replace the failed law ever since."
https://marcorubio.com/sidebar-featured/marco-rubio-health-care-obamacare-repeal-replace/

Ted Cruz, another member of the Buena Vista Social Club, states, "I support repealing every single word of Obamacare."  
http://www.politico.com/story/2015/01/workweek-bill-is-first-gop-senate-test-on-obamacare-114052#ixzz3zMLTVXLO

And, DT, my fellow New Yorker promises, "I would end Obamacare and replace it with something terrific, for far less money for the country and for the people." http://www.kcci.com/politics/2-potential-candidates-visit-iowa-today/32253026

My conclusion, vote Republican and meddle with success, or, at least, strip healthcare coverage from millions of Americans.  Of course, if Ben Carson is right that "Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery," I may want to change my mind.     https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2013/10/11/ben-carson-obamacare-worst-thing-since-slavery/

Friday, February 5, 2016
Even though I don't have the privilege of walking the streets of Chinatown every weekday any more, I try to keep up with developments down there, especially new joints.  Art S. and Jon S. (no relation) joined me at Wu's Wonton King, 165 East Broadway, open only a couple of weeks.  The place was freshly decorated, with off-white walls making for a bright interior.  It has 8 round tables and 20 two tops usually pushed together to seat four people.  It was busy because of or in spite of the fact that it is located as far east as the entropic Chinatown has grown.  

Wu's has a very large menu covering several major strands of Chinese cooking, but it doesn't have any hot mustard.  There are 30 lunch specials, all $5.50, including a small bowl of soup with a small clump of chicken.  We passed around Shrimp w/Peanuts w/Spicy Sauce, Beef w/Broccoli, and Chicken w/Black Bean Sauce.  The portions were quite generous and shared the plate with a large mound of white rice.  Additionally, we shared a large plate of Beef Chow Fun ($8.95), notable for its tender beef.  All the dishes were good, but the flavors were muted.  

Wu's is the second Chinese restaurant at this location, important in Jewish culinary and literary history as home to the dearly-missed Garden Cafeteria.  http://www.placematters.net/node/1205

When I lived in Greenwich Village, I used to ride my bicycle to the Garden Cafeteria (if not to B&H Dairy) on Sunday mornings for lox and eggs and onions.  By the 1980s, the only Jews left in the neighborhood (whose dietary restrictions gave rise to the Garden and B&H) seemed to be politicians  (like Sheldon Silver) who had iron-fisted control over the local political clubhouses.  B&H, with 8 stools and 4 tiny tables, survived; the Garden, seating maybe 100 people, folded.  

Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Attention To Detail

Monday, January 25, 2016
The New York Times took the unusual action of printing an obituary more than 20 months after the death of the subject.  David Stoliar was the only survivor of a WWII tragedy that still has the power to instill rage and grief more than 70 years later and, I believe, carries a thoroughly contemporary message.  Stoliar was one of almost 800 Roumanian Jews trying to escape the Nazis, packed into a former cattle boat that the British barred from Palestine, held by Turkey for 71 days, set adrift into the Black Sea without power, where it was sunk by a Soviet submarine.  While many on board died immediately, others floated in the sea, hanging onto wreckage until overcome with the cold or despair.  Only Stoliar, then 19 years old, managed to be rescued by a passing ship. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/24/world/middleeast/david-stoliar-survivor-of-world-war-ii-disaster-dies-at-91.html?_r=0

Today, refugees attempting to move in the other direction, from the Levant to Europe, are left to drift in the Mediterranean and turned away from safe havens.  While these unfortunate souls are not necessarily overtly attacked by government forces, they are apparently preyed upon by a variety of mobs and gangs and claques.  Never again?

The Sunday New York Times also had an article on Arthur Miller's links to Brooklyn, his home borough (county). http://nyti.ms/1lCq6aT

Miller stayed close to home until the break up of his first marriage and the arrival of Marilyn Monroe in 1955.  What was particularly interesting to me were some unusual coincidences.  He rented an apartment from Norman Mailer's parents in 1944 and sold a brownstone to W.E.B. Dubois in 1951, both in Brooklyn Heights.   

That brings me to my Arthur Miller story.  A friend invited me to the 1992 revival of "The Price," a 1968 play by Miller, being directed by her brother.  The play deals with the long-standing sibling rivalry between two brothers as they clean out the apartment of their deceased father.  One brother is a prominent physician, the other an NYPD sergeant.  Their father was only willing (or able) to fund the education of one son during the Depression, thereby separating them in several ways from that time forward.  

When I was introduced to Miller backstage after the performance, I had to tell him what bothered me from the opening moments of the play.  The police sergeant was in uniform, wearing dark blue pants and a sky blue shirt, with his insignia.  Except, NYPD only wore sky blue shirts for a relatively short time in the 1980s and 1990s, while the play is set in the 1960s.  Today, and in much of the recent past, higher ranks wear white uniform shirts and dark blue trousers, while regular cops wear dark blue tops and bottoms.  See https://www.google.com/search?q=new+york+police+department+uniforms&espv=2&biw=1267&bih=640&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjNv-Le3sPKAhVL5CYKHcEcAa8QsAQINA&dpr=1#imgrc=TYLspSvCBpaNcM%3A

I couldn't sit still during the play and I had to tell Miller about the problem, although it might have been beyond his control.  On the other hand, I thought that he should be aware of how the obsessives in the audience were reacting.

OpenTable is a very convenient web site for making restaurant reservations throughout the USA and most other places where you might want to sit down for a meal.  For inquiry purposes, it provides a near-complete list of restaurants in most neighborhoods, or geographic locations.  It also allows for reviews and ratings, which I invariably cross-reference with other more reliable sources of restaurant criticism.  Now, it offers its own best list.  Here is OpenTable's 10 best in Manhattan (other locales available). http://www.opentable.com/best-manhattan-restaurants

Again, I fail to have personal experience with most of these places, all occupying the very high to outrageous level of expense.  Seven of the ten offer fixed menus, often for several hundred dollars a person.  Four of the ten feature sushi/sashimi.  Even if you avoid "the poetry of nature and creativity in pursuit of an immersive sensory dining experience" and simply be allowed to order for yourself, none of these joints allow you to get away for less than one hundred a dollars a person.  Bon appétit mes amis.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Paul Hecht, distinguished thespian (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Hecht) sent the following to me about 5 Long Island Jewish guys exploring local Chinese restaurants. http://www.thechinesequest.com/ 

I am reluctant to cast asparagus on any effort to expand the understanding, appreciation and consumption of Chinese food, but I'm not ready to take these Long Island guys seriously, in contrast to my own modest efforts, beginning six years ago, rooted in Chinatown.  My apprehension arises from their home base.  There is a use for suburbia, no doubt, and people out there occasionally deserve to have a meal away from home, and Chinese is as good a choice as any.  But, the very neat and groomed quality of suburbia ultimately defeats the echte quality of a Chinese restaurant.  How many Chinese truck drivers do you expect to see eating in a Chinese restaurant in Patchogue? 

R.I.P. Abe Vigoda a/k/a Salvatore Tessio and Phil Fish.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016
I've seen full page newspaper advertisements and television spots recently extolling an established medical center on Long Island, which reportedly includes 21 hospitals and myriad support facilities.  The advertising blitz is meant to promote a new name ("brand" -- that term that deeply offends me except when applied to toothpaste) for the institution.  Introducing Northwell Health with the motto Look North.  

The entity has been known since 1997 as North Shore-LIJ Health System, after the merger of the North Shore Health System and LIJ Medical Center.  Now, presumably after millions of dollars were spent on surveys and focus groups, Northwell Health emerges.  Feel better?  Better informed?  What do I think?  The suits found a way to dump the J, and that didn't stand for jelly donuts. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016
Thirty years ago today, I remember a shocked secretary telling me that "The shuttle went down."  My immediate thought was that one of the short flights to Boston or Washington D.C., from New York, labelled a shuttle by the airlines, had crashed.  No, it was the Challenger space shuttle that exploded moments after takeoff, killing all its passengers, including Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire school teacher who was supposed to conduct scientific experiments in space, watched by tens of thousands of schoolchildren across the US.

Subsequent investigations established that O ring seals failed, releasing a stream of hot gas that ignited an external fuel tank.  A problem with the seals was anticipated in cold weather, when they might lose their elasticity.  NASA had been advised to wait for temperatures above 54 F, but as the New York Times reported then, "Long before liftoff this morning, skies over the Kennedy Space Center were clear and cold, reporters and tourists shivering in leather gloves, knit hats and down coats as temperatures hovered in the low 20's."  The launch had already been delayed for three days because of weather, but NASA decided to wait no longer.

Left unmentioned in most accounts of the disaster and only a footnote in some few was the political angle, "the persistent rumor that the White House had ordered the flight to proceed in order to spice up President Reagan’s scheduled State of the Union address." (These exact words are found repeatedly in a Google search.)  There is no direct evidence to support this theory, although my memories of the Reagan administration are studded with incidents of lies, tricks, and stunts designed to ennoble the Great Communicator's image. 

After about one month in retirement, I admit that I experienced some separation anxiety, so I invited a few of the faithful to meet me at Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, for lunch.  Mossad Moshe agreed to join us and he and I decided to walk to Chinatown from our neighborhood, a distance slightly under 5 miles.  

We all had soup, in response to the chill outside, then shared duck chow fun, spicy eggplant, and shrimp with lobster sauce over shrimp fried rice.  With tip, it came to $12 each and I feel somewhat restored.

Friday, January 29, 2016
While Republican presidential hopefuls lament the state of our union and decry the hobbling of American business by Obama's hyper-socialist tax and regulatory policies, corporate accountants see it differently.  
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/24/magazine/why-are-corporations-hoarding-trillions.html?_r=0

It seems that "American businesses currently have $1.9 trillion [$1,900,000,000,000] in cash, just sitting around."  That's not only a lot of money, it's more than at any time in the past.  Take the weekend to consider to what use you could put that money.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms

Monday,January 18, 2016
This tourist has been acting like a tourist this past  weekend.  Saturday night, I saw Hangmen, a very dark comedy set in 1965, just after Great Britain ended capital punishment.  Most of the action takes place in a pub in the north of England, and the combination of accents and slang blocked my access to about 25% of the dialogue.  What I understood was quite funny, so my advice to Americans is to definitely see Hangmen if the tickets are discounted at least 25%.

Sunday, David Brodie and I visited the Imperial War Museum, just behind the lovely 18th century Brodie home.  The museum, as is the case for many in Britain, is free.  Besides a variety of vehicles, uniforms, weapons, a Spitfire fighter plane, a V-1 rocket (resembling a current drone) and a V-2 rocket (much larger than I imagined), the museum gives a substantial amount of space to the Holocaust.  I thought that the exhibit was honest and the museum as a whole quite interesting.

Today, the three of us had lunch at the Capital Hotel, a small, elegant establishment in a row of Georgian buildings near Harrods.  This was at least the fourth time that I have eaten here over the decades, always treated more like Lord Alan of Pitkin than poor Alan from Pitkin Avenue.  I started with cured red gurnard (a white fish common to the eastern Atlantic), served in thin, quarter-sized rounds with small cubes of oranges and slivers of red peppers.  My main, as they say, was an excellent thick lamb chop, too small for this carnivore, but understandably so given the price of the meal and the time of day.  Dessert was a dense, dark chocolate ice cream concoction with fresh raspberries, raspberry curd and sugared almonds.  Just the ice cream alone would have been memorable.  David and I had three courses for £29, at approximately $1.50 a pound, while Katherine stopped at two for £25.  In retrospect, I should have ordered dessert nominally for Katherine and paid the extra £4.  

I was actually (slightly) annoyed with one aspect of the meal.  Two cups of coffee were served, although I alone ordered coffee.  The extra was returned, but, when the check showed two cups at £4 each, I asked if this was an error.  Nope, I was supposedly charged for my refill, an unnecessary gesture. 

Tonight, I went alone to see Mr. Foote's Other Leg, a comedy based on events in the 18th century; David and Katherine had seen it already.  This time, the combination of accents and historical references had me missing even more of the dialogue than at Hangmen the other night.  What I did understand was very funny.  The lead, Simon Russell Peale, was brilliant, in a role that would perfectly suit Nathan Lane.

Getting out of the theater (theatre) just after 10 PM allowed me to have a late supper, and I went into Yori Korean BBQ Restaurant, 6 Panton Street, right around the corner.  Aside from Cambodia, which has no restaurant in Manhattan's Chinatown, and Indonesia, which shares a menu with a Malaysian restaurant, Korea has the weakest representation in Chinatown among East Asian nations.  I found only three Korean restaurants in my six years scouting, one since closed.  True to its name, Yori had grills embedded in its tables, but I ordered simply, a spring onion pancake and jap chae noodles.  Each cost about £7, making them, like almost everything else in Britain except beer, theater tickets, three course lunches at the Capital Hotel, and bus rides with a transit card, vastly overpriced.  Cost aside, the pancake, really an omelette, was especially good; the noodles, cooked with yellow onions, green onions, carrots, and sesame seeds, were served hot, not cold, as I have enjoyed them before.     
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Please seek out 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, a touching memoir of the twenty-year correspondence between a New York widow and an antiquarian bookseller located at that address.  It will help you restore some belief in civility and friendship.  

David and I went to Charing Cross Road this afternoon to cruise the few remaining book stores where there used to be so many.  One had a basement full of books for £1 each; I bought four mysteries to add to the Brodies' formidable library (maybe giving me an excuse to return).  Charing Cross Road is the eastern boundary of London's Chinatown, so, of course, we had lunch at the Canton Restaurant, 11 Newport Place, a joint that I first went to in 1985.  Unlike my return to the Capital Hotel, this visit was disappointing.  We ordered modestly because we were having an early dinner before a 7 o'clock curtain.  We shared pan-fried chicken dumplings (£4.50 for 5) and ho fun (chow fun) with roast pork and roast duck (£7.50).  While the food was well prepared and tasty, the roast duck with the noodles was represented solely by big chunks of fat.  We were so hungry that I never paused to complain to the waiter; that's on me. London's Chinatown, unlike Manhattan's, is strictly confined by topography, yet it seemed vigorous.  It offered many choices and next time I won't be governed by loyalty in picking a place to eat.

Husbands and Sons, the play tonight, was quite interesting.  It is a new combination of three plays written by D.H. Lawrence just before WWI, set in the coal mining village where he grew up.  Like many of you, all I know about Lawrence is the dirty parts of Lady Chatterley's Lover.  Each of the original plays dealt with a crisis in a coal miner's family, dreary circumstances in a dreary setting.  The modern adapter has arrayed the three households as they might have been in the village, allowing you to view (through invisible walls) the action more or less simultaneously, an approach that Alan Ayckbourn has used successfully in more mirthful circumstances.  After seeing the play, I read several reviews in the British press and found sharply opposing views about combining the three established works.  I thought that it was a wise move.  Each family's crisis, standing alone, might have seemed a bit stereotypical, but, along side their neighbors', they blended into a montage of very hard times in a very hard world.  For better or worse, I understood almost all the dialogue.

The view of the Thames from Waterloo Bridge on Tuesday night.


Wednesday, January 20, 2015
In spite of a 50 minute delay before boarding, my flight home was pleasant and uneventful, with the plane no more than 2/3 full.  I had time to go through a free copy of Time Out London, which, like the New York press, gave a lot of attention to David Bowie.  My interest was focused on "The Ten Best Comedy Movies," derived from a survey purportedly among more than 70 comedians. timeout.com/comedyfilms

The list of contributors is decidedly Anglo-American, but contains many UnKnown names.  Yet, the collection of best comedies definitely tilts towards the New World.  See for yourself; it will make for some interesting discussions with your friends, if they have a sense of humor.  

I won't nitpick, but the complete omission of W.C. Fields, whether The Bank Dick or My Little Chickadee, from the best 100 is a serious flaw.  Additionally, while Woody Allen deservedly makes the top 10 for Annie Hall, the Marx brothers don't show up until #19 (Animal Crackers) and Mel Brooks #21 (Young Frankenstein).  And, are Pulp Fiction and GoodFellas really comedies?

Thursday, January 21, 2016
In 1996, January 21st was the third Sunday of the month.  It was the day that I met America's Favorite Epidemiologist.  We are celebrating 20 years together on Saturday with dinner at a fine restaurant, that is if the anticipated blizzard does not confine us to the Palazzo di Gotthelf.  

Friday, January 22, 2016  
It's good to be home with my own young bride, my own bed and my own DVR.  While the two David and K pairs live at almost opposite ends of England, come from very different backgrounds, and have differing views on many social and political issues (not even agreeing within each couple), all four people shared one consistent view: Fie on Downton Abbey.  Whether approaching from left or right, no one cared about the fate of Lady Mary.  Tally ho!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Travel Is Broadening

Monday, January 11, 2016
America's Favorite Epidemiologist flew away yesterday to the left coast, leaving me to my own devices and a nearly-full refrigerator.  I will struggle to survive.

The New York Times Sunday travel section was devoted to 52 places to go in 2016.   http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/01/07/travel/places-to-visit.html

First on the list is Mexico City and already I may be on a different page.  I can understand El Chapo yearning to visit Mexico City, stay in a nice hotel and go to a few museums.  Not me.  Of course, 52 alternatives offers many fine choices.  Bordeaux, France is second and has, among other attractions, a new "Franco-Chinese restaurant Dan."    http://www.danbordeaux.com

If you scroll through to Dan's menu, you'll see it's not Grandpa Alan's usual Chinese menu.  But, as we say in old Shanghai, chacun à son goût.  

Even the 51st choice, Sydney, Australia is a place I'd like to see, unlike the 52nd, Beaufort, South Carolina.  I have been to only 9 of the 52 destinations, some in the distant past and one or two on quick business trips, with no time to see anything except a hotel lobby.  Does this give me an agenda for my declining decades?  Probably not, because, as I will demonstrate in a couple of days, my wanderlust bends towards a familiar path.    So, sorry Abu Dhabi, I'll skip your artificial gilded cage and head to the worn sidewalks of London and Paris. 

I am embarrassed.  I own three pairs of jeans a/k/a dungarees or "tangerines" per Esther Malka Goldenberg, my beloved maternal grandmother.  I bought them at least a dozen years ago -- one pair blue-black, one regular blue, and one bleached light blue.  About four years ago, I tripped over a sidewalk stanchion and made a 1" rip in the knee of the regular blue pair.  Consequently, I wore them mainly at home or for short errands outside.  The blue-black pair was reserved for dressier occasions; I'm sorry to have to say that.  The bleached light blue pair then got heavy use and eventually began to show signs of wear and tear.  This weekend, a 6" slit opened up across my right knee.  Now, I would look like one of those people wearing expensive jeans, artfully abused to give the impression that garment and owner have labored mightily without concern for appearances.   I don't know if I can be seen in public like that.

Our stock market has taken a beating as a result of the economic turmoil in China, but does this explain the Wall Street Journal's foray into Jew food?  http://www.wsj.com/articles/pastrami-on-rye-the-6-best-places-to-eat-new-yorks-signature-sandwich-1452104866

Not surprisingly, my skepticism about market capitalism is confirmed by the WSJ listing as its third choice a pastrami sandwich with cheddar cheese, such a transgression that I am unwilling to even identify its purveyor.

Nick Lewin, an illustrious fellow graduate of Stuyvesant High School and CCNY, directed me to an article in the UK's Daily Mail about everyone's favorite candidate's phallicism.  

"The term appears to predate Trump's political life as well.  A May 1967 issue of 'The Campus,' a newspaper written by City College of New York students, described . . . a student government election.  As Ellen Turkish, running for Council '68, put it: 'We got schlonged'."  

Of course, I tried to find Ms. Turkish to share the good news with her.  However, the man who answered the phone at the only listing for Ellen Turkish, appropriately in Boca Raton, Florida, a haven for chilled New Yorkers, denied that his Ellen Turkish went to CCNY.  I'm not sure that I believe him, but I understand his reluctance to have his mother/wife/sister/grandmother/aunt/paramour associated with DT evermore.

While not a delicatessen, Red Farm, 2170 Broadway, has pastrami on its menu.  This upscale, innovative Chinese restaurant offers an egg roll filled with Katz's pastrami ($9.50).  Stony Brook Steve and I had lunch there today, ordering from the small plate and dim sum menu.  We had spicy crispy beef ($16), lamb dumplings with miso broth on the side ($14), and five flavor chicken dumplings ($14).  Each order had four dumplings; the large egg roll was cut in off and served with a delicious honey mustard sauce.  The beef was excellent, the portion small.  In sum, first rate food at very, very high prices.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Continuing the pastrami theme, Gary M. and I went to the Ranger game last night, eating at Ben's Kosher Delicatessen, 209 West 38th Street.  As usual there, I had a pastrami/corned beef combo on rye.  The meat here has been consistently good on several recent visits, and I can recommend it.  I don't know about the typical dinner dishes because no restaurant has ever approached the efforts of my mother or other mature Jewish cooks in my experience.  Have a big sandwich, the complimentary pickles and cole slaw, maybe crinkle-cut French fries, and an appropriate carbonated beverage.

The New York Times today, reflecting on the current woeful state of Brooklyn's professional hockey and basketball teams, brought up some disappointing history.  The Brooklyn Dodgers, my youthful passion (at an age when I had not yet discovered girls and my family could rarely afford to go to restaurants), drew very small crowds while playing their very best baseball.  "From 1950 to 1957, while the Dodgers earned four National League pennants, they never averaged 17,000 fans. In 1955, their [World Series] championship season, the Dodgers averaged crowds of 13,423."  For comparison, the Milwaukee Braves (occupying the space between the Boston Braves and the Atlanta Braves) averaged slightly less than twice as many fans in 1955.  Was it because men wore suits and ties and fedora hats to the ballpark?
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
I landed in London this morning after a comfortable flight on British Airways, and then took the underground to Euston Station, where I had a 3 hour wait for my train to the northwest coast of England.  I was delighted to have the company during my wait of David Brodie, who will be housing me in a few days when I return to London.    

The train took me to Arnside, a village set on an estuary off the Irish Sea.  I don't know what an estuary is, but it looks like a cross between a bay and a river.  There I was greeted by David Mervin, dear friend since graduate school, whose 50th wedding anniversary celebration (which, of course, had a major role for his wife Kathleen McConnell) my young bride and I attended in 2014. Arnside is in the part of England that has had unprecedented flooding recently, and the train passed by many fields, usually covered by crops or grazing sheep, now turned into ponds or lakes.  

Aside from the familiar Davids, I met two young men on my trip so far on interesting paths when ours intersected.  My seat mate on the airplane left Buenos Aires Monday, arrived in New York Tuesday, walked around Manhattan during the day, took the flight to London and was connecting to a flight to Geneva, where he was meeting a friend.  Sitting in Euston Station, I conversed with Gil, an Israeli, who came to England to go to a soccer game in Liverpool.  

Thursday, January 14, 2016
I learned this morning that 4-8-19-27-34 and the Powerball number 10 were the winning combination in the $1.5 billion multi-state lottery.  Alas, this was not what I saw on the ticket that I purchased before leaving, so my return to the US next week will be in no better than the crowded economy section of a scheduled British Air flight.

The Mervins have excellent Wi-Fi (something few of us could have claimed earlier this century), which allowed me to exchange tender messages with America's Favorite Epidemiologist, who returns to New York today.  

Kathleen and I went to an exhibition of Canaletto paintings and drawings in Kendal, a popular tourist town nearby dating back to at least the 8th century, while David was off to a meeting.  He returned proudly bearing the latest issue of Who Do You Think You Are?, a popular British genealogy magazine, which contained an article entitled "I'm related through marriage to an American icon," including a full page color photograph (the spell checker here wants me to add the u) of David and Kathleen.  That's because David's extensive research has disclosed that Kathleen is a direct descendant of a passenger on the Mayflower and is the fifth cousin three times removed of Abraham Lincoln.  

Friday, January 15, 2016
It was hard to leave the home of the relative of an American icon, but I got on a southbound train this afternoon to return to London and continue my vacation under the roof of David and Katherine Walker Brodie, whom I have known only 16 years compared to the 53 years for David and Kathleen McConnell Mervin.  The hospitality shown me in each household defies quantification, however.     




Saturday, January 9, 2016

Rewinding

Monday, January 4, 2016
I'm not sure how to interpret my behavior last night, whether it represents an inability to deal with change, or a bold move into another direction.  This irresolution arose from leading Stony Brook Steve, his lovely wife and America's Favorite Epidemiologist to Wok Wok Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street, for dinner.  This joint has become a favorite of mine since opening in August, but now since retiring I won't be a couple of blocks away five days a week.  On the other hand, I went to Chinatown at night, for dinner, with women, a dramatic departure from my eating habits for the last six years.  In either case, we had a wonderful meal, including roti chicken wrap, roti beef wrap, crispy veggie spring rolls, spicy lemongrass chicken over rice, tangerine beef over rice, Wok Wok beef with fried egg in a stone rice bowl, and whole fried red snapper with mango salad.  By the way, the secret to going to Chinatown on Sunday night, when it is especially crowded, is to park next to the courthouses on Centre Street, Worth Street and Baxter Street, where there is almost no housing and the spaces are reserved for judges and staffmduring the work week.  Stay away from any street with operating businesses.  They will be near-impassable and parking spaces locked down for the whole weekend.   

If you want a fairly comprehensive look at New York Kosher and "Jewish-style" delicatessens, I recommend http://ny.eater.com/2015/12/22/10628778/best-nyc-delis.  Several authors contribute to this long piece, including the reliable Robert Sietsema, who wrote The Food Lover's Guide to the Best Ethnic Eating in New York City, apparently out of print, but you can come over and look at my copy.

If you don't get heartburn vicariously from reading about delicatessens generally, you might want to focus on knishes, an item not found at Whole Foods. http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/151240/dont-worry-the-knish-isnt-going-anywhere

Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Julian Turley is a senior at the University of Michigan, who grew up in Grand Rapids.  He is quoted in today's paper regarding Michigan's efforts to maintain racial diversity in the face of the United States Supreme Court's efforts to return us to the 19th century.  I don't know him personally, but I am attracted to him, not necessarily because of his position as a black student on an overwhelmingly white campus.  Julian, aside from his academic pursuits, has set a goal of eating at every restaurant in Ann Arbor before he graduates.  The article gives no other information about his efforts, but I set out to quantify this.

Trip Advisor, in spite of the spurious reviews that I recently uncovered for a New York steakhouse, is still a reliable aggregator of details.  It lists 495 restaurants in Ann Arbor.  Of course, this includes multiples of certain chains, so I can only sympathize with Julian having to go from Denny's to Domino's Pizza to Olive Garden.  I believe that the 495 number is comparable to the over 300 (predominantly) Chinese restaurants that I have eaten in the last 6 years in Chinatown.  Trip Advisor apparently excludes the depressingly large number of mega-chains, such as Burger King, McDonald's, Subway, so it's near impossible to gauge the actual dimension of Julian's goal.  I find 24 Subways with Ann Arbor addresses, 17 McDonald's, 3 Burger Kings.  The good news is that Trip Advisor lists 23 Chinese restaurants; the bad news is the list includes Panera Bread and 3 Panda Expresses.  

I am writing to Julian (a real letter) to encourage him in his quest and invite him to meet me in New York sometime for a meal in Chinatown.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016
There was a certain synchronicity last night when I had dinner with Professor David at Palm Too, 840 Second Avenue, which remains open even though the original site across the street has closed and the building put up for sale.  I lived across the street from the two restaurants for 23 years in my bachelor years and ate there several times a year.  Now, living across and up town, it's been close to a decade since I visited Palm/Palm Too.  So, with Professor David staying with us for two nights, I took advantage of our shared carnivorous instincts to have a big steak dinner.  The added frisson to dinner was the news just before we sat down that Mike Piazza had been voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  There were two moments in Piazza's career that will always remain with me, and probably with most Mets fans, the broken bat incident with Roger Clemens in game one of the 2000 World Series and the home run off the Braves in the first Mets game after 9/11.  By coincidence, Professor David, then law student David, and I were live in person at Yankee Stadium for that World Series game and were shocked by Clemens's manic behavior, probably fueled by steroids.  

On September 21, 2001, I was driving David and his date home from an evening with his mother, my bride-to-be, listening to the Mets game on the radio.  Just as we got off the West Side Highway, Piazza came to bat in the eighth inning with the Mets trailing 2-1, with Edgardo Alfonzo, the still under-appreciated second baseman, on base.  Shea Stadium was near full; the Mets wore caps embroidered with NYPD, FDNY and other first responding agencies.  Of course, we hated the Braves.  Even though the traffic light changed, I did not move the car forward.  Boom!  Piazza hit a towering home run to right field, nothing cheap, no doubt as soon as he swung.  I cried then, just as I am tearing up now.  The gash in our soul from the attack on the World Trade Center was far from healed.  If you got anywhere near downtown, you smelled the ruins which smoldered for ten months.  Now, 40,000+ crazed New Yorkers regathered for the first time and witnessed a heroic performance, many more of us following on television or radio.  Yes, it was only baseball, but it was us, the usually downtrodden Mets taking a big step to lead the battered city back to primacy.  

Thursday, January 7, 2016
David Goldfarb, another of the wonderful Davids in my life, invited me for lunch.  David, who takes his food and wine very seriously, prepared a lovely meal for the two of us.  The feature dish was branzino, baked with a little olive oil and herbs, served with oyster mushrooms, Italian flat beans and boiled potatoes.  The wine was a 2010 Vouvray from Clos de la Meslerie, a winery owned by a friend of David's.  Our dessert, in the classic style favored by David, was cheese, but not just ordinary cheese or even merely an extraordinary cheese.  While shopping at Eataly, 200 Fifth Avenue, a very upscale provisioner, David found Gotthelf Kase, a Swiss Emmentaler.  http://www.cheesesfromswitzerland.com/cheese-assortment/emmentaler-aop.html

David paid me a fine tribute, but I kind of hoped he had found ice cream or chocolates bearing my name.  

Friday, January 8, 2016
Judith Kaye died yesterday.  She was the first woman appointed to the New York State Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, and eventually became the chief judge.  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/08/nyregion/judith-s-kaye-first-woman-to-serve-as-new-yorks-chief-judge-dies-at-77.html

While she wrote some memorable opinions, her most important achievement, in my eyes, was the reform of our jury system.  She removed many excuses not to serve, thereby expanding the pool, getting the average citizen in and out quicker, making the experience more tolerable.  I met her causally outside the workplace a couple of times.  A few years ago, on Yom Kippur, America's Favorite Epidemiologist and I were walking home from services when I spotted Judith Kaye approaching us.  One reason I liked her was her resemblance to my young bride, stature, coloring, wardrobe, grace.  As we got close, I smiled at her and she beamed at us, apparently thinking that we really knew each other.  We exchanged holiday wishes and spoke for a few moments about a mutual friend, who customarily hosted a large break fast at the end of the Day of Atonement.  (Yes, Joe F., you.)  I hope that she came away having enjoyed our brief time together as much as we did.


Friday, January 1, 2016

Wound Down

Monday, December 28, 2015
While we returned from visiting the second and third generations in Massachusetts on Saturday, I remain on vacation for the next couple of days which that affords me time to catch up and stay current with my reading.  

The following story I found particularly absurd.  "Breaking Up? Let an App Do It for You"  Certainly, in my many years of bachelorhood, before and after marriages, I became well practiced in breaking and being broken.  It was never easy, on either end, and there were probably some occasions when the deed was done over the telephone.  "It's not you, it's me," works much better when the "you" is not looking into the eyes of the "me."  However, to remove yourself from the process entirely, delegating it to an app, is the behavior of a punk.

One reference in the article, apart from the subject matter, bothered me: the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. "The Greater Good Science Center studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society."  Cf. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/

I guess I am being naive in objecting to a pseudo-scientific approach to bleeding-heart liberalism (my personal creed).  After all, the rich and powerful endow myriad institutes and foundations to rationalize their greed and selfishness.  

A more productive use of newsprint is found on-line in a compilation of useful charts and graphs summarizing the year that was in the United States.  The information ranges from the cheering -- unemployment at the lowest level since our financial geniuses flushed the toilet in 2008 -- and the gloomy -- gun murders per 100,000 people at 4 times the next developed nation.  http://nyti.ms/1kojiwV

Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Another vacation day.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015
"A first impression of burned sugar and dark bread crust gives way to baked fruit — wild blueberry pie?"  These words may put your salivary glands to work, but what is the New York Times talking about?  Wine, cheese, your next door neighbor?

Actually, it's a 2.2 ounce chocolate bar from Colombia selling for $10, one of 8 high end chocolate bars compared.

I admit that I like chocolate, preferably in a cookie baked by Jacques Torres or in mandelbrot baked by my daughter-in-law.  Note that only the former has a web site. (http://www.mrchocolate.com/), but, in any case, I'm spending my ten bucks on the limited edition Reese's Mini Sticks, real chocolate-covered wafers filled with peanut butter, $1.49 for a 6.3 ounces package at Lot-Less Closeouts (http://lot-less.com/), 97 Chambers Street, my preferred emporium, with change to spare.

The Boyz Club gathered in force at Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth Street, to celebrate my last day of work.  The ten of us, who had to wait almost 40 minutes before at least a hundred diners were seated ahead of us, were served 31 plates, containing 13 or so discrete items.  At the end of the meal, we pledged to continue to gather, even if in the absence of our Chinatown base.  

Thursday, December 31, 2015
The last day of the year and the first day of my retirement.  Yesterday, cleaning out my desk, I took one last look at my collection of menus and business cards of the hundreds of (predominantly) Chinese restaurants where I have eaten lunch for exactly the last 6 years and rarely rued a bite.

  

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Winding Down

Monday, December 21, 2015
Here is a contemporary approach to communications, inspired by the venerable Mad Libs™.  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/12/18/nyregion/emoji-your-holiday-card.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=Moth-Visible&moduleDetail=inside-nyt-region-3&module=inside-nyt-region&region=inside-nyt-region&WT.nav=inside-nyt-region

Before Mel Brooks made very funny movies and broke Broadway records with “The Producers,” he had become immortal with his 2000-year-old man routines, recorded with Carl Reiner originally in 1961.  If you have never heard them, beg, borrow or steal copies, conveniently boxed as The 2000 Year Old Man: The Complete History (Amazon.com @ $32.99).  Besides getting an archival copy for yourself, consider giving one to a desperately ill person who retains good hearing.

I believe that the 2000-year-old man not only provided us great amusement, but profound insight into human behavior as well.  In many instances, he identified fear as the basis for our conduct.  On transportation: “an animal would growl, you'd go two miles in a minute.  Fear would be the main propulsion.”  
On singing: “Saying ‘a lion is eating my foot off’ didn't get nearly the attention that singing it did.”
On handshaking: Shaking hands began as a way of finding out if a man had a rock or a knife.  
On dancing: By dancing a man kept another person’s hands and feet busy, so he could not get hit or kicked.
On marriage: A man needed a woman to watch out behind him to make sure an animal didn’t creep up on him. 

Today, fear continues to shape our behavior.  I cite:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/19/us/lesson-on-islam-shuts-down-virginia-school-district.html?module=WatchingPortal&region=c-column-middle-span-region&pgType=Homepage&action=click&mediaId=wide&state=standard&contentPlacement=2&version=internal&contentCollection=www.nytimes.com&contentId=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2015%2F12%2F19%2Fus%2Flesson-on-islam-shuts-down-virginia-school-district.html&eventName=Watching-article-click

In Virginia, home of Patrick Henry, a school district shut down because “Students in a world geography class at Riverheads High School in Staunton, Va., had been asked to try their hands at copying a passage known as the Shahada, or declaration of faith in Islam.”  The poor, dumb teacher meant it to “give you an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy,” not even telling the kids the meaning of the words.  While the teacher should probably have had the students copy a falafel recipe, the fear shown by some parents is notable.  

Mel Brooks proves that we can't go back far enough to find a world not governed by fear.  Today, Syrian refugees are the demons du jour.  Home of the Brave, we ain’t.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015
I was fortunate to be joined at lunch today by the Stanley family, Papa Jay, Momma Meg, Ben, Jack and Lucy, the latter three not yet of voting age, but as sensible as most of the announced presidential candidates, or more so.  We went to Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth Street, that festive dim sum palace, an experience new to the younger guests.  I am pleased to report that no Yucks were heard during the meal, and all of us put away our fair share (adjusted for age and weight) of the food wheeled up to our table.

After lunch, I went to a white elephant party held by the more social segment of my department.  Not only was I able to foist off a totally unwanted, unneeded (although generously offered) gift from an earlier holiday season, but I came away with a box of Godiva chocolates, which may turn out to be my next gift to you.

While many conservative adults continue to fear anything that they don’t understand, “progressive youth” are overreacting in their own narrow-minded way.  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/22/us/oberlin-takes-culture-war-to-the-dining-hall.html

Students at this famously liberal college “are accusing the campus dining department and Bon Appétit Management Company, the main dining vendor, of a litany of offenses that range from cultural appropriation to cultural insensitivity.”  Ironically, the student complaints include black students wanting more fried chicken, while others are dissatisfied with the quality of the sushi.  “When you’re cooking a country’s dish for other people, including ones who have never tried the original dish before, you’re also representing the meaning of the dish as well as its culture,” Tomoyo Joshi, a student from Japan [said].  “So if people not from that heritage take food, modify it and serve it as ‘authentic,’ it is appropriative.”  I imagine that I might have cause to rail against most bagel sellers in the US.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2015
The Upper West Side's Power Couple took off for a visit to the second and third generations in Massachusetts this morning.  Our path allowed us to have lunch at Nardelli's Grinder Shoppe, 540 Plank Road, Waterbury, CT.  I was predictably delighted with a roast beef sandwich, fully loaded with everything except tomatoes ($6.50, supposedly a half, but large enough to satisfy me), and a bag of Herr's Creamy Dill Pickle potato chips, impossible to find in my usual haunts.  A welcome addition to the menu was Nardelli's own brand diet root beer, quite delicious.  This was notable because, just three nights earlier, on the way to a Rangers game at Madison Square Garden with my cousin Michael Goldenberg, we met at Ben's Kosher Delicatessen, 209 West 38th Street, never to be confused with Ben's Best Kosher Delicatessen, 96-40 Queens Boulevard, Rego Park. While I thoroughly enjoyed my corned beef/pastrami combo on rye ($16.99), I was surprised and disappointed to learn that Ben's had no Dr. Brown's diet black cherry soda, in fact no diet Dr. Brown's was on hand.  What kind of doctor is that?  A floor manager, so skinny that I asked him if he ever ate here, told us that Dr. Brown's had not supplied Ben's with diet soda for some time.  Obviously, I'm fated to bring Nardelli's and Ben's together.  

 "The Typical American Lives Only 18 Miles From Mom," is a headline to get your attention.  The NewYork Times published this interesting study on mobility, which contradicts the picture of the aggressive American seeking opportunity throughout the land.  http://nyti.ms/1SbuiLY

This article reminds me of a study cited (conducted?) by Andrew Hacker over 50 years ago, which demonstrated that CEO's of Fortune 500 companies lived much further from their birthplaces than US Senators.  Staying close to home was a better base for building a political than a business career, especially when top companies cluster in certain locations, while Senate seats are inherently dispersed.  For whatever it's worth, I now live just under 12 miles from my parent's last residence, although I am, believe it or not, neither a CEO or a US Senator.